Interview with ConsoleClassiX - the online ROM rental service

Discussion in 'GBAtemp & Scene News' started by Costello, Sep 19, 2018.


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    A few weeks back, we told you about a rather unique service called ConsoleClassix, who allows players to enjoy a large variety of ROMs in exchange for a paid subscription. This service is considered to be legal by its owner due to the fact that players don't actually get to save the ROM files on their computers, instead, games are loaded in RAM and lost when the emulator shuts down (thus considered to be a 'rental service'). Additionally, for each instance of a game running at a given time, ConsoleClassix actually owns a physical copy.

    We have contacted Aaron Ethridge, founder and owner at ConsoleClassix, who kindly accepted to answer our questions.

    Interview with Aaron Ethridge @ ConsoleClassix


    Q1: Can you describe ConsoleClassiX in a few sentences, for those of our readers who haven't yet heard of it?

    Console Classix is a video game rental service. It works much like Red Box, but the “renter” doesn't get physical possession of the game they are renting at the time. The game is also electronically delivered to them, in much the same way a Netflix video is. Philosophically, ethically, and legally, Console Classix works just like Blockbuster. (Well, like an online Blockbuster that didn't go out of business.)



    Q2: How did you come up with this idea? Some of our users have called it 'brilliant'.

    Although it may offend some people, I honestly believe I was inspired. Me and a partner of mine were trying to work on a way to legally sell ROMs to people, but the gaming industry seemed... we'll say “resistant”... to the idea. Finally, after a long night of discussion, I gave up and went to bed. As soon as my head hit the pillow, it struck me: we wouldn't sell the games, we would rent them. After that, the legal chips fell right into place.



    Q3: How profitable is your service? Do you make a living off of it? Do you have any employees to help you with the business?

    It was quite profitable in the past. Interest in retro-gaming seems to wax and wane. At our high point, I worked for CC full time and had four employees working with me in an office we owned. That was years ago, however. Everyone has moved on, and I maintain it alone now. It pays it's own bills, but not a great deal more.

    I hope to change that in time (by adding newer systems and games). I don't have a great deal of spare time to work on it at the moment, however. I'm a full-time network engineer and novelist. (I also work on video games when I get the chance.) I want to build CC back up, but it will probably be a few more months before I can really get started.



    Q4: Do you believe ConsoleClassiX to be in a kind of gray area, from a legal standpoint?

    Not at all. It's completely black and white. We own the games, so we have the legal right to rent them out. We have the right to let people play them on PC, so we have the right to copy them off the carts. The law is completely (and clearly) on our side.



    Q5: How would you react if Nintendo or other big corporations became serious about taking the matter to court?

    We would do our best to fight them. For their part, they would be extremely foolish to try it. At the moment, most people believe what we're doing is in the “gray” at the very least (if not simply illegal). If we were sued and lost, none of the countess illegal ROM sites on the Internet would vanish. However, if we were sued and won, Netflix (and countless other Mom and Pop sites) would offer a service like ours within days of the verdict.



    Q6: Do you welcome publicity from big sites such as Ars Technica giving you a lot of attention, or would you rather stay in the shadows?

    My attitude is: Shout about us from the rooftops!

    The argument could be made that the more attention we get, the more likely we are to be sued, but my counter-point would be: the more money we have in our “war chest” the more likely we would be to win.



    Q7: How do you plan on growing where your direct competition is piracy, and games are being more and more readily available?

    A lot of people like to do the right thing. They also like to know they're not going to get “WannaCry” or some other terrible virus when they download something. We've never seen the pirate sites as competition. They don't offer the same product we do. (Even if the product is similar.)

    That was my theory when I decided to start CC. A lot of people laughed at the idea. Then CC made a great deal of money, and they stopped laughing.

    The business model could withstand competition when we started it up in 2001, and it can withstand it now.



    Q8: A few members from our community signed up for an account at ConsoleClassix after reading our article, but they ran into a few issues with the website (expired certificate, plain text passwords, etc.) Do you plan to make improvements to the website, as a response to criticism?

    Yes! The site has “decayed” during the past 12 months.(My primary gig at the moment is network engineering for a tier 2 ISP, and I've been VERY busy during the last year. I hope to get those issues fixed before January 2019. Lord willing, I'll find the time.)



    Q9: Do you have any long term plans for expansion, perhaps adding more games, or systems? Is there anything your users should look forward to?

    Yes! I really want to get CC moving forward again. There is a great deal we can add now. Years have gone by since our last major update and technological advancements have made it possible to use our model (potentially) with systems like the PlayStation.

    I have a lot of plans. Just not a lot of time ATM.



    Q10: Are you much of a gamer yourself? What's your all-time top 3 favorite games?

    I am. And, this is a hard question. No matter what I say, I'll get cheers and boos. Lol.

    For console, I would probably say:
    - The Legend of Zelda
    - Super Mario World
    - Fire Emblem (for the GBA)

    For PC, let's say:
    - Quest for Glory (I – IV, V was painful)
    - Privateer (the old Origin game – I also just started playing Elite Dangerous. I want VR...)
    - Dwarf Fortress (I've only been playing for a few years, but I love it)

    There are a great deal more than that, obviously (and, my answers might be different tomorrow), but those are some of my favorites.



    End of interview


    If you liked this interview, you might also enjoy the previous issues in our series of exclusive interviews:

    :arrow: ConsoleClassix.com: if you are intrigued, check out their site to learn more
     
    Discussion (94 replies)
  1. Chary

    Chary Never sleeps.

