Recently, developer Remedy confirmed that their cult classic 2010 horror game Alan Wake will no longer be available for purchase through any digital retail outlets after this weekend. The studio stated that they were not able to renew songs from the game’s licensed soundtrack which has forced them to remove the game from digital retail outlets in order to avoid paying severe penalties.
Alan Wake isn’t the first game to be removed from digital stores. In fact, there have been many games over the years that have been pulled from various online marketplaces for one reason or another. Many of those games, though, were largely forgettable – often small – releases that came and went without much notice.
This game is a little different. Alan Wake is a beloved title that may not have set the world on fire but spawned a passionate fanbase who still talk about the game and beg Remedy for a sequel. The thought of Alan Wake no longer being available to purchase fills those who want to share it with the world with a sense of dread.
Even those who don’t like the game are left asking the question, “Is it safe to rely on digital games?”
The answer is no. It’s never been 100% safe to rely on digital games, and it will never be entirely safe to buy digital games if you are at all worried about the possibility that those digital games might be taken away.
However, physical games are not the solution to this problem as some would have you believe. While it’s true that nobody is going to come to your house and take away your physical games unless you personally owe them a large sum of money.
It’s also true that physical games are cumbersome, expensive, prone to breaking, and can be lost fairly easily. There are many good reasons that the music, film, and gaming industries are all quickly preparing for an all-digital future, but the best one is the simple fact that digital is the future from a sheer market perspective.
No, the real problem is that these industries don’t seem to be properly prepared for everything that comes with an all-digital future and seemingly haven’t been preparing for that future for quite some time. Issues regarding rights have plagued these entertainment industries for years now, and the best answer anyone seems willing to offer is, “Well, maybe we should go back to the days when everyone purchase media.”
That’s not going to happen. We’ve come too far. If we are going to go even further and prevent incidents like Alan Wake from happening, then game studios need to start taking into consideration how their decisions will affect a game’s availability years down the line. These industries need to come together and realize that the long-term profitability of ensuring that the digital future is as safe as it can be is far greater than short-term gains.
Until that day comes, then digital gaming will never be as safe as it can be, and more great games like Alan Wake will cease to exist.