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I personally know of games well into the late 90's where all or parts of the source code has been lost by the very major recognizable companies who built them. AAA titles even at the time.

A few of these games have been re-released later, and in some of those cases old engineers had to be tracked down who still had the source code laying around in their personal archives.

I imagine this is very common, considering some of the titles I've witnessed this happen to. If games will those types of budgets and followings were lost, I can't imagine the vast long-tail of the industry being any better. Plus there were far more independent studios at the time who later "made it big" only to flame out. I expect the vast majority of content created during this timeframe is permanently lost.

These days with the advance of business types understanding the long-term value of IP, I expect this is much better controlled by whomever is underwriting the cost of development. I believe this likely to be a bad thing - as you'll see more lawsuits over old games in the future.




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