Do you remember Soulja Boy? You know, the young rapper behind “Crank Dat”? Well, he’s entering the games console wars, in a surprising fashion. He’s selling two consoles on his website, the aptly named: SouljaGame Console, and the SouljaGame Handheld. They’re also insanely sketchy.
SouljaGame Handheld https://t.co/Sqcy0xgoYJ
— Soulja Boy (Drako) (@souljaboy) December 5, 2018
First things first, this is a pretty transparent markup. The original game console is available on Amazon. But there is a pretty obvious difference. The game console on Amazon is worth $60 USD, Soulja Boy’s rebranded device is available for $100 USD. That’s a pretty steep markup for this kind of a random deal, not to mention how raw a deal it is for the original manufacturers. The sad thing is, there isn’t even any visible evidence of rebranding. I’ve been studying the promotional images for the portable and I can’t see the difference.
But the real question is the legal standpoint of everything. See, this console’s main draw is it runs old games from other systems. According to the website, SouljaGame claims to support “SOULJAGAME/PS/NEOGEO/PC/SEGA/GBA/NES Video Games”. Oh and I have no idea what “SouljaGames” entail. The Handheld can allegedly run Vita and all the Nintendo handhelds from Gameboy through to Switch titles. Makes sense, after all, there are thousands of pre-installed games across the platforms (800 for the console, 3000+ for the handheld).
See, as reasonable as it is to imagine Soulja spending exorbitant amounts to put licensed games on his tastelessly rebranded marked up consoles, it’s a complete fiction. See the hastily ripped off console used? They are emulators.
For those of you good non-pirates, who haven’t been acquainted, emulators are a bit of a taboo of the industry. The word “emulators” basically covers any software, including those on cheap knockoff hardware, that imitate the real deal. These copies allow for playing ROMs, which are essentially illegal copies of games. Basically, they’re illegal, but since they mostly fly under the radar, companies can only really use various DRM and other anti-piracy things to block the functionality. It’s kind of funny that a former rapper would be pulling a move like this that so many would consider tone-deaf.
In fact, this is probably the worst time in the industry’s history to pull this kind of move. It’s been a pretty bad year to be in the emulation business, with Nintendo taking brutal legal action against ROM sites. It’s a pretty dismal legal situation. Firstly, the more successful the product, the more likely a legal response, and with it steeper penalties. Secondly, the original console creator will probably enter the crosshairs, baring a similar punishment to the person who sold their product on.
It’s always nice to see independent people in games, and Soulja Boy seemingly has been trying to break into the industry for a while. He’s made mobile games and the like for a while now. But it’s very hard to justify selling a console that you didn’t make, packed with games you have no legal claim to. It’s a terrible idea and one that probably will start attracting some legal attention.