FEATURE: What Happens When a Game You Love Goes Away?
All images via KLab Games
There’s always a strange and sad feeling when some form of media that’s been with you for a long time shuts down and you can’t access it again. This was the case earlier this year when Love Live! School Idol Festival announced it was shutting down after a decade of service in Japan and nine years globally. It wasn’t an announcement I was especially surprised by because I had been expecting it for the past couple of years — ever since the introduction of Love Live! School Idol Festival All Stars and just based on how long it’d been around by then, but it’s still weird to imagine a game I’ve played since 2014 not being available anymore. Although there will be a sequel to the game coming out later in the year that lets you carry over progress from the first, it doesn’t make that bizarre feeling go away completely. So, let’s chat about the weirdness you feel when games just vanish one day.
In my case, I don’t have to wait long for the sequel to School Idol Festival to come out as it’ll probably only be a couple months of downtime between the end of March and when School Idol Festival 2 releases. Despite that, it’s still going to be incredibly strange to have this daily part of my routine be removed from my life. At the time of writing this, I just got a login bonus for logging in 2500 days, which is A LOT of days to play a game like this! Certainly, this isn’t the first time I’ve gone through this phenomenon, and it won’t be the last, but it’s probably the one and only time I will have experienced this with a game I’ve played this long.
One of the reasons I managed to stick with this game for so long was that it was just easy to dive into and play right off the bat. I was already a fan of rhythm games, which I think was a key factor. Compared to other mobile games I’ve dropped for not liking the gameplay loop, it gave me that hook to stick with over time. That’s not to say I didn’t have periods of burnout from time to time, but with how often they updated the game with new songs, cards and additional stories for different series in the franchise, it was easy to stick around and feel like I was going to continuously have a good time.
Most free-to-play games like this don’t get to have an extended life in the same vein. Which I think is why this situation feels significantly different than other times I’ve gone through this. Often, it just feels like a game came and went and didn’t necessarily have a significant staying power, but playing a game for nearly a third of your life is already a wild accomplishment, and then one day you wake up and it’s completely gone with no real way to go back and play it again. In that case, it just becomes a memory.
The mobile platform has been a big help for anime-licensed games to thrive and find an audience. Within that, there’s also the plethora of crossovers you can see between titles that help bolster up different series. The problem that arises with this is that there often isn’t a long shelf life for these games and once the servers are shut off, they’re gone forever. There’s no way to go back and replay those games as they were originally intended, and oftentimes, it’s hard to find ways to replicate how you would’ve felt playing them through other people’s experiences or what they might have tried to back up.
One of the major downsides to losing all of this content when games shut down is we do lose out on a lot of fun story content. Whether or not they’re canonical, there’s a large amount of side or alternate stories these games offer, but once they’re shut down, they’re gone for good. This is a shame because often these stories are fun, full of fan-service, or offer new forms of character development or interactions you might not get in the main series. A problem arises when you think of how to preserve these types of stories because where would you then take that content and put it? Perhaps it could go on a series’ YouTube channel to live as a way for fans to experience it after the fact, but that also becomes a double-edged sword of creating a lot of work for a game that’s being shut down. It’s an odd situation and something that adds to the bizarre feelings you get when these types of games go away.
It’s not just a video games problem as we’ve certainly seen this pop up when it comes to movies and television shows recently as well, where some series can completely disappear if they’re only on a streaming service. That is also a significant problem that has arisen lately, though I feel like the difference here may be due to the overwhelming nature of digital gaming content on both consoles and mobile storefronts. There also seems like there’s a higher likelihood of a movie or television show that airs on a streaming service to get a physical release, whereas in the realm of video games, that can be far less likely.
This is obviously an industry-wide problem. A lot of live-service games are in the midst of shutting down. It’s an issue that doesn’t really have an easy answer, especially when it comes to preservation. Yet it’s something that’s important to think about. Even though a lot of these games are going to go away one day, you’ve got to cherish the moments you have with them and hope you can enjoy the memories they created for you when you look back on these games years later.
Which games do you have the fondest memories of? Let me know in the comments!
Jared Clemons is a writer and podcaster for Seasonal Anime Checkup and author of One Shining Moment: A Critical Analysis of Love Live! Sunshine!!. He can be found on Twitter @ragbag.