Editorial

Games: here today, gone tomorrow

E3 2005 was a big deal for Microsoft for many reasons. The show was to be the last before the Xbox 360’s release, so the pressure was on to drum up hype. One question on a lot of people’s lips at the time was “will my older Xbox games work?” The answer wasn’t yes, but it wasn’t no. “Xbox 360 will be backwards compatible with the top-selling Xbox games,” Robbie Bach announced. Hmm.

Fast-forward six years and we’re given a clearer picture. Around half of the original Xbox games work on the 360, updates are no longer being released, and the Xbox Live service has been cut off. Elsewhere in the gaming world, things are looking just as bleak. PS2 backwards compatibility has been all but forgotten, even though it’s considered by many to hold one of the best library of games ever. Why aren’t people interested in picking up a couple of cheaper PS2 games to go with their PS3?

One of gaming’s biggest problems as an art form is its dependence on technology. After all, when you’ve spent £200 on the latest games console, you want something to show it off with. Why would I spend all that money just to play decades-old games? This isn’t as much of a problem with music or films. Consumers are willing to buy older films on newer formats because the new technology isn’t what they love about the film. With gaming, it’s a bit trickier.

Gaming sits at an awkward crossroads of art and science. Halo 2, compared to the original Halo, was technologically superior. Dual wielding, pixel-perfect graphics and enhanced sound made the experience a whole heap better. Artistically, it wasn’t as clear cut. The second installment ended on a cliffhanger, and much of the mystery and intrigue was lost when you consider the fact that it took place on another Halo. Again. With the same basic mission.

​Halo: Combat Evolved, an example of a game receiving the remake treatment

Halo is an interesting example because it’s one of several games that are being remade for the HD generation. A new trend that’s picking up speed, the HD remake looks like it could be a change of tide for the artistic merit of games. The developers of Halo Anniversary have given excruciating attention to preserving the art of the game, while improving the graphics and adding in features expected in new games, like Xbox Live play.

It’s not the first time a game’s been remade, of course. Tomb Raider also got a 10th-year remake, albeit one that saw limited success. Metal Gear Solid is also getting the rerun treatment. Even though the younger generation might not be giving too much thought to older classics, it looks like somebody in a boardroom somewhere is seeing the value in remaking games.

Even though the HD remake looks like it’s solving the problem of preserving games, in the long run it doesn’t. 10 years down the line Halo Anniversary will look dated once again, and then what? The HD remake serves to cash in on memory. Even though you could argue that remake upon remake will help keep the central game alive, it’s a very costly solution. Films and music get re-released on new formats too, but neither of those are as expensive as the £50 asking price of a new game. And at least with those two there are ways to transfer over to newer formats. With games, you’re locked into the remake cycle whether you like it or not.

And then comes the broken backwards compatibility. Not content with you buying remakes of old games, the manufacturer manages to make extra sure that old games are left in the dust by breaking support for older games. And hey, even if it’s never remade they can always sell it back as a downloadable “classic” title.

​Will people still be playing Metal Gear Solid 4 ten years from now?

The downloadable classic could turn out to be the art form’s saving grace. It’s a low consolation prize though, a poor compromise. It’s still dependent on people forking out money (quite a lot, actually) for games they’ve played before. And anyway, who really wants to play old games on a new piece of kit? Beyond Good and Evil HD is still as great as it was all those years ago, but playing it straight after Grand Theft Auto IV doesn’t really do it any favours.

Gaming generations need to undergo a serious change. “A new console every four years” not only hurts new games faced with rising developer costs, but old games that are quickly forgotten about. But with this being the 10th anniversary of the Xbox, it’s also the sixth anniversary of the Xbox 360. It’s a notable exception in the world of gaming, considering that neither Microsoft nor Sony have started talking up their next consoles.

Lower development costs, cheaper games and much more longevity from classic titles. Consumers and producers both benefit here. But there’s also a bigger question here, a question that’s for the most part been limited to small-time indie developers and the occasional eccentric, the question of games holding value. Encourage games to be seen as something still worth buying a few years down the line; after all, publishers seem to be obsessed with getting their money’s worth out of the bargain bin. Treat games as works that should hold value for a little bit longer than three months and perhaps people might be more inclined to buy them.

​Image credit: Microsoft and Konami

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Most PS3s in homes do not have any form of backward compatibility with PS2 games, therefore no one picks up a couple of PS2 games to go with their new PS3.

