What happened to GameSpy?
Today, multiplayer games are easy. You log into the game, press “play online” and in a moment you are in the arena playing with people from all over the world. Sometimes the game will match players with the same skill level or players living closer to each other for better latency and ping. Some games have options for a competitive game mode or something casual. In general, playing online with other people is a fairly simple process.
This accessibility comes from the pain of the past. In the past, games might require a specific IP address for a server, which required coordination with your friends to join the same server. This address came from somewhere on the Internet, like from a bulletin board.
Compared to what we have today, it was cumbersome and not exactly user friendly. In the mid-90s, an app called GameSpy came onto the scene and made browsing servers and connecting with players a much more intuitive process. It changed the rules of the game.
What is Game Spy?
GameSpy was a server browser for online games, but it was more than that. It actually started life as QSpy, a service created by Joe “QSpy” Powell, Tim Cook, and Jack “painful” Matthews. It was an application that allowed users to browse and search for Quake servers to join.
Mark Serfas, founder of the then popular website PlanetQuake, licensed QSpy and renamed it QuakeSpy. “id software was not very happy [the name] so we renamed it GameSpy and started adding every game we could into it,” Surfas said of the creation of GameSpy. When the Quake-based game Hexen II appeared the following year, QuakeSpy could also search and list servers for that game. , so a new name was required: GameSpy3D.
“I had a small consulting company and we made websites for everyone who bought them,” Surfas explains of his life at the time. “The moment I touched Quake, my whole world literally exploded. Recipe for a full 3D game view with fast online multiplayer? BOOM. Multiplayer games have become my whole life. I just really needed to be a part of what was going on.”
After that, the GameSpy3D license was transferred to game publishers and GameSpy Industries was born, starting an online gaming empire.
“GameSpy has done a LOT of what you now take for granted,” said Serfas. “The beginning was by looking at the servers. We created a technology division that has become the back office for many game developers and publishers. No one wanted to take on the responsibility of launching multiplayer services for the game in the long run, so we took it upon ourselves.”
GameSpy had two sides: a technological side (known as GameSpy Technology) that helped game developers create online modes and connect players to multiplayer servers.
“It’s hard to believe, but at the time, game publishers just thought that multiplayer was a headache that they didn’t really need,” said Surfas. “I think we helped a lot by providing tools, services and promotion so it was a little easier for them to spend money. Of course, game developers deserve all the credit for creating real magic. We were just game fans who were happy to be involved at all.”
In addition, GameSpy provided gamers with news about the latest video and PC games through a number of gaming websites (collectively referred to as “The Planet Network”) and GameSpy.com.
“We got a big audience and got into mod hosting, which is a whole new thing again,” said Surfas. “You could buy a game and then people would make more content for it. Basically, did you get new games for free? Unreal!”
Providing content to gamers
When it comes to the media, you can think of several websites with the pseudonym “Planet” aimed at gamers and tech enthusiasts. These include Planet Quake, Planet Half-Life, Planet Unreal, 3DActionPlanet, RPGPlanet, SportPlanet and StrategyPlanet. You may also remember FilePlanet, a file-sharing place to get patches, demos, and mods.
GameSpy.com has also become a popular place to get the latest reviews and news about what’s happening in the gaming industry. Browse any old game on Wikipedia and you’ll most likely notice a GameSpy score in the Reception section of the page.
Uniting players regardless of platform
GameSpy received several investments and briefly entered the world of online music before returning to its bread and butter, online gaming. GameSpy3D was replaced by GameSpy Arcade which included features such as user profiles, friends list and game lobbies. It can even scan your PC’s hard drive to find compatible games. Over 150 games were supported at launch.
Even console games have benefited from this technology. MotoGP, NASCAR Heat 2002, TimeSplitters and even Halo on Xbox used GameSpy before Xbox Live to connect players.
“When the Xbox shipped, it had a network jack, but it wasn’t possible to use it for online gaming,” GameSpy’s founder commented. “You could connect two Xbox consoles to a local network and play games together, but nothing more. We had a super genius named crt (David Wright) who over the weekend created and released an add-on for GameSpy Arcade that allowed you to play on a networked Xbox. games over the Internet. So we really were the first Xbox Live.” But Microsoft didn’t like it.
