I think the software copyright laws are completely unreasonable and should be changed. Companies like VU Games hoard old games that fans demand to be rereleased and instead spend their resources on shutting down anyone who tries to provide the games for free since they are pretty much abandonware. If it’s not still being produced then it’s abandonware… I don’t care if there are $200 copies on e-bay or being sold used on Amazon.
So, if someone downloads abandonware on the internet, does the company that owns the rights lose any money? Are they affected in any way? I don’t know exact statistics, but I’m going to make a guess that people who are interested in abandonware are a very small percent of the entire gaming population. They usually grew up with the games, probably owned them and lost their copies or they just couldn’t afford to buy a copy at the time and have deep nostalgic feelings and appreciation for the games to seek them out and play them again. Of course, these games are no longer sold and probably don’t even work on current system. The system might not even really exist anymore, such as Commodore 64 or Amiga or Apple IIgs… even early Macintosh systems. At this point in time old Macintosh games are extremely difficult to get working without having an actual old Macintosh that supports it. And then take into account people who actually have the technical knowledge and computer skills to find the game, download it, decompress it, download an emulator that will play it, configure the emulator properly, and actually play the game… I’m willing to bet the number is insignificant compared to the gaming population as a whole.
That’s why companies really don’t sell or support these old games, because it would be more trouble than it’s worth and all they care about money. Which makes me mad that they don’t just let their fans download these games for free. They’re not losing anything and they’re not alienating their core audience should they decide to re-release the games. I have every single Sierra Quest game and I would have still bought the new compilations had they released them, especially if they were XP-compatible and had other enhancements that I’d like to see. I have enormous respect for companies that release old games for free. Bethesda did it for Elder Scrolls, companies like ID and Bungie open-sourced Doom, Quake, and Marathon. I think all companies should open-source their games after around 10 years. Fans would enhance and update the games for free and out of love for the game. At the very least, I think copyright laws should be changed to reflect the realistic lifespan of software. Software lasts at most 10 years. Especially games. I think a certain number of years without any support from a company for a particular game should automatically classify the game as abandonware. Either way, I don’t think abandonware is wrong. Downloading a game that just came out recently is wrong and I agree that a company has the right to protect their property. But the line has to be drawn somewhere. And in the case of Sierra games, I think the line is clear.
In the case of fan-made games and the wishes of companies or designers, I think fan games should be made and exist any way they want. Fan game projects should stop using numerical indicators to avoid confusion with any official game that gets released, and maybe even put Unofficial in the title or have a disclaimer at the beginning. But I don’t see any problem with such games being made. I can sort of understand how a designer would care about their characters and setting and be concerned with how it might all be portrayed in an unofficial game. I think dialogue between a game designer and fan project designers could remedy any of those issues so that both games can be released.
Of course, if anyone other than whoever owns the rights to game property is profitting from it, then that’s a completely different story. Anyways, it’s late/early and I’m tired and rambling but I think somehow my point will come through and everyone will agree and there will be harmony among all.