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The Abandonware Question

michael posted more than 12 years ago | from the copy-that-floppy dept.

Games 281

An Anonymous Coward writes: " has an interesting article on abandonware games. They go so far as to seek out opinions of "game makers" with some interesting results. Some of them actually are flattered that their games have gone to that big abandonware site in the sky. Then there's Al Lowe (Leisure Suit Larry creator) who jokingly replies to the question of why gamers seek out free games, "Because they're cheap bastards, that's why! Always looking for something for free! Sucking the lifeblood out of us poor humble programmers! Now leave me alone so I can download more free pirated music!"" The first couple of pages are boring, with predictable opinions from big publishers. But it gets more interesting as you go on.

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fp (-1)

propstoalldeadhomiez (444303) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060485)

stick it inya!

Abandonware (0, Offtopic)

Hexray (546646) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060487)

*Lowers Head* poor guys.

My stupidity is reaching new heights. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060488)

Im not just confused; I am utterly baffled! therefore I am also quite stupid. And I say, again, once more : thanks for your time reading this. I bet you wish you had the last x seconds of your silly life back. HAHAH BITCH. Eat that.

This troll was reposted from the Troll Library [] without permission of the original author. If you object to this post, or if you wish to add your troll to the Troll Library, please reply to this message.

Liberal myth (-1, Offtopic)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060604)

It amazes me that so many allegedly "educated" people have fallen so quickly and so hard for a fraudulent fabrication of such laughable proportions. The very idea that a gigantic ball of rock happens to orbit our planet, showing itself in neat, four-week cycles -- with the same side facing us all the time -- is ludicrous. Furthermore, it is an insult to common sense and a damnable affront to intellectual honesty and integrity. That people actually believe it is evidence that the liberals have wrested the last vestiges of control of our public school system from decent, God-fearing Americans (as if any further evidence was needed! Daddy's Roommate? God Almighty!)

Documentaries such as Enemy of the State have accurately portrayed the elaborate, byzantine network of surveillance satellites that the liberals have sent into space to spy on law-abiding Americans. Equipped with technology developed by Handgun Control, Inc., these satellites have the ability to detect firearms from hundreds of kilometers up. That's right, neighbors .. the next time you're out in the backyard exercising your Second Amendment rights, the liberals will see it! These satellites are sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Colt .45 and a .38 Special! And when they detect you with a firearm, their computers cross-reference the address to figure out your name, and then an enormous database housed at Berkeley is updated with information about you.

Of course, this all works fine during the day, but what about at night? Even the liberals can't control the rotation of the Earth to prevent nightfall from setting in (only Joshua was able to ask for that particular favor!) That's where the "moon" comes in. Powered by nuclear reactors, the "moon" is nothing more than an enormous balloon, emitting trillions of candlepower of gun-revealing light. Piloted by key members of the liberal community, the "moon" is strategically moved across the country, pointing out those who dare to make use of their God-given rights at night!

Yes, I know this probably sounds paranoid and preposterous, but consider this. Despite what the revisionist historians tell you, there is no mention of the "moon" anywhere in literature or historical documents -- anywhere -- before 1950 . That is when it was initially launched. When President Josef Kennedy, at the State of the Union address, proclaimed "We choose to go to the moon", he may as well have said "We choose to go to the weather balloon." The subsequent faking of a "moon" landing on national TV was the first step in a long history of the erosion of our constitutional rights by leftists in this country. No longer can we hide from our government when the sun goes down.

The characterization of abandonware seekers (1, Insightful)

Anonynnous Coward (557984) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060489)

as merely cheap bastards is apparently self-abscription of game makers' own money-grubbing, greedy motives. They can't imagine that former customers might actually feel nostalgic for their old stuff--only that they must be too parsimonious to pay a few bucks for newer games.

Fortunately, it is physically impossible to enforce copyrights on everything in the same jackbooted manner that IDSA, BSA, et all do on current software--they just don't have the resources. So, while they succeed in shuttering abandonware sites from time to time, thus winning battles, with p2p, Freenet, individual trading of CDRs, the war is lost.

By fighting those hosting abandonware, they have, in fact, made many more people aware of it than would have been had they left it alone. This is the same thing that has happened with music and movie trading: just a few people were doing it, until corporations cracked down, causing publicity that made the awareness that it could be done trickle down.

Re:The characterization of abandonware seekers (3, Insightful)

TrixX (187353) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060542)

as merely cheap bastards is apparently self-abscription of game makers' own money-grubbing, greedy motives.

When Al Lowe characterized abandonware seekers as "cheap bastards", he was clearly joking. Read the article.

Re:The characterization of abandonware seekers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060560)

He was joking. But the IDSA and their jackbooted thugs aren't.


Re:The characterization of abandonware seekers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060600)

yah because NOBODY was using Napster before the RIAA cracked down on it. rofl, naivatae at its best.

Re:The characterization of abandonware seekers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060660)

LOL, you're accusing me of something you can't even spell, moron. MP3 was around before Napster, but you're one of the people the knowledge tricked down to, as I described. The crackdown started around 1996. Do some reading before you shoot off your piehole.


Re:The characterization of abandonware seekers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060764)

Yup, if you don't remember tek/wopr, then you got into the game much later than some of us.

Those guys got closed down while "napster" was still just a nick used by a pup on IRC.

Abandonware (-1, Redundant)

Ignatius_Gunnarsson (262319) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060490)

Interesting article... Food for thought, definitely.

First Post (I've always wanted to say that)

Re:Abandonware (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060548)

Wow! What an insanely insightful post, not at all done solely to say "First Post", even though you're not even close.

I would never have realized that this was an interesting article had you not pointed that out. You, sir, are a savior to humanity. Food for thought indeed!

I'm so fat already (-1, Offtopic)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060563)

I had this sudden urge to go out and buy four BigMacs and lots of fries. Yumyum.

Abandonware games (3, Insightful)

Champaign (307086) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060491)

I'm not totally sure about the legal question, but I *LOVE* these sites. I get nostalgic for games I played in my youth (some of which I even bought! ;-) download them and am in heaven for a few minutes.

The funny this is, except for VERY rare great gameplay games, the novelty wears off pretty fast and I just delete it again for a few years. I really appreciate having them available though...

hey, don't throw anything out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060511)

I still play Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, it runs just fine under Win98se. So does El Fish, daughter still has the watch. Use Q&A DOS at work, again, under Win98se.

And I had Spiderman #1 to #30, sold them for big bucks. Still have tons of the Marvel stuff, like Rogers/Captain America, Fantastic Four, et al.

Never throw old junk away, you 13 year old script kiddies. When you're in your forties, somebody will give you enough money to finance a career change.

A case of equity in the law (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060576)

If you had a car wreck, refused to settle because you wanted more, then went to court for a lousy 10% more, the judge would laugh at you. He'd say "you were offered what you asked for, get out of here."

Same with abandonware. Lots of people are perfectly willing to pay for this stuff, but the publisher refuses payment, even full retail. This happens lots of times in the business software arena. Try sending in the license fee for Wordstar, ParadoxDOS, your money will be returned.

