Games: Digital vs Physical

It’s been an interesting enough week and I’m sure I could ramble about something half-way interesting, but I’m going to ramble on about Steam and other digital download options instead.

I’ve a friend at work who occasionally brings up Team Fortress 2 and part of me always cringes, as the requirement for me to play would mean that I would have to finally bite the bullet and get a Steam account. That or camp out as his house for weeks on end.

I think the former would work out better.

Steam in itself isn’t evil, and buying something off of Steam isn’t akin to throwing away your money, but it just hasn’t made a lot of sense to me to get an account and purchase any games from them.

As I mentioned back in Oct 2008, I’m a fan of hard media for games. This is/was for two reasons:

  1. I want to be able to install/reinstall without limitations.
  2. I support the right to resale/trade/give away used goods.

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Crap Conclusions

View Article – Opinion: Why You Should Pay for Free

Andrew Doull makes some interesting points, but he lost me with this bit:

In addition, World of Goo was pirated approximately 90 percent of the time because it was unencumbered by DRM.

He goes on to say:

The reason it wasn’t 100 percent is that enough people cared about the game and the developers to want them to profit from their endeavors, even though those same consumers could have got the game for free.

The latter part I can agree with, although it’s debatable whether those who illegally downloaded WoG would have paid for it were it not available for free download (illegally).

What is mind boggling is how this guy is a game developer and doesn’t realize that DRM doesn’t work. How would have DRM stopped WoG from being illegally downloaded?

It wouldn’t have. Instead, it would have increased the number of times it was downloaded without payment to 2D Boy out of spite.

Did you know that Spore was the most illegally downloaded game of 2008?

Did you realize that it contains SecuROM 7, one of the most insidious forms of PC DRM out there?

Andrew evidently doesn’t.

Fallout 3 – message to Bethesda

The following is what I sent in to Bethesda this morning in regard to Fallout 3 containing SecuROM.

I didn’t send hate their way, just a tip from an honest game buyer. I figure it will probably end up being deleted without being read, but one can hope that somebody will take it to heart.

With the time and effort placed into quality games these days (one can hope this is one of them), it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to place any obstacles in the path of customers. The ‘common sense’ factor of using DRM will be argued from numerous sides until it either infects everything digital or is defeated forever (lovely thought, but far from realistic right now).

I’m hoping that their other customers are also as candid, but it sounds like they’re getting slammed and there is little surprise there. After all, if you treat your customers like criminals …

I’m sure by now you have been bombarded with hate mail, some praise and unending supply of tech support requests.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to send some feedback of my own. I can only hope it doesn’t get nuked by a spam filter or my views disregarded as “whining” as I believe they can be beneficial to you.

I’m a PC gamer by choice and while I might by a console game I doubt I’ll ever buy one of yours for the console.

The reason is that your mod community is so huge. It’s amazing to see how loyal your fans are to stay with your games for so long after they have been published.

Granted I think you ought to offer better patch support. Case in point is the collection of “Unofficial official” patches for Oblivion. TONS of issues fixed ranging from fixed quests to graphical anomalies.

What does this have to do with Fallout 3?

Years ago, SecuROM was known and very much disliked, but now it is reviled. Say the word around a gamer and the conversation will be shifting in a new direction pretty quick.

Just the association itself is damning.

I’d recommend that you either patch it out with your first patch, or at the very least give heavy consideration during planning for your next game to not include it.

I’d personally recommend taking a hard look at StarDock’s Impulse Platform. While Steam is a good choice (for many), the retail release of your PC version contains SecuROM and that is what you’re getting trashed for in the gaming community.

As others have said, using SecuROM is doing nothing to stop “piracy” and is only bothering legit customers. I’m not in the gaming business so I can only imagine the pressures and obligations you have to fulfill, but from the side of the buyer you’re going to find that legit customers come down to one of only a hand full of choices:

* Buy it and deal with the DRM – retail
* Buy it from Steam
* Decide the aggravation isn’t worth it and just “pirate” it.
* Skip it altogether and lead a crusade against your questionable choices thereby damaging your brand.

Your most outspoken critics will not be the “pirates” (I keep quoting that word because it cheapens the issue of real piracy, where people lose their life), but disenchanted customers who are fed up with the way publishers and developers are treating them.

You may not deserve some of the flak you’re getting, but you brought it on yourself by using SecuROM. If you’re going to insist on using DRM, you would have been much better of by choosing a different implementation as you’re just going to catch the carry over from EA, Ubisoft and others as they cross the line into activation territory.

Ah yes, one other popular option amongst paying customers:

* Wait until the game has been out a long while and buy a copy dirt cheap, used.

Your biggest supporters (1st and 2nd quarter sales, collectors/special editions) will show up late to your releases.

I was heavily considering the purchase of this title, but I’ll wait and see what you guys do. I’m a legit buyer, otherwise I wouldn’t waste my time writing this or leaving feedback on Amazon or other message boards. If I were just wanting to play the game and not give back/reward the developers/be a good person – I’d just grab an illegal copy. But that’s not what I’m going to do.

I’m going to wait with the likelihood of just skipping it altogether. That’s not a threat, it’s just honest feedback.

Again I’m sure you’ll be wading through piles of negative feedback, but I have to say you brought it on yourselves.

The good news though is you still have time to create good will with the community.