Video Game

Physical game preservation

Future-proof game collecting

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Updated on
Reading Time
3 mins
Word Count
874 approx.

There’re always some debates of should we buy games digitally or in physical form. Aside from cost, availability, and personal preferences, what are your concerns? As a so-called amateur game collector, I wish to share how I keep game cartridges and my thoughts on physical games.

The first thing I want to talk about is my screenshots on Switch. I took screenshots for every game that I played. It’s important to me because I spent a lot of time playing games, and those are meant to evoke my memories of playing them. The storage on the Switch isn’t enough, as I can only save up to 1,000 screenshots. So, I use an old 32GB SD card as external storage just for screen captures. I transferred the media content to the SD card that I slotted in. It’s unnecessary to have duplicate screenshots, so I removed those files from the device.

Everything works great, but not until a while ago I discover many of the screenshots were missing on the Switch. As I remembered, I had backed up those files on my mac. But I couldn’t find it. I think I accidentally deleted a big chunk of in-game screenshots last year. I was not able to recover them because that happened a few months ago. Too far back. I lost those files because of my carelessness. I need a moment of silence.

Back to the subject, this post is about the preservation of physical games. To be specific, game cartridges of Switch. For the PS3/PS4, they’re blu-ray discs. I’m pretty sure they can last for ten years—even decades— as long as they stay in the disc case. But for cartridges, they’re quite different. I took out those cartridges from the case and stored them separately. I put all the cartridges in a zip bag, commonly used for storing snacks like nuts, and sealed it. Then use an old eyeglass case to store it, which will provide a bit of protection. It might not look good, but it works.

The city I’m living is in the tropical area. During spring, it will be very humid. Sometimes the humidity went over 100. Everything will be covered with a layer of moisture. Condensation occurs on windows, walls, floors, and even the ceiling. Typhoons hit a few times every year, and it rains very often in the summer. But in winter, it becomes very dry. So, if I put some books on the shelf, the process of getting wet and drying them makes the book pages turn yellow, and some times mold occurs. To avoid this, a lot of people keep their air-con on 24/7 during the period. I’m not one of them.

Aside from storing game cartridges, I’m a bit concerned about playing them in the future, like ten years from now. Video games nowadays require the internet to get the latest patches and updates. It’s like an elephant in the room that servers may somewhat shut down eventually, like the sShop for Nintendo Wii U and 3DS, when their life cycle ends. The game stored on cartridges or blu-ray discs stayed in its original version when released—1.0—unless I brought later revisions. I might not be able to play them anymore. Even if I could, no updates will be available officially. Not to mention if there’re DLCs or other kind of add-ons. I’ll lost them and may not be possible to revive them. That’s the downside of physical games.

I’m not sure are there any ways to get update files and backup them elsewhere. To buy a new Switch and install each game that I owned, update them, and never delete them from the device? I don’t think I’ll go this route, though. What if the firmware of the Switch is more updated than the games? It might require the user to update the game before launching, but there’s nowhere to download. A lot of questions that no one have the answers.

When you buy games digitally, however, it’s a different story. You might not need to worry about storing them or updates. Because they already are the latest version. To me, the only problem that I have is I don’t feel a sense of ownership. Another factor is that buying games digitally will mean I’ll need an account, and the games that I bought will have to be tied to it if I wish to re-download them. I’m not a fan of that kind of attachment. But points go to digital games, as they can be stored on an SD card fully updated with everything included.

I like physical formats. I play games offline 99.9% of the time. I can trade them, resell them on second-hand market. Most importantly, I like to collect cover arts and holding them in my hands. But it’s inevitable that gaming in modern days always requires you to be online at some point. Also, I’m missing a lot of great indie titles because they might never get a physical release. I admit I’m being a bit stubborn about buying physical copies only. I’m not sure if anyone would think the same. Do you think buying games in physical or digital form matters to you?

This is #Day98 of #100DaysToOffload.