In world history, there are many events that occurred that you probably don’t agree with. You aren’t very human if there aren’t, but we can all agree that these events have shaped the world into what it is today. If we weren’t able to look these events up, research them, and understand them, we wouldn’t be able to flourish and learn from our mistakes. They say you should learn from history or it is bound to repeat itself, so I think we should take a brief look at video games and see where we’ve come from.
It doesn’t matter what stance you have on video games or which ones you’re into. It’s hard to argue that games like World of Warcraft and EverQuest didn’t have a historical impact on the games industry. Sure, these are both massively multiplayer online games and are a poor example of the diversity of the content that the industry has produced. Though they don’t cover the expansive industry very well, they do prove to provide a perfect example of the dedication of gamers to what they love and the concept of an expiration date. Though these two titles have had a huge fan base and have had many of their players never stop playing over the many years they have existed, eventually the companies that created them will cease to profit from them. When the day comes that Blizzard no longer is making money off of World of Warcraft they will shut the servers down, and along with them the massive amount of gaming history that the Warcraft universe created. Sure, there will be private servers that cult fans will keep running so that anybody can play, but that won’t provide the amazing experience that the original players were able to have. There will also be no more expanding of the game, balancing the classes, and patching the content, which, for many, is what kept them playing.
How does this affect the industry and games as a medium? Well, let’s step back and look at all games, not just MMOs. Chrono Trigger is argued by many gamers to be one of the best video games ever made. This title came out for SNES 1995 and was created by what was dubbed to be the “Dream Team” in RPG game development: Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy; Yuji Horii, a game designer and the creator of Dragon Quest; and Akira Toriyama, the famous creator of DragonBall. There isn’t a whole lot to argue with here. Chrono Trigger has been pretty lucky. It was ported to PlayStation about five years after its release, once again raising the hype and increasing the available fan base of this title. In 2008 it was then ported to Nintendo DS, bringing in a younger audience that never got a chance to play the amazing game. Finally, in 2011, it finally released for iOS and Android platforms, much to the satisfaction of mobile game-lovers. So far Chrono Trigger has survived the test of time (pun intended). Not all games are this fortunate. There are a lot of great titles that aren’t nearly this accessible. Now if you would like to play a game from the Super Nintendo you have two options: You can either hit up Ebay and try to get a hold of an old system that may or may not still be working, or you can download an emulator on your computer that will play a digital ROM of the game for you. This works…for now.
Let’s move forward a couple generations. The Xbox 360 released in November of 2005. Yes, you read that correctly; 2005. It’s been around a long time. What that means is that in that time, many games have been released, many sequels have came out, and even some new Xbox exclusive intellectual properties have been released as well. To give you a perspective of this, all of the Gears of War history occurred within the lifetime of the Xbox 360. This isn’t even mentioning all of the Xbox exclusive indie titles that released on the Xbox Live Arcade during this time. Just looking at the history of the Xbox 360, you can see that each and every system has an impact on gaming immensely.
Let’s move away from game history for one moment. Let’s take a minute and look at the issues that were big in the current generation of consoles that are about to release. The Xbox was making a lot of claims as to how they were going to run their system that was upsetting gamers in many ways. A lot of people were upset at the lack of indie support, and others disliked that they had to have a Kinect plugged in at all times. The thing that seemed upset most people was the need to hook up to the internet every 24 hours just to be able to use your system. Gamers rose up and got Microsoft to back down and change some of these policies, but this is where gamers didn’t realize really how much good they did by doing this.
Imagine when the NextBox comes out after the Xbox One. Microsoft realizes that they are no longer making money off of the Xbox and they decide to shut all of those servers down. Not only does your system no longer work, but all of those games, all of that history is lost. If we as gamers had actually purchased systems like this and allowed them to get away with this, who’s to say that Nintendo and Sony wouldn’t have followed suit? What if our future consoles all had to be online all of the time? Somebody has to pay for the space to keep these games and systems running, and you can bet the company that isn’t profiting from it won’t keep it up. Imagine if you were never able to play any of the Gears of War titles again. Picture telling your kids about your favorite games but being unable to show them. You can still show them your favorite movies, and read them your favorite books. Why should video games be treated any differently?