The Terabyte Tenderloin

The Terabyte Tenderloin
The Vintage Game Preservation Society

Les Chappell | 25 Nov 2008 12:26
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Cease and desist? Why, of course!
You might assume that abandonware providers would take an interest in preserving the only legal framework protecting their hobby. Actually, it's the complete opposite: While many sites fit the act's description of preserving the games, they often don't seem to be aware of its existence. "Even though the DMCA theoretically creates ground to 'legalize' old abandonware due to obsolete mediums, it's a thick dotted line not many sceners care about," Bakkelun says.

"To be honest, I didn't know this act," Latis admits.

The reason webmasters don't pay too much attention to these loopholes is that older games are a low priority for most developers. None of the sites I visited were for profit, though some do ask for donations. Likewise, none of the games offered are still being sold by the original copyright holder. Even if the company does provide the game, as Rockstar does with Grand Theft Auto, they would have to charge for it to have any conflict with abandonware providers.

"Bethesda and Rockstar probably won't spend money chasing people who offer their free games for free on the web," Lopez says.

And on the occasions when publishers do ask for material to be taken down, abandonware websites have a steady track record of complying with removal requests. Earlier this summer, when Valve's Steam service began offering the full X-COM series for download, Abandonia pulled all related downloads the day after Steam's went live. Latis recalls that when Sierra produced Sierra Classics offering Police Quest and King's Quest among others, those links were simply removed from XTC.

"Most webmasters I know are serious down-to-retro people, heeding removal requests from their respective companies," Bakkelun says. He adds that in some cases webmasters may contact the intellectual property holders themselves to let them know they are hosting the files, and offer to remove them immediately if the games ever move away from abandonware status.

In many cases, the decision for a company to re-release its older titles is met with praise by the abandonware community rather than annoyance at losing a popular download. Indeed, they take an almost cheerful view of it, finding new games to upload and take their place.

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"The marketing guys that sip coffee all day long have finally understood that there's green in old games - something the abandonware scene has proved for many, many years," Bakkelun remarks. "Finally being able to legitimately get their hands on that title they played when they were young ... can't be anything less than a feeling of success."

"We all like to play the old classics in new systems, or new games about the old classics," Lopez says. "That's what the abandonware community has always been about: a way to find and play the classics that can't be found anywhere else."

Les Chappell is a freelance writer and publishing project manager based in Portland, OR. He operates the literature blog The Lesser of Two Equals and has written for publications including The Daily Cardinal, WTN Media and BookReview.com.

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