Legacy Games And The Modern Internet: or Why Can't I Buy And Download Pharaoh Online?

You know, we’ve come a long way since the benighted days of the early WWW, back in the late 90s. Storage is cheap. Really cheap. Bandwidth is much less expensive than it was back in the day of baud modems. And yet, I can’t seem to find a legitimate site to buy and download legacy games online.

I’ve been craving some CityBuilding…mostly, in ancient Egypt. I played the hell out of Pharaoh way back when, but somewhere along the way I lost the CD. So I just spent an hour trying to find a site (preferably Activision, which is where Sierra ended up) to pay a legitimate price for a legitimate download, and I can’t find anything of the kind. Steam has the “new” “Pharaoh” (Children of the Nile, which I tried and don’t like at all), but not the real thing. Activision has all of 8(!) games for digital download, one of which is Caesar IV (which I also don’t like much). But no legacies.

Does ANYONE know of a site that sells legacy games like Pharaoh/Cleopatra or Zeus/Poseidon via legitimate digital download? I’m not looking for “abandonware” sites…I actually want to pay for a valid download and (presumably) EULA.

A lot of them have been re-released on Budget CD/DVD- have a look at your local EB Games (or whatever they call themselves now) and see if they’ve got anything.

I know most of the Sierra City-Building Games (including Pharoah, Caesar IV, and Emperor: Rise Of The Middle Kingdom) have all been reissued at some point in the past couple of years.

Hmmm…I may need to run out to EB tomorrow, then.

The larger question remains, though…why aren’t game companies rifling through their back-catalog to offer legacy games downloadable? It’s got to be cheap…they don’t have to burn new discs for distribution. It’s like almost-free money, with GenY just heading into their nostalgia phase and gamer GenXers yearning for them, too.

Good Old Games is a site that legitimately sells legacy games like those, but it doesn’t actually have those.

I suspect the main problem is that there is basically zero demand for anything except the classics, which are already available. You still need to hire someone to get the game working again on modern systems. And, this last part is speculation on my part, I’d wager for a good number of those titles, no one knows who actually owns the copyright anymore.

Those are clasics. They were bvig sellers back in the day. They are also new enough to work on most modern systems.

However, the real problem here is Sierra. The company mroe or elss fell apart a while back, and I’m not sure if the new Sierra has much to do with the old company. Short version: selling old games is not on the menu right now, though it probably should.

Why would you have to make them work on modern systems? Toss the downloader a link to dosbox or something similar and wish them luck if they’re that old. If they’re written for Win95 or later, they’ll probably work just by checking a few compatibility boxes. Leastways StarCraft and MOOII are no trouble running on 7. The sort of person who wants to download these sorts of games isn’t someone who isn’t willing to do a bit of work to make them run.

Because consumers generally get pissed when their stuff doesn’t work. DOS Box isn’t a real commercial solution because it isn’t even close to 100%. Tons of stuff doesn’t work because the switch from the 9x line to the NT line. Never mind OpenGL being more or less abandoned and driver issues. My Steam list is full of stuff less than 10 years old that doesn’t run. I can’t imagine it being any better with classics.

No such issue with the Caesar/Pharaoh/Zeus line of games, though. I’ve been playing Emperor on and off for the past two years on an XP system, and besides a corrupt savegame issue once, it’s all good. Doesn’t even require an emulator or patch or some such software fuckery to make it run, although it can only run in much lower resolutions that most current flatscreens like.

Dunno about Vista or 7 or any of that newfangled chrome crap though. If NT systems were good enough for Jesus, they’re good enough for me.

The two answers to this question have sortof already been given, but:

#1: Technical issues. Theoretically, people need to support it and make sure it works, which may eat up any possible profit.
#2: Licensing. The studios behind a lot of this stuff are long since gone, and their copyrights and the like are floating in limbo. Serious commercial enterprises tend to be quite leery of that sort of thing.

The sort of dilemma facing the OP (Old “Classic” game that’s no longer available, and due to licensing and ownership complications may not become available in the foreseeable future) was one of main inspirations for this thread on shorter copyright terms for entertainment software from not all that long ago, in case anyone’s interested.