Though the front of Sarien.net still says the site hosting classic Sierra PC games has gone dark, its owner, Martin Kool, says that it's secured permission from Activision and will "become an authorized game portal with a bright future."
Sarien.net had operated without attracting attention since 2009, hosting Space Quest, Police Quest, King's Quest and other 1980s and 1990s graphical adventures published by Sierra Games, whose copyrights are now held by Activision. Kool said this was part of a strategy of "See how things go: it's a problem when it's a problem," because writing in to ask permission would almost assuredly result in a shutdown. Meantime he says he kept the site ad free to avoid commercialization and any accusations he'd been profiting off something that doesn't belong to him.
Things changed earlier this week when Kool built a version of the site that could be playable from an iPad (not an actual application - a site optimized for the device's browser). That got a lot of attention from the online press, and inevitably attracted Activision's. The cease-and-desist Kool had feared for two years finally arrived.
Kool deactivated the site, replied to Activision's lawyers to say he had complied with their notice, and then asked if there was any possibility Sarien could continue. "The next day I received a kind reply from Activision's law firm, and I actually do mean 'kind,'" Kool writes. "This new letter I received contained a proposal."
Sarien.net could reactivate and publish the first game of any series in the multiplayer mode Kool had built for them through Sarien.net. The site will provide links to digital distribution where folks may buy the titles if playing them at Sarien.net piques their interest. But the iPad version of the site had to go, as Activision wants to hold onto its option to publish and sell these games over the iTunes App Store.
Space Quest, Police Quest and King's Quest are back in business (or will be shortly) at Sarien.net. But Leisure Suit Larry is not - its copyright is held by Codemasters. Kool is reaching out to them for their permission.
It's another happy ending for fans whose enthusiasm for games have put them on legal radar. The Silver Lining, a fan-made sequel to King's Quest, finally published with an official noncommercial license after a 10-year odyssey.