Study Reveals 87% of Classic Games Are ‘Completely Unavailable’


There’s something special about that burst of nostalgia that you get when you see snippets of a game that you used to play when you were young. It tends to hit even harder when you actually replay that game after ten, twenty, or even thirty years.

Today, a study was published by the Video Game History Foundation, and it offers up a damning revelation for fans of the retro world of gaming. In this study, it’s stated that 87% of classic video games released in the United States are ‘critically endangered’. And it suggests that as time goes on, it’s only going to get worse.

9 in 10 Games Are Gone

In the in-depth study that was published in partnership with the Software Preservation Network, it was revealed that just 13% of all games released before 2010 are commercially or readily available today. This study was completed using a random list of 1,500 games from a ‘single source of truth’, and during the data collection phase, analysts looked across multiple ecosystems of gaming, which they categorised as ‘abandoned’, ‘neglected’, and ‘active’.

However, that number quickly rose, and by the conclusion of the study, more than 4,000 games had been examined for signs of life and availability. It was a fairly complex undertaking – if you’re interested in the granular details of the study, I recommend checking out the formal breakdown of the process used during the research stage.

It references quite specifically how remakes, remasters, and re-releases were counted, too.

Here are some key notes to take away from the study, though:

  • The PlayStation 2, the best-selling console in history, has seen just 12% of its entire catalogue survive the test of time.
  • An estimated 1,000 unique games disappeared when the 3DS and Wii U digital storefronts closed earlier this year.
  • ‘Outdated’ US copyright laws are preventing libraries and organisations from easily preserving classic video games.
  • There’s an ongoing debate to rewrite these laws, with a review being scheduled for 2024.

All-in-all, this study topped out at 51 pages of pure information on the state of the historical preservation of video games. It discusses the cultural importance of video games, the challenges presented by ‘re-issue’, and how the situation may worsen in the future with the demise of certain platforms or the shutdown of further digital storefronts.

Are you a retro gaming fan? Are you shocked by these numbers, or were you already aware of how hard it is to obtain certain retro titles?

For more Insider Gaming news, check out our coverage of The Boys operators that are coming to Call of Duty

  1. Was emulation included in the study, or were only “legal” methods of preservation included? If the study indicates that 87% of retro games are unavailable even with fan attempts at preservation via emulation, that is surprising.

    (Not making an argument for or against emulation, just curious about the context)

  2. emulation, every single game lost when 3ds and wii u closed their shops is beyond easy to find online. none of them are lost to time, same thing with ps2, nearly 100% of released ps2 games have been dumped and are available online. So, ummm, the article isn’t exactly accurate…

  3. There are a ton of software preservation projects out there, especially for gaming. I doubt this number is accurate. Certainly, its nowhere near 100%. But its probably much higher than the study suggests

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