Just how much old-school content do you want, or need, from the comfort of your couch? With all the talk about game streaming nowadays, Xbox Series X and Series S players suddenly have a new option for streaming access to more than a thousand games from the classic era. Arcade streaming service Antstream is promising quite a lot through its subscription service, but its success will come down to whether more publishers feel like getting on board.

On Friday, Antstream made the surprise announcement it was coming to Xbox, with preorders already available through its website. Players can buy a 12-month pass for $30 or a “lifetime” pass for $80. The service is already available on PC and Mac, as well as on Samsung TVs, Firesticks, and Android TV. But the significance of this announcement is that Antstream is bringing some content from early Nintendo and Sony consoles to Xbox. This means this release is ostensibly one of the first times the big three console makers have seen their content go truly cross-platform in one package.

Antstream claims it currently has 1,470 games on offer from a surprising breadth of classic consoles, including some long-forgotten hardware like the Atari Lynx, the MSX, and the Amstrad. The service says it also has close to 300 old arcade games on offer, such as the original Mortal Kombat (though no sign of Mortal Kombat 2 or 3), Smash TV, Breakout, and Moto Race USA. The lesser-known consoles seem to have more content than most. The C64 sports close to 360 games, while there are only five, little-known titles available from the original Game Boy. Antstream also adds a few modern amenities like saves and achievements.

Among the more-popular home systems like the NES, SNES, or Genesis there’s much more of a limited selection. Though the streaming service advertises you can play some games from the original PlayStation, the only two pieces of software available include 40 Winks and Loaded (which was also made available on the Sega Saturn later on). You won’t find any Sonic or Mario titles here, but you could try out the original Worms and a few other cult classics like Zombies Ate My Neighbors.

Antstream is promising new games “every week” as the first third-party streamer coming to Xbox. Still. content is the life and death of a game streaming service. Microsoft knows this, which is why it’s become a major pain point in the company’s quest to finalize its $69 billion merger with Activision Blizzard. Xbox Game Pass is one of the better streaming services out there, mostly due to its current game selection. Compare that to PlayStation Plus which is mostly back-catalog games from prior consoles alongside a few major releases from years ago.

So with Antstream, you might have some fun playing Atari 2600 editions of Adventure or Asteroids, but those are games users can easily find in many other collections. Fans of the Pinball Dreams and Earthworm Jim series might get a kick out of the software list, but Antstream needs buy-in from more publishers to be successful.

Game publishers are notoriously bad at keeping their old titles available. Just this past week, a survey conducted by game historians noted that only 13% of games from 2010 going back to the 1970s remain available commercially today. The selection on Antstream is indeed impressive by pure scale, but the company needs more long-term game publishers to play ball with their IP. That, by its nature, is already difficult as many older titles are locked in a kind of rights hell. Even rejuvenating older games from popular properties like Disney is a notorious hassle for game makers emulating older properties.

If Antstream does well, it could help turn more publishers on to the idea there’s a market for classic titles. Perhaps Nintendo will look into its heart and release the mother(3)load of archives, but we’re not holding our breath.


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