Console Manufacturers Pressure Google Into Pulling Emulators From The Android Market

from the it-takes-a-lot-of-effort-to-make-your-IP-worthless dept

In what is a rather unsurprising move, Sega and Nintendo have pressured Google to remove certain emulators from the Android Market. Some of the details via Geek.com:

Over the weekend developer Yong Zhang, known on the Android Market as yongzh, saw his Android developer account revoked and all the apps he offers removed from the Market. The apps he was offering were all emulators for popular older systems including the NES, SNES, Genesis, N64, Atari, Game Gear, and Game Boy. But Google has seen fit to remove all of them ( including Nesoid, Snesoid, Gensoid, N64oid, Ataroid, Gearoid, and Gameoid).
Now, I know the rationale behind this. Or rather, I know of it. I don't know as in understand it.

I can see console developers having an issue with someone making money with their IP. I can understand why that's an issue. What I don't understand is why forcing these emulators and roms to be removed is the answer.

Reggie Fils-Aime has stated before his dislike of indie developers and the general race-to-the-bottom price competition, but has anybody at Sega or Nintendo or Sony ever considered the possibility of contacting these developers and licensing the emulators?
[CLARIFICATION (mainly for the benefit of console developers): By "licensing," I don't mean wave the lawyer stick around threateningly until they give up all commercial rights in perpetuity in exchange for a lawsuit-free existence and a signed copy of Tamigotchi: Party On!
I mean actual fair licensing agreements in which both parties have a chance to make some money. END CLARIFICATION.]
There are thousands of fans out there, cranking out amazing stuff simply because they love the consoles and the games. Emulators, ROMs, fan fiction, fan movies, translations, you name it, somebody is out there doing it.

And it's not like most of these consoles are still available from the developers and they're certainly not cranking out new titles for the Genesis or the SNES. So why not take all this fan power and harness it into something that makes you money (granted, not at $40-50 a pop) rather than just shutting it down and collecting a big fat $0 for your efforts.

Mobile gaming is the new console gaming. All those kids who grew up with a NES or a Genesis are now cruising around with their smartphones looking for a hit of nostalgia. Besides, any gamer worth his fanboyism will tell you that all the best games were released at least a decade ago, if not longer. (See also: Final Fantasy VII, Sony Playstation, 1998.)

Besides, all the programming and debugging (well, most of it) has already been done. All it needs now is the official go-ahead from the console manufacturers and everyone can start printing money or bitcoins or whatever. You're not going to get rid of them. The fans are everywhere and they've got more enthusiasm than you've got lawyers. If you can't beat 'em, monetize 'em.

 

UPDATE: As Chris Rhodes (and others) have pointed out, this emulator removal does not have anything to do with Nintendo. In fact, it looks as if yongzh brought this upon himself by selling open source code as his own.

The two links I used to put this story together (the one in the post) and this one over at Engadget both mention Sega's hand in getting some emulators pulled and conjecture that Nintendo may have been involved with getting the rest removed. It's not until you start reading the comment thread at Engadget that any of yongzh's misdeeds are even mentioned. Generally, I don't head to the comment threads to get the real story, but there's a first time for everything and unfortunately, this wasn't it.

Between those two articles and a long history of console developers battling emulator/ROM programmers, not to mention Nintendo's obvious lack of interest in developing for smartphones, I assumed that Nintendo was involved.

Well, as the old saying goes: "Never assume, because it makes an ass out of the author and often leads to public evisceration and eternal damnation thanks to Google cache."

My thanks to everyone who pointed this out and my apologies to everyone else.



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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    Clarification

    It's not certain that this was, in fact, pressure by Nintendo. Via Slashdot, it was said that his SNES emulator was in large part based on SNES9x, an open source emulator with a license that specifically disallows commercial use of their code.

    So it might still be copyright-related, but not for the reasons you suggest.

     

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      Jay (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 12:39pm

      Re: Clarification

      But to take away all of his emulators along with his revenue streams, seems a little excessive without an explanation at least.

