|Fate||Succumbed to legal fees from battling Sony in court (a battle they won)|
Bleem! (styled as bleem!) was a closed-source PlayStation emulator released by the Bleem Company in 1999 for Microsoft Windows and Sega Dreamcast. It gained notoriety for being one of the few commercial emulators to be marketed during the PlayStation's lifetime, earning the ire of Sony and thus becoming the subject of a lawsuit.
First released in 1999, Bleem! was initially developed by David Herpolsheimer (president) and Randy Linden, with Will Kempe, Scott Karol, Sean Kauppinen, Bryan Stokes, and Paul Chen, later of Rovio Entertainment, joining the team following its commercial release. The emulator's name was said to have stood for "Best Little Emulator Ever Made!", perhaps in reference to its ability to run PS1 games at full speed even on low-end computers, though the bleem! website claims only Randy Linden knows the actual meaning.
Bleem! was written in x86 assembly, allowing them to incorporate precise optimizations, with low-level and real-mode routines besides the use of the host PC's graphics hardware. While this allowed the emulator to run most if not all titles on a modest system of the day, this came at the cost of long-term compatibility with newer operating systems. At the time, Windows NT-based operating systems were usually marketed towards enterprises and servers, and as most home computers ran on Windows 98, Bleem! felt that there was no need to support NT. Besides issues with NT-based operating systems, accuracy and game compatibility is modest at best, with all but one game (coincidentally titled One) being plagued with various bugs and gameplay issues according to Bleem's own compatibility charts.
A version of Bleem! for the Dreamcast was released alongside the Windows version called Bleemcast, taking advantage of the Dreamcast hardware for enhanced graphics and the MIL-CD exploit found in the Sega Dreamcast BIOS. The emulator was originally intended to be able to run every single game in the PlayStation library, but as it was determined to be infeasible, "Bleempaks" were announced, along with PS1-style controllers (since the original Dreamcast gamepad has fewer buttons, necessitating workaround button mappings), but neither saw release due to technical difficulties.
Ultimately, three boot disks were released, though a beta has since surfaced on the Internet. Intrepid hackers were able to create Bleemed games—discs of a PlayStation title with the Bleemcast! emulator built in. ISOs for many of these discs continue to circulate on file-sharing networks.
Announced on January 4th, 2021, the Bleem brand was purchased by Piko Interactive for future use as a "retro gaming marketplace" to be called Bleem Powered.
Two days after Bleem! started taking preorders for their emulator, Sony took umbrage and sued the company for unfair competition and copyright infringement. Bleem! won the suit on all counts, in that their way of reverse-engineering the PlayStation's inner workings was done lawfully, and the use of PlayStation game screenshots was deemed fair use. A protective order was issued to "protect David from Goliath".
This ended in a pyrrhic victory, however, as the lawsuit forced Bleem! out of business due to legal fees. Despite this, the case established a precedent legitimizing console and computer system emulation – no emulator author has since been sued for copyright infringement (apart from a DMCA complaint from Nintendo over a GitHub repo hosting a Game Boy Advance emulator that came with some of their games).
- Rhodes, Tom. Best Little Emulator Ever Made!. Best Little Emulator Ever Made!. Escapist Magazine
- Bleem! Making Return as a Digital Games Marketplace. Piko Interactive