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Game companies do not want us preserving their abandoned online titles

By Cal Jeffrey ยท 14 replies
Feb 20, 2018
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  1. Back in December, we reported that the US Copyright Office was considering a proposal that would allow museums, libraries and archives to preserve abandoned online games like City of Heroes and EverQuest. The exemption put forth by The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (The MADE) and other enthusiasts would allow preservationists to circumvent DRM and run the games on their own servers.

    This week, members of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) including Electronic Arts, Nintendo, Ubisoft and others have stepped up to oppose the exemption. The ESA, which is the organization responsible for E3, cites that the proposal would violate Section 107 of the DMCA.

    Section 107 involves the consideration of the “fair use” of copyrighted work. Among the factors considered is whether the copyrighted material is being used commercially. The ESA argues that since The MADE charges a $10 admission fee and allows visitors to play the games, it is using intellectual property in a commercial manner.

    “Under the authority summarized above, public performance and display of copyrighted works to generate entrance fee revenue is a commercial use, even if undertaken by a nonprofit museum,” said the ESA.

    "The proponents characterize these as ‘slight modifications’ to the existing exemption. However, they are nothing of the sort."

    The argument is all well and good but it does not address the underlying problem, which is that older online games are being lost since they are not preserved by the copyright holders. These games have been abandoned by the producers due to costs in maintaining servers versus revenue generated. It falls within the same scope as the previous provisions made which allows museums and archives like the Internet Archive to use emulators to preserve old single-player games.

    The game companies postulate that such preservation is not “necessary” with the resurgence in “retro gaming.”

    “The ESA also stresses that their members already make efforts to revive older games themselves,” reports TorrentFreak. “There is a vibrant and growing market for 'retro' games, which games companies are motivated to serve.”

    This argument feels weak when, for example, you consider that Doom 2016 is nothing like Doom 1993.

    The ESA also argues that the exemption could be exploited so that the games being archived would compete with current offerings of the copyright holders. This, too, is a stretch of the imagination considering the emulated version of Doom on the Internet Archive had zero impact on the sales of Doom 2016.

    It will be interesting to see whose side the Copyright Office takes. I’m betting that their decision will go along similar lines as their 2003 ruling, allowing non-online games to be preserved.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Vrmithrax

    Vrmithrax TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,404   +361

    I can see why the game companies are fighting this, and it all boils down to revenue - they don't want old games they have abandoned to compete with their new content for potential customers and/or subscribers. That can be a problem when a game continues to have a fan base long after abandonment, and it's a game that is arguably better (or more unique) than anything those same game companies are able to offer now. For me, a game like City of Heroes/Villains is more interesting (still) than other games or MMORPG titles out there now, and I miss that game!

    Fact is, the game companies already squeezed every penny out of the games and then just abandoned them to sit on a shelf, so they've gotten their profits out of the titles. They have weighed the options, found that maintenance costs outweigh customer revenue, and decided throwing the game away is better than continuing to host. But, they don't want anyone else to have their trash, so they are throwing it out back in the shed and locking the doors. It's not quite a "sour grapes" situation, but close... More like "I'm tired so I'm taking my ball and going home, so nobody else can play with it any more" maybe.

    Why not allow the games to continue on in some way? Selling the rights to particular retired IP at a reasonable rate to allow others to bring those nostalgic titles back to life, perhaps? Even just getting a tiny royalty from any situation where their IP or code is being used and charged for... Unless the company is actively pursuing new material in that same IP, or has actual plans to use it in the future, that is - this would be a situation where it makes sense for the game company to hold on to the rights.
    EClyde, Burty117, Jamlad and 2 others like this.
  3. amghwk

    amghwk TS Maniac Posts: 362   +204

    In these days of old games not being sold anymore, and yet, publishers or IP holders are not willing to republish them, or allow fans to even do a spiritual successor, and won't allow anyone else to re-publish, I can only see Abandonware sites preserving it.

    The so called stealing a car analogy many abandonware opponents argue are pure BS. They are arguing this while the original developers have no qualms for free distribution, but only those mega corporate publishers, a perfect example being EA, that are slowly killing great games and companies.

    Without Abandonware sites, many classics (which are pioneering, innovative and more fun than current excuse for games) would have been lost.

    These mega corporates won't republish, but yet, ironically they whine when they say millions of dollars are "lost" by distributing these abandonware games.
    psycros likes this.
  4. treetops

    treetops TS Evangelist Posts: 2,261   +361

    Games like super mario 1 can be bought in the wii u store, however unless it's a semi popular nintendo based game, good luck finding it legally.
    psycros likes this.
  5. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,975   +1,323

    "The MADE charges a $10 admission fee and allows visitors to play the games, it is using intellectual property in a commercial manner."

