Why Is a Game Publisher Trying to Buy Every Video Game Ever Made?

A month ago, Embracer Group, an increasingly large video game publisher that’s been on a spending spree for more than a decade and recently purchased both Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal, announced a new and puzzling initiative: a complete video game archive. Embracer wanted to, in its own words, “have a copy of each physical game ever made,” and announced it had acquired 50,000 “games, consoles, and accessories” that were in the process of being moved to a huge underground vault near Karlstad, Sweden.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/k7b8wy/why-is-a-game-publisher-trying-to-buy-every-video-game-ever-made

So I have two thoughts here:

First, I thought the headline was a hyperbolic reference to Embracer buying up so many studios and IPs, not them literally buying a physical copy of every videogame

Second, there’s some weird pushback from the National Videogame Museum director Sean Kelly. I’m completely with him that Embracer’s effort being a private, for profit move is probably bad for archiving and preservation and this really should be the remit of non-profits, museums, public archives. But there’s a wild, bizarrely nationalist quote here:

“Maybe I’m being simplistic but I just feel like ‘the’ videogame archive belongs in the USA,” said Kelly. “Videogames were born here and their ultimate historical archive should also be here. It would be like re-locating the first McDonald’s to Japan or the ABBA museum to the USA. They just don’t belong.”

Now, I’m obviously not endorsing British Museum-style wholesale theft of artefacts from other countries and cultures for displays, nor am I suggesting the Embracer effort should be considered a museum, but museums are museums. They can be anywhere. Truly galaxy brain take from Kelly there.

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It’s also a nationalist statement that (in common with a lot of these “Nation X invented Thing y” formulae) is fairly arguable. “Early Video games” is very much a US and British thing - mostly because the USA and Britain were early in on the Building Computers in the post-WW2 era process, so if you have the computers, it seems almost inevitable that you end up making games with them.
But this doesn’t, in itself, say anything interesting about the “Americanness” (or “Britishness”) of videogames as a concept - just that they happened to have more computers and thus inevitably people made games there earlier.

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Absolutely. Early games - I won’t pretend to be an expert on them - seems like a very muddy field anyway, with a lot of debate over what even counts as a “videogame” as such. But even if there was something definably American about the earliest games, that feels completely moot now - you couldn’t possibly discuss the modern videogame without the massive influence of Japan, let alone other countries (hat tip, as a Brit, to the early British bedroom developer scene). They’re global.

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I’d say it would be somewhat reasonable to say that there should be some sort of video game archive in Long Island, as that’s where Tennis for Two was created. But it’s definitely a stretch to say that Frisco, Texas has any claim, but that’s where this guy’s museum is located. Nationalism just seems to rot people’s brains, I guess.

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