15 October 2008

Riccitiello sticks his nose out, wishes he hadn't...

John Riccitiello (that's a hard name to spell!) has been talking in a number of places about EA's stance on DRM and about its impact on games and gamers. I'll pick out a few choice quotes:

We implemented a form of DRM and it's something that 99.8 per cent of users wouldn't notice. But for the other 0.2 per cent it became an issue, and a number of them launched a cabal online to protest against it.

I'm guessing that half of them were pirates, and the other half were people caught up in something that they didn’t understand,” he says. “If I’d had a chance to have a conversation with them, they’d have gotten it.

I don’t like the whole concept; it can be a little bit cumbersome. But I don’t like locks on my door, and I don’t like to use keys in my car… I’d like to live in a world where there are no passports.

There are different ways to do DRM; the most successful is what WoW does. They just charge you by the month,” Riccitiello says, noting that the subscription model means that even those who pirate the software itself can’t play without paying.

We’re going to see an evolution of these things. I wish we didn’t live in a world where we had to do these types of things. I want it to be seamless and easy – but I also don’t want to have a bonfire of money.

Ho BOY! I mean, you see people saying that Peter Molyneux's or Denis Dyack's minders have bad days but this sole interview conjures up images of PR people slitting their wrists.

Okay, i'm going to address this in a calm way because, frankly, this is too easy to react to. His comments are the equivalent of flame bait on any internet message board. First off is the assertion that most of the customers won't notice it. Well, yeah, of course they're not going to notice it until they have a problem.... but they should be allowed to know that it's there! Really, as well, i do not think there was a cabal of prospective customers rallying together. There was no organisation in the normal sense of this. People started doing it and others followed. It's called a consumer rally. What does John (being hyperbolic now) think of anti-war protesters or animal rights protesters. We may not always agree with everyone who decries or supports something but that doesn't make them a cabal:

a small group of secret plotters, as against a government or person in authority.

It's a far cry from that and it's actually a fairly insulting term to use.

Secondly, treating your customers as if they're simpletons or pretending they're pirates really doesn't endear you to them. I'm pretty sure that there were some pirates complaining about the DRM (even though it doesn't affect pirates) but saying that half of the complainers were pirates and half were stupid makes you look out of touch with reality. The interesting take away point from this comment is that people who are pirates aren't stupid - they're just against the system.

Thirdly, what?! You don't like locks on your door to your house or your car? Either this is a really bad analogy or John is actually more than a little out of touch with reality. Locks on your property help keep it safe. Now if you've read a few posts below this one on how i believe that games sales are commodities and not services then you'll see that the customer owns the game.... however if you're CEO of EA it's obvious that they believe that they own your game. In that respect it makes sense that they want to protect the game from robbers. However, why doesn't the customer have a key? Why do they have to call EA up to get them to unlock the door? DRM doesn't help the customer and yet he mixes that up with his locks and passport analogy.

Fourthly, MMOGs do it best since they require the game to run through their servers all the time. They also provide constant help and support (24 hrs a day) and in-game updates and patches. They provide a service. Most games fall into the other category whereby they do not provide a service. So what John's saying here is that there's going to be an escalation. Games will be tied to a server and the user will log in to play them. Console games will be tied to a console or user and there will be no rental or used-game markets. Nor will you be able to return a game. This is a great step forward in consumerism. People vote with their wallets and companies walk in the opposite way thinking that what they're doing can't be wrong.... their whole attitude is backwards.

Finally: You want DRM to be seamless and easy.... but you don't want a bonfire of money? I thought bonfires of money only happened when you had lots of money to burn (hence the saying). A money pit on the other hand means something else entirely. So what this sentence means is really beyond my comprehension because you don't have to burn/waste money to release games. I think Valve and Stardock have proven that time and time again. It just takes a bigger man than John to admit that.

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