This story is troubling for those who care about archiving classic games digitally, and for anyone who sends valuable packages via the USPS.
If you plan on shipping an expensive load of Super Nintendo Entertainment System games, you might want to consider a service other than the United States Postal Service. An amateur video game archivist/historian failed to receive a shipment of 100 SNES games that were worth $10,000, and and the Postal Service’s explanation was baffling. The games were recovered by the Postal Service only after a substantial delay and an internal investigation.
The historian, who goes by Byuu, was working with a collector in Frankfurt to archive a trove of European PAL SNES games into ROM files. The package of 100 cartridges did make its way over from Germany, but once it arrived in the U.S., things became hazy.
Byuu has been in contact with USPS, and after some back-and-forth, finally received a bit of evidence as to what could have happened. The USPS sent Byuu a torn piece of the original package, shipping label intact, with an apology letter.
USPS claims in the letter that the package was damaged via “normal machine processing” at its facility. But Byuu contests this. “Basically, the letter claims that the USPS’s machine ate my package and tore off the label, which they sent back in an envelope without the package or the games” said Byuu in a statement to Destructoid. “Seeing this, last night I rather angrily posted about this and presumed it to be blatant theft. While I do still have a very bad feeling, the truth is I can’t know for certain what actually happened. But the circumstances are intensely suspicious. The top and bottom of the label is cut cleanly, which doesn’t seem likely for a package being ripped open by a machine.”
Luckily, USPS opened up an internal investigation to try and figure out what happened. As for the collector in Frankfurt, Byuu has set up a Patreon to raise money in an attempt to rebuild the collection.
Byuu later updated his website with good news. USPS found the lot of missing SNES games and has returned it to Byuu. It seems that media attention pushed USPS to investigate the lost shipment.
“I mean that literally: he [USPS Representative] told me straight up the reason he was contacting me was because of the news articles he had encountered on this case,” said Byuu on his website. Byuu started a fundraising campaign to pay back the original owner for the games that were lost. But now that everything has been found, Byuu will be providing refunds to everyone who donated.
Byuu also apologized for assuming that the packages had been stolen by USPS, but pointed out that changes still need to be made. “There is a very real issue in that their machines are ripping the labels right off of packages. There’s a very real concern in that it’s damn near impossible to get help when something goes wrong unless you manage to attract a lot of media attention,” said Byuu.