87% of Pre-2010 Classic Games are “Critically Endangered”

87% of Pre-2010 Classic Games are “Critically Endangered”

Last Updated on July 30, 2023

Think the number of classic games you can play on current systems is good? Think again – we’re missing a lot of old titles.

A recent study undertaken this month has highlighted the concerning ordeal of retro video games becoming increasingly difficult to obtain or access. We already know that certain classic games are never easy to come by, but the studies have shown that 87 percent of all North American retro games have been dubbed as “critically endangered” or “completely unavailable”.

This study was led by the Video Game History Foundation and Software Preservation Network in order to document and look for ways of preserving these games. The foundation have noted that the only means of accessing the 90 percent of these games nowadays are through preservation, visiting libraries, or (the least favourable way to find them) to pirate them. This inaccessibility is making it more difficult for retro gaming fans to enjoy the games they love so much.

What are “classic games?”

Another thing to note is what the 87 percent includes. What titles qualify as “classic games?” The answer is in the era it was released. If a game was released before 2010 when digital games had become more prominent in the industry, then it makes it a classic according to the VGHF. They also explore three consoles or “ecosystems” from the classic generation which were the Commodore 64, Game Boy, and PlayStation 2, all of which have been critically and physically received differently by gamers.

Chiller on the Commodore 64

By researching the MobyGames database, the study identified that only 4.5 percent of the Commodore 64’s library (such as Galaxy, featured at the top of the page, and our editor’s first computer game) still exists in print with the Game Boy only at 5.6 percent but this year’s closure of the Wii U and 3DS stores and their own Game Boy libraries meant that over 50 percent of Game Boy games became inaccessible. The PS2 library seems to be persevering compared to the others, despite the continued low statistics. Only 12 percent of its games remain in print.

These staggering figures show just how important it is, more than ever, to preserve these valuable games that are being lost to time. We don’t know if they’ll ever get a merciful re-release or remake onto modern consoles.

Preservation and archive organisations and retro collectors have the responsibility of keeping these games alive for years to come.

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