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Uncovering the hidden history of bestselling video games

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April 07, 2021 at 09:30AM

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Hundreds of rare PlayStation 2 demos have been uncovered and archived, revealing how favourite games were developed

If you worked on video game magazines in the 90s, there was one sight you got used to pretty quickly. On every desk, in every drawer, there were dozens of DVD-R discs with the titles of games scrawled on them with Sharpies. These were the prerelease versions of games that were sent to us by developers to preview and review. We’d play them on debug consoles (the machines used by developers to build and test games), write our thoughts, then chuck the discs in a pile, or a bin.

Fast forward two decades and game players now realise that such early and unreleased versions of games have genuine historical value. Celebrating its 15th anniversary next month, the website Hidden Palace is a collective dedicated to tracking down and archiving video game prototypes, source code and other overlooked artefacts from the development process. Last month, the site made headlines across the video game world when it announced it had secured more than 700 PlayStation 2 demo and prototype discs – all provided by a single anonymous source. The site staff have logged each disc, digitised the builds and worked with the Internet Archive to make them available.

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