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Square Enix Doesn't Know Where Some Of Its Old Games Are

Illustration for article titled Square Enix Doesnt Know Where Some Of Its Old Games Are
E3 2019E3 2019It's time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We've got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.

Square Enix, one of the largest video game publishers on the planet, is interested in getting its entire back catalogue of games together so it can sell/stream them to you online. But there’s just this one tiny problem: some of the older games are missing.

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In an interview with Game Informer this week at E3, Square President Yosuke Matsuda was asked about the idea of major publishers making their back catalogues available as part of a service. “The more classic titles that you might have played on NES, we are still working hard to make it so you can play those”, he said. “We actually have launched a dedicated project internally to port those, so we are working to make them available on a variety of platforms. Certainly down the road, we would like to see that on a subscription or streaming service, so we’re exploring the possibility of creating a dedicated channel for ourselves.”

Sounds cool! Except for, you know, the whole missing games part.

“I’m embarrassed to admit it, but in some cases, we don’t know where the code is anymore”, Matsuda reveals. “It’s very hard to find them sometimes, because back in the day you just made them and put them out there and you were done – you didn’t think of how you were going to sell them down the road. Sometimes customers ask, ‘Why haven’t you released that [game] yet?’ And the truth of the matter is it’s because we don’t know where it has gone.”

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This is at once both insane (this is a major publisher!) but also entirely understandable (the 80s were a long time ago!). It’s easy to look back in 2019, with all we know about game preservation and the value of some of these titles/series, and gasp, but as Matsuda basically says the early days of console development were in a lot of ways just wingin’ it, and I doubt anyone at Square or Enix could have foreseen just how massive their combined company would be at this stage of the 21st century.

Sadly we don’t know exactly which games are missing, but I’m looking forward to writing a follow-up “Oh Nevermind Square Enix Found Them” story in a year or two when an office clean-out finds a dusty old box of disks tucked away behind some posters for The Bouncer.

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

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DISCUSSION

> but also entirely understandable (the 80s were a long time ago!)

Well and games were so niche that I doubt devs were paid much. That, and memory was expensive. So not only were you not paid to back stuff up, but there was nowhere to put it!

This was a problem with early programming in general. Few had the foresight to back stuff up because computers were magic and perfect, of course, and code reuse literally hadn’t been needed before.

(Overall humanity has a poor track record with backing things up. I’m pretty sure there is still original Apollo program documentation stored in ice boxes because there are too many pages to scan, and if the paper is just left out it will break down.)