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Nintendo Makes It Clear That Piracy Is Only Way to Preserve Video Game History (vice.com)
208 points by ingve 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 65 comments



I basically already had this happen on my end years ago. I worked as a designer/producer on two games developed and published to WiiWare: Evasive Space and NEVES Plus.

But our publishing company went under, and Nintendo took the games down several years ago. I still have them on my hard drive on my Wii, and I hunted down copies of the files so I could keep them in my collection, but there's no way for anyone else to get those games legally anymore. And they were pretty decent games, too (Evasive Space was probably too hard in retrospect, but still fun. NEVES was a solid puzzle game with lots of modes and a Patapon-ish character art).

It sucks. I wish I could tell friends and family to check the games out, but about the only thing I can do now is link to Youtube videos.

If I had the rights, plenty of cash, and the licenses, I would have ported these for other platforms, but instead they're just trapped in time (except for emulators), and I'm sure already pretty much forgotten. but at least there's emulators.

NEVES Plus Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQb19p09Y7Q Evasive Space Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhpKxYtuuug

There's other games I worked on for companies that are no longer easy to get either, these are just the two that were on the Wii.


About the only thing you can do is keep a copy of them, keep the copies updated and backed up, then wait 20-30 years, and assuming anyone is still using the hardware, let them out then.

Likely, any principals or others with any interest about the game probably won't remember or won't care - heck, they might even be happy.

It has happened with a lot of 8-bit stuff from the 80s (mostly home computer software); with the exception of Nintendo of course. The Disney of games I guess.

Ultimately, you have to wait and hope such companies pass away - though as we both know, Nintendo is a very old company, so that might not be an option.

At that point, I'd just wrap up your archive, then figure out a way to put it on the internet with plausible deniability and/or anonymity (it can be done).


I don't have the code to these, at least. I wish I did. I worked for the publishing company, and we never got the actual code, just the builds. I think I still have a few older builds around somewhere, though.

I still have a copy of the code for a game for another defunct startup, and every once in awhile I get the urge to try to contact someone and see if they don't mind me porting it (I don't see how they could, they barely cared about the game even back then). I have tons of other projects that are higher priority, though. Still pains me that that one isn't still available for people to play, though.

Honestly, I wish all of these things that I put so much of my life could still be playable. Basically my entire professional career in the game industry is a black hole, whereas the games I made and released on my own 6 years previous to that are still playable online, and I'm currently working porting and updating a game I made and released on the Xbox 360. Trying to get that out in time for its 10th year anniversary next year.

Part of the reason why I started getting into board game design is because once they're made, they're out there, and people can play them, they can't be taken down by a company or become obsolete due to dying platforms, and if I ever want to show them to new people, I can just bring them to a party. And I can always put a print and play copy up that people can mess about with.


You might consider getting in touch with Jason Scott at the Internet Archive (@textfiles both here and on Twitter), and shipping him a hard drive to put the files you mention into cold storage (where they’re archived, but not accessible).

The Internet Archive has an emulator to enable the playback of orphaned video games in browser.


That's good to know. I actually have some other things that are possibly rare and/or unique that he might be interested in too, that I wasn't sure what to do with, but didn't want them to just sit in my basement until they stop working. They're on flash cards for consoles though, not hard drives.


I have no doubt Jason can facilitate the extraction from whatever media you have.


Nintendo is one of the worst game companies when it comes to dealing with online / their fans. The YouTube / Twitch streaming controversy was just ridiculous... They will also aggressively chase down people who run sites that preserve old games that aren't even produced anymore even if they don't intend to allow people any access to them in the future.

As far as they're concerned people shouldn't be allowed access to these historic works, no matter the circumstances.

It's pretty sad behavior from a company beloved by so many.

By the way, I also find it really interesting that video games are software, a special kind of software that we assign a very particular type of value to that's not really monetary. We want to keep them alive and enjoy them so long after their time has passed. It's so much different than, say, a copy of Photoshop 2.11 or Winamp 3.


>By the way, I also find it really interesting that video games are software, a special kind of software that we assign a very particular type of value to that's not really monetary. We want to keep them alive and enjoy them so long after their time has passed. It's so much different than, say, a copy of Photoshop 2.11 or Winamp 3.

