On the morality of abandonware


  1. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Well-Known Member

    I have no idea if this topic is appropriate here or worthy of being locked. If it's locked I won't be offended.

    I've been thinking about downloading/playing an abandonware game. This game came out in the late 90s and was a huge hit. I've never played. It's since been abandoned by it's developer apparently. I've looked on Amazon ($300), Steam, Direct2Drive, Gog.com and Google. Aside from Amazon, I found one other place selling it for $60 and another place selling it for $90. I'm obviously not going to pay those prices for a 10 year old game and these were all from 3rd party sellers. I went to the developer site looking for some place to give them my money and all they've got there is patches for the game. Support ended nearly a decade ago.

    So, I'm left in a quandry. I want to play this game. There's no question that the publisher owns the rights to that game. Neither they nor anyone else is currently trying to make any money off the game. There's no support for the game so if I had a copy today and called them today for support they'd tell me to go pound sand.

    Now, copyright is one of those things that, legally, only applies if it's enforced. You can actually lose your copyright if you don't enforce it. So, I can either not play the game (boo!) or download the game someplace without paying for it which is technically illegal, but I'm not sure if it's immoral or not as there is no way to give anyone money for the game. If the publisher/developer or anyone out there was still trying to make money on the game I'd absolutely pay them for it. But no one is. Is it immoral to pirate abandoned games when there is no one out there actually trying to profit from them?

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  2. 9to5cynic

    9to5cynic Well-Known Member

    Hmm... *I* am not morally opposed to that. I'd say go for it. I bought my brother a game on amazon that we used to play as kids and I felt a bit ripped off by it. The publisher doesn't sell it, and the disk wasn't even the 'original' disk (it was like a re-packaging).

    I'll admit that I have downloaded a few abandoned games in my past, I don't feel 'morally' against it, but, I mean, morals are very subjective... A very interesting question that you've raised - I must say.

    I guess really the only one to make money off of this situation would be the potential seller, but paying *that* much for such an old game seems a bit crazy.

    Publicly: Don't do it.
    Personally: Don't get caught.
    also, any chance you'll tell us what game it is? Very curious now... I hope it's Oregon Trail, loved that game.


    Also, I was just thinking, if it's a rather popular game, is there any chance that the source will be released or a legal download will be made available (free)...(IE: bethesda released Arena and Daggerfall for free).
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  3. karandpr

    karandpr Well-Known Member

    If the developer doesnt get a penny why should distributors who are just are a medium be paid !! 300$ is highway robbery !! . You can donate some money to the developer as a sign of good faith if you can ,if he exists ..

    +1 ;)
  4. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Well-Known Member

    The game I was looking at is the original Black and White. The sequel and some of the expansion packs can be found fairly easily, but not the original. The developer has moved on to the Fable franchise apparently. You can't buy the game from them. You can't buy the game from a distributor. There's no question Lionhead owns the copyright, but they're not making any attempts to profit from it. If they were, I'd either give them a reasonable amount of money or do without. But they're not. It's kind of like they've written a book and it's now locked in a library and no one is allowed to read it.
    tommy_ed likes this.
  5. dogbertus

    dogbertus Well-Known Member

    +1
  6. 9to5cynic

    9to5cynic Well-Known Member

    Ahh I was looking into that game this summer. My comp can't handle new games (even semi-new games really), and that was one that caught my fancy.
    long winded:
    I'm not sure the qualifications of 'abandon-ware', and to me, that game almost seems too 'new' to be abandonware (of course, when I think of abandonware I think old dos games and the like..), but it does seem to be abandoned by the devs...

    What about the old copyright laws, where they expired after a while? You could just go by that on a moral standpoint...
    (not to get too off-topic, but on copyrights, I personally feel fine downloading a book that I physically own for the ebook version, or a book that the author has been dead for decades... Paying someone for a dead mans words seems a bit foolish to me...)


    Well, I guess eventually you will do what you want (likely what you feel is 'right' or 'just'), and I made my main point in the first post. Good luck controlling a demi-god if you so choose. :D
    ocnbrze likes this.
  7. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Well-Known Member

    The original game was published in 2001 so it's a 10 year old game we're talking about. To me something is abandoned when the developer stops supporting/selling it. That is certainly the case in this situation.
  8. 9to5cynic

    9to5cynic Well-Known Member

    I think with your definition of abandonware, then it's fair game. Though, that may not hold up if the law was somehow involved....

    I don't think you have to worry about it 'morally' though. I wouldn't. If the dev doesn't care enough about it to sell it....;)
  9. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Well-Known Member

    Wouldn't hold up for a second legally. The developer still owns the copyright for like 50-100 years.
  10. Snow_Fox

    Snow_Fox Well-Known Member

    As someone who is firmly against piracy.. I really don't see the harm.

    The law has no baring on morality. The law should be moral, that doesn't mean it is.

    In this case the company who made/produced the game is no longer profiting.

    we really need to change our piracy laws as a whole and introduce reason/rationality to the whole issue.
  11. Bob Maxey

    Bob Maxey Well-Known Member

    Can you post the name of the and dev/publisher name? If you are really interested in doing the right thing, perhaps I can track down the dev.
  12. 9to5cynic

    9to5cynic Well-Known Member

    I believe it is Lionhead... I could be wrong, but I wanna say that was the dev. It was the original black and white game.

