If you had been playing some of the more recent Mario Kart games on your Wii or DS, you likely noticed that Nintendo killed off the services to make way for newer titles including the Wii U’s Mario Kart 8. This move isn’t anything new for a gaming company, but it did bring a question to the mind of one technology-minded group: Where do these games go after they’re killed off? For this group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the hope is that they’ll never die, so long as the consumer/player base remains alive.
According to reports from Slate, the digital rights foundation has filed exemptions requests with the U.S. Copyright Office with the intent of allowing people to “modify old and abandoned games” so that they can remain in use. In other words, those older Mario Kart titles would find a new life, of sorts, in the hands of the gamers who hold them dear. It would be those gamers, and no one else, creating and maintaining servers for the titles to be played on.
As you might have guessed, creating those servers isn’t exactly legal. The practice of modifying those games, as noted by Slate, “is banned under Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.” The EFF wants to change that, so games like Mario Kart Wii can be played online again, but they indicated that this would not apply to games like World of Warcraft. They contain something called “persistent worlds” where the game’s content is stored on the developers’ servers. Mario Kart Wii and other match-making titles, however, are played simply by finding other players to compete with. There’s no centralised world.
According to a press release, the EFF said that they’re simply fighting for “common sense” in a setting where the DMCA has been abused to “interfere with all kinds of lawful activities that have nothing to do with infringement.” With any luck, the group will put an end to this and bring a little of that common sense to the land of copyright law.
Prior to a fight like this from the EFF, some older games have been transformed and reborn thanks to online gaming platforms. This includes the “virtual console”/emulator programs on systems like the Wii U, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One that allow you to play older games through emulation software. Also included in the mix are the slots at Betfair. This particular site has become a bit of a hub for older games and spin-offs of said games, as a quick perusal brings up images of older Street Fighters and point-and-click adventures (Sherlock Mystery and Captain’s Treasure), among others. In this case, however, the games are finding a completely new way to be enjoyed as they’re reaching an entirely different demographic (online gamers).
Moving forward, it will prove interesting if other older games can follow the lead of, say, the Street Fighter series by finding a new audience. It’s worth noting that this has been done to an extent through mobile games, which can be realised with a quick glance at the iTunes and Google Play stores. That being said there are other avenues worth exploring, as made evident by Betfair and, yes, the EFF’s request. Let these gaming franchises live!