A Nintendo community
for the fans, by the fans!
Browse    1  2  3  4  
Thoughts on game piracy and emulation [roundtable]
This is sort of a heated topic in the game community and while I recall a few posts briefly delving into discussing it, I don't think its ever had its own dedicated thread.

What do you think of game piracy? As defined by downloading a ROM online to play a game instead of purchasing it.

In short, it's always bugged me. Games are entertainment, they're a luxury. You're not exactly Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. That said, I think a case can be made for exceedingly rare or unlocalized games to live on through emulation. In some cases, this can give a work more publicity than it'd normally get.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing other opinions on this matter.

URL to share this content (right click and copy link)
Posted: 07/23/16, 20:44:25
[ Share ]
Why not sign up for a (free) account and create your own content?
I've no issue with piracy/emulation if one owns the game in question, or cannot easily acquire the game in question. If the game can be bought or downloaded at retail for what it was worth when first available, then it should not be pirated/emulated. Thus, I'm pretty much okay with anyone playing any game for the NES, SNES, N64, etc, however way possible; given that games for these systems are no longer being sold. Now, if these older games are available on the eShop, then they should be bought there, unless one has purchased them on another console's download store. As TriforceBun noted, games are a luxury, and as such, one doesn't need games in his or her life - thus, no reason to "steal." Oh, and I've no issue with one pirating/emulating a game before buying to try it out. Games aren't cheap and cannot be returned, so finding a way to test them out beforehand makes sense to me - just so long as if liked and enjoyed, the game tested is purchased.
Posted: 07/23/16, 21:39:36  - Edited by 
 on: 07/23/16, 21:44:04
Piracy of modern, easily available software I definitely have a problem with, and think it shouldn't be done at all. When it comes to older stuff, that can't be accessed easily on modern platforms like VC and there's no chance the money spent on them would go to the developer or publisher, I'm a bit more ok with it. I don't see it being that wrong to play an emulated game rather than pay a reseller a fortune for an old cartridge, for example.
Posted: 07/23/16, 21:44:48  - Edited by 
 on: 07/23/16, 21:45:12
I think a content creator deserves to be paid for their work. Piracy used to bug me a lot for that reason. But I get the feeling that cases where piracy is a cause of ruin for a game/developer/publisher are pretty rare, so I don't fret over pirates anymore.

For me personally, I'll only pirate/emulate a game if acquiring it legally is particularly inconvenient or expensive (usually these go hand in hand). I think the only ROM I've downloaded and played is Knuckles Chaotix, which I'd have to buy a 32X and cartridge for if I wanted to play the "right" way, not to mention figuring out how to get it to work on my modern TV or go buy an old CRT and lug it into my house. It'd be a huge undertaking just to play one game, and doing all that would not benefit the original developers/publishers anyway. If the game were available on a modern console, I'd have bought it, and probably still will if they do release it on Steam or whatever. Even though Knuckles Chaotix kinda sucks lol.

I am thinking about downloading Rocket Knight and Sparkster after seeing them run at GDQ events. As far as I know, those aren't available digitally.
Posted: 07/23/16, 22:59:43  - Edited by 
 on: 07/23/16, 23:00:41
To me, it's less about the specifics of the situation in which a person pirates something, and more about the mindset that the person who pirates it has. There are a million different cases where it's varying degrees of "alright" to pirate something--if there's no legal way to obtain it while supporting the original creators, if you'd like to try the game out but there's no demo, if you have every intention of paying for it once you have the money but want to play the game now, etc. As long as the pirate is honest about their intentions, realistic about their situation, and genuinely wants to support the creators, I think most of those cases are excusable.

It's a problem when you've got people who pirate games by the dozen because they lack respect for supporting creative works. I'm not sure if these people make up the majority of pirates or if there aren't that many, but they're definitely in the wrong.
Posted: 07/23/16, 23:03:13
Those techy assholes weren't there for musicians when Napster and torrenting hit the scene, and now they want me to cry because they're losing money to online game pirates? Fuck 'em. Play every game you want on an emulator. I don't give a rat's ass.