    Must say, this is one of my favorite threads. I love the juxtaposition between laws and morals - how - in theory - they should be similar, but in practice there are not.
    That whole 'steal bread, feed your family' thing. :D
  13. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Well-Known Member

    Yep. It's Lionhead. And it's the original Black and White. You can buy the sequel and some of the expansion packs on Amazon and other places for under $20. I don't find that unreasonable. The original seems to not be available. Apparently the dev has abandoned it in favor of the Fable franchise. Nothing necessarily wrong with that. The dev certainly has no obligation to continue developing the game. Thing is I can now no longer get my hands on a legal copy. Lionhead still owns the copyright. No question about it. But they are no longer seeking to make money from that copyright. Seems to be no question about that either. I can't say I blame them really. You have finite resources. It doesn't make sense to dedicate those resources to supporting/developing a game/program that is 10 years old.
  14. Bob Maxey

    Bob Maxey Well-Known Member

    Well then . . . if the dev is still active (you mentioned the Fable franchise) then drop him a note. Just because something is abandoned does not means it is open season.
  15. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Well-Known Member

    Tried that. They referred me to the XBox forums (they've been bought out by Microsoft and their latest releases are all for XBox). The user forums seem to be of limited help. They're basically dead. Fable is the franchise they're putting all their resources toward. This is what I hate about abandonware games.
  16. 9to5cynic

    9to5cynic Well-Known Member

    Ouch, you even tried to contact the dev. I'd say my decision would be made up by now ;)
    tommy_ed likes this.
  17. jraskell

    jraskell Well-Known Member

    To OP:

    I bought this game when it was originally released. I should still have the disk in storage, and possibly the manual as well (I have a couple boxes of old games in storage).

    If you are interested, I'll see if I can find it this weekend. I'd be happy to send it your way for a reasonable price (mainly just to cover the effort of finding and shipping it)
  18. chanchan05

    chanchan05 The Doctor Guide

    I would download that without qualms. The developer isn't making money out of it, and its only the developers I care of supporting, not the middlemen.

    For the record, I do pirate games. Even recent ones. Because I am in a third world country, we usually get games here very late, or not at all. So if the games aren't in the major game stores here and they have no idea when they will get it, then off to torrent it is. Its not my fault, they're forcing me to do so anyway. I try to pay when I can, simply because the official installers are way better and get support including update patches. But if they leave me no choice, what moral qualms should I even think of?
  19. Slug

    Slug Check six! Moderator

    That's a completely different issue. No one is "forcing" you - you could simply either wait for release in your locale, or pre-order it online from elsewhere if you were that desperate to play it rather than deprive the developers of the reward for their work. The issue here is a decade-old game, long out of both production and support, that the developer no longer even acknowledges.
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  20. Bob Maxey

    Bob Maxey Well-Known Member

    If I understand you correctly, the software is owned by Microsoft? If that is the case, welcome to Federal Court; a happy place where you might get crushed and your body dragged through the streets of Redmond as a warning to others.
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  21. Bob Maxey

    Bob Maxey Well-Known Member

    Bottom line: if the game is long gone and the developers still own the rights to the game, nobody should try to get it for free. Forget that developers ignore you. Forget that it is old. All you need to remember is it is not your property.

    For all you know, some large company owns the game even though they do not promote it, care about it, or support it.
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  22. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Well-Known Member

    Yes. The game was developed by Lionhead Studios who were then purchased/eaten up by MS way back in '05. Since then, they've put all their effort towards developing/promoting the Fable franchise and have long since ended support for Black and White. They still host forums where users will help you out, but that's about it.

    This is the problem with abandonware.

    1. A lot of times who owns the game is unclear. The developer may have gone out of business or been eaten up 14 times (though that's not the cas here).

    2. Many times the developer either doesn't care to protect the game or doesn't actively try to prevent piracy of the game because it's so old. They're making no money off it so they have no motivation to protect it and instead promote their current releases. Property rights are one of those things that are only valuable when someone protects them.

    It's like taking a book and sticking it in the library and locking the door. The author owns that book. But there's still demand for it. If you break into the library to read the book, you're committing a crime. Yet there is a book you want to read sitting on the shelf. The author is not interested in selling you a copy. You wave money in his face and they're un-phased. You really want to read that book, but the author isn't interested in taking your money, and it's illegal to steal it. Hence the frustration.

    If Lionhead just put the game out with no support for $2-3 I'd pay for it. I think a lot of people would pay for various abandonware games under those terms.
  23. EarlyMon

    EarlyMon The PearlyMon Moderator

    And for every user who lost two or three bucks on something that wouldn't run, they'd demand a refund. Regardless of warnings during purchase. Two or three bucks wouldn't handle the grief and hassle.

    It's gone. It no longer exists. You've spent far more than a few bucks worth of your time trying to make it so, but it's not happening. Sorry, but it just is what it what is.

    You can't always get what you want. ;) :)
    ocnbrze likes this.
  24. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Well-Known Member

    True. It's just frustrating to want to give someone your money and they refuse to take it.
  25. 9to5cynic

    9to5cynic Well-Known Member

    You meant that like the song right? In my head, that line was sung. :):cool:
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