Abandonware – What is it?
It’s a very simple concept that quite a few people seem to have a lot of difficulty grasping. Let’s say you are looking to buy a game that you played when you were a kid… Kings Quest or some other god awful Roberta Williams game (sorry bunnzy ;)). You contact Sierra only to find that they don’t sell the game anymore – where do you go? You may find it in a bargain bin or in the budget section of some little computer store somewhere if you’re lucky… but what if you can’t?
Enter Abandonware 🙂
Abandonware refers to software that is no longer sold by its copyright holder (we’ll come back to this in a minute). Some abandonware webmasters may build on that definition:
“No longer sold by the copyright holder and over 5 years old”
“Has not been sold by the copyright holder for 2 years”
But it is important to remember the most important part – NO LONGER SOLD. The reason that copyright holder is emboldened above is that this is the part that many people have trouble with. Here are a few misconceptions:
- A game is for sale in game store such as Electronics Boutique; this means that it can’t be classed as abandonware.
- Wrong: games stores or resellers don’t come into the equation as far as the definition of abandonware is concerned, it is the whether the copyright holder is selling the game that is important (although you really should buy that game, you cheap sod).
- A computer magazine is giving a game away for free on a cover-disk. This means that I can start giving away copies for free right?
- Wrong, the magazine will have paid for the right to give away that game, unless you do the same you can’t legally distribute copies.
Does everyone understand? Good, then I can move on.
Does abandonware have a history?
Indeed it does, and it involves lots of in-fighting, name calling and Monty Python routines.. so let’s not speak of it anymore 🙂 You can get more information at www.tuol.org if you really want to 😉
Is abandonware legal?
No it isn’t, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Will abandonware ever be legal?
You mean will it ever be legal to distribute copies of a game when it’s copyright holder stops selling it? Well… no, that wouldn’t be practical. I’m told that copyright did once operate on a “use it or lose it” basis, but no these days. The best we can hope for is that games companies either start selling their back catalogues again (yay) or release games into the public domain as freeware (YAY).
Aren’t you impairing profitability of the game publishers and retailers?
Games publishers: Not really, they have realised profits from the game and have chosen to take it off the market, and so we are not costing them in that respect. The biggest exception that I can think of is the practice of adding games to sites as soon as they fall into the abandonware definition (i.e. as soon as the copyright holder stops selling it, what if the very next week they realise that people WANT the game and decide to sell it again? By putting it up for download you have cost them potential customers – those that are content to have an illegal copy of the game rather than an original. Obviously none of us can see into the future, nevertheless a certain amount of caution is advisable.
Retailers: Unfortunately yes, but it is not practical for us to link to online games stores that only have a hand full of copies of a certain game in stock. Wherever possible we DO advise buying original copies of games, because owning the box, the manual and any cool extras is groovy damnit! 😉
What is oldwarez?
Ah yes, the infamous oldwarez. Oldwarez is basically illegal copies of games that are over a certain age. It is often (unfortunately) associated with abandonware because both tend to involve old games (though relatively new titles such as Cutthroats and Seven Kingdoms 2 are classed as abandonware, so its not all old games).
Without going into any moral issues that may be involved, we believe that as long as oldwarez and abandonware are kept separate then it it’s all peachy.
What is warez?
Warez is a generic term meaning pirated software. There is no age limit and it doesn’t matter if the game is abandoned or not – it’s just about getting stuff for free. It’s ironic that most abandonware webmasters have such lofty principles when it comes to warez, because in a lot of cases we have warez groups of the past to thank for making sure that some games are available in the present. Go to a site like Home of the Underdogs and see how many warez rips you can find.
It is indeed a sad state of affairs isn’t it? * Spanks the publishing companies *
So both Abandonware and Warez are illegal… what’s the beef? Why don’t you just put any games on the site?
Well, stealing a ferrari and stealing a head of lettuce out of the trash behind a supermarket are both illegal, but can you see the distinction? The only thing that ties Abandonware and Warez are that both involve free, illegaly copied software (and it is the free part that some people unfortunately can’t get past). True abandonware enthusiasts WANT to buy the games or obtain them in some legal way, but the publishers don’t give us any way to do it. That is their right you might say, but we consider computer games as an art form of the 20th/21st century and so have taken it upon ourselves to preserve classic games.
We are pragmatists, we are aware of the possible consequences but the idea of these little works of art being lost forever is a crime in our eyes (some companies, notably Sierra, don’t even own copies of some of their older titles).
We are going to do what WE believe is right.
Anyway, back to the original point:
- Abandonware = Preservation
- Warez = Freebies
Is there a fee for using your site?
Nope, because I have no right to charge for these games – nor would I because I am an enthusiast who wants you to share in mylove for games, especially old ones 🙂
Oh god, you have a banner?
Yeah yea, I hate them too.. but server space and bandwidth costs money so thehost needs banner revenues to stay afloat. Banner + mouse click = money for host get the hint? 😉
I am starting up an abandonware site…
Good for you!
… but I’m to lazy to find a host and upload my own games, so I’m just going to link to yours.
Ugh. This ugly practice is known as “link stealing” or “leeching”. It is a sure fire way to make enemies around here bucko, because you are:
a) profiting from someone elses hard work
b) causing an increase in the bandwidth usage of a site, meaning that either their costs will be raised or their accounts will be deleted.
Just don’t do it, ok?
So can I download games from your site and upload them onto my own?
Sure, go for it. A link back to us is appreciated too 😉
How do I download these games then?
Wow, back to basics eh? Well I assume you know that you have to click on a hyperlink to download a game.. right? Ok then, all of the games on this site are compressed into ZIP archive files, so you’ll need a program to unpack them – get winzip from www.winzip.com.
I can’t get “insert game here” to work
This is becoming a bigger problem all the time – old games are in many cases not compatible with new hardware and operating systems (the newest versions of windows don’t even have DOS support). If a game is running too fast the utilities such as Moslow or Turbo can help. You may also want to have a look at www.oldskool.org or doshelp.theunderdogs.org, both contain valuable resources on getting old games working.
You can also mail us if you have a problem (or post in the forum) and we’ll try to help, but I give no guarantees that we’ll be of any use 🙂
So, you are including NON-PC games on the site too?
Indeed we are. Y’see, we have owned non-pc systems in the past and many of the games that we played are only available on those systems. Seeing as this is an archive of the games that we have both played over the years it is only right that we add some non-pc games too. However, all of these games come complete with emulators and loading instructions (in many cases, all it takes to run them is clicking on a single file) so don’t worry about getting them to work, we’ve done all of that stuff for you 😉
Hey, this download link isn’t working!
It may be broken. Check the main page to see if thers any information about disabled downloads – if there isn’t then please contact me so I can fix the problem.
If I contact you, will you send “insert game here” to me?
Well… no, but I may put it on the site, depends on how nice you are to me 😉
Can I submit my own reviews?
Sure you can, just send them on in, and we’ll be sure to give credit where it’s due.
I too run an abandonware site, will you link to me?
Sure, as long as I get a link back.