It's an equity issue, and equity no longer applies under copyright law.

Re:Abandonware games (5, Insightful)

kisrael (134664) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060632)

The funny this is, except for VERY rare great gameplay games, the novelty wears off pretty fast and I just delete it again for a few years. I really appreciate having them available though...

This is an excellent point. One of the things people who argue "well what if you could mailorder these games for $20, or even $2?" miss is the convenience of picking and choosing from a large selection and quickly finding out if a game still has engrossing gameplay. You need to get into micropayments w/ electronic fufillment before this becomes worthwhile.

For many, it's the breadth and not the depth of the microcosms that these games give us that's the real draw.

Re:Abandonware games (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060783)

Don't forget that there also places to get a lot of the old classic games for free AND legal. Just install an Amiga emulator like WinUAE ( ) and go to - they offer 1242 games, all of them with legal permission.

Ahhh Leisure Suit Larry .......... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060505)

That was the first game I jerked off to ... those EGA graphics were so erotic

Re:Ahhh Leisure Suit Larry .......... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060717)

You kids nowadays are spoiled... in my day, all the computer pr0n we had was EGA or ASCII, and we liked it that way! You haven't lived until you've wanked it to big cyan pixelated boobies.

Is it? (1)

Penrod Pooch (466103) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060506)

"Downloading one of these games from the Internet without the authorization of the copyright holder is illegal." - Doug Lowenstein, IDSA president

I was under the impression that copyright violation don't fall under criminal law. Am I wrong?

Re:Is it? (0)

ideut (240078) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060520)

I think you can still call something illegal if it only breaches civil law. You can't call it criminal, of course.

Re:Is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060724)

You can call it a ham sandwich if you like. Mmmm... ham sandwich.

Re:Is it? (3, Insightful)

LWolenczak (10527) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060578)

Its a violation of the copyright holders copyright, so the only action could be civil action taken by the copyright holder. Its not illegal till you try to make a profit off it.

Re:Is it? (0)

Veramocor (262800) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060595)

If its not a crime to copy "media" than why the FBI warning at the begginning of videos?


Re:Is it? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060601)

Yes. []

Don't worry.... (5, Funny)

lunenburg (37393) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060507)

I'm sure that in 2055 or so, when the copyright on these classic games runs out(*), the game publishers will be glad to release them into the public domain, having received a fair return on their initial investment.

While I'm dreaming, I'd also like a pony.

(*) 2055 expiration date subject to change, depending on campaign donations.

Re:Don't worry.... (1)

Jay Mirioashi (554106) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060592)

Clearly the viability of copyright protection must in some way be related to the commercial value of a product.

If the problem is that, as publishers claim, that they will lose the ability to enforce claims against future derivative intellectual property, then the law needs to be changed to prevent this.

The integrity of the publishers should be judged by their willingness to support such legislation.

You'd think this was easy money (5, Interesting)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060508)

I missed out on a lot of the years of gaming. I didn't have a Nintendo when I grew up, I didn't have a Genesis or all of the other games.

I use Abandonware to play the games that everybody else talks about. (It's been a near joke playing Final Fantasy I, and marveling that this launched a multi-billion dollar gaming franchise.)

What amazes me is how stupid most publishers are. How hard would it be to take Ultima Underworld I and II, Shadowcaster, update the code to a Win32/OSX/Linux base, then sell the CD for $20 and say "Hey, folks - the great games you loved? Come pay us $20 for it!" 90% of the development work is done, they just have to get an engine in.

Square gets it - look how they're rereleasing Final Fantasy games on the Wonderswan color - and making a mint. How much work did they really have to do? A little engine work, check it out, and *poof* - profit.

I abandonware because I can't find these games any other way, because the publishers won't do it. Heck, if they just sold the porting rights to another company (the way that Macplay [] ports Win32 games to OS X), they could leave the success/failure to somebody else, and probably still make a good profit.

But until publishers get half a brain that the past can still be profitable, I guess I'll have to keep going around them and downloading it for free elsewhere.

Re:You'd think this was easy money (1, Flamebait)

Jay Mirioashi (554106) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060609)

>I abandonware because I can't find these games any other way, because the publishers won't do it

Are you certain that you are sincere in this statement? How hard to you truly look before downloading a desired "abandonware" title for free?

I challenge you to post a list of "abandonware" titles that you currently possess illegally. If someone can point you to a place to purchase a title legally, will you truly be willing to either erase the product from your harddrive and/or purchase a copy?

It's very easy to lay claim to such seemingly admirable intentions, but I ask you to consider what you have said.

Re:You'd think this was easy money (5, Informative)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060732)

Actually, I have, and usually rely on The Underdogs for this system. The Underdogs (search on Google) has a list of places where to buy these Abandonware titles.

Usually a search to Chips and Bits, or the CD-Rom shop, or Dragon Games ( [] ) turns up a list of old software (I found Masters of Orion II this way). The CD-ROM shop even had an old copy of the Bungie Sack Pack I had been looking for (ah...Marathon...come to me.)

And no, I'm not going to publish a list just so that the SPA or SBA or whatever they call it can double check me, call me up, then stick the rectal probe to make sure I'm current. Sorry, I might be dumb, but I'm not stupid. But I can say that whenever I see a "collection" that contains the game I want (including a manual), I usually pick it up (like I did last night in pickingup the Journeyman Project Trilogy).

I guess my challenge to you would be to go to The Underdogs, and if you find a title you can buy somewhere, let *them* know, so that they can let *me* know.

Re:You'd think this was easy money (4, Informative)

macjerry (535984) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060618)

How hard would it be to take Ultima Underworld I and II, Shadowcaster, update the code to a Win32/OSX/Linux base...

A LOT harder then you might think. Before Windows 95, games were mostly written for DOS and were tied to the good old 16 bit/640K limits of the hardware. Other things you had to deal with were hard coded delay loops, direct access/support of hardward, bizarre 5 1/4" floppy-based protection schemes and VGA 16 color graphics. Then you have to test it on a wide range of current platforms (5 Windows OS's alone) before you can even think about releasing it.

Given the market I doubt you can sell it for more then $10, which means $5 to you after the retailer steals their share. You're proably talking $500K development costs, which means 100K units just to break even, before advertising, manufactoring, etc...

Still want to try it???

Re:You'd think this was easy money (4, Informative)

Salamander (33735) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060691)

Yep, exactly right. Changing from a custom overlay-segment scheme to semi-real VM involves some serious pain. Switching from direct hardware access to OS-approved APIs can require hundreds or even thousands of changes, and often wholesale restructuring of the code. Resolving timing dependencies is a bitch; ask any chip designer about those, because it's the same set of issues.

If the program being ported is well designed, with an internal abstraction layer that just happens to match the new-OS API, and with a minimum of timing or hardware dependencies, porting might not be too bad. However, few old games were designed that way, and it's not just because the authors were sloppy (though that's often a factor). At the time many of these games were written, these issues were not well understood, and they're only well understood now precisely because so many missteps were made. Maybe "everyone knows that" now, just like everyone knows that CFCs are bad, but there was a time not so very long ago when pretty much nobody knew these things.

