Have Patches And Updates Made Collecting Modern Games Pointless?

In today's highly-collectible episode of Speak Up on Kotaku, commenter Gemini-Phoenix wonders what value this generation's patch-heavy console games will hold years from now when the update servers have gone dark.

We now live in an age where all the current-gen consoles and handhelds are connected online. Some people don't have this luxury, but for the majority of us our consoles are tethered to the internet, either permanently or semi-permanently. Unfortunately, we also live in an age where it's commonplace for a publisher to release a video game unfinished or loaded with bugs, which are then subsequently fixed via compulsory downloadable patches

Which leads me to ask: Is collecting modern games pointless?

In the past, games were released regardless of whether they were polished products or laden with bugs - Some of which are now infamous for having been released with amusing errors or glitches (Zero Wing, anyone?)! Games were released, and that was final. No patches, no fixes. Unless a publisher recalled a product at retail and re-released an amended version, every copy of the game was exactly the same, and remains the same to this day.

However, this cannot be said for the current generation of games, where almost every new release has had some kind of patch issued — Some bigger than others (eg, Gran Turismo 5). The game you bought brand new and the games we're collecting, are effectively unfinished or broken products. In the future, some of these games will be playable, but others are so full of bugs that they're practically worthless.

Has anyone ever stopped to think what will become of your Xbox 360 or PS3 once the respective companies stop supporting them? What happens once these companies decide that they no longer want to support these consoles and stop supplying the necessary patches to older games? In the case of games like Skyrim or GT5, it's a big deal!

While the games will still be playable to some extent in the future, they won't be the same experience without the patches. I have friends who play current-gen games but don't have their PS3 or X360 online, and they're constantly complaining about this bug or that bug. I keep telling them that these bugs have since been fixed and patched, but they don't have internet to download them, so they have to suffer playing a broken game. This is what it will be like in the future! Retro collectors of the future will look back at this generation of games, only to see that what they're collecting are worthless broken games.

And what of the games which rely on online servers and are online-only? You just have to look back at the last generation for answers. For example, Twisted Metal: Black Online is pretty worthless these days, except to the real die hard collectors who just want it for "completeness" and Steel Battalion: Line Of Contact is equally as unplayable.

Phantasy Star Online for the Dreamcast has an offline single player mode, but the game was designed primarily to be an online experience — unless you're part of the minority who has invested in some specialist broadband equipment, this game is also now redundant and of little use to anyone except those who want to play alone. Will anyone want to collect current-gen games like Final Fantasy XI in the future?

Looking forward, who will the future collectors be and what will they want to collect? The majority of us here are now in our 30s or 40s, and grew up with 8bit and 16bit consoles when we were children, and the 32bit consoles in our teens. We're now seeing younger collectors in their 20's collecting PS1 / N64 which they remember from when they were kids, and PS2 / GameCube / Xbox from their teens. Future collectors will be seeking to collect this generation of video games — The first HDMI generation and potentially the last physical media generation (if the rumours of the next Xbox and PlayStation hardware are anything to go by). But will they want to collect broken games? Especially if the X360 and PS3 patches are no longer supported in years to come...

If we were to open and play a brand new sealed SNES game or PlayStation game in 2012, our experience would more or less be the same as it was back in the day when the game first came out. However, if we did the same to an Xbox 360 or PS3 game in 10 years' time, the experience would not be the same without the aid of the relevant patches — Gran Turismo 5 is an obvious example here, which has had no end of improvements added since launch via downloadable patches and updates, which have practically turned it into an entirely different game than the one initially sold on disc back in 2010!

If publishers decide to turn off their online servers in the near future (as EA seem to gradually be doing), what will become of the games from this generation? If you were a future collector, would you be happy playing a broken version of Skyrim? What about all of those games that have had additional content added as DLC, but which haven't received a GOTY edition?

As someone who has only just bought a PS3 and Xbox 360 within the last year or so, I'm already starting to struggle with older titles. Just finding some launch titles for both consoles is difficult enough, but a lot of early Xbox 360 games have long since had their online servers discontinued for multiplayer and downloading patches (Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 for example, even though PES 6 and 2008 both still have their patches available on Xbox Live)

About Speak Up on Kotaku: Our readers have a lot to say, and sometimes what they have to say has nothing to do with the stories we run.


