The digital-only games we’ve lost – and those we’re going to lose

Contra Rebirth is one of the games that is set to disappear when the WiiWare service shuts down in 2019.
Contra Rebirth is one of the games that is set to disappear when the WiiWare service shuts down in 2019.

If you want to play an NES game from 30 years ago, it’s a simple enough proposition to track down the original cartridges and hardware. You might have a bit of trouble connecting the ageing console to a modern TV, but it’s certainly possible. And there’s always the grey area of emulation if you want to take a shortcut.

But how easy will it be to play the games of today in 30 years’ time? In particular, will it even be possible to obtain modern digital-only releases from PSN, Xbox Live Marketplace or the Nintendo eShop? Perhaps even more pressingly, post-release patches have become the norm for modern titles, but for how long will these essential fixes remain available? Even if you have the physical disc for a PS4 game, will you still be able to download all of the patches and DLC in three decades’ time?

Today, rather than, say, the physical integrity of an NES cartridge, the lifespan of a game is ultimately determined by the largesse of companies like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo and their willingness to keep servers alive. And we’ve already seen a huge number of games disappear into the digital ether, seemingly with no hope of salvaging them.

I wrote the below article for Eurogamer, taking a look at the digital-only games that have already disappeared and the ones that are set to go in the future – as well as what people are doing to preserve them:

Where do downloadable games go when they die?

The article has already generated lots of comment – clearly this is an issue that people feel passionate about. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments below.

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