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StarROMs Closes Doors

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the where-did-all-the-magic-go dept.

44

jvm writes "StarROMs, seller of legal arcade ROM downloads for use with MAME, is closing their virtual doors. Started in October 2003, the initial StarROMs catalog offered over 60 Atari arcade games including hits like Gauntlet and Asteroids but was later trimmed due to licensing issues. In a March 2004 interview, co-founder Frank Leibly gave more details on their business plan, including how they expected to compete with the widespread illegal distribution of arcade ROMs. Has the world embraced rental models like GameTap over the download model of StarROMs?"

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44 comments

legal downloads, or not? (2, Interesting)

amrust (686727) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809350)

Why were some games (Gauntlet, Asteroids) trimmed over legal issues, if the downloads were legal?

Re:legal downloads, or not? (2, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809489)

If I were to hazard a guess, the problem has to do with the fact that there are two Ataris. "Atari" was the home system producer while "Atari Games" was the arcade game producer. (Infogrames bought the home system company and now operates under the name "Atari".) Since there are two companies, there may have been some confusion over who owned what. If Atari Games was the one who licensed with StarROMs (which would make sense) they might have run afoul of Infotari who was producing the Flashback 2.0 Plug and Play [wikipedia.org] system.

Games like Pacman (Namco), Joust (Williams), and Space Invaders (Taito) were never owned by Atari, even though Atari did license the rights for home editions. StarROMs never managed to cultivate a relationship with any company other than Atari.

Can anyone shed any more light on the current situation?

Re:legal downloads, or not? (2, Interesting)

damnal (801923) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809531)

While Atari licensed them, there was a dispute involving a third party that claimed to own the rights. StarROMS settled, and was at one point negotiating with the third party to be able to sell the roms again.

Re:legal downloads, or not? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809708)

Why were some games (Gauntlet, Asteroids) trimmed over legal issues, if the downloads were legal?

Midway owns the rights to those I think.

I recently bought a bargin bin Gauntlet for Nintendo Gameboy Advance.

Re:legal downloads, or not? (1)

Kirmeo (909604) | more than 8 years ago | (#14811239)

Darn it, I still had some credit with StarROMs. When they first started up, I read about them right here on Slashdot. I saw a bunch of games that I wanted so bought some "credits" and got them. At least with the old arcade tokens, I can keep them to take out and look at now and then. My virtual StarROM tokens are gone with the company.

DAMN YOU VIRTUAL WORLD! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO EPHEMERAL!

Re:legal downloads, or not? (1)

Ryan C. (159039) | more than 8 years ago | (#14811440)

FYI, if you bough these with a credit card you can reverse the changes on the unused portion. The credit card company holds on to a chunk of money long after a company goes under for cases like this.

So Sad (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809360)

Considering that I've never heard about them until today, I'd say that StarROMs had some serious marketing issues. Now that I hear about them and actually want to try their service, they're out of business? Sometimes the world just isn't fair.

In any case, I did a few background checks on StarROMs and I've come to the following conclusions. Let me know if the rest of you agree or disagree:

1. They didn't market enough. I'd heard about such a service in passing, but never found any concrete information. Had they made themselves more visible, perhaps they would have done better.

2. Game selection. With the release of the Flashback 2 and other Atari wares, it's become pretty clear which games Atari feels it has the rights to, and which ones it doesn't. Thus, just like Atari did back in the 1980's, they're recycling the same tired games over and over and over again. (No, I don't want to play Pong Yet Again(TM).) This article [thehollywoodreporter.com] discusses how upset that StarROMs was that they didn't gain more industry support.

3. Price. Originally the files were $5 a piece. It looks like many went as low as $2. Given that Atari was probably chewing up a lot of that fee as licensing, I can't see how they made a profit.

Rest in Peace StarROMs. I wish I knew you better.

Re:So Sad (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809482)

Agreed, I'd never heard of this company before. What does it take to post stuff on the Internet, like maybe in some of the foums where people talk about these ROMs?

