system (“BIOS”) dump.23 Next, the source code contained within the video game cartridge or CD-ROM must be extracted through a ROM dump. ROM Patches facilitate modification of ROM files in the event that compatibility issues should arise between the ROM file and the user’s PC.25 As it turns out, the manner in which software-based video game emulators are engineered plays a crucial role in determining their legality. 24
Not all video games and console systems are emulated.26 The three factors that likely influence whether or not a video game or system is emulated are: console popularity, availability of information regarding system hardware and software, and the technical difficulty of the emulation itself. In general, demand for a suitable emulator for a game system correlates directly with the popularity of a video game console when it was available in the retail marketplace.27 Consoles possessing a large selection of popular video games are frequently emulated. Thus the emergence of emulators for N64 and Atari 2600 consoles should be no surprise to manufacturers given that historic sales data highlight the popularity of the original systems.
There are also a number of technical considerations that influence which systems are emulated and the time required to do so. First, because emulators are typically reverse engineered, the amount of publicly available information about the design of a system has a direct impact on the length of time it will take to develop a given emulator.28 Emulating a video game system for the first time, without detailed information on the parent system’s hardware and software, can be a time consuming process. Moreover, advanced technologies and anti-piracy encryption often are barriers to emulation. For
Software (ROMs) mimics game cartridge
Emulator (BIOS) mimics console
Need both components to run a game!
23 24 . ROM is Read Only Memory, and a ROM Patch is a small section of code that is added to a program to facilitate some desired functionality. . Appendix Exhibit 2a, Video Game Console Emulation Timeline. Section II.A.2. The authors estimate that the amount of time such a task would take would be inversely proportional to the amount of information available (i.e., technical information about the platform and software system to be emulated). 25 26 27 28
What is Emulated?