It started with a thread in 'Charms regarding people's opinions on Emulation - and someone making a post about how Emulators are illegal and hurting the economy and stuffs. Which instigated this reply from yours truly. Read the thread if anything doesn't makes much sense.
ALRIGHT. First of all - let's separate the sheep from the goats on this matter.
First of all, the emulators themselves are NOT illegal. In fact, they are perfectly legal. They are programs that simulate the inner workings of a console. What makes emulation illegal and allegedly money-stealing is the games themselves - the so-called pure evil (Onoes! Colbert, you missed that
one in your threatdown!) ROMs. As the matter of fact, that's not exactly accurate either - ROM dumping isn't illegal on its own right either - one is allowed to make a backup copy of something they legally own, right? Well, if someone didn't legally own the original carts, they couldn't dump them into ROM form, and therefore ROMs wouldn't exist. What makes them supposedly illegal is their distribution for free online, royalty-free, effectively annihilating any chance that anyone could make money of them. And we all know that if no one can make money off it, it's hurting the precious economy! Onoes! ROMMUNISTS!
But seriously now, folks. Before someone calls Captain Capitalism to charge in to defend Justice and the American way (TM), it should perhaps be reminded that there's somewhat of a loop in regard to so-called 'illegal' downloads - not just as far as games are concerned, but also as far as illegal music and movie downloads. This problem is slowly beginning to find its solutions, but we are still far away from any significant revolutions.
The problem is this: Distributors/publishers overcharge for their media. Some people go 'Wtf? I'm not paying that much!' and download. Distributors/publishers get pissed off, but they won't lower their prices because their fat greedy buttery managers need to buy that extra BMW-jet-engined yacht with propellors and a pink flamingo bust at the front for the kids (who don't even have the liscence to drive one of these things, but screw the law, they have money!), so the prices get raised to cope with their corporate losses. Which only makes MORE people download things, rinse and repeat.
Meanwhile, the people that suffer most of all from this madness is the creators of said media (How much of the money do you think really
goes to the original creators? Not as much as you think!), and pointless flame wars start. Ugh.
There are always people who will pay to buy things legally for moral reasons, And always a few people that will download things out of either protest or just the will to screw the system by obtaining as much as they can for free. And quite a few people that are in between. In case of emulation, for instance, sometimes people will download a game's ROM to try it out and see if it's actually worth buying - because in quite a few cases there's a big difference between playing the game on a computer, with a keyboard, and playing it on a console with a proper controller (Not to mention that some things cannot be properly emulated). There is more that can be said (for instance, about music and movies), but that is a discussion for another, more relevant thread.
A good argument FOR emulation would be preservation. A lot of old games would have vanished forever in 'today's modern world' if they weren't turned into ROMs. Other games would have remained Japan-exclusive if no one ever translated their ROMs into English - Games that would have vanished due to their creator companies dissolving, forgetting about them, various American or European distributors deciding that the game is too foreign (Ya gotta love the 80s-90s where every ounce of foreign culture was cut out from games to appeal to an American audience - ONOES! IT LOOKS JUST LIKE ONIGIRI BUT IT'S REALLY DONUTS!!!), violent (INVISIBLE GUNS!), uneducational (ONOES! Oblique reference to alcohol! Let's change that into coffee and make the dialogue make no fucking sense whatsoever!) or the game itself falling victim to various corporation copyright issues (which will quite probably prevent some NES/SNES titles from being released on the Wii's Virtual Console, for instance, because their creator company is now Sony or Microsoft's bitch).
Any of you ever heard of Live-A-Live, Monstania or Keitai Denjuu Telefang? ... Why am I not surprised?
And really. Sometimes fan translations are MUCH better than the official stuff. I'm looking at YOU, Final Fantasy V.
And - Regarding the idea of old games being released for a small fee - that still creates an issue of what games would be re-released. Take the Wii virtual console, for instance. Groundbreaking? Oh yes. The video game answer to iTunes. But still, the decision of what game gets re-released and what doesn't remains in the hands of Nintendo (and co-developers which may, as mentioned before, may now be another company's bitch) as opposed to the gamers themselves, who would actually want
to see a few games that Nintendo might not exactly give a damn about. Also, Personally, I really pity companies that try to milk the consumers for all they're worth by actually selling their ancient abandoned games (Remakes with added features don't count - I'm talking about direct ports here) - that, to me, is quite definitely beating a dead horse. A lot of people nowadays wouldn't buy outdated games as is, and for the rest of the nostalgia maniacs out there - that is what the Internets is for. You stopped making money from these games years ago. Live and let fucking die.
Not to mention that sometimes popularity of a title online as a hack creates silent revolutions. Take Enterbrain, for example, a Japanese game company known for its RPG Maker titles. Fan-translated and distributed for free online for years. When they saw the great fan following the program and creations made with it had in the English-speaking world, Enterbrain released one of their latest products, RPG Maker XP, in English, for a small fee online, and most of the game developers who used it actually bought it. Some companies decide to remake games depending by how popular they were in the world using the internet as research material.
Regarding the portability argument made by Aipom - are most home consoles portable? Not exactly. Regarding portable-consoles like the GBA and the DS, the portability value may be lost on an emulator, but how many people would buy a console for just, I dunno, one or two games they might be interested in? Every console has its few gems amidst a great sea of trash (though one man's trash is another's treasure). Plus, some consoles are not available in some places, and when it's either importing or emulation, sometimes emulation can be better than importing. Who would spend infernal amounts of cash over a potentially unsafe online transaction to import a console which, after you finish the game a few times, will just sit there and rot unused? Point for thought.
As for the viruses argument - Many ROM sites are indeed infected with Trojan horses and viruses, but, begging your pardon, downloading ANYTHING online is not risk-free. There will always be crap and viruses online, and if you're not protecting yourself properly, well, you're screwed anyway. Even if you're downloading innocuous, cute fuzzy pink bunnies in wallpaper form. They might be hiding a chest-bursting xenomorphic worm virus. Which will promptly latch onto your face and eat your soul.
So yeah. What I'm really trying to say here is this. The economy and game makers AREN'T hurt that much because some corporate butter-monster doesn't get paid ridiculous sums of money, ROMs and emulators are not pure evil and they have their place in the world. Maybe newer, contemporary consoles may be a bit eyebrow-raising as far as emulation is concerned nowadays - but in a few years, when these consoles go the way of the dodo (fuzzy, tasty and alas, fatally dead), someone will be very happy that someone preserved these games in a form that allows them to be playable out of their original system (There's a limit to how much you can go with backwards compatibility without weakening a system's overall performance. Sooner or later, the Playstation 7 will not be able to run PS2 titles, the Nintendo Holycrapitsapyramid won't run Gamecube titles, and the HoloScreen Immersive Portable GB3DS will NOT run old Game Boy games) - or in cases of some games that were pure unrefined gold in spite of not being highly popular, preserved them at all.
This is StellarWind Elsydeon, your ROMMUNIST Ranting Shapeshifter, And that's all I have to say about THAT!