Retro is the new future proof

Sean over @ Retro Otaku wrote a post that made me sit down and think about these things.

Time to sit down and get serious for a moment.
All contemporary things will one day be called “retro”. Even the Xbox 360 and PS3 cannot escape that. This feels more relevant than ever, since rumours about their successors have been begun roaring their heads. Yes, both these systems are actually starting to get old – and I haven’t had them that long at all! Figures.
But when we sit there in the future with our new Xboxes and Playstations, I will probably have a hard time calling the old systems retro the same way I can do with for example the Saturn, SNES or PC Engine.
In fact, I will go out on a limb here and say that the last “true” generation of consoles that are now considered to be retro, is the 6th generation, that is to say the Dreamcast, Playstation 2, Gamecube & the original Xbox. Why? Because they’re easily collectable.

Think about this for a moment: With any of these systems, you can pick one up used (obviously, good luck finding a new one…that is not a PS2), a couple of games and be on your way. That sounds easy and simple, right? But so many things, security measures and “features” have been introduced during this current generation of gaming consoles (the 7th generation) that such a simple thing might not actually work a few years in the future. Or even now. We’ve got accounts connected to things like Xbox LIVE & Playstation Network, which may or may not need signing in order to access the systems features, we have always-online DRM, online passes, we have digital distribution and we have downloadable content, DLC. Owning a physical copy of a game doesn’t mean you can get away from all this, as you might still need to use a service such as Steam in order to access and play it. All of which lifts “power” from our hands and it also makes any sort of preservation bloody difficult. Oh and collecting. Better buy those Live Arcade games now before they cease to exist and hope that hard drive won’t break down.

What if, 10 years down the line you want to replay a game that’s out now, that isn’t a “game of the year” or complete edition, including all DLC released for it and so on, in order to enjoy “the full experience”, without having bought all that stuff earlier? Would you be able to do that? I don’t know. We don’t know. Some services might have the content stored for longer periods of time, like Steam, since the timeline for PC gaming is much more dynamic. If if was a 360 or PS3 game? Don’t count on it, unless you can get your hands someone else’s hard drive or something.

And that’s the problem we’re facing now and surely will continue to face with the next generation of gaming consoles. It’s probably safe to believe that your contemporary gaming system of choice won’t become a brick when the new systems arrives but I’m pretty sure we can forget having access to the complete library of games released. And that sucks.

Long live the last generation of truly collectable systems!


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About Ji-L87

Laid back swede with an for affection games, sweet music and specific parts of Japanese pop culture.

5 responses to “Retro is the new future proof”

  1. Sean @ Retro Otaku says :

    Just wanted to fire over a thumbs-up for such a good response-piece, you raise some great points and I love the tagline, that it’s only by keeping the retro-scene alive can we future-proof generations of gaming. The rise of DLC may spell the end of being able to historically preserve games in an accurate way… unless the content becomes pirated. That’s something I raised in my long-winded post, that it’s ironically up to the hacking community to build the tools to preserve gaming as a social history.

    I guess in a perfect world, when PSN and XBLA gets switched off for the next generation of consoles that patches are released to knock out server-based DRM or patch the console to at least allow me to play the games I’ve paid for already. I’d cry if I couldn’t go back and play Bionic Commando ReArmed 2, for example.

    • Ji-L87 says :

      “The rise of DLC may spell the end of being able to historically preserve games in an accurate way” – That’s a better way of saying it than I could : D

      As much as pirates do bad, they also do good. And maybe thanks to questionable activities such as cracking, patching and the like, they’re the best guys to make locked content playable, long after they’re been abandoned. It’s a weird balance act but it makes sense, I guess.

      And, well, I’m not too sure how the situation is for the LIVE on the old Xbox (gone, I think?) since I don’t have one (yet) but since lots of people have been spending their digital money on digital goods on both PSN and XBLA – just hitting the switch would surely cause an outrage. So…they probably will have to do it with more, how shall I put it, tact (?) at least.

      Oh and thank you for adding me to your blogroll. I thought I had you on there already but that’s been fixed now. Now, if I only could stop writing this like I’m the only one reading this thing :p

  2. Sean @ Retro Otaku says :

    It’s a good point on the pirate scene – I guess it falls under the white hat/grey hat/black hat mentality when categorising things. Is hacking a game ultimately for the betterment of the gaming community as it allows for old games to get greater exposure post-mortem? By extension, does the same model apply to emulation?

    Oh, and thanks for adding my site to your blog roll – really appreciate it!

    • Hollo @ says :

      Sean’s post has seriously got me thinking about it too (found your blog via Sean’s by the way). It really does worry me that it might be difficult to reminisce about the games today in the same way that I do with my hoard now. Another thing is that the hardware probably (more like definitely) won’t make the distance either….

      I guess the only thing we can do is backup, backup again, and then backup some more. It may not be 100% legal, but I know that I will want to play TrialsHD, SuperMeatBoy, and RedDead again in the future. 😦

      • Ji-L87 says :

        “I guess the only thing we can do is backup, backup again, and then backup some more. It may not be 100% legal, but I know that I will want to play TrialsHD, SuperMeatBoy, and RedDead again in the future.”

        Doing backups is probably easier on the PS3, swappable hard drive and all that. On the 360, I guess a modded unit is the way to go, though updates might get in the way and Microsoft will probably give you the boot if you dare show up on Live, from what I’ve heard. But playing games locally should still work.

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