Really, I'd buy old ROMs on a CD for my MythTV, if I only knew where!

Interestingly enough, we get this G4 TV channel [g4tv.com] with our deprecated Comcast cable. On it, was a show called Icons, which had two great episodes that really caught my eye -- one looked at music-related games like Parappa the Rapper and DDR, and the other episode was on the Intellivision, which I thought was really neat, having had one. Intellivision Lives! [intellivisionlives.com], is this the way to success for old game companies?

Re:So Sad (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809573)

FYI, on the Intellivision Lives! disk. Apparently, all the games on the Lives! CDROM are actual ROMs from the system. So you should be able to copy them to a MythTV system, -OR- track down an original Intellivision system (just got mine; man is Blackjack addictive!) and purchase a used Intellicart [intellivisionlives.com] to play the games on the original system.

Part of the reason why they do this is that the company was founded by the Blue Sky Rangers [wikipedia.org], the original Intellivision development team. So they know the Intellivision inside and out. With all the psuedo-companies parading around as the original thing these days, one has to give the Blue Sky Rangers kudos for actually being the real thing.

Now if only we could get them to produce this cool idea [atariage.com] instead of this stupid thing [intellivisionlives.com].

Re:So Sad (1)

cubicledrone (681598) | more than 8 years ago | (#14812490)

What does it take to post stuff on the Internet, like maybe in some of the foums where people talk about these ROMs?

Oh yeah, then everyone screeches SPAM! SPAMMER!! SPAM!!!!!. Advertising is a little difficult when everyone is looking for a reason to scream "spammer."

Re:So Sad (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14814232)

Well, you could advertise politely about where to get game ROMs in the appropriate forums. Not every advertisement or sig is SPAM -- at least I don't consider it as such. As an example, I could invite you to check out my kitchen cooking food recipe [zhrodague.net] website, which helps me to figure out what to make for dinner. This may not be the most appropriate forum, but at least I can try to make an attempt at posting a link without sounding like a commercial. =_)

I find it hard... (1)

MorderVonAllem (931645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809414)

...how licensing issues can get in the way of games that are so old and out of date (although nostalgic).
I for one enjoy emulation and will continue to enjoy it. with or without legal roms. some CEO's need to get their head out of their arses and realize the market they have.

Speaking of the 600lbs gorilla, Nintendo would never even get to the point of releasing roms as they feel Emulation is illegal.

Re:I find it hard... (1)

oberondarksoul (723118) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809706)

They've changed their mind, somewhat. For their next console, currently known as the Nintendo Revolution, players will be able to download ROMs of games from older Nintendo consoles (for a price) and play them emulated on the Revolution.

Re:I find it hard... (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809762)

They haven't changed their mind about anything. The only reason why Nintendo defended their rights so vigorously is because they realized that a market existed for the old games. That's why about half of the Gameboy Advance games are actually re-releases of old Nintendo games. The point of keeping the emulation scene under control was so that Nintendo could charge players for old stuff all over again.

I'm sure there's a lively debate in here somewhere about how people used to own many of the games they emulate, and whether or not the laws should actually support what Nintendo is doing. What it comes down to, though, is that Nintendo understands the value in the old stuff and still making money off it.

See this link [wikipedia.org] for a list of the games Nintendo rereleased for the Advance.

Re:I find it hard... (1)

MorderVonAllem (931645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809775)

Sure, but that is simply them emulating their own property. It's not something you could just download off the internet. Although you will download the roms that way, it's still entirely protected by their systems.

My point was emulating such as RockNES,Nester and other such emulators.

Re:I find it hard... (1)

Bobartig (61456) | more than 8 years ago | (#14810818)

In a lot of cases, its difficult to find the copyright holders because the original company that produced them have long since dissolved or been bought, and the people who hold the rights (and haven't exercised them in a couple decades) may not even know it any more.

As a rom selling company, trying to do the right thing, it becomes quite untenable to try and find all these individual owners, so many titles become 'lost.' Even though you want to give them money, and they probably wouldn't mind getting some there's no good way for buyer to meet seller and business to occur.

