I took a swing through the new iTunes Music Store, and even bought a track from them (the fabulous Swing Out Sister cover of “Am I the Same Girl”). Having 30-second clips of every track is very nice, as is the one-click purchasing. The browsing and searching interface is also pretty clean (although Apple’s recent habit of cramming all functionality into a single window is something that needs to be killed before it spreads).

The selection, unfortunately, is pretty poor: U.S. major labels only, which means no nifty Shibuya-Kei, no indecipherable blip-hop, no keepin-it-real indie rock. And the DRM restrictions are pretty discomfiting as well. Besides, as much as I love my iPod, I’m still not happy unless my music comes in a physical body.

At any rate, this music stuff is all very nice, but what I’d really adore would be a similar interface for buying MAME ROMs. Imagine it: you open up your front end and look up the game you want (the list of games that MAME supports is hardcoded into the program). All the extras are already filled in (cabinet art, screenshots, etc.). If you don’t have the game, the program asks you if you want to download it. Click “buy,” and badabing, badaboom: your credit card is charged, files are downloaded, and away you go. No more trawling through oceans of disturbing popup ads on scary Brazilian porn sites to find that copy of Donkey Kong 3 or Food Fight that will remind you of your wasted youth.

Pricing would be tricky: it’d have to be a sliding scale, from $1.00 for obscura like the Broderbund/Irem Lode Runner to as high as $3.00 for heavy hitters like The Simpsons. I feel like a game like TMNT or Rampage is worth $5.00, but convincing people to pay that without a physical CD would be pretty tough. Regardless of price point fiddling, game companies would stand to make a mint, especially considering the development cost involved (that is, none).

Of course, something like this would probably never take off: retro gaming is a pretty tight niche market, and for most people, the whole point of emulation is not to play groovy old games, but to spend thousands of dollars building fat computer systems so that they can avoid paying a few dollars to buy a video game. But it’s still gotta be worth a shot, right? Namco? Midway? Are you listening?