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Nintendo are taking 2 huge ROM distribution websites to court over mass copyright infringements charges. Charges that could add up to well over $100 million a piece. The two websites in question are LoveROMS.com and LoveRETRO.co, who are amongst the more noteworthy websites in the ROM distribution game.
Both sites have already responded to the legal pressure, with LoveROMS omitting all Nintendo products from their page and LoveRETRO shutting down completely with the following messaged displayed when accessing their site:
“Loveretro has effectively been shut down until further notice. Thanks for your patronage to date and we hope to get this figured out.”
ROMs are unofficial versions of a video game that run on an emulator. This allows users to, for instance, play Super Mario 64 on their PC or smart phone. The ROM and emulation business has been going on for years without major pushback of this magnitude, although Nintendo have never been supporters. What sets emulation apart from piracy is that emulators are created for much older gaming consoles. In fact emulators have been praised for keeping old franchises alive when they would have otherwise got lost in the past.
The legality of Emulators and ROMs have always been questionable. It’s also certainly understandable why Nintendo may not like them. Retro gaming is a big part of Nintendo’s identity and profitability. With Emulators and ROMs easily accessible online, Nintendo are no longer in full control of when and how gamers can access and play that retro library.
The lawsuit has been lodged against the two websites at a federal court in Arizona. The complaint states that:
“The LoveROMs and LoveRETRO websites are among the most open and notorious online hubs for pirated video games, Through the LoveROMs and LoveRETRO websites, Defendants reproduce, distribute, publicly perform and display a staggering number of unauthorized copies of Nintendo’s video games, all without Nintendo’s permission.” [source].
Many gamers aren’t happy with Nintendo’s decision however. The current system that surrounds retro gaming means that the same game can be re-released and re-sold an indefinite amount of times as new consoles release. Is buying a game legally and then emulating it later down the line really the worst crime? The real issue comes from games that don’t get the re-release treatment, games that would otherwise be totally left in the past until Nintendo finally, if ever, decide to do something with that property.
Consumers have proven time and time again that they are willing to pay for something rather than pirate it if it is easily available when they want it. Perhaps a great Virtual Console application on the Switch would be a better solution than shutting down websites? Because when one shuts down, 2 more pop up to take its place.