Survey of the Video Game Reissue Market in the United States
- 1. Video Game History Foundation
This study examines the current extent of the video game reissue market in the United States. 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. To better inform these discussions, we gathered evidence about what portion of historical games are actually still in commercial distribution. We believe this is the first major study to analyze the availability rates for a broad sample of historical games in this manner.
The results are stark: Only 13 percent of classic video games published in the United States are currently in release (n = 1500, ±2.5%, 95% CI). These low numbers are consistent across platform ecosystems and time periods. Troublingly, the reissue rate drops below 3 percent for games released prior to 1985—the foundational era of video games—indicating that the interests of the marketplace may not align with the needs of video game researchers. Our experiences gathering data for this study suggest that these problems will intensify over time due to a low diversity of reissue sources and the long-term volatility of digital game storefronts.
Our results question whether the commercial market alone can adequately preserve the medium of video games, particularly for the needs of researchers. While this study does not make specific recommendations for improving the state of game availability, it instead offers statistics that can guide future discussions about the role of cultural institutions in video game preservation.