Creative works are valued longer because new creative works don't function as replacements. There's only one Canterbury Tales or Super Mario World.

An old photoshop copy is more like an old almanac, it is a tool.


> An old photoshop copy is more like an old almanac, it is a tool.

Sometimes, though, the old tool is better than a new one.

For instance, if I have a choice between a Craftsman wrench from say, 1970, vs a brand new one from today - guess which one I'm going to choose?

Software can be like this as well; indeed, there are some DOS apps out there for which there isn't a good replacement available (though they can be niche - which is probably why).


There's a lot of software that used 20MB at the most in the XP days, but doesn't run on windows 10 or is missing some random new 2010+ era feature and just needs a patch, but now the only modern version of this software is a minimum-viable-product SaaS monthly subscription.


>By the way, I also find it really interesting that video games are software, a special kind of software that we assign a very particular type of value to that's not really monetary.

Video games may be software, but they're consumed in a way that's much more similar to music or video. Video games aren't a mean to an end like other kinds of software, but instead is an experience to be enjoyed simply through the consumption of it.


We treat the copyright on print material in the same way. The laws are the same for a technical reference for an exotic piece of hardware as they are for the latest Dan Brown novel. In reality they aren't related at all except for the fact that they are a collection of words put together. They may not even be on the same media (one may be a PDF and the other a chunk of dead tree with ink stains).


> It's so much different than, say, a copy of Photoshop 2.11 or Winamp 3.

I do not think that this is the case, many abandonware sites had (non-game) "software" sections ever since they first came up and today there are communities that are dedicated on preserving old applications in their original state often with manuals and photographs of the original disks. Games are way more popular, of course, but people do value old applications too.


> It's so much different than, say, ... Winamp 3.

Have to disagree on this one. Classic software I wish modern media players were as good. Nice thing is you can still get it! [0]

[0] https://getwacup.com


That's so awesome to see. I used to go and look at the winamp forums every now and then to see if they actually ended up doing something with it or not, it's good to see that the community's taken it into their own hands!

What I meant with that is, people will more likely to go and look for the old version of a Prince of Persia game than an older, specific version of an application.


> What I meant with that is, ...

I know that, yeah, but what I meant was just that Winamp 3 isn't a great example :-)


I kinda wish I could run a copy of Winamp 3 on my *nix box at home - but that ain't gonna happen...

/well - maybe with wine


Winamp3? Wasn't that the one everyone hated? They did release an Alpha for Linux[1]. If you were talking about Winamp 2, have you tried xmms?

[1] https://fileforum.betanews.com/detail/Winamp-for-Linux/97273...


This is why I'm not a fan of Steam-type stores... they'll eventually be gone, and the games I've paid for won't be accessible.

Occasionally I love going back through my old CD-Rs (copied to hard drive, of course), finding old troves of files, projects, and games. That's why I always get the latest Factorio as direct download - I know someday in 20 years time I'll be hankering to bust that out again!


Not only that, but Steam games get fucked with after release, so you can't even necessarily get the original game if Steam is still operating.

https://www.pcgamer.com/au/grand-theft-auto-san-andreas-stea...

(songs removed from San Andreas due to time-limited music licenses, apparently at some point the renderer was replaced with the one used for iOS)

I think you can't downgrade to an old version of Stranger's Wrath either, but I could be wrong there. https://www.destructoid.com/oddworld-stranger-s-wrath-finall...

Then there are games like Diablo III where you need to be online to play single player, and therefore need a current patch, which means they can nerf or fuck with in any way they want a game you already liked and may no longer like after the changes.

Having to follow patches sucks, and piracy is often the only way to avoid it.


WoW is a pretty good example of this too. Patches and expansions changed so much over the years that many players feel like it isn’t the same game anymore. Blizzard fought against private servers running the classic game for years, until the pay finally decided to make official classic servers. (But if your favorite iteration of the game was something between classic and current, you’re still out of luck.)


Sounds like RuneScape too.

They even killed the official classic version not too long ago.


