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Most classic video games are no longer accessible

Video Game History Foundation says 87% of games are unavailable nowadays

Arthur Collins

Jul 11, 2023

GameCrate / Arthur Collins

Preservation is a huge part of understanding nostalgia and history. Preservationists of any media hunt down and preserve any tidbit of that particular form of multimedia that they focus on. As one would expect, video game preservationists look to keep video games from going the way of the wind.

The Video Game History Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, by their admission, that is “dedicated to preserving, celebrating, and teaching the history of video games.”

They released a study this week that shows that only 13% of “historical” (e.g. classic or retro, for the unaware) games are readily available on the market today. By flipping this number, that means 87% of all classic games are not represented in today’s market.

Image: Video Game History Foundatrion

That 13% includes ports and re-releases of various games across history. Nintendo Switch Online comes to mind looking at this, offering tons of classic Nintendo Entertainment System games, as well as several other consoles. 

But, if you want to play the vast majority of games that have come around in the past 40+ years, you have to resort to buying second-hand, finding a library with that specific game, or pirating the games. 

The reason for this study is simple. The Video Game History Foundation is trying to change the laws involving copyright. They explain that the video game’s main lobbying group has pushed back against this, saying that the industry makes more than enough of history commercially available today. That’s just not true.

While some people think that collecting video games hoarded in their own homes is all they need to do for preservation, the real way to help preservation is by putting resources into organizations like the VGHF. 

Check out the results of the survey here, then read into the deeper minutiae of the survey in their explainer. They have a bunch of charts and graphs for the data fans out there.

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Arthur Collins

Arthur Collins likes collecting titles. Some call him Dungeon Master, some call him Pokemon Professor. He's been a journalist off and on for over a decade and a half, which means he's almost Level 2 in journalism. You can find him yelling at his screen while playing Halo or curled up playing games like Animal Crossing. Or on Twitter and Threads. He has those at @cheshirespurr.


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