Re:You'd think this was easy money (3, Insightful)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060763)

Or they could just put it all on a bootable CD running open source DOS.

Re:You'd think this was easy money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060678)

Ultima Underworld was that 3d first person rpg, right? They did that. It was sold in a set of about 6 old rpgs (also included Wasteland, Might and Magic 5 (I think it was 5. Clouds of Xeen or something like that), and several others. Have you actually been looking for these games, or just claiming they're impossible to find so you'll sleep better at night?

Re:You'd think this was easy money (2)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060757)

(I'm reposting his comment because he's mod 0 and most people won't see what I'm replying to):

Ultima Underworld was that 3d first person rpg, right? They did that. It was sold in a set of about 6 old rpgs (also included Wasteland, Might and Magic 5 (I think it was 5. Clouds of Xeen or something like that), and several others. Have you actually been looking for these games, or just claiming they're impossible to find so you'll sleep better at night?

Sorry - I should have made this more clear. I own a copy of Ultima Underworld I and II, so sorry I didn't mention a specific game that's no longer published in stores by the publisher.

Tell you what. Check out The Underdogs - they provide a link to games you can buy on other websites, and where there isn't such a link, they simply have a download. If they have a game there that you can buy somewhere else, let them know. Heck, let me know too - and I'll see if it's one that I already have downloaded so I can buy it legit. (I'd rather have the "official" game that I can stick into a CD-ROM rather than taking up my valuable HDD space.)

Re:You'd think this was easy money (2)

Jucius Maximus (229128) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060765)

"What amazes me is how stupid most publishers are. How hard would it be to take Ultima Underworld I and II, Shadowcaster, update the code to a Win32/OSX/Linux base, then sell the CD for $20 and say "Hey, folks - the great games you loved? Come pay us $20 for it!" 90% of the development work is done, they just have to get an engine in."

I'd buy it! Helloooo ... Electronic Arts? Are you listening?

Re:You'd think this was easy money (4, Informative)

DeadMeat (TM) (233768) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060801)

Porting the games to a modern OS, like other people have mentioned, would not be feasible. Besides being complicated, in many situations, the publishers don't actually have the code (they didn't develop the game) so they can't port it; but they do have the IP rights to the game "universe" and exclusive publishing rights, so the developers can't legally port it either. (This is why there was never a true sequel to Wasteland after Interplay started self-publishing -- the programmers all worked at Interplay, but EA, who published Wasteland, had the rights to the Wasteland universe. It's also why we didn't see System Shock 2 until VIE sunk and Looking Glass jumped ship back to EA.)

One thing that might be interesting though is for some game companies to fund or license a PC emulator, like VMware or Bochs, and throw a package of a PC emulator, FreeDOS, and the game together. Lock out access to the BIOS, make pre-scripted CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files that automatically run the game, and -- presto! -- you've got an old game that runs under modern OSes, with no tech support mess. The development budget on this would be reasonably high to start off with (to get the PC emulator) but for each individual title the development cost would be practically 0. Now you've just got the marketing issue of getting people to buy old games; throw enough together in a bundle, especially if you give them a few classics like one of the Ultima or Star Control games, and people'll bite.

(And yes, I know VMware would probably be prohibitively expensive, unless the publisher could get one hell of a bulk license discount combined with a discount for shipping a crippled version that wouldn't interfere with their regular business. I'm just using that as an example.)

it's the game play! (1)

zzyzx (15139) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060510)

Personally, I've been addicted to Mame's emulation of 10 Yard Fight (ummmmmm... that is I WOULD be if I had the rom of course ;) ). I'd much rather play a football simulation that is actually fun and can be played in 10 minutes or so, then go get one of those ubersimulation games that require 2 weeks or so just to learn how to play it. I don't want to devote my life to a game, I just want something fun to do every now and then. If there were more games like that being sold, I would own more playstation games.

Don't see a problem with it (5, Insightful)

maelstrom (638) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060512)

I have purchased many of these old games, and would play them more often if they were still usable. Unfortunately, most of the media was 5.25" floppies, and not only do I not have a drive anymore, most of them are probably toast.

Is it legally wrong for me to download the titles? I don't know, but I believe it is morally right for me to obtain a "backup" of titles I purchased. As far as titles that are truly abandoned, but I didn't purchase, this seems a gray area.

The greed of the publishers is definately repugnant. Instead of opening their mind and allowing others to get some sort of satisfaction from an older title, they'd rather see no one have it and the game fade into obscurity. Perhaps if they realized that the goodwill they'd get for releasing these officially on a website would actually generate extra renevue from loyal customers.

Is ID software likely to lose business because they released the source code to their older engines? No. However, AFAIK they haven't released the graphics, levels, and sounds for them. I suppose this allows them to reuse some of the stuff for Doom3 for instance. Maybe someday people will realize that unlike the real world, I can give you something of mine that is digital and not only will I still have it, you will too.

And maybe after that, we'll have peace on earth, and goodwill towards men.

Re:Don't see a problem with it (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060538)

Actually, if you go to 3D Realms web site [] , you can still download for free shareware versions of their games and purchase registered copies of ALL their games. I'm currently saving up so I can get the complete Duke Nukem collection and Wolfenstien and Spear of Destiny. w00t, talk about classic FPS. Hehe, I love DukeMatching. :-D

As for games that are truly abandoned, I don't know. Yeah, we as gamers would love to be able to play these classics and share them with friends on the net, but also I would love to see the companies make money off of them if that is what they want, too. You can have it both ways. Just think of the money that will go towards the next latest and greatest title from these companies. Would you want a game released tomorrow to look like Liesure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, or would ou want it to look better then anything Squaresoft put out to date? Personally, I want the later. If I want LSLLLL type games, I'll download them from the internet (whether it's from the companies site or an abandonware site).

Re:Don't see a problem with it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060611)

"but I believe it is morally right for me to obtain a "backup" of titles I purchased"

rofl. care to back that up w/ any type of evidence or argument? or are you just going to spout dogma that happens to coincide with everything you believe in, including stealing.

Re:Don't see a problem with it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060670)

What the hell? Who trolls from an AC account?

Re:Don't see a problem with it (1)

TimboJones (192691) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060788)

Beliefs require no logic. That is their very nature. If they did, they would be knowledge.

Re:Don't see a problem with it (1)

kryptkpr (180196) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060655)

Actually... the graphics/levels/sounds are easily extractable from DOOM I/II using a myrad of freely-available tools. I mean c'mon, these games have been hacked to death, with so many addons and conversions it'd make your head spin.

Re:Don't see a problem with it (1)

RuneB (170521) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060705)

How often do you see the phrase "[this] software is licensed, not sold" on EULAs? Supposedly, when you purchase a piece of software, you are just buying a license to use a copy of the software. The media you get is an extra bonus, and in fact, you can purchase licenses without the media, such as with certain operating systems from Redmond.