       

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        Chris Rhodes (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 12:44pm

        Re: Re: Clarification

        His flagrant disregard for the open source license got him booted from the Android market altogether, which is why the rest of his apps went too. Besides, he can still distribute his apps himself, since Android is not locked into one market; Google just won't help him do it anymore.

         

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          Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 12:53pm

          Re: Re: Re: Clarification

          You assume he got in trouble due to some open source code, but if he did he wouldn't be planing on selling all of them again on slideme.org. They're only free for two weeks.

           

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            Chris Rhodes (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Clarification

            Perhaps he assumes (probably correctly) that the Snes9x team, being FOSS developers, do not have the resources to sue him for his violation of their license? And if he's right, why wouldn't he just put them up elsewhere and continue to rake in the cash? If indeed he did get in trouble with Nintendo, I assume he would not put them up again on a different market, since they deep pockets and legions of angry lawyers.

            The fact that put them up elsewhere actually supports the "Snes9x Infringement Theory" over the "Angry Nintendo Theory".

             

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              Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:15pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Clarification

              To me it sounds like it supports the "Nintendo angry at Google not him" theory. If it was just the Snex9x team, why was everything pulled? Are they all based off of the Snex9x code?

               

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                Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:18pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Clarification

                Isn't Snex9x based off of ZSNES? I seem to remember Snex9x being the Windows version of ZSNES a while ago.

                 

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                Chris Rhodes (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:27pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Clarification

                If it was just the Snex9x team, why was everything pulled?
                Because Google booted him from the marketplace entirely.

                Calling up Google and saying "Hey, this guy ripped off our code. Please stop supporting him." is much easier for a cashless FOSS developer to do than hiring a lawyer and going after him in court. If Nintendo was behind this, do you think putting the same infringing code up elsewhere would be the logical thing for him to do?

                 

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                  Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:44pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Clarification

                  That's how most of the emulators did it back when the big three were cracking down on roms. Nintendo got yours pulled, you just put it up somewhere else.

                  Google is also fairly good at only pulling the offending item, not the entire account (at least on the first offense).

                  I guess there's really only one way to be sure, and I don't know if it's possible for us to find out.

                   

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                CommonSense (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:41pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Clarification

                I'm pretty sure that as a dev, if you violate the terms of the market or whatever with one app, your dev privileges get pulled, not just that app. So only one app may have been the problem, but the fact that the guy had a problem got him and the rest of his stuff removed.

                It's kind of like, if you're giving out Apples at Halloween, and only one of them has a razor blade in it, people should still throw out any apple that came from your place and prevent their kids from trick-or-treating at your house.

                 

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                  Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:54pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Clarification

                  So you're saying throw out everything by any user that gets hit with one DMCA? The Google market would vanish inside a week.

                  And your apple analogy is way over the top. It's like saying take away his right to make any app just like we would take away the right to be free from someone who only killed one person.

                   

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                    Chris Rhodes (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 2:04pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Clarification

                    So you're saying throw out everything by any user that gets hit with one DMCA?

                    What does a DMCA have to do with violating a terms of service? Did he even get hit with a DMCA? I didn't see anything in the post that would lead me to believe that Google didn't investigate the claim before they booted him. Do you know otherwise?

                     

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                    CommonSense (profile), Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 1:44pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Clarification

                    you're over the top here. no one is taking away his right to make any app, just to publish his apps in the android market...unless I'm missing something...

                    Also, I'm not saying to throw anything out. That's just what I interpret the Google terms of use to be if you're an app dev. The same terms that each app dev should read and agree to before posting their apps in the market.

                    I thought you were one of the people here who could logically think through things like this....having an off day??

                     

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      A Dan (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 12:47pm

      Re: Clarification

      Agreed. Based on everything I've heard, and the as-of-yesterday fact that the official versions were still up, this guy was just violating the licensing terms of the emulator programs he repackaged and sold as his own.

       

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      Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 3:32pm

      Re: Clarification

      I've updated the post with this information. Thanks for the heads up.

       

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    A.R.M. (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 12:39pm

    "Besides, any gamer worth his fanboyism will tell you that all the best games were released at least a decade ago, if not longer."
    That's because today's gamers are still trying to install their games purchased 2 years ago...

    ... well, those who have access to the game servers, that is.

