MODERN Video Game Preservation

I’ve recently been following an account on Twitter called Does It Play who post about preserving video games. Recently, they have posted some stuff about how, should you not be able to get online or XBox Live dies, you will not be able to play any of your games on the One or Series S/X. The video they link to basically says that MS have done the “always online” thing by stealth (which, really, is kind of obvious).

To be fair, they also talk about Sony not allowing games on the PS5 to run DLC from disk, meaning anyone who buys a game from the secondary market will need to also buy the DLC. They also mention stuff like the Need for Speed delisting.

I’m not saying this account is any kind of authority, but it does raise a good question; how will we be able to play these games if the servers are turned off? Is there any way to preserve them now for the future?

While I can see some decent companies doing something like updating/ patching games so you don’t need to be online to keep playing (I could see Hello Games doing this), I can’t see this happening for all games. And if the whole game isn’t even on the game disk, future emulation via PC is out of the question.

I suppose if a game was 100% downloaded to a console when the servers were turned off someone who knows their stuff could theoretically pull the data off the console to a PC and patch the game to run off line, but that’s a big if.

From a business standpoint I can see why companies would do what they are currently doing.
“What, you loved this game back in the day and want to play it again? Well, why not buy this re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-release for our new console?”
We’ve all done it. I’m embarrassed at how many copies of Myst and Sonic 1 and 2 I own.

However, there are exceptions. It’s impossible to currently play the original version of Lemmings in any legal way on modern computers, despite it being considered a classic game. Sure if you still have an old Mega Drive, SNES or any of the bazillion consoles it was ported to, you could. But the original PC version on a modern machine? Not unless you know your way around DOSBox, and then even that is a grey legal area.

What I’m getting at is not every game will be re-released. I know some of my absolute favourites from the 16-bit era can no longer be played legally, unless you own the old console and cart. Newer gamers who were born in the 2000s can not play them legally.

So why would companies not want to preserve their work? I’ve covered the business side of things, but surely they’d still want copies of the games to be made, even if they aren’t going to release them to the public in the future. In 2056 shouldn’t we still be able to play the games we are now?

What do you guys thing?

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I’m going to come back and say more when I have time but this is a great question:

I’m honestly scared of the answer, because I’m worried it’s not a good one. Not without emulation and hacking consoles, and the industry seems increasingly poised to make that much harder in future.

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This is a significant hurdle for preservation. But I believe it’s not impossible to obtain DLC files for distribution later. There are some pretty inventive people who have solved this for some existing platforms, and it means that both the base game and the DLC or patches can be preserved in an archive as an iso or similar file. This isn’t going to be easy, and license holders might try to stifle this, but there are potentially ways this can be solved.

Places like Archive.org are doing wonderful things with old software and games and have made them playable in browser. For example here is a playable version of Lemmings for Mactintosh OS. Emulation can be handled directly at the archive level and be made accessible to non tech inclined people very easily. As long as the resources and files can be made available to archivists, they can do wonderful things with them. Currently they don’t seem to have the Dos version, other than a German version of the demo ( Lemmings Demo : DMA Design : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive). This could be due to some issues around licensing of that version in particular, or they just haven’t added it to the archive yet. Regardless, it would not be hard for them to host it as a playable file.

For years and years I tried to track down a copy of Cosmic Osmo by Cyan Worlds for Macintosh OS. Most of the disc copies were hard to come by or expensive. But on top of that I no longer own a Macintosh. I used to Have a Color Classic II with a SCSI CD-ROM drive that could have played it, but I sold it at some point (shy did I do that?). Anyway, flash forward several years and lo and behold, Archive.org hosts a copy. For the first time since my childhood I could play Cosmic Osmo, and it was wonderful. Sometimes, due to both technological means and copyright, these things will just take time to be archived and made available to all. Cosmic Osmo : Rand and Robyn Miller : Internet Archive

Well, that was far more optimistic than I originally thought I was going to be.

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I remember reading about the Archive.org thing but never checked it out. But what is Archive’s server goes? If the only archives are digital will that be enough? I know physical media deteriorates too, but isn’t digital even more prone to failure? (Honestly, I don’t know).

Still, it IS a good way of archiving stuff but I wonder how future proof it is.

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If it goes, they just use the back ups they have offsite. If the company goes, someone else will take the mantle. There’s already a few museums out there dedicated to preserving game history as well. NoClip did a documentary on 1 of them.

You can still play the Xbox One offline as long as you have the physical disc, it’s not ideal but it’s still better than nothing. This is why I have always said physical discs have always been better. You have more control over it. But unfortunately people like us, who don’t want these forms of DRM, are the minority. And more and more people are opting for digital these days. It includes people who just want more convenience and don’t care for the statics that set a precedence for manufacturers and people who don’t know any better. It’s even more unfortunate that at times I still get caught by some always online DRM titles on PC. And to make matters worse even “physical” copies of PC games bought in stores are now just codes. Collector’s editions of games don’t always even give you the physical disc anymore and yet they still give you a steelbook case… lol

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You can still play the Xbox One offline as long as you have the physical disc

Actually, you can’t..

And to make matters worse even “physical” copies of PC games bought in stores are now just codes.

