I have a vague memory of once reading an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto in some game magazine were he said something along the lines of "I don't mind people emulating SNES games much, actually I'm just happy the games get played at all". Then again I could've just been dreaming that up. On the other hand, I don't think it is all off. In the case of old console games the reality is often that no matter how much you'd love to pay honest money for it, the games are just dead difficult to find. In some cases the game doesn't even exist in your language, and the only way for you to experience it is to go to a digital fan-subbed version of the game, or learn the language (usually japanese). The second alternative still means you have to find an actual copy of the game. In the case of oldies but goldies like Final Fantasy, Dragonquest and just about any good game for a console older than Playstation, this can be really difficult. Also, none of those money actually goes to the developer anymore since they all only exist in the second hand business.
This hasn't stopped from me from buying games for which I don't have the means of playing. I own a complete copy of Zelda A Link to the Past (although my mom threw away the map *sad face*), eventhough I don't own a SNES. I own a copy of Tales of Phantasia, eventhough I barely speak japanese and don't own a japanese SNES either.
I don't even want to think about all the games I would've never been able to experience if there wasn't the opportunity to play them emulated or downloaded. Do you know how difficult it is to find a copy of Final Fantasy 6? I'd completely love to have one though. Fortunately SquareEnix have re-released new versions of the old Final Fantasy games for Playstation. I only wish more games would get this love.
This isn't limited to console games. There are tons of good computer games out there that are difficult to get a hold of as well. But the problem isn't limited to supply only (although that is a big factor). In most cases the games are difficult to play just because they are so old. Unlike with old console games, few people still have a PC with windows 95 standing around just so they can play Diablo, Fallout and Baldurs Gate without trouble. In many cases, emulating a computer game isn't even an option. Even if there are a couple of emulators aimed at emulating computer games, such as SCUMM for DOS, these often have alot of problems that aren't easily surmountable. Even if you get the game to work properly, you might not get the sound to, or the controls, or a bunch of other things. Since computer games are built to work with several devices instead of just in one console machine, they are so much more sensitive to change. Or rather, like mentioned, finding a setting that corresponds to the ones the game was designed for is so much more difficult with computer games.
For a long time, this really bothered me. How I would've loved it if there was some way to just buy old games, without having to spend all those hours sifting through the "used games" boxes in various game stores, just to buy a game that doesn't even work on my computer anylonger. Fortunately, it seems I haven't been the only one who's thought that there is a market for old computer games. A couple of months ago, Love stumbled across a page called Good Old Games, gog.com. They've taken it under their wing to not only sell good old games, but versions of good old games that have been converted to work with new computers and sold to a reasonable price! Not only do you get the game, you get everything that was ever in the original game box, such as a digital booklet and any other extra material. How about Psychonauts, Planescape Torment or Neverwinter Nights for 9.99 (dollar) or Myst for 5.99? It's available across the world, and once you've bought a game you can download and install it to an unlimited amount of computers. In many ways it works like Steam in that you get an account, buy a game and always have access to it through your gog-account. I'm not sure in what way the original developers get their share of the cookie, but I can only imagine that there are some license fees that need to be paid before you can do this kind of thing. I know this sounds like a bad commercial, but I really feel like this is an awesome thing. Many of these games are great and don't deserve to be lost and forgotten just because we don't have the means to play them anylonger. If there is some game that you love and always wish you owned, or some game you actually did own but have lost somewhere under your bed since - now is your chance to own it, and most importantly re-experience it, again.