A group of dedicated game preservationists has obtained a set of obscure Japanese Kirby games from the Super Famicom era in order to archive them for future generations. But the uncertain fate of such early games presages a much bigger problem facing digital game preservation going forward.
Even die-hard Kirby fans would be forgiven for not knowing much about Kirby’s Toy Box, a collection of six mini games that was only available through Japan’s Satellaview, an early satellite-based distribution service for the Super Famicom (the Super NES in the West). That system only let you download one game at a time to a special 8-megabit cartridge, though, and you could only download when that specific game was being broadcast across the narrow satellite feed.
Thus, existing copies of most Satellaview games are available only if they happen to be the last game downloaded to individual cartridges (Satellaview broadcasts ended in the late ’90s). While some of these games have been publicly dumped and preserved as ROM files, many exist only in the hands of Japanese collectors. Sometimes, those individuals are reluctant to release the digital code widely.
That’s why gaming historians were so intrigued when a Japanese auction popped up listing four of the Kirby’s Toy Box mini games (Circular Ball, Cannon Ball, Pachinko, and Arrange Ball) for sale on four separate Satellaview cartridges. As Video Game History Foundation founder Frank Cifaldi put it on Twitter, “finding 3 different ones from 1 seller is a miracle.”
Preservationists including Cifaldi and Matthew Callis sought out donations to help win the auctions and preserve the game data for future generations. Yesterday morning, the group announced it had won all four cartridges for a total of ¥85,500 (about $813.08, as reported by Kotaku). “Still missing most of Nintendo’s Satelleview [sic] output, but at least we’ve got most of the Kirbys now,” as Cifaldi put it.
When Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo eventually shut down their PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii servers for good, hundreds of digital download games will only exist as scattered copies on various console hard drives. That’s already happening with games like P.T., Konami’s free cult horror classic that was pulled down from PSN unceremoniously in 2015. That move led to a spike in prices for secondhand PS4 consoles that happened to have the game trapped on their hard drives.
Sure, we’ll likely be able to find copies of many of the biggest and most popular of these digital-exclusive games in order to export them to a more permanent and emulatable archival format (a recent DMCA decision makes this whole process easier when it comes to mimicking authentication servers). But as servers go offline and games are scattered among myriad distinct consoles, assembling anything close to a complete understanding of today’s digital game marketplace is going to get very tough very quickly. As is the case with many early films that have been lost forever, we may not know what hidden gaming treasures have been lost to history.
I get that you have no way of knowing this but we have a very good relationship as it stands. I write reviews, find awesome places to eat from you, list my business on your site. I’m even pretty serious about defending your site and pointing out how silly people are when they claim you are some sort of extortion racket.
I like you, really I do, just not in a give you money sort way I’m flattered you have assigned me a personal contact person but really I don’t want her, I’m not interested in you in that way. You’re cool and all just not for me.
Since April 20th this lovely young woman has called and left voice mails telling me how excited she is to be my contact person at Yelp. She’s so excited she won’t stop calling even though it’s obvious I’m intentionally ignoring her. She’s so eager that she will even call me multiple times in a row. Like just now at 5:17pm and again at 5:23pm. I’ve been running in circles all day doing you know my actual business of repairing computers and talking endlessly with clients on the phone. Nothing makes me happier than having Yelp call twice in under 10 minutes 17 minutes after the end of my business day. It’s says it right there 5pm in the voicemail greeting she has listened to 7 times in the past few weeks.
So sadly I have been forced to block your number, I will also be adding caller ID filters to my call screening software the blocks the word Yelp. I’ll still use the site love it. Though I do now understand why plenty of business owners think you are an extortion racket, it’s your unwanted and overly aggressive sales force.
Love the site, hate your idiotic sales force.
By the way I will paying to promote this post on Facebook, sorry they are just better than you.
The project spent about 4 months in the idea stage and 4-5 nights in implementation. I wanted to use as much of the existing laser cutter as possible, this is after all an essential machine that I need to do my work on. The laser cutter in question is a Whitetooth A1 machine with an 80W laser tube. Once the break in board was ready I realised how much faster it would be to complete, and given that the main controller is an Arduino it made sense to set Arduino Day 2015 as the deadline. Preliminary tests were carried out to make sure that I could drive the stepper motors and that the paper would burst into flames as desired and then the game was afoot. My previous experiments into open source controllers on our lasers, gave me a decent head start so I knew it was all possible.
A fascinating look back on what technology was like in 1994 and how easy it was to fool people into thinking you were cutting edge. The truth was Idol had barely read any of the books his bragging about and needed to refer to a list of written instructions to get online and hunt peck message out to people. The project was a total failure and unfortunately many of the people who worked with Idol took heat for commercializing cyber culture. Still fascinating to look back on for example people hadn’t even really figured out how to pronounce e-mail addresses yet. Up until this point everyone online knew what they were doing so saying “dot com” was just redundant, everyone knew the dot was there why pronounce it.