April 28th, 2013

Digital Downloads are Worthless

So I’ve been trying to get my mom into the whole digital revolution and she hasn’t taken to it. I also can’t disagree with her.
I’ve been trying to get her to buy books she might enjoy on Amazon which comes up with a few problems:
“They are three times as expensive as the physical book I can buy at Wal-mart!” True, fair enough. Amazon eBook prices are ludicrous.
“What if I don’t want it anymore?” You can just delete it from your library. “Do I get my money back?” No. “Then I don’t want it!”
See, with something digital, you can’t sell it back, nor sell it to someone else. It’s worthless once you pay for it the resell value starts at $0. It’s worse that buying a car!
So I talked her into getting some free books that are offered for a short time or books that were free forever. That seemed cool, but then she wanted the books by the authors she read for free. That’s her mindset, digital items needs to be free. Why? Another point. She had read about a woman who was locked out of her entire Amazon library and there was NO WAY she was getting it back. She couldn’t sue because she wasn’t in the US and Amazon was ignoring her.
“So they can lock me out of all my book at anytime?” Yes… yes they can and for whatever reason. Then you just hope the courts back you if/when you sue. I tried to explain to her why they can do that.
Well mom, you don’t actually buy (a copy) of the book. You more or less rent it.
“So I pay triple the price to rent it? BULLSHIT!” Yeah you do mom… That new game on PSN, you just paid $70 as a rental/license fee. You don’t own that game. Sony can at any time stop doing business and you won’t have access to that game. They can do that. It’s even worse for Nintendo owners as it’s tied to your device and if your device dies.. you ain’t getting your games back ever! I think the way you can transfer the account is through one of those transfer things, but it’s only ONE per device and once the device is dead.. it’s too late.

Let’s take a look at physical objects. When you pay $70 for a physical copy of the game, you own that game. You get what’s called “First Sale” rights to sell that game to someone else. (Of course now game companies have eroded that away with DRM and such that people embraced with open arms.) You can take that game and put it into a blender. You can lend it to your friend, who you hope won’t put it into a blender. Or as my mom enjoys, gong to a used book store and buying used books that she can access, sell, burn whatever.
With digital game, you can do this. At any point the $3000 you spent on games can just be cut off. The companies don’t even have to compensate you for it NOR provide you with a copy on physical media. It’s… just.. gone… poof.
Of course people will argue “Well you never owned the right to physical media…. DRM… license… etc…” They basically rolled over and let companies make new laws on how YOU the consumer get to do with what YOU OWN.

Let’s look at what an actual license let’s you do. You can get a license to drive, a license to sell alcohol, a license to fish. However if those licenses are revoked, you don’t lose your car, your bottle of booze, or your fishing tackle. You just aren’t authorized to use them. You can take those items and sell them, donate them, or find someone with a license to use them for you. In the case of digital media, it seems that the license is the thing itself, the game/book/movie was revoked. You can’t even let a friend use it. Also in all those cases, not having a license doesn’t prevent you from driving, selling booze nor fishing… you just hope you don’t get caught.

So yes, digital downloads are worthless and you pay for them. You can never get the money back you spent on them, nor can you get a physical copy of what you spent your money on.

SOLUTIONS! There are of course easy solutions to this, however it’s getting companies to agree to them.
If for whatever reason you are banned from a service (Amazon, Steam, PSN) that company MUST provide you a DRM free copy of whatever you bought in a format that is most understood for no charge. (That fee was in the initial cost). The latter part basically so they can’t give you a DRM filled .XYZ file that you need a specific program to access it with that you can’t use because you’ve been banned from the service in the first place.
Allow you to sell back your purchase at a discounted price, OR allow you to sell your copy to another person. The only problem with this one is, digital things are like bacteria. They can split off and make more of themselves, thus what’s stopping someone from buying a new copy. With physical media you can count the copies. Still, it could be offered that there are “used” copies available at ripoff GameStop prices ($5 off the new price and you one get $5 of that!)
Allow you to request physical media FOR SALE, where the DVD/CD/BD might have a code on it which when activated dumps your entire library off the computer and only available from the disc. Problems however include having to have internet access to do this, which physical media (is supposed to) not have.