Wouldn't this allow you to argue that you have the right to obtain another copy of the media, as long as you follow the provisions of the license? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060515)

Clan site for the [GiB] clan :) Run fully by PHP

Loads of downloads (100 mb worth)

The slaves are revolting (3, Insightful)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060518)

or something like that.

most companies love it if they can get their customers on a treadmill, constantly paying in new money. And honestly the cost of tech support for the older games may actually be a money losing proposition.

But They still hate the idea of not making money. and count potential loses are real losses.

Right now I think that that rights to software to revert to something more relaxed a few years after they stop providing tech support. They people who know how to use the older stuff will always be a small percentage anyhow.

Re:The slaves are revolting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060694)

You said it. They stink on ice.

abandonware (1)

Goofy Gavin (561311) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060523)

if discontinued, hard to find software is called "abandonware", then products by microsoft ought to be called "smotheringmother-in-lawware"... that shit never leaves you alone :O

Re:abandonware (1)

Goofy Gavin (561311) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060531)

"cloyingware" that's the one!

On the reasoning for freely taking it (3, Insightful)

Jay Mirioashi (554106) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060545)

I am suspicious of the motives of the Abandonware community.

I believe, in keeping with the spirit of copyright, if a publisher no longer makes a copyrighted work available, then so long as this is the case, there should be no legal recourse against those taking the software for free.

However, I must question the motives of Abandonware supporters. If indeed these companies were to make software from 10 years ago available today (via a website or mailorder) and a small price according to the cost of doing so, would Abandonware supporters be willing to pay?

The real question is, are they truly supportive of it as a matter of principle, or do they simply enjoy getting something for free; being unwilling to pay for it if it was available through legal means?

Re:On the reasoning for freely taking it (3, Interesting)

Crspe (307319) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060588)

Be careful about the question that you ask ...

I think the question should not be whether people would be willing to pay for the software if it was still available for sale (probably not, but depends on the price - at $2 there is a good chance, at $39.95 - not likely).

What we need to ask is whether Abandonware supporters would happily remove titles from their sites if a company started selling the game again. Here I think the sites would happily remove them - The titles are available, no need for the abandonware site to distribute it.

As long as this is true, then I think that abandonware sites are morally correct, although they are almost certainly breaking the letter of the law.

Re:On the reasoning for freely taking it (1)

Jay Mirioashi (554106) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060617)

At least in the article, the maintainer of one of the larger Abandonware sites noted that she regularly removes titles upon request from copyright holders.

It wasn't clear whether she would do this for products that were not available any other way, however.

Re:On the reasoning for freely taking it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060774)

Haven't checked it in a long time, but theunderdogs site used to remove the download link and replace it with a link to where you could buy the game, if it was still available.

Seems perfectly fair to me. However, most of these games really only have retail value in bundle packs, like that Forgotten Realms Silver Edition or whatever it's called. You get like 12-15 games for $20. The manuals are usually in PDF format on the CD, but are mostly scanned from the originals so they retain their "look". This is something I wish more publishers would do.

Re:On the reasoning for freely taking it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060800)

"Haven't checked it in a long time, but theunderdogs site used to remove the download link and replace it with a link to where you could buy the game, if it was still available."

It still does.

Re:On the reasoning for freely taking it (2)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060594)

The real question is, are they truly supportive of it as a matter of principle, or do they simply enjoy getting something for free; being unwilling to pay for it if it was available through legal means?

I'm truly supportive of it as a matter of principle because I and others like me are unwilling to pay for it if it was available through legal means.

Re:On the reasoning for freely taking it (1)

Jay Mirioashi (554106) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060629)

Do you at least support the reality of copyright creating a market (artifical scarcity) for off-the-shelf software.

If so, when do you determine that you are justified in taking software for free? Are you certain that you would be unwilling to pay for the product by legal means if it were not available for free? The problem is that its free availability taints your ability to make an unbiased decision.

Certainly then, unless you would have us abandon software copyright entirely, you must realize that we can not have both viable copyright protections and individuals being the arbitors of their viability.

I sense dead-end here (2)

Pac (9516) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060719)

"The problem is that its free availability taints your ability to make an unbiased decision."

How can we know? The fact is that the non-availability makes your point void and null. You are reaching for an untested and (until some old game copyright owner decide to re-issue it) untestable hypothesis.

So, I think we should really drop this line of reasoning for now. There is no use in accusing abandonware supporters of being copyright thieves until we can at least test the idea.

Re:On the reasoning for freely taking it (1)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060797)

Do you at least support the reality of copyright creating a market (artifical scarcity) for off-the-shelf software.

No. There is a market for software developers. There is a market for media. There is a market for duplication devices and services. I see no reason to create an artificial market for 1s and 0s.

If so, when do you determine that you are justified in taking software for free?

I am always justified (morally) in taking software for free.

Certainly then, unless you would have us abandon software copyright entirely

I would.

Re:On the reasoning for freely taking it (2)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060808)

you must realize that we can not have both viable copyright protections and individuals being the arbitors of their viability.

Also, individuals are not being the arbitors of copyright protections. Judges and juries are. And I assert without evidence that no one has ever gone to jail or even paid a fine solely for copying abandonware.

Re:On the reasoning for freely taking it (2, Interesting)

tukkayoot (528280) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060634)

The real question is, are they truly supportive of it as a matter of principle, or do they simply enjoy getting something for free; being unwilling to pay for it if it was available through legal means?

In my case, both.

I support the principle behind abandonware... though not really because it's not sold anymore. I like it because it's an unofficial public domain of sorts... it's a way for budding game designers to have cheap and easy access to the history of video games... classic or little known gems of yesteryear that a person wouldn't spend a penny on continue to get exposure... and I think that's a good thing for gamers and the gaming industry in general.

I also support Abandonware because the companies no longer support the games, and people who purchased a game license who lost the physical media on which the game was stored (or the silly copyright toys that lots of old games used) have a way of enjoying the products that they legitimately own... without putting a burden of service and support on the game publisher (which might not even exist any longer).

Those are the reasons why I think abandonware distribution is a noble cause in general. It's the reason I've donated a few bucks to The Underdogs.

On a personal level, I "rationalize" downloading abandonware by telling myself (and it's the truth) that there is no way I could feasibly purchase the software these days, and that even if I could, I probably wouldn't... I'm not taking anything material away from anyone. It's a victimless crime, so to speak.

I personally don't download "abandonware" that isn't truly abandoned, that someone is actually trying to sell... if I do, it's software that I feel I have a legitimate right to use (as in, I purchased it sometime in the past.) Maybe many others aren't as "scrupulous", but it's seldom an issue since very little of what most people define as "abandonware" is readily available... that's why it's called "abandonware".

Re:On the reasoning for freely taking it (1)

Idolatre (197068) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060653)

For me, abandonware is a temporary solution. If the publisher decides to re-release a game for which I own an unauthorized copy, and which I love to play, I'll buy it, even if they charge the same price they used to charge 10 years ago.

The game still has the same value it used to have, that's why I'm dedicating time to play it.