No, seriously, I don't support piracy, though I admit my hands aren't perfectly clean, there. It used to be really hard to get your hands on certain classic games and there seemed to be no desire on the part of game companies to monetize their back catalogs. Back then, I had no problem downloading Fester's Quest or whatever because who cares? It was either play it from a download or pay some reseller more money than the experience was worth, which benefitted no creator or company involved.

Nowadays, a lot of that stuff is available for downloading and, though the prices are too high for a lot of that 8-bit trash, I think guys like us should pay for those games if we want them. But if there's a broke 14 year old kid who downloaded Mega Man 3 because he's curious about the history of video games, that's morally sorta on the order of jaywalking to me. When Capcom made that game, their monetization plan didn't include online sales 25 years from release. They made their money.
Posted: 07/23/16, 23:31:15

I think I mostly agree with that.

My own history of emulation began as a young teenager around 1998 or so when my friend brought over a mysterious 'KGEN' program with a few Mega Drive games to play on our PC. We were a strictly PC only household at the time, and seeing these previously inaccessible console games running on my PC seemed like utter voodoo.

Soon after, Pokemon Red/Blue ensnared the world, and for a week or so those of us without Game Boy's had a permanent perch hovering over the shoulders of those classmates who did. Then a saviour appeared, a floppy disk with a 'PC version' of the game that was quickly copied and spread around the school like wildfire.

Upon finally getting a copy I realised that it was similar to the previous KGen program, only this time for *Game Boy*. The existence of the wider world of emulation had revealed itself to me.

Nevertheless, Pokemon's success saw my brother and I chipping in various savings, and birthday moneys towards buying a Game Boy Pocket with Pokemon Blue. And the next year we repeated the exercise to purchase an N64 in order to get in on all the Goldeneye/Mario Kart 64 fun we'd had with our cousins the previous Christmas. This led to me exploring some of Nintendo's back catalogue via NES and SNES emulation. Which is probably where my emulation experience peaked. Modern consoles were much trickier to replicate.

I did a bit of GBA emulation of the 'try before you buy' style (Metroid Fusion and Advance Wars- Both of which converted quickly into full purchases), and some retro emulation since then for games that aren't on the VC, but that's pretty much it.

Oh and I fully confess to illegally downloading 999, but that's because that never got an Aussie/European release .

But like Secret Tunnel says- It comes down to supporting the creators. If you make sure that happens, you can handwave to an extent. I like to think I've done just that-Most everything I emulated that I could buy, I did.

So when I see whiny people complain about wanting to play Super Mario brothers on their handheld, but don't want to pay for a VC copy because "It's old" or "I already have this on another console", or whatever shitty justification they can come up with to avoid handing over a measly few bucks, it's hard to have any sympathy. If you want another copy of the game on a different platform, cough up a few bucks. You can afford it. And coming back with "I'll just emulate it then" because it hasn't been gifted to you on a silver platter just marks you as a complete and utter turdburger in my eyes.
Posted: 07/24/16, 03:34:56

Another thing to consider is how many of the people worked on the game are still going to see any of that money if we pay to download it. How many people that worked on Mega Man 2 are still with capcom? What about Namco and Pacman? Even if they are still working for the company, are they owed a portion of digital sales for 30 year old games? I would guess not. Are we morally obligated to pay to download these old games when that money does little, if anything, to support the original creators of the work? Is it still immoral to pirate games if the only people missing out on a profit are businessmen who had nothing to do with the creation of that work and merely hold the legal rights to the work?

I'm not necessarily arguing not on behalf of piracy. These are just interesting questions to consider.

