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Junk food, maybe.
Date: 6/24/13 8:49 pm
In Response To: Food for thought... (DHalo)

I've been meaning to write a huge article about this for the last couple of years, but have never gotten around to it, but it's a subject that requires far more time and effort to discuss here. Needless to say, I don't think we'll be seeing an all-digital future in our lifetimes. The idea that it's inevitable and coming soon is to me closer to flying cars and virtual reality than it is to cell phones and PCs. This is mainly due to several things, including the facts that neither the infrastructure nor the demand is there, not to mention there are serious concerns regarding ownership and control. I personally don't really do the whole digital downloads thing. I do not own an MP3 player or an e-reader or even a smartphone, and I don't game on the PC (which of course entails I don't have a Steam account). I'm sure you probably enjoy some or all those things, but I refuse to adopt those technologies. Aside from the occasional Virtual Console or XBLA purchase (which are typically tiny files by today's standards that don't warrant a disc), I still buy all my media in physical form: CDs, Blu-rays, game discs, and good old paper & ink books. I know a lot of people have for the past decade-plus been forfeiting ownership and control in exchange for greater convenience — I can understand people who listen to all their music on the go wanting to bring their whole collection with them in digital form on an mp3 player instead of carrying a bunch of CDs everywhere —, but I'm not one of them. If the future is "all digital," well, it's a future I want no part of.

Now, if people want digital, then they should go for it. They have that option. But I'd also like the option to do things the old way by buying physical, because I find it to be better and I like to actually own what I buy (I happen to appreciate the First-sale Doctrine and have made good use of those rights). When iTunes came out, CDs didn't just disappear (in fact, physical formats still generate just under half the music industry's revenue, not to mention when people buy full albums, they still buy the physical version by a more than 2:1 ratio). The advent of streaming movies and TV didn't cause the market for DVDs and Blu-rays (the latter of which is actually growing in market share) to just evaporate into the ether. The Kindle didn't cause the printing presses to automatically shut down, and print books are still going strong. And despite the rise of digital storefronts, physical media still dominates in the video game market, with over 3 billion discs and cartridges being sold on seventh-gen consoles & portables. There's room for both digital and physical, and there's no reason that consoles absolutely have to become strictly "Steam boxes."

Personally, I don't think for one minute that their main reason was to bring about new advances in gaming or anything noble like that. It was about used games more than anything else. Several people and publishers in the game industry have been griping about used games for the last few years (and said gripes are totally baseless). It's essentially a repeat of the late 80s when Nintendo of America was swearing up and down that game rentals were going to be the death of the industry, and they fought Blockbuster tooth and nail to eliminate rentals (they failed, of course). "Big Entertainment" has rarely had our best interests in mind. From attempts to block VCRs from the market in the early 80s to the push for laws like SOPA and PIPA today and all the lobbying for copyright term extensions between, they have continually sought nothing short of copyright being an absolute and perpetual property right. They want a world where the publishers control everything now and forever, lock, stock, and barrel, where possession is no longer nine-tenths of the law because we are no longer buying "products" but rather paying for "services." They have shown time and time again that they have no use for "traditional safety valves" like Fair Use provisions, the public domain, and the First-sale Doctrine. As someone on another forum said:

Microsoft seems to hold the idea that the fundamental aspect of property rights and consumer rights as it has existed since the beginning of trade should be adjusted and recodified on a per-industry basis. Not because it's inherently bad or unethical, but just because they think it's a threat to the industries health. Which means essentially arguing for and implementing protectionism for corporations.

The industry does not come first; consumers do. I have no sympathy for a market that cannot properly stumble its way through a secondhand market like every other mature industry in the world. If this industry can't find a way to make money off of the primary market -- even with DLC and exclusive pre-order content and HD re-releases and map packs and online passes and annualized sequels and "expanding the audience" and AAA advertising then, if I may be so blunt, fuck it. It doesn't deserve our money in the first place.