This is true for consoles as well. At most you’ll get the base game on disk, but any updates you won’t be available without access to the net. Similarly, many games, even if installed, require you to access the net at least once to authenticate it’s a legit version.

That’s series X. I’m talking about the Xbox One console itself. Unless they changed something with that as well. But I’ve generally been able to skip updates & get into playing. That’s for single player games though. Series X definitely seems to have it way worse cause I’ve had to use my consoles with no internet before but again that was a good few years ago.

This is true for consoles as well. At most you’ll get the base game on disk, but any updates you won’t be available without access to the net. Similarly, many games, even if installed, require you to access the net at least once to authenticate it’s a legit version.

I remember when I got the CE for Halo 5, they were only giving you a digital code for the game. EB Games were giving people free copies of the standard/physical version if people bought the CE because even they thought it was really dumb. Like on PC, okay, MAYBE that’s okay since you’d be registering the key with either Steam or whatever platform (preferably DRM free), but on console it just doesn’t make as much sense, especially for a CE, to exclude the physical copy. Even if you need patches or updates, the physical copy should still be playable.

It’s really bizarre to see MS do this with XBSX too. They really spear headed the consumer friendly approach with XB1 & it’s backwards compatibility then topped it off with the Xbox Play Anywhere thing. Buying a digital copy of the Xbox version & getting it on PC was a really good move forward. But we should have seen it would come with a cost. Now, even PS5 has backwards compatibility and I never thought Sony would care to do it. But I fear digital only consoles will be the next generation after this. Sony might have given with 1 hand but they’re taking with the other and are trying to weaponise the Digital only PS5. Or at least they will if the statistics are high enough. If the Disc-less PS5 ends up selling more than the Disc PS5, then we’re surely screwed on a whole new level.

Stuff like this is why I try my best to support GoG when I can. If they just got their footing right I don’t think Steam would be as big as they are now. Even Robot Cache (which for some reason is less popular than Epic) is offering something different but sadly they have a smaller library & aren’t really DRM free like GoG but they’re trying to bring trading capabilities to PC Games. Something people have wanted Steam to do for ages. Something consoles could do since their beginning.

If stock and sales is any indication, it seems that Sony is producing significantly fewer digital editions of the PS5 than the disc based model. This could mean that Sony doesn’t yet know whether they can trust the market because it is the first disc-less model, or it might mean they are not willing to bet the farm on digital only sales quite yet.

All of these are valid questions, and have a bearing on any archive really. The loss of resources or funds to run an archive is one of the biggest threats to media preservation. Ideally it needs public funding and support.

Yes, digital copies are at risk if only for issues related to storage media longevity and overheads costs (power, storage space, cooling, etc.). There’s also the fact that depending on the media types, some can degrade due to repeat copying. All of these things are big factors when it comes to archiving digital media.

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That’s semi-reassuring but not for much. There have been people who bought the discless version cause they “don’t use discs anymore” and the fact that it’s justified worries me. It’s all in fairness though, I just wish people realised what Sony were doing or cared to see. But you’re right, Sony are only testing the waters, not without the hopes of pushing digital only either. A Blu ray reader costs <$100AU to retail, the cost to manufacturer it significantly far less (and Sony manufactured their own readers/players) but the difference between the 2 consoles is $150AU, this price difference shouldn’t exist, not even for R&D. At most the disc version should be an extra $20-30AU. That’s already resulted in people buying the cheaper variant because they save $150. We’re kind of lucky in a sense that there’s more disc versions available though and people are desperate enough to pay the extra $150.

The bigger companies all want Digital Only and it’s going to happen.

I can’t speak to AU but I can to USD and CAD. The PS5 has a UHD-BlueRay drive, rather than the standard BlueRay of the PS4. On average a stand-alone UHD-BlueRay player is about $200USD or close to $250CAD. There a few models below that but many more that are significantly higher. The difference in price between a digital PS5 and a disc-based PS5 is $100USD or $129CAD. So even if the unit costs less to manufacture, it’s still a relatively good deal for anyone looking to buy a UHD BlueRay player and is interested in console games.

The UHD-BlueRay drive is also a highly likely place where Sony can recuperate some costs. The PS5 is being sold at a loss. If Sony can manufacture UHD-BlueRay drives at a low cost, the $100USD they charge for the disc model is a way to offset those losses slightly. Thus it is highly likely that for the time being it’s in Sony’s interest to sell more disc models to keep their losses to a minimum. This may change as component prices decrease, but like holds true for now. This may be one of the major reasons Sony is pushing far more disc based models out to retail than digital models.

It’s likely inevitable. However during the last generations many game pundits and outlets were predicting that this generation would be all digital. That proved untrue. Maybe next generation will be, but we can never really know. We’ll have to see how this generation plays out and how many consumers opt toward streaming or subscription and all digital purchases versus physical media.

To go all digital I think that the quality/ reliance of servers has to be improved. Earlier this year XBox Live went down for only a few hours and people were completely losing their shit! If people act like that just because they can’t access online features, imagine if they couldn’t access anything.

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Ah that’s where I mistook the price difference. I forgot about UHD lol

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