Written by: Stoo
Date posted: May 2, 2013
So maybe you’d like to get your hands on an old PC game. Question is though, where can you find a copy? On each article we try to give some helpful pointers, but here’s an overview of the options.
This is the modern way to buy games, even ones that are many years old. Skipping the need for physical media, you just pay and then download the game right to your hard disk. There are a few services available and our pick would be GOG.com, which was in fact founded specifically for selling oldies (although they’ve branched out into indie stuff lately). They have an ever-growing selection of titles from the mid-2000s back to early-90s DOS games. A key advantage is that their titles are free of the digital rights management that often plagues games these days – there are no restrictions on how many times you can install, no need to contact their servers to activate the game, etc.
You might also want to check out the single biggest player in this field, Valve’s Steam. This one isn’t so focussed on oldies but has a a number of noteworthy titles amongt its selection.
A plus point for both services though is that their oldies are usually configured, one way or another, to run happily and without problems on modern windows PCs.
A boxed copy
When I first wrote this guide, I listed this option first as the most obvious way to buy a game. Now, a few years later, digital distribution is taking an ever-growing share of the market. Still, gaming shops aren’t quite dead yet. You should within find a shelf or two dedicated to games from five to ten year old games, maybe even a few older, re-released for cheap on various budget labels. Even better, there are usually deals for buying a few at time. A good example here in the UK is Sold Out – one of the most enduring and wide-ranging of the budget labels, who offer games for £5 each, or 3-for-£10.
If you can’t buy the game by the above means, take a look on the famous auction site. There’s always a chance someone found a dusty forgotten CD at the bottom of a drawer and is flogging it for £1. Some titles can be pricier though, especially if there hasn’t been a budget or digital release lately. Still it’s worth a shot for games of any vintage.
Abandonware is a term coined by fans for games that are no longer supported by their developers or publishers, and cannot be bought from whoever holds the rights. A small scene of enthusiasts on the internet have created websites offering these games as free downloads.
Bear in mind this is technically illegal. However, games companies tend to regard abandonware as a low priority issue. Electronic Arts are obviously more concerned with piracy of their latest football game than something from 1992, that they’re not making money from anymore.
As digital distribution expands its reach there’s less call for abandonware now – a game sold on gog.com isn’t “abandoned” any more so the moral justification is gone. However the scene will remain useful for a while yet, for providing access to more obscure oldies that might othewise become totally lost and forgotten.