I am pretty firm on my stance about emulating. Do you own the game and system it is for already? Then go ahead and emulate. If you do not, then you are stealing. A lot of companies provide a way to pay for their games, whether at retail stores or digitally. Heck, I know for a fact that Nintendo and Sony both have an online store that allows you to legally acquire their older titles for pretty cheap. Earthbound for only ten bucks? Sign me up!
Why is it stealing? Just like with torrenting music and movies you didn’t pay for… well… you didn’t pay for the game. It would be like you’ve been working for a couple of years, went to collect your pay check, and the boss tells you that he isn’t paying you. He felt like your labor should have been free.
The same applies to games. These companies and people have spent countless hours to develop a game for you to enjoy and due to being cheap, you decide it isn’t worth spending a dime on. I would feel like crap if I worked on a film or game for years and then saw it being torrented online. Just wow.
Where I believe emulation is okay is when you do already own the game and system it is on, but also if the game is no longer available to be purchased from anyone. For example, Home Improvement on the SNES. Terrible game, I know, but where are you going to be able to legally acquire that besides at a used game store? You can’t.
Also, there are a ton of custom ROMs and hacks that people have created. Feel free to play those to your heart’s content.
For example: Emulating International Cricket for NES is okay. Emulating Earthbound on SNES is not okay.
One game is available to be purchased legally from the publisher and the other is not.
Once upon a 2011 ago, a group of modders who called themselves Bombergamers unleashed upon the world its labor of love called the Streets of Rage Remake (v5.0). It was an amalgamation of the entire SoR trilogy into one game, complete with music remixes, more playable characters, more modes, and enhanced graphics.
Not too long after the official release, Sega sent the Bombergamers a cease and desist letter, drawing the attention of gaming news outlets everywhere. The odd fact about this story, however, is that Bombergamers had already contacted Sega via formal to let them know what they were doing during the eight years it took for them to release the final version of the game. Sega simply ignored them. Only after the release of the game and overwhelming praise of it did Sega care.
If anyone wonders why Sega continues to suffer from atrophy to the point where the company is cutting 300 jobs and regressing to PC and Mobile exclusivity, its decision to ignore and subsequently smack down its most dedicated fans is an incriminating allegory (it also doesn’t help that they allowed Sonic Boom to happen). What if Sega had actually done what good gaming companies do—such as Valve with IceFrog (DotA 2) or Bioware with Stefan Gange—when they discover modders who invest their personal time and attention to create a polished product from which they profit not one cent, and hired Bombergamers to create SoRemake for the NDS, or make it a fully-fledged product on Steam? Well, they failed to do so, claiming to protect a dead franchise in a dead genre (beat-em-up) and SoRemake was pulled from the internet.
But it didn’t die.
Nay, SoRemake current thrives on the hard drives of many-a-SoR fan, such as yours truly. I was all over it like white on rice, unphased, unmoved by Sega’s hissy fit. They are the ones who lost, because they were willing to let a franchise die despite the persistence of its many fans. For the creation of SoRemake, and its continued existence in cyberspace, we have emulation culture to thank.
Granted, Sega is still making money from the Streets of Rage franchise, supposedly between Xbox Live, Wii Virtual Console, iOs, and whatever other digital distribution method that Sega’s milking. Personally, I happen to own Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on the PS3, which includes SoR 1-3. I also still own the Genesis originals in their carts. Yet even if I had sold all my copies of SoR, I would still have downloaded SoRemake, because it’s the ultimate version of the game, and the first time anyone has seriously touched the franchise since 1994.
I would’ve paid money for it.
If one really wants to take emulation to task, I’d ask them how do they think a game released on one console becomes compatible with another? The Wii U’s backwards compatibility is a great example of this because the OS of the Wii is installed on the console, which has to “reset” itself just to run.
In other words, companies like Sega, Konami, Capcom, etc., and even Nintendo are emulating their old games and selling them for profit. Ironically, this is the argument against emulation: game companies own the rights to their intellectual properties and maintain the right to (not) emulate their games to be resold on new platforms to new generations of consumers. Namco is particularly infamous for this with Pac-Man. I consider the practice of penalizing gamers for emulation more toxic to the video game industry, more toxic than DLC . At least DLC is new.
A certain man from my Alma Mater recently won a case against Nerf for denying him royalties for a certain invention that you may have heard of: the Super Soaker. If I created or owned some sort of intellectual property, I know I would want to get paid. But I, and Mr. Lonnie Johnson, are individuals, not million or billion-dollar companies.
Sega isn’t losing money because of a few hundred or even thousands of gamers may or may not be emulating SoR(remake), Sonic, Shinobi, or Golden Axe games; Sega is losing money because of its long history of preposterously foolish business choices and practices, dating back to the 32X and “SURPRISE!!!” launch of the Saturn.
Capcom has yet to release a Mega Man game in HD, alienating Keiji Inafune to the point where he has to leave the company to create Mighty (No. 9); Konami (and practically everyone) seems to be done with 2D—I’m talking Castlevania. Companies like Hudson Soft and Acclaim have been cannibalized by other companies and they ain’t coming back, so if you ever want to get your Bonk’s Adventures, NBA Jam, Smash TV, or Bomberman on, emulation is the most viable solution. Wanna play arcade beat-em-ups like TMNT, Alien vs Predator, X-Men, and The Simpsons? You can either ebay an arcade board for a minimum of $1,000 on Ebay or emulate them.
Speaking of vendors like Ebay and Amazon.com, game companies abhor similar businesses such as GameStop, EBGames, and your local mom & pop game store more than you can possibly fathom, because they earn zero dollars from resales. Zero. This very fact curb-stomps the idea that companies are losing money to emulation, and this will remain an impenetrable fact until the companies that own the property rights to every game ever has offered a digital solution. Wanna play Conker’s Bad Fur Day on Xbox Live? Fat chance, you’ll have to settle for Microsoft’s sequel…or emulate it.
Emulate! Emulate away, I say, because in the end, emulation actually makes companies more money despite what they might think. I never owned a N64, yet I played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on an emulator in college, and I am now a Zelda fan, owning (but having yet to play) every Zelda game but Link’s Awakening. I have purchased OOT on the Wii’s virtual console, and Wind Waker twice (GCN and Wii U), all because of my memorable experience that I would have never had if it were not for emulation. The same can be said for Neo Geo games like Metal Slug, Samurai Showdown, and The King of Fighters, which I now own in their entireties on the Wii and PS2. The same could be said of the Mega Man X games on SNES. I own that collection as well. Emulation encourages and perpetuates gamer interest in ways that money cannot buy.
Speaking of which, I didn’t own a GameBoy, and I very much look forward to the completion of the Metroid 2 remake since it is the only game in the series that I have not played. I say Nintendo had better pay that man now, or drink a nice cup of shut up when it releases.
What do you geeks think? Let us know in the comments.
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