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C64: Elite Collection - Back Story

March 2013

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For a decade and a half, from the mid-nineties to the end of the noughties, there was - in the UK at least - no discernible, commercial market in games for 8-bit home computers, such as the ZX Spectrum or the C64.

Lured by the then burgeoning video-game-console market, British game developers and publishers abandoned 8-bit home computers as targets for their games in the mid-nineties. With the near simultaneous arrival of the ‘world wide web’, this void was filled by “archive” sites like Martijn Van Der Weid’s World of Spectrum and Kim Lemon’s Lemon 64. Both sites promoted the use and availability of hardware emulators, enabling thousands of ZX Spectrum and C64 games to be downloaded and played ... entirely without charge. Whilst some publishers, notably Capcom and Activision, swiftly took action to stop their games being made available from these sites, others were more dilatory or worse fell for claims such as, “...the mission of WoS is not to hurt the industry, but to maintain a complete and faithful record of the ZX Spectrum history ...” In practice, the growth of these and similar sites lead to several thousand game copyright owners, (many of whom are now individuals in their late middle age or older), being systematically and comprehensively deprived of any opportunity to enjoy the royalties which their work should have yielded as it transitioned, year by year, from contemporary chart hit to classic retro game. The contrast with the well-healed composers of 80’s pop music is stark.

The explosive growth in the use of iPhones and iPod Touches from 2007, the launch of the iTunes App Store in 2008 and the importance which Apple attached to the protection of copyright in App Store “content”, (whether that content be music, games or otherwise) set the scene for a sea change in the attitudes to and prospects for the commercial market in games for 8-bit home computers. In 2009 Anglo-Danish publisher Manomio LLC proved the commercial market for C64 games on contemporary devices with the launch of “Commodore 64*”, an iPhone app which included (or offered as in-app purchases) a number of C64 games, largely of British origin. In 2010 a Spanish duo lead by Fernando García Cabello and trading as Elite Productions proved the commercial market for ZX Spectrum games on contemporary devices with the launch of “ZX Nostalgia**”, an iPhone app which included a number of ZX Spectrum games. A little later in 2010 and continually in the some two and a half years since, British publisher Elite Systems Ltd proved the commercial market for ZX Spectrum games on contemporary devices with the launch of “ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection”, initially for iPhone and then for iPad but now also for Windows Phone, Xbox Live Indie Games, Samsung Bada and now selected Android devices, (for example the Amazon Kindle Fire tablets). At the time of writing, the gross revenue arising from the from the commercial sale of the “ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection” apps at retail prices has exceed US$300,000 since launch and in contrast to the rapidly diminishing UK market for contemporary games, grew by some thirty percent in 2012 alone.

It is with a touch of irony therefore, having been responsible almost single-handedly for restoring some order to the commercial market for ZX Spectrum games, that Elite’s efforts to similarly restore some order to the market for C64 games have, until now, been thwarted - to some extent at least - by the same dilatory developers and publishers who were responsible for allowing sites like Lemon 64 to systematically and comprehensively destroy it. In late 2011, Elite abandoned, at the last minute, the North America launch of its iOS apps “Elite Collection” and “Elite Collection HD”, when the apps’ lead title, classic C64 and arcade game “Choplifer” was pulled amid conflicting claims and counter-claims regarding its ownership. Later, in the Spring of 2012, Elite’s “Retro Games” and “Retro Games HD apps, which included (or offered as in-app purchases) ten C64 games of North American and European origin, was temporarily withdrawn from the iTunes App Store because of conflicting claims regarding the ownership of C64 game “Tales Of The Unknown”.

*: Arising, in January 2012, from the bankruptcy of Manomio LLC’s licencor Commodore Licensing BV and the consequent expiration of the Licence Agreement between Commodore Licensing and its Licensor Commodore Holdings BV, Manomio LLC’s “Commodore 64” iPhone app is no longer legally available from the iTunes App Store. Also, many of the games which were originally included (or included as in-app purchases) within the iPhone app have been withdrawn and are no longer available - even to people who have paid for them as in-app purchases.

**: Following complaints from copyright holders, whose ZX Spectrum games were included without their consent, “ZX Nostalgia” was removed from the iTunes App Store within just a few days of first going on sale.

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Contact Details: Steve Wilcox
E: steve.wilcox@elite-systems.co.uk
WWW: elite-systems.co.uk
Twitter: @elite_systems

About Elite: Incorporated in England in 1984, Elite was originally a leading developer and publisher of groundbreaking games for the Sinclair Spectrum and Commodore 64 home computer systems... Today Elite is a highly-specialised developer AND publisher of game software products for handheld, mobile and wireless systems; providing mobile network operators and selected other partners around the globe with "the best names in mobile games".




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