PlayStation emulator developer Bleem folds

Game over

Updated Bleem, the company behind the PC and Dreamcast-based PlayStation emulator of the same name, has closed down.

At this stage, details are sketchy - the company's Web site simply displays a somewhat self-pitying graphic of Sonic the Hedgehog weeping over Bleem's grave. Bleem's life: April 1999 to November 2001.

And a terse email sent the company said: "Thanks for emailing Bleem, but we're history. Vapor. Kaput. Splitsville. Extinct. Gone the way of the Dodo. In a word, Dead."

Enquires for the company's prinicpals, it said, should be routed through "that kid from The Sixth Sense". Dead indeed...

Bleem launched its PlayStation emulator just over two and a half years ago, only to be instantly sued by Sony for a mix of copyright infringement, intellectual property violation and brand degradation.

Sony's case against Bleem followed a parallel action targeting Connectix, which launched a PlayStation emulator of its own earlier in the year, for the Macintosh. Unlike the Connectix case, however, Bleem won the support of the court, beating a temporary injunction against sales of its emulator and later defeating Sony's demand to ban the sale of the emulator permanently.

Sony's failures in court went to its head, Bleem later alleged in a countersuit of its own. The emulation company claimed that the Japanese giant's US operation had initiated a dirty tricks policy which, in part, involved attempting to have Bleem thrown out of the May 1999 E3 show, one of the world's largest games industry shindigs.

May 2000 saw the announcement of the Dreamcast version of Bleem - Bleemcast - at which point Sony sued the company again. Once more, Sony alleged that Bleem was violating its patents.

Connectix, incidentally, later called it quits and sold its GameStation software and assets to Sony.

Bleemcast was to have shipped in June 2000, but didn't actually arrive until April this year. Rather than ship the emulator as a standalone product, as it had with the PC release, Bleem licensed Gran Turismo 2 and bundled it with Bleemcast. At the time, Bleem was looking to offer Tekken 3 and Metal Gear Solid.

Their success seems to have been limited. Certainly, Bleem accused Sony of threatening retailers will much-reduced PlayStation 2 hardware and software allocations if they stocked any of Bleem's offerings.

Given the ongoing litigation between the two companies and, of course, Sega's decision to abandon Dreamcast production from the end of March this year, it's hard to believe that many retailers would have chosen to support the three Bleemcast releases, no matter what pressure Sony is alleged to have brought to bear.

That, plus a shift in focus in the gaming world toward the PlayStation 2, is probably what did for Bleem in the end. With PlayStation and XBox code protected against emulation efforts, both legally, and through hardware- and software-based techniques, Bleem's scope for future expansion looked limited.

And with sales potentially insufficient to support future development and ongoing legal battles with Sony, it's not hard to see why CEO David Herpolshimer and Bleem programmer Randy Linden might decide to call it quits. ®

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