All PS2 games continue to work on PS2s, and all Xbox games continue to work on Xboxes, and many games will, in a few years, be well emulated (I suppose they mostly already are, I don't check on it, because there are games like Skyrim and Dark Souls coming out now). There are classics you'll go back to time and again (for me the Xbox classics worth revisiting are Splinter Cell/SC: Pandora Tomorrow/and SC: Chaos Theory).

I am playing Company of Heroes 5 years after the fact. I still play Homeworld, thats 10 years. I will be playing Rome Total War, i think 6 years... point is, PC games last longer.

Good that most Windows-based PC games are Windows XP compatible (although many were lost in the 9x transition) and there's DOSBox for the DOS ones. Many games will be lost again if we can't run XP natively any more. We need high performance 3D graphics in virtualization software like Hyper-V.

xpclient said,
Many games will be lost again if we can't run XP natively any more.

Obviously can't speak for every game, but so far I've yet to run into an oldie that hasn't run under the current OS's, excluding the really old ones that require DOSBox of course which run regardless. Have a lot of old Interplay/BioWare RPG's, the Thief series, occasionally Freespace for giggles, etc, a lot of them from literally the last century. For the stuff I have anyway, if they ran in XP, they run in 7 too. Zero emulation required, I think I had to set XP compatibility mode on a couple, that's it.

To this day I still play Final Fantasy 6, 7, and 9 yearly. Those to me were great games, with a great story, and stay value. Do not know what has happened in the past years of gaming, but I generally never pick up a game again, after I'm done, that is released nowadays.

I for one like the fact that they're trying to give consoles longer life. Maybe then we will see development studios taking the risks and releasing new IP's like they used to. There was a time when companies like Sega were releasing HUGE new IP's. Some were successful and some weren't, but if the console life is a bit longer, perhaps companies will start doing that again. It's one of the things I most miss about the older games. Newer games all seem like more of the same. Sequel after sequel... Where are the cool new IP's that reinvent things?

Interesting article. While I dont have some of my OLDER systems hooked up anymore, I still do keep them around just in case I'm feeling nostalgic. However, my PS2 is still connected (maybe because I have over 80 games for it) but it wouldnt be if my slim PS3 had backwards compatability. Not that I really mind because my PS2 from launch day is working perfectly fine but I would love it a whole lot more if my PS3 had backwards compatability because I find myself still playing some of the many games in my PS2 library. In fact, I even have some games that I have not yet played.

I'm not ready to shun away my PS2 just yet as I spent alot of time fine tuning my PS2 library and I still find many of the games to be enjoyable. I know backwards compatability is not coming back anytime soon as well so the PS2 stays!

I would still be playing soldier of fortune II double helix if only it worked properly widescreen for multiplay, and ppl still played it in oz. Alas, we must move with the tide.

The amount of digital content people are buying I doubt the manufactures are going to kill BC so easily. The out cry would be far bigger than last generation. If they had any foresight the development tool standards would make things easier for emulating in future hardware. If PCs can do it with a bit of jiggery pokery over the decades then I'm sure the clever folk at these companies can do the same.

My Favourite remake of all time: Pokémon: HeartGold & SoulSilver.

It brought more to the table than just "HD Graphics" and such. It allowed a 2nd gen game to interact with all the 4th gen mechanics and incorporated the touch screen. Much better than playing on a Game Boy.
Loads of new features had come about since gen 2, like Wi-Fi, the Battle Tower and stuff like that. New TMs and Pokémon.

Plus, your first pokémon walks outside with you. Like Pikachu in Yellow.

Well, I agree with that much games, like Halo are great at launch but are quickly gone from our minds. However, I don't agree with the idea that 'old' consoles or old graphics are the issue here.

20 years ago, Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog. Those first 3 games on the genesis are still being played to date by ALOT of people. The game has seen many re-releases, and a few years ago on the 360 and PS3. Still people purchase the game simply to be able to play the game. The graphics are still bad, and with today's screens look even uglier. But still it sells really well and fans like me play the games every month over and over again.

The same goes for Mario games. Those first games from the nes are still being played. How many times do you see an emulator just to play mario? Hell, they even released it on a WP7. (not offiically though).

Even doom is still popular these days.

It just shows imo that games like sonic, mario, doom and Duke Nukem 3d have such high quality that people love and care about. With Halo and Call of Duty, alot of people fall into all the buzz around it and play the game because of it, but it would be nothing more then just the one-out-of-so-many games we play these days. For example, CoD and Battlefield are one of the so many shooter games that just doesn't add something new into the mix. It's like watching the 30th war movie about pearl harbor. (i'm not saying it are bad games, or don't do anything special within their genre, just that overall they aren't as special as games during the '90s)

With that being said, I also think that it helps to forget current games simply because we purchase more now then back in the '90s. I don't know the facts but thats my experience. And since my age, I grew up with those games. Maybe that helps me sticking with those games and forgetting about current releases.

