Worrying Trends

Video game market has two big segments. On one hand we have the console market (Xbox, Playstation, Wii) and the PC market. The console segment is doing great and is constantly growing and going through changes. Wii for example was able to capture whole new demographic for Nintendo (good for them!). PC segment on the other hand…

Well, it’s like this. DRM, DRM, DRM, FUCK YOU YOU THIEVES, YOU ONLY GET 3 ACTIVATIONS! Pretty much like that. Buying a PC game these days is like getting slapped in the face. Hi, thank you for shopping, enjoy your game and **SMACK** that’s for stealing you fucker. If I find my game on the Internets I will come to your house and rape your mom! Understood? Ok, have a great day now.

So we have this never ending debate titled “is PC gaming dead yet?”. I now argued both sides of this discussion. There are plenty of reasons to expect PC gaming to remain vibrant for years to come. On the other hand though, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about it. I’m not going to reproduce these arguments here (go read the relevant posts you lazy bum), I just wanted to point out that there are valid points on both sides. Game market for the PC is still doing well, but that may or may not last.

pc_vs_console.jpg

Some people say good riddance. These folks gave up on video gaming on their PC, uninstalled Windows (I hope, I mean what other possible reason than gaming would you have to keep that horrid OS on your machine) and nowadays do their gaming from their living room couch. They tell me they are happier this way. They don’t need to deal with DRM, they can actually share their games with friends, rent them, or even sell them after they get bored. Selling video games! Imagine that. I almost forgot that this is even possible. I don’t own consoles, and I’m pretty used to the fact that games these days are locked so tight you can’t even play them on your PC.

These folks can actually go and buy used games at like half the price. Hah! We can’t even return the game back to the store if we don’t like it. But I do remember that I owned a PS1 back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, and I did get bunch of brand new (less than 6 months old) games for practically nothing from the used game bin.

Perhaps the grass is indeed greener on the other side?

But it’s not. When you buy a console, you enter a locked down proprietary, tightly controlled environment. That means no mods, no trainers and no indy stuff. There is virtually no such thing as open video game engines and getting the Development Kit usually involves paying large sum of money, and swearing an oath of silence and non-disclosure. It is a very different environment to live in, and one that sort of frightens me.

Oh, and you know that awesome, vibrant second sale market for console games I talked about? You know, the fact you can buy used games dirt cheap, or sell your collection back to the store when you get sick of it? Well, the big boys out there have plans to seriously undercut it. You can read the slashdot article (or the original one if you want to be rebellious and prove you are not just another slashbot) but let me reproduce the gist of it here:

You buy a game and you get an activation code. You need to use this code to unlock parts of the game at which point it binds it to your console. But it’s not like the PC online activation crap. Oh no, these guys are so much nicer about it. They will even allow you to sell it back. It’s just that the next person won’t be able to play the locked parts of the game which might be, oh – I don’t know – the final boss. Or maybe everything but the first level. If you buy a used copy and want access to the locked parts you will simply have to go online and buy your own activation code for a modest price (eg. the price of a brand new game).

In other words, the console game developers re-discovered the shareware distribution model and are planning to use it to make the second sale market, which was bothering them since the day one, disappear.

So don’t tell me the life in the fairy tale land of consoles is so awesome. The game companies on that side of the fence are as greedy and as deranged as on this side. They just haven’t figured out the best way to rip you off yet. So the ball is in your court. Will you let them do this? Of course you will. It’s like telling PC gamers to boycott games because of DRM. Everyone agrees and then runs to the store to get the game, or downloads it. Sigh…

Am I surprised? Not at all. I sort of seen it comming. This trend started long time ago around the time when Bethsheda came up with the horse armor mod for Oblivion. I could not believe the actually planned to sell this stuff. Who would buy it? After all, you can make your own fucking horse armor in the editor. And then I realized that Xbox version ships with no editor and won’t let you use mods. Crafty, I thought. Very crafty. I wonder when this sort of thing becomes a norm. It seems that this time is coming soon.

It seems that no matter which segment of the video game market you belong to you will end up being fucked. I don’t get it. Where is this hostility towards customers coming from. This shit would never fly in any other place other than our little video game ghetto. Oh wait. Never mind. Music and movie industries are pulling stuff like that too, quite successfully lately. What is going on here?

Why do we let these companies fuck us over and over again. Why do we allow them to treat us like shit? What is it about digital goods that makes us believe that their behavior is justified? Because, let’s face it. It is our fault. We are allowing this to happen by giving these people our money. Can we stop? Please?

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6 Responses to Worrying Trends

  1. There is still the “go indie” part of the PC segment. Ok, you can say “it’s crap” or “but it is only casual games!”. It isn’t. Oh, wait – there are lots of indie crap, and lots of indie casual. But this has *very much* to do with that abstract idea called money.