Comments

    A good observation, but I think the collectors are a minority. I still own a SNES but I'm more likely to find a modern port that will work on my current consoles than go get the RF adaptor out.

    Also maybe this is limited to consoles? I know you can buy Arcanum on PC from GOG and the forums tell you where to get the best community patch from.

    The best console games nowadays seem to get HD re-releases (Metal Gear) or are made available digitally (Symphony of the Night).

    I think what this article says is true but it's a little overblown.

      I don't know about it being overblown - sure, many people will be happy to leave games in the past or play remakes, but there are some who enjoy playing the original versions.

      The switching off of servers is a concern of mine, but more so on the PC (I don't own a 360 or PS3). Whereas on the consoles at least you can play your game, even if it isn't patched, there are games on the PC that are unable to even be installed without talking to a server. In a lot of cases, that is still required, despite promises from publishers that the requirement would be patched out.

      I'll be extremely disappointed if I can't play Bioshock, Dead Space or several other of my games (let alone my Steam library) when (not if) the relevant servers go offline. Sure, some of those games will have cracks available, but it's not guaranteed and, in my opinion, should not be necessary.

      Great article. I think this issue will continue to get worse over time, obviously not an issue for those connected to the web. I love hooking up my old snes and playing the games as the were intended. Unfortunately in the future if I do the same with my ps3 and pull out a couple of skyrim I can be sure one of two things will happen. The hardware will no longer work, or I'll be playing an unfinished game waiting for a patch update that is no longer available. Long live quality products but to last and be enjoyed no matter who or where u r. Tips hat to Nintendo.

      No need for RF adaptors, you can plug it in with a composite connection (the red, white and yellows plugs). Or if you want it at best quality, a SCART to component converter box for pure RGB. Also, I object to the proposal that I'm a minority! I see plenty of retro consoles selling on eBay!

    Now I'm no genius, especially in games, but near as I can tell the patch is applied to your console (in the case of console games) and not to the actual disc itself. This would mean that someone like me, who connects and applies patches regularly, could sell my disc to a collector who wants the original unpatched version and there would be no issue. Now I could be completely wrong, hell I'm a network admin at a small company, since I'm not a game developer and if so, then f**k me for being wrong.

    Keep your console and hdd. hack the console when no longer current generation and patch via intenet from fandom.

    Your premise is flawed - you even nod at it - not all collectors actually play their games.

      Which is different to 'No collectors actually play their games......'

        Try playing a c64 tape in twenty years after the magnetic info has disappeared. Would I still buy it? Yes. Would I open my shrink wrapped MD games? No. - people collect games for different reasons - artwork manuals cartridge design etc @ Sam - yes ? What is your point?

          "people collect games for different reasons" Some people collect games for the game portion whilst others collect for the artwork, nostalgia or even just for the colour of the box. I think Sam's point is that whilst not ALL collectors play their games, some DO and since you are stating a premise is flawed Sam is simply advising that you are passing over the fact that some collectors do play the games they collect

    The premise is that we live in an online/patch gaming world and that in the future these games will no longer be collectible because of this. I have given reasons why - regardless of that fact - they will still be collectible. I am concerned over this issue!!! I am merely pointing out the flaw in assuming (which this article does) that collecting equals playing.

    As pointed out in the article - the dreamcast - still online on private servers. So is c64 etc. Yes you need 'specialist' equipment but who else would buy the equipment but a collector????

    I would be interested to know why kotakites?? collect and what they do with their collections. Is there anyone reading who collects obscure whatever. What drives you to seek stuff out? Do you play or put them in a glass box?

    I'd think in 20 years the ps3 and 360 games will be emulated like the snes is now...

    Great article! I think and worry about this quite often. I collect games all the time - not to put in a glass case, but because I want to play them in their original context (the feeling's never quite the same playing a port with a different controller). Hopefully there will still be workarounds like we have on the Dreamcast =)

    This shouldn't be an issue for the Xbox 360. There are websites where you can download Title Updates. Then you transfer it to the Xbox HDD via a cable or USB stick. Remember I did this when there was a bug with Just Cause 2 which prevented you getting an achievement (a certain bus was glitched and did not appear anywhere in the game) and I also did the offline TU for Darksiders (when it initially had polygon tearing issues).

