How do we know the difference between obscure and forgotten completely? Technically, obscure titles are ones that get re-released (in this conversation), forgotten one’s just don’t. But what we need to remember is that no release is ever fully forgotten by everyone ever, someone remembers and at least one of them would like to see or play that title again. So what’s a fellow to do? Will these things resurface at all? If so, when?
Let’s focus on movies for a minute here. I ask because I’ve thought a lot about older films that I enjoyed growing up that have yet to resurface onto a more time-relevant format such as DVD. And that’s okay, some of the time, as you can find a digital version on Amazon or somewhere similar, but what happens when that isn’t an option? You either seek out a worn-out VHS copy from a site, if one ever even existed (*ahem* TV movies usually didn’t make it there) for an insane amount of cash or you… well…. wait? What if it never comes? Sure, it’s clear that a lot of them may not be getting updated releases because their just isn’t enough interest, but then why isn’t it legal to try and seek them out in another way? Of course I don’t mean by knifing anyone, I mean by streaming the best version you can find on a site like YouTube. They pull them down because a company that hasn’t given a shit for twenty years decides they don’t want anyone to see it at all ever or a bigger company who now owns the rights is just sitting on it with no plans to take it any further. The questions continue from that. Why not just put together a digital version and set it up for a price where you think you can intrigue enough to make your money back plus cost for time? But you’ll get all the, “Well, what’s in it for me? How is it even worth it at that point”?
Another question; Is it stealing? All views on piracy aside, it legally is taking something from a company that owns it. Not physically, which is where there’s some grey area for people, but legally it still is. This article isn’t about piracy but it, I think, explains some of it. A lot of people will say that prices play a big role in that but, in my opinion, at least it’s out there for purchase. If I want it and it’s available, I’ll buy it.
It’s important to understand that it’s risky business, yes, but there’s an entire new generation of younger viewers who might actually like your product. Not every old thing is worth pulling out of the trash bin and not everyone worships the Twilight series, somewhere in the middle there is opportunity to take what’s been accomplished and share it while hopefully making enough income to make it worth the time invested. Truly, any form of art can survive, it just needs someone to talk about it. Think about films like Plan 9 From Outer Space, for example. Is it good? God no, but it is classic for the horrible imperfections that completely engulf it and it still sells to this day. I bought it a few months ago on blu-ray myself as a matter of fact. The more obscure and buried titles become, they get better looking to people, it’s human nature. Think of these buried things as if they were significant others you broke up with; they become a lot more interesting once you know you can’t get to them anymore.
Thankfully, companies like Scream Factory and Shout Factory are out there digging classics up and putting them out, regardless of their IMDB rating. Cult films are cult because there’s a group interested enough to spend a little cash to either see something they’ve never or to add an almost forgotten film to their shelf. It isn’t rocket-science to see that, if marketed well, it’d be cheaper to clean up and restore older films that haven’t made it to the current generation yet than it is to try and recreate the charm, the atmosphere and the mood that worked so well for the film originally.
I know a lot of people are thinking, “if they worked so well and were worth a release, they’d have gotten it already or would be getting it soon”. That’s easy enough to say but for those who grew up before the 2000’s, there are a lot of things that were enjoyed as a kid that aren’t the same anymore and others that aren’t being brought back to existence at all. There’s plenty of proof of that just by flipping on the television and looking at all the remakes of classic cartoons such as My Little Pony, Carebears and so on. But I digress, I’m side-tracking.
Just today a friend and I were talking about an older Sierra game that had Activision tied into it. The original developers who actually designed the game decided to put it up for release, which is great, but the guy over at the Sierra help-forums who releases installers that work with current OS releases won’t touch it due to legalities he’s unsure of. Let me make it clear that I’m not familiar enough with the situation to comment on where Activision would actually stand on it but I can say that it’s a prime example of everything I’ve mentioned here, just geared to video games as opposed to movies. Let it go.
Here is more information regarding things of that nature as they’re tied into Sierra:
These companies who go after fans who make fan-made sequels of games that haven’t been all that relevant in even more than ten years are the lowest. It’s most true especially when you’re talking about a completely outdated console such as NES or Sega Genesis. They are two of my favorite consoles ever made but are they still in production? Are games for them? Now use that same answer when asked, “should these companies send out cease and desist letters”? There are boundaries that should always be considered, though, to make it work. One, of course, is to fully give the rights and credit up front to the original people involved because the entire project wouldn’t exist without their original work. Two, don’t go placing advertising in there or try to make any money off of it. Three…. well, I can’t think of a three since the first two should cover it. Truthfully, it should be an honor to these older companies (still working and especially the out of business ones) that they’re still relevant at all.
How is that so terribly different from streaming a film that you can’t get any other way on YouTube? It Isn’t.
Most aren’t going to spend $200 on a Clownhouse VHS (that one actually made DVD but an example of a highly priced rarity) nor are they going to buy a console off eBay plus any extras to play two games. You’ll then, with current televisions, need convertors or an old TV to accompany it. Now… why? It’s silly when the masses can emulate these same consoles on their computer. Granted, it loses most of the true feel you’d get from blowing in an NES and slamming a game down to get it to work, but it also saves gobs of money. I’m not trying to say that I condone it, but I get it. How can you not? Most gamers today are only playing those for the experience and, besides maybe the 5% of people who take these old games as seriously as they did when they were 7, are just casually looking into video game history. Is that a crime? Ha. Apparently it is but does anyone care? There’s a difference between downloading Xbox 360 games versus grabbing a few Gameboy platformers that you weren’t even alive to appreciate. In a lot of cases, though, it’s probably pretty close to legal as most who’d even want to play those games again did buy them at least once in the past. Do they all still have them in a box in the basement? The line blurs further.
What about a 10-20 year grace-period? A game or film can sit dormant for someone, probably a company, to purchase full rights to before then releasing them to the public. It’s unfair for the fans of anything to have to know a company is just going to sit on something they want and not do anything with it. Sell the rights or let them expire to that grace-period and enter a site like archive.org with a license still for sale to anyone who wants to buy it and re-release it. People would still buy the game if you gave incentive, refer to Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded for an example of a much later re-release working. Do a graphical overhaul and/or add some new optional levels or a documentary video, it could work.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure as they say, and it’s true. There are a lot of trash and gems buried in the vaults of obscurity that could be put out there for us to enjoy and even for someone to capitalize on. Looked at Steam lately? Notice that retro platformers are making a comeback? There’s always a hunger for yesteryear, I personally hate to see it wasted.
So long as companies sit on old products thinking they may again become relevant cash-cows, we’re essentially going to lose that front. But, thanks to the companies of the past who are just glad we’re still playing their games, there’s a lot of great games floating around out there just waiting to be enjoyed, free with the companies blessing (or at least their head turned on purpose). That’s something you won’t find when it comes to films, once copyrighted, it’s over kiddies.
I’m sure many will agree, many will disagree and plenty will pick apart pieces of this in the fashion that only the internet can. But take away from it most that the system isn’t working and I’m just a passionate 80’s/90’s fan who would love to see more than just the neon-colors and spandex fashion come out of the vaults; the right way.
I miss arcades.
Last, a big thanks to Shout Factory, Steam, GOG.com, Blue Underground and all others who put out some of my beloved less than award-worthy favorites of the past.