San Andreas version history is particularly convoluted and messy, as you can read here: https://gtamods.com/wiki/San_Andreas_Versions

Short version: 1.0: Various bugs 1.01: Patch, fixed a whole bunch of issues 2.0: Only introduced a (easily defeated) tampering check after the Hot Coffee controversy 3.0: First steam release, is not based at all on 1.01 or 2.0 but on the Xbox version. Fixes from 1.01 are thus NOT IN THIS VERSION(!). Also contains many Xbox UI changes. newsteam r1: Removes the aforementioned songs, drops support for DirectInput controllers, blacklists 5:4 resolutions. Doesn't actually have a version number anymore (and is named by the community) newsteam r2: Unlocks 16:9 resolutions. Also doesn't contain an official version number.

Then there is the Microsoft Store version, which is based on a mobile version!


Happened with GTA 4 this last year too: https://www.polygon.com/2018/4/27/17292836/gta-4-soundtrack-...


There was a game for iOS by Squaresoft called Chaos Rings that was quite good. It felt very nostalgic in it's design, reminding me of SNES/PS1 era role playing games.

It's no longer in the Apple Store (along with Chaos Rings II) even though I paid $15 for each. Not cool.


Something similar happened to Sega's Shining Force for iOS. I paid $1.99 for it around 2013 or 2014 and it was great. Shining Force is one of my favorite games for the Sega Genesis and it's perfect for on the go mobile since it's a turn based strategy game. I hadn't played it in a couple of years and got an itch about a month ago so I loaded it up with much anticipation. Turns out sometime last year (or late 2017?) Sega had updated it to include ads and in the process wiped all saved games for all users. Now there is a premium upgrade to remove ads which, from what I can gather from the reviews, doesn't actually remove all of the ads, just some of them. Oh and you can't play without an Internet connection now since all save games are stored off device on Sega's servers. I don't ever leave reviews for apps, but I was so angry I had to vent somewhere. This kind of shit is absolutely unacceptable garbage and everyone involved in the process that led up to it happening should be ashamed. At least I'm not out $30 though. Yikes.


Same thing happpened with Streets of Rage And Columns. I won't buy any Sega game anymore.


Steam is only a distributor and package-manager/launcher. It's up to the selling company whether the game will have DRM-mechanisms. As I read, half of the fames are already DRM-free, not sure whether it's really true. There is also GOG which is a store dedicated to selling only DRM-free games.

Sadly, they have their own package-manager/launcher too. Same goes for blizzard, twitch, EA, epic games... Sometimes I wonder ifvthe world wiuldn't better with sone kibd of centralized digital-content-managment platform, and all those stores and launchers just tap into it.


> This is why I'm not a fan of Steam-type stores

A lot of games are multi-player. Even if the software existed, once the community dies it's not the same game. It's fine, nothing lasts forever. We use it, we enjoy it, and we move on to the next thing that's enjoyable. You can't go home again, but you can always find a new home.


A huge amount of games - most, even - are not multiplayer. It’s only within the current AAA environment that multiplayer is placed as a primary feature of many games, but even there there’s plenty of options for single-player experiences.

And in any case, there’s still dozens of communities around old arena shooters and the like. If those had an arbitrary lifespan applied to them based on when some company or other shut down, that’d be impossible.


I have "X-COM: Terror from the Deep" on Steam. The game came out in 1996.

And every so often, it'll popup and ask, "What is the icon on page 37 of the manual?" It's a cute throwback to what copy protection used to be.

But it's a bit obscene that they didn't run the crack to take out the copy protection checks once they ported it over to Steam. Once the window pops up, the game is unplayable until you type in the right code.

I was furious my first time through. I spent all night reliving nostalgic fantasies, only to get pretty far in and hit that wall. And, because I left the game on when I went to bed on Friday, it looked like I had played it for like 48 hours, so by the time I got around to filing a complaint with Steam to get a refund, they were like, "You've clearly been playing the game for 48+ hours..." Frustrating. The person on the other end of the phone thought I was a babbling idiot when I said the game had copy protection and asked for a copy of the manual. It was one of the funniest moments of tech support I've ever been on.

Luckily, I found a a PDF of the user manual with all the symbols.


Although CD Projekt Red is far from perfect, GOG's version https://www.gog.com/game/xcom_terror_from_the_deep is DRM free and includes the manual. Unsure if the old copy protection has been patched out.

Looks like there's also an engine reimplementation: https://openxcom.org/


> https://openxcom.org/

This is great!

