Monday, 2 April 2012

Guest Article: The Reapening

Why Do Game Devs Want Us To Hate Them?

Now I understand that this is old hat, more rumor mill nonsense about how a new game console is going to lock out used games and potentially make the second-hand market fall to pieces or whatever. Recently news sprung up about Sony's next machine and how proposed features include 4096p display support, 3D gaming in 1080p, and required game activation via PSN. Surely the last one doesn't seem like a feature and more like a preventative measure for some kind of piracy or whatever. And it's definitely a way of looking at it.

Sony is trying to appease game developers by having their next console, code-named "Orbis", lock games to a single account so, if they are sold to second-hand markets, they will not be able to be activated again without an additional license fee to be able to play it on a second console and a third and so on and so forth. A fairly ingenious way to strangle a threat to game developers' profits, if truth be told. But this is a pretty genuine slap in the face to the people that support the gaming industry in general.

And I've often thought "Why?" What have we, as a community, really done to deserve this wretched treatment? As far as I'm aware, the gaming industry is going like gangbusters and isn't really posting a loss as a whole. Sure, there might be a few studios here and there that are having hard times, but I doubt that's more of an issue with the games being pirated than poor quality titles and low interest. it's not even small studios that are most in favor of pushing these kinds of measures. It's mostly the big guns in the publishing arena. As if the used game market is severely stunting their profit margins.

On that note, I call bull. Most of the time something is pirated it's because of posturing on the publisher's part and how cocksure and arrogant they seem about draconian DRM or other anti-piracy measures. From what I understand, and this might be reaching because I don't spend a lot of time in hacking, warez or piracy based communities, but if a company is well liked and respected, they have a much smaller chance of having their software digitally lifted. This is, of course, discounting the people  who will always pirate things for the challenge, just like how Greg House keeps diagnosing patients for the puzzle.  Of course, there's also the people that steal things because they can.  That point aside though, when's the last time you heard of a Double Fine game getting pirated and there being a big deal about it? Seriously, the gaming community is so supportive of them that their Kickstarter has reached 3.4 million USD. How about Blizzard, pre-Activision merger? And, really, when the third party guitar outfit came out when Guitar Hero mania was in full swing I don't recall Activision going nuts about it. Has Rockstar been overly adamant about this issue? That last one was a sincere question, since I'm honestly not sure.

It seems to me, and the subtitle of this article may seem to be a bit of a misnomer as I think about it, but the devs themselves get a bad rap when this kind of thing comes forth. We should be asking why publishers hate us so much, since this is mostly their call. Besides a few sour apples in the development industry that have caused a stir, this is the publishers' crusade. We should be castigating them, rather than the people that actually work hard and are actually making the things we enjoy. Especially since it's not their fault.

If I could, I'd say we should send them a message by not buying their products. If I could, I'd say we should find alternatives for legally acquiring games from the developer directly and cut out the middleman. I'd say these things, these coulda, woulda, shouldas, but they won't do us any good these days. And I don't say this out of despair or defeat, but rather through cold logic. There are more casual gamers these days, and people apathetic toward this movement that it wouldn't do us any good. People will keep buying the yearly EA releases at full price without a second thought because it's what they're used to. We pay monthly fees on Xbox Live because that's what we're used to. We stood by while these things happened and now we're reaping what they sowed.

I guess publishers and console developers don't respect us because, as a group, we do very little to garner the respect of them. We buy anything they sell us hand to mouth, we'll do anything they say because it's expected. I'm reminded of a quote from Ferris Beuller's Day Off, "You can't respect someone who kisses your ass." We need to be less weak willed and spined. We need to realize that we have a say, that our wallets speak for us. And I know that sentiment has been crammed down the collective throat of the consumer since time immemorial, probably since there were wallets, but it's not like consumers heed that advice, otherwise we wouldn't be in such dire predicaments constantly.

Here's what I'm basically getting down to. This practice that Sony is rumored to be taking, as Microsoft was going to before them, is untenable. And we should not stand for it, just like a bunch of other things that the game industry is doing. So the next time you disagree with something, be it on disc DLC, no backwards compatibility -- that last feature being something else the Orbis is rumored to have nixed -- or even if the game or system doesn't sound interesting or even very good, pass it up. Don't purchase it. We need to stop kowtowing and spending otherwise things like this, potentially becoming less rumor and more fact, will continue