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Emulation Is Nintendo Erasing Its Own History In Its War On ROM Sites?



Staff member

Nintendo is famously hard on ROM-sharing sites. In the past few years it has taken legal action against a wide range of sites, including LoveROMs, Rom Universe and – most recently of all – Vimm's Lair.

However, could this heavy-handed action be putting video game preservation at risk? That's certainly what Modern Vintage Gamer thinks, as he's published a new video that examines why Nintendo's action could end up erasing its history.

"The recent DMCA takedown notice from the ESA on popular ROM-sharing site VIMMS Lair is another blow to the preservation community," says MVG in the video's description.

"Nintendo believes ROM sites are [a] haven for illegal activity, copyright infringement, and piracy and they have a history of taking down sites in the past, including LoveROMs, Rom Universe and more. Can Nintendo be trusted to do it themselves? The Nintendo Switch Online (NSO) service is a fraction of the size of the Virtual Console and its unlikely it will ever exceed it. It's my view that Nintendo is effectively erasing their own history as more games are lost to time. In today's episode, we take a closer look at why I believe the only true preservation in the video game industry is ROMs."

This might seem slightly melodramatic, but let's not forget that Nintendo itself was once accused of downloading a ROM online and selling it back to consumers via the Wii Virtual Console. While that particular story seems to have been an isolated case, it illustrates a very good point – if ROM-sharing sites are the only place these games are being preserved, what happens when they vanish?

As MVG points out, Nintendo – and any IP holder – is perfectly within its rights to try and prevent its games being downloaded for free online. In Nintendo's case, there's a more pressing need as the company has made efforts to ensure its classic titles remain in active, legal circulation, either via special hardware (like the NES Classic) or via a subscription service (like Nintendo Switch Online).

However, many ROM sites host games which are now no longer available for sale, due to the closing of the original publisher or the expiration of licencing deals. There's also the matter of prototype and fan-translated ROMs – vital gateways to a world of gaming that would be totally lost were it not for the sites offering them for download.

Nintendo is clearly in the right legally here; it still generates revenue from its older games and ROM-sharing sites have no legal right to offer them for download. However, the flipside here is that there's no real appitite in the industry to make sure all of gaming's history is properly preserved and accessible – so, like MVG says, "the only true preservation in the video game industry is ROMS."

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