Had no idea this was out there.


Copyright law needs to be amended to remove copyrights from media which is no longer readily available. If a company stops distributing their copyrighted materials, then it is safe to assume that it is no longer economically viable to do so, thus, they aren't losing money if it is put into public domain.


I'd approach this from a different direction. I think the purpose of copyright should be to remunerate creators, not to control their works - controlling the works just happens to be a good way for the creators to get paid. Thus if you're unable to legitimately acquire a work (distribution stopped, or geographically limited), it goes public domain.


I don't disagree, but I don't think this would not work for all copyright. It might work for "personal use" reproduction - books, video games.

I don't think it would work for the 'public performance' part of copyright - composers, playwrights, movie directors.

For example, a lot of contemporary music is not published at all. If you get a score from the composer, you still have to pay royalties when you perform the music publicly.


> I don't disagree, but I don't think this would not work for all copyright.

My head is spinning...


If I am not mistaken, this used to be the case in Germany before EU copyright "harmonization" - if something was not commercially available for two years, then it was legal to make copies for personal noncommercial use.



This feels like the Cobra Effect in action: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobra_effect

"The Walt Disney Company itself states that this process is done to both control their market and to allow Disney films to be fresh for new generations of young children. A side-effect of the moratorium process is the fact that videos and DVDs of Disney films placed on moratorium become collectibles, sold in stores and at auction websites such as eBay for sums in excess of their original suggested retail price. The practice also has made the Disney films a prime target for counterfeit DVD manufacturers."

By making the movies hard to buy, they create an incentive for counterfeiters to sell bootleg versions. Not only does this take revenue away from Disney they could otherwise earn, it also floods the market with fake versions that are most likely lower quality, actually causing a bad experience for new generations instead of the intended effect.


The real question is when are people going to get the message?!

The incentives of commercial online publishers were clear from their very beginning. The pattern of retroactively pulling content began quite some time ago.

I'm sympathetic if someone really doesn't know any better, succumbs to all that advertising pushing them towards $proprietary_service and thinks thats the cool path, only to get ripped off later on.

But anyone familiar with the idea of personal computing has no excuse! Stop investing your mindshare into this proprietary app-poverty. It's mildly easier in the beginning, but you're paying incrementally every time the business invents a new way to fuck.

Meanwhile if you do a slight bit of self-actualization to adopt a personal computing based setup, it's not just going to shift out from under you. Your ROM collection won't just disappear out of the blue one day, nor will your emulator stop working because eg the developer went out of business or insists on pushing a new one with "improved" advertising/surveillance/control and it's incompatible with your usage.


This seems disingenuous when talking about offline games stored on an SD card - when you buy a CD and the CD is destroyed or the store that you bought the CD closes you don’t have an expectation that you will always get new copies of that CD.

With games that are online only, one also expects that wen the service is shut off you won’t have access. This is pretty accepted (but would be nice if there were some way to preserve the server code)

But games that are inherently offline and perform online checks are the worst. If I get something on steam that checks in with steam every 10 minutes, then steam goes away, then I’m pretty miffed.


The thing is that with a CD, you can easily make backups.

With games with DRM stored on SD, who knows? If you copy the files then you'll probably be able to play it on the console... Provided it's the one you bought it on? I wouldn't even bet on it.


By law we now have the ability to set up custom servers using from scratch code to run the games on after the company shuts down their servers.

Check out http://freeinfantry.com/ Some awesome guys set up a custom from-scratch reverse engineered server for my favorite game of all time. You can play this game in pretty much the exact same way I did 20 years ago.


News of the shutdown made me think of this guy:

https://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/a97diy/my_79yo_fath...


> As it stands, even after the store officially closes, Wii users will be able download any past titles they’ve purchased and downloaded from the Wii Shop Channel, provided they can fit them on either the Wii’s internal storage or an additional SD card. However, Nintendo said that in a yet unknown point in the future, the company will close all services relating to the Wii Shop Channel, "including the ability to redownload WiiWare and Virtual Console games, as well as the Wii System Transfer Tool, which transfers data from Wii to the Wii U system."

