Losing data and your historical documents can happen to the best of us. It happened to the Japanese game developer and publisher Square Enix as well.
The company is collecting its back catalogue of older games for selling and streaming them online for the new generation of gamers and game devices. Unfortunately the company doesn’t know anymore where some of the older games are.
Square President Yosuke Matsuda admitted to Kotaku:
“I’m embarrassed to admit it, but in some cases, we don’t know where the code is anymore. Back in the day you just made them and put them out there and you were done – you didn’t think of how you were going to sell them down the road. Sometimes customers ask, ‘Why haven’t you released that [game] yet?’ And the truth of the matter is it’s because we don’t know where it has gone.”
Archiving your data was certainly not a priority back in the 1980s or 1990s, so the challenge of restoring your old games might be a notch harder than you imagined. The difficulty level only goes up if the company has been closed or sold later, as the development assets might have simply disappeared. Large and long standing company like Square Enix still might have the lost assets somewhere in the old, dusty cupboard somewhere in the archives. Many games don’t have even that chance and are permanently lost.
Making copies of old source codes and assets and transferring those to newer storage mediums is therefore always important, even if you don’t think you will ever need them again. One day those might be necessary again – if not for remastered re-releases, then maybe for research and studies.