With the development of Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) software, more and more video game titles are becoming available for legal download in ROM form. MAME software essentially mimics the hardware of classic video game consoles or arcade machines. By loading in individual ROMs (the Read-Only Memory lifted from the original cartridges or chips), the games can be played on home computers in almost any operating system.
In theory, the MAME software should be able to play virtually any game ROM thrown its way. There have been many updates to the various MAME programs to accommodate the latest developments in arcade games and classic consoles. However, legal issues have prevented vast catalogs of classic video games from being downloadable from the Web.
Legal Licensing of Classic Video Game Downloads
In order to legally download a classic video game in ROM form, it is necessary for the distributing and developing company to grant a license for its use. For those games that are legally available, these licenses are often available for a small licensing fee. This way, the copyrights and trademarks inherent in the games can be used, and the creators will earn the proper royalties they are owed.
Some creators of classic video games have established relationships with video game libraries, allowing legal licensing of their old ROMs. Atari, for example, allows some of its titles to be downloaded and played on MAME software for a small licensing fee. As MAME software gains popularity, more and more companies will likely grant legal access to their ROMs.