Owners Agree to $12m USD Judgement in Nintendo’s Favor

That’s roughly 10.6m Euro.

This case has actually had a noticeable impact for me. While I never used the sites owned and operated by the couple in question, a lot of other sites either shut down or removed their downloads to avoid being next. It’s still not exactly hard to get ROMs, but it’s disrupted the marketplace, so to speak.

There are, of course, a lot of caveats to this kind of thing. It’s possible that both parties agreed to a much lower amount behind closed doors and this is just a big PR move to discourage others from doing the same thing. That’s actually been known to happen, we simply don’t know in this particular case.

What is obvious though is the rather chilling effect this has on emulation as a whole. At the very least makes it look somewhat risky. It’s currently aimed at large distributors of the ROM files themselves at the moment, and I’m not familiar enough with this case to know if they were copying them directly from the cartridges themselves or simply redistributing what was already available online.

It’s really not a nice move on Nintendo’s part, but worth pointing out that this sort of really tight control is fairly normal for them, especially where NES games are concerned. They even went so far as to sue Blockbuster Video in the 80s to stop game rentals. They only managed to stop them for including the original manual with the rental. So powerful and draconian was their control that they were in turn the defendant in an anti-trust suit brought forward by Atari and Sega. A case which Nintendo lost, though their penalty was the distribution of $25m USD worth of $5 coupons.

What I would rather see Nintendo do is make the entire library of these consoles available on their own sort of virtual console. If they’re going to remove the product from the market the least they could do is allow us a more legitimate way to obtain it. Of course there are many problems with that as well. I doubt Nintendo has the right to redistribute, say, Final Fantasy 6 or Chrono Trigger on virtual console. Squenix at the very least holds the rights enough to distribute them when and where they please.

Of course Nintendo deals heavily in retro themed and oriented products these days. Most consoles they’ve made in the last decade have some manner of virtual console and the NES/SNES Classic products also exist. There’s certainly a business oriented reason to discourage this. There’s nothing to stop me from buying an entire skid of Raspberry Pi boards and SD Cards loaded with emulators and ROMs and selling my own little retro box. Y’know, nothing other than things like multi-million dollar lawsuits.

What bothers me is the idea of these games being lost to history. ROM dumps allow us to perpetuate other peoples creations beyond the physical limitations of the original format. In a way it feels like I’m watching a book publisher go around shutting down libraries. That’s a poor analogy in several ways, but that’s what it feels like.

Thanks for reading, y’all take care.

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