     

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    Cowardly Anon, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 12:52pm

    As is true with most heavy handed IP protection hammer approach, killing these emulators in the Android market place has really done nothing but push it further underground.

    You see, Android is lovely b/c it is so open. You can install apps from other app sites...ones Google doesn't own or have pull over.

    Thus, b/c instead of using their hammer to kill out infringement, they have instead turned it into that cushioned hammer from whack-a-mole. Good job.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 12:58pm

      Re:

      Once again, Google finds a way to profit from piracy without having to do any of the dirty work.

       

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        MRK, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:06pm

        Re: Re:

        Exactly. Just like how Sony profits from people who sneak cameras into theaters, Ford profits from getaway drivers, and Nike profits from drug dealers who wear shoes.

         

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        Cowardly Anon, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:42pm

        Re: Re:

        That statement actually made my eye twitch.

        I could go into how stupid it is, but I feel you are actually just a troll and can't honestly be that stupid.

         

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        The eejit (profile), Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 12:01am

        Re: Re:

        Dude, I think the Asylum is
        -----------------------------> THAT WAY.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:07pm

    Great Story Tim. But I think you made a typo.

    It should read VI, not VII.

     

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    iamtheky (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:18pm

    might just be me...

    ...but I seem to be averse to having an opinion fed to me, and I am beginning to see a trend amongst postings from this author.

    Can we try one purely factual? I'll even settle for well sourced potential facts over fantastical three paragraph run-on summations.

     

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    Spaceboy (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:28pm

    " [CLARIFICATION (mainly for the benefit of console developers): By "licensing," I don't mean wave the lawyer stick around threateningly until they give up all commercial rights in perpetuity in exchange for a lawsuit-free existence and a signed copy of Tamigotchi: Party On!

    I mean actual fair licensing agreements in which both parties have a chance to make some money. END CLARIFICATION.]"

    Why should the guy that compiled the code for the emulator get anything? If Nintendo or whoever decides to put out their own emulator I think they'd be able to do that in-house. All the emulator does is pass calls from the ROM to the hardware. Most of the work has been done already by the people/companies that wrote the original OS and ROM. All this guys is doing is making it compatible with Android.

     

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      Chris Rhodes (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:36pm

      Re:

      All this guys is doing is making it compatible with Android.

      Which is why it's valuable to us Android users. If it was only compatible with, say, the Commodore 64, the market for it on Android systems would be somewhat less, you know?

       

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        Spaceboy (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 2:05pm

        Re: Re:

        I agree that it's valuable to Android users. I have used emulators in the past and see their value. What I was wondering is why Tim thought the guy that wrote the emulator deserved to have his stuff licensed when all he was writing is a software wrapper, which the console makers can easily do.

        This whole episode shows that there is a void that will be filled. The console makers can do it or the community can. Either way it's going to happen. It just didn't make sense to assume that they should license the emulator is all.

         

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      Rekrul, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 3:03pm

      Re:

      Why should the guy that compiled the code for the emulator get anything? If Nintendo or whoever decides to put out their own emulator I think they'd be able to do that in-house.

      You will never see Nintendo release an emulator for any system other than their own. They don't want people to be able to play games from any of their consoles on any system other than one from their own company. A generic emulator allows people to download and play any game they want and that can NEVER be allowed. They want to have complete control over what games are available in what areas.

      Just like how Sony fought to have the Playstation emulators killed off.

       

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        Spaceboy (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 4:51pm

        Re: Re:

        I was at E3 the year Bleem was there...I remember.

         

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          Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 4:59pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The ability to run "pirated software" aside, why would a console kill off an emulator of a current console? This probably oversimplifies things, but aren't the consoles themselves a net loss and the software sales are where the money's at. You'd think they'd want more emulators if that's the case.

          You know, you lose some to piracy but suddenly everyone who owns a computer is part of your market. There's plenty of console games that never get ported.

           

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            Jay (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 8:19pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            They don't get ported, but there's also problems where anything that isn't on the newest system is a "loss".

            You lose time by playing older games.
            Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft are losing money because you aren't playing their new games.

            Sega is losing money because you're playing Sonic 2 instead of Sonic Adventures...

