Bitcoin Devs Preserve Classic Nintendo Games With Ordinals

Bitcoin developers continue to push the boundaries of what Ordinals are capable of with a new project called Pizza Ninja, which on Monday announced that a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) emulator had been added to the Bitcoin blockchain.

A video game emulator is software that allows one computer system to imitate another, allowing games from old arcades, consoles, or different platforms to be played on a device it was not initially intended to—in this case, the Bitcoin blockchain.

Ordinal inscriptions are often described as the equivalent of Ethereum-based NFT art for the Bitcoin blockchain. When Casey Rodarmor launched the Ordinals protocol last year, it opened the floodgates to text, images, videos, meme coins, and video games being inscribed on the blockchain.

“We did it for two reasons, one because we thought it was awesome, and two because there’s a serious problem with preserving classic video games,” CEO of Ninjalerts, Trevor Owens, told Decrypt.

87% of classic games are not in active, licensed circulation and are considered “critically endangered,” according to a July 2023 report by the non-profit Video Game History Foundation. Owens said this report inspired Ninjalerts to launch the Pizza Ninja project.

According to Ninjalerts, the Super Nintendo Emulator is embedded in each Ninja Profile Picture, allowing users to play games using an Ordinals explorer or marketplace in their browser. For developers looking to try the SNES emulator, Ninjalerts launched an accompanying website providing documentation on how to store and password-protect files.

The reason Ninjalerts went with an SNES emulator, Owens explained, was due to blocksize cost and the limited 1MB size of a Bitcoin block.

“16-bit is probably the highest we can go feasibly on L1,” Owens said. “I think anything more powerful than SNES would be too cost prohibitive.”

Pizza Ninjas Super Nintendo Emulator Demo (youtube.com)

A layer one (L1) refers to a blockchain like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Solana that allows developers to build applications on top of the network.

In February, a playable clone of the classic first-person shooter Doom, was inscribed on the Bitcoin blockchain. Where the Taproot upgrade made Doom on Bitcoin possible, for the SNES emulator, Owens explains, recursion on ordinals makes the project possible.

Launched in July, the BRC-69 standard introduced recursive inscriptions. Recursive inscriptions are a mechanism that allows users to extract data from existing inscriptions and use them to create new ones.

“We had to split up the file into eight chunks and then combine it with recursion,” Owens said.

While Owens was optimistic about the future of gaming on the Bitcoin blockchain, he acknowledged that copyright issues could limit what games make the leap to games in the public domain.

“Under U.S. Copyright Law, particularly Section 117 of the Copyright Act, owners of legal copies of computer programs (including video games) are allowed to make a backup copy for archival purposes,” Owens said. “Emulators are completely legal, and public domain games are too.”

Ordinals on Bitcoin have led to calls for purging the NFT-like inscriptions from the blockchain. In December, Ocean Mining said it would let users decide if they wanted to process blocks that included non-financial transactions like Ordinal Inscriptions or BRC-20 meme coins.

Owens hopes the project will provide a public service and simultaneously elevate a needed conversation about preserving digital cultural artifacts. However, Owens acknowledged that many Bitcoin purists would not be happy with the news of another project adding non-financial transactions to the network, but he takes the controversy in stride.

“Personally, I hope it pisses some people off. That would only elevate the conversation further,” Owens said. “For others, I hope it’s an example of how there are real tangible digital cultural artifacts that we want to preserve and Bitcoin is not only the best place, but by doing it on Bitcoin we can bring renewed energy and interest for people to build in the ecosystem.”

Edited by Ryan Ozawa.

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