Nintendo's war on video game emulation has caused another casualty, this time the long-standing ROM site EmuParadise. After 18 years of providing a digital library of classic games for download, EmuParadise has decided to stop providing ROMs. This decision comes in direct response to Nintendo lawsuits against other ROM-hosting websites. It's a sad moment for gamers, the end of a legacy. But perhaps the most dire loss is the massive collection of classic games that no one will ever be able to play again.
EmuParadise was one of the many sites that facilitated the spread of ROMs (short for Read-Only Memory). Back when games still came in cartridges, some gamers took the data off the cartridges and put them on computers. EmuParadise collected these files into a sort of one-stop shop for old games. Visitors could easily download an application to make their computer act as an NES, and then click another tab to find a list of pretty much every NES game. Iconic games line Super Mario Bros. and unknown Japanese titles were listed side-by-side in a way they never could be on GameStop shelves.
There were many great things that came from this. Collectors could preserve games digitally, ensuring that even the rarest titles wouldn't be lost to nature or carelessness. Those in poorer areas of the world could still play great games despite the fact that importing a Super Nintendo would cost them a fortune. And diehards could play titles like Mother 3, a game that never left Japan despite fans' constant petitioning for Nintendo to provide an official translation. But for Nintendo's part, ROMs are only one thing: illegal.
In the end, distributing ROMs is piracy. Downloading a game for free from a site like EmuParadise does nothing to pay the developers who worked hard to make it or the publisher who sunk money into having it made. This ultimately proved to be the downfall of LoveROMS and LoveRetro.co, two ROM sites that were sued by Nintendo in July. Until then, ROM sites were mostly left unhindered, at most sent periodic "cease and desist" letters. These lawsuits represent a new, more severe stance from Nintendo when it comes to ROMs.
There could be many reasons for this. Nintendo's new president could be guiding the company into a harsher campaign against ROMs. Or maybe the company's new interest in retro gaming, represented by the NES and SNES classic, makes it see ROMs as direct competition. Whatever the reason, the recent lawsuits are a real threat to those who run ROM sites. These are most likely people who can't afford a legal battle against an international company's lawyers. So, however sad it may be, EmuParadise really has no choice but to shut down.
The real question is what happens to the games that were only available via ROMs. The limited-release games or unofficial Mother 3 translations. Will Nintendo take responsibility to re-release these games in an official capacity? Or will classic, rare titles be lost to the company's crusade?