Subscription services are all the rage these days, from boxes of random toys mailed each month, to digital offerings such as Humble Monthly. With consumers appetites for mystery goods at an all time high, GamePump is a new name on the market hoping to lure in gamers. They’re doing so with quite the intriguing premise. You see, each month they promise to provide one actually retro game to subscribers via Steam. What does that mean? Well, it means they’re taking classic video games (primarily from consoles of yesteryear) and porting them to PC. Those who do not subscribe will still be able to buy GamePump’s products on Steam. There just won’t get the associated subscriber-exclusive discount applied.
Thus far, very few companies are attempting anything near the scale of what GamePump have planned. Storefronts such as GOG have mostly kept their attention to getting old PC games running on modern hardware, rather than digging into expansive console catalogs. It’s an amazing idea that makes one wonder: Why weren’t more companies doing this before? In speaking with GamePump’s founder, Robert Bowling, it quickly became obvious why something of this nature is a such rarity in the PC gaming marketplace.
One of the simplest reasons is that there is a ton of legal wrangling to deal with in the case of many old titles. Some companies have closed down, sold their rights to another company, and so forth. In other instances, developers or publishers just may not be enthused about bringing their old content back. Overcoming the legal hurdle is one of the major issues that stops many a passion project. Fortunately, Robert has experience with this world of legal dealings and digital publishing via his own work as Vice President of Humble Monthly, among others. It seems that few people would have the skillset required to even attempt what GamePump is doing – luckily Robert is the perfect fit.
The other huge issue is of a purely technical nature. Porting games is not as simple as simply plugging a game into a converter which automatically works its magic. No, you need to gather as much of the game’s original source material as possible and somehow get that functioning on a modern rig. Sometimes, you need to do even more if the developers have lost parts of the original content. Each console has its own architecture as well, which means the staff will constantly be working to learn new systems for their port work. As insane as this may seem, it also provides a competitive advantage for GamePump. After all, what other company is willing to invest in learning about ancient NES, Genesis, Amiga, and MSX architectures to bring out their products?
What sorts of games should folks expect to come from GamePump? Robert is still mighty secretive – only dropping hints – about the first release which is coming this January. However, in general, he says to expect third party console titles first and foremost. They can come from any platform, including gaming-focused PCs of the past such as the previously mentioned MSX. When asked for a breakdown, he also expects there to be 95% focus on literal classic games, with 5% attention on modern titles. What’s he mean by modern? Basically, they’re also looking to create spiritual successors based heavily on much loved games. Imagine something like Axiom Verge, but perhaps created with actual assets from the Metroidvanias which inspired it. With that said, this new development is even more time consuming and not the main focus of GamePump.
It can be difficult to entice people to put money toward unknown quantities such as GamePump. That’s why they’re offering ridiculous discounts to subscribers. As of this moment, a yearly subscription is marked down from $60 to $20. What that translates to is $1.67 per game. Actually, thanks to a free game thrown in for a yearly subscription, the breakdown is actually $1.54 per title. One month subscriptions (at $5) and three month subscriptions (at $15) are also available. Again, these video games are not exclusive to the subscription, but this low level of pricing is. There’s no doubt that $1.67, or even five bucks, is going to be cheaper than what these games actually end up costing on Steam. The only downside is you have no clue what title you’ll be getting via the subscription!
GamePump as a subscription offering may not be for everyone, but the games they are set to bring to Steam almost certainly are. Robert’s goal with the whole concept is to give these classic games a new chance to shine. At this point, there are tons of gamers too young to remember what the Sega Master System or even Nintendo 64 were like. On the other hand, no gamer has the ability to play every cool game out there. Tons of excellent titles have been forgotten to time. Thanks to GamePump, it seems that these classics will soon be unearthed for the Steam audience to enjoy.