The Downside of Digital Gaming
A Consumer's PerspectiveThere is only so far down a rabbit hole you can go before it begins to drive you mad, and so for the sake of my sanity, also fingers too thumbs, I am going to attempt to keep this piece confined to digital gaming. That being said, arguably sadly, similarities of the following sentiments may echo throughout digital media as a whole.
'Would you kindly' take a trip with me back to the year 2014? August the 27th, Wednesday. It was a momentous day. If I recall correctly, upon hearing the news I had already the day prior taken a walk downtown to buy a Gift Card, making sure I'd the iTunes credit ready to make my most exciting purchase in recent memory. The mere thought of being able to have one of my all-time favourite console games in my pocket ready to launch and play whenever, wherever I had the chance made me giddy. On. My. Phone!
The days of Nokia Snake, Java games, polyphonic ringtones, mobile internet and physical buttons, though glorious, were a distant memory. Mobile phones weren't just phones with a few bolt-ons anymore. They were communication devices, cameras, video recorders, multimedia players, mini computers, handheld gaming consoles, all-singing, all-dancing . . . they were smart. I digress.
Not quite console quality visually, but the graphics engine used to optimise them for iOS made them appear close enough for me to light a rhetorical celebratory cigar. The controls were expertly adapted for touch screen devices, and they worked perfectly. Headphones were a must. 'It's all here', I thought to myself after finishing my first play-through. 'Bioshock. In my pocket!'
Who would've foreseen, less than a year later, those responsible for doing something ground-breaking, making both history and dreams come true, would be those who left them to die. It's not okay, 2K.
2K Games choosing not to support Bioshock on iOS was, is my first memory and negative experience as a consumer of digital content. It's a reason I've occasionally strayed from mobile gaming, since often felt reluctant to spend money on the App Store and was also the reason perhaps, September the 19th 2017's widely dubbed 'appocalypse' came as not so much of a surprise to me. I still think about it and continue to witness similar occurrences to this day, so much so, it's become the norm.
It was the first instance of me being made to feel as though I'd wandered into my local Blockbuster and payed the (price incomparable) £10.49 to rent a game. But I had spent that money with the intention of buying a copy of BioShock, with the understanding that it was thereafter my property. As you may be able to tell, while I do believe there is a place for it, I'm probably not going to be rushing to subscribe to the upcoming Apple Arcade.
Bioshock's life on my iPhone was too short and I want to understand why. Did 2K not sell enough copies to warrant even updating it to be compatible with Apple's next major iOS update? I'd be surprised to learn not. Even so, they're a big company, with the funds, staff and resources to have easily kept their/ our beloved Bioshock alive. Maybe not forever, but it could and still have, good innings at least. I know of one-man Indie developers who have continued to update their games for a decade or more. Was/ is it greed? Many publishers don't appear to think the initial selling price is enough for their games anymore, and often ask for more, whether it be through a subscription system or in-game purchases, consisting of loot crates and other aesthetics and game-changing consumables. Is this extra money really needed? Is it now their bread and butter? Are these in fact the by-products of the current state of video-gaming as a whole and the actual reason why we as gamers and they as creators are suffering? Then, is there not a better way? This isn't exclusive to iOS, nor Android. It's across the board. From pc-to-console-to-mobile-handheld-gaming devices. So you can't really argue, "Just buy a Switch!" Besides, one of the reasons I like gaming on my iPhone, is because it's everything aforementioned, my all-in-one device. I love the fact I don't have to carry around a separate handheld-gaming console, camera or laptop for example.
On the contrary to how my feelings may have been conveyed so far, I'm not a hater of 2K, more a big fan who also happens to be a sad customer, left wanting his BioShock back. To highlight and help find a solution to prevent iOS games disappearing and preserve what are essentially bits of gaming history and that's a fact, no matter your standing on mobile games.
So, what can be done? Aside from an N-Gage Mark II with mobile games on cartridges, a much better idea than digital-only consoles in my opinion. Someway to back-up our purchases is another suggestion. Though that would probably have to go hand-in-hand with the ability to downgrade firmware. Maybe it's all about teamwork? More aftercare from developers. Apple and other store owners can make it both easier and cheaper for publishers to maintain their games. And we the customers can show support by buying them, more of them, and by not illegally downloading hacked pirated copies of premium games. Another thought I'd be open to discuss is paying a price (to be negotiated) for major updates needed to make games compatible with latest firmwares. Let's get brainstorming. Let us save our games. In the meantime . . .
There is hope!
Enter GameClub.io, the saviours of iOS gaming? A relatively new start-up team of tight-knit industry veterans, one of whom you may know from his service at toucharcade. Eli Hodapp and company are working with developers and gamers to bring "awesome premium games back to mobile." And it doesn't end there! What is perhaps more exciting to read, is their goal, "to ensure that premium games live long and healthy lives on mobile."
Both gamers and developers can submit requests for the restoration of broken iOS games that either lay dormant collecting dust or have disappeared completely from the virtual shelves of the App Store. They "do 100% of the work." While we can help beta-test games via the TestFlight.app before they're released back into the wild.
They are already working on an ever-growing list of titles including; HookChamp, Sword of Fargoal, Wooords, Zombie Match Defense, Incoboto and Chopper 2 and more are coming. It's a fantastic opportunity to replay some old fan-favourites, or even get a second chance to play some App Store classics you missed the first time round.
Of course, it's still early doors and I'm hoping to post more on GameClub in the future, so be sure to bookmark this blog and check back for updates. Until then, there is a ton more information, details on how to register for early access, an email for developers to drop them a line to find out more on how they can bring their creations back to life, as well as all their social media links on their website.
Please feel free to spread the word and share this article. I'd be interested to read your comments below, with regards your thoughts and suggestions on the topic raised. I get, in the grand scheme of things, this is all a bit trivial. I guess I can be a little old-fashioned, sometimes sentimental when it comes to video games and it was just something I've wanted to write-up. Hey, thanks so much for reading!