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Ouya that was

It was announced today that Razer has bought Ouya.

“Razer reportedly plans to continue supporting Ouya’s existing game service for a year.”

“Razer doesn’t seem to be interested in trying to continue Ouya’s original strategy.”

So what does this mean for the users? Razer will continue the Ouya service for another year, and then they are pulling the plug. After that, will an Ouya have any useful purpose? Will it boot? Probably. But you can bet that any updates there might have been for it will not be available any longer. Can users re-install games that they had purchased? It doesn’t sound like it.

Someone will hopefully come up with a solution, a way to back up your Ouya games and run them — at least those titles that do not depend on a live service that they must connect to in order to play at all. Any games that do require a server for the client to access, will probably cease to be playable. Which is a shame. Unless perhaps the services are spun off to some other organization, or released as a product that people can obtained and run on their own hardware. But that seems quite unlikely. What profit would there be in it? The industry has interest only in selling you new product — sorry, services; it’s not fair to call it a “product” anymore when you can’t own what you are paying for — and they have no incentive to compete against what they released a few years ago, even though there might well be a long-tail niche of fans, enthusiasts, and academics who have an interest in keeping it around for amusement or research.

This weekend, I attended the 2015 CCAG Show where gamers, fans, and collectors gathered to exhibit and trade vintage and recent video games, some approaching almost 40 years old. This celebration of living video game history has been going on for 10 years now, and was made possible by the love players have for these games, and the enduring survival of the physical medium into which they were encoded. Will there be anything like this for Games as a Service consoles and mobile devices? It seems very doubtful. Once the vendor no longer wants to support the product, they will shut it down, the lights will die, and the party is over, the attendees left standing around in the dark, shuffling to music that is no longer playing, wondering what it all meant, or if it even happened at all.

Historians such as Jason ScottHenry Lowood, and others engaged in the struggle to preserve the history of the culture and industry of video games can do a great deal when it comes to archiving media and emulation of hardware, but when it comes to service-based business models, it becomes difficult if not impossible to envision how these things can be preserved so that future generations will be able to look back and see what was, and understand how we got here. The users only have access to the client side, and the service side is not only out of their reach, licensed for use but not owned, but it changes and evolves over time.

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