Alarmingly 87% of classic games are being forgotten over time

Despite being a billion dollar industry, Video games are a dying mediumEQUAL a bunch of frequently killed headlines off in this way or another. However, according to a new study, the number of games lost over time is quite staggering: Nearly 9 out of 10 games in the United States are critically endangered.

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The Video Game History Foundation (VGHF) has partnered with Software Maintenance Networkan organization that intends to promote software preservation through collective action, to issue a report on The disappearance of the classic video game. “Classic” in this case is defined as all games released before 2010, which VGHF noted as “the year in which digital game distribution began to evolve”.

Status of physical video games

In the study, two groups found that 87% of these classic games were unreleased and considered endangered due to their wide availability. An example from the article is 2006 yakuza on PlayStation 2. It has been remade in the form of 2016 yakuza kiwami, praised as excellent. But as VGHF specified, yakuza kiwami “is a complete remake from scratch and should be treated as a separate title,” especially since the original game is no longer in print. This is what VGHF is arguing about.

“To access almost 9 out of 10 VGHF co-director Kelsey Lewin writes. “None of those options are desirable, which means most video games are inaccessible except for the most passionate and dedicated fans. That is cruel!”

Grim is right, especially when research claims that currently only 13% of game history is stored in libraries. And that’s part of the dilemma here. Based on March 2023 Ars technique report, the laws surrounding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) largely prevent anyone from creating and distributing copies of any DRM-protected digital work. While the US Copyright Office has issuing exemptions to those rules so that libraries and researchers can store digital material, video games are explicitly discarded, which makes it impossible for anyone to study game history effectively .

“Imagine if the only way to see Titanic Lewin wrote. “And what if no library, not even the Library of Congress, could do better—they could store and digitize their VHS Titanic, but you have to go there to see it. It sounds crazy, but it’s the reality that we’re living with games, a $180 billion industry, while games and their history disappear.”

ESA opposes conservatorship exemption

In a phone call with my city, Lewin says that while it’s not particularly surprising that most of the classic games are gone, the numbers are still staggering. She further explained the research method.

“We took a lot of random video game samples this time around [before 2010] spread across every console and PC, and even some 1960s mainframe stuff,” Lewin said. “It’s a really, really random sample so everyone can see that it’s not all about guarantee mario available because, you know, Nintendo will keep selling mario. But for every mario available, there are nine other games that you’ve probably never heard of that might not even be historically significant in any way — or we know, I should say — but maybe really interesting for researchers.

Although she wasn’t surprised, she was still alarmed by the «fragile» way the games disappeared, pointing out Antstream video gamewhich holds a plethora of games from Commodore 64 to Game Boy that could be lost over time if the store closes. Nintendo eShop is a more popular example.

The Anstream Arcade Classic Archive advertises its games on Steam.

Image: Antstream video game

“When the eShop stopped offering the Game Boy library, [the number of available Game Boy games] increased from about 11% to 4.5%,” Lewin said. «The company wiped out half of the Game Boy game library just by turning off the Nintendo eShop. And that’s not even a bit against Nintendo. There shouldn’t be a single point of failure for that many games. You know, it’s crazy that doing something like closing the store can keep many of those games from being released at all.»

Lewin notes that although libraries are allowed to do a lot of things “by being [and] conservation organisations,” the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has consistently lobbied against game conservation efforts such as licensing and allowing digital video game rentals.

“Essentially, the ESA has opposed all of these newly proposed exemptions,” says Lewin. “They just say, ‘No, that’s going to affect our bottom line’ or, ‘That’s going to affect the industry’s bottom line.’ The ESA also says the industry is doing a lot of work to keep classic games released, pointing to this thriving re-release market. And it’s true; there is a thriving reissue market. It’s just that it only covers 13 percent of video games and that’s not likely to get any better any time soon.»

Read more: As many games disappear forever, John Carmack has some great tips on preserving

This research will be used in a 2024 copyright hearing to request an exemption for the games. Lewin said she’s hopeful that progress will be made, suggesting that if the hearing goes smoothly, the games could be available on digital library apps like Libby. you can read 50 pages full study on the Zenodo open repository.

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