DRM could kill game emulators and erase the history of an artform

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/09/30/rpcs3.html


Have most of the emulators out there for games ever hinged on having permission to exist? No? Welcome to the internet.


Your following rationale is a bit of over reach. You’ve basically tried to equate single protocol connectivity across platforms with emulating whole platforms.

Sterling at least had the grace to open with

I can’t successfully pretend that I know much about your profession.

Before going on a lecture as if he did. Considering that Sterling is a fiction writer, its somewhat forgivable, but when this talk was given, absolutely zero game platforms were already in a state of being not accessible. Again, he kind of has the grace to admit this about his Atari 800:

Why don’t I get it out of its box and fire up a few cartridges? Nothing physical preventing me.

Though he goes on to make the comparison to Edison cylinders (predictably) in fact here we are in 2017 and its far from difficult to get any different hardware console in working condition and a CRT to play it on. Art form without a past my skinny yiddish tuchus. Flea markets, eBay, and specialty shops are quite different than “pickling”.

Horse apples. No history is erased if emulators disappear tomorrow. Oddly enough as the web has developed, aside from all the print books on the subject of gaming history, we now have far more historical preservation of information about even the most obscure consoles and computer games thanks to amateur historians who’ve often gone to great lengths to track down original developers and get the first hand stories about how the games were made.

@doctorow Stick to fiction writing please.


There goes Cory with his clickbait titles again.

This isn’t DRM killing emulators. Hackers can get around the DRM just fine The problem here is stupid laws and companies using those stupid laws as a club.


Hm, the article on Techdirt raises an imprtant point: is DMCA 1201 really applicable here?
After all, the emulator itself doesn’t break any DRM on the game.
At most it ‘unlocks’ a whole set of hardware to play the game on. But that is not the same as breaking the game’s DRM!

True, if you were inclined to pirate a game like Persona 5, you could probably find a pirated copy somewhere and then play that on RCPS3. Just like you could the original (DRM’d) game. The creation of the pirate copy is not done by the emulator however. RPCS3 itself doesn’t circumvent (or break or remove) any DRM of the game.

So, what makes DMCA 1201 applicable?

(fyi, I just checked and both the Patreon page and the RPCS3 home page are still up…)

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Slow down there! Atlas is a company the routinely ports and rereleases their games. They are currently working very hard to keep their work relevant, alive and a stream of revenue for their company and their developers. They just recently released their old PS2 title Disgaea on Steam for the PC. So an emulator that hits a system as new as the PS3 is a direct threat to their business. Not that creating hordes of zombie games should be your entire way of life.

Virtual consoles (I.e. emulating your old stuff on new platforms) is becoming much more common for new systems and barrier to entry to perform that work is way down. It is also an official capability of new systems. This puts more oneness on the rights holders to keep up with their work.

The PS3 is also neither a scarce nor a dead system either.

My opinion is fault seems to lie with stonewalling backward compatibility so that abandoned titles fall through the cracks. There needs to be a better way to let those titles go up for rerelease. Or to take more of the reigns off backwards system compatibility to help drive console sales.

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Atlus (a division of Sega) is not immune to gaffes or controversy but they are definitely not one of the “bad guys” in a world of truly deplorable game companies.

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Indeed. I gather that poorer markets buy into the last gen Sony consoles in a big way when the new generation comes. The PS2 stopped production in freaking 2012! Best selling console of all time to date (home console anyways).

Point being, ps3 games and consoles will be in production for a while yet.


Simply put, if these emulators are illegal, so is EVERY “IBM-compatible” PC, which use emulated BIOS. That’s right, every single one, unless they actually licensed their BIOS (none did, although Lenovo WAS part of IBM). Manufacturers simply reverse-engineered the IBM BIOS and proceeded from there.

So if you’re up in arms over emulators, unless you’re typing out your anger on a Lenovo, you’ve already lost your argument ^^’.


It’s not really a DRM issue. RCPS3 was essentially using Persona 5 as part of their Patreon pitch. Patreon advised them that they should remove all references to Persona 5. RCPS3 complied and Patreon kept the campaign up.


