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Iam8bit wants physical video games to be as cool as vinyl

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Physical video games are taking the path of vinyl. In the last few years in particular, we have seen the march towards a fully digital age accelerate. GameStop struggles to stay open, services like Xbox Game Pass encourage us to redeem individual purchases for a digital subscription, and newer consoles like the Xbox Series S don’t include a disc drive at all. In the same way that few people buy CDs in 2021, it is likely that we will no longer see entertainment centers lined with plastic game cases as often as before.

Iam8bit is not yet ready to abandon this era. The entertainment company has made a name for itself by keeping physical game products alive. He creates packages developed for freelancers such as Untitled Goose Game and Mutation, which were previously only published in digital form. He is also known for producing superb vinyl soundtracks including a four-LP Persona 5 Release. He’s even stepping into the table space now, with his very first board game. While other companies shy away from physical goods, iam8bit makes them more attractive than ever.

I spoke to iam8bit creators Jon Gibson and Amanda White to find out why the company is so committed to keeping physical games alive. The duo explained that vinyl records and game records are more closely related than you might think.

Something nostalgic

Iam8bit began as a pop culture art exhibition in 2005, which featured artwork based on 80s video games. Although this style of performance is common nowadays, it was the first of its kind. its time at that time. The event was born out of an era of artsy warehouses in LA warehouses, where art lovers could grab a $ 5 beer (regardless the spaces didn’t have a liquor license) or purchase a piece of art directly on the wall for $ 20.

“There was this underground art scene in Los Angeles at a time when art galleries were fancy pants, where a Monopoly guy with a monocle was losing $ 100,000 on art,” Gibson told Digital Trends . “There was nothing for us. Nothing for someone who wanted something nostalgic that they celebrated or cherished. Iam8bit was a version of that, but placed in a real gallery where artists were assigned to the ’80s game remix. “

It was a start for the brand, but iam8bit didn’t start to grow into a real business until Jon Gibson, a former video game journalist who curated the first art exhibitions, met the film producer. Amanda White. The two became friends when iam8bit began to be commissioned by companies like Nintendo and Capcom for marketing projects. Some of his early concerts involved creating art for a limited edition Mega man 9 press kits and production of underground events for Street Fighter fans.

Gibson and White capitalized on this momentum, turning iam8bit into a full-fledged business and settling into a real office (a dream space the two found while scouting for a Dead Rising 2 project). Since then, the company’s activity has expanded beyond art exhibitions and marketing projects. It has become a favorite haunt for gaming enthusiasts who want to get their hands on specially designed games and vinyls.

It takes the essence of those underground LA art exhibits – where anyone can rip a painting off a wall for $ 20 – and apply it to games.

Keep it physical

Iam8bit’s focus on physical video games and vinyl may seem like an odd couple, but these two worlds share a lot of similarities. White compares the act of crating for records to the good old days of going to a thrift store like Funcoland and rummaging through cartridges. The vinyl aspect of the business is especially important to Amanda White, who says the personalization aspect of the records allows them to add more depth to a listening experience.

“When we started to think about this idea of ​​physical gaming products and games emerged as an option, vinyl seemed like the only cool thing we could do,” White told Digital Trends. “It’s not just the music itself. It’s the dust jacket, texture, card stock, treatments, etc. They can all come together to form a robust commentary around the music.

You can see this philosophy at work in all of the company’s record releases. the Persona 5 The soundtrack comes in a beautiful four vinyl pack with stickers, a Phantom Thieves business card, and record covers based on different characters. Likewise, the company is preparing to release a record based on Blasball, a browser-based baseball simulator that contains no clean music. The album was entirely recorded by Garages, a real band based on the Seattle-based game team, who wrote and recorded some sort of soundtrack for the game in about four weeks. The package contains official “Blasball cards ”that fans can redeem.

For fans, packages like this can amplify their relationship with the games themselves. They provide additional material that deepens the world of a game. Gibson also sees this same potential in physical games.

“A friend recently said ‘What happened to the audio commentaries on the movies?’ Gibson explains. “Streaming ruined everything! Our cinema education is exhausted. Something similar can be said for physical games and vinyl. Things like linear notes and instruction booklets and all of those props lend something to our affection with a particular game that you just don’t get from digital.

Everything included in the iam8bit physical version of Spiritfarer.

Just as iam8bit creates elaborate vinyl collections, its gaming offerings are just as robust. Its latest version is for Spiritist, a successful independent title about a ferry captain who helps the deceased get to the other side. The package comes with postcards illustrating the different locations of the game, stickers with its characters and a 96-page digital artbook. For those who liked Spiritist When released in 2020, the package allows fans to further admire and appreciate his artistic design outside of the game.

Gibson and White only plan to double their love of tangible goods. Iam8bit has just launched a Kickstarter for its very first table game, Dust. The two player card game is a Mad Max style desert battle where players build a convoy of armed cars. The game is designed by a team of independent darlings who have worked on games like Minit, Records room, and Broforce.

Iam8bit has evolved several times over its 16 year history, but its mission remains largely the same. From art exhibitions to game distribution, the company has always been focused on celebrating the media we love in tangible ways. He doesn’t just want players to jump into a game within weeks and never touch it again; he wants us to keep a little piece of it with us long after the credits roll.

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