Game Pass continues to be an absolute revelation for me in terms of the games I’m able to have access to on a regular basis. Not being in a financial situation where I can afford much in the way of full price games – certainly not without creatively trading in my older stuff – I’ve always been limited in what I can play. Not so much now, thanks to the incredible value that Game Pass offers.
Other companies are taking note too, it seems. Apple have thrown their hat into the ring and now offer Apple Arcade, a Game Pass-esque subscription service for iOS devices. Google Play Pass has launched in the US and will be rolled out to other countries too. More directly in terms of competition for Xbox, we have PlayStation Now, which has previously underwhelmed – but a price cut and injection of some big name content has significantly renewed interest in Sony’s offering.
In terms of individual publishers, EA offer their own service – Origin Access on PC and EA Access on consoles, which is tremendous value considering what’s included. UbiSoft are now offering Uplay+ – currently only on PC – though their pricing seems a little high at £12.99 a month, when you consider it’s UbiSoft titles only and, in comparison, EA Access on consoles is £19.99 per year and Game Pass Ultimate, giving access to a great selection of PC and Xbox games (as well as a number of free Games with Gold titles to download and keep every month) is at £10.99 per month.
Regardless of the pricing models – which will of course be better or worse value to everyone, depending on your taste, what machines you have access to and your budget – this seems to me to be, at least in the short term, great news for gamers.
The long term is less appealing, however. Currently, I’m able to go and buy just about any old Xbox 360, Wii or PS3 game at a reasonable price – in most cases – from any number of stores online and offline. Games from older consoles tend to be a little more expensive or harder to come by, but they’re still available. Though it’s fantastic to have such a wide selection of games to choose from right now and at a reasonable monthly cost – that’s way below what I’d normally expect to pay for even one of the games I’ve been using the service for – what happens when they leave the subscription service? What happens when servers are turned off or digital storefronts shut up shop?
Though I’ve never been a collector – as much as I’d like to be, financially it’s not been something I’ve been able to keep up – it does concern me that we’ll potentially lose access to games altogether once the physical element of gaming is removed from the equation entirely.
One of the most high profile examples is the Wii Shop Channel, which was closed in January 2019. Though it had a long lifespan – launching, as it did, in December 2006 – it had become near-impossible to use for some time beforehand, given that everything was priced not in real world currency, but in Wii Points. The ability to purchase Wii Points was removed in 2018, which meant that, for almost a year, unless you already had Wii Points added to your account there was no way to purchase games that were offered on the channel – and now, there’s no way to purchase those games at all.
Previously purchased games could still be re-downloaded of course (though I can’t confirm this at the time of writing, it’s my understanding that previously downloaded software is still available to be downloaded again, if needed).
There were a significant number of Wii-exclusive, digital only titles (known as WiiWare) that are now completely lost unless they were previously purchased – and there were some genuinely superb titles among those now unavailable.
Another high profile horror story (appropriately, perhaps – given the terrifying nature of the game!) is that of P.T., the ‘playable teaser’ for the now-cancelled Silent Hills project by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro. Removed from the PlayStation Store in April 2015, the initial impression given was that it would be available to re-download for previous users – however, as soon as May that year it was no longer available even if previously downloaded.
I’ve had experience myself of games I’ve purchased being delisted from digital storefronts and yet still available for download any time I’ve needed to reinstall them (Deadpool, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron and Rebellion/Sega’s Aliens vs Predator all spring to mind at points, though Deadpool and AvP were available again after their original delisting).
I’ve had access to games revoked before I’ve been able to complete them via Game Pass, too – a case of downloading them just prior to them being removed from the service – and though they’re still available to buy, it’s still a concern that this can happen and a definite weakness with this type of offering – I do think there’s a way to go before publishers and console manufacturers get things like this right.
Even so, we’re in an exciting time for games, where it seems that – with Game Pass and other subscription services offering big name blockbuster titles as part of their service on day of release – the full price day one purchase isn’t necessarily the most economically sound way to go. In terms of preservation, however, certainly over the long term, I think we do have cause for concern.
At the beginning of the current console generation, gamers were (quite rightly) up in arms about Microsoft’s proposed plans to remove the ability to trade your games in, sell them on or even lend them to your friends; have they simply shifted the goal posts to a more attractive way of achieving this? I guess, as with all of these services, that are all still in their infancy ( even Game Pass isn’t particularly mature at this stage and has only recently made great strides in terms of the quality and volume of content on offer), time will tell.
Note: There’s a great resource I’ve just discovered when researching parts of this article, regarding the availability of delisted games: delistedgames.com. Go check it out, it’s brilliant!
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