Jul 10, 2023 - Technology

Study: Classic video games are disappearing faster than silent films

Data: Video Game History Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Video Game History Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals

87% of video video games released before 2010 are not commercially available on modern platforms, according to a new study conducted by the Video Game History Foundation.

Why it matters: Old books, movies and music are easy to buy and enjoy; old games are not.

What they’re saying: “Historical video game availability is dire,” the foundation’s Phil Salvador wrote in the study, which was released today.

  • The study, titled "Survey of the Video Game Reissue Market in the United States," was conducted by the foundation and the Software Preservation Group, working with researchers from the University of Washington.

Details: Researchers checked to see if games on older systems were offered by their rights holders today, through continued sales of the originals, remasters or any other version that didn’t fundamentally change them.

  • The 13% availability rate of classic video games is one percentage point worse than the survival rate for American silent films, according to the report.
  • Less than 5% of games from the Commodore 64, a popular home computer in the 1980s, are still available today, the researchers found.
  • Among a sampling of 1,500 classic games from any system, and looking at 129 titles from that group that were released in the 1970s, researchers found just one was currently commercially available.

Between the lines: Classic video games often become unavailable because the constantly evolving tech standards lead to platforms that don’t run older software.

  • Publishers and other rights holders offer few re-releases, focusing on selling newer titles, if they’re still active in the gaming industry.

Be smart: In 2021, Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer told Axios he hoped for an industry-wide, emulation-based solution to preserving older video games.

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