Digital media is a constantly changing thing and its environment is regularly expanding. From software to apps to games, consumption of such programming can only increase. As time and the advancement of digital systems progress, it is only natural for that environment to adapt.
For a while now Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been a big issue for gamers and finding a fair way to utilize it for gamers has stemmed from it. Many have tried CD keys, “always on” and account based digital distribution services like Steam. All methods of control have ups and downs, though the less intrusive methods seem to be the most popular.
Physical media has been a mainstay since games were on floppy disks and even when there was barely a hint of DRM. So what happens to your games when a digital service is shut down or when the digital media you’re looking for is no longer available? Here are few scenarios I can think of right off the bat.
- Hopefully the service in which you downloaded the product from is DRM free so you are welcome to make a backup copy to store on another medium.
- The service provider has given you a way to preserve the content or an alternative to using it in the future
- If you’re willing to shell out some extra cash, there just might be a box copy somewhere out there …
The thought of losing a product you purchased or multiple because a digital distributor is no longer around is quite frightening and thankfully it has rarely come to that. Fearing that notion is not absurd. During this generation of gaming, consumers have poured a lot of money into buying digital goods.
For example, Sony recently announced the next iteration of the PlayStation. As the details slowly came out about the system, gamers found out none of the games they downloaded for the PS3 would be compatible with the PS4; making the PS3 the only console you could play that game on. This is not just a backwards compatibility problem, it’s a hardware problem.
System failure is a completely different worry in itself but, when and if the servers go offline for your product, that’s it. You’re out of luck. Sony might change their stance on this, eventually allowing you to play your old games with their new hardware or even Gaikai. While streaming services aren’t out of the question, they just haven’t been proven.
For this generation emulation has been wonderful as well as a relief. Being able to download old classics to your Wii or even recent favorites to your PS3 is always a great option but those purchases are still tied to an account and one cannot guarantee that they will always be playable. Besides, nothing beats the feeling of a physical product in your hands, instruction manual and box included.
The future of our data does seem uncertain and partly because the waters haven’t been charted yet. Having a fully backwards compatible future would be ideal and for the time being it doesn’t seem like we are going to get that. So for now create backups, don’t count on ports or remakes and take good care of your hardware!