Almost 90 percent of classic games are ‘critically endangered,’ say archivists
It is impossibly hard to play games released before 2010.
Article by Ash Parrish, The Verge|Gaming • Jul 14, 2023
With advancing console generations and the slow demise of both backward compatibility and digital game storefronts, the ability to play older games has always been tough. Through a new study from the Video Game History Foundation (VGHF) and the Software Preservation Network, we now have a better understanding of just how difficult accessing older games really is.
“87% of classic video games released in the United States are critically endangered,” wrote Kelsey Lewin, co-director of the Video Game History Foundation.
You can read the full report here, and the Video Game History Foundation also wrote accompanying summary blogs with highlights from the report.
The report defines “classic games” as (and if you’re of a certain age, you may wanna sit down for this) a game that was released before 2010.
“We identified the 2010s as the beginning of an era when digital distribution for retail-scale video games became viable and widely adopted on home video game consoles,” the report read.
Confirming the release status of every video game published before 2010 would have been an impossible undertaking, so the report focuses on a sampling of 4,000 games released in the US on one of three consoles that have been chosen to represent different levels of community and commercial interest. Here’s how the VGHF defined those categories:
Abandoned ecosystems, with low commercial interest and few games available. For our example, we picked the Commodore 64.
Neglected ecosystems, where there’s a lot of commercial interest but still not many games in print. We picked the Game Boy family, from the original Game Boy through the Game Boy Advance.
Active ecosystems, where games for these platforms are being re-released all the time. We picked the PlayStation 2.
This article first appeared at The Verge | Gaming on July 14, 2023.