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    This dude has a really interesting way of toeing the "legal" line, and honestly, I hope his business does well.
     
  2. Closet Nerd
    This message by Closet Nerd has been removed from public view by Cyan, Sep 19, 2018, Reason: not an image board.
    Sep 19, 2018
  3. blahblah

    blahblah GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    This isn’t even remotely legal. Will be shut down in a hurry.
     
  4. kikongokiller

    kikongokiller GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    I might not agree with it 100% but I think his attitude towards it is great. Hopefully it works out for him.
     
    Subtle Demise likes this.
  5. Beerus

    Beerus Gbatemp's God Of Destruction

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    the guy seems chill but i personly wont use the service as i have my pokemon roms
     
  6. jahrs

    jahrs GBAtemp Regular

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    um shut down in a hurry read man hes been at it since 2001. and its as he said not illegal to rent out games you own as long as your not making multiple copies and selling them. if hes renting them out 1 for 1 without allowing multiples or duplicates or having multiple physical copies of the game then theres nothing wrong there. its just a game streaming service no different then netflix for games instead of movies.
     
    Foxi4, lordelan, xalphax and 2 others like this.
  7. gudenau

    gudenau Largely ignored

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    /dev/random
    DO NOT USE THIS SITE

    It is vulnerable to allsorts of attacks and your information is stored in plain text. An attacker can get your passwords, email address, phone number, credit card info and anything else that is stored!
     
  8. jahrs

    jahrs GBAtemp Regular

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    See now thats useful information thanks @gudenau cause thats probably the single most important thing to know about the site.
     
  9. Costello
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    Costello Headmaster

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    an attacker can do all that? why don’t you then? why didn’t anybody do that since 2001?
    I don’t know if you noticed but I actually asked that question in the interview
     
  10. GotKrypto67

    GotKrypto67 Web developer and more

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    I can back this up.
     
    Last edited by GotKrypto67, Sep 19, 2018 - Reason: cut back on information
  11. Costello
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    in that case the best thing to do would be not to boast about it on an internet forum but to report it to the site owner ;)
    use their contact form here: http://www.consoleclassix.com/Help.html (bottom of the page)
     
  12. gudenau

    gudenau Largely ignored

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    I have been poking at it and it is not very secure, only a mater of time.
     
  13. jahrs

    jahrs GBAtemp Regular

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    Probably cause not many people know about the site as of yet and havent turned their eyes towards it. but he did say if he had time he'd get to fixing the issues with the site and that it wasnt his main priority and that hes working alone so theres no exact way to say why it hasnt happened probably luck. but i personally wouldnt trust my important info to a one man company with limited security and one at that in which the one man isnt fully invested in himself. so yes you asked the question but using something as inconclusive as it hasnt happened yet is invalid as an argument. like saying that a city built on a fault line doesnt need buildings that can withstand an earthquake simply because there hasnt been one yet. Its only a matter of time and leaving things up in the air to random luck and chance is irrespondsible.

    While i agree with the report to owner thing i also believe people need to know what they are signing up for. less we end up with another sony fiasco where people are told to late that their info has been compromised.
     
    Last edited by jahrs, Sep 19, 2018
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  14. TheZander

    TheZander King of the Level 7's

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    I don't quite understand the point of why the game is located in RAM which by their reasoning makes it a rental. I assume that this practice is what limits the consoles they can emulate because of the larger file sizes for more modern consoles such as gamecube, dreamcast, ps2, etc.

    There are already smarter uses of DRM to insure a product is a rental. Wouldn't it be smarter to just have a mechanism on their ROMs to timeout after a set amount of time? Similar to Amazon and eBooks or game demos.


    Edit: I am getting the feeling this is an older business and maybe this was cutting edge at the time. However it should be time to just implement an existing way of doing this.
     
    Last edited by TheZander, Sep 19, 2018
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  15. Costello
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    Costello Headmaster

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    Because the end user cannot save the ROM onto his computer and therefore cannot retain the game forever?

    You could argue that with the proper technique you can dump files stored in RAM... well yeah if you rent a video you could also make a copy of the DVD you rented, when you stream on Netflix you could also somehow record the stream etc. Same thing really. The majority of end users just won't do that because it's too complicated. Nobody cares if Jimmy Hackerboy can dump his RAM :)
     
  16. the_randomizer

    the_randomizer The Temp's official fox whisperer

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    Man, people sure are quick to piss on a solution that Nintendo themselves couldn't half-ass.
     
  17. TheZander

    TheZander King of the Level 7's

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    Wouldn't they be obligated to implement some kind of DRM or encryption? If the idea in doing this is to hypothetically win some future court case some day. How does the fact that the typical user of this very niche product won't care to dump their RAM protect Nintendo's intellectual property?
     
  18. Costello
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    Costello Headmaster

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    I suppose it's all a matter of how complicated the operation is:
    >> dumping an unprotected stream: very easy with standard tools
    >> dumping a DRM-protected stream: pretty complicated nowadays
    >> dumping files from RAM: I would consider this complicated, and I assume a court would agree with that too
    the protection is inherent to the complexity
     
    the_randomizer likes this.
  19. the_randomizer

    the_randomizer The Temp's official fox whisperer

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    Hackers do what Nintendont.
     
  20. kumikochan

    kumikochan GBAtemp Psycho!

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    Wel seeing article 13 got passed iin Europe, i would doubt it still being legal in Europe
     
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