But then again, I don't see technoligy be a limit. HD graphic updates are nice to make previous experience better, but it won't make a game less forgettable. If a game itself is great, no updates are neccisary for poeple to stick playing.

Peter van Dam said,
Well, I agree with that much games, like Halo are great at launch but are quickly gone from our minds. However, I don't agree with the idea that 'old' consoles or old graphics are the issue here.

20 years ago, Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog. Those first 3 games on the genesis are still being played to date by ALOT of people. The game has seen many re-releases, and a few years ago on the 360 and PS3. Still people purchase the game simply to be able to play the game. The graphics are still bad, and with today's screens look even uglier. But still it sells really well and fans like me play the games every month over and over again.

The same goes for Mario games. Those first games from the nes are still being played. How many times do you see an emulator just to play mario? Hell, they even released it on a WP7. (not offiically though).

Even doom is still popular these days.

It just shows imo that games like sonic, mario, doom and Duke Nukem 3d have such high quality that people love and care about. With Halo and Call of Duty, alot of people fall into all the buzz around it and play the game because of it, but it would be nothing more then just the one-out-of-so-many games we play these days. For example, CoD and Battlefield are one of the so many shooter games that just doesn't add something new into the mix. It's like watching the 30th war movie about pearl harbor. (i'm not saying it are bad games, or don't do anything special within their genre, just that overall they aren't as special as games during the '90s)

With that being said, I also think that it helps to forget current games simply because we purchase more now then back in the '90s. I don't know the facts but thats my experience. And since my age, I grew up with those games. Maybe that helps me sticking with those games and forgetting about current releases.

But then again, I don't see technoligy be a limit. HD graphic updates are nice to make previous experience better, but it won't make a game less forgettable. If a game itself is great, no updates are neccisary for poeple to stick playing.

+1. I just cannot tell you the last time I had the kind of feeling I had playing Panzer Dragoon Saga or Skies of Arcadia... Games are pretty and all now, but they're missing that something that makes you want to play after work or whatever. It is kind of depressing, and I blame sequel'dom... Everything anymore is a sequel. And it's the same handful of games too... There's little new or exciting, and amazing properties like Panzer Dragoon or Skies of Arcadia languish forgotten because they're not worth the risk...

M_Lyons10 said,
+1. I just cannot tell you the last time I had the kind of feeling I had playing Panzer Dragoon Saga or Skies of Arcadia... Games are pretty and all now, but they're missing that something that makes you want to play after work or whatever. It is kind of depressing, and I blame sequel'dom... Everything anymore is a sequel. And it's the same handful of games too... There's little new or exciting, and amazing properties like Panzer Dragoon or Skies of Arcadia languish forgotten because they're not worth the risk...
Check out Draco. Someone remembers.

People don't play most old games of past generations for the same reason no one watches the old, terrible movies from past decades. Once is enough. But the classics, the good movies, are stilled watched and loved by lots of people today. It's the same with games.

spacer said,
People don't play most old games of past generations for the same reason no one watches the old, terrible movies from past decades. Once is enough. But the classics, the good movies, are stilled watched and loved by lots of people today. It's the same with games.

Nobody plays old games! I'm not even a gamer and a couple of the old "classics" I have, suck now!

My kid, who lives for playing games practically, can't stand older games anymore either.

Games just flat out get boring when played often and long enough.

cork1958 said,

Nobody plays old games!

Great statement, I play games which are 10 years + in age, they just have something that modern games lack. Its not all just memories, there is a certain amount of "fun" that I just can't find in a lot of newer games

When I got a new console after my SNES I still kept my SNES hooked up for ages. Same with it's replacement when it was replaced. Oddly it's just this generation where I only have my primary console hooked up and the older ones are collecting dust. Not really sure why this is.

cork1958 said,

Nobody plays old games! I'm not even a gamer and a couple of the old "classics" I have, suck now!.

Then maybe you're playing the wrong ones. I enjoy quite a few of my older games.

My LVL50 Cold Sorceress from Diablo 2 doesn't think that to be the case..
Also, have you ever played Silver? Maybe you don't play old game because you only know bad games

cork1958 said,

Nobody plays old games! I'm not even a gamer and a couple of the old "classics" I have, suck now!

