Hugely influential gaming ROM and emulation website Pleasuredome has shut down after 17 years in operation. The site first popped up in 2004 as the primary home of the MameFTP Group, named after the most popular emulator of the day. Its closure comes as copyright lawsuits increasingly threaten efforts to archive and preserve video game history.
After 17 years in operation the site and its popular forums suddenly went dark over the weekend, displaying a “game over” message at its previous domain, Pleasuredome.org.uk. No explanation was given for the abrupt closure, though TorrentFreak reported the site briefly linked to a goodbye Reddit chat room post purportedly by one of the site operators.
“We decided Pleasuredome had come to the end, it’s that simple, no drama, no issues,” the poster said. “It was good while it lasted. It’s dead for good. Emulation will continue...your hobby will go on. Pleasuredome has transformed but the scene is still as active and alive as ever.”
The site’s closure comes as ROM and emulator site operators face a steady barrage of industry copyright lawsuits that make sharing older games—or in many cases simply archiving the history of video games that are no longer for sale—a massive financial liability.
In the website’s early days, limited site bandwidth and slow user dial up meant full ROM binaries—burned to CD-ROM by volunteers dubbed “burners”—could take weeks to download from a catalogued list of FTP servers. As a full mameset of CHD files ballooned to hundreds of gigabytes, the site eventually shifted to the use of a BitTorrent tracker for file transfers.
In its early years the site operated in a very different legal reality, where massive copyright lawsuits weren’t a persistent, everyday threat.
“[T]he original copyright owners aren’t usually too bothered about the free distribution of these ROMs because they have long since stopped making them any money, burners have supplied ROM sets to software houses and arcade manufacturers in the past,” the website said in a 2004 post.
“For privacy reasons we will not disclose these companies, but needless to say, at least two of them are playing a big part in the software industry now, and one of them is an arcade manufacturer,” it added.
As ROM-related copyright lawsuits from Nintendo grew, the website began narrowing its catalog of ROMs by refusing to offer any games that weren’t available for sale, removing most Nintendo ROMs and emulators, and banning users that were unwilling to play by the site’s stricter rules.
Nintendo’s ongoing war has had a dramatic and negative impact on the ability to archive video game history, resulting in many titles being potentially lost forever. Efforts to preserve the resources collected by Pleasuredome have begun in earnest, though there’s no indication that the website itself will be resurrected anytime soon.
“There is no chance the site will return in its old form,” the Reddit poster stated. “We had a good run and we decided it was the best time to end. To quit while we are ahead... Believe me, we will miss the community too, but it was the right time for all good things to come to an end.”