Sunday, September 13, 2015

Electronic Arts’s Recent App Store Removals

Eli Hodapp (via Steven Frank):

If you were going to put together a list of truly classic iOS titles, and both Flight Control and Real Racing weren’t on it, you’d have some explaining to do. Sadly, it seems as of about ten days ago, the only place those games will exist anymore is in ancient reviews and YouTube trailers. As accidentally spotted by Shaun last night, while looking for something else, EA has removed the following games from the App Store[…]

Steven Frank:

We don’t know for sure, but presumably EA pulled the games because they’re not compatible with the latest version of iOS, and it’s not financially sound to provide an update.


These were arguably historically significant titles, and there is no official mechanism to archive them for preservation.

Maybe it seems silly — they’re “just” games after all, right? But now the only source of these binaries is DRM-laced copies that someone happened to purchase and download.

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In theory, Apple could let developers pick a maximum supported OS version in iTunes Connect and only offer obsolete apps on older devices. But then what if you shop through iTunes and purchase an obsolete game? I can see how confusing it would be for customers, customers who'll get upset and request refunds. Those apps would need to be in a special "Retired" section that made it very clear that they no longer work on modern iOS and modern hardware, but you're probably still going to get complains and a lot of refunds regardless.

As for backups, can't you backup the binaries with iTunes and restore them later to your own devices yourself? That only works for personal backups linked to the same account, not historical archives... unless you jailbreak and install by other means, and only if the app does not check for a jailbreak.

In some ways, I think this is not that different from how cultural artefacts have always been treated, from cave paintings to the pyramids to written books to movies to games. The only reason we have been able to preserve so much of recent gaming history has been because people have intentionally circumvented laws and DRM and other kinds of hurdles put in place by governments, developers, publishers, and manufacturers. I guess Apple is making it harder than most, but fortunately, it's still possible to get this data out of iPhones and, eventually, perhaps make it available somewhere public.

And as long as you keep your old jailbroken iPhones, you'll even be able to run these games, and hopefully, there will eventually be a way of emulating old iPhones.

So I think I'm less worried about losing this part of our culture than many other things.

One thing that's harder to preserve are games that rely heavily on online services. If a game's universe exists on some server (as is now the case more and more often), and that server is being shut down (also happening more and more often), it's probably gone for good. There, I think it's a bit depressing how nonchalant developers are about destroying whole worlds.

Pulled from being sold, but I'm still able to download Real Racing and Flight Control from the 'Purchased' list.

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