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87% Missing: New study reveals most classic video games are completely unavailable


The Video Game History Foundation, in partnership with the Software Preservation Network and in collaboration with the University of
Washington Information School GAME Research Group, has conducted the first ever study on the commercial availability of classic video games, and the results are alarming. 87% of classic video games released in the United States are critically endangered.

Only 13 percent of classic video games published in the United States are currently in release (n = 1500, ±2.5%, 95% CI). These low numbers are consistent across platform ecosystems and time periods. Troublingly, the reissue rate drops below 3 percent for games released prior to 1985—the foundational era of video games—indicating that the interests of the marketplace may not align with the needs of video game researchers.

While this study is targeting the situation in USA it is reasonable to assume, that the availability of classic games on the commercial European market is as low. But legally the situation differs significantly. While in the US the options of memory institutions to preserve and making available out of commerce video games are based on the principle of ‘fair use’, the European law (Directive (EU) 2019/790 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market) offers an exception, which allows cultural heritage institutions under special circumstances to preserve and make out-of-commerce works available for non-commercial purposes without permission of the right holders. More information on this find here.

If you are interested in more information on the new report and like to join the discussion don’t miss the webinar ‘Video Game Preservation in Libraries and Archives‘, which will be hosted by Library Futures in collaboration with the Software Preservation Network on Tuesday, September 26th at 1pm ET / 5pm UTC. Panelists will be Phil Salvador (Video Game History Foundation), Laine Nooney (NYU and Unboxing Pod) and Meredith Rose (Public Knowledge).

Register here for free