The Most Significant Gaming Announcement of All Time?

In which Stew considers the future of all the games of yesteryear.

January 28th, 2010…. I was there!  Along with many other fans of technology and videogames – suckers for a good hype frenzy – staring at a timer ticking down towards zero.

When the clock struck, we were promised an announcement which would leave all our lives forever changed, and the way we think unalterably realigned. It would be… magical!

I’m talking, of course, about the announcement made on Good Old Games – a website central to the ‘software preservation’ movement – that Activision has joined the numerous publishers and developers that are re-issuing their back catalogues through digital distribution websites.

This is far more important than you probably realise.

Think about this… Have you seen a movie called A Trip to the Moon? It’s one of the first movies ever made, yet over a hundred years later, you can still walk into a shop and buy the DVD, or even watch the whole film online.

Conversely in videogames, you’d be hard pressed to play something which was released just five years ago, even if you bought and paid for it – without using some kind of illegal software emulation. The average game has a shelf life of only a year or two, before it disappears, apparently forever!

As well as being an absolute travesty, the financial benefits enjoyed by the film and music industries through keeping older works alive and available, are lost to games. Record labels make a mint from music which was recorded decades ago. As well as satisfying fans, this allows investors to make more long-sighted decisions and minimise risk.

Kurt’s still making money for the capitalist machine…

Recently, with innovations in digital distribution on the PS3, Wii and Xbox, things have been improving. Even hi-definition re-issues like the God of War ‘Special Edition’ on PS3 are almost comparable to a remastering of a classic movie.

However, games are still ‘saved’ on a case by case basis – and not one of the current generation of consoles seems committed to backwards compatibility.  Microsoft’s recent decision to cut original Xbox consoles off from Xbox Live means that more and more gamers are going to have to abandon older titles and hardware.

For this reason, the announcement on the 28th, that one of the world’s largest videogames publishers has signed up to the software preservation movement, is infinitely more important to the videogames industry than any technology, service, or platform. It just hasn’t realised it yet.

Now, how long till we can get X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter?

One day my friends…  One day…

– Stew (@chicknstu)