            Scratch that last one. Sega's a time sink anyway.

            Point is, the older game market could probably be nurtured but none of the current console manufacturers are doing a decent job of it for various copyright reasons.

             

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            Rekrul, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 12:01am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The ability to run "pirated software" aside, why would a console kill off an emulator of a current console? This probably oversimplifies things, but aren't the consoles themselves a net loss and the software sales are where the money's at. You'd think they'd want more emulators if that's the case.

            It's all about control. Which is why Nintendo and other consoles from the NES era on, used regional lockout chips to prevent people from playing games from other countries. I remember going to a TurboGrafx16 exhibition at a local mall and all the new games being shown had to be plugged into a special cartridge because none of them were available in the US yet and the Japanese versions wouldn't work in US systems.

             

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            Rekrul, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 12:02am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The ability to run "pirated software" aside, why would a console kill off an emulator of a current console? This probably oversimplifies things, but aren't the consoles themselves a net loss and the software sales are where the money's at. You'd think they'd want more emulators if that's the case.

            It's all about control. Which is why Nintendo and other consoles from the NES era on, used regional lockout chips to prevent people from playing games from other countries. I remember going to a TurboGrafx16 exhibition at a local mall and all the new games being shown had to be plugged into a special cartridge because none of them were available in the US yet and the Japanese versions wouldn't work in US systems.

             

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    Gwiz (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    Serious Question

    I don't have a smartphone (yet - waiting for the damn contract to expire on my crappy phone) so I am curious about something:

    Do Android apps HAVE to be downloaded through an App Store or could I cook up my own homebrew kinda thing and use it as an app on an Android?

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:47pm

      Re: Serious Question

      There's a check box in the settings to allow non-Google Market installs. This does not require rooting or modding the phone. This also must be checked to install any apps created in the Google App Inventor.

       

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        Gwiz (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:51pm

        Re: Re: Serious Question

        Cool. Thanks Chronno.

        I wouldn't want to get stuck in another walled garden, even if it is Google's garden.

         

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          Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 3:30pm

          Re: Re: Re: Serious Question

          Careful where you go. My carrier switched from Alltel to AT&T (as part of some world dominance plan that involved my cellphone somehow) and the smartphone upgrade I got can only install apps through AT&T's app store.

           

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            Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 4:05pm

            Re: US Carrier Lockin

            Capitalist Lion Tamer:

            ...and the smartphone upgrade I got can only install apps through AT&T's app store.


            Do people in the US never buy phones except from a carrier as part of a contract? Is it so hard to buy your own phone, unlocked and unencumbered, and simply connect it to the carrier of your choice?

             

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              Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 4:42pm

              Re: Re: US Carrier Lockin

              Pretty much it's tied to a carrier. It's cheaper this way (initial investment only) as the cost of the phone is subsidized by the multi-year contract. I suppose you could go the other route, but this method is definitely the standard.

               

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            Gwiz (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 4:05pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Serious Question

            ... the smartphone upgrade I got can only install apps through AT&T's app store.

            Oof. I really dislike that kind of thing.

            I get it that the software is copyrighted and probably proprietary. But, the phone itself is akin to hardware to me, like my computer, and belongs to me. I should be able to use whatever software or OS I choose, providing it's compatible with and doesn’t interfere with the carriers' network in any way.

             

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              Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 4:45pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Serious Question

              I'm not a fan of it either. My Blackberry (thru Alltel) wasn't restricted this way. But Alltel got swallowed and coughed up a shiny Android in return. The only positive out of the whole experience is being grandfathered in on Alltel's data plan, so I still have no data cap. For now.

               

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:56pm

      Re: Serious Question

      You can download them from anywhere using apk files. You need the drivers to connect the phone to your PC, then enable debug mode and "unknown sources" to allow non-market apps to be installed. That's how I test the apps I develop for my personal use.

       

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        Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 4:00pm

        Re: Serious Question

        You need the drivers to connect the phone to your PC...

        Drivers are only needed for Windows. Linux connects to the phones just fine.