But I do think are copyright laws are unable to manage the digital age as intended. Nowadays very little ever enters the public domain due to renewal of copyrights and the financial allure of digital distribution.
Posted: 07/24/16, 04:24:24
My phone double posted :(
Posted: 07/24/16, 04:24:43  - Edited by 
 on: 07/25/16, 00:44:31
I like to physically own games where possible, but a lot of the media these games are on is very old. Someday, old console cartridges will wear out and cease to function as intended. It's even more of an immediate danger for old discs for platforms like the Sega CD or Famicom Disk System. There are also some games that will never be rereleased, due to rights issues. In order to effectively preserve these games for future generations, even after the hardware has long faded away, ROM/ISO dumping and emulation is going to be, and in many cases already is, incredibly important to ensure that these games don't fade away from written/knowable history.

Personally, I try to dump my own ROMs for my own personal use when possible, through devices like the Retrode 2 or the Kazzo. However, it's going to be really difficult to obtain certain games without either downloading them online through whatever means possible, or by spending lots of money buying them, through transactions that don't benefit the developers or even sometimes the publishers anymore. My personal opinion, is that emulation is totally okay. Is it really so wrong to want to be able to play a game that is not readily available in its original form anymore?
Posted: 07/24/16, 22:57:08

Conservation is a great point. A fair amount of titles from the earliest days of video games seem to be lost to time. Unfortunately something can be lost in the process of preserving games. Particularly with arcade games. Time crisis just wouldn't be the same without that foot petal. And I think Lets Go Jungle wouldn't be as enjoyable with the absence of those pivot-able plastic guns attached to the cabinet and the enclosed booth setup. And what could we do to replicate the feeling of those racing games where you sit on a plastic motorcycle and lean to turn? But at the very least, I hope we'll be able to play those games in some capacity 50 years from now.
Posted: 07/25/16, 01:12:16
I mostly think it is a not cool, but if someone pirates a game that is otherwise hard to get, or if a poor person pirates games because they really can't afford them, etc. I won't make a big deal out of it.

I don't do it anymore though. Haven't in many, many years now. Was thinking of doing it when Earthbound seemed like it wasn't coming over here, but then it did, so... no need.
Posted: 07/25/16, 04:32:58
I'm against it in all its forms. What all of the excuses given above boil down to is if a game is too inconvenient for you to obtain, just go ahead and take it. And as soon as the door is opened to allow some of these excuses, I think it gets difficult to turn around and disallow somebody else's. What I don't understand is what in the heck is so terrible about not playing certain games? We live in an age when we have near unlimited options for our media consumption. Find something else to play. And honestly, while I understand the desire for preservation, I do not think that all things need to be preserved and remembered for all times. Learn to let go. Letting museums preserve and maintain older games is a far cry from allowing me to download any game ever with no restrictions.


What else is a poor person allowed to take that they can't afford? I think that line of thinking is kind of dangerous. And what the heck is a poor person playing these stolen games on?
Posted: 07/25/16, 04:41:11  - Edited by 
 on: 07/25/16, 04:47:25

I can understand the sentiment, but I think you can be less black and white without invoking a slippery slope argument, at least when it comes to not having access to the title. I'm not sure that you can really argue, "Well if X is ok, then why isn't Y ok? They're two very different things even if the end result is the same.

Look at my 999 example above. That never released here at all. There was literally no way I could have given the creators or developers any money for that game. The absolute most I could have done would be to import a second hand copy from the US, which does nothing for the developers.

But if we follow your argument through to it's conclusion and I should just go 'play something else'....that means that when VLR and ZTD DID release here, I wouldn't have bothered playing those games, seeing as I never played the first one. Meaning the creators actually would have lost out on the two sales I gave them in reality as a direct result of that philosophy.

I'd have to assume that scenario has played out multiple times across Europe and Australia. I can't imagine that those games would have sold so well in these territories without some widespread unofficial access to the first game.
Posted: 07/25/16, 05:12:37
@Koovaps Their computer of course. Do you think poor people never have computers!?