Re:On the reasoning for freely taking it (1)

Jay Mirioashi (554106) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060674)

This I can agree with. It seems to me that this illustrates a necessary gap between what laws we must have on the books, and what laws the individual (even supporters of said laws) will feel morally obligated to enforce. If you get caught violating them, the most you will probably get is a warning, but they need to be around regardless for cases where the common sense opinion is that the offender is violating the spirit of the law.

Re:On the reasoning for freely taking it (1)

Jucius Maximus (229128) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060791)

"However, I must question the motives of Abandonware supporters. If indeed these companies were to make software from 10 years ago available today (via a website or mailorder) and a small price according to the cost of doing so, would Abandonware supporters be willing to pay?"

I support abandonware, and I will tell you that I do pay the money if I find it for sale. For example, I got Ultima Underworld I and II for free and then eventually found them on a bargain rack. I spend the $15 and bought them. The same was true with Command & Conquer (although it was more like $45.)

Argh... (1)

Paradoxish (545066) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060550)

It's hard for me to say anything on this topic. First of all, I love Abandonware. There are so many old programs that I've lost over the years and would kill to play again. Sites like The Underdogs have helped me get a hold of these games and yes, a few others that I never got a chance to play (probably because my hardware couldn't handle it back then). Until I bought my new laptop these were the only games I could really play on it happily and I probably would have bought them if they were available somewhere.

Then again, I'm a hypocrite. I do think that companies have the right to not want their software distributed (this is a big reason I only download from Underdogs - they're big enough that they can't keep up games that they're asked to take down and hope not to have their whole site shut down), but I don't really understand it. Even though a few other people and myself might buy these older games for nostalgia the vast majority of people won't. So not only are they not losing money, they're not even potentially losing money. Unless a company released every single "abandoned" game on a single CD the odds are they won't ever be able to make money from reviving these old, dead games. So what's holding them back? Spite?

Stephen King, author, dead at 54 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060554)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - Horror/Sci Fi writer Stephen King was found dead in his Maine home this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon.

MAME et al (5, Insightful)

kisrael (134664) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060555)

Very good article. It focuses only on PC games though. MAME and its console-based ilk are another kettle of worms altogether.

I see these emulators as a valuable service, preserving what I call our "pop culture heritage"...sure, "Time Pilot" may have been popular enough to make it in some emulator packs, but what about "Time Pilot '84"? A much cooler scifi game in my book, but one whose limited release (during the crash) means that it's not likely to see a repackage rerelease.

I admit it is a bit complicated, because MAME does directly compete with the emulation game packs for modern consoles. But overall I'd rather err on the side of caution and not let these things fall into obscurity.

The trap of good graphics (5, Insightful)

zzyzx (15139) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060556)

Here's the other problem with newer games. They're all about the great graphics. In addition to the usual complaint about graphics intensive games (They sacrifice game play for the thrill of "oooooooh, that blood looks real.), I find at least that almost real graphics look worse that the most cartoonish ones.

Take Fifa 2000 for the playstation. The players look almost real... almost being the key word. Whenever I see their blocky heads, I think about how bad the graphics are. By coming close to realism, you're forced to see how far away they still are.

On the other hand, a more cartoonish game doesn't invite that comparism at all. Take Super Mario brothers for example. No one thinks that the graphics on that game suck, even though Mario doesn't look like a real person. They get sucked into the game world because they don't even think about how much better he would look with a few tweaks.

Moral of this story? Don't worry about the graphics people, just make fun games.

...of course this is a moral from someone who doesn't really play games much, so take it with a grain or 10,000 of salt.

Not Cheap Bastards, POOR BASTARDS (1)

dilute (74234) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060570)

Retro games? Nobody's going to pay for a lot of this stuff. Who could afford it, anyway? Impose charges across the board and watch this medium die. The pity is that the rights owners don't care, because they believe (and in the short run they are right) that there is little if any profit for them in the new media. Better just to kill it.

What about other types of software? (5, Insightful)

sjehay (83181) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060571)

Nobody seems to mention or pay much attention to other types of software that are available as abandonware - more usually with the blessing of the original parent company. For example, have a look at: there are plenty more examples if you have a look around. Sure, having old games available is good for nostalgia, but things like this can actually be useful, especially if you're looking for stuff to run on older hardware or if you're after a feature that new software Just Doesn't Have (or the new software is not available on your platform etc.) - I know I've found this in various circumstances.

Re:What about other types of software? (1)

Jay Mirioashi (554106) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060642)

From the article, several of the people interviewed suggested that what was at stake in not enforcing the protections on their intellectual property, was their ability to enforce protections on future, derivative intellectual property. Is this a real issue? I am not well versed in the laws that would affect this.

If what they say is true (though I somehow doubt it), then game publishers would stand to lose something that business app publishers do not; things such as a persona, a character, or a gaming fantasy world being protectable in future games.

I would be very interested to see the truth of the claims of these publishers evaluated.

A [relatively] old subject, good piece though. (5, Interesting)

tukkayoot (528280) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060586)

It's one of the few good objective pieces that seems to look at the issue of abandonware/emulation from a few different angles... and it comes right on the heels of that Control and Creativity [] piece ran on slashdot recently.

My personal feelings on abandonware are that there's really nothing wrong with it. I think it's healthy for the market and wonderful for players.

When I was about 9 years old, my father bought me Starflight... a game we saw on the shelves of Radio Shack and thought looked cool. We enjoyed it but never got very far because the game has a high probability of corrupting itself (otherwise it's a terrific game... a true classic). Years later I realized that surely someone must have preserved a copy of the game that I could download... and thanks to abandonware, I was right. I tracked down a copy for download and fiddled around with my system until I could get it to work... and it was just great... it was a minor obsession of mine for several weeks and I finally beat it, getting my father's money's worth out of the purchase. Lot's of nostalgia, lot's of fun. Who gets hurt here?

I dismiss most of the arguments of the game publishers, and especially the stance of the IDSA. The bulk of their argument is that legality equals morality, which any freethinking individual probably realizes isn't true... or else laws would never be repealed or changed.

I also don't understand how Abandonware sites hurt their intellectual property rights as many of them seem to claim. They still own the copyrights, they still own the trademarks. Nobody is going to tell Nintendo that they don't own the rights to produce Mario games because they fail to rabidly attack an abandonware site with a Mario Bros romdump from a 20 year old arcade board. Nobody is arguing that Mario Bros is "public domain" from a legal perspective. The one fellow put it succintly "It's piracy, but so what?" The pirates aren't challenging the rights of the publisher's... they only hurt the publishers by denying them revenue, and in the case of the vast majority of abandonware, they're not even doing that.

Another argument a few of them made was "Well, we might want to release a classics pack one day." This is a semi-legitimate argument, but in reality we know that the only "classics packs" that are truly successful commericially are those that package together a few familiar arcade classics... not more obscure PC titles. Most people only buy "arcade classics collections" because they are familiar with playing those games in arcades.

What is the market for a classics pack of old PC games, on the other hand? There aren't going to be very many people who are going to plunk down $20 for a bunch of old games with EGA graphics that they're not familiar with. If people ARE familiar with the games, on the other hand... it's probably because they legitimately owned the games at one point in time.

