About the Emulation category

Video Game Emulators

A video game console emulator is a type of emulator that allows a computing device to emulate a video game console’s hardware and play its games on the emulating platform.

More often than not, emulators carry additional features that surpass the limitations of the original hardware, such as broader controller compatibility, timescale control, greater performance, clearer quality, easier access to memory modifications (like GameShark), one-click cheat codes, and unlocking of gameplay features. Emulators are also a useful tool in the development process of homebrew demos and the creation of new games for older, discontinued, or rarer consoles.

The code and data of a game are typically supplied to the emulator by means of a ROM file (a copy of game cartridge data) or an ISO image (a copy of optical media), which are created by either specialized tools for game cartridges, or regular optical drives reading the data. Most games retain their copyright despite the increasing time-span of the original system and products’ discontinuation; this leaves regular consumers and emulation enthusiasts to resort to obtaining games freely across various internet sites rather than legitimately purchasing and ripping the contents (although for optical media, this is becoming popular for legitimate owners). As an alternative, specialized adapters such as the Retrode allow emulators to directly access the data on game cartridges without needing to copy it into a ROM image first, there are website emulators that can be used on all forms of technology that are found on websites.

Legal Background

As computers and global computer networks continued to advance and emulator developers grew more skilled in their work, the length of time between the commercial release of a console and its successful emulation began to shrink. Fifth-generation consoles such as Nintendo 64, PlayStation and sixth-generation handhelds, such as the Game Boy Advance, saw significant progress toward emulation during their production. This led to an effort by console manufacturers to stop unofficial emulation, but consistent failures such as Sega v. Accolade 977 F.2d 1510 (9th Cir. 1992), Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. v. Connectix Corporation 203 F.3d 596 (2000), and Sony Computer Entertainment America v. Bleem 214 F.3d 1022 (2000), have had the opposite effect. According to all legal precedents, emulation is legal within the United States. However, unauthorized distribution of copyrighted code remains illegal, according to both country-specific copyright and international copyright law under the Berne Convention. Accordingly, video game publishers and developers have taken legal action against websites that illegally redistribute their copyrighted software, successfully forcing sites to remove their titles or taking down the websites entirely.