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Nintendo’s Shutdown of Emuparadise Should Concern Us All

The death of Emuparadise, one of the last major sites part of the video game emulation community, via threats by Nintendo, sends a chill down my spine.

On the surface, it’s a good thing. The vast availability of older games via collection packs from major game companies like SEGA, Capcom and Namco have helped scratch a lot of people’s retro gaming itch, and on PC, companies such as GOG have made amazing strides in resurrecting old computer games. So, hey, more money to the developers and publishers putting in the effort to make these games available again.

But, at its very core, piracy of retro games has never really been about, well, piracy. Preservation of ROM files from bygone eras is pretty different in principle than straight-forward piracy and conflating the two shows short-sightedness.

Emuparadise
You’re legally required to use an image from Mega64’s “Deus Ex” video whenever you talk about hacking on a gaming site.

Technically, sure, they’re one in the same thing, but one would have to be pretty naive to not realize the value of archiving that is at the root of the emulation community. Writing about Emuparadise’s demise for Techcrunch, Devin Coldewey’s assertion that, “What was practical in 2002 no longer makes sense”, that ROM sites are obsolete in their need now, does not sync with reality.

You have to understand why people want to “pirate” these games to begin with.

Video game companies, by and large, have done a horrible job at preserving their own games (at times losing data for critical titles), which I don’t always blame them for; the video game industry is essentially a toy industry, and it makes sense to get rid of an “outdated” product to push the shinier, new thing, from a business point of view.

It’s at this point, however, undeniable that video games, as both documents and works of art, are thriving, solidified products that exist within the ether of media as not just produce, but meaningful pieces of electronic history.

Emuparadise
Retro-inspired games like Shovel Knight are a great example of how the ROM-based revival of older titles influenced the entire market

The ROM piracy boom of the early 2000s was born partially out of the unavailability of older games, but mostly because a lot of people had been too young or hadn’t had opportunities to play the games in the past. It informed not only audiences, but future game developers who went to make retro-inspired modern classics like Super Meat Boy, Shovel Knight, and the rest of the pixel-based stuff that overflows within that part of the gaming world.

If it weren’t for these formative years of the internet, you can bet that the landscape of retro-inspired indie gaming would be pretty different today, if it at all existed.

Piracy of this kind permeates still, because it’s simply not affordable or viable to not only preserve hardware with a finite mortality, but also because it costs a whole lot more than it probably should on eBay – unless you really want me to shell out $160 for a used copy of fucking Team Buddies for the PS1, or other such games not popular enough to salvage by some big-time publisher.

emuparadise
I wasn’t kidding

As physical media crawls into a niche, the world of digital downloads brings scary prospects: an environment where games can be patched into something else, or in the infamous cases of games such as Scott Pilgrim and PT, made wholly unavailable; vanished out of reach, with the only recourse for any kind of preservation being hacking and piracy.

Then you have the realm of “ROM hacking”, which has not only lead to the creation of amazing fan games, but on a more prosperous note, has given rise to a whole another league of backwards-engineering game design, allowing for fan translations of games unavailable or poorly-released outside of Japan, like Policenauts or Ace Attorney Investigations 2.

While some companies like SEGA have readily encouraged this kind of ingenuity, considering that Sonic Mania is basically a product of ROM-hackers, companies like Nintendo remain steadfastly stubborn on this matter, all while reaping the rewards of the same culture they pursue to destroy, with games like NES Remix and Mario Maker.

Emuparadise
I wonder where Nintendo got this idea from?

No company has pushed harder than Nintendo in running down sites like Emuparadise, and that’s not all that surprising. With the high profits of their lackluster “classic” console releases, Nintendo’s aim is set to destroy anything in their unethical path, now that their extremely consumer unfriendly,  bad emulation riddled, Virtual Console scheme has expired.

Emuparadise owner, MasJ, plans to continue running Emuparadise as a database and forum. And that’s just it: it’s an adoration for this medium that has brought so many people together and has many of them dedicated to saving itself from this ouroboros-like industry.

This is a sign of things to come, and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next; what should concern us is that taking down Emuparadise is a “victory” rewarding Nintendo’s bad behavior.

The road ahead looks tough, and I raise my glass to all the folks everywhere, hoarding ROMs and ISOs like doomsday preppers.

Most of all, I raise my glass to the good hackers and pirates, without whose thankless, tireless work, Frankenstein-ing old tech and keeping long-forgotten obscurities of the past alive, I wouldn’t be here, deeply interested in this industry, and writing this very article.

Here’s to you.

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11 comments

DillieBird August 17, 2018 at 4:37 pm

It’s quiet clear that these game companies are engaging in a process known as “biting the hand that feeds you”. The only ones who are going to have any interest and are playing these type of games, are people who LIKE gaming and or into gaming themselves. You won’t get atheletes, sports-folks and the like interested in these type of games.

Secondly, these 8-bit retro games are seriously old. Their so outdated that any technology available from current games out-weighs those games created back in the early 80’s and late 90’s.

What these companies are doing, however, is helping delete a part of gaming HISTORY due to their insecurities about copyright infringement. Tites that are so old and technically have very little to no value ($1) do NOT cost the “thousands of dollars lost” spin that they want people to think of. Many if not any of these games are on cartridges, and cartridges are not valuable (with the exception of a few titles).

Now, a great site that I grew up with as a kid back in the 2000ish for 18 YEARS is now on the push of KO. Nintendo has done this to fan-titles that were completely using even their own assets from scratch because it had the name “POKEMON” on it (Pokemon Uranium anyone?).

Nintendo is no longer the kid-friendly gaming console it was. It’s actually an over-aggressive copyright infringement nimcompoop and as an adult and indie developer, I can certainly see that. I will not be supporting a game industry that is so zealous in it’s copyright infringment and censorship that it’s biting the hands of the consumers that help create it to what it is now today.

Infact, non of my kids or myself will be playing any nintendo-titles except the very far and few. I may discontinue buying anything related to the hardware as nintendo has proven time and time again that it’s willing to disrespect the fans in order to hoard over some old outdated IP titles that people have barely even heard of or are so old their insignificant.

It was because of EMUPARADISE I was able to emulate and play titles in another language that didn’t make it over to the U.S.A. A lot of these titles had content in it that would make parents hurl back in the day (Mortal Kombat controversy, anyone?) and probably still today even now.

Just a shame such a wonderful site had to cave in because of stupid nintendone.

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