Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
27 February 2006
StarROMs closing
I just spotted a post at GameSetWatch saying that StarROMs is closing down. Here's the goodbye message. So ends their experiment in pay-to-download arcade ROMs.

I'm disheartened that it's ended this way. Now we're left with GameTap, which rents rather than sells games (on Windows only). For consoles, the emulation collection scene is hit-or-miss: Midway Arcade Treasures 3 is apparently poor but I can attest that Taito Legends and Capcom Classics Collection are both quite good. And for those who wish to partake, there is always MAME and illegally distributed ROMs.

You might recall I interviewed Frank Leibly way back when StarROMs started up. I asked how he expected to compete with the illegal ROM trade:
jvm: You're charging a couple dollars per game. How can you possibly compete with the "free" downloads of ROMs that any modestly skilled net surfer can track down?

Frank Leibly: This is really the same issue every copyright owner and media company has been dealing with for years. As a kid I bought blank tapes and copied records and tapes from my friends but when I got to the point when I could afford it I bought the CD's. And I still do. If you look at the demographic of who we're selling to, it's people in their 20's, 30's and 40's for the most part. Spending a few bucks is pocket change and it's worth it to know you're dealing with someone legitimate. I like to think the service we provide is worth something too.
In retrospect, this question missed half of the equation. Sure, in the visible marketplace StarROMs was competing with illegal ROM distribution. Behind the scenes, in the marketplace for redistribution rights, I'd venture that they were competing with Turner as they developed GameTap. Now they're also going to be competing with Xbox Live Arcade. In the near future, they'll also be competing with Nintendo's Revolution.

Owners to the rights of older games surely made the right choice in going with GameTap. Do you choose the huge media company offering ongoing income from rentals (i.e. GameTap), or the unknown startup offering an unprotected download of the game's ROM (i.e. StarROMs)? It's hardly a fair fight.

(Note: I'm making the assumption that the number of times a game is downloaded in GameTap is tied to the income that goes back to the owner of rights to that game.)

Anyway, I'm really disappointed that it's ended this way. Is the lesson really that outright sales (or licensing, whatever) of ROMs will not work? Are we doomed to renting from the likes of GameTap or buying from services like Xbox Live Arcade or Nintendo's Revolution? I guessed this would be the case five months ago, and this may be one step toward it coming true. Welcome to your downloaded, DRMed future.
--Matt Matthews at 00:39
Comment [ 1 ]

Comments on this post:

Sadly, I suspect you are absolutely correct. It didn't help StarROMs any that they set up a system where you couldn't simply buy what you wanted - you had to buy their house currency (credits, was it?) and then get roms with that.

I probably would have bought some stuff, but I couldn't be bothered to figure out the credits-to-money thing to figure out how much it would have cost me.

Oh well, too late now.

By Anonymous Michael Kohne, at 27 February, 2006 19:27  

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