Star Wars Jedi: Survivor – The Latest to Shine a Light on the Preservation Problem
If you have ventured to the shops in search of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, or stayed at home and clicked yourself a copy to be delivered, then you are in for a strange surprise. The game exists. It will arrive in a box bearing the correct name. (Fingers crossed, anyway.) But only a chunk of the adventure has been charted onto the disc. The average video game Blu-ray holds 50GB of data; the total file size for Jedi: Survivor is 155GB. This means that the act of slotting the game into your console of choice is akin to sliding a key into a lock. Once turned, the rest of the action will stream toward you through hyperspace and fuse itself onto your hard drive.
This is not a new state of affairs, of course. Games have swollen well beyond the discs that bear them before. With Red Dead Redemption 2, for example, the developer, Rockstar Games, couldn’t cram all 105GB of untamed wilderness and pain onto a single plastic roundel. (Though, it’s worth pointing out that Blu-ray discs can be layered up to four times, for a total of 128GB, so it wouldn’t have been impossible.) The midwifery involved in starting that game was extensive; data was pulled from the disc, pasted into your storage, and bulked up with freshly downloaded wadding. Meanwhile, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II was almost 200GB, if you include its hefty Warzone mode. Meanwhile, the loose fragments of Halo Infinite that existed on the disc were like a dormant Master Chief – they had to be roused from a cryo-slumber, encrusted with plenty of AI help, and prodded gently but firmly into action.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is the latest case in what is certainly a growing preservation problem. In years to come, these discs could be all but worthless, fully reliant on data that wafts in aether, until a publisher decides that the wafting is no longer necessary. Like Halo Infinite, the majority of Jedi: Survivor isn’t on the disc, making the game unplayable without a lengthy download. Granted, we live in times of patchy coverage, of games that rely on day-one updates to jolt into working order; and the years when “going gold” meant that development had actually finished – when your months and years of work had been smelt and cast into a finished object – appear to be long gone. But still, games being smoothed and lacquered post-launch is one thing; games arriving in shards is something else.
Given that Jedi: Survivor doesn’t, effectively, have a physical release, perhaps publisher Electronic Arts should have simply ditched the attempt altogether, saved a Coruscant-sized mountain of plastic, and simply gone for a digital-only launch. This is the approach taken by most independent studios, who couldn’t afford a physical launch in the first place. Recently, it was taken by Tango Gameworks and Bethesda, for Hi-Fi Rush. The downside is that this is even worse for preservation, hastening our slide toward a discless future; but at least it would have saved a little more of the environment in the process. EA, I would guess, still depends on the appearance of physical games in order to sell to larger ranks of its audience.
As Nintendo fans are fully aware, once enough time goes by and profits start to pale, the companies that tend to these games, humming away in distant servers, will happily pull the plug. Hence the recent closure of those quarters of the Nintendo eShop devoted to 3DS and Wii U games. Only last month, EA announced that it was pulling Battlefield 1943, Battlefield: Bad Company, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 from digital shopfronts. Why? The reason given, on a post addressing the removal on EA’s website, stated that it was “in preparation for the retirement of the online services for these titles.” If you wish to play these games, the good news is that you can still buy them physically – a luxury that is fast being phased out. “While these titles hold a special place in our heart,” the post reads, “we’re now looking forward to creating new memories alongside you as we shift our focus towards our current and future Battlefield experiences.”
New memories. There's the problem in a single phrase, wobbling on the brink of an oxymoron. The constant need to look ahead is admirable, but not if doing so means sweeping away pieces of the past. Whether or not Star Wars Jedi: Survivor winds up holding a special place in your heart, the reality is that what it really needs is a special place on disc. Otherwise, on some drab afternoon, years away, it will appear in just such a blog post, being retired in the name of current and future experiences, as EA lets the past die.
Saturday, April 29, 2023 @ 02:22 PM
As for the broader topic, the days of really owning games has been gone for a bit now. Soon all new games on disc/cartridge will just be unlock keys with barely any game data on them. I’m glad that I at least lived through an era of time when I could buy a game on disc, and know that I would always have the full game to play so long as I took care of the disc and console it goes in.
Saturday, April 29, 2023 @ 03:46 PM
It is a shame, for sure. But preservation *is* a rather niche topic and companies do seem happy with releasing remasters and remakes of their hits over trying something new. Or releasing some classic collections and stuff.
For the older stuff we have emulation and companies like GOG who try to offer older games and others that generally keep their stuff DRM free. But digital stuff will always be tricky to preserve. It's quite telling that historical archives generally go for analogue copies that don't rely on obscure technology.
As someone on Time Team once put it: what will be left of us besides a whole lot of plastic?
Saturday, April 29, 2023 @ 04:18 PM
Saturday, April 29, 2023 @ 05:08 PM
Saturday, April 29, 2023 @ 06:04 PM
Because the console manufacturer gets a cut even from physical releases (AFAIK) and you have to pay for certification for the platform. Or at least you used to. And by now it's just normalized and why turn down free money? Funny enough some mid-range publishers and indies don't charge a console premium.
Saturday, April 29, 2023 @ 09:09 PM
If a company is incompetent enough to let games grow to these outrageous sizes they should have to supply the full game, especially at these higher prices.
Monday, May 01, 2023 @ 06:14 AM