The title of this article was inspired by the Wulff Denn Podcast.
No matter the console it’s always a sorrowful day when a video game console’s digital storefront closes its doors to consumers. In a way, the company is hammering the final nail in the console’s coffin and sending it to the tech graveyard, never to be mentioned or seen from again. For as long as I can remember I’ve been an advocate for video game preservation, and it saddens me when we catch wind of another digital marketplace going out of business. And the companies of Nintendo and Sony are not pulling their weight in this department.
For those of you who are not aware of the phrase. Video Game Preservation refers to the preservation applied to the history of video games. In short, it’s putting the effort into archiving digital and physical copies of video games and every asset that goes with them. Game preservation can be achieved in numerous ways whether it be via emulation, backward compatibility, or streaming.
Companies such as Nintendo and Sony use to be extraordinary when it came to game preservation but have since lost touch with their humble beginnings. Sony has recently announced that they will be shutting down to digital storefronts for the PlayStation’s Vita, PlayStation Portable, and the PlayStation 3 in summer 2021. Which to the average joe doesn’t seem like a big deal. You might think who wants to play old games? And I’m here to tell you that plenty of gamers do and it’s a bigger issue than you might think. This affects more than the video game industry. The fact that Sony is cutting the cord on their storefronts is one thing. But not giving consumers an alternative way to play their legacy titles raises reason for concern.
If a consumer wants to play a legacy title from Sony’s library of games they have to resort to hunting down a legacy console or resort to Sonys streaming subscription ‘PlayStation Now’. Which does offer some of their backlog titles you can play on your PS4 or PS5. Unfortunately, the selection is nowhere near what we have seen in the past with backward-compatible systems like the PS2 or the original model of the PS3.
The method that Sony used to achieve this is in the past was called system on a chip. For my non-tech friends out there it gave the PS2 and PS3 the ability to play its predecessors titles on their systems respectively. Sony included the initial hardware of the previous generations into their latest consoles which is part of why those the PS2 and PS3 were wildly successful. Consumers didn’t feel like they had to throw their old games out to make room for new ones. It was a nice way for Sony to acknowledge that the gamer’s dollar was valuable.
Nintendo on the other hand I feel is much worse when it comes to game preservation. On March 31st Nintendo severed all ties with Super Mario 3D All-Stars which was a collection of classic Mario games for the Nintendo switch. It was meant to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Mario franchise. Which I thought was a nice gift to fans. But for some strange illogical reason, Nintendo decided to make this celebration offer a limited-time bundle. It was removed from the Nintendo e-shop on March 31st and has ceased production on physical copies. So whatever is left on store shelves of Super Mario 3D All-Stars is all we have. This is ridiculous because the leftover physical copies are now being sold by scalpers for an insane amount of money.
Nintendo is playing a treacherous game with consumers. I see no reason why Super Mario 3D All-Stars has been removed from the Nintendo e-shop. This ties into my point of how important game preservation is. If you did not get your hands on a copy of these classic Mario titles you’re out of luck. Nintendo has offered no other way to play these amusing titles. And this is not the first time Nintendo has pulled something like this. They are notorious for not giving their fanbase an official way to play their legacy titles.
As we know Nintendo games are a jolly good time and we never want to stop playing. They are so enjoyable that gamers have pirated their games for countless years because Nintendo does not give them an alternate way to play legacy titles from their previous platforms. Nintendo has shut down countless emulation sites trying to control to flare and popularity their games bring to consumers. What they do not realize is that if they gave users a way to play their catalog on the Nintendo Switch, the pirating would decrease tremendously. Because at the end of the day people want a legal way to play their games. And it seems that Nintendo and Sony are tone-deaf in that department.
Both companies should take a page out of Xbox’s book. They understand the importance of game preservation and how important it is for seasoned and new gamers to experience their favorite titles that have been released over the years. Xbox has strived to give old games a new life on the Xbox Series X|S. With features like FPS Boost and resolution upscale for their legacy titles is remarkable. And what makes these decisions so healthy is that Microsoft has not closed its doors on the Xbox 360 digital market page. Now don’t get me wrong one day it will cease to exist but games shouldn’t be worried because Microsoft will have a plan and give consumers another avenue to play their legacy titles.
Game preservation is more than just about playing your favorite titles. It’s history about the history of video games. It’s about passing the torch to future generations of gamers, creators, and developers. We have to hold companies like Nintendo and Sony accountable when it comes to issues like this. No one wants to buy old hardware to play old games. In a way, I’m glad that the piracy of Nintendo and Sony games is alive and well because without the fans most of these titles would be lost to time. The hardware that video games are created for is temporary. It’s the software that allows video games to last forever.
Christian is a film critic and founder of the Film Optix Podcast. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association. You can find him on Twitter @Musiccitynerd