    Easy solution - give a cut of that $10 to the original developers. It's all about the money, not the intent.
  6. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,327   +1,947

    YES, and not a single dime to the publishers who have NO claim to it. I'm amazed there isn't a paid-for online emulator that passes a small bit of their profits back to the original game designers. This seems like something that GoG would be all over if they had the talent to spare. (Right now they can barely get updates posted in a timely manner.) People WILL pay a small fee for simplicity and convenience. Having a totally clear conscience is just gravy. Another thing that I think we really need to see more of are remasters of legendary 90's and 2000's games..as long as their true to the original experience. Quality-of-life changes are great as long as they don't bring fundamental changes. However, if all they do is modernize the graphics a little and and cram a pay-to-win mechanic in there, well, that's akin to desecrating a grave.
  7. richcz3

    richcz3 TS Enthusiast Posts: 28   +11

    The ESA reasoning is so weak and they know it. It's a sign of the extreme insecurity of modern publishers pushing out 3rd, 4th, heck 6th generation franchise titles. The idea that visually dated, old game might actually be fun and somehow take mind share (or dollars) away from modern iterations of the same titles. Just sad.
  8. HonestTony

    HonestTony TS Rookie Posts: 16

    City of Heroes was and still is my all time favorite for any MMO game I played. I got so crazy with this game. I spent the years this game existed and made 55 level 50 toons! I got my daughter involved at the age of 14 and she made 1 level 50 in 1 year. She is now 20 and a honor student at UC Davis! Of course now she only looks back at this game when she was a kid. But I told her but this game kept us having fun playing as a team. I really miss COH and wish this game would come back. I would even generously contribute for this game to come back for public play!
    BabyFaceLee likes this.
  9. Catweazle

    Catweazle TS Enthusiast Posts: 48   +36

    Abandoned doesn't mean free. We don't really have a right to preserve someone else's property.
    EClyde likes this.
  10. roberthi

    roberthi TS Addict Posts: 326   +83

    I would think that the $10 goes to maintenance and cost of running the server or providing the service. That's different from earning $10 as profit. Those companies can feel free to provide the service themselves, but either choose not to or find it not profitable. At the point at which these games become no longer serviceable by the companies and at which point they can be considered public domain, then I don't see why this can't be made to happen at a cost that offsets the cost of exposing this to the public. It's really no different from museums charging for the public to go see art or for the cost of running a library.
  11. roberthi

    roberthi TS Addict Posts: 326   +83

    I hear you, but it's no different from a commercially made book or artwork. At some point a statue of limitation is passed and, therefore, this shouldn't be lost. It's also considered a history of how we got to where we are in the game industry and other areas of tech and culturalism. It also might lend answers to future problems we may face that may also have spawned from what used to exist for us.
  12. roberthi

    roberthi TS Addict Posts: 326   +83

    Sounds reasonable, until you realize this is a slippery road to go down. At which point do you then say, well libraries and museums should give a cut to all the authors and artists out there that charge admission or require money to operate?
  13. Bubbajim

    Bubbajim TS Evangelist Posts: 505   +484

    This year's Call of Duty will be the 15th in the series, there are 25 FIFA and 19 Madden games, and the 25th Need for Speed game should arrive this year.

    Now that's what I call originality!
  14. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,939   +3,311

    I think the publisher or artist of any medium should be required to surrender the rights to anyt artwork, they are unwilling to continue to make it available

    That's just my reaction to the prices I see on Amazon for out of print CDs & DVDs. As soon as something is out of print, the scalpers and thieves set in.

    It's something would be easily solved, by selling out of retail circulation art, directly from the artist's web site.

    In other words, you don't have to print 100,00 copies, just keep a few laying around.
  15. Chrisworld

    Chrisworld TS Rookie

    The argument that supporting abandoned games hurts their potential sales on a new product is a strong one, I don't see anything wrong with that at all. But also killing off an old game, dumbing down your new ones (or not making new ones and focusing on existing ones while destroying them in the process and offering ******* explanations about why they shut the old game down "keeping it up with no one online and letting bugs go un-patched was a disservice to remaining players") really leaves a sour taste in my mouth and makes me a rage, and a permanent boycotter of their services and new products. I cannot justify further supporting a company that will do the same thing while I'm enjoying the next game 10 years or less down the line. Vanguard SOH didn't even make it to 10 years. (2006-2014) And that's the game I was referring to in my response a few lines up. They LITERALLY told everyone that shutting down was the best option because (and don't take this quote for quote but it's damn close) "there are unpatched bugs and no one to play with, so the remaining players are not enjoying the game so we will shut it down to stop the disservice to our 'loyal' players". Yeah.. what a noble thing to do. Remind me when I'm suffering from some sort of open wound that needs stitches to stay away from those guys, they would rather kill something that needs to be patched up than keep something alive.

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