Always on DRM, Microtransactions and Used Games. Oh my!

Today I’m going to question how people feel about the current direction of the gaming industry. I don’t know if most people have been paying attention, but there seem to be two grand experiments going on right now. Microtransactions being one and this “Always On”  connection the second.

First things first, the whole microtransaction issue seems to be on the rise. For those who are not familiar with microtransactions, they are little things that you can purchase virtually with physical money. To some this may seem like an incredibly stupid idea. I mean, why in the world would you pay for something that you don’t physically own? Right?  (It has been brought to my attention that there is some massive disagreement with this statement. An example follows….)

Wife:  I purchase iTunes songs. Isn’t that the same? You don’t physically own the song, if  that’s not what you want you should go and buy the CD. Same premise right?

Me: (-_-)….I didn’t even think about it like that.

Wife: I still think it is ok to purchase things in game if it’s F2P (Free to play). For games that I’ve paid for already, I don’t think it’s fair to pay for items. Everything should be exclusive, especially when the game cost a lot of money [to purchase].

Well, apparently a lot of people feel that way, especially the parent company of Farmville. Zynga makes upward of 50 million in revenue from microtransactions alone.  EA has also started down this path as well with noticeable things such as purchasing vehicle upgrades in the Need for Speed franchise or the more controversial issue swirling around Dead Space 3. You were given the ability to purchase “extra” ammo for your weapons. (This was later changed due to a bit of backlash from the video game community.)   Also treading into this was Activision with downloadable content for your weapons in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. The publishers have stated that this is done for two reasons.

  1. To offset profits lost due to second hand sales
  2. To keep players interested in playing their games.

Um. I have to call shenanigans on the first one. If used games are causing a loss of profit, how do you explain a 28.9 billion dollar increase from 1993 to 2008? This means that video games grossed more than music AND the movie industry.  For an industry that’s “hurting”, I guess you’d consider this a “good” hurt.  As to the second reason, I can understand if this was done as something to compliment the game and not something that I HAD to purchase in order to win( ……looking at Dead Space 3 here.)   I am not going to say that all microtransactions are evil. I will say that using them to force me to complete a game AFTER I have already purchased it from you does piss me off.  A side note, even EA tried to do damage control about their microtransactions. Le Sigh….

The other hot button issue is always on DRM. Ubisoft tried it and failed epically, and rumor has it that the new Xbox will try and require it, and then we have EA yet again leading the fail boat with its most recent debacle. SimCity.  Did nobody learn from Diablo III?  I’m all about people not pirating a copy of your game. I get it.  You worked really hard to make this game and you want to make sure that you’re getting your cut. We GET it.  But don’t make me jump through flaming hoops when I bought the game legally!  It almost makes you want to get the hacked version of the game.  (I am in no way advocating for anyone under any circumstances to indulge in the pirating or illegal distribution of any pirated games in any way………but I can sympathize.)   The same could be said about Xbox.  There are mumblings that it will require “Always On.” I predict it will lose so many people to Sony and Nintendo, it’ll be like Microsoft handed them their customers.  I’ve never understood why it’s always been policy to punish the people who are loyal to your cause when it’s the people who are breaking the rules the problem? This is like saying “I’ve got gas on my hands, let me clean that up with FIRE.”

Back to the Microsoft thing, it’s been heavily rumored that Microsoft might really be trying to release an “Always On” Xbox. Dropping more Napalm on this fire, Adam Orth decided that he would tweet….well here, read it yourself.

Image

He has since made his tweet private, but apparently he was dealt with. Sweet Billy (apparently Mr. Orth likes being called that) has since retired.  Microsoft quickly tried to do damage control and tell everyone that Adam Orth did not represent the company in his statements.  To be exact they said,

We apologize for the inappropriate comments made by an employee on Twitter yesterday. This person is not a spokesperson for Microsoft, and his personal views do not reflect the customer centric approach we take to our products or how we would communicate directly with our loyal consumers. We are very sorry if this offended anyone, however we have not made any announcements about our product roadmap, and have no further comment on this matter.”

        And then………….. April 13, 2013……Xbox live goes down. The reason why this is an issue is twofold. First off, it’s a double XP weekend for Call of Duty, Black Ops II. Second, this really put a huge stink on “Always On” content especially since it’s directly from Microsoft. Xbox live has since come back up, but what about all the people who pay for the service and could not connect? At least they were able to play offline. This time. Could the same be said if “Always On” was the only way to play?

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but what I will say is that some of these companies seem to have lost touch with their customers and need to find us real quick before they totally end up destroying themselves.

Image from http://venturebeat.com.

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One thought on “Always on DRM, Microtransactions and Used Games. Oh my!

  1. I hated diablo 3 for the always online rule, I passed on simcity for that reason, and I will never buy a console that requires an online only connection, I curse Blizzard for this practice but as an almost exclusive PC gamer its hard to pass on the only company that still cares more about the PC market than the consoles. I remember a time not to long ago when PC titles were the bomb and then ported crappily over to consoles, now its going the other way, sad sad times for us PC gamers.

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