A mockup of the Antstream game selection screen.
For decades now, the only practical way for most people to access vast swaths of digital gaming history has been through illegal ROM downloads. Unlike music and movies—where thousands of catalog works are available through multiple different streaming and download services—the game industry restricts its commercial history to aging cartridges and arcade cabinets, extremely sporadic re-releases on modern hardware, and limited services like Nintendo Switch Online (which replaced Nintendo’s more robust Virtual Console).
A newly announced service called AntStream just reached its £50,000 Kickstarter goal to help change that state of affairs. The planned service has spent years tracking down the licenses to over 2,000 classic titles from the arcade, ZX Spectrum, Amiga, Commodore 64, and Sega Genesis. Subscribers to an all-you-can-play plan, starting at $50/year for early backers, will soon be able to play those emulated games via remote streaming on their PC, Mac, Xbox One, iOS, or Android device (Switch and PS4 versions are reportedly “on the roadmap”)
“When you talk to the IP holders, they’re not happy that all their games are being downloaded and shared illegally,” AntStream CEO Steve Cottam told Ars in a recent interview. “I was quite frustrated by the fact that I could go online and pretty much get any movie, and I have Spotify for all my music, but for games it was just a really, really tough experience. [AntStream] is really about trying to put games on equal footing with movies and music in terms of accessibility.”