The CEO of Antstream Arcade calls for greater industry co-operation on game preservation and for every game to be available on every device.
Gaming has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. First as a player, and then as someone who runs a games business and who still plays but is now enjoying that pastime with my kids. Put simply, I love games; always have and always will. And as someone approaching 50, I am not alone.
According to Statista, by 2023 there are predicted to be 3 billion gamers globally, with approximately 25% of gamers now over 30. Originally a niche pursuit, video games have transformed into a mainstream hobby and, for some even, a profession. So, recent chatter about preserving both video gaming and its history strikes a massive chord.
It’s not that easy, though. For preservation to be successful the industry needs to come together and invest. It’s not good enough just saying it; games companies need to put their money where their mouths are – they need to act. Remembering that the gaming community are the real unsung heroes is integral; without them, so much would have already been lost. This is something we should never lose sight of, as we continue to innovate and bring new games and new hardware to market. Supporting those fans needs to remain front and centre of our thinking, always.
Accessibility is key. Ultimately gamers should be able to find any game ever created and play it instantly wherever they are on any device. There are now decades of great games that have become inaccessible because the consoles and home computers needed to play them are now obsolete. These much-loved machines all form part of the journey and the history of gaming, and arguably the future too.
What I do feel is that there are ways that games can and should be accessed without the pain of having to own the original hardware. This is the core of cloud gaming – a market on track to exceed the $5 billion mark in 2023, as technology and infrastructure continue to improve and whose serviceable obtainable market will reach just short of 200 million users this year (source: Newzoo, Cloud Gaming Report 2021).
Easy for the gamer, not so easy for the companies that make games. Unlike the music industry, video games are much harder to transpose to newer formats. To make the Spotify of video games, it isn’t just the game media that needs to be converted, we must also emulate the original hardware. Tracking down the rights is also a far from straightforward process – finding out who owns the game, the artwork, the music can take years of investigation and in many cases the rights have changed hands multiple times over the last four decades.
But this shouldn’t be a barrier to providing an experience where gamers can have it all. Services such as Antstream Arcade, Xbox, and PlayStation are making the right moves but they are just scratching the surface with what is possible. For us to truly preserve gaming we need to come together as an industry. IP holders need to get better at maintaining their databases of what they own in addition to embracing new services that can help keep their games alive.
Cloud services must support as many games as possible and look beyond the big hits, and platform holders need to abandon the walled garden approach so that gamers can play with their friends regardless of the device in which they have chosen to invest.
In parallel, we should be promoting where gaming started in a more obvious way. And there are companies already making the right moves. The Embracer Group is creating a huge physical software and hardware gaming archive, while MobyGames – a huge community driven database and authority on video games – holds a vast amount of metadata about almost every game. In the UK we have the National VideoGame Museum and retro gaming events are continuing to grow.
Only by investing in the past and the future can we truly preserve this wonderful industry and ensure that games are remembered and celebrated, and that they continue to be played in a way that is accessible to all.
By Steve Cottam, CEO of Antstream Arcade
GameCentral was contacted independently for this article and it is not the result of any advertising or financial commitment.
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