Publishers, like entropy, will eventually destroy everything. Rather than preserving their games like the works of art they should think they are, instead the instinct is more usually to go to enormous lengths to make them impossible to play. The latest victims of these murderous antics are many of the Need For Speeds released between 2006 and 2011.
Today, via Reddit (while most the English-speaking world is on a holiday), it’s been announced that Need For Speed: Carbon, Need For Speed: Undercover, Need For Speed: Shift, Shift 2: Unleashed and Need For Speed: The Run will be “retired”. Which I suppose is an apposite word, given they’ll be limping off the tracks as they leave digital storefronts today, and their servers switched off come the end of August.
The reasons given are the usual: that maintaining servers for the few remaining players is prohibitively expensive, and hey, look, they’ve released loads of (astoundingly poor) NFS games since then, so you could buy those instead!
“[T]he number of players has come to a point where it’s no longer feasible to continue the work behind the scenes required to keep [the games] up and running. We hope you have gotten many victories, satisfying drifts, moments of friendly rivalry, and hours of joy over the last few years out of these games. And we hope you’ll keep driving with us in one of our newer titles...”
It’s always this way. “Shrug! What else could we do?!” Well, here are some other things they could do:
- They could release the source code for the 10-15 year old games, and allow others to continue their development in the public domain
- They could release the server code for the games, to allow enthusiasts to continue to host the few dedicated players remaining
- They could offer to upgrade players to one of the many NFS games of the 2010s (although this may be crueller than just nothing at all)
- They could recognise that last year EA made a revenue of $5.5bn, and it’s likely they could just about afford to leave the servers on with minimal maintenance, without taking too big of a hit
Delisting them from stores just seems... petty! Sure, they don’t offer all the available features when the servers are off, but come on. Quarter the prices—hell, be decent enough to make them free—and let people buy them as single-player artefacts of the past.
The deliberate, meticulous erasure of video gaming history is frankly morbid. Sure, right now I don’t feel like I could ever care less about the horrendously flogged and flayed horse that is the gruesome remains of the Need For Speed franchise, so what, right? But no, because I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wanted to replay something from 15, 20, 30 years ago, and found that it’s utterly impossible to legally purchase anywhere. I’ve reported far too many times about games no one is able to sell because neglect has meant their rights have become lost in miserable tangles between multiple publishers. It’s just short-sighted and utterly stupid.
For goodness sakes, if you’re so absolutely determined that no one should be able to legally buy your game that you’ll go to these extremes, just release them into the public domain. It’s the only decent thing to do. Thank goodness for projects like Internet Archive’s Software Library.