In the end, mom was right. This digital thing muse be approached with caution and questions, lest you end up with no money and no items.

January 31st, 2012

On Buying Used and DLC (and other fun stuff)

@Themiscyra () Posted about piracy and I was on board with her for a while until it got to the #5, the used games. I didn’t exactly see eye to eye on some of the points she made. Here is her piece on used games.

First of all let me say that I DO NOT like DLC. I hate it with a passion. I don’t know what company started it (was it Bethesda?) but it’s been an excuse to sell thin, incomplete games since. Before DLC there were expansion packs, for about $15~$20 you go a shitton of more content for whatever game it was. Like Ultima VII and it’s expansion The Serpent Isle. You got a whole new story! That’s not something you’ll see today. That expansion would be hacked to pieces and portion out to where your spending $60 on just an expansion.

Where this links into used games, is that some games are now coming with online codes for free DLC.. in the box. Which means this bit of the game had to be planned out, hacked out and put in it’s own tupperware container and sold for $10. I think Themiscyra and I agree that selling an incomplete game is utter bunk. This is selling an incomplete game. “But” you say. “You get the complete game with that code!” THAT is where it runs into the used territory. When you buy that used you probably won’t get the code, and if you do, it’s been used up and you have to pay that $10 unlock the rest of the game fee.

This is why to me games will never be art. You certainly don’t go into a library or buy a used book, only to find that you have to pay $10 to get the ending, or get a key character in the book. Even movies aren’t like this (yet). You buy the movie, sit through the 17 minutes of DON’T PIRATE THIS and promos only to see the full movie. Also because it’s the super-awesome-platinum unicorn edition you bought (used) it has all twenty three of the secret endings and the five hundred deleted scenes!

See, where Themiscyra thinks it’s OK to more or less charge some kind of fee to unlock what a new user got, I don’t like this. To me when you buy a used game you already have to put up with having no manual NOR the original box most of the time, if you get both your lucky. YOu also have to put up with the fact the former user may have used the disc as a chew toy for their pet and it only JUST worked to get to the title screen before it was sold to you. Also No refunds and sometimes, no exchanges on used merchandise. I know Gamestop has draconian measures to guarantee the money stays in there system, and here you get it home and BAM all the people that raved about the aspect of the game you bought it for are now laughing at you, because the game now wants to reach into your pocket and take $10 or more monies to unlock it. If it’s a popular title you probably paid too much even used to get it and here you have to pay more!

Now, if you put a discount coupon for the DLC so the new user has to buy that content AS WELL as a used user. Fine. Because used user can wait till DLC discount day and get it for the same price.

Books never ask you to open your wallet to get the rest of the story (unless it’s a series, but you can buy the other books used too). Movies don’t either (yet). So why should games? All other forms of art don’t ask you to open your wallet, so why do games? Because games aren’t art. So now games have a choice, be art or continue to not be art.

Now what EA (and other companies) are doing is CHARGING you to get the content with that games you bought (used). They are forcing you to pay more money to open the gates of Hell. (Literally if you see Tartarus as Hell and Hades as Satan.) With the Cerberus system you have to be a member to get your stuff, and be online…to play that thing you just dropped $60 new and whatever price used + $10. To me, this has taken it too far. You don’t own anything any more and the game companies like it that way. Which is why I can’t cry when they beg for more money. These people aren’t broke here, so I feel that whatever DLC was in the new copy needs to be in the used copy.

This also hurts the people who can’t really afford new games and the only price to pay is an online price, because there is no physical copy. (I’m looking at you Sony >_>) This is what game companies want to get to. A system where you rely solely on them to provide content and pricing. They’ve already taken away your First Sale Law, what other rights do they want.

As it stands now, I mostly buy new games, only I wait until they have gotten to used prices before buying them. I like my full-color manuals and my handy storage cases. I also like the fact I can sell these games to someone else who may be looking for them and don’t have an internet connection.