Errr... (3, Funny)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809435)

Has the world embraced rental models like GameTap over the download model of StarROMs?

I'm guessing the world has embraced the w4r3z model over either of the ones you mention.

Gametap (1)

kevin_conaway (585204) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809456)

Unrelated, does anyone have any experience with Gametap [gametap.com]?

I saw a commercial for it the other day and it looked pretty neat.

Re:Gametap (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14809558)

Actually, GameTap is good stuff. Their website sucks, but the actual GameTap program is pretty spiffy. They've got several hundred games ranging from Combat all the way to PC games like Beyond Good and Evil, but it's a bit annoying that even though you're a paying member they make you watch ads while your game downloads. Still, it's good stuff. I think there's a month free or some such thing going on, too.

Re:Gametap (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809718)

I've seen ads for it too and I thought it looked great, as there are always old games I'm wanting to try/play, but then I went to their website.

No Macs.

Sorry, lost a customer.

Re:Gametap (1)

generic-man (33649) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809810)

Write them a letter saying so or GameTap will continue to exist among the legions of companies-which-are-not-Blizzard who believe that Mac gamers don't exist.

Re:Gametap (1)

Cybrex (156654) | more than 8 years ago | (#14815848)

That was exactly my situation. I saw an ad on TV and was psyched, then found that it won't run on my PowerBook.

Crap.

Not that I'm endorsing license violations, but MAME runs just fine on Macs (as do countless other emulators). Regardless, I think the other commenter has a good point. I'm gonna send 'em e-mail.

Re:Gametap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14809752)

I work at Time Warner, and as an employee was allowed to join Gametap back in the beta phase, and have a lifetime membership now for free. It really is a nice service. They have lots of great games on different systems (Atari 2600, Commodore 64, Dreamcast, Sega, DOS) and they're all the original games licensed out by the owners. I know you figure since I work there I'm kind of biased, but I was pretty negative about the whole thing all along. I just didn't see how they could provide something people would pay for, but once I installed it and gave it a try I saw it was a pretty goot service.

Re:Gametap (1)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809937)

I signed up for a free month trial and while the service works as advertised, the content leaves something to be desired. Simply put they need more games and more popular ones. They may have over a hundred or whatever number they are quoting, but many of them are lame like Hoyle poker or games that I've never heard of like games for the C64 which I never owned or there are text adventure games which are easilly available online. Their selection of computer games is pretty slim outside of the aformentioned card games and some edugames.
Unfortunately, I've reformated before cancelling and i've been forgetting to reinstall the thing so i can find out how to cancel now that my 30 day free trial is up -- which is how most of these subscription-based things stay afloat. Get people to subscribe and then hope they forget to unsubscribe!
The service is sound and works as advertised. If they could get more games that I find desireable, then it would be a nice service. Your milage may vary.

Unsubscribing from Gametap (1)

Spiffness (941077) | more than 8 years ago | (#14810219)

Has to be done over the phone with customer service. Thats how they getchya ;) Cool service though, just needs more games. I'll try again in a year.

Gametap Mac, more Re:Unsubscribing from Gametap (1)

Finkbug (789750) | more than 8 years ago | (#14821335)

The unsubscribe is not only phone only but the number is buried in a FAQ. GameTap claims the phone is required for security which makes no sense given you are ending a payment but beginning one, including giving credit card number, is deemed safe enough for online only. There is also no way, short of pulling out your bank statement, to check what date you are billed on. Two online support staff couldn't figure out a way either.

That carping aside--major issues but not dealbreakers--GameTap is damned impressive. It is windows & single player only but a Mac version is in development with Linux to follow. There will never be any Nintendo titles on it so fanboys are out of luck. The selection from the covered systems is strange. The Dreamcast in particular is underrepresented. The tech is very cool with all the games running their native code. Performance is fine (XP pro, 1 gig RAM, Athlon64 2800, ATI 9700Pro, 5 gigs drive space allocated). Downloading a PC game takes quite a while but the frontend end gracefully handles minimization & alt-tabbing and will sound a tone when the game is ready. The multimedia content is obnoxious and useless. Sound like a certain cable station?

