Emulators have existed ever since computers and consoles became powerful enough to run them. Although many people may associate the use of emulators with piracy, there is definitely a legitimate value in them as they can be used, for example, to preserve titles that are currently impossible to find otherwise or to replicate a hardware that doesn’t exist anymore. I wouldn’t have been able to review Lucas Arts games (like Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max: Hit the Road and many others) if it wasn’t for the existence of SCUMMVM. But now that consoles are as powerful enough to be able to run improved emulators, what is the future of this practice? Will certain people continue to pirate old games and play them on their PCs? Or will ports of original games become popular enough to discourage people from pirating these classics?
First and foremost, piracy will always exist as there will always be someone who has a lot of free time and will use it to keep downloading illegal copies of games. In this day and age though, downloading legitimate versions of games, even really old ones, couldn’t be easier. For example, let’s suppose you want to play Mario Kart 64. Why would you bother downloading a ROM from an obscure website at the same time you try to get a working emulator when you can easily go to the Wii Virtual Console and get it for $10? In addition to this, Sony offers a similar service on the PlayStation Network where players can download old classics from the original PlayStation era. The ones available are well integrated with most of Sony’s platforms as they run on your PlayStation 3, PSP and even on the Vita (actually, on the latter this feature is coming soon.)
Furthermore, some companies offer collections, compilations and packages that not only include the games, but also have a couple of appealing extras. A clear example of this is the God of War Collection that came out for the PlayStation 3. Soon after releasing their latest console, Sony removed PS2 emulation in the PS3 in order to drop the latter’s price, but the Japanese-based company tried to make up for it by releasing many attractive HD compilations. The aforementioned God of War Collection featured not only the first and second game of the popular series, but also bonus material such as the God of War III E3 Demo, trophies support and videos with every developer in the series. Those who never got the chance to experience these games in the PlayStation 2 may get this appealing compilation that offers the games and much more, adding a little more value.
There is also the case of collections that implement emulators. That would be the case of Sonic Mega Collection and Sonic Mega Collection Plus. As these compilations include titles that originally came out for the Sega Genesis, the developer used an emulator and adapted it to be able to run on various platforms (GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC.) That package in particular had a couple of issues related with emulation, but that’s always the case as it’s almost impossible to emulate games 100% accurately. Other similar compilations include the Mega Man X Collection, Mega Man Anniversary Collections, Capcom Classics Collection, Sega Classics Collection, Capcom Classics Collection, Sega Genesis Collection, Street Fighter Anniversary Collection and the list goes on and on.
It’s worth pointing out that some really old games can’t be played without using an emulator. Let’s go back to the Lucas Arts example. Those games use the SCUMM engine (SCUMM stands for Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) which at the time of its creation was extremely versatile as it could run on almost any system/operating system including: 3DO, Amiga, Apple-II, Atari ST, CDTV, Commodore 64, Apple Macintosh, Nintendo Entertainment System , Sega Mega CD and DOS. If you want to play any of the games that use that game engine (such as Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Loom, Full throttle, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max: Hit The Road among some others,) you have no other choice than using SCUMMVM, a free open-source project that allows you to run all those titles and many more on almost any modern platform.
In conclusion, there is a lot of value in emulation. Personally, I wouldn’t have been able to experience many classics if it wasn’t for the existence of many popular emulators. Do you use emulators? Do you know any compilation that uses them? Did you enjoy them or were they plagued by bugs and inconsistencies? Please go ahead, share your opinion in the comments.