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Abandonware In A Nutshell: Why Nobody Wins

The Consumer's Position

Rationalization, anger, frustration... whatever the motivation, consumers and Abandonware website authors alike have come up with a multitude of reasons to make older games available again, whether commercially or for free. The most overwhelming reason is profit -- more specifically, lack of profit. Older, out-of-print titles aren't selling in today's marketplace. Since they aren't reaping any more profit for the company, no harm could possibly come from making them available for free.

That alone isn't a good enough reason to make them available. So why not make them available commercially? Don't software companies want to make more money?

The big resistance against that idea is, surprisingly, coming from the software companies themselves. According to their representatives, there are various problems with re-issueing classic gaming software in today's market. But consumers are ready with an answer to every complaint:

"It costs money to develop and market a game." True, but that doesn't apply in this case. Re-releasing classic titles incurs no additional development cost, and only a minimal marketing cost. The development cycle, marketing campaign, etc. for old game titles was money spent years ago. Now that a "retro" desire exists to obtain them again, compilations of these older titles offer an easy way to make money again without the development costs. The marketing campaign would barely break five figures; a couple of on-line spots, in additional to dropping a line to "classic" gaming websites (and there are many), would generate the sufficient word-of-mouth necessary to promote them. Easy profit.

"They don't run on modern hardware, so any effort in re-releasing them would be wasted. And the additional technical support costs would kill us.": This is partially untrue; about half of all games written before 1990 run just fine on modern machines. Besides, the people who want to play these games know what's involved to get them to run if need be. "Slowdown" programs like Moslo' exist that slow down computers to PC/XT speeds, and allow the game to run properly. And true enthusiasts -- people who are willing to spend money on game re-releases -- can cruise ebay and pick up a cheap vintage machine to run the games on. Technical support could be on an online basis only -- just write a one-time document detailing the kind of machine you need, slowdown programs, etc. and you'll be done with it. Don't assume that just because today's modern computers can't run old games effectively doesn't mean there isn't any demand for them.

"They wouldn't sell in today's marketplace.": If that were the case, then software resale shops like Software ReRuns and CyberExchange wouldn't be doing so well. And the mere fact that there are hundreds of Abandonware websites in existence also disproves this. People want these games, and if you don't make them available commercially, people will distribute them some other way.

"The marketplace is saturated; any small profit would have little or no benefit to the company.": Even if the profit were negligible, the re-release of older titles, commercially or free, serves as excellent marketing for modern titles. Some enlightened companies like Activision, Sierra, and Apogee have released their prior titles for free as part of a marketing campaign for newer titles. Even if there wasn't a direct sequel to promote, older titles can generate interest for other projects.

The most important reason of all threatens to be overlooked by most companies: Making older titles available is an easy, ethical way to restore faith to the disillusioned customers that once supported you. It's good mojo.

Continued: Legalizing Abandonware: Why It Will Never Happen

Table of Contents: Abandonware In A Nutshell: Why Nobody Wins