14 April 2011

The thing about the PS3 version of Portal 2...

Most places on the internet are focusing on two aspects of the Portal 2 release on PS3. The first is that Steam is now on PS3 and you can link your Steam and Playstation accounts - allowing you to play with and/or against your PC brethren if the game so allows. The second is that the PS3 version comes with a code for a free PC or Mac version on Steam, allowing you to enjoy the game on two/three platforms.

These are nice features to be sure, especially having a good/working friends list and community on the free-to-use Playstation Network that brings it in line (and possibly surpasses) with the 360 Gold accounts. But there are two other consequences that are far more important for me.

The first is that I will always have Portal 2. It is my game and i control when i play it (dependent on technology working) as opposed to being tied to Steam and the Steam DRM. This is an important aspect for me in being able to appreciate the longevity of the games i purchase - as the recent DA:O debacle has shown. If more publishers do this then i'll be a very happy, though poor, gamer as it presents the best of both worlds (the DRM and non-DRM) to my enjoyment and the publishers' pockets. Of course, being the pessimistic person i am, i doubt that publishers will see it this way and instead would see it as them losing a PC sale... which they would never have made in the first place.....

The second consequence is that Steam is DRM and a community and a matchmaking system. The recent hack of the PS3 has pretty much left it open to anything and everything. If i were a publisher i'd be worried about releasing games on the PS3 because of this and their likely propensity to be pirated more easily now. However, tying a game to Steam and introducing a free PC/Mac copy with a code included in the box hits two targets that the industry is trying to hit: gamers buying new and gamers buying used. This is appealing to the "buy-new" gamers because, hey, i get two copies of the game.... i can play with my PC friends or using my friends on Steam AND i get all the other features of Steam too. This increases the number of gamers who are willing to pay full or near-full price on these titles.... including myself; the person who hasn't bought a full price DRM game for a long time. Presumably, the PS3 game itself isn't locked to the account and so can be resold, if you wanted to, which is still really cool. (If that's not true then we get an addition to point two which is it stops reselling altogether.)

This appeals to the industry with regards to used sales because they don't have to make extra content to hold back (aka The Dragon Age/Mass Effect content that you need to register with their stupid networks to get working from the disc).... they can charge people money to enable the game on Steam by buying a new code.

I think this is an interesting direction for the industry and holds a lot of promise and, for once, my pessimistic granite stone heart has a pulse of optimism. Lets see what the industry does going forward, shall we?

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