Reuters via Yahoo News! is running an article on the rebirth of classic computer and video games.
"Games such as Pac-Man and Space Invaders are enjoying a resurgence in popularity as technology gets cheaper and as new online services make it easier than ever to download and play."
The gameplay of the early games are eternal and fun on a variety of different hardware. The combination of fast inexpensive hardware, excellent emulation and services that allow small financial transactions like Xbox Live means that these great old games have new economic life. Way back in 2000 Jim Leonard, one of the MobyGames founders, wrote an article on abandonware. What was true then, I believe, is no longer true now. Times have changed. It will most likely mean abandonware as we know it will have to change or disappear. It will be increasingly unlikely that holders of existing intellectual property will allow their IP to slip into that grey nether region of abandonware.
Developers and publishers used to believe that once a game got old it it lost all of its economic value. Sure people were copying and playing the games illegally, but who got hurt? The publisher was often out of business and even if the IP holder was around there was little if any economic damage since the abandoned game could not be marketed and sold anyway. With these new markets and models for classic games like Gametap, Mobile and Xbox Live much of the rationale for abandonware is gone. Additionally the developers of publishers of the old IP now have an incentive to protect their property. Money.
Can abandonware survive or was it just a confluence of events which has pasted into history?
Abandonware has never had a chance to "survive" since it has always been technically illegal. But I don't think it will ever completely go away because there are many games that don't fit the Gametap/Xbox Live model (can't play text adventures with a gamepad), and also because there will always be games not available via those methods (small/independant publishers, etc. not absorbed into the EA collective).