8 October 2008

Uh, oh! Console DRM and limited installs not far away...

And once they are i'm fairly certain that the general public will revolt and overthrow the DRM overlords that currently have a stranglehold over the games industry.

What am i talking about and why did i start a sentence with 'and'?

Well, i was unaware of this but the latest CheapAssGamer podcast outlined the latest attempt of the games industry to stop second hand sales. Basically the publishers/developers are placing codes in the new copies of games (mainly sports games) which tie a part of the content to a machine or a user profile. This then means that while the game can be sold into the second hand market, that component would have to be bought afresh.

The main example they gave was for American football and basketball games where the ability to be able to update rosters was limited by the use of this code. If the game was bought second hand it is possible to get these updates but it costs $20 - which is a sizeable chunk of that $60 for a game. (I've not seen this aspect of a console game before since i don't play sports games.... plus i live in the land of football)

On the one hand i'm okay with this. Updating a roster doesn't break the game. It doesn't stop the player from playing the base game and in previous generations of offline consoles (and i am primarily an offline 360 player) we were happy with having outdated rosters.

On the other hand it's a worrying trend. The whole point of consoles to date is that they are different from PCs. They are easier to use and reliable and the games are supposed to just work. Implementing this feature means that for people who buy the game second hand one of the advertised features on the box will not work. Secondly, the license that was sold to the user (since that is how the publishers/developers slant their sales of games) is then partially tied to that user.... which means that the user will be left with a part of a game that they are unable to use if they sell the game off. This also means that there will be no extra load on their system and there will never be more players on their network receiving updates than their actual sales of new games - however they will continue to earn more money from their license than players playing the game.
Finally, this also means that returning console games could soon become like returning PC games - i.e. impossible. The consumer could be stuck with an unwanted or broken game that is useless to them.... and still the exorbitant prices for a rented license.

There was also an opinion piece on Joystiq that mentions something that has been looming on the horizon for a long time:

But just in case it doesn't, Sony did register a handy, little patent that, in a nutshell, prevents games from being played on more than one console.

I can see this being tried in the future though i doubt it will work - people just don't want to be forced to rent something when the prices are not at a rental level. The price/gain ratio just doesn't fit and consumers do not have enough rights or protections to avoid being abused by the system put in place by the publishers and developers.

There needs to be more transparency when you buy a game - you need to know what restrictions are placed on the game before you open it up - and there needs to be set standards for purchasing digital content whether it be on a physical medium or not. I thought there were already consumer standards in place... but apparently the games industry does not seem to think that those standards apply to themselves.

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