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.