Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
 
It's a deal

If you buy a book and finished reading it, you have the right to resell that book. If you had spent the same money to see the movie instead, you would have no such right, even if it was technically possible to tape the movie while watching. Although in both cases you buy access to intellectual property of the author, in the case of the book you buy it as a physical good, while in the case of the movie you buy it as a service. Video games have for many years fallen on the book scale of things: In many legislations it is not only legal to resell used video games, but it is even actually illegal for game companies to prevent people from reselling. But MMORPGs are legally considered like movies, that is a service and not a physical good, and thus game companies are allowed to prevent you from reselling your account.

That understandably has made the people selling single-player offline games somewhat jealous. If they could only turn their games into services instead of physical goods, they would solve all their problems with piracy and reselling and thus make a lot more money. And that explains the current trend towards games which are at their core single-player games, but all suddenly end up offering lots of online services: Online achievements and rankings, online social network functionality, online PvP, and even online cooperative gameplay for games that wouldn't work well as PvP games. Other games are incomplete on the disc in the box, and then have a code for a downloadable content (DLC), which can be used only once. And then there is digital distribution of games on platforms like Origin or Steam.

Of course some people are very upset about this development, because by adding all these online functions to games, the game company is taking away your right to resell your old games. And (whisper it) they also take away your "right" to copy and pirate games.

But that is not the only way to see things. Not everybody is interested in reselling or copying games. My old games tend to collect dust in a cupboard until I realize that they aren't working on the current version of Windows any more, at which point they go into the garbage bin. The most useful I ever did with my old games was giving away a whole bunch of them to a "recycling station" where people give away their old stuff and others can get it there for free. Thus to me and people like me, games as a service instead of a physical good has no disadvantage. Which is one reason why I'm buying most of my games from Steam these days and do away completely with the physical good.

In exchange for giving away my right to resell games, I do receive better online functionality. Of course how useful that is depends on the game. But in some cases I do receive something for nothing, because I get some online function I like in exchange for a right I didn't use. It's a deal. I'm not saying that it is necessarily a good deal for everybody, because some people might well need to resell their old games to finance the next one, and might not be using the online functions. But this is the deal on offer, and everybody is free to take it or leave it. Expect to see a lot more games with online modes in the future. And you might want to sell your GameStop shares.

Comments:
Props for pushing back against the pr8 entitlement community but still...

Leave me the ablitiy to re-sell my account, in fact give me the functionality to transfer it over safely. Then please go ahead and do everything in your power to turn your games into services and curtail all the pirating your can.

I have no sympathy for pirating (thuogh frankly I wouldn't have grown into an adult gamer if I couldn't have copied literally every but 2 games I played until I turned 16 when I got my own job)


Just tired of this silly concept that I don't own the 'licence' I purhcased of a product to re-sell or lend or whatnot. Of course I didn't buy the game, or book movie, that would cost millions. But I really would actually like to 'own' that single copy that I can do with as I wish - assuming I'm re-broadcasting or using it to make a profit.
 
There is a serious problem with software as a service, in that there is zero consumer protection. If a game doesn't work you don't have the right to return it or demand a refund. This makes Steam/Origin/etc a bit of a reverse lottery, especially if you pre-order, as you might pay upwards of £30 for a game you can't use.
 
Comparison's not exact, and legislation is in flux.

Yes, you buy watching a movie in a theater (or film in a cinema if you prefer) as a service, but you buy the DVD of the same movie as a good. One you can't re-sell, one you can.

E-book publishers are very keen to sell their product as a service but there's strong opposition to this and it is far from clear yet which way it will go. And, of course, it may go different ways in different legislations.

I suspect this will be superseded over time by the wholesale movement of almost all traffic in information to the online world. That won't happen in our lifetime, however, because an awful lot of people who don't and will never go online will have to die out of the system first. And not be replaced by enough digital naysayers to replace them.

Of course, if companies choose not to serve a physical market and the law favors their interpretation of ownership, consumers will only be left the option to comply or withdraw.
 
The game that is dysfunctional on disk without the DLC does have one drawback, even for you: In a few years, if you want to replay it, you may only be able to play the "dysfunctional" on-disk version. Or if the game is patched in a way you don't like, you may not have the choice of playing the original pre-patch version.

--Dave
 
And...

http://i.imgur.com/x2r6a.jpg
 
"My old games tend to collect dust in a cupboard until I realize that they aren't working on the current version of Windows any more, at which point they go into the garbage bin"

I hoard my old games and regularly enough I dig out an old title and play it. It is often easier than you would imagine to get older games to play on the newest Windows. Classics from the 1990's are well supported by emulation and by user supported patches. There is a black hole around seven years ago where emulation hasn't caught up yet but it will in time.
 
E-books are trying to sell as a service too. When you buy a comic book online here, you pay the full price yet you only have the comic for the next five years.
 
