Video games are disappearing at an alarming rate, even faster than silent films, according to a study conducted by the Video Game History Foundation. The study found that 87 percent of video games released before 2010 are no longer available on current platforms. In contrast, 14 percent of American silent films have survived. The foundation selected 1,500 video games for the study and checked their availability in the United States, breaking down the results by platform and release period.
The study discovered that only 4.5 percent of the video games released for the C64 are still available. Older games are particularly hard to come by, with only 3.6 percent of games developed between 1980 and 1984 still on the market. However, the availability of games released between 1990 and 1994 fared better, with 19 percent still accessible. Surprisingly, even relatively modern games released between 2005 and 2009 only have an availability rate of just under 18 percent.
The Video Game History Foundation attributes the poor availability of older video games to technical problems, copyright obstacles, and the low commercial value of these titles. The closure of video game stores for older systems also contributes to the disappearance of games. For example, when Nintendo closed the digital stores for the 3DS and Wii U in March, around 1,000 video games were reportedly lost. The foundation warns that a similar effect could occur if Microsoft and Sony close the digital marketplaces for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PS Vita.
The foundation emphasizes that unauthorized copies are often the only way to enjoy classic games and argues against leaving the history of video games solely in the hands of illegal websites and secret torrents. Instead, they call for changes to copyright laws that prioritize the preservation of video games. The study’s goal is to raise awareness of the dire situation and advocate for measures that prepare video games for future challenges.