The PlayStation 2 versions of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, Risk, and Deer Hunter also featured GameSpy technology. In addition, GameSpy technology has helped launch many popular online games including Battlefield 1942, Halo, Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, Unreal Tournament and Midtown Madness. The app provided server browsing or a quick game.
Nintendo is also known to have used GameSpy servers to power its Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection platform. Nintendo DS and Wii games relied on this for online play.
GameSpy even launched early cross-platform games like 4×4 Evolution, which brought players on the Dreamcast, PC, and Mac together to race off-road vehicles regardless of platform. Considering how rare it is today, it was pretty impressive back then.
“We’ve been selling game interfaces and running servers for services like in-game matchmaking, ladders, chat, anti-piracy, etc. Our clients have been Activision, Microsoft, EA and pretty much everyone,” said Surfas.
After the development of GameSpy Arcade and further investment, including from the Ziff Davis group, the application has received several important features, such as voice over IP. Through the acquisition of Roger Wilco and rival matchmaking client MPlayer, GameSpy was able to roll out VoIP for gamers and integrate voice chat functionality into GameSpy Arcade and the game developer software development kit.
In 2004, GameSpy Industries merged with IGN, becoming one of the largest online gaming companies known as IGN/Gamespy. They later removed GameSpy from the name and became known as IGN Entertainment, but the GameSpy editorial site continued to operate as before.
Shortly thereafter, it looked like IGN could get more out of selling and shutting down certain aspects of GameSpy. In 2012, Glu Mobile, a developer and publisher of mobile and shareware games, acquired GameSpy Technology. This purchase forever separated the technical and media sides of the company.
Apparently, Glu Mobile has raised prices for developers integrating GameSpy technology and has shut down servers for many older online games. This outraged gamers, but Glu Mobile and GameSpy Technology explained that the developers were notified of these changes and were not paying for the services they provided, so they had to be disabled.
Later in 2014, Glu Mobile shut down all GameSpy servers, leaving many games without online functionality. Some games have moved their services to Steam, while others have found other alternatives to keep their online servers active. For example, the mod allowed Halo and Battlefront II players to continue playing.
While the GameSpy Technology side was experiencing speed bumps, the media side was shutting down. After Ziff Davis acquired IGN, all sites deemed “secondary” to IGN were shut down, including GameSpy. What grew as an innovator in the 90s became a media empire in the 2000s, but fell apart and was sold piecemeal in the 2010s.
While many gamers were frustrated and accused the developers and GameSpy of abandoning the online communities of many older games, others were finding new solutions to these problems. Some services including 333networks, offer a basic list of available game servers. Nintendo Wii players can refer to wimmfi keep playing your games online. game ranger has also been seen as a torchbearer by GameSpy.
In terms of content, a common feature on GameSpy.com is called Port Authority looked at the quality of porting the console to PC, as well as the settings available to PC gamers who felt left out by developers focusing on console content. This reminds us of Digital Foundry detailed explanations and comparisons of the visual quality of games across platforms.
Many gamers may also remember GameSpy debriefings, an early podcast that brought GameSpy and IGN editors together to discuss the latest news and stories from the media world. Later it became comedy buttonwhich began in 2011 and is still ongoing with over 500 episodes.
As one of the pioneers of online gaming, we have a lot to thank GameSpy for. GameSpy Arcade was the forerunner of the hubs, game stores and platforms we use today. In the case of Steam, many of the features used by GameSpy, such as server browsing, friend lists, VoIP, patch management, and even community discussions, were available through GameSpy prior to its demise.
“Now I have teenage children, and they don’t know how lucky they are,” says Mark Serfas. “I mean Twitch? Discord? Are you joking? We had static web pages. But it was an exciting time. the same people on the servers every night.”
Who knows, without services and apps like GameSpy that push new features and innovations, we can still manually enter IP addresses to play games with our friends!
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The history of software applications and companies that at some point became popular and widely used, but now disappeared. We cover the most important areas of their history, innovations, successes and controversies.