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Only a small percentage of older video games are accessible now, a new survey finds


Some beloved video games of the recent past may soon be lost to time. An organization called the Video Game History Foundation tracks old games. And Phil Salvador, the library director, says many are close to extinction.

PHIL SALVADOR: For all pre-2010 video games, only 13% are actually still commercially available, which means the other 87% are, we like to say, critically endangered.


The foundation published a survey on the video game reissue market, and Salvador had trouble finding some favorites.

SALVADOR: There's a video game I've loved for many years called Illusion of Gaia. It's sort of like an origin story of the world.


SALVADOR: But at this point, the only way to play it is to purchase what are increasingly rare antique video game cartridges or to go online and pirate a copy.

INSKEEP: Salvador says game companies occasionally rerelease old games on new hardware, but only the very best sellers.

MARTÍNEZ: Researchers have a hard time getting access to more obscure games, and Salvador would like for libraries to provide remote digital access to gaming archives, although he knows that the gaming industry may not like the competition.

SALVADOR: We don't see this as being competing efforts. We don't see it as the libraries trying to, you know, take a bite out of the industry's apple. We see these as really being complementary, that libraries and archives can provide this wider research access to the things that kind of fall outside the scope of what the game industry can do.

INSKEEP: In the meantime, if you've got an old Nintendo or Sega Genesis gaming console in your closet, maybe take a moment to blow off the dust and play those old games before they disappear.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.