Why are old, but popular, games so hard to find?

Back in 2002, when I was in college, I was walking down the street from one of my classes, and a friend randomly walked up to me and handed me a video game. It had a shiny box, so I accepted it, but for whatever reason did not even try playing until recently. The game was Age of Mythology, and as I found out in the last few weeks, it is awesome. It’s so much fun, that I want to recommend it to all of my friends. And there’s where the problem lies. As far as I can tell, you simply can’t buy it anymore. I have looked at all of the major online retailers, but all of them either say temporarily out of stock or unavailable. It’s not like age of mythology is some rare game that you have to look especially hard for — it won several awards in 2002 including “game of the year”. And now it’s just gone.

Earlier this year I had the same problem with We Love Katamari. After trying to buy it from six or seven places that claimed they had it — each time it turned out they had miscounted their inventory — Amazon got a new shipment and I managed to snag a copy before it went out of stock again. Once again, this isn’t some obscure PlayStation RPG, this is a recent and well-received game.

So what’s the deal? Will this trend continue? Am I going to have to purchase every game that I think I might want to play in the future? You would think that digital distribution would solve this problem, and maybe it will eventually, but right now I just want to give somebody some dollars in exchange for a couple plastic discs. Is that too much to ask?

(This entry voice-recognized, courtesy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Apologies for any weird wordos.)

24 thoughts on “Why are old, but popular, games so hard to find?”

  1. I remember when Age of Mythology came out…I knew a bunch of people really excited about it. Maybe they take them off the shelf in anticipation of a new release??? If you’re really desperate, I would try a used video game place near a college. Although if it’s a great game, you might not have any luck there, either.

  2. The price of shelf-space is too high. Retailers are asking a premium to stock your game for you in the first place, and with a game that’s not likely to sell any large numbers, there’s no way to convince them not to use their precious shelf space for something modern.

    Another reason is that selling an old game means having to support it in some way. For example, you’d have to deal with all the complaints by people that it doesn’t run on vista (virtually nothing does without patching). And patching the game is usually out of the question because a) the programmers have moved on, b) you’ve lost all the sources anyway, c) it costs too much money.

    I’ve just done all that for The Longest Journey (dug out the old code base, made it run on vista, made new installs, etc) and now it’s stuck in Quality Assurance and coming back with bugs and I wish I’d never touched it. But we’ve got an opportunity to sell it in bundles together with Dreamfall (an exception to the reatil problem above: special editions, etc) and over Steam (digital distribution fixes a lot of the issues with retail), so it might just be worth it.

    Oh, also, if your game uses an old version of Audiere, you have to upgrade that for Vista, too because of the damn changes in DirectSound.

  3. I can understand the shelf space thing; I don’t look on shelves for anything but the most recent games… It just somehow seems wrong that in this age of digital distribution and OS virtualization, I can’t buy a couple GB worth of data, even with the caveat that it might not work on Vista.

    Thanks for the insights.

    p.s. Do you know what’s wrong with Audiere and Vista? We have good automated crash reporting at IMVU, and the “hang” that happens when we try to start playing a sound on Vista is the #1 reported issue. We just haven’t tracked it down and fixed it yet.

  4. My Vista wants to be activated (I installed off MSN) and we’re all out of keys at the moment, so I can’t really do more testing. And I really, really didn’t like vista, so I’ll avoid it as long as I can.

    So far, it’s looked okay, though. All I play are ogg files, and initially, I had trouble with the OpenSound command, I think, taking a very long time to run. There’s been changes to the sound architecture in Vista, and one of the audiere contributors had made a change to optimize DirectSound that I figured might be related, so I tried that and it seems to have done the trick. What is the problem you’re having, then? You still have my jabber contact?

  5. Upgrading to 1.9.4 fixed our problems. It was likely Matt Campbell’s lock contention change.

  6. I played R-Type Final on the PS2 last week, and I loved it. I loved the original R-Type (on the Amiga), and it’s the kind of Retro conversion that I think works in this day and age: Modern 3D graphics, but basically the same tried and trusted gameplay we loved about the 2D game back in the nineties. I wish more old titles were being redone that way.

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  11. I know this is an old post and maybe I am too late on response.
    However, this site has links for various store outlets to order the game:
    http://www.microsoft.com/games/PC/ageofmythology.aspx#buyit

    I’ve actually seen it in Wal-Mart but they have not dropped the price on it since it was first introduced and I find the price outlandish for an older game, even a good one.

    Hope that helps if you still need the help.

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