         

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      sondun2001 (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 2:07pm

      Re: Serious Question

      You can install an app from any where (ie a website, third party app store) as long as you check the "Allow apps from unknown sources" in settings. Also, you can download the SDK and compile your own app and run it on the device. This can be done free of charge. Your imagination is the limit.

       

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    DS78 (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:51pm

    NESoid and SNESoid

    I ran these two apps for a while on my Droid. At the time they were free and no ROMs were offered. Provide your own ROMs...

     

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    HothMonster, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:54pm

    Just finished replaying Chrono Cross on my android. I still own the original cartridge(and box and booklet) but the memory chips in those things don't last, so if I play that version I can't save. So here I am with content I payed for that I can't use anymore. Someone else provides me with the ability to enjoy that content (legally even, i still own the console and cartridge) because the copyright owner refuses to. The entire NES catalog is under a gb, why that cant be zipped up and sold for 20 bucks? idk, but i imagine because people would rather slowly release a few choice games at a time on a disc for 60 bucks for no other reason than they are douchebags.

    Seriously Sega could set up a store and sell every Genesis game for 50 cents a piece and make a ton more money than they do sitting on the content. Instead they release a package of 8 games(2 good 1 ok 5 shitty) every few years and sell it for 60 bucks. Greed, stupidity, fear of innovation

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 1:58pm

      Re:

      Nintendo is famous for that. Cashing in for the ports of their games. Gamecube got a zelda collection, now the 3ds is getting a remake. I dislike that strategy since I alerady paid for the software it should not make a difference where I play it

       

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        HothMonster, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 2:08pm

        Re: Re:

        exactly, they can cash in by reselling an old product at a high price or they could actually provide their customers with what the want and they wonder why people pirate. Why should I have to buy a new console and rebuy a game to play it when I stil have the original cartridge sitting on a shelf?

         

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      Jay (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 8:21pm

      Re:

      Chrono Cross? For a Nintendo game? Are you sure about that?

       

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        HothMonster, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 7:20am

        Re: Re:

        Chrono Cross was on SNES

         

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          Bill Benzon, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 9:21am

          Re: Re: Re:

          ChronoTrigger was on the SNES. Chrono Cross was a PSX game.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrono_cross

          So, are you sure you own the original copy... and that somehow the memory chips (on your CD ROM?) are going bad?

          For the record, I still have a SNES and a copy of Chrono Trigger that works just fine. Actually, the battery backup on my NES version of Zelda still works... after I blow on it, of course.

           

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            Bill Benzon, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 9:24am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Also, don't Playstation consoles play the previous generations' games? Wouldn't your copy of Chrono Cross still be playable on a PS2 or PS3? I didn't own a PS past 1, so I'm not sure, but I always thought that was one of the selling points of the newer systems.

             

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    Daemon_ZOGG, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 2:26pm

    "...Pulling Emulators From The Android Market"

    Android is essentially a heavily modded version of GNU/Linux. Not actual full GNU/Linux in the flesh. If it were, there would be no need for the Apps-Store. One could simply compile and install the emulators from source. If google wants to bend over for the corporate mafia fascists, and ignore their profit margin, then so be it. To protest, I offer the following advice: Root all of your Android devices, and mod any game consoles you already have. The older Sega Dreamcast makes a great remote BSD Unix server(web,ftp, etc). You can search Google for many of these mods. To hell with the proprietary nature of consoles. };|>

     

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      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 4:03pm

      Re: Android is essentially a heavily modded version of GNU/Linux.

      Without the “GNU” part.

       

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        Daemon_ZOGG, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 9:53pm

        Re: Re: Android is essentially a heavily modded version of GNU/Linux.

        Ah, yes of course. It's normal for me to include the "GNU" whenever I make a reference to Linux. ;) Cheers

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 2:47pm

    Enjoy your locked in services, clowns. I hope they kissed you first.

    I'll stick with my wide open PC, thanks.

    Buncha of paddle-slapping apes!

     

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    jsl4980 (profile), Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 6:04am

    There's still a major problem with Google's ability to communicate. They could have ended all of the speculation immediately if they communicated a reason for ending the developer's account.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 6:34am

    His apps are great and it is clear how much passion and energy he has for them. He has been regularly updating and adding features for a couple of years now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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