47 Nintendo had realized approximately half of the total US$5.6 billion in software sales for the N64 prior to UltraHLE’s introduction.45 Given that game console sales typically slow in the fourth year of a video game system’s lifecycle due to market saturation and anticipation of the release of a next generation product, there are no data to prove the extent to which UltraHLE cannibalized the N64 market. Regardless, Nintendo deemed the threat significant enough to pursue legal action.46 Following a letter from Nintendo threatening legal action, MegaMan announced it would no longer support UltraHLE or develop emulators.
Console manufacturers claim that emulation is outright theft, whereas the emulation community considers it a programming feat to be admired.48 At the center of this controversy is a struggle between fair use and monopoly rights. The following section explores both groups’ perspectives.
Promotes nostalgia and backward compatibility
Provides an enhanced gaming environment
Does not infringe on intellectual property due to reverse engineering and fair use doctrines
Represents a huge financial threat
Compromises integrity of gaming experience and brand equity (trademark dilution)
Promotes copyright, trademark, and trade dress infringement
The emulation community claims that emulation provides access to old popular games, enhances the gaming experience, and does not infringe game makers’ intellectual property rights, since it principally allows gamers to play older video games no longer available in stores and possibly owned in now-outdated formats by the users.49 As such, the emulator industry is a legitimate enterprise developed in response to latent customer demand that has gone unmet by console and video game manufacturers.
Emulation Provides Backward Compatibility and Facilitates the Preservation of Old Games
A key factor driving the emulation industry is consumer demand for backward and cross-system compatibility.50 To drive profits, most console makers operate on a model
45 46 47 48 49
Figure 5: Nintendo 64 Software Game Revenues.
, SALON, June 1998,
h t t p : / / a r c h i v e . s a l o n . c o m / 2 1 s t / f e a t u r e / 1 9 9 8 / 0 6 / 2 3 f e a t u r e . h t m l ( l a s t v i s i t e d J u l y 4 , 2 0 0 4 ) . http://www.emulationzone.org (last visited 50 Andrew Wolan, (1999),
July 4, 2004).