Activision has highlighted the problem with digital gaming after delisting a slew of games, showing the risk of moving towards a digital-only future where a lack of physical copies could cause games to be eradicated from history.
Without warning, Activision pulled a series of Transformers games from the Steam store along with The Legend of Korra, with Transformers: War for Cybertron, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark and Transformers: Devastation each being removed from the platform, along with their associated DLC. The games have also been removed from the PlayStation Store, though curiously remain available to purchase on Xbox Live.
While physical copies of these games remain, that they have been wiped from online stores is indicative of the kind of problems that could surface as the industry moves away from physical releases. Currently, aside from those with physical copies of the Transformers games and The Legend of Korra, only those with these games in their digital libraries are able to access them. As they are no longer available to purchase, if they were digital-only releases — as a lot of games are these days — then only those who had previously downloaded them would be able to play them.
We witnessed this take place with P.T., Hideo Kojima’s Silent Hills demo that was removed from the PlayStation Store following a dispute between the legendary developer and publisher Konami. As a result of this, those who wanted to play through the short survival horror experience began purchasing PS4s on eBay that contained a downloaded version of the game. It’s still unavailable to download, and such unfortunate situations have led to some video game archivists resorting to piracy in order retrieve copies of digital games that are no longer in circulation.
The gaming industry veering further towards digital distribution is inevitably, with it drastically minimizing production costs and being infinitely cheaper to get games in the (figurative) hands of customers. However, Activision’s recent actions highlight that such a shift could have a devastating impact on recording the history of the medium and its various advancements. Unfortunately, there currently isn’t a reliable method of preventing this growing problem.