As you might already know, it wasn’t long before EmuParadise removed all of their ROMs after Nintendo threaten to take legal actions against them. The site will remain to host links to the emulators, but the entire archive of ROMs is gone.
ROMs and emulation have always been in an ugly gray area well before these events, and so have for pirated PC games and abandonware. However, for this article we’ll focus on retro console games. The use of ROMs, files that hold copies of the data from a game medium, on an emulator is frowned upon because it’s software piracy, the act of unauthorized use of software on unofficial systems (ROMs and emulators respectfully).
Even so, not all of us pirate games out of malice. A common reason for using ROMs is to play games we couldn’t before. In some cases we invest in the franchise (if still running) if we thoroughly enjoyed the game. I myself got into Pokémon after playing a ROM of Pokémon Blue, which in turned lead to pre-ordering “Pokémon Yellow” and buying one or two installments from each generation since.
Nevertheless, one aspect some overlooked is that sites like EmuParadise have (or used to) preserved pieces of gaming history. I consider this important since some developers were not careful enough to keep backups of their projects. Losing the source code would lead them to either reverse engineer it or pray there’s still a copy. Blizzard, for example, was one of the lucky ones as one Reddit user found the lost gold build of the original “StarCraft” on eBay.
Sadly, as Stop Skeletons Fighting put it in their video, video games can’t save its history, or at least major game developers wouldn’t. EmuParadise had a large archive of games in a preserved digital format anyone could download, but now the links lead to nowhere.
So out of legal obligation they (Nintendo and perhaps other companies) are taking down ROM sites by force. Strangely enough it is speculated that Nintendo themselves had downloaded the ROM of “Super Mario Bros” for its Virtual Console release. While Nintendo had never commented on this accusation, it wouldn’t come as a surprise that they would.
I suppose that we would now have to resort to retro game collecting. Unlike downloading a bunch of ROMs game collecting is a hobby which you procure the physical copies of the games you want. Like any other hobby there are reasons for anyone to collect old titles, whether it is obsessive hording, nostalgia, or just a pastime to enjoy.
With some luck, you can find them at a thrift store that would charge $3-5 per console game. However, some sellers can charge prices for around or more than the original retail price. They could have such an expensive price on them for either being nostalgic games or believing that people will buy anything you flash in front of them, but perhaps the biggest reason why retro game collecting is expensive because of constant exposure online.
Thanks to this echo chamber we created scalpers have taken advantage of this and set ridiculous prices for games they have a high demand. I doubt everyone is that easy to fleece, but it has become an expensive hobby to even start one regardless. Despite the Nintendo DMCA movement and a percentage of your yearly earnings required to start a hobby there have been chances of playing a few classics.
There is a popular trend where developers/publishers have been re-releasing their games through special collections, ports, and digital distribution. Among the physical medium examples, there are the classic NES series GBA carts and “Sonic Gems Collection” for GameCube and PS2.
There is also the concept of putting classic games onto Plug & Play systems. These have started off simple with having one game like “Pac-Man” or “Pong” with the more recent and notable devices being the “mini consoles” such as the Super NES Classic Edition. The easiest method of redistribution, however, is via digital acquisition. Buying a digital version of a retro game is easier to obtain and at times cheaper compared to older physical copies.
Nevertheless, there are, of course, a few problems. Owners of the IP(s), original or new, could hold onto the franchise(s) and never re-release them. And in some cases, as with the Super NES Classic Mini, they could be part of the special “collector’s” shtick and go through a limited production run.
As for digital distributions, they could be removed and become unavailable for future sales and/or installation depending on the DRM (Digital Right Management, a systematic approach to copyright protection). GOG, as a vendor for a few PC ports of retro console titles, has managed to run quite well with its DRM-Free method, allowing you to keep any title in your library. However, even GOG won’t have all the games you want, especially so with the numerous Nintendo games previously published.
With that said, I’m going to summarize all of this with some closing thoughts. Nintendo (or any game company) can legally take actions against any site that re-distributes their games without consent, though this aggressive protection of their IPs does carry consequences. Aside from taking away any game with an unlikely future redistribution, they are also removing libraries of preserved titles from gaming history.
This would in turn cause people to enter an expensive retro video game collection or searching for digital distributions. However, as I stated before, procuring retro titles is an expensive hobby and not all games have a (legally) digital re-release. As for special collector’s editions, they are in limited productions so even those could be hard to come be. And, ironically, people could turn to dubious gaming products, going from a free archive form of piracy to financially supporting bootleggers.
Not all is completely lost, though, since some publishers and developers are still bringing their games back, even arcade titles. Aside from the classics of the Neo Geo library, they’ve also released ports of “Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara” and “The Simpsons”. And what’s more, there have been remakes of cult classics such as “DuckTales” and “Blaster Master” so even if the original is all but gone the spirit lives on in some form.
Furthermore, there are a few developers working on keeping their games preserved in one way or another, though keeping retro games archived will still be a difficult feat if the Big N and whoever joins in keeps steamrolling on anyone trying.
So, what do you think? Have Nintendo and any other company screwed themselves over or do you think someone has every ROM archived and backed up? Also what is your opinion on retro video game collecting and digital distributions? Leave your thoughts in the comment section down below!
Robin Ek – Editor
This is a personal opinion of the writer, and it doesn’t necessarily represent the other writers (nor The Gaming Ground´s) opinions.
The Gaming Ground
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