Soundbite: Home of the Underdogs founder Sarinee Achavanuntakul on abandonware vs piracy

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I'm still a ways off of finishing the next full episode, but here's something to fill the void in the meantime.

When I spoke to Home of the Underdogs founder Sarinee Achavanuntakul, we had a long segue into the broken world of copyright and its connections to the abandonware scene in games. I'm not sure how much of it will make it into the main story, but I thought a solid chunk of what she said could stand well on its own — especially in light of recent industry discussions around preservation and digital sales (or re-sales) of games.

So here it is, with a fairly substantial intro from me that felt almost like a dress rehearsal for the abandonware discussion I'll have to include in the full episode.

If you'd like to contribute your thoughts/memories/insights on the Home of the Underdogs, please record a voice clip (in any audio format) and send it to me at, DM me @MossRC on Twitter, or upload directly to this drop folder.


You're listening to a Life and Times of Video Game soundbite. I'm Richard Moss.

I'm working on a new episode at the moment about a mega-influential website that, in its heyday around 20 years ago, was a sanctuary for all games outside the mainstream. The weird games, the unusual games, the obscure games, the interesting ideas released before their time or developed by people who lacked either the skill or the resources to execute on them fully.

It was the Home of the Underdogs, and it was a wonderful place to stopover on your journey to encounter new old games as well as to revisit sentimental favourites.

And it was run by a small army of volunteers headed by site owner Sarinee Achavanuntakul. You'll get to hear all about its history and impact when I finish the episode, but in the meantime I wanted to post this shorter thing for two purposes:

1) to play you a clip from my interview with Sarinee that I think stands alone and is relevant to some recent conversations around Nintendo, which I'll come back to shortly, and

2) to invite anyone who was influenced by Home of the Underdogs, or who just loved the site, to send me a voice clip of your thoughts or memories about it. If you've listened to the MobyGames episode, you'll know what I'm after — just tell me what Home of the Underdogs means (or meant) to you and how its existence enriched your world. I'd prefer it if you could keep the clip under a few minutes, but feel free to go as short or as long as you like, then send it to me unedited. I'll integrate various parts of whatever I'm sent into the story, and unless you'd prefer to remain anonymous I'll credit you and thank you at the end of the episode.

You can get your files to me over email to or Twitter @MossRC, or upload directly into a drop folder that I'll link to in the episode notes. [Here's the link.]


So, if you've been following games industry news or games history community discussions recently you may have noticed some chatter about Nintendo announcing that they'll be closing the Wii U and 3DS eShops to new purchases later this year and to all digital downloads (even for games you own) in March 2023.

That's not an unreasonable business move from Nintendo, but the way they're going about it has historians and archivists deeply concerned. Because many of these games cannot be legally acquired by any other means, and Nintendo doesn't seem to care. And it all ties in to a discussion that's been ongoing for 25 years: what happens to games that go out of distribution? And in particular, what happens to games that go out of distribution and *don't come back*? Because for every Final Fantasy VI or Sonic the Hedgehog or Doom — games that keep getting remade or rereleased for new platforms — there are *hundreds* if not *thousands* of others that come out once and never again.

Those games have cultural value, even if their rightsholders believe they offer little material value, and as a technology-driven medium the lifecycle of games tends to be astonishingly-short — often just a matter of months before they stop being available new and sometimes as little as a few years before they stop working on current hardware.

Around 25 years ago, a group of people with ties to the warez scene — which is a game piracy scene — banded together to create something they called The Abandonware Ring. It was an assortment of websites dedicated to championing and offering for download games that they deemed "abandoned" by their publisher.

This abandonware ring was a big influence on Sarinee in creating her own abandonware site, the Home of the Underdogs, and I'll have more on that in the main episode, but I wanted to separately share here her thoughts on the appeal of abandonware, because it's topical again and I think her perspective on this is interesting enough to stand alone. Here she is:


Sarinee Achavanuntakul: I really like the word abandonware in the sense that it has the word abandoned in it, right? And to me — and so I kept saying this over and over like — and I'm sure there's a lot of controversy and discussion about this, but I would still maintain that, you know, abandonware philosophically is very different from piracy. You know, it's different from like zero-day kind of pirated software.

So the word abandoned itself means that the copyright holder or the publisher already abandoned the product. You know, so if you have abandoned the product? Well, do you expect people to get it? I mean, I think if is a physical thing like they say, if I bought a washing machine, you know, for example, and I really like this washing machine, but then it stopped functioning after five years, right? And if, let's say I contact a company and they say, Oh, sorry, we don't sell this model anymore, you know, we only sell like some newer version. And if I don't want to buy the newer version, what would I do? I would have to find some, I guess, a repair shop that can still fix it for me, you know, or like go to some Second-Hand market to find this particular model, right?

So I think it's kind of similar thing with abandonware except that because games are digital products and you don't necessarily need, I mean, you don't need a physical copy. So I think it's in a way it's natural that there would be these kind of community of people distributing the digital files of games that have been abandoned.


So some people would say that by allowing the downloads of these games, you are kind of cannibalising, you know, sale of the games. And this argument I think doesn't really sound solid because, for example, if I were to release like the sixth sequel of my original game, why wouldn't I want people to play? And basically, if they're interested in the history of this game right before I before the newest iteration on the newest hardware, well, if I release the first game for free, then people can see like how far I have come. So it actually would look great on me even as a creator, right? Hey, look, I was able to do so much with whatever, like 16 colours and, you know, stuff like that or with like worse software than this. And then so I don't think that argument, yeah, so cannibalisation is — but I think the argument I kept hearing a lot was justis about infringing on other people's rights.

So we kept coming back to this — that, you know, OK, regardless of whether the games have any value or not or whether it can make money or not, you know, whether it's really profitable or not to sell now, but you're really just infringing on other people's property rights, you know, and this kind of always been frustrating to me, because then why can't we talk about whether, like, how reasonable those rights are in the first place? (laughs) How sensible the copyright regime is.


Remember that if you'd like to contribute your story on the importance of Home of the Underdogs or how it influenced you, you can record a clip and send it to me over email to or Twitter @MossRC, or upload directly into a drop folder that I'll link to in the episode notes. [Here's that link.]


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The Life & Times of Video Games: A documentary and narrative-style audio series about video games and the video game industry — as they were in the past, and how they came to be the way they are today.

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