    This is seems to me to be solved in indie development by “make small games” (or casual, if you want). This take less time, and is thus survivable.

    Solution two seems to be; make larger and larger games, living on the (hopefully) incoming profit from the earlier games. This has been done successfully by Spiderweb and Positech (cliffski), among others.

    Thirdly, there are a successful example of iterative development; Mount and Blade. Give players something small for free, building upon it until you can start taking money for it. Though I’m not sure if it still is termed indie; if it is not – then it is a success story.

    I’m also looking forward to seeing how Rampant Games’ Frayed Knights episodic format will work out.

    People care; if (good) AAA games stop arriving for the PC, I’m sure open source engines will get better. Then it will be open for content deliverers to charge for content and, hopefully, donate parts of their profit back to the engine devs.

    Naïve and optimistic? Perhaps, but open source works for applications – why not for games?

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  2. Ben UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    I just sold my game PC and bought an XBox. I started PC gaming in the early 80′s. I fell in love with Kings Quests, Starflight, Wasteland, Magic Candle, etc. Those were the days. I stayed loyal for years. About the time Doom came out, the hardware upgrade race started in earnest. I kept up through the Fallouts and Baldur’s Gates and No One Lives Forevers, and Battlefields. Then Fallout 3 came out and the PC I spent $2000 on less than two years ago barely met specs. The upgrade cost a little less than an XBox, which is the default platform, has all the downloadable content, plays all the old XBox games which I can get used, etc. On top of that, I find I’m buying fewer and fewer PC games. Because many of them suck or are released for the consoles with buggy PC ports. At this point, I want PC gaming to die so that Linux gaming can pick up the slack with creative, interesting, original content (no more “It’s like F.E.A.R. meets Battlefield meets Oblivion . . .” garbage). I want some new ideas and I want to see them on a platform I love.

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  3. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux Terminalist says:

    Why would the death of PC gaming help Linux? Nobody is going to make commercial Linux-only games, so if Windows games disappear, the already small Linux share won’t stand a chance.

    I for one didn’t buy any console since the PSOne, and I’m not planning to do so.
    The major “disadvantage” in Consoles VS PC (the price) is /bullshit/. For most people the question isn’t “should I buy a PC or a Console” but “should I buy a PC with a bad graphic card and a Console or a PC with a good graphic card”.
    I bought a PC four years ago (and it wasn’t a killer) and since then I only needed to upgrade the graphics card ($70) and I can play CoD4.
    Sure, I don’t play it in max settings, but that’s a choice you have in PC.

    Other thing that bugs me is today’s bad console hardware: XBox had the Red Ring of Death, PS3 has the 80010514 error, and the repair price is often through the roof.
    My N64 is more than 10 years old and still plays as well as the first time.

    My only problem is that I would like to help more the companies who still make great PC games (and especially Linux games), but I lack funds, so I have to choose carefully those I can afford to help, and I tend to prefer small companies like Introvision.

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  4. Ben UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    I think the death of commercial PC gaming will put us back in a state similar to the 70s and early 80s where only the passionate were writing games. People won’t stop writing games for the platform, but without the franchises and powerhouse graphics, physics, and sound engines, we may see a little more focus on gameplay. Or maybe I’m just nostalgic.

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  5. dawgit (D.Taylor) GERMANY Internet Explorer Windows says:

    But, But, But….
    Then I’d have to buy (aquire) one of those Television Things…
    NOOoooooooooooooooooooo.!.
    I’ll keep my brain cells, what I have left of them. Thank-You.
    Seriosly, The Chess board works fine. Doesn’t even need electricity. How about that for ‘CO²’ Free, ‘Green’ friendly. (And reqirest brain cells, – the original GPU – Physics Prosessor.) -d

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  6. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I want to, I really want to “stick it to the man”. I didn’t buy/download Mass Effect and Spore at all. I tried to stay away.

    But Far Cry 2 entices me too, and it got me thinking. Of course there will be 20 lemons for every good game out there that I want to buy and play. Will I no longer be able to enjoy all the latest games due to DRM and DLC? I do enjoy sites like gog.com and also all the indie devs out there, who thankfully ship their games without any DRM or minimal DRM. But at the same time, I also would like to play and enjoy the current batch of games.

    My solution now is probably to buy and play as per normal, but at the same time, download a hack for the exe or mini-image from gamecopyworld or gameburnworld, just in case the publisher decides to shut down the activation server for whatever reason.

    This is really not elegant, and I feel that I am still directly or indirectly contributing to the whole mess.

    A friend of mine recently asked why I bothered to search for a crack since I had already bought the game and it’s highly unlikely that the publishers will shut down the activation servers, if at all. I replied that’s exactly what the customers of MSN music, Yahoo music and Walmart online MP3 store thought too.

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