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Your Move

Preserving The History Of Video Games | Your Move

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In early 1991, before Sonic the Hedgehog was released on the Sega Genesis, several magazines received a cartridge with an early version of the game. All the media coverage of Sonic before it came out was from this prototype, which had several big differences from the final version of the game. Most of these cartridges were returned to Sega, and for decades, this version of the game was lost. But on January 1st of this year, the demo was found and released for people to play on the internet. It’s unfinished, and many levels don’t work at all, but it's a fascinating look into the middle of development of the game.

Game prototypes are often very hard to find, especially those from large game studios. Many of them are either from demos sent to magazines, or are unfortunately stolen by hackers, as was the case with several Super Nintendo game prototypes leaked last year. Game preservationists rejoiced at the leak of this media, as it revealed several game concepts and art that never made it into any Nintendo games. But many media outlets refused to cover it, or were very careful about it, as it was clearly material Nintendo never intended for release.

But when I can play partially finished versions of games I love, I always have a great time comparing them to the final versions. Websites such as Hidden Palace and The Cutting Room Floor are dedicated to archiving game prototypes, with the Video Game History Foundation archiving media assets and building a research library, including a near-complete collection of game magazines going back to the 1970s. Those organizations are all working toward preserving the history of video games, including the history of the development of these games. And that’s a goal I fully support.