One of the great things about the PC platform is that it is backwards compatible with the vast majority of past releases. You can buy games released yesterday or ten years ago on the same storefront and reasonably expect them to work on your machine. Better yet, it seems that the vast majority of games coming to consoles these days are also making their way to PC, so gamers can enjoy them for years to come without worrying about obsolete hardware or defunct online services.
It wasn't always this way of course. Turn back the clock two decades, and PC and console games were kept very much separate. Go a little further in time and PC gaming was struggling to regain a foothold in the market. Console games of this era that were ported to PC were generally unoptimized and lacked support for the controllers that those games were designed for. There are hundreds of games released over several generations that have never gotten a proper PC release, so gamers and would-be archivists still require vintage hardware to play them and keep their memories alive. Thankfully, with digital distribution and the help of a few new publishers, this may not be an unsolvable problem.
Joining the ranks of Night Dive Studios and Retroism is Console Classics, a company that aims to bring older classics to new platforms. Their website currently lists 33 titles they plan to release, all licensed directly from whoever currently owns the rights to those games. The list includes releases from prolific past publishers like Fox Interactive, Interplay, Infogrames, and Acclaim. Their first port, 1998 PS1 tunnel shooter N2O: Nitrous Oxide, is available on Steam now for $5.
I spoke with Shamus Bower, a producer from Console Classics, and he told me that the project has been underway since late last year. I asked about a future release schedule and he responded in kind.
"We're not sharing our release schedule yet but I can tell you we're adding new titles to it all the time - many of which aren't currently listed on the website. We're a small team passionate about retro gaming and see this as doing a service to the classic gaming community we're all proud members of."
In addition, he shared that achievements and Steam trading cards aren't guaranteed for every release, but can be added in the future if there is enough demand. Every game that is released on Steam will also be coming to iOS and Android, although those releases wont come until the end of the year. The mobile market has to be given credit for spurring on a lot of this modern preservation, as it has provided a market hungry for smaller and cheaper experiences that retro games fit into nicely.
I bought and played a bit of N2O to see what was on offer myself. The game is running in an emulation wrapper, much like the Xbox One's new backwards compatibility solution. This means that no work was done to the actual games. There are still PS1 button prompts (although the launcher does have a nice diagram to let you know what to press no matter the hardware you're using), and the game asks to save to a memory card once you get a high score. The game still looks like a PS1 game and runs at a resolution to match, so don't expect the magic that some emulators can preform on your old games. Still, the mere fact that there is a legal avenue to get this game outside of PSN is great for preservation's sake.
Are you looking forward to more PS1 classics coming to Steam, GOG or mobile in the future? Do you remember passing Lucky Luke and Mass Destruction on the Blockbuster shelf on the way to more recent games? What other classic games would you like to see re-released on digital services? Answer below in the comments!