Nintendo and the industry must take game preservation seriously

Image: Nintendo Life / Zion Grassl

Over the holidays, we are re-posting some of our best articles, interviews, opinions, and talking points from the previous 12 months. from both employees and participants – Articles that we think represent our best of 2021. In them you will find our usual mixture of thoughtfulness, frivolity and retro. expertise, nostalgia for games and, of course, enthusiasm for everything related to Nintendo. Enjoy!

For those following general chat around video games, one topic that has sparked debate recently is Sony’s announcement of the upcoming closure of digital stores on PlayStation 3, PS Vita and PSP… On the news side, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise for reasons we’ll go into in more detail, but it did bring a clear focus on the subject as a whole.

It’s hard to find anyone who approves transition, and while existing purchases in these storefronts will remain available for re-download, this is only “for the foreseeable future,” which is alarmingly vague. In addition, many have pointed to various iconic digital-only games that, in theory, will no longer be available for purchase and play legally. It was the core of many controversiesThis is not only due to Sony’s decision, but also to the very nature of gaming media.

Nintendo is, of course, at the center of this topic, thanks to its past actions and questions about the future. So now is a good time to address some of the issues raised.

Switch to Internet
Image: Nintendo

What are the technical and business challenges of preserving and accessing digital data?

One issue that is rarely discussed in an undeniably passionate debate is logistics. Are there problems that make it virtually impossible to maintain digital stores and their content in the long run?

In terms of bolts and nuts, the general consensus among our tech-minded staff is that while costs and logistics need to be borne in mind, they are not necessarily significant enough to warrant giving up financial support. Maintaining servers in the underutilized stores of huge billion-dollar corporations shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Older servers and databases such as the Wii Shop, for example, may run on end-of-life services, in which case the data will need to be migrated to more modern alternatives. All in all, it shouldn’t be particularly difficult given the resources of Nintendo / Sony / Microsoft, but of course it should still be sanctioned and approved.

So, from a server and data point of view, the technical details shouldn’t really matter. However, this is much more difficult when you consider areas such as licensing and copyright; these are really defining problems with keeping certain games, at least in their original forms.

Simply put, copyright concerns regarding video games are significant due to the unique nature of the media and its relative youth.

Simply put, copyright concerns regarding video games are significant due to the unique nature of the media and its relative youth. For example, copyright laws for books or, in particular, authors of printed works are established and clear. A certain number of years after the death of the author, their work can be redistributed and saved free of charge (although you cannot simply sell copy of a Shakespeare play, for example, if you do not own the rights). Until that time, the rightful owner of the copyright controls all means of distribution.

However, print has been an industry for hundreds of years, and the video game industry is still in its infancy by comparison. In addition, games become complex because they use so many elements from different sources, in some cases each of which has its own rights issues. Music is a classic example, especially in modern games where music is licensed, but then eventually the agreement expires. You only need to see the annoyed rolls of the eyes of everyone involved. GoldenEye 007In addition, many copyright holders did not like the attempts to reissue it.

Apply these issues to certain older games, and regardless of whether platform owners close stores, they are ultimately taken off the market. The idea of ​​reviving them runs into the same problems, since the costs of maintaining all licenses and copyright holders are significant. This article on why you’ll never be able to play your favorite retro game on Switch takes a close look at it.

So we find ourselves in an unofficial save via ROM and an enthusiast space where things get messy.

Assorted carts
Image: Nintendo Life

Saving games is not the same as game piracy

This area of ​​debate has been discussed here on Nintendo Life for many, many years. We are aware of Nintendo’s policy, which is generally to shut down sites or ROM projects that it believes infringes on its copyrights. Perhaps the problem with the debate, and sometimes with Nintendo’s policy toward it, is ROM = piracy, which is a simplistic argument.

It is worth remembering that for reasons only known at Nintendo headquarters, the Wii Virtual Console version Super Mario Bros. it was believed to have been derived in whole or in part from ROMs on the Internet. The video below from Eurogamer sums it up well.

