The Video Game History Foundation has published a major new study that reveals 87% of classic games released in the United States are now out of print and available only via “undesirable” means, such as piracy. “Classic” here appears to refer to any game that was released before 2010, which, relatively speaking, isn’t all that long ago. The Video Game History Foundation embarked on this study to prompt libraries and other organizations into taking the preservation of video games more seriously, but current copyright laws, which the team has described as being “outdated,” is making that difficult.
Since 2012, libraries, museums, and archives in the United States have been petitioning the Copyright Office for new exemptions that would make it easier for them to preserve games and make those games available to researchers. Each time, game industry lobbyists have opposed these new exemptions. They’ve argued that there’s already an active, growing market for classic games, something that libraries would interfere with if they got their way.
In total, our study looked at over 4,000 video games. Our team of volunteers from the Video Game History Foundation community and the University of Washington Information School spent nearly four months determining whether each game was in release, after which we double-checked their results. Our data is accurate through April 15, 2023, so if any games went in or out of print after that date, we didn’t capture it.