87 percent of “classic” games are estimated to be officially unavailable

by Danny Craig  · 
87 percent of “classic” games are estimated to be officially unavailable
Video Game History Foundation

The Video Game History Foundation and the Software Preservation Network have estimated that a large majority of old-school video games are now out of print while also being unavailable to play via a re-release or official emulation.

The details:

  • According to a new study conducted by the two organizations, only 13% of the 4,000+ older titles released between the early 1970s and 2010 can be easily played on a modern system via official means such as a re-release or emulation. The Video Game History Foundation compared the statistics to silent films from 1912 to 1929, of which 14% have survived to the present day.
  • The foundation anticipates that the number of legitimately available titles to the public will continue to decline as the industry transitions to online distribution, with the closure of the 3DS and Wii U eShops cutting the number of "in print" Game Boy games in half and the closure of Google Stadia taking three exclusives with it.
  • Companies have begun re-releasing older titles via official emulation methods such as Nintendo Switch Online or "classic collections" such as Mega Man Legacy Collection, remastering them, which notably includes the majority of the mainline Final Fantasy franchise, or remaking them with brand new graphics and gameplay systems such as the upcoming Super Mario RPG. However, fans argue that nothing compares to playing the original version of games, leading many to resort to piracy.
  • The purpose of the study was to demonstrate how many older titles may be lost over time if they are not properly archived and accessible to anyone who needs them. Currently, there are many barriers to video game archiving due to copyright laws that are more relaxed when it comes to books, films, and music. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has previously successfully argued to the US Copyright Office that the industry already does "enough" preservation and that archiving would only harm companies like Nintendo.

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