Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The slow shift in game ownership

Imagine you've bought an ACME brand television; it'll even hook up to the internet and allow you to use various widgets. You happily use this for a year, but now something's gone wrong. You're trying to watch a DVD on the hooked up EMCA DVD player and a message appears on the screen:

This is an unauthorised non-ACME device.
Please connect an ACME device to use this function
Yep ACME have remotely patched your television via automatic update to only allow ACME brand peripherals. This has been done for "security reasons" to protect their brand from an "inferior experience when using non-ACME brands". How annoyed would you be?

So how more annoyed would you be if one day your ACME brand television just switched off one day? There's nothing wrong with the television but ACME have gone bankrupt and closed-down and so has every single piece of electronic equipment they've ever sold.

But hey what are you going to do about it didn't you read the small print that stated your use of the television and any peripherals was at the discretion of the ACME corporation? No! Well that's your fault if you didn't like the terms you shouldn't have bought the product.

Where am I going with all this? With the rise of home broadband and the following digital marketplace this seems to be the trend of terms and conditions for the things you 'buy' there. I use buy in quotes because in most cases you're not. Just like my television example you are in reality renting these products for an unlimited period for a one-off price. You don't own these items you're simply using them at the sufferance of the producer.

Read this in light of what I'm saying here. These people have paid money for this content, but were unable to use it. There's nothing wrong with their computers, nothing wrong with the game itself, nothing wrong with their internet connection; the fault lay with the publishing company. They're not paying them for this service they can't ring up and demand satisfaction as per their service contract; they have no say in this whatsoever. If this company decided to pull the plug on these servers tomorrow their customers would have no recourse except not to ever buy any of their products again, which admittedly is a good incentive to keep things running.

However now imagine if the outage had been because this company went bust. Again there's nothing wrong at the consumer's end but they still wouldn't be able to use the product they thought they'd bought.

It gets even better because in this case the reason for the failure was down to the inability to verify the copy to prevent piracy and that comes under the all-powerful DMCA. So the people who 'bought' this software may well be prohibited by law from altering it so they can continue to use it.

So do you think you own that little Wii game; that iPhone app? That you have any rights to be able to play these if the publishers decide they don't want you to? Think again.


walkerno5 said...

The beauty of DRM.... it's far more of a reason to get a thoroughly cracked, pirated version than high prices ever were.

FlipC said...

One has to question a system that makes the illegal versions more functional than the legal ones.