GameBoy emulator runs on PalmOS

It should be a natural fit; cartridge games running on palmtop computers, however, to date there haven't been many compelling games for handheld devices. The situation improved this week as software vendor Gambit Studios released Liberty, its emulator for Nintendo's GameBoy device.

The Liberty emulator allows owners of any PalmOS-compatible handheld to play GameBoy games on their palmtops.

It started with a challenge, according to Gambit president Michael Ethetton. "People said it couldn't be done, so I decided to try," he said.

After struggling for a while with the Palm operating system, Ethetton enlisted the support of Aaron Ardiri, a Palm programmer who had written other games for the platform. The two developed Liberty.

Over 400 games are currently available for GameBoy, and the device is extremely popular with sales recently passing the 100 million unit mark, according to Nintendo. Not surprisingly, given the success of its products, along with the company's keen protection of its copyrights, Nintendo is no fan of emulation.

Nintendo describes emulation as the "greatest threat to date to the intellectual property rights of video game developers. According to a company statement: "The only purpose of video game emulators is to play illegal copied games from the Internet".

Kevin Bowen, the founder and site director of ClassicGaming.com, a leading emulation Web site, disagrees with Nintendo's take on the technology. Emulation is completely legal, he said.

Rather, it is the use of read only memory (ROM) files that is potentially illegal, according to Bowen, because they can be posted on Web sites and downloaded or exchanged through e-mail.

While Bowen said that emulation is the only way to play games written for some discontinued systems, he also stressed that he believes it is wrong to distribute ROMs of games and for systems which are still commercially available. This includes Liberty, he said.

However, whether the use of ROMs is entirely illegal is still the subject of much debate in the gaming industry.

Gambit's Ethetton acknowledges that Liberty may be seen as promoting software piracy. Facilitating piracy is not his intent, he said, adding, "our goal is to allow the legitimate owners of games to choose where and how they want to play them".

Ethetton also said that Gambit has been in contact with both Nintendo and its game makers in an attempt to license official GameBoy games, but "[Nintendo was] not interested in seeing their properties licensed on another computer platform." He added that Gambit is now pursuing licences for other PC and console games.

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