Seems understandable. At some point you'll hit end of life with software and support will end. I'm sure they'll give plenty of notice, and I'd imagine it's 5-10 years out. I'm sure if you called support and told them that your NES cartridges didn't work any more they'd probably just tell you to blow on it.

* Myth debunked: Blowing in your Nintendo games never actually fixed anything – GeekWire || https://www.geekwire.com/2014/blow-nintendo-games/


Nintendo used to sell Official Nintendo Cleaning Kits specifically in response to blowing on cartridge card edges, to prevent people from damaging their NES carts due to moisture oxidation.

All but the most severely dusty NES carts should work just as well as a clean cart. NES carts failed mainly because of a fault in the NES front loader mechanism.

Me, I had a TI-99/4A before owning a NES. Random hangs and glitches were normal to me. (The TI-99/4A was prone to overheating.)


That and Nintendo installed an incredibly touchy DRM chip that demanded a cleaner signal than was strictly necessary for the game to work.


My favorite thing about the 10NES is how the easiest way to get a Famicom->NES adapter is to open one of the first wave of NES carts, because those were made on Famicom boards and then have an interposer with the 10NES chip on it. [1]

Though in digging up a source for this, I discovered my new favorite thing, which is that Tengen (infamously) made a (mostly) cleanroom duplicate of the 10NES and got sued over it, and when a company recently wanted to make NES cartridges, they reverse engineered Tengen's chip in turn. [2]

[1] - https://www.reddit.com/r/gamecollecting/comments/frpyh/you_m...

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIC_(Nintendo)#Nintendo_Entert...


We say buying digital games but in reality we are renting digital games. Also, a lot of times paying the price of physical games for these rentals.


In particular, this is a way for companies to skirt the law, specifically the Doctrine of First Sale. By never letting consumers actually purchase the product they aren't afforded many of the legal protections that were hard fought for on physical goods.


What we are buying is a right to access the product via the service we are buying it from. Nothing more. And the price we pay for that right is the market value of it.


I bought a good number of games from xbox store but got out of the habit and didn't log in for a few years. Went through the pretty painful process of logging in to my account again recently on a new console, no sign of any purchases and if I tried to download them from store I was prompted to pay for them.


Someone should file a class action lawsuit to sue for refunds on all funds Nintendo received for product they are now rendering worthless.


What blows in particular is that some of those games only found their way stateside via the Wii store. Sin & Punishment comes to mind. You can find ROMs of the original Japanese N64 version online, but I doubt anyone has ROMs of the US/PAL versions for the Wii that had localized menus (the dialogue was already in English).


Given that the Wii Virtual Console games were a bundled emulator and ROM, and you could swap the latter out, I imagine the content is indeed available.


GBATemp users have reported that the game gets localized at runtime[1], rather than a a modified ROM. Kind of ingenuous on Nintendo Redmond's part[2].

One would likely have to use Dolphin to emulate the Wii emulating the game.[3]

[1] https://gbatemp.net/threads/sin-and- punishment.183066/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo_Software_Technology

[3] https://wiki.dolphin-emu.org/index.php?title=Sin_%26_Punishm...


Lord, Nintendo, _why_?

That's like killing a fly with a suitcase nuke.


I can't really speak for the main reason why, but my guess is that it gave Nintendo a level of flexibility with localizing the game without having to set up a Nintendo 64 development environment.


There are private trackers that carry this sort of material[1].

[1] https://imgur.com/CO4nt7y


I'm pretty sure I know which tracker that is - I'm not sure private hoarding of these games is the solution.

Information wants to be free!


In all seriousness, that tracker is not the only tracker that has the data. There are many public trackers carrying all of the eShop games for the Wii, and these full sets have the game. All of these dumps cataloged in the No-Intro DAT collections, so you can verify that you have a set of known good dumps.


Sweet, what's your credit card number, expiration date, name on the front, and three digits on the back?


4242424242424242, 12/2021, John Q Citizen, 123.


I would have thought it obvious that if need an online service to access something, then you are eventually going lose access to that something when the service inevitably closes down.

Also in the context of ROMs (and other pre-internet games) I do contest the general thesis that piracy is the only road for preservation. You don't need to distribute ROMs to the public to preserve them. Put them in a museum if you want and they could be preserved perfectly fine without needing to resort to piratism.




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