GameClub: A Preservation Subscription

This week saw the launch of GameClub on iOS; a $4.99 per month subscription service to a catalog of 70 classic iOS games. Before I hear your exasperated cries about yet another subscription service, let’s take a moment to pause and consider why services such as GameClub are not only great value for money, but so important within the video game industry.

I want to preface this by stating that I’m not a big mobile gamer. I’m yet to take out an Apple Arcade subscription, that would net me new and exclusive titles for the same price. Yet I have subscribed to GameClub.

This comes down to the nature of the service. Games available on other subscription services such as Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, Apple Arcade and Sony’s PlayStation Now; have always, and will always, be available. The same can not be said for the titles that have relaunched on GameClub.

GameClub features 70 titles from the early years of iOS gaming, curated by Eli Hodapp, ex-Editor-in-Chief of Touch Arcade. Among these title sit previous winners of Apple gaming awards, BAFTA nominees and Touch Arcade favourites. These are titles that had fallen by the wayside of annual iOS updates and are no longer supported in current operating systems.

This is not so dissimilar to the current state of console gaming. Xbox is arguably nailing backwards compatibility, where PS4 is falling criminally short. Nintendo have introduced NES and SNES titles to their Nintendo Online Virtual Console. They are however, perhaps the biggest villains in trapping software on ageing consoles.

Consider the Nintendo Wii. A hugely popular console with a selection of stand out games. The Super Mario Galaxy titles, Pikmin 3, Metroid Prime 3 and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword all remain trapped in the annals of history unplayable without motion controls. The duo of Super Mario Galaxy titles are arguably the best 3D Mario titles ever, yet are unplayable without their original hardware.

The Nintendo Switch is crying out for ports of these games, just as the virtual console is crying out for Nintendo 64 and GameCube titles. The majority of worthwhile Wii U titles have already made the jump to Switch.

Having grown up surrounding these consoles, many titles have a special place in my heart. For the next generation of gamers, key parts of gaming history could go completely unplayed.

For iOS titles, GameClub addresses this in the best of ways. It creates an environment on your phone in which these previously lost titles can be born again. It’s as close to a gaming time machine as we are going to get. Best of all, if you bought one of these titles during their rise to prominence, you can play them on GameClub, free of charge.

Preservation is at the heart of GameClub, and a prominent reason for Eli Hodapp’s departure from Touch Arcade:

I’ve been incredibly vocal about preserving our digital history over the years, and it’s distressing to think how many great, historically important (and simply fun!) games have been lost. That reality is my prime motivation in stepping down from TouchArcade: to raise awareness of this problem.

With GameClub you’re subscribing to a piece of art history. It’s a tour of a digital museum; a snapshot in time at the inception of what has arguably become the biggest gaming market of today.

If only the big three publishers could take note and rescue their beloved software for future generations and those, like me, craving a dose of nostalgia.

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