Archivist is giving up on digital preservation for now
Amateur game historian Byuu has suffered a huge setback in his efforts to digitally preserve the entire Super Nintendo (SNES) library after a package containing 100 cartridges was lost in transit. The box contained somewhere between $7500 and $10,000 worth of vintage SNES software on loan from a collector in Frankfurt, Germany. While the parcel made it safely across the Atlantic ocean, it went missing after being transferred to the United States Postal Service in Byuu’s home state of New Jersey.
We’ve reported before that buying vintage games through a digital service like Nintendo’s Virtual Console or Sony’s PlayStation Classics amounts to little more than buying a license to a ROM file. In many cases, however, those ROM files may have been altered from their original form by the people who dumped the ROM in the first place. Many of the ROMS used by services like Virtual Console have subtle variations from the original software, passed on since the ROM was originally uploaded. A digital file doesn’t change when it’s copied unless someone purposely changes it, but that means that any alterations made to a ROM file are passed along in perpetuity. These changes even make their way into ROMS available commercially, since it’s easier and cheaper to release a ROM file already available on the internet than it is to track down the original software and convert the data to a form which can be played on an emulator.
Byuu is well known in the emulation community and is the author of the well-regarded Higan SNES emulator. His intention was to create new ROM files from the original software that wouldn’t have any extraneous data or changes, then return the cartridges to the collector. The plan worked flawlessly for the first set of 100 games, but the second shipment went missing more than a month ago, effectively killing the project. Writing on Reddit last night, Byuu admitted defeat after doing his best to recover the lost package.
“[T]he odds are extremely likely that it’s gone at this point. I’d rather start working on reimbursing the sender now, as game prices only go up. He lent me 100 valuable games (Vampire’s Kiss, Incantation, Hagane, Mega Man 7+X+X2+X3, etc etc), and now I can’t send his games back.
It was a terrible mistake [to] have him trust the mail system. I’m not going to risk anyone else’s games like that again.”
Byuu also mentioned that several people have suggested setting up a GoFundMe page to reimburse the collector. Although the package was insured, the insurance only covered the overseas trip and coverage ended once the parcel reached the U.S. Byuu’s focus now is to replace what went missing for the collector, who’s now missing a substantial chunk of their collection. Unfortunately, replacing the PAL cartridges that were lost will be quite expensive, ranging anywhere between $30 and $500 per game. If you have any information about the missing package Byuu has offered a reward for its return, but it sounds as though he doesn’t expect to see it again.