A secret collection of seemingly lost Japanese computer games is available to the public. Or at least it was for a brief time. A private circle of collectors was keeping the games to themselves until someone leaked the files to the greater internet. It wasn't long before the collectors pushed to reclaim the privacy of their collection. Now, just one game from the collection remains, a game called Labyrinthe.
The leak was originally brought to the wider community's attention thanks to The Obscurity, a site dedicated to preserving the rare games of old. In it, the poster mentions that the original collectors had been keeping 67 GB worth of games in a file-sharing directory that only they had access to. In that collection were at least 76 games that were thought to be lost to time. However, the files were somehow spread outside the group, after which it was only a matter of time before someone made them very public. That someone was a Youtuber by the name of Saint.
That is Saint playing through Labyrinthe, one of the games that has never been catalogued or made available in digital form. It is also the only piece of the leak still available.
"This copy of Labyrinthe came from a collector with a huge library of rare Japanese computer games, many of which have never been documented or available online," says the Obscurity post courtesy of Reddit user Aeternitas. "They had hosted their collection through a file-sharing directory, and eventually, the collection leaked outside the private circle where it was originally shared.
The reason why only Saint's Labyrinthe and Aeternitas' quote survives is that the original post on The Obscurity has been removed. In its place is an apology, and a plea to not "demonize" the collectors for keeping their collections hidden. "There’s often a tense relationship between private collectors who value rare games and folks who want to release things online. We’re all in this together, and to preserve our shared cultural history, we need to build trust." the new post goes on to say.
So while there's no confirmation, it certainly seems that someone put pressure on The Obscurity for spearheading the effort to leak the private collection. In response, the post sharing the leak is gone with only this apology remaining.
Saint doesn't seem to mind any potential confrontation. "If he gets pissed about me uploading the link I don't care." he says in a comment on his video, in reference to his sharing of a download link for Labyrinthe.
In a time when games are increasingly moving to a digital format, it's easy to forget that it wasn't always that way. Some games only exist in limited quantities in physical form, with their master files deleted or lost as various developers went under or changed hands. The efforts to find these games and digitize them is important to gaming history, though the task is a greater challenge than one might expect. Here's hoping we'll see these 76 games return again someday.