A good read on mobile games, delistings, and Rolando

Polygon has a great post up about the unstoppable black hole that pulverizes mobile games out of existence (aka iTunes) that’s told from the unexpectedly hopeful perspective of developer HandCircus. Rolando was one of the earliest iPhone games I can remember but with Apple’s mandate to update older titles to 64-bit architecture, the entirety of the Rolando series has been unavailable since 2017.

HandCircus has since gone back and updated the original game in the form of a new iOS release, Rolando: Royal Edition. CEO Simon Oliver explains some of the woes of seeing their game get delisted.

”It’s been really difficult that nobody’s really been able to play it for years. It’s heartbreaking that it’s a big part of our history that hasn’t been available in the store. It’s been in the back of our minds, something that we’d really like to bring back, but it kind of got a little bit lost in the excitement of the early days of mobile.”

He also talks about the changes in game design from the early days of mobile to today and assures us that Rolando: Royal Edition is not going to be shoehorned into a free-to-play experience. On the subject of game preservation, he likens their efforts at bringing Rolando back from the dead to those of GameClub, a publisher created to help update and relaunch older mobile games.

”It is a really important thing [the work of GameClub], and I think on iOS and mobile in general, it’s been very difficult to have those experiences again. Those early games, those early iOS classics that disappeared — it’s been a real shame that I can’t play games like Flight Control or Incoboto, classic games that I remember being really inspired by. With Rolando, we felt very much the same mission of hoping to restore something that is a piece of our history, but obviously is a little bit of a piece of history of the App Store, as well.”

Although we don’t usually cover mobile games on the site the full article is a great little read with more tidbits I didn’t want to pull out.

Inaugural PSVR shooter, StarBlood Arena, shutting down July 25th

Although it was just officially confirmed by Sony Europe, the writing has been on the wall since the end of January for the PlayStation VR shooter from 2017, StarBlood Arena. When developer WhiteMoon Dreams first received word from Sony that the game’s servers were going to be shut down, CEO Jay Koottarappallil took to the r/PSVR subreddit to announce the news directly to the community:

“Sony called earlier to let me know that they were shutting down servers. The call was something along the lines of “This is always a very hard time, but its time to shut down the servers”. There wasn’t a whole lot of detail past that and there was no option for us to support servers ourselves, much less make any new releases.

At the very least, we would have liked to have the option to pay for servers ourselves. Overall, I wish we controlled the IP that we created with SBA, because there’s so much more of this we want you all to see; but we’re not big and powerful enough yet to be able to command that.”
– Jay Koottarappallil, CEO WhiteMoon Dreams

Since January 2019 Koottarappallil has continued to respond to comments on his post but as of this writing no agreement has been reached with Sony to hand over the servers to WhiteMoon Dreams. According to Sony’s statement, StarBlood Arena’s multiplayer and online features will no longer be available as of July 25th, 2019. And as the game’s single player component also required a connection to the servers, the game will be completely unplayable on the same date.

Sony has already removed the title from sale on the PlayStation Store but PlayStation Plus subscribers who claimed it when it was added to the Instant Game Collection can still find it in their Download List. StarBlood Arena was also released on disc but given the online requirements physical copies will become unplayable on July 25th as well. I’ve added the date to the Watch List calendar and will work up a page for the game soon.

In the meantime, you can catch a candid recap of the game’s birth and death from Koottarappallil who appeared on a recent video posted to YouTube by PSVR Without Parole.

Driveclub delisting in August, Servers offline in 2020

The news that Sony will be shutting down online servers for the Driveclub series of titles probably isn’t a surprise to anyone, but it’s still a bummer to read. The news broke on March 29th thanks to a tweet from Wario64 that links to Sony Europe’s decommissioned servers page. The full update on Driveclub follows:

Online servers for DRIVECLUB, DRIVECLUB VR and DRIVECLUB Bikes will shut down on 31st March 2020, 23:59 BST. All online features (including online multiplayer modes) will cease on that date. You will still be able to play and enjoy these games in single player offline modes. However, the games have significant amounts of online gameplay, so from 31st March 2020, functionality will be affected in the following ways:

You will not be able to:
– Use your season pass online.
– Represent your Club online in multiplayer events or tours.
– Play online multiplayer and compete in challenges.
– Create your own events.
– Compete in leader boards, or share stats and player progress.

