Abandonwarez: the pros outweigh the cons

Posted by Jeremiah Kauffman.
First posted on 24 July 2000. Last updated on 10 September 2013.
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When a person creates something, whether that creation is a building, a novel, a poem, a song, or a film, that person is doing so for 2 reasons. First, that person is satisfying a personal desire to create. It is not possible to point out exactly what it is that drives creation, but if you ask someone who creates the answer you probably receive is that it is somewhat like an itch that demands to…

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Great article! I hope the video game industry does not forget about these gems of our youth. Let hope we all get back to a time where it didn't matter if the character on the screen had 6 million colors or 16! The point was creativity, adventure, and imagination... Is it possible our society has brainwashed these things out of people?! To quote the indomitable Snake Plissken "Welcome to the human race."

Peace out!

United States By Matthew • On 13 April 2010 • From Pittsburgh, PA


As things stand at the moment, people who want to play old games from the '80s or '90s are left with two options: they can buy second-hand (often at a ridiculous price and with no guarantee that it'll actually work) or they can download from an abandonware archive. In neither case does the publisher get any money. I don't think we can draw the comparison with piracy of current games because many if not most gamers who want to play a classic game would be more than willing to pay the publisher for the right to obtain the game legally, whether from an official download site or a budget re-release. (And while there are a lot of the latter, especially for PC games, there are comparatively few big-name classics from pre-2000 in the range.) The publishers are missing out, and this isn't the fault of people who use abandonware sites.

Ireland By szaleniec • On 04 May 2009 • From Poznan, Poland

Wherever there is demand, there is opportunity. Yes, I understand the argument and the rationale behind the copyright rules. The creator ought to receive some compensation for their work. However, why would a creator want to see their work go to waste? Part of the problem is that the current software companies do not understand the new distribution system. It isn't necessary (or wanted) to keep the paper copies of the digital game.

I still haven't understood why software companies do not take over the distribution of these games themselves. If the stores are not willing to carry them because of the low demand, why not offer direct download from their websites, of a list of all titles provided by them? The idea with having advertising is that it would defray the download costs, as well as allowing folks to download the copies of the games legally.

The software companies are missing a big opportunity to retain the value for the software they have contracted. As it is right now, by not publishing them, they are receiving 0 value for their previous investment. By taking over the whole distribution system, they can provide the games for a very low cost to them, but enough so that they will make some profit.

Until then, I cannot see any solution to the problem other then the abandonware sites. All of us have had games that have worn out, gotten lost, etc, and this way there are backups that exist for games that are no longer sold or carried.

Abandonware sites provide an interesting answer to the question as to the intrinsic demand for older games. Companies could have direct to download "release dates" that would take much of the wind out of the piracy sales. The people who want to have access to the games now would purchase it in the stores, while those who are willing to wait, could get it through a download.

Canada By BenKenobi18 • On 07 January 2009 • From Vancouver, BC

Very Good

I recently purchased a revised version of the space quest series. It said on the back it was able to run on XP. It did not work on my XP system. I think the problem with old games is that there is no gold standard for the operating system that they are meant to run on, and that if game creators and operating system creators had dialog or at least an agreement to keep some parts of the operating system static (like DOS or like an emulator does) then perhaps games could be sold for longer as they would not go out of date. If I am prepared to spend ages trying to get an old game to play on my new system even if the graphics and sound aint all that then I am sure plenty of other would not mind playing a less glossy game on their modern operating system too. Maybe then they would be sold on the shelves for longer (or for digital download, for money?)

Great Britain (UK) By vh1967 • On 06 January 2008 • From London, UK

I belive strongly and am going to die for it that digital media in general should be preserved by law.

After a few years of production 2-4yrs frame plus however the company wishes to do it or the governemt will put it in a public archive of somesort. Then the new stuff will still be getting money while the old stuff won't be forgotten and played buy a different group.

United States By Heatblizzard • On 03 January 2008 • From Somewhere


I am going to double post into two parts since I have bad grammer after a couple sentences due to mechanaial problem with my hands. You stole the words right out of my mouth Solitary. If these old games aren't preserve they are going to wind up on the dusty old shelve like in Toy story 2 where Andy said "I don't want to play with out anymore" and in the garbage he goes. If you haven't seen the story I am not going to spoil it just rent/buy it.

