In partnership with the Video Game History Foundation, the Software Preservation Network is excited to share the first ever survey of the commercial availability of classic video games.
Video games are part of our cultural history. But while the video game industry and cultural heritage institutions agree that video games should be preserved for both entertainment and study, there is disagreement about whether the commercial market preempts the need for libraries, museums, and archives to expand their preservation activities. The study, written by Phil Salvador, seeks to better inform discussions of video game history and preservation by gathering empirical evidence about the state of the video game reissue market in the United States.
The results are stark: Only 13 percent of historical video games published in the United States are currently in release. These low numbers are consistent across platform ecosystems and time periods, dropping below 3 percent for games released before 1985. These results raise questions about whether the commercial market alone can adequately preserve the medium of video games, particularly for the needs of researchers.
Why did Phil and the SPN Law & Policy working group do this now? Well, the next rulemaking proceeding under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), Title 17, section 1201, of the United States Code is scheduled for 2024. As it stands, libraries are allowed to digitally preserve video games, but they can only provide on-site, and not remote, access. We’re hopeful that this study will inspire broad involvement in enabling stronger software preservation, and that it will support an expanded exemption that makes access policy development for preserved software in the US more clear.
In addition to reading the full report, you can glean more from this groundbreaking study through several blog posts and a podcast featuring SPN’s Law & Policy Advisor from the VGHF.