The problem with these analogies Movie vs MMO is that when probed it turns out that they are not all that similar.

Why shouldn't I be able to sell a WoW account? It is stupid from every perspective - Blizzard would make money since I am gone from that game and not paying - I would make some money that would make me happy - and a third party that now does not have to level yet another character would be happier.

There is illusion being perpetuated that the mere act of leveling and slogging through the game for yet another time with the sole purposed of leveling another character somehow makes the experience better for everyone.


Level a character if you enjoy the experience - if all you need is a high level character you should be able to just buy one.
 
I kept all my old games and then technology creater wrapper programs that allowed me to play them on the newer version of windows.

I can play games from the late 80's and all through the 90's. But if I need to log onto a site to validate the game, or to download some missing element that means the game company has to maintain that site forever and allow me access 10, 20 or even 30 years from now.

And that is my beef with it.
 
In all cases the physical items are only worth the paper or plastic they are written onto. What you are paying for is the license of use. However most companies have failed on their part of that deal. In a true license of use scenario if my DvD cracks and stops working, if I can prove my purchase of the item and am willing to pay the cost of goods and shipping, they should send me a replacement (that costs me less than $5). However, since many companies have been very bad about doing that, that actual physical good has become considered the license. That is whomever holds the physical good holds the right to enjoy that good. That means if your good breaks or you lose it you lose your right. The up side of physical good equaling license was that it allowed for easy resell or lending. This is now being taken away by forcing registrations and allowing them to be locked to only one account. Right now this is mostly PC games.

Some people may remember when GameStop use to sell used PC games? Well that had to stop because most people were just selling Gamestop there disks and not their legal license. That is to legally resell or lend a PC game you were suppose to completely uninstall it from your system. This still happens all the time in cooperations recycling licenses. If Bob left the company they can transfer his MS Office license to the new guy.

The same thing could happen to console games at any time. The only thing slowing it is the fact that not every console user it hooked up to the internet. But once they can assume pretty much everyone is, or consoles come with build in 3G or 4G for activations I’m sure the console industry will move that way. Which is pretty lame because licenses should be transferable. If they aren’t they should sell for less. If my company bought a software license for me for $700 and if I left the company a week after they gave it to me that investment vanished it wouldn’t be accepted. Granted that license would only be transferable within the company and wouldn’t be refunded.

I’m not sure why single persons don’t have the same ability to some degree. A person should just be able to log into account and remove any game they own from it and print out some verification number. At that point the license should be able to be resold. Or once again, sell the licenses for less since they removing the ability to transfer.

Some Ebook services are trying to do it better. By lettng users borrow books from libaries or lend their books to other users. It is better but still not prefect.
 
For PC games the whole idea of reselling it is nearly nonsense anyway. There's never been much of a market for it.

I'm all for the service model. The internet has been great at spreading information promiscuously, but it has been pretty awful at generating its own content because the anarchy model makes it very difficult to make a profit. While I have and will continue to pirate things when the content provider is putting what I consider to be unreasonable access restrictions on their product, I'm more than happy to pay reasonable prices for quick, easy, and convenient access to their product.

The model that works for the internet is the service model. This is the model that will allow creative people to make a living giving us entertainment. I'm happy with it.
 
Games are only worth selling if they are fairly recent. If you bought a recent game and are already reselling it, than you probably made a mistake in purchasing it in the first place. Taking more care in the future, you can avoid this problem.

I definitely see the dangers with too much reliance on online services, though. Some day one of these online services will shutdown, and there will be a lot of angry customers. I watch more carefully now than ever where and what I spend my gaming money on to limit my exposure to any such future problems.
 
My major concern with this development is losing large parts of our cultural history later.

Mass-printed books are very rarely lost forever, to the best of my knowledge - there's always a copy out there. But media of which only a single copy is retained has a nasty habit of disappearing forever - like many early Doctor Who episodes, where the only copy at the BBC was taped over before anyone realised its importance.

I fear that we might well lose an entire generation of games because the key components - their servers - are some day decomissioned, then lost, sold or wiped. That'd be a tragedy for anyone interested in the history of the medium.
 
There's a flip side to adding more online components -- at some point they won't be supported.

Even Valve at some point, perhaps 20 years from now, may no longer support some of its own games. They might be on Team Fortress 20 by then and Team Fortress 3-12 will no longer be playable on Steam.

To me it's a matter of cost. You charge me $60 for what is mostly a single player game, I want to own it instead of pay for a service. If you want to make it a service, charge me $20 to give up my rights of ownership.
 
My beef with the single player games as services model is not so much the service part as the planned obsolescence. After X years the company simply shuts down its servers and you can never play your old game again. Aw shucks, better buy our newest product instead, eh? That's pretty much like buying a book that automatically self-destructs after a while.
 
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