I never said anything about "allowed" though, and it's not in my power to allow or disallow poor people from pirating games anyway. I just said I won't make a big deal out of it. It's a relatively victimless "crime".
Posted: 07/25/16, 05:43:51
I think I'll agree with some of you in that there are some gray areas that I think can be argued, such as things that are extremely hard to come by and/or credit the creators for. For instance, I did originally play the US version of Mother on an emulator since there was literally ONE translated copy in the world. Naturally when it came to Wii U I bought it (and really enjoyed it at that).

Game preservation is a nice concept, but...I mean, let's be honest, no one's emulating at home for that specific historic purpose.

I do think that Koovaps' argument does happen, though. I see it as less slippery slope and more cause-and-effect, the main difference being that the former is less logical/rational than the latter. But I know several people that emulated one or two things and then it just grew out of hand to the point where they'd pirate new games all the time. I try not to be too preachy about it, but as a game developer myself I gotta say that it still bugs me. And it also bugs me hearing the excuse: "If I like it enough, I'd buy it," which is a totally arbitrary rule that applies to absolutely nothing else consumable. Imagine applying that mindset to, say, swiping apples from the grocery store and eating them but not really enjoying them that much.
Posted: 07/25/16, 06:15:36  - Edited by 
 on: 07/25/16, 06:16:10

Hmm, that's an interesting and specific example. I can't say it really changes anything, though. While it's probably preferable to play 999 first, it's hardly essential. And if you choose to skip the two recent games due to the unavailability of the first game, then yes, it's unfortunate for the creators, but also reflects a calculated risk by the publisher that they're leaving possible sales on the table by not having released the first game.


Haha, of course they have computers! But that's also kind of my point. Poor is as relative as everything else. I imagine there are poor people that dream of the luxury of a computer. Beyond that, we all live within certain budgets. Once we hit that limit, do we stop buying games, or just consider ourselves poor and download whatever else we want? It's mostly the mentality behind taking what you want because you think you deserve it, for whatever reason, that bothers me.
Posted: 07/25/16, 06:37:36

In my school's game design program, when we're studying certain games that might be hard to obtain on a short notice (Tenchu: Stealth Assassins comes to mind as one--owning a PS1 wasn't a prerequisite for taking the class, obviously), the professors all but recommend emulating them.
Posted: 07/25/16, 09:23:18
I used to be staunchly against emulating games one doesn't own in any circumstances, but I've softened my stance in recent years. I think the Retronauts podcast convinced me that the future of game preservation is emulation. We can't rely on the rights holders to preserve their works and make them available on new hardware regularly: they only will do so if there's money to be made. And you can't expect everyone with an interest to check out classic games to find, purchase and maintain the necessary equipment.

That said, it's pretty rare I'll play roms myself. I'm usually busy with newer games or games I've purchased. And I'll purchase re-releases, remasters and VC games when available. But I didn't feel too guilty checking out a rom of Blaster Master 2 on Genesis, after purchasing 3 versions of the original on VC (GBC and NES versions on 3DS, NES version on Wii), plus the Wiiware game.

If anyone's interested and has an hour to spare, Frank Cifaldi is in the business of remastering old games for new hardware (works at Digital Eclipse, who made Mega Man Legacy Collection). He talks about the challenges of preserving old games and making them available, compared to, say, movies.

Posted: 07/25/16, 17:48:10  - Edited by 
 on: 07/25/16, 17:51:41
@Koovaps Poor isn't really *that* relative. There is a reason we have a government-defined poverty rate.

Again, this isn't about me saying this is "right", but me saying that if some poor kid living in a trailer somewhere with an absent father and a drugged out mom who can barely put food on the table says they wanted to try out Undertale because all of their friends at school were talking about it so they pirated it on a free shitty old hand-me-down laptop they got from a rich relative who barely speaks to their family and only gave it to them out of pity, I'm not going to call them a bad person.
Posted: 07/25/16, 17:55:53  - Edited by 
 on: 07/25/16, 17:57:30

On the topic of looking at pirates with a little more empathy, this article also contributed to softening my stance on piracy.
Posted: 07/25/16, 18:09:03
Browse    1  2  3  4