You will be able to:
– Use your season pass on all single player and offline modes.
– Continue to play all game (DC, DC VR and DC Bikes) and DLC single player functionality in offline mode.
– Earn trophies in single player / offline mode.

PlayStation will cease selling DRIVECLUB, DRIVECLUB VR, DRIVECLUB Bikes and all DLC and season passes related to those games from 31st August 2019, at 23:59 BST.

It’s nice to see Sony give players a full year’s notice on the shutdown, although so far, these dates are specific to Europe. Sony North America has yet to make an official statement or update the PSN store pages for any of the titles. That said, these shutdowns typically happen around the same time across all territories so you’re probably safe assuming the March 2020 cutoff applies to all versions of the game.

For now, all Driveclub titles and DLC remain on sale from the PlayStation Store. Physical versions are out there as well for the original Driveclub and Driveclub VR but the standalone Driveclub Bikes was only released digitally and as DLC for the main game. By August 31st, 2019 that one will be completely unavailable.

For those with fuzzy memories (myself included), Driveclub was originally promised as a free title for PlayStation Plus subscribers but was delayed and scaled back into the 2015 “PlayStation Plus Edition”. This version was removed from availability later in 2015 but if you dig back into your Download List you should find that it has been replaced with the full original game. That’s a happy surprise after some not-so-great news.

I’ve added the dates to the Watch List calendar and will work up pages for the three main releases soon. Thanks to everyone on Twitter that sent us this news!

Photo credit: Sarathonux Kor on flickr

Sony pulls PlayStation download codes from retail

If you’ve been waiting to pick up a delisted PlayStation game by buying a download code from sites including GameStop, Amazon, or Best Buy, act fast!

UPDATE: Thanks to a tip on Twitter, here’s a forum thread from the fine folks on ResetEra’s forums who are compiling a list of the remaining GameStop download codes that you can still buy.

Twitter deal-hunter, Wario64, received a memo sent to GameStop stores on March 22nd that will close up one of the few loopholes we have for buying delisted games. The memo states that starting April 1st, 2019 “full game digital download codes will no longer be available to purchase from other retailers worldwide”. Full game downloads will be sold exclusively on the PlayStation Network store going forward and retailers will only be able to sell PSN “wallet” cards.

The memo lays out a quick plan of action on GameStop’s part, stating that “all currently available Sony full game digital SKUs will be deactivated in the POS and on gamestop.com by End of Day 4/1”.  

While this news came from GameStop, the wording states “all retailers worldwide” which means download codes sold by Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, and even eBay are likely to disappear soon, if they haven’t already. We’ve had a hard time finding active PlayStation codes on Amazon today while their Xbox One counterparts are readily available to buy and download.

Meanwhile, Sony has given no advanced warning about this change in policy, and obviously not offered any explanation. Our best guess is that they’re trying to bring players directly to the PSN store to spend their money instead of letting retailers sell individual games through codes. It seems less likely but this move could also be in response to complaints (or even litigation) from copyright holders whose delisted titles have been sitting on virtual store shelves long after their licensing deals have expired.

Whatever the explanation, we’ve just lost one of the few means to buy delisted PlayStation 3, PSP, Vita, and PlayStation 4 titles after they’ve been yanked from the PSN store.
Source: USGamer

Studio closure puts AER on the Watch List

Thanks go to TrueAchievements.com for this tip on a potential upcoming delisting for AER Memories of Old. The small indie team at Forgotten Key announced the sad news in January that the studio would be shutting down. In a post on Medium from January 15th, Forgotten Key’s Robin Hjelte explained some of what led to the decision.

“The last few years for us was much about finalizing and releasing AER Memories of Old, including porting and patching. That time was also about finding the next project, to fit in with how the market moves and try to find ways to sustain a growing studio. This is something we ultimately failed to do in a sustainable way even though our efforts bore fruit for a while.”

Although Forgotten Key has promised to keep AER available “on every released platform indefinitely”, it’s not hard to imagine it being delisted sooner rather than later: There is no formal studio to maintain the game, and the publishing deal with Daedalic Entertainment likely lasts for 3-7 years at most. Given AER’s 2017 release date, we’re nearly two years closer to a delisting already.

It’ll be a title to keep an eye on over the coming years but for now the colorful and flighty adventure game remains available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Steam, and GOG.com.