Study Reveals 87% Of Classic Games Are “Completely Unavailable”

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Story Highlights

  • A study conducted by Video Game History Foundation has discovered that almost 9 out of 10 classic video games are “completely unavailable”, pointing to the alarming disappearance of classic games.
  • The study took into account a random list of games that were released before 2010 and checked whether they were commercially available in any shape or form.
  • Remasters that remain faithful to some of those games were considered, while remasters that are significantly different, like Yakuza Kiwami, were not included.
  • According to Video Game History Foundation, this research aimed to “get expanded exemptions for libraries and organizations preserving video games.”

A new study by Video Game History Foundation reveals that 87% of the classic video games in the US are completely unavailable. Surprisingly, there has never been a time when the gaming industry had more than 20% of video games preserved. Since there aren’t many initiatives to save these media, the only options left for people are to maintain the games themselves, visit the handful of libraries that preserve them, or go for piracy.

VGHF Study Pie Chart
Availability Rate of Historical Games.

The current options left to access or preserve such games are undesirable. So, there is a critical need for the gaming industry to invest in preservation since the percentage of preserved games has reduced from around 20% to a measly 13% in the last decade. The study discusses this issue and offers some preventions that must be taken to avert the crisis.

This is where libraries and archives should come in. Anyone should be able to easily explore, research and play classic video games, in the same way that they can read classic novels, listen to classic albums, and watch classic movies. But outdated copyright laws are preventing institutions like ours from doing our jobs,” says the Video Game History Foundation.

This study aims to “Get expanded exemptions for libraries and organizations preserving video games.” Previously, the Entertainment Software Association explained how the US Copyright Office is doing more than enough to preserve the history of these games, and further protection would only hurt their bottom line. VGHF’s study proves that wrong by providing better and actual results.

There is also the case of remasters; many classic video games have received remasters that remain faithful to the original game. The study took them into account and counted them preserved. Still, remasters that are “substantially different,” like Yakuza Kiwami (cited by VGHF), are not counted preserved. This means that some of the 13% of classic games have only been preserved through remasters.

VGHF Study Graph
Availability Rate of Historical Games, By Period, Between 1960 and 2009.

The study also stated that libraries and archives can preserve these games digitally, but they are not allowed to share them with people and can only provide on-premise access. On the contrary, libraries and archives are allowed to share books, films, and audio outside their premises, which is why video game preservation is so far behind compared to other media types.

Although many small groups and individuals actively preserve the games independently, their efforts cannot compare to what they could achieve with substantial support. Not to mention, keeping classic games in print is a colossal task, one that comes with many risks and difficulties. The situation has a chance of improving, as VGHF hopes that this study will help them present the facts and figures in an upcoming important event.

The next rulemaking proceeding under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’), Title 17, section 1201, of the United States Code is scheduled for 2024. We’re hopeful that this study will incite change, and that video game preservation will become stronger — before we lose more,” says the Video Game History Foundation.

After the proceeding, we may see an update on this, and we hope that the VGHF receives the required support and rights to preserve classic video games. Some video game companies are also doing their part in this, like how Konami is one of the only publishers that truly respects video game preservation.

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