One of the oldest and most popular emulator websites, EmuParadise, has removed all ROM download links from its site. The move comes after a spate of legal action targeting similar sites by game publishing powerhouse Nintendo and will inevitably have a huge knock-on effect on the use of emulator apps on Android phones and tablets.
In an announcement post (via Kotaku), the site’s founder, MasJ, explained that continuing to offer downloads for video game ROM files could lead to “potentially disastrous consequences,” citing the changing legal landscape for the decision to remove thousands of download links. He went on to say:
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.
Rather the close down completely, the site, which has been online for 18 years, will continue to host listings for countless retro games and will focus on the community side of the website, and its database of emulators.
As for the legal action noted in the post, it’s likely that MasJ is referencing a suit filed by Nintendo against two other ROM-hosting websites, LoveROMS and LevoRETRO. The Japanese publisher is suing for up to $2 million for every trademark infringement and $150,000 for each copyrighted Nintendo game on the sites.
The decision has been met with sadness and anger from retro game fans, including notable video game historians who have noted that ROM sites have, up until now, played a crucial role in cataloging and archiving games that may otherwise have been unavailable to new players or lost entirely.
Video Game History Foundation founder Frank Cifaldi addressed the situation in a Twitter thread in which he argued that “pirates are the only ones keeping these games alive” in light of the “abysmal job the video game industry has done keeping its games available.”
ROM sites shutting down only feels as big as it does because of the completely abysmal job the video game industry has done keeping its games available. There is no alternative BUT piracy for like 99% of video game history.
— Frank Cifaldi (@frankcifaldi) August 8, 2018
With many of the most popular ROM sites shutting down over fears of legal action, Android users who regularly use emulators may soon find it much harder to find retro games to play on the go.