Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Download now, play next week!

Interesting DRM-related goings on in the PC world. The distribution network Steam is offering the ability to not only pre-order games, but pre-download them as well. Since downloading a full game is not an instantaneous process (and is expected to be even worse on a big game's release date), you can download the code early, but be locked out of play until you are able to activate your copy with their server, on the game's actual release date.

Sounds perfectly reasonable, as far as it goes. They have enabled that for the upcoming Left 4 Dead 2, and they also had it available for the much-anticipated Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, whose official release date was Tuesday of this week.

Although the official retail release date was Tuesday, some retailers started selling copies early (which was quickly and "unofficially" copied by GameStop in those areas). So, if you elected to buy a physical game disc instead of the "convenience" of a digital download, there's a chance you could've been playing it early.

Wait, it gets better. When the official retail release date rolled around and people lined up outside retail stores to buy their shiny discs, those who bought the "convenient" digital copy found that it did not activate when midnight changed Monday into Tuesday. In fact, the digital copy would not unlock until Thursday, a full two days later. There was some more confusion as the unlock date was pushed even further out until Friday, but it seems to have been pulled back now to Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, people who bought their shiny discs will have had their fully functional copies for over a day and a half (assuming no issues with DRM).

Wow. So, apparently, in the digital download future, we can not only buy games that we don't own, can't resell, rent, or trade, may not be able to back up and will lose at some uncertain point in the future, but now you can download games and not even get to play them!

I'm sorry, how exactly is this a good thing? Oh right, the publishers directly get your money, whether you get to play the game or not; so it's good for them.

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