Cloud storage and digital distribution have seemingly made gaming less fragile in the modern age. It used to be that if your game disc was scratched or you jostled your cartridge too much and dislodged the battery storing your game save, you could totally wipe out your chance to complete the game. Now when your console or PC blinks out, you can just retrieve your information via the Internet. In some ways, though, video games are even more fragile in the modern age. When servers go offline, as they did unexpectedly this week for Rebellion’s Sniper Elite, whole games can just disappear.
Publisher Glu shutdown for a large number of older games this week, including the Neverwinter Nights series, Star Wars: Battlefront, and Flight Simulator X amongst others. Most of these games are close to a decade old or older and naturally their online multiplayer communities have dwindled. Sniper Elite, released in 2005, was among those games whose servers were shut down by Glu, even though there was still an active if small community playing the game.
“A few weeks ago, the online multiplayer servers for Sniper Elite were suddenly switched off by Glu, the third-party service we had been paying to maintain them,” said Rebellion producer Steve Hart in a message to the community, “For the past seven years we have run these servers at a cost to ourselves so that fans of Sniper Elite could continue to play online for free. This decision by Glu was not taken in consultation with us and was beyond our control.”
Unfortunately the servers won’t be returning. “We have been informed that in order to [have the server turned on again] would cost us tens of thousands of pounds a year—far in excess of how much we were paying previously. We also do not have the option to take the multiplayer to a different provider.”
Rebellion’s Sniper Elite series enjoyed a return to the limelight this year with the well-received Sniper Elite V2, a game that brought some renewed interest to the original.
Server shut downs effectively wiping games out of existence is an increasingly prevalent problem. In March of this year, Electronic Arts shut down a large number of online games from the past few years. Sony finally shut down SOCOM servers for the PlayStation 2 series after nearly a decade as well.