PS5 (the game in question) came out this year for this system (the PS3) - it’s hardly in the realm of abandonware.

The answer here is don’t advertise commercial products as part of a emulator. Emulators have (rightly) gone out of their way to stay at 1000 feet away from piracy even though it’s a simple fact that emulation enables and creates a piracy scene (in many cases the only way to actually use the software for the machine being emulated as it’s behind drm to begin with).

This is all handled with relative ‘look the other way’ actions - until you start using current games as part of your advertising for a commercial product.

Welcome to the big time kids.


so do you think the ps3 emulator was designed with “persona 5” as its target or would you admit the possibility that this 1201 takedown notice might be abit of an overreach?

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This follows the Persona 5 streaming debacle. Atlus might have been a fairly progressive smaller Japanese developer before but they are quickly becoming one of the most anti-consumer companies around. Whether it’s because of Sega or maybe their increasing popularity in the West, Atlus is not “good”

The particulars of the case in question weren’t the point of what I wrote, I was addressing @doctorow’s general reasoning on the topic. Since that didnt address the issue of Persona 5, I didnt either.

Hardly. They have done some dumb things and made high profile mistakes. Compared to the chicanery from other publishers these things don’t even register. I’m far more upset about the lackluster translation job on Persona 5 than any of this.

Thanks for the clarification.

Not to mention modern cloud computing is entirely driven by virtualization. Increasingly, the future seems to be more and more granular levels of virtualization. Containers are the current hotness which provide partial / micro VM’s. My current project involves using a container running on a VM (which itself is in a VM).

Software development has benefitted from VM’s since at least the 70’s.

Point being, emulators themselves are not in threat of becoming inherently illegal. That is crazy talk. Every company with a halfway modern IT department would lobby against that. Virtualization is the future.

ETA: for those not in the know, virtualization and emulation are the same thing.


TorrentFreak has a rather level-headed article on this subject that acknowledges the need for emulators as well as Atlus’ response to RPCS3:


so doesn’t that make your comment to which i replied an excellent example of the ad hominem fallacy?

moving past that, do you or do you not consider the 1201 takedown notice a bit of an overreach?

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Things are being overstated a bit in the article here, but it’s not fundamentally wrong. The thing is, it’s not about one device. Leaving aside that the amount of work required to piece together the hardware and software to get even one fully functioning unit of an older gaming machine can be substantial (because the vast majority of those flea market finds are half-broken for older systems), we’re talking about decades of arcade cabinets, consoles and various permutations of PC hardware and OSes, if you want to access the history of gaming. No one will - or can - manage that in order to familiarize themselves with historic games in general, or even a single game. There might be one or two gaming history museums in the world that even attempt it, so it’s not like one can readily access those to educate oneself, either. Then there’s the software - some games are rare enough to command huge prices; some games distributed on more fragile media like floppy disk may be impossible to find. Game production runs were usually short and only briefly in stores (and excesses were often destroyed). Floppy disks and CDs/DVDs have limited lifespans, too - we’re starting to run into them, after which they won’t be readable. (So it may be theoretically true that everything is accessible, but not for long.) For any real access to historic games, emulation is absolutely key.

The game industry is weird - its history is short enough that anyone over the age of 40 can potentially have personally experienced the meaningful parts (except for the games they missed at the time), but the industry burns people out quickly, so there very well might not be anyone over the age of 30 in a given company… Unlike other media, games started off heavily corporatized, but those corporations didn’t last long and rights passed hands so frequently that even some fairly recent games are now abandonware - no one can figure out who owns the rights, so re-publishing the work is impossible. Source files that might allow re-releasing older games reworked for more modern systems (assuming that’s financially feasible) are usually lost when studios close (which can happen with regularity). A recent trend of (some) older games having a second commercial life is entirely dependent on emulation.

Media history requires interacting with the thing or a facsimile thereof. There wouldn’t be meaningful film history if all it was was descriptions of movies you couldn’t watch, nor art history that was descriptions of art you couldn’t see. That’s doubly true for interactive media like games. There’s no real game history without emulators.