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Its called abandonware, and according to a recent article on Wired.com, its a growing phenomenon.
One site called The Home of the Underdogs ( www.theunderdogs.org ) has 2,600 computer games in its archive that are no longer for sale. More than 30,000 people visit the site on peak days, which is a lot when you consider that most of these visitors are downloading large gaming files.
The Underdogs creator, Sarinee Achavanuntakul, pays the hosting and bandwith costs out of her own pocket and has turned to banner advertising to cover her costs. Most of the games are free, although there are links to games on developers sites that are no longer available in stores, but are available onlne.
If she sold the games, she would be profiting from copyrighted intellectual property and shut down by court order within the week. But because this service is free, and operated as a kind of online museum where you can download the artifacts, she is generally left alone.
A lot of the more popular titles are missing from the catalogue as companies purchase the rights to these old games with the intention of releasing them to a nostalgic public. That includes games like Donkey Kong, Frogger and Pac Man.
You can browse through the archive of games by type (application, action, adventure, educational, interactive fiction, puzzle, role playing game, simulation, special, sport, strategy and war), by company (i.e. Access Software, Acclaim Entertainment, Accolade, Activision), or alphabetically.
There are also picks of the week, and features on popular games that have slid into the realm of abandonware.
Another good abandonware site for gamers is Bunny Abandonware ( http://bunnz.oldiesoracle.net) .
The creator of the site is another woman, Michelle McClellan, which is odd when you consider that boys make up the bulk of computer gamers by a long margin. A fanatic is a fanatic, however, and McClellan is definitely enthusiastic about preserving our electronic gaming history.
Other abandonware sites include the Abandonware Ring ( www.abandonwarering.com) , Flashback Abandonware ( www.flashback-aw.net/) , Legal Abandonware ( http://pluto.spaceports.com/~godork/legal/) , Free Oldies ( www.freeoldies.com/) , and Internet Trash ( http://internettrash.com/users/corn_am)i/) .