Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nice game you're downloading; shame if something were to happen to it...

I've ranted against the move from physical to downloadable distribution before. It's still a subject that I get very passionate about. I've avoided blogging about it, though, because otherwise I'd turn this into one big "SAVE THE DISCS" blog, and I'd much rather talk about games than stupid stupid marketing decisions, but I came across something that really got my blood boiling again.

This Ars Technica article describes an experience attempting to buy the infamously-DRM-riddled game Spore in downloadable form. In a nutshell, when you purchase and download the game, they maintain a record of this transaction and allow you to redownload the game for reinstallation at any time — for six months. You are given the option to extend this "protection" interval to two years for the price of $6.99. After that (with no option to backup the installation files to a CD), it is gone forever.

As the author points out, this means if you intend on getting a new computer beyond two years from the date of the game's purchase, or if your hard drive ever crashes and needs replacing, you're out of luck as far as the game is concerned.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Digital distribution has never been about customers' "convenience"; it is and has always been about control — seizing control of the distribution, sale, and after-sale. They eliminate manufacturers and shippers and the money paid to them, they eliminate retailers and their cut of the profits, and they eliminate the customers' ability to re-sell their used games on any market. They also eliminate borrowing and renting from the equation (unless people start getting in the habit of lending out their whole PC). Every player of the game must play an individually-purchased copy, with 100% of the profits coming right back to the publisher/distributor (with the savings passed on to their executives' bonuses). Any additional restrictions that might cause a person to have to pay for the same game twice is just icing on that cake.

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