You can’t find me in the club

The In­ter­net brought a new era to the videogame in­dus­try, not only in terms of con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween play­ers, but also in the birth of a new busi­ness model that I am not par­tic­u­larly a fan of. I’m not here to tackle the phys­i­cal-ver­sus-dig­i­tal de­bate, but to talk about some­thing that, as a videogame col­lec­tor, wor­ries me a lot.

I am a big fan of ar­cade games, and to­day I ran­domly re­mem­bered the ex­is­tence of a game re­leased by Kon­ami called GTi Club, which I meant to buy a long time ago but had for­got­ten about.

I love ar­cade rac­ing games, and GTi Club is ev­ery­thing you could want from the genre. I im­me­di­ately started search­ing for it on the PlayS­ta­tion Store but, to my sur­prise, I found no re­sults. I used dif­fer­ent search terms, but soon re­alised the game had been re­moved from the store.

Although this is no triple-A game like Un­charted 4 or The Witcher III, it is a game nev­er­the­less, and that means there were peo­ple who cer­tainly worked very hard to bring the game to the PS3, only for it to be re­moved. Deleted for­ever. No longer ac­ces­si­ble for gen­er­a­tions to come.

It’s be­com­ing a trend. Pub­lish­ers say this hap­pens due to li­cences ex­pir­ing, and I be­lieve them. But doesn’t this ex­pose how frag­ile the dig­i­tal era is? Peo­ple say pub­lish­ers can al­ways re­new the li­cence and put a game back on the store, but we all know that won’t hap­pen. Cer­tainly not for a game like GTi Club.

So, how is this fair for me? Is it fair that I will not be able en­joy a game just be­cause I missed the small win­dow of its avail­abil­ity? Videogame history is be­ing erased thanks to this new busi­ness model, and peo­ple need to start think­ing about it be­fore it is too late.

Dig­i­tal-only re­leases are com­mon nowa­days, but it is still hard for me to com­mit to them. Deep in­side, I know that sooner or later I will not be able to ac­cess the games I bought dig­i­tally. Who are they try­ing to fool? Do play­ers re­ally think their games will be avail­able 20 years from now? The only way to keep them for as long as you want is by hav­ing a phys­i­cal copy of the game, which in­creas­ingly isn’t an op­tion.

How­ever, that led me to think about this in a whole new way. As soon as I re­alised GTi Club was no longer of­fi­cially avail­able, I started to look for ways of jail­break­ing my PS3. But this is not me. I am no pi­rate. I will not say I’ve never done it. I have, and I still do some­times. I do it be­cause I can’t af­ford to buy ev­ery game, and I’m tired of all the pre-re­lease hype trains and bro­ken prom­ises, so I do it to see if a game is worth buy­ing. If it is, then I will add it to my col­lec­tion. So is piracy the only so­lu­tion to my prob­lem? Is this the only way to save games like GTi Club from obliv­ion? Does that make piracy wrong? Or the light at the end of the tun­nel?

I do think about the peo­ple who have de­vel­oped the game, and I feel sad be­cause they’re not get­ting paid for their work. How­ever, I look at this as pre­serv­ing their work for gen­er­a­tions to come. I of­ten put my­self in the de­vel­op­ers’ shoes and won­der what I would feel if some­one could not legally play a game that I had cre­ated. I can’t speak for them, but I do know this: I would rather have peo­ple down­load a game il­le­gally than have it be for­got­ten for­ever.

“If your game is re­mem­bered only for that one mo­ment, is it re­ally worth remembering?”

MAME’s suc­cess sug­gests it will be em­u­la­tion, rather than piracy per se, that saves old games from ex­tinc­tion, but it’s a sorry state of af­fairs when you can’t through le­git­i­mate means buy a game that’s less than a decade old. There are dig­i­tal games aplenty on the eS­hop, but your New 3DS XL has lots of boxed re­leases, too.

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