It's worth doing the free trial just to play Beyond Good & Evil or a Splinter Cell and revisit Heroes of Might & Magic III and Stronghold without finding the install disks. Just remember to shut it off before it hits your card.

I'll certainly be checking in over time, probably dipping in and out of subscription for specific games.

Good Game - Starroms (1)

mmalove (919245) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809468)

I'll admit I've downloaded a few ROMs for free - and they're the same games that I already purchased once upon a time, for use on a game system that was flawed in design and could no longer support the cartiges upon which the original games were written. Somehow, I don't feel like I should have to pay for a second license to the software to port the game over to a playable platform.

I wish Congress would take a break from banning porn to pass a law the basically says if you stop supporting your software it becomes free after so many years, because unlike the books upon which the copyright laws originated, software dies if not constantly updated and copied on to new media.

Re:Good Game - Starroms (1)

Trix (5592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809930)

Face it, copyright is copyright. Thanks to Sonny Bono, Disney et al. Nothing that is currently covered under copyright is going to lapse into the Public Domain in your lifetime.

If you think you're going to get ANY copyright term shortened, I can let you in on a deal for a bridge. :-)

(sorry, it's Monday)

Legal Free ROMS (1)

spikestabber (644578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809506)

Ever see those Cereal boxes with a cdrom for 100 free Atari classics? If you look carefully on the disk, you'll find .bin files for every .exe for each game. There are about 15 or 20 arcade versions of games while the rest are shoddy Atari 2600 versions. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what these .bin files are now does it? Verified working with MAME.

Hmm... (1)

MaestroSartori (146297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809509)

I know a lot of people with full romsets for Mame, and many other emulators. Only a handful of them own *any* of the original games or boards, none of them own them all.

Whether this is good or bad I leave to the reader to decide for his or her self, but it's almost certainly the reason that sellers of legit roms are likely to go under. And people wonder why Nintendo do their damndest to squish emulators and rerelase all their old games on new platforms...

Re:Hmm... (1)

CashCarSTAR (548853) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809533)

Of course, the main difference being that Nintendo actually rereleases their old games.

Most of those old games on the ROM CDs, quite frankly, without illegal digital distribution will be lost to the dustbin of history.

Re:Hmm... (1)

spikestabber (644578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809568)

MAME is pretty much a pirate emulator anyways. Where do you think the roms originally come from? Who the hell do you think zip's each game up in a fancy package that contains one of many dumps for a single game that works flawlessly with make and even verifies as a proper dump? The MAME developers themselves. Sure they might not leak them out, but they do package them.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14810278)

Actually, they don't package them. If you've ever looked at how the thing operates, you'll see that mame doesn't even really use the compressed files, it looks in them all for the various ROM dumps it needs to assemble the whole game. You could name pacman.zip askjdefe.zip and it would still find the pacman chips.

The zip files exist just as a simplified way of transmitting the roms from one person to another.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809591)

I think the main problem with this is that the roms are insanely overpriced. People want to create collections of classic games, and each game, typically, gets played fairly rarely. A modest collection of arcade roms (which, by all rights, should be in the public domain) would maybe contain a hundred or so games. I think MAME emulates over 3000 games and clones, and many go for the entire collection just for the sake of having it.

Considering the number of roms an arcade emulation enthusiast might want, and considering the market value for these games, roms should be priced at maybe a nickel to fifty cents each. Yet StarRoms was selling them for $5 apiece! No wonder StarRoms is going out of business.

Xbox Live Arcade - worth of retro games (1)

keldog42 (956510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14809578)

Seems that retro games are getting their second chance with services like GameTap and Xbox Live Arcade. I have to admit that I shelled out $5 a piece for Gauntlet and Joust. Where they worth it? No, but I was buying into the nostagia not nessasarilly the game. With the PopCap games and other similar "new" games available on Xbox Live Arcade, I will probably not be buying these retro games any longer. With the exception of the upcoming Street Fighter re-release.