However, let’s not be naive; some use ROM sites for pirated content, simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, this segment of the gaming audience distracts attention from those who are simply trying to defend the history of the industry. It is vital that we recognize the excellent work of organizations such as Wildlife Conservation Society and Video Game History Foundation; they are at the forefront of ensuring the preservation of industry history, including game publications as well as actual source code.

Where it gets sticky is what you do with the game’s source code, such as when it is saved. This is where the copyright and license issues discussed in the previous section rise above the parapet over and over again. The moment content is published or distributed so that the public can see historical games for themselves, the law becomes a factor and companies’ ears start to burn. Somewhere in this thread, copyright and property rights cannot be ruled out, this is a recurring topic.

Mini consoles have shown significant profitability in combining emulated retro games into a product.
Mini consoles have shown significant profitability in combining emulated retro games into a product. (Image: Nintendo Life)

Are Nintendo and other major gaming companies keeping their history?

Before we get too critical here, it is important to recognize that every form of media has great difficulty in preserving its history. Much of the early cinematography was lost as cinemas were literally scrapped after cinemas ran out; as attitudes changed, so did efforts to preserve copies and preserve film. On BBC television, it is notoriously had to admit to the fact that she lost master copies of iconic shows such as Doctor Who because he just pasted them over. Archiving across all industries has enough errors and failures to fill a library with books.

It is clear that nowadays many of the big players in the industry are completely sloppy when it comes to managing the source code of their own games.

However, it is clear that nowadays many of the big players in the industry are completely sloppy when it comes to managing the source code of their own games. SEGA is practically known for this, and a recent example has put Koei Tecmo on the defensive; Team Ninja brand manager Fumihiko Yasuda said there were only “pieces of data” left of the original. Ninja gaiden and Ninja gaiden 2 (i.e. more recent 3D), so the upcoming Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection uses Sigma versions for its work. The era of the remaster often demonstrated that developers had to work on a lack of coherent source code when creating extended releases and projects such as the upcoming restoration of a “lost” arcade game. Clockwork aquarium – The title, which has been meticulously revamped with input from members of the original development team, underscores the challenges faced by the guards.

Nintendo isn’t spotlessly clean here, as Super Mario Bros. Wii Virtual Console this makes him aggressive with ROMs, at times counterproductive. The point is that ROMs and structured, installed emulation software resources are also vital because physical media cannot last forever. Our very own Damien McFerran is one of several Nintendo Lifers with a solid collection of retro, and he has written about the realities of historical gaming systems and their media that are slowly but surely dying. Without digitization and safe storage of this content, it could be lost forever.

As for the Big Three, there is no doubt that Microsoft (a relatively young player in the industry) is currently getting better PR for its attitude towards older games. It is far from perfect, but at least it talks about preserving the history of games and making impressive length to maintain backward compatibility with the current system… In comparison, Nintendo and Sony are currently lagging behind.

Business is obviously an important factor; it is as clear as day that Nintendo will adopt the Disney Vault approach of scarcity and fear of missing out in order to make huge profits; it definitely worked with Super Mario 3D All-Stars… It’s also worth noting that we don’t even have complete security in terms of access, for example, to our old digital purchases at the Wii Shop; Nintendo, like Sony, requires that you re-download old downloadable content from this store. “Will eventually end in the future.”

Keeping games young in the gaming industry is still being supplanted by profit-driven businesses. There are concerns that, unless the preservation of game history is supported and managed by companies like Nintendo, reliance on volunteer groups may seem unreliable. Since many games are already lost for various reasons, how many more will disappear before the games industry matures and defends its legacy? Can legal areas such as copyright and licenses be addressed in the same way as with other forms of entertainment media to help the efforts of those seeking to preserve the environment?

There are not so many big questions, and there are not so many answers from those who have the keys to the vault.

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