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!