If an entire industry has its head so far up its ass focused on short term gains and has embraced such a catastrophically stupid blockbuster business model in pursuit of a stagnant market of harcore 18-34 dudebros that it thinks it has no choice but to take away our first-sale rights as its last chance of, maybe, finally, creating a sustainable stream of profits then it can go to hell. It doesn't need your protection, it needs to be taken back and beaten until it remembers who its real masters are.

I have every reason to be suspicious of "Big Entertainment," including the game industry. And I sure as hell don't think for one minute that going the "Steam box" route would suddenly lower prices. Consoles are closed platforms. When we buy digital games on an Xbox console, we can only buy from Microsoft's store, with MS's DRM rules being the standard and the console itself being a fixed piece of hardware. PC, however, is an open platform, and Steam has competition from Good Old Games, Green Man Gaming, and various other digital storefronts, all with widely varying DRM schemes (from strict to none), not to mention you have mods and you can customize your PC to your heart's content. So yeah, I'm skeptical that a digital-only console would benefit us in any way. It would just be another means of exerting ever more absolute control, and we get jack squat in exchange (except maybe the illusion of greater convenience). The idea that a console could ever fully go the way of Steam is beyond far-fetched.

There's no reason that Microsoft had to attempt to implement system-wide DRM for physical games. There's no reason they had to mandate an internet connection. The PS4 is capable of cloud computing and all sorts of other fancy next-gen stuff too, but it did so without having to fundamentally change a 35+ year status quo (and besides, "the cloud" might not be all it's cracked up to be). Hell, even the all-digital Steam has an offline mode; you don't have to connect to Valve's servers on a periodic basis for permission to play your games. There was nothing preventing them from offering a robust digital marketplace while still maintaining basic expectations people have had for nearly four decades in regards to a console (e.g., lending, trading, reselling, gifting, & renting games, being able to play offline indefinitely if one so chooses). You can bring people "The Future of Gaming" without destroying the past. If console makers and third-party publishers want to fight used games, maybe instead of pushing for unnecessary DRM they should follow Satoru Iwata's advice: "The best possible countermeasure against people buying used product is making the kind of product that people never want to sell. Taking as an example Mario Kart or Smash Bros., even though you might think, ‘I’ve done enough with this,’ you’ll still have second thoughts. ‘Wait a minute. If one of my friends comes over, I might need this again.’ You’re never going to want to sell these games. That’s something that always occupies our minds. We need to make software that players don’t want to sell."

Oh, and Jim Sterling had his own take on the issue on today's Jimquisition:

The Escapist : Jimquisition : Why PC Gaming Gets Away With It

Messages In This Thread

Food for thought...DHalo6/24/13 7:02 am
     ^ *OT*DHalo6/24/13 7:02 am
     Re: Food for thought...DEEP NNN6/24/13 8:01 am
           Re: Food for thought...General Vagueness6/24/13 3:49 pm
                 Re: Food for thought...DEEP NNN6/24/13 5:04 pm
                       Re: Food for thought...General Vagueness6/25/13 5:26 pm
                             Re: Food for thought...DEEP NNN6/25/13 6:42 pm
                                   Re: Food for thought...General Vagueness6/26/13 9:16 pm
                                         Re: Food for thought...DEEP NNN6/26/13 9:53 pm
                                               Re: Food for thought...General Vagueness6/26/13 10:30 pm
                                                     Re: Food for thought...DEEP NNN6/26/13 10:56 pm
                                                           Re: Food for thought...Leisandir6/27/13 12:25 am
                                                                 Re: Food for thought...DEEP NNN6/27/13 7:44 am
                                                                       Re: Food for thought...Leisandir6/27/13 1:37 pm
                                                                             Re: Food for thought...DEEP NNN6/27/13 1:46 pm
                                                                                   Re: Food for thought...Leisandir6/27/13 4:32 pm
                                                                       Re: Food for thought...General Vagueness6/28/13 2:24 pm
                                                                             Re: Food for thought...ZackDark6/28/13 10:10 pm
                                                           Re: Food for thought...General Vagueness6/28/13 2:02 pm
     Junk food, maybe.Gravemind6/24/13 8:49 pm
     Re: Food for thought...The Loot6/25/13 5:37 pm

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