The Digital Future? I Think Not!

Time and again, I hear the argument that one day, games etc. will stop being distributed on physical media, and all will be digital downloads. I’ve even heard a rumor (though don’t quote me on this–I think it’s B.S.) that the Playstation 4 isn’t gonna have a disk drive. If that turns out to be true, the PS4 isn’t gonna have much of a future.

Physical media has a future, or if it doesn’t it should. Here is why:

1) It exists. The advantage of Physical Media is that once its there, it can’t be gone, but something that only exists as code is far more fragile. Take cell phone games: once the phones they run on become obsolete, the games themselves will simply be gone, unless said games get ported (and most of them don’t). I feel sorry for Mega Man collectors who will want Mega Mans 9 and 10 in twenty years, and the only way to get them will be to actually buy old consoles that have the games on them, then hope said console still even work and their hard drives haven’t gone bad. I’ve seen games totally disappear this way.

Which brings me to:

2) Physical has less limitations. I can let a friend borrow Mega Man 6. I can’t let him borrow Mega Man 9 unless I give him the entire console. And to look at that from the other angle: if my NES breaks, I can just get another NES and play the Mega Man 6 cartridge I already have. If my Wii breaks, then I have to re-buy the console as well as Mega Man 9 (I know there’s supposed to be some sort of download recovery stuff, but I doubt it works).

3) Physical has presence. And I’m sure anybody who has ever been to a ROM site can see I’m right here: what has more impact for you, seeing a list of titles with a small graphic next to them, or seeing the actual media (possibly with packaging) on a shelf? It’s like, if I’m seeing a list of Sega Genesis games and I see one called “Mystic Defender,” I’m all like “Mystic Defender? What the hell is that?” but if I see it on a shelf, I’ll look at the cool box art and read the back, and if the store is nice enough and has it I might thumb thru the manual. I mean yeah, you could say that looking up a Wiki entry or a review is the modern equivalent, but Wikis are rather dry and make everything sound boring, and reviews can either tell you too much or nothing at all, and might even misrepresent the product in either case.

And you might be noticing something here:

4) Physical media is not dependent on the internet. And this is a HUGE issue that everyone just overlooks, because apparently the entire internet is stuffed full of rich upper-class nerds who are able to afford every console ever made and a zoo to house them all. This causes them to develop a big case of tunnel vision where they think that because they have something, everyone else does too.

I have a dark, terrible secret: I use dial-up. It’s not by choice–I live in the country and its either Hughesnet’s overpriced, under-performing satellite service or a dial-up connection that is cheap but functional. And I see every day that most of the internet is designed with the assumption that you have high-speed. It’s irritating.

But getting back to the point: there are a lot of people like me, and not everyone can afford the kinds of connections that are necessitated by the concept of games big enough to fit on Blu-Ray going all-digital. If King of Fighters 16 or whatever is only available on X-Box Live Arcade, then that means I simply can’t play it, no matter how much I want to. This is the same reason I never played Half-Life 2, even though again I really wanted to. Gamers and game companies think its perfectly realistic to expect me to buy a new house just to play a game, and the fact is it isn’t.

And I repeat: I doubt I’m the only person like this. There are billions of gamers–not all of them can be rich nerds. Physical media is not just a convenience but a necessity if the industry doesn’t want to become a niche catering specifically to an elite crowd.

That is why a switch to all-digital would spell the end of gaming.

Excuse how rushed this entry comes off as. My phone line is out so I’m forced to make this entry from a friend’s computer.

Phoenix Real Arcade

I said a few entries back I was doing my first ever Arcade Stick mod, using a broken Pelican Real Arcade Universal as the base. Long story short, I stuck a Suzo-Happ Ultimate joystick and some buttons (also Suzo-Happ) in there, ordered an MC Cthulhu from Godlike Controls) and stuck it in there too, wired it all up, and tested it out.

So far, the Cthulhu is a great device, and I don’t want to throw dirt on it, but one thing I will say is that its hype makes it sound easier to install than it really is. A lot of blogs will say it requires no soldering, but that’s not entirely true. Yeah, it has a built-on USB jack, so its only truly solderless if you’re gonna play just MAME all the time. If you want to make it work on a console, you’re gonna have to wire it up, and that takes soldering.

That being said though, I was surprised at how pathetically easy soldering actually is. It’s basically like gluing something, except that the glue is actually a sort of metal that liquifies if you touch it with a hot enough stick (and then solidifies again almost the exact moment you pull that stick away). Basically, I just stuck a bunch of copper wires in place using leftover pieces of the T-1000. I’m not saying the project was effortless–I pulled an all-nighter to get it done–but it wasn’t near as difficult as I went in expecting, either.

My only fear left is whether or not the Cthulhu will short out PS2s, just like the Pelican’s old circuit board used to. Nobody on Shoryuken or anywhere else has mentioned it doing so, but I doubt any of them are playing old-school games like I am, so its up to me to test it. I hope it works though, because so far I have created a great stick. I can now actually play Art of Fighting and fricking STRATEGIZE instead of worrying about whether or not I’ll pull off the move right…

… Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Some older fighting games (like Art of Fighting, the earlier Fatal Fury games and even the original Street Fighter) are very strict about command inputs. The Special Moves have to be done precisely right or they won’t work. I realized though, that this means they’re good training–if you can pull off the Shoryuken in Street Fighter 1, then you can pull it off in damn near anything else as well. I guess that means I’m gonna hit up the dojo now.

As for the stick, I now call it “the Phoenix Real Arcade.” And I have a second one too, that I’ll do as soon as I feel up to it.

Still trying to set up my review series by the way. I’m thinking of testing the waters with a pair of cartoon reviews, since for those all I need are clips from DVD releases.

Plans, Plans, and more Plans

In a demonstration of my ability to flip-flop on things, I’ve decided I’m not gonna post anymore reviews. But don’t be mad! I’ve got a pretty good reason:

I’m going to start doing video reviews. And I figured there was no point posting reviews on this blog if I’m just gonna do a better version in video later. Currently, the main holdup is just a lack of equipment–I need a good digital camcorder and one of those DVD-Recorder/Players so I can record footage of games, for starters. My focus is gonna be on underrated games, but I’ll also dip into cartoon territory.

In other news, I’ve finally tried my hand at Arcade Stick modding. Last week I ordered some buttons and an arcade stick from Happ (now Suzo-Happ) and today they came in. I’ve already stuck them in an old Pelican Real Arcade I had in the closet. But it’s not over yet—now I have to replace the PCB, then wire the buttons up to make them work. When its done I’ll let you know how it went.

And scarily, I’m getting good at playing fighting games on the PSP.

That’s all for now. Ja ne.