It's the end of an era. The founder of Emuparadise, a long-running website that offered a near-comprehensive library of ROMs and ISOs for the games of yesteryear, announced this week that they have decided to stop distributing those classic titles. That means one of the best-known and most secure ways of downloading retro console games and the emulators required to play them on modern PCs will no longer be available.
How you feel about Emuparadise's decision likely depends on where you fall on the emulation debate. Many people have maintained that uploading ROMs was the best way to make sure an entire generation's worth of media doesn't vanish as physical cartridges start to crumble. Others have said that emulating old consoles they own is simply about convenience. Still, others believe that distributing ROMs is nothing more than mass piracy.
Sometimes the lines between those ideologies get blurred. Nintendo, for example, has been accused of wrapping illegal ROMs in its own code to make classic games available on its new platforms. How can a company justify using these ROMs while also fighting to make them unavailable? But this isn't an ethical debate, it's a legal one, and Nintendo escalated it in July when it sued two ROM sites for copyright infringement.
Emuparadise is used to dealing with legal threats, hosting issues and the other consequences that come with running a site devoted to ROMs and emulators. But now the founder has decided that enough is enough. As they explained in its blog post about the decision to stop distributing ROMs:
"It's not worth it for us to risk potentially disastrous consequences. I cannot in good conscience risk the futures of our team members who have contributed to the site through the years. We run Emuparadise for the love of retro games and for you to be able to revisit those good times. Unfortunately, it's not possible right now to do so in a way that makes everyone happy and keeps us out of trouble."
There's no question that distributing and downloading ROMs is illegal. (Common arguments surrounding the download of games you already own and similar "but what if?" defenses are generally not expected to hold up in court.) But as sites like Emuparadise decide not to risk Nintendo and other companies' wrath, the opportunity to play beloved games that are no longer commercially available will continue to disappear.