The USPS has delivered the package’s wrapper along with a form letter instructing byuu how to better prevent damage to future shipments. Byuu’s frustration with the USPS continues to increase as he has yet to receive any significant assistance in recovering any of the package’s contents. In a short online conversation with byuu, he made it clear that the sender packaged the games far beyond the recommended methods the USPS lists in their form letter. In fact, the owner of the games received assistance from the Deutsche Post Office to ensure they were packaged appropriately. The box that is currently missing its wrapper is also well marked with byuu’s address as well as that of the sender–both of which are protected in a layer of clear packing tape.
Byuu was considering legal options but currently, thinks there is little hope of anything beneficial resulting from taking that route. He has set up a Patreon page to try and pay back the owner of the cartridges for their value. The package was only insured for €1000 due to the amount of proof the Deutsche Post requires to ensure anything more than this amount. When asked how the owner of the cartridges is taking the loss, byuu says that he is, “understandably crestfallen, but with the demeanor of a zen buddhist monk.”
Even though byuu has initiated the Patreon campaign, he is still focused on getting some sort of assistance from the USPS and hopefully recovering the missing cartridges.
After a shipment of games from Europe was lost in the mail, the future of the project was in danger. In the heat of the moment byuu, the organizer of the SNES preservation project, was ready to declare it “dead.” The frustration of a huge shipment of games disappearing led to that, although he has since stepped back on this some.
The SNES Preservation Project, is/was a ROM-dumping project–which has a painstaking focus on accuracy–was designed to preserve unmodified copies of SNES games. To do this, byuu relied on acquiring and borrowing original cartridges–some of which had to be shipped to him from around the world. At this point, he has successfully cataloged all US releases, and was working to get a full collection of PAL releases, which may be different titles or just have regional differences that he wants to have recorded.
Losing a single international shipment may sound like a minor inconvenience for a years-long project dedicated to salvaging gaming history, but this was a significant loss. The missing package contained 100 SNES cartridges from the PAL region, which byuu estimates to be valued at between $5,000 and $10,000. If this were a museum or monetarily backed institution, this would be a recoverable roadblock, but for an independently run program, it’s disastrous.
If you’re wondering why byuu is trying to get ROM dumps of games that are already available online, it’s a question he has to respond to often. He became known years ago as the creator of the bsnes emulator (now part of the higan multi-system emulator), the first SNES emulator that used low-level emulation to exactly duplicate the operation of the console and cartridge hardware. Most emulators use high-level emulation to imitate the end result of what the hardware does, but doesn’t necessarily follow identical processes. Normally, high-level emulation gives satisfactory results, but in some cases can lead to missing features and even games that cannot be completed. Byuu is passionate about perfectly recreating the SNES system’s operation so that every detail can be appreciated (for better or worse). This same mentality carries over into his SNES preservation project.
When ROMs are dumped, they are sometimes modified by the person doing the dumping, or sometimes they are unknowingly damaged due to age or other errors. These differences then propagate through online communities and eventually become part of the de facto versions of the games. Every ROM that byuu stores provides a clean copy that he then compares to others online, often showing significant differences. Sometimes these variations are inconsequential, but the point is to preserve the work as it was released for historical purposes. Byuu is passionate about his preservation goals, which makes his frustration and heartbreak at the loss of the 100-piece game shipment understandable.
Byuu has put out a call for anyone from the USPS to help locate the missing package but hasn’t found anyone able help him yet. The package originated in Germany with DHL and was transferred to USPS before it apparently vaporized. The owner of the games who shipped the package has contacted DHL to get reimbursed for the amount the package was insured for (€1000 ), and byuu plans to repay the owner for the difference in value. It was the high cost of covering the loses of these cartridges, as well as the risk of losing further games that pushed byuu’s despair to the point of saying earlier that he was killing the project, although, he later regrouped and is considering letting the project continue with more safeguards in place.
There is still potential for the package to show up, or for an obvious reseller to start peddling the games on ebay. Byuu is also considering a fundraiser to repay the cartridge owner for his loss. We’ll have to see how things play out, but this is a definite setback for the program, even if it doesn’t remain “dead.”