My kid, who lives for playing games practically, can't stand older games anymore either.

Games just flat out get boring when played often and long enough.

Sorry to hear that, but many older games are a great ton of fun. And whilst you think you don't play them anymore, you are probably just playing them in the form of recently released games that just copy them and change the graphics for a more modern look.

Said that, there are many older games that I still play today and some I wish I could if my Dreamcast would still be available.

Great and memorable games are never lost in time. And, unfortunately, nowadays there are ton of AAA titles that are just forgettable.

theres alot of old games i go back to these days because all the new ones are rehashed pieces of turd. gfx isnt everything

I think certain games deserve a "HD Remake" because they were clearly ahead of their time. They tend to have fantastic story, or unique gameplay that has still to be beaten. I would love to see a HD Remake of System Shock, for example, but games that were only really notable for their graphics (Doom 3, Crysis, etc.) aren't really worth preserving except perhaps as milestones in graphical advancements.

Then again, some games are perfect the way they are - particularly older 2D platformers. Mario is and always will be a classic and it doesn't need HD Textures or fancy 3D modelling.

I think the problem is that, for even the classic cames that defined genres, like Diablo, Warcraft, or Doom, part of the play value is in their graphics - there's not much story line. After 10 years, the graphics, which were a large part of the play value, are null. So all of a sudden, yes, the games - even "classics - become "worse" with time.

This is vastly different from how books work, where they remain the same with age.

I don't doubt that 20 years from now there will be a college class "video games throughout the ages", but unlike a modern lit class, they won't require the student to play the games, just watch youtube footage, because unlike books, the games will be boring.

greenwizard88 said,
I think the problem is that, for even the classic cames that defined genres, like Diablo, Warcraft, or Doom, part of the play value is in their graphics - there's not much story line.

Not much storyline in Diablo and WarCraft? WarCraft probably has more stories and lore out of most games i know.

KZWings said,

Not much storyline in Diablo and WarCraft? WarCraft probably has more stories and lore out of most games i know.


How much story is in Warcraft or Diablo? Do you think you could make a 200 page book out of it? No, the cut scenes make up 15 minutes or maybe 5 pages of a book. Sure you can read more into it, but then you're doing just that- reading into it, not what actually exists.

richardsim7 said,

I know I will!

But will people still be playing MW3 in 10 years time? I seriously doubt it. Ironically, the games with the biggest success today seem very "iterative" and are outdated in 12 months, or 24 at best. I'm not saying MW3 is a bad game, it's certainly popular enough to prove that it's a good game, but it's very much "spirit of the time" and won't stand the test of time.

Well you can also argue that for movie blockbusters, will you be watching Transformers or Thor 10 years from now? Most likely no. The games, as movies, need staying power. I could see myself playing mass effect 10 years from now. The difference in my opinion is, a movie is a 2 hour affair, a game takes much longer, and not even taking into account dated graphics, or much more importantly, dated control schemes/game mechanics. The way FPSs behaved 10 years ago is much different than now. Just try to play the first Unreal Tournament now. I did. Don't do it, it's better to stick with the good memories

Kushan said,

But will people still be playing MW3 in 10 years time? I seriously doubt it. Ironically, the games with the biggest success today seem very "iterative" and are outdated in 12 months, or 24 at best. I'm not saying MW3 is a bad game, it's certainly popular enough to prove that it's a good game, but it's very much "spirit of the time" and won't stand the test of time.

Kushan said,

But will people still be playing MW3 in 10 years time? I seriously doubt it. Ironically, the games with the biggest success today seem very "iterative" and are outdated in 12 months, or 24 at best. I'm not saying MW3 is a bad game, it's certainly popular enough to prove that it's a good game, but it's very much "spirit of the time" and won't stand the test of time.

indeed its normally a year long game and is normally pushed out the way by its sequel people will still be playing the franchise in 10 years.. if they can keep up interesting work..

Kushan said,

But will people still be playing MW3 in 10 years time?

No cause it's not that great. Pople will forget new CoD quickly.

People still play old Mario games here and there. My old NES is still working and sometime i dust it off to play some old games.

Kushan said,

But will people still be playing MW3 in 10 years time? I seriously doubt it. Ironically, the games with the biggest success today seem very "iterative" and are outdated in 12 months, or 24 at best. I'm not saying MW3 is a bad game, it's certainly popular enough to prove that it's a good game, but it's very much "spirit of the time" and won't stand the test of time.


I still play CoD4 occasionally, cause, you know, CoD was still decent back then.