And the truth that we all know is that very few people are actually trying to sell 10+ year old games... at least not without heavily retooling the game (like Frogger 3D).

So Abandonware really is quite harmless. I'd like to think that there are a few current and future game designers out there getting exposure to these "Golden Oldies" like Starflight for inspiration on how to do more with less and that thanks to Abandonware, we will (and have been) enjoying better games. I really think the IDSA is doing the gaming community and the companies they represent a disservice by going after abandonware sites so diligently, but I guess they have to take a hardline stance on all forms of piracy to convince their members that they're doing their job.

Leisure Suit Larry (3, Interesting)

British (51765) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060587)

Didn't they sell more copies of the Leisure Suit Larry hint books than actual copies of the program?

KISS, idiots! (3, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060606)

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Look, piracy is a known thing. It's just gonna happen. So, what the publishers really should do if they are so concerned about their IP - make a downloadable version of it that requires a key to unlock. Sell the key for $10 and be done with it.

Then, they
  1. Have a clean, clear claim to their IP as "not abandonware",
  2. Make some residual money
  3. Won't give anybody a reason to bitch 'cause the game is no longer available.

I really like what Maxis did with Sim City Classic - they ported it to Shockwave and you can play it right on their website! (and you stare at a few ads, oh well)

As far as "won't work with Windows XX" - port it to freedos! (could this be one area where Linux actually outshines Windows in -gasp- support for DOS !!@!?!??)


Re:KISS, idiots! (2, Interesting)

Arawn (36250) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060687)

The only problem with charging even a small fee for an old game is that once people paid for the game they would expect support. Many publishers do not have the resources to support these old games which might not run corectly on newer computers.

Re:KISS, idiots! (3, Interesting)

Sawbones (176430) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060741)

I've heard both of these arguments before - if we change money we have to support and if we don't defend our copyright then someone will come out with Commander Keen does Dalas or somesuch. What I wonder is if it would be possible to develope something like an AGPL (abandon... yeah). Basically have a license publishers can release these "abandoned" games under that says you the user are free to use this game, distribute this game at no cost beyond the cost of distribution (just in case bandwidth costs become astronomical and covers things like ad banners on sites), and possibly port it to other platforms. You are NOT, however, licensed to create any derivative works (beyond porting to other platforms) or use artwork, characters, whatever from this title in any other work.

That way the publishers are happy because they're not liable for support and they've prevented the Keen Kills O-Town unlicensed titles from happening. Gamers are happy because they get to play the games that publishers no longer want to distribute or support. Abandonware sites are happy because now they're all nice and legal.

Probably never happen of course, but it could be nice.

Re:KISS, idiots! (2)

D_Gr8_BoB (136268) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060706)

I really like what Maxis did with Sim City Classic - they ported it to Shockwave and you can play it right on their website! (and you stare at a few ads, oh well)

Wow, that is really cool idea. Unfortunately, Maxis (now EA)'s website is a bitch and a half to navigate. They JS redirect you to a "sorry, you can't come in page" if you don't accept cookies, and if you turn off JS, the site won't work. For those of you who don't feel like digging through it yourself, check the appropriate page out at [] .

It really does work, and seems like a great move for everyone involved. Granted, Simcity is a fairly simple game by modern standards, so I'm not sure how many other (even abandonware) games could be converted easily to Shockwave. Man would I love to see a Shockwave version of Civ 1, though.

1988 is the magic year (2, Insightful)

fleener (140714) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060613)

I prefer to abide by the intent of the original framers of the constitution. Copyright should last only fourteen years [] .

IMHO, any game made before 1988 should be up for grabs.

Ultima 4 (0)

Veramocor (262800) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060619)

"So, are you out of luck if you want to take Ultima IV for another spin?"

for any of you ultima fans, U4 is availible for download without violating copyrights from the Ultima dragons.

Also check out" [] for the midi upgrade and the 256 color upgrade.

Finally anyone who's interested in updating other Ultima games should go to []

It even links to a few remakes in progress.


Bonus points: whats the signifigance of my name in relation to ultima. No search engines!

Moving into an even more grey area ... (2, Interesting)

Crspe (307319) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060623)

I remember at least a year ago I was looking through my collection of CD's and came across my old Civ2 CD (checking copyright on CD ... from 1996). So I thought - great, I would love to play this again. The install went fine, and I was up and playing quite quickly (enjoying the questions about whether I want to enable the tiny tiny videos/heralds as they need 16MB of memory !!?!?!)

Then I fairly quickly realised that the first releases of Civ2 were quite buggy / unfriendly, but that these had been fixed in a series of patches (I think 14 of them in the end). When I first bought the game it was no problem to download the patches from the microprose site, but there was no chance of downloading it from infogrames (or whoever happened to own it then). So I searched around and found the patch on some download site.

Now, The patch is also protected by copyright, just as much as any abandonware game is protected. So, do those companies who oppose abandonware so vigorously also oppose this distribution of this patch? I think that to claim that distribution of a patch for an old game is just as bad as distributing the latest release on some warez site is just stupid. Hopefully these companies would say the same thing, but im not so sure...

(Having just checked the infogrames site, I can see that they now have the patch available for download! Full marks to infogrames for still supporting the game!)

Great Games of Yester-year (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3060628)

I think that its too bad that so many great titles,games and otherwise, fall into obscurity.

The first computer game I ever played was Marble Madness, by E.A. It was the most fun, my dad, brother and I had on weekend mornings.
To this day I have not found this game elsewhere,
I still have the original 5.25 disk, but trying to find a suitable 5.25 drive is equally frustrating.

I hope that publishers start realizing that if they allow abandonware (or god forbid help it) most likely people will become more loyal to their brand, simply based on the quality of past titles (those games made by that guy Sid anyone?).

And if anyone knows where I could find Marble Madness, please let me know. Watching that little marble flirt with certain *marble catastrophe*, so exciting!

And generally I think it would be interesting to see what slashdotters think are best games ever made.

My self I would select these ( in no particular order):

Pac Man - the classic
Defender - if only they could get a great 3d version (Descent[yet again] perhaps...)
Civ - obviously
Marble Madness - cause I loved playing it
King's Quest - the one that started it all
Wolfenstein - ditto
TestDrive - you know the one where you could play with 4 colours(CGA if I remember right)... totally sweet, great sounds, awesome cars doesn't get any better really...

Re:Great Games of Yester-year (0)

negativekarmanow tm (518080) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060714)

Civ: I've been playing the windows version to death lately. High marks for best game ever, although it sucks that there's a max number of military units and cities you can have.
Plus, there's the quick settler cheat/bug.

KQ: I recently bought (yes by giving *MONEY* to some store clerck) KQ1-KQ6 for something like 5$. Money well spent.
"get pouch"
"open pouch"
Ah I love it.

Wolfenstein: Big WOW when I first saw that at a friend's. Never looked back to it after Doom though. I say Doom had a way better atmosphere to it.

TestDrive: aw sweeeeeet! Watch out for those potholes!

