The lights are on
We often think of video games as a timeless medium. Players with a love for retro gaming can still dust off an NES, blow in the bottom of a Super Mario Bros. cartridge, and experience the game the way it was played 25 years ago. Over the past few years, the video game industry has undergone an online revolution, opening up exciting new avenues for interaction and distribution. At the same time, these changes have introduced some troubling restrictions that impact the longevity of the games you buy. The day you can’t play your favorite modern game may be coming sooner than you think.
This article originally appeared in issue 227 of Game Informer.
The Authentic(ated) ExperienceAnyone who’s played a game in the past two years is aware of a pack-in many games come equipped with nowadays: The online pass code. Whether you’re unlocking a frivolous new costume, a handful of bonus maps, or the game’s entire multiplayer component, some part of your new experience is likely tied to authenticating your copy via some online service. Gamers without Internet access have suffered without this bonus content for some time now, but even for online gamers these extras will be available only for as long as Microsoft and Sony provide service for their systems. Once that is gone, that content (if it’s not already loaded on your console) will be gone forever. We won’t cry if that means losing access to our horse armor in Oblivion a few years from now, but some missing content will prove more detrimental to the overall experience. Late last year, Rocksteady was criticized for locking the Catwoman chapters of Batman: Arkham City, which intertwine with the Caped Crusader’s own narrative, behind a hefty DLC download. Ultimately, players who buy the game new and have access to the Internet don’t think much about the inconvenience of downloading the extra content. But once Xbox Live and PSN support are no longer offered for the 360 and PS3, a piece of Arkham City’s adventure will be permanently lost.
When The Servers Are SeveredGamers tend to think of multiplayer-oriented games as offering endless replayability, but due to the costs associated with maintaining servers for online play, multiplayer is oftentimes the first aspect of a game to get the axe. Late last year, BioWare launched its highly anticipated MMO The Old Republic, offering players the chance to explore a new take on the Star Wars universe. Five days earlier, however, another MMO based on the hit sci-fi IP, Star Wars Galaxies, shut off its servers. For eight years the game offered a home to a dedicated group of players, which may sound like a long time. But the ending of Star Wars Galaxies is absolute – players no longer have the ability to go back to the game for a stroll down memory lane or to catch up with friends. The doors are closed.
Social games aren’t impervious to getting the axe, either. Late last year, EA PopCap announced its plans to shut down the Facebook game Baking Life at the end of January, despite an average daily player count of 100,000 users. Adding insult to injury, the game’s developer announced that any outstanding virtual currency (Zip Cash) players have cannot be refunded or transferred to the company’s other titles.
It’s not just PC players who must worry about having the plug pulled on their favorite online game. Console games featuring dedicated server-based multiplayer are just as susceptible to being rendered unplayable by discontinued support, which sometimes comes sooner than you think. Last year, 2K Sports shut down NBA 2K11’s multiplayer servers in mid-November, after just 13 months of support. Players were encouraged to “upgrade” to NBA 2K12, but the newest iteration in the series doesn’t have My Crew or the traditional Online Leagues, leaving fans of those modes high and dry.
The multiplayer servers for Demon’s Souls have been on the chopping block several times as well. Originally Atlus planned to discontinue the multiplayer servers in March of 2011, but the shut-off date was then delayed until fall of the same year. Fans are now riding another stay of execution until an unnamed time in 2012, but sooner or later a facet of Demon’s Souls’ innovative blend of multiplayer and single-player will be gone for good.
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I can only hope future consoles will be doing remakes or collection editions of my favorite gaming series. If not, maybe I'll see them someday in gaming heaven. . .
This is exactly why all Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo downloaded content purchases should be tied directly to gamer profiles that continue on directly to each company's next system.
People want to own the content that they pay for. They don't want to have to purchase a game again just becuase the current online service they have it with all of a sudden ceases to exist or stops supporting that game or whatever.
They want to know that if Netflix somehow tumbles and falls off completely, that they still have a library of their favorite movies to watch. The same goes with games.
I have several titles that aren't yet available online, whether it's old Saturn and Dreamcast games or Game Boy games or whatever, and I'd never sell them until something came out that guaranteed me the ownership of a purchased game forever.
I don't want to have to go back and buy a game that I already bought. I've done that way too many times in my life as new systems have come out and old systems have faded away. Ideally, I'd love to be able to get rid of the clutter, the games that take up space etc.
But until I know that Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are going to do right by their system owners and give us something that allows us to own our content forever, I won't be getting rid of anything.
Gaming industry writing themselves into a corner.
I remember reading this in the magazine--excellent piece.
The real travesty is those episodes of MST3K that nobody managed to get hold of and have been lost forever.
Fantastic article as this subject is something I have wondered about as well. I love popping in older generations games that I missed like Dreamcast and Super Nintendo. If I play catch up later in life with games that are currently out and considered classics, will they be supported. It is sad that the answer is mostly likely not.
PC players would have to worry about losing servers less if they'd go back to client run, dedicated servers.
As long as Jeremiah Slaczka promises to buy me a digital copy of every game I already own, then I'll be happy.
That's why I prefer PC, where STEAM takes care of most server issues
I just hate all of the pre-order uncertainty. I don't pick up nearly as many games as I used to because I know the bonuses will be available at a later date.
Also, I'm seriously waiting for the day when ALL developers will release games that are thoroughly inspected for completion in every development stage... "update" is a dirty word these days.
sports yes, others no
DLC has its place in the gaming hierarchy of sorts. There is something out there for every type of gamer, average, moderate, casual, hardcore, fanatical, etc.
With this being said its only a matter of time, before PS3 & 360 go the way of its earlier consoles, SNES, Sega Gensis, etc. ie., the way of the dinosaur extinct. Only time will tell how loing we have left before such a major change takes place, given the course of history as it relates to technology the window maybe shorter than we can fathom as we sit; marvel at the various blogs that cover this interesting & highly-debated topic amongst the GIO community.
I can't help thinking about the shutoff of original Xbox Live services a few years back. The day it happened, knowing I would never be able to play Halo 2 online - I thought, "Wow, this sucks. And one day, Halo 3s servers will be shutoff too."
Actually, that got me thinking. Gonna play some Halo 3 for old times sake and enjoy the online support while it lasts. Good article.