    If the author of this article was truly a friend, he/she would have got the TU off his/her HDD onto a USB stick and gave it the offline friend.

    I would say this is more to do with developers dropping the ball and letting through huge bugs at release. I don't remember many of my games before the days of live updates having tremendous game-breaking bugs, and so the patches then were a beautiful courtesy: something to tighten up your game just so you have less chance of being inconvenienced.

    Collecting games is totally meant to worthwhile, all the games should work as intended patch free. The writer of the article should have asked this question to the big companies not us, then they'd have the answer, "Well why would you want to do that?"

      I couldn't agree more. Producing a game as bug-free as possible is not only better for the initial purchaser, but increases the chance that people will be able to (and in some cases want to ) come back and play the game in the coming generations. The way that many devs/pubs approach this at the moment is both lazy and damaging.

      It might reflect the mentality that current games are just filler, rather than quality productions, too (are people going to be playing MW3 or its brethren in ten years? No, they'll be playing the latest polygon-laden twitch shooter because in many cases the only real benefits they hold are the current online playeres and the fact that it is the most 'advanced'... for now).

      It's easy to say developers have become lazy, but they're juggling a hell of a lot more. Fable makes Secret of Mana look like Frogger. The calculations behind throwing Batman's Batarang in Arkham Asylum are more complex than most PSX game engines.
      There's no excuse for a show-stopper bug making it onto the shelves but the little bugs are just a side effect of the ever increasing complexity of game worlds.

      As for not remembering games having game-breaking bugs, a big part of that might be where we are and where games used to come from. We were the last in line to actually get the games so we got more polished versions (just look at our Metroid Prime vs the rest). Modern production/distribution methods mean we get v1.0 like everyone else.
      On a side note, I can't remember the name of it but I once played a fairly hyped N64 game with a bug that made it impossible to get past like level 37 or something. It's one of the few times I remember ever hitting a 'did nobody play this game before launch' bug (although I think I might just be lucky, because I've played a lot of games that were apparently nightmares without getting stuck).

      Overall there was only a short period of time between games getting super complex and getting the ability to update post-launch so it's really hard to say which contributes more to the generally buggier launch state of games.

    I think collectible went a while ago. Mass production, patching, the move to a format that doesn't deteriorate. It really undermines collecting. People may still do it, but I can't see anything from this gen hitting the prices of some NES games.

    In the future, people wanting to play the unsupported console titles will probably just bypass the console altogether and get hold of emulators that can enhance the graphics to play on their holodeck-projector-4D viewing experience, with all the game updates. If the game is popular enough to still be played online, the internet will find a way.

    As for the actual collectors, I don't trade in often, and never sell my games, but if my PS3 is still going 10 years from now the hard drive will still have all the patches installed anyway.

    Get a PC.
    Successful emulation of these consoles is a matter of time, and all the patches etc. are already on the internet.

    It's an interesting premise i didn't even think about before, but with the speed of how technology evolves, i doubt it would be a problem say in 20 years time with remakes and digitally available titles not to mention emulators as well.

    It will increase the value of truly great games during the industry's golden era (90s).

    Well my ps3 with the collection fully patched will be worth a shedload if they are unpatchable. The value of a ps3 hdd with patches for heavily patched games will be massive.

    Hell, just download and separate every patch from it's game, and then sell the various patch versions to people in years to come!

    I'm more concerned about the shut down of multiplayer than anything else, title updates can always be found online but I worry about my 360 once they shut down this iteration of Xbox Live.

    Releasing broken games is an issue regardless of whether the purchaser has internet or not.
    They make the publisher/developer look bad, and people are less likely to buy their games in future.

    You just reminded me of the time when I brought GT5 to a friend's place. We put the disc in, and the update thing pops up (he's never played it on his PS3.) I choose yes, and 4 PAINFULLY, AGONIZINGLY BORING HOURS LATER, it's done. And cars just made me think of this: isn't Jalopnik.com part of the same network as Kotaku? Or is that only in the Red White and Blue? Hey, that rhymes.

    All of these articles come from one place and the different 'sites' are merely filters by category.

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