Super Rare Games Interview
With the rise of digital gaming and digital distribution, game preservation has become a concerning issue for not only gamers who enjoy collecting physical games for display, but also for historical value, and game developers who are worried that their creations may disappear into the ethers, never to be seen again.
In recent years, there's been a resurgence and demand for often digital-only games to have a physical release for gamers to get their hands on. Then the floodgates opened. Limited Run Games, Strictly Limited Games, Super Rare Games and many, many more emerged from the digital pit-- and often focusing on the Nintendo Switch or PlayStation family of consoles. These independent companies specialize in digital-to-physical games but in heavily limited quantities. For collectors they're a godsend. These companies have formed a sort of coalition toward the preservation of games for future generations to enjoy, when those digital-only releases can no longer be downloaded or found online.
We had an opportunity to check in with Ryan Brown, Super Rare Games' Head of Saying Stuff (quite literally his title, I'm afraid), to get a feel of what really goes into the thought process of being the keepers of physical games media, and how Super Rare Games and others alike plan to combat the digital future's uprising.
With the world moving ever closer to a totally digital world, what are the struggles of keeping physical media relevant? Brown: The battle is always going to be against convenience. As we've seen with the growth of services like Spotify, convenience is king. For video games specifically, the key concerns with a digital-only future are primarily ownership and preservation. What happens in the future if a publisher's license contract for a game ends? It'll simply be removed from the digital service. If there's a future where we have just subscription services, that means that game is well and truly gone forever.
We want people to be able to hold, display, keep, and play their games - forever. Games shouldn't be treated like temporary experiences to be thrown in the bin. We think there's enough people who feel the same way we do about games that physical media will, hopefully, always have some place in the world.
What steps have Super Rare Games made to make getting their physical releases more accessible to the masses? Brown: We're proud of having a diverse and varied library of awesome physical games that deserve to be preserved, but sadly most of our games weren't faced with mass physical retail opportunities. If it weren't for us and others like us, most of these games will have remained digital-only forever. We constantly reassess our print numbers - we want to try and make sure that everyone that's genuinely interested in a physical title has a chance to pick it up.
What does the day look like when the big three consoles launch without physical media capabilities? Brown: The hope is that there will always be demand for physical media in some capacity. Perhaps not this generation, or the next, but maybe the next, we may have a day when consoles lack physical media disc and cartridge drives. But we'll always do what we can to help preserve games in any way we can. Perhaps that'll be games on a USB stick, perhaps it'll be other physical goodies and materials to commemorate and preserve a game as much as possible. We'll find a way!
There must be some friendly (or unfriendly) rivalry with other physical media companies – such as Limited Run Games. What challenges do Super Rare Games face with other outlets competing in the same space? Brown: We're thankfully all pretty friendly with each other and generally collect each other's games! The thing is, most of us really are in this because we're passionate about it. The worst challenge is simply getting a bit jealous of another company's release haha, but honestly, so long as games are getting preserved physically, that's the main thing. That's what counts. There's a lot of great people working on physical media and we're thankful for it.
Limited Run Games is obviously the largest of the limited physical game retailers on the internet. Have they kept those at Super Rare Games on their toes in terms of surprise game releases?
Brown: I personally collect as many physical games as I can, always have, so I'm just as excited as everyone else by others' releases! What sets us out from the crowd really is that our games are in hand when they go on sale. There's no preorder period, they're just on sale and ship often within days. We're also pretty focused on one single platform right now and have a very consistent release pattern, which I think our collectors really appreciate.
What are the differences between Super Rare Games compared from day 1 to today to five years from now? Brown: Well, on day 1 it was just George Perkins phoning companies to sign Super Rare releases on his lunch breaks at his previous job haha. We've come a long way in a short period of time, with a larger office, storeroom, and new hires (like myself). We're still a very close-knit, small team at our core, which we really like and expect that to stick. It's difficult to say what the landscape will be like in 5 years time, but we'll still be here, giving even more games that deserve physical releases that recognition they deserve.
There are ups and downs with any company. What is Super Rare Games' most proud launch (such as a title your competition wished they'd had)? What about most successful (such as quickest title to sell out)? Adversely, has there ever been a disappointing launch/sale? Brown: We have lots of releases to be proud of, but one that comes to mind is Worms W.M.D. We were extremely early on as a company when that was signed and it was a real sign that we were doing things right. To have worked on a physical release for such a respected, long-standing franchise was almost overwhelming for the team here at the time! As for 'most successful', most of our titles sell out, but our fastest sellers were Joe Dever's Lone Wolf and Earthlock. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, which sold out fairly quickly, seems to be our most sought-after release now, which is interesting. I wouldn't say we've ever really had a 'disappointing' launch, to be honest. We assess each game on a case-by-case basis and use that data to estimate the demand for other titles; as I say, games have already finished production by the time we put them on sale, so we've become quite apt at recognizing the sort of demand for each release.
Could you give us any kind of hints or surprises for any future titles, plans, or projects? Brown: I can't give any specific hints, but our 2021 line-up is immense. We're looking at roughly the same number of titles as this year so far, as we never want to milk our audience. It is, genuinely, my favourite ever year of Super Rare Games releases, so I'm really excited to see what everyone makes of the awesome variety.