United States By Heatblizzard • On 03 January 2008 • From Somewhere

Adventure games constitute a special genre within what we now refer to as abandonwares. As opposed to effects/appearance-driven action games, which are indeed dated by today's standards and will probably not appeal to the younger generations; adventure games such as Broken Sword - Shadow of the Templars, or Gabriel Knight I, are the PC-equivalent of a literary work. A novel, a story with the player in the lead role: a game, but nonetheless an experience comparable to reading a book. There is nothing that could be added to the sound or visuals of these games - they are timeless (my little brother Aron played Broken Sword I a year ago and was as enchanted by the atmosphere as I was a decade earlier). Add 3D graphics and what you get is indeed a diminishment (as was the case with the above mentioned Broken Sword series).
Another fond memory of my childhood was SSI's Panzer General. No need to add anything to it, until this day it stands its ground as a game that's hugely absorbing, easy to learn and easy to share - it can be played by two on the same PC, a feature I sorely miss from today's commodified 'virtual entertainment'.
Abandonware collecitons on the internet recently awoke my inner child again and occasionally, in our free moments, we like to rediscover old games with my partner, that she and I used to play when we were kids - indeed, the same games, though she grew up in Borneo, and I in Hungary, thousands of miles apart...

Europe By Adam Gerencser • On 11 March 2007 • From Hungary


The way I look at it is like this:
I have a clear conscience about downloading 'abandonware' titles, but only if it is a game that I have paid for in the past. For example, between the time I was 9 years old and 15 years old, I physically purchased, at full price, practically all of the Sierra adventure library.
So just because I've had to get new machines that don't offer the medium (ie, 5.25 disks, 3.5 disks) of the originals it means that I have to pay the same price again for the same game I bought 15 years ago?

On the flip side of the coin, if you haven't in some form purchased the titles for yourself at some point, whether it be by the orignal releases or the cd-bundle packages, then yes, I believe it is stealing. You can't really make this argument very well on behalf of Sierra because they have done a pretty good job of keeping their older titles on the market, but alot of other companies probably don't even have the original source code to their older games anymore and I'm sure as hell willing to be they don't have any distribution deals for them either. Yet they still want to say that you can't trade that software over the internet? That's wrong.
These companies need to s**t or get off the pot and by that I mean either re-release the games to the modern market or just give them away as freeware.
Companies should set up sites loaded with advertisements where you can download their classic games for free. They'll be making plenty off the ads, people will be playing their games and learning their history, and the gamers can have their fun with a clean conscience.

United States By Rich • On 04 March 2007 • From Boston, USA

Very Good

Some people consider it stealing, I see it as something to remember the "roots" of video games. From Pong and SMB to Halo and Gears of War, all these games have their roots to the past.
About downloading emulators, personally, its a good idea considering all the Nes and Snes have stop being produced to american and international consumers. It is called fair use laws. In short, as long as its not used for profit, its okay. Duh, I don't advocate using stolen copyrighted work, but this is downloading an emulator and the roms, therefore it is okay under the fair use rule. the thing is, you can't abuse the laws otherwise the FBI and others will bust you for theft, plagarism and others. This is I think the only legal way to remember the "roots" of video gaming is by using the emulators that people offer on the Internet. Plus you save time and money.

United States By Mike • On 17 February 2007 • From Detroit, USA


I'm not that old, honestly. At 25 I consider myself still very much a child, at least in terms of what the world throws at me. How is it then, that with only a few sparse years of experience under my belt, some of the most amazing, compelling, inspiring and mesmerising achievements of the electronic age have had their glorious moments in the sun, then been cast to an eternal condemnation?

Yes, I would actively defend my stance promoting the distribution of games that no longer see the sales register. I, and many people I know, still cling to the experiences older games allowed us to grow up with. For me, it was games like Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, or Monkey Island, games with the heart and soul that made them so fantastically endearing to play. They took themselves so seriously, sweeping my imagination with them. If the companies behind these games cherished them as much as I do, we'd never see these titles cast from view.

Yes, it is a crime to distribute a copyrighted production, and I fully understand the ramifications my actions take. It makes me a criminal to copy and maintain these games without having purchased them. But I believe it to be of a far greater crime to allow these works, which are so key to how many of us grew up and were inspired by, to vanish into oblivion simply because a tight-fisted profiteer has lost interest distributing a treasure-trove of gaming history. Bach, Beethoven, Van Gogh, Shakespeare, Tolkein; All were men who produced something that, to this day, means a fantastic amount to the modern person. All stay well-maintained, even after hundreds of years, promoted, celebrated and prosperous, moreso than they were in the times they were created.

These games were created by dedicated teams of people, and the quality and value of their work should be equally captured in time. Shakespeare's scripts did not vanish into obscurity when his newest play was written and performed, nor was Van Gogh's Sunflowers when newer artists produced astounding work. They remain as cornerstones of their art, a reminder that the classics are quite often, the greatest we have seen. Video games should be no different. We love them like old friends, and to play them again after years of wondering what happened to them is a joy that words fail to properly express.

A copyright says "No excuses, you're a criminal." But place a razor-wire fence between myself and all my dear old friends, you'd better believe I'd end up cut and happy every time.

Here's to the continuation of our older games. If they die, more is lost than code.

New Zealand (Aotearoa) By Tim Hildyard • On 12 February 2007 • From Christchurch, New Zealand
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