It’s Time to Get Over Old Games
Contributed by DJMMT
I know immediately that title just angers a lot of people, so let me start by clarifying some things. First, I have no problem with old games. I’m not some kid that thinks graphics are the most important part of a game. I’m not some rich asshole first adopter that buys all the newest games and consoles day one. I’ve been gaming since the arcade era, my first home console was an NES, and I regularly play games that are several years old. But we really need to talk about something that’s been holding back game development and seemingly mandatory gaming subscription services for a long time. It’s a tough pill to swallow, and many will refuse to swallow it even with all the evidence we have, but it’s time to get over old games.
To be clear, I am not saying that people should stop playing old games. Nor am I saying that old games have no place in the modern gaming community or industry. What I am saying is that we as the gaming community/consumer base need to stop letting access to older games dictate the way we spend our money and by extension the way new consoles and subscription services are shaped. In the wake of Game Pass and this new version of PlayStation Plus, it’s extremely apparent that this incessant commitment to older software has caused prices of subscription services to increase, access to more useful modern features to be either gated behind higher priced paywalls or just flat out ignored by game corporations, and development resources have been wasted on a never-ending spree of remakes, remasters, and ports. None of this would be happening if not for the fact that people just can’t seem to accept what was always the case for the first several gens of game consoles: you are not entitled to play software you bought on one machine on other machines that are released after it.
I’m old. I remember older media formats. I remember cassette tapes, multiple generations of game cartridges, laserdiscs, VHS tapes, DVDs, and those annoying minidiscs. I remember buying a game for one computer and then buying a new computer and never being able to play that game again. This is how it always was. And you know what, we never complained about it. Honestly, it never came up when I was a kid. We were all aware of it. None of us were happy about it. But it never affected anything. I never heard a single person say they wouldn’t buy a new console because it wasn’t backwards compatible. We really didn’t care that much. The XBOX 360 wasn’t backwards compatible with the original XBOX. They later added it in with software-based emulation in order to compete with the PS2/PS3. No Nintendo console was ever backwards compatible with previous hardware before the Wii U, which many people didn’t even consider a new generation console. Media just didn’t work that way, and it wasn’t expected to.
It wasn’t until the PS3 released a non-backwards compatible version that I first started hearing people actively complain about not being able to play old software on new hardware. Suddenly people seemed to care about the fact that they couldn’t play games they had already beaten before on new hardware. To be clear, those same people didn’t buy launch PS3s, that were much more expensive because of the backwards compatibility. They wanted both the low-priced hardware and the backwards compatibility. Again, while completely ignoring that they had never had this before other than on the PS2, arguably the Sega CD, if you want to count that, and I guess the Gameboy. The entitlement was kind of astounding for its time. Now it has become completely normal.
I’ve never understood the desire to replay old games. I get that people like doing it, and I don’t have any issue with them doing it, but I just can’t justify replaying games, whether old or current, when I have so many unbeaten games in my backlog. Like sure if there were absolutely no new games to play and nothing interested me then absolutely I’d replay games. But if you honestly can’t find anything to play that’s new then why are you buying new hardware to begin with? I have a PS4, Switch, and gaming PC. I am backlogged on all three platforms. And not just a little backlogged mind you. I have easily more than 15 games on each platform that I’ve spent money on and would like to beat at some point. Why would I ever take the time to replay games in that situation? Now certainly not everyone is backlogged, but I don’t know anyone who cares enough to complain about not being able to play older games that isn’t backlogged. When you consider the amount of free games being given out these days, and there are a lot, it’s basically impossible to not have something you haven’t played before, if you game regularly and claim the freebies.
My issue is not that people want to play old games. I have purchased numerous classic titles that I didn’t get to play in their original era on new hardware. Final Fantasy VII (PS4), Chrono Trigger (Steam), and Dragon Quest 1 – 3 (Switch) just to name a few. But those were ports. I paid money to purchase and play those games on new platforms. I did not demand that Nintendo, Valve, and Sony devote resources to making it not only possible but also convenient to let me play original versions of those old games on modern hardware at no extra cost. There’s a big difference between buying ports and demanding companies to sink resources into giving you unfettered access to old software on new hardware. My issue is not that people want to replay games. I don’t do it, but I have in the past. But there’s a big difference between me dusting off my NES and me demanding Nintendo to make all my old cartridges playable on Nintendo Switch. The entitlement needs to stop, because it’s now affecting modern hardware and software development, service and hardware pricing, and the types of services being made available to us as consumers.
The Deluxe tier of the new PlayStation Plus service offers two major benefits as selling points. The first is that you’ll be able to play a bunch of old games that pre-date the PS4. The second is access to the game trials. Now honestly there shouldn’t be any fee to access game trials. I’ve written at length about the fact that demos should be mandatory for all games as a default feature of the games market. But that’s not going to happen any time soon, if ever. The best we can hope for is to have Sony provide it as part of a paid subscription service. And so they did. The only reason the trials are part of the Deluxe tier and not the Extra tier is because that tier offers nothing to people who don’t care about old games without that additional service feature. And they only needed to create that service feature at all in order to make up the costs of providing access to all that old content.
This new PlayStation Plus should be only two tiers. It should honestly work the way Nintendo Switch Online does, but Sony’s service offers more initial value as a default, so they had to recoup the additional costs somewhere. So now I have to choose between overpaying for free trials and a feature I won’t use or choosing to forego the free trials altogether. And all of this is because people will not get over old games. If not for the need to supply access to old games for the constantly whining “game preservation” crowd on places like Twitter, there would be no Deluxe tier of the new PlayStation Plus service. And as a result the game trials would be included in the Extra tier, because they’d absolutely never get away with charging extra on top of charging extra just so you could try demos.
If you want to replay old games, then play them on the platform you bought them on, get them on PC so this problem isn’t a problem, or rebuy the ports. You’re not owed the ability to use old media on new hardware. Imagine the services we might have if this issue wasn’t blown so far out of proportion. Imagine how much better XBOX might be right now if they weren’t being celebrated for letting you replay games you beat years ago. They might actually put out some new games for once. The sad reality is that this shouldn’t have to be an either/or discussion, but it is. And as such decisions need to be made that work to the advantage of the largest number of consumers. New services and development schedules being hindered by keeping old games playable on new hardware does the opposite. So at least until things change, it’s time to get over your old games. And again, by get over I mean play them on the platforms you can already play them on since that’s the entire point of the hardware and why you originally bought it. We have literally nothing to lose and everything to gain.