How important is it to preserve the past? I ask myself this question often when I look at video games today. I find myself to be somebody who usually looks towards the future, but it never hurts to think about the next generation of gamers. The kiddos that will play games 10-20-30 years from now might want to look towards the early days of gaming. It isn’t like the birth of a new generation of consoles forces us to toss out the old ones. However, it is something to think about given the recent generation’s approach to backward compatibility. I explored this topic a little in my previous editorial on Xbox One, but this is an issue that definitely expands out to the Big Three. Should we be trying to preserve the past generations today?
What happens when Digital Stores close shop?
Consider the methods by which gaming consoles distribute games now. You can either get a hard copy or a digital copy, correct? Well imagine if something were to happen to the digital store you buy your games from, and it suddenly closes up shop. What happens to those games?
It might seem like paranoia, but in today’s gaming market there aren’t really many certainties. While the short term might look good in the moment, services may not last for beyond a decade! In fact, this happened recently with the Nintendo Wii. When you think about it, it’s shocking to think of how the generation of the Xbox/PS2/Gamecube likely did a better job in preserving their games compared to the more recent generations.
It might sound weird to think about one of the Big Three closing up their online shop, but it happened within the last couple of months. The Wii Shop Channel is gone. It is understandable to stop the service if nobody is using it anymore, but so many games are now unplayable. There could be more questionable routes to acquire these games again, but on the surface they are gone. This doesn’t even include titles that might have their services suddenly shut off like with FIFA 14. Games nowadays feel like they are playing for the short term while not bothering to preserve their legacy.
Old Games are Like A Fine Wine
I will admit that I‘m a gamer who lives more for the moment – I feel that most modern gamers are like that too. So many games are expansive and customizable now – why would we go back to play games on the NES or SNES when we have games that play so much better?
However, there are plenty of reasons many still do. Plenty of amazing titles came out many years ago and it shows us how far gaming has come. A game that is decades old can still be just as engaging as Fortnite or Overwatch. Even if a game has been finished a 100+ times over, there are players that can find different ways to enjoy those games. For example, speed running these retro titles that were designed to be painstakingly difficult. It’s impressive to see people complete them so fast, and can be entertaining to see others dismantle them to a broken degree.
While Nintendo has given us things like the NES and SNES classics (and Sony with the PS Classic), it feels like there isn’t enough being done to provide access to the library of titles that were previously available. The SNES classic has about 20 games, but that doesn’t cover the other 700+ games that came out throughout its lifetime. The volume of the games we have access to doesn’t need to be THAT excessive, but it would be nice if Nintendo a more accessible approach for their gaming library.
Several Systems in One
I’m sure at one point or another, we have all seen The Angry Video Game Nerd. While his videos can be fun to watch, I look at his collection of video games and can‘t help but awe at his dedication. Collecting every single possible game that exists is one thing, but keeping it all together is another.
You could say this is one good reason why most companies prefer disks over cartridges. Storage wise, disks don‘t take up as much space while holding so much more content. The Switch’s approach with tiny card cartridges works well too. The problem many gamers face is excess consoles can clutter up a gaming area. It can be tempting to toss out previous generation consoles because of storage concerns.
This is a reason we can appreciate what Microsoft did for their backward compatibility program. Game Pass allows players to move onto the next generation without feeling the need to toss out their old collection to make room for newer games. It might be hard saying goodbye to an older console, but you can still enjoy those games without older hardware.
As we move into the future, I feel like the console developers should take responsibility to preserve the games that came out in the past. We could watch movies or listen to musical performances decades prior, but video games now need to be preserved in some capacity. Classic consoles or online could work, developers just need to work on these things.
Hopefully as we look toward the next generation of gaming we will see this foundation built. That way our kiddos’ kiddos can know what it was like to truly experience some 8-bit goodness.
What Do You Think?
How important do you think Backward compatibility is to gaming? Should we be taking the steps to ensure you can play these games digitally? And what would be the best way to preserve these games; whether through classic consoles or through the digital stores? Leave your thoughts down below and be sure to follow us here at Culture of Gaming for more editorials on the world of gaming.