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Skull and Joysticks: How Piracy Saves Gaming

/ Jun 3rd, 2015 No Comments

Konami faces economic uncertainty going forward, at least in its games division. A plethora of bad business decisions has created plenty of controversy. The cancellation of the highly anticipated Silent Hills is a prime example of Konami’s ongoing woes.

If fans weren’t disappointed enough, Konami has decided to apply more lemon juice to the wound. The company removed P.T., the teaser demo for Silent Hills, from the PlayStation Network. The demo, a historic technical achievement and milestone in Konami’s history, has been practically wiped from history. Unless players already have it on their consoles and don’t uninstall it, it will be impossible to play P.T. ever again.

But there’s still hope that the demo may yet be preserved even if its developers have no interest of doing so. Not by Konami, but by the most unpredictable thing you’d expect: digital piracy.

Digital Robin Hoods

In 2014, hackers uncovered a “jailbreak hack” allowing bootlegged PlayStation 4 games to play on the console. Hackers are still trying to uncover new uses for the PS4, though a method has yet to be found to extract games like P.T. from the console. That ability could be possible in the near future, and it will likely be the only option to get it and other games removed from download on the PS4.
 

The removal of the P.T. demo from PS4 servers means it will be forever impossible to download it again.

The removal of P.T. from PSN is a blow to gaming history.

For years the gaming industry and community has demonized piracy and those who engage in it. At a time when gaming is a profitable industry, people have tried to take advantage. Bootleg copies of games have turned up at garage sales, internet marketplaces, black markets and even in plain sight online. While players may be quick to cry out that such an action is one that should be shunned and punished, piracy has had an unexpected effect: preserving gaming history.

As the incident with the P.T. demo shows, companies like Konami are so driven by their own interests that they have been woefully neglect in preserving their work. This refusal to do so is being picked up by pirates. Their efforts have unexpectedly helped to save many games from oblivion. Not convinced? Consider the following.

Sega’s influential 1996 game House of the Dead never reappeared since an inferior version was ported to PC in 1998. The zombie blasting rail shooter’s never been released as a single title or in any of the subsequent House of the Dead compilations since. There is a very sad reason for this: Sega somehow lost the source code for the game along with many other titles. This makes it difficult to re-release those lost games on current platforms.

If you want to play the game now, you have play watered-down ports, drill a hole into your pocket to buy the machine or go on a safari to find a cabinet. However, due to piracy, there is another way: by downloading a copy of the unmodified arcade version as a ROM.
 

Sega's classic rail shooter, House of the Dead, has never seen a non-arcade port since 1998.

Sega’s classic rail shooter House of the Dead has never seen a non-arcade port since 1998.

If you are willing to defy copyright, you can enjoy the full arcade version of House of the Dead on your computer. As a result, Sega has a unique opportunity. It can take advantage to recoup from its loss. With today’s technology, it is very possible to reverse engineer the game to get a good source code to work with. Yet, the company still remains oddly remiss to take advantage. Instead, many gaming companies like view such acts as aggression to their interests.

The Art of Preservation

Looking only through the lens of intellectual property and profits, companies like Sega are quick in suppressing piracy, usually with the archaic, corpulent and unfair weapon that is known as copyright. In doing so, they are inadvertently destroying an opportunity to help keep past works in existence.
 

Assassin's Creed 4

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.

Gaming is art. It is a living, unique, technical and animated tapestry. To allow games like House of the Dead to go out of existence due to neglect, ignorance or deliberate erasure is horrible. But that is what many game producers are doing. They sit motionless as their works vanish, and when they do move, it is usually to do something that threatens their existence or wipes them out completely.

As big gaming companies continue to procrastinate and working against keeping gaming history intact, something has to be done. Direct action by others is one of the few options left. Until better efforts are taken to save videos games for future generations, it’s time to reevaluate gaming piracy. Love or hate it, piracy is one of the few things keeping much of gaming history from vanishing completely.

 

Jonathan Anson

Jonathan Anson

Jonathan has been a lover of video games since his father brought home a Windows 95 computer. When he's not doing that he indulges in his other passion: writing. Jonathan holds an AA degree in Journalism from Saddleback College in Southern California.
Jonathan Anson
Jonathan Anson

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