The question I want to raise is, "What is the worth of 20 yr old games brought back to new consoles or just as PC roms?"

StarROMS was doomed from the start (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 8 years ago | (#14810359)

Theory #1: StarROMS business model was flawed. They don't create any content, so they're stuck distributing a product that someone else manufacturers, licenses, and ultimately controls. Since StarROMS doesn't bring much to the table (other than an online sales website,) they're stuck with whatever deal the license holders see fit to dictate. StarROMS has a fundamentally weak position from which to negotiate. Infotari (or whoever) can dictate street price, fees, and sales quotas. That's a bad situation for StarROMS to be in.

Theory #2: Infotari (and others) are interested in this potential market called "emulation." However, many companies are loathe to adopt risk. Along comes StarROMS ... the perfect whipping boy. Infotari licenses a handful of titles to StarROMS to see what happens. There's no motivation for other companies to participate yet, so they sit back and observe. Infotari can test the waters of this particular market without the possibility of tarnishing the corporate image. If things are successful, [*doink*] Infotari pulls it's licenses and sells directly. If it's not successful, [*doink*] Infortari takes its ball and goes home. Either way it's lose-lose for StarROMS.

Theory #3: Infotari signed up to a trial period licensing arrangement. That period has expired, and StarROMS has failed to meet quotas that would extend the contract period. (Note: Infotari would be in a position to force unsustainable pricing structures on StarROMS [see 1, above] and force them to fail. Why? It'd give them some perceived credibility when they say "We tried the legal download method, and people continued to pirate. We need some new legislation ...")

You didn't think Infotari (or anyone else) would sign up to a perpetual irrevocable license arrangement with StarROMS, did you?

Anyone tried Console Classix? (1)

cjb909 (838363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14810475)

Console Classix [consoleclassix.com] is a rom site that holds a library of roms and lends them out to different people. Different from StarROMs and Gametap in that they don't license the games from the companies, they own hundreds of physical catridges, and then let people borrow them over the internet. In a warehouse somewhere they have 25 copies of Final Fantasy, so they let people borrow 25 copies of the rom. NES and Atari games are free, and SNES, Gameboy, and Genesis games can be had at $5/month. They've been around for a few years, and they have quite a large selection.

Re:Anyone tried Console Classix? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14812566)

I still have a "charter membership" around, somewhere (paid-up access for life) for that site.

They're quite good.

now seen on ps2 and xbox as combo packs (1)

kn0tw0rk (773805) | more than 8 years ago | (#14812110)

Part of starroms problems was that they were competing with the copyright holders, several of whom are now releasing compilations of 25-30 games for the ps2 and xbox. These are generally (IMO) better presented and more accessable to the casual gamer market, than trying to get an emulator setup correctly and acquire the roms. Plus they're all legal arcade versions (except the lame midway classics 3 racing bundle with console ports of some games)

I've purchased all of these compilations that I've been able to find in Australia for my ps2 and have had much retrogaming fun and been able to share that with my son and friends, especially the 3 or 4 player games like gauntlet or rampage.

Pricing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14812545)

The thing is, these simple arcade ROM's just are not worth very much. They have about the value of a pack of Ramen noodles. You should be able to buy 250 ROMS for say $40. The problem is that you can't make money doing that due to licensing fees and you have to work licensing deals with tons of manufacturers if you want to have any kind of library at all. It's all too complicated and expensive.

Don't get me wrong, I play more old arcade games than the latest graphical wiz-bang boring games but they are so old and so simple that they just are not worth much. I mean, you almost need to be able to sell 12 for a dollar if you want people to buy them.

That and the market is relatively small. I build arcade machines so I have a pretty good idea of how many people are involved. It's not an insignificant market but it's still really tiny.

Awww, balls, misread (1)

Karem Lore (649920) | more than 8 years ago | (#14815067)

For a minute there I thought that the title read that SecuRom had closed its door. Balls, now we still have CD/DVD copy protection that works pretty well.

karem

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