Monday, July 16, 2018

App Preservation: Saving the App Store’s History

Federico Viticci:

You’d think that Unify would make for the perfect case study in app development and mobile creativity, if only for historic purposes. Except that Unify is gone from the App Store, as if it never existed in the first place.

If you were to look at the App Store’s developer page for Zach Gage – who worked on the award-winning Ridiculous Fishing, released indie breakthroughs such as Really Bad Chess and Flipflop Solitaire, and was even profiled in an App Store story by Apple – you’d see 2016’s Sage Solitaire as his App Store debut. Unless you still have an old iPhone that was never updated to iOS 11, Gage’s early work isn’t playable anymore. All that remains are old reviews on gaming blogs, awkward gameplay videos recorded before YouTube Let’s Plays, and our memories.


Very few people would be sad that their favorite fart app from 2008 was never updated for 64-bit and got nuked by iOS 11, but the same isn’t true for pioneering titles that were essential in writing the history of the App Store. And while the topic of software preservation has been addressed by other industries, Apple has largely ignored this conversation, treating all apps as equal commodities in spite of the fundamental role that some of them played in the history of the App Store, the art of gameplay design, and, ultimately, our culture.

On the tenth anniversary of the App Store, and looking ahead to the App Store’s next 10 years, this feels like a discussion worth having.

Previously: The Problem With Abandoned Apps, iOS to Drop Support for 32-bit Apps.

Update (2018-07-30): John Siracusa:

Bit Pilot, the iOS game with the best-ever implementation of 2D arcade touch controls, no longer runs on modern iOS.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

I had a game in the App Store quite early, and I was really happy when I saw it pop up on piracy sites, because I knew that meant it'd probably be around in some form forever. Apple has now removed it, since it doesn't run on newer iPhones, but it's probably still available on some piracy site out there, and eventually, emulation will make it run on modern computers.

Relevant twitter post of notable games lost to iOS 11:

IMO, Apple hasn't taken nearly enough heat for this.

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