Game preservation is something discussed more and more as the march of console generations and OS updates continues. For anybody who has been playing games for more than a few years it is easy to understand why.
Physical media suffers at the hands of time, what with storage media degrading, however with ROMs and emulators many of these games still survive. The digital format hasn't fared as well. Early abandonware and shared code without wide distribution is lost, and the later introduction of digital storefronts also introduced a new challenge to preservation. Storefronts like the XBLIG and Nintendo Wii Store are now closed, with no way to buy the games for those formats anymore, however some efforts were made to preserve them.
When people talk about game preservation they often talk about the older, retro games, however there's a major service which has overseen thousands of games being sent to their digital tombs for almost a decade: The App Store.
The elephant in the room
The July 2008 launch of the App Store saw over 500 new applications put up for sale for iPhone users. It was revolutionary at the time; Apple were a notoriously security-conscious company and they had just opened up its platform to not only other companies, but most third parties. The tech company had not allowed programs from parties onto any of their devices previously, and to then have so many of them launch simultaneously, and a promise of more to come, was overwhelming.
Apple's security focused roots shined through though. In order to continue to be on the App store developers needed to keep their App up to date with new OS requirements, over time these have been anything from security updates to resolution changes for new platforms, to entire shifts from 32 to 64 bit development. For many of those who released back in 2008, and continued to pay their fees to exist as developers on the storefront, it simply wasn't worth it to continue pushing updates to their projects.
Among the many games discontinued were games like Incoboto, Hook Champ and Wooords, all games which we reviewed and scored highly, and also games with something else in common — they're all being brought back for a modern audience through a new initiative
A potential solution
GameClub, originally launched back in March of this year, is a new enterprise aimed at updating premium games, which are otherwise unplayable, to work on the current OS. The team already have a list of over fifty titles which they are working on updating, and have an active discord and newsletter which allow access to testflight builds of the projects.
The fifty are a strong line-up, including the previously mentioned games alongside the psychedelic Melodive, massive modernisation effort Sword of Fargoal and Rube Goldberg H-O-R-S-E Gasketball and more. GameClub work with the original developers to tweak the original apps to match the current OS requirements, for many this is things like resolution changes, however the aforementioned shift from 32bit to 64bit is likely another area that the GameClub team are doing a lot of work.
Gameclub's efforts to restore lost games to the marketplace are definitely commendable, and hopefully they're both grow in size and spark a new movement toward modernising older titles to work on the modern storefront. Many of these older games led the way for genres, and brought new innovations and trends to the industry.
It's a bandage for a bullet hole, but it could also be the start of a bigger movement to stop games from falling away from the App Store.
You can find out more about Gameclub over on its website, there's an option to sign up for their newsletter, and links to join their discord. If you do this then you can be a beta tester via testflight as they prepare more games for relaunch.