Asst. Lifestyle Editor F20; Asst. Lifestyle Editor F21; Deputy Lifestyle Editor S22

Game re-releases illustration

(Marian Chin / Daily Titan)

Walking into a store or logging onto a digital storefront is always a gamer’s treat since they could be walking out with almost any game they could think of. Well, almost any game. Many older titles are no longer in production and gamers are eager to pay for the re-release of aging classics. 

The argument of consistent video game re-releases ties into the argument of accessibility. An accessible video game is one that many gamers can easily purchase and play whenever they please, which usually applies to modern titles. However, not every ‘90s kid still has their old console, and not everyone can track down and buy an entire console setup to play one nostalgic game.

Super Mario Bros., which originally released in 1985 on the Nintendo Entertainment System, is available to purchase and play on practically every Nintendo console. But with a game as common as the first Mario, a debate arises between releasing recognizable classics to more obscure titles yet to be experienced by newer generations.

One of the most famous examples of an inaccessible retro game many wish to legally play is Mother 3, a Japan-exclusive entry in the Mother franchise for the Gameboy Advance. With its main character Lucas, popularized through Super Smash Bros., many gamers are curious as to the character’s game of origin. Unfortunately, Nintendo offers no legal method to experience the title, leading many toward a famous fan translation that’s become the de facto method of playing the game. 

Well, die-hard enthusiasts could also buy the authentic Japanese cartridges and play the game on their Gameboy Advance. But unless they can fluently read Japanese and don’t mind spending over $90 on the cartridge alone, it’s often not a practical option. 

There is a third option, although it’s one with a questionable legality. 

Emulation is the act of playing a video game on a device through special software, most commonly on computers, that is designed to emulate a game’s hardware and software. Using file copies of retro games, most commonly referred to as “roms,” a user can simply download and use these programs to play whatever game they desire. Although most roms online are circulated free of charge, it’s widely considered to be a form of piracy since most of the games’ copyrights are still in effect.

While many would rather pay money and legally enjoy playing their childhood game, inaccessibility to retro games force gamers to risk copyright infringement, likely getting a heavy fine, if not jail time.

Unsurprisingly, most video game companies have a cutthroat attitude toward emulation, with Nintendo notoriously being the most staunch of them all. Of course, not all companies view piracy as the evil consumer practice others see it as.

Gabe Newell, the co-founder and current president of Valve Software, said that providing greater service value to consumers is what ultimately causes piracy to become non-existent. 

“There is a fundamental misconception about piracy," Newell said. "Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem. For example, if a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24/7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country three months after the U.S. release and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate's service is more valuable.”

Valve is known as a company that has released masterpiece after masterpiece since its conception, and the company is aware that newcomers to the fanbase are interested in experiencing the studio’s titles from their golden age.

Echoing the sentiments of Newell, Valve offers their entire library of their past works in a very cheap bundle, some of which are perfectly playable on computers as far back as Windows XP. Players can buy titles and can install them on almost any computer. 

Valve’s approach is the practical solution to combat game inaccessibility, and some companies that have developed unforgettable retro titles understand this. Sega has released products like the Sega Genesis Classics compilation for modern consoles and the Sega Genesis Mini device. Even Atari, known as the grandfather of retro gaming, makes an effort to keep their games as accessible as possible with the Atari Flashback Classics collection for modern consoles. 

Nintendo is infamous for their video game re-releases, with the company’s classic titles limited through releases on digital storefronts and the Nintendo Online subscription. While the release of retro titles on a console like the Nintendo Switch sounds great on paper, it falls flat due to players needing an active subscription to access retro games that the user installs to their device, as opposed to the aforementioned companies’ physical releases that can be bought and kept forever. 

Video game companies who pride themselves on their lineage of nostalgic retro titles have a duty to keep said titles as accessible as possible, both in access and in cost. Simply giving players the opportunity to experience a title isn't enough, as the cost could often hinder the decision to play. What’s the point of being known for making one of the greatest games of all time if almost nobody could play said game?

After all, video game companies should be a gamer’s Player 2; not the boss battle.

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