Secondhand market argument?!? (1)

rirugrat (255768) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060630)

Pete Hines, the director of marketing and public relations Maryland-based Bethesda Softworks says,"It is our policy to stop people from distributing our games for free, be they new titles or classic games. We don't differentiate who we go after based on whether they call it abandonware or warez or a pirated version. If it's ours, it's ours. If you need to own a copy of a classic game, go find it on eBay or a site that allows people to trade or buy used games."

This is the part of many of the game companies' arguments that I can never understand: How exactly do they profit from sales of their older products in the secondary market like eBay, Funcoland, flea markets and yard sales? Answer: they don't see a dime from these transactions (sounds like the RIAA all over again)! They will say that the secondary market will drum up interest in the older games and/or developer's line of products which might translate into sales of the newer products.

So, in effect, this is like advertising. Hello?! Who cares how these potential customers get the older games, just as long as they are playing them (sounds like the shareware marketing model, doesn't it?)!!!

I'm not advocating piracy by any means, but if these companies that own the rights to older games can't come up with a method of selling them to the public (how hard would it be to sell them for a pittance from their own website?!?) then they should be delighted that gamers are at least being exposed to their product line, regardless how it happens (just like if you see advertisements in a magazine you bought or on a billboard you drive by! Regardless of how the message was delivered, it reached its intended target!)

Unfortunately the common way the game companies make money off of their old products is by releasing (mostly) substandard retro-updates of these "classics". How shortsighted!!!

You could also make the argument that the average gamer has a set limit of money they wish to spend on his/her gaming budget in a given year (yea yea, this is highly subjective but whether or not you realize it you do have some type of a budget of your expenses in place). For the sake of argument let's say it's $100/year. Would these companies rather (a) have you spend most (if not all) of your gaming budget on used games on eBay or (b) having cheap (if not free) access to your older games and maybe you buying 1 or 2 of the newest games instead?

Harassing your potential customers by aggressively pursuing copyright infringement of older games they don't actively market seems counterproductive to me.


It's all about money (1)

kryliss (72493) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060633)

Pretty much what they are worried about is if you download and play the old games, your taking time and money away from a new game that you would have to go out and buy, thus costing them money.

The right to be stupid (2, Insightful)

gregm (61553) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060635)

It makes sense for most of the old games to be donated to the public domain or at least re-licensed as freeware. All the arguments that the publishers have against abondonware are weak:

We'll lose sales on new games. Well that's just s stupid argument. If I aquire an old copy of Duke Nuke Em and play it out do you think I'll be less likely or more likely to shell out $50 for the new one? I think more, much more. How many times are demo versons of games made?

They want to release a cheap game collection... well yeah those are the games that I buy.. Knowing they're not all that likely to even run on my new Athlon without some pain. But if that particular game that I've been missing for all these years was included I might buy their gamepack and work at getting it to run. So they get a half point for ths argument, but it is going to cost them some bucks to update the game engines to make them work on new hardware.

They want to start a comic book based on a game character. So start one... they might not have that copyright as locked up as before, but they certainly have at least as good a right as I do to use that character.

The bottom line is: they have the right to be stupid. They have the right to lock up that old code and keep us from playing their games. They don't have the right to break any warranties. We have the right not to buy their new games if we don't like how they treat us with their old games. We don't have the right to steal their old code. We don't have the right to act like we're heros for stealing their code. If you're going to steal then at the very least admit you're stealing.

Now I've got to get back to Morpheus to liberate some more music.

Modify Copyright law (2)

stain ain (151381) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060637)

At present, software is considered like a literary work in terms of copyright, that is, it enjoys 50 years of protection before they become public domain (WIPO copyright treaty).
I think this is a case where, "the need to maintain a balance between the rights of the authors and the larger public interest", should be enough to shorten the period for this kind of software.
I say, give 7 years, or something around that. Really, after this time, the commercial value is zero, why not give it for free then?

Re:Modify Copyright law (2)

fleener (140714) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060666)

In the United States, for individuals, copyright lasts the life of the author, plus 70 years. For corporations copyright lasts 95 years. As the Sony Bono Copyright Act illustrates, you can count on copyright being extended indefinitely for corporations. (Hey, when you run the country, you can have things your way.)

Abondonware helps sequels? (2, Interesting)

astinus (560894) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060641)

It's not uncommon for publishers to release sequels of old games long after the fact - a personal favorite of mine was the orginal System Shock; I was fortunate enough to buy the enhanced version when it first came out, and it's still in my top 5 list of games. SS has a devoted fan following online, who occassionally provide .zip files of the hard-to-find CD version to any one who asks - simply out of love for the game.

Eventually, the publisher answered years of petitions for a sequel, and released SS2 - another incredible game, which came out against Half-Life and other insanely popular games, hurting its sales a good bit. Not to mention less than stellar advertising. HOWEVER. . .

The longtime fans of SS1 started telling everyone they knew to buy the sequel. They distributed copies of the original to everyone who would take it, and sales of SS2 began to pick up. Unfortunately, the publisher had already gone out of business due to some other problems, so the benefits of the abandonware upswell were rather lost.

Companies should be glad people are picking up their old games that aren't making them money any more. Worst case scenario, it's retroactively establishing their reputation for good, solid games; at best, it's giving them an increased fan base for possible sequels.

So no, I don't think I'm doing anything wrong for leeching Gauntlet II or Blackthorne, since I can't purchase them directly from their publishers. I'm showing my support for them, and their sequels should they be ever be released. If you can't support them with money via direct purchases, abadonware is your only choice.

Ultima IV? (1)

toriver (11308) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060659)

Strange example to use: I seem to recall that Origin put it up for free download around the release of Ultima IX. (Same goes for Betrayal in Krondor when Return to Krondor was released.)

Oh really (2, Informative)

Second_Derivative (257815) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060664)

"EA actually does this with Madden NFL 95 and SimCity Classic on its Web site"

If SimCity Classic is anywhere on their page, it sure is hidden well. Oh, wait... Google [] . Ok, thanks to Google I've found it, now I see that you have to play it online (what if I want to play it on my comp?) and its behind one of those obnoxious 'you must register on this site to be able to do anything at all' pages. I hate the latter though admittedly that's the publisher's perogative. But, come on, this is some low-rent online version. This I'm not interested in. I got a copy of SimCity and Lemmings with my first ever mouse about eight years ago. Then the floppies went into out garage and next I know they've been lying in a puddle for the past five years. I can't buy either anymore, and I seriously doubt EA would make much money selling it.

There's also some other stuff I'm confused about. Squaresoft (better known as the publishers of the Final Fantasy series) released two games called Final Fantasy V and Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan. They didnt bother to release them in the west because they thought they were too complex for our simian intelligence or something. Now FFV has been released in the US about five years late, but from what I've heard it's not going to come out in the UK, and SD3 ... well I havent heard anything about that. I can't import FFV due to this protectionist region/DMCA crap, so I download translated copies of both. They were translated by devoted fans of Squaresoft who love these games and want to drum up more appreciation for Square by doing their translation and marketing work for them, not making a cent on this, and from what I've seen Square and Sony consider them to be criminals. I have a copy of both games on my hard disk, which I'd gladly pay for given the chance and I feel absolutely no moral shame for having them. Are either of these copyrighted in the United Kingdom, considering neither's actually been released here?

Retain for Posterity? (2)

Catiline (186878) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060667)

Let's look at this through a paralell: movies. Both are a copywritten media that undergoes complete turnover (care to guess what percent of the movies filmed in the '70s are available for purchase today?). Both have (IMHO) a far-too-long copyright. With movies, the result of too-much copyright is clear. Despite what is said in the article, there are tales of rotting reels of film left by studios (who know that they don't appeal to today's audience).

I enjoy watching B&W moives- in the same way I enjoy reading the classic novels available from Project Gutenburg. These allow me to envision the past in a way no history book ever has. (Not to mention which, sometimes they're just flat-out better that what comes out today. "Heavens, you mean this comedy has a plot?!?!?")

My attitude on this whole issue is: if the producers know these films won't turn a profit anymore, and they don't have the time / money to keep them, release copyright on them! Firstly, if they don't appeal today, what odds they are appealing tomorrow? Secondly, this turns the expense of preserving the movie over to the pubic- and you cn be sure that the'll be DivX'd faster than you can say "digital".

Back to the topic on hand! As you might guess, I'm all for abandonware- both games and applications. (We're preserving computing history here, after all.) The turnover rate for software is, at a wild guess, 50% every year. As for these silly claims about losing copyright on a character: isn't that better covered by tradmarking? Then you could redistribute (as an example) the original Monkey Island games and LucasArts still holds exclusive rights to the future of the series.

Most definitely illegal, however... (5, Interesting)

Wdomburg (141264) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060684)

There is a black and white issue here. Distributing copies of a copyrighted work without the permission of the "author" is illegal. However, in my opinion, it is far from being in the publisher's best interest to take action against the distribution of abandonware titles.

The questions they should be asking themselves are:

1) Does this harm us?

2) Can we capitalize on this?

The first question pretty much comes down to two key issues - is there loss of revenue, and does it dilute intellectual property.

Unless there are ongoing efforts to sell a particular title, it is not generating a revenue stream. This is pretty straight forward.

There may be a question as to whether it could be used to generate a future revenue stream; e.g. via the release of "classic" packs. This, however, is not feasible in a games current form unless it runs on a currently available platform.

So, in terms of revenue, the publisher is out of luck unless it runs on Windows or Macintosh. They may do an port of older games, but that depends on a value add in order to make it a sellable asset.

The second issue - protection of intellectual property - is pretty much a red herring. These are not trademarks; no matter how many times someone illegally copies them, it will not prevent them from successfully enforcing copyright on them in the future.

So onto the second question - can this be capitalized on? The answer here is a resounding YES.

The biggest benefit of abandonware, illegal or not, is that it helps maintain a franchise. If there is any question of the value of having a well known, wide spread franchise, one only need look at Ninetendo.

There is also a lot of good will to be culled from releasing old games (in their current form, not applicable to future releases) under a free beer license.

What my suggestion to publishers would be is to release these games under a license allowing free play, but not free redistribution, and then license redistributions rights to abandonware sites, not for money, but for advertising space.

When applicable this would make an ideal launching pad for advertising updates of old classics, or new games in a series, as it targets the people who loved the originals enough to go searching for them.

Of course, this is only my opinion, and doesn't count for jack in the real world :)


These Old Games are Valuable! (1)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060693)

Bell of Infogrames said: "This does not mean that a game becomes part of the public domain; it's intellectual property that remains quite valuable to the publisher."

Quite valuable! That's a laugh. When they're not even selling them? Exactly how are these games valuable, except as pawns in the IP battles?

Argument to shorten copyrights (5, Interesting) (142825) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060701)

The abandonware issue is a good argument to support the shortening of copyrights for software.

Instead of copyrights for 50,75, or number of years since Mickey Mouse + 10, we change copyrights back to 25 years, renewable. On software, we make the copyright 10 years renewable. But, make a new version (currently a derivitive work) legally it's own work so that the entire package, not what changed from the earlier version starts the clock anew.

Or another way is until the company stops supporting that product and providing free bugfixes. IBM has end of service dates announced for their software, so that once that data passes, you are on your own. That plus 1 year might be a good copyright expirition date. Or at least so that you can make copies to give away (for cost of media), not to allow one to start selling Windows 95 as a profit making enterprise.

How many people out there are running Windows 3.1 or DOS 3.3?

something I forgot to mention. (2, Informative) (142825) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060753)

Companies can generate goodwill by releasing their own abandonware into the public. Almost two years ago, InnoVal Systems Solutions [] made an announcement [] that they are dropping support for Post Road Mailer for OS/2 [] and J-Street Mailer for Java. A group of people, unrelated to Innoval, took on a task of making improvements to J-Street mailer. With the blessing of Innoval, J-Street mailer is now Polarbar Mailer []

A Black Market (2, Insightful)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060734)

Obviously these games aren't worth a lot to these companies (except as potential pawns in an IP battle). But the owners won't even sell them for peanuts. You can't get them "legally". So an alternative market pops up to meet the demand (and the price of these games there is 0). Why can't these folks set up a "classic games" page on their sites, and sell these games for peanuts? Just cause it sold for $2, does that mean they lose their IP?

My offer (0)

Sir Homer (549339) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060776)

We had a big debate about this on a IRC channel. I think the conslusion we came up with would be that copyright holders in software should have copyright for 10 years, and then the software should be under the GPL. I think it would be best for all? Currently with the copyright extension act, copyrights owned by groups or corperations last 75 years, and copyrights owned by a individual lasts 70 years after his/her death. Which is a extension of the previous 40 years for corperations, and copyright expiring right at the owner's death. What do you think?

Abandonware could possibly be fair use. (2)

rebelcool (247749) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060781)

IANAL, but I do know more about copyright law than your average poster.

One of the main tests (arguably the most important) for fair use of a work is the 'affect on the market' test. That is, does the use of the work in this manner alter the market for it significantly enough to cause monetary damages?

Since a-ware games are not found on store shelves anymore, are technically obsolete (most of these won't even work on a modern computer without a DOS emulator) and are no longer generating revenue for publishers and authors alike, the effect on the market is negligible, because there really isnt even a market for them.

Personally I think that if these games have been truly abandoned, and you're not trying to turn a profit off making them available (unless you've got permission, of course), it could very well fall under the fair use guidelines.

Alas, it will take a court battle to decide that though.

Out of print on books... (0)

poonbanger (559449) | more than 12 years ago | (#3060787)

When a book is out of print, it is quite usual for a library/person to contact the publishers and ask if they can copy the book themselves. Most of the time, the book can be copied for free. If the book has lots of requests the book is republished (by the publishers). Perhaps the publishers of such games could use this "abandonware" situation to their advantage, by asking for a tally on the number of downloads on games, and if a game gets downloaded enough they could market it. The big stick approach would do a lot more damage, while an out of print approach could only help the publishers make money, and at the sametime spread some goodwill.
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