Arcade game ROMs have long been a popular download from the internet, due to the popularity of arcade cabinet emulators like MAME (Multi Arcade Machine Emulator). The files are basically software images of the games, which used to be stored on hardware chips before files became bigger and other storage mediums (such as optical drives) became popular in arcade cabinets. Many arcade games have not been ported to home consoles, so players have no legal way to acquire games that they may have nostalgic feelings towards, or have kudos for acquiring. These factors, coupled with the fact that some publishers no longer exist, or the games are seen as old and therefore (erroneously) in the public domain, mean that ROM sites spring up all over the internet. Many downloaders don’t think they’re doing anything wrong by downloading these files, but they are still in copyright.
So, just like the music industry promoting legal downloads, StarROMs Inc has released 60 licensed ROM images, from as little as $2 each – and we bet that people will be downloading these classics, just like iTunes. If the StarROMs initiative takes off, gamers will be able to download many more of their old favourites legally.
Sixty titles isn’t much to begin with – but StarROMs has titles ranging from 1978 to 1992: titles like Asteroids, Millipede and – oh my goodness!!! – Crystal Castles and Marble Madness!
Will other publishers follow? We hope so – there are many, many gaps in the collection. Since the ROMs are images of the original software, they are essentially platform independent – but they rely instead on an emulator to provide all of the functions that the arcade cabinet once supplied. Emulators have been developed and ported to many platforms – so you’ll be able to play perfect arcade classics on a wide variety of platforms: PC, Palm, phone and perhaps even set-top box. Given that many set-top boxes and TiVo devices run a modern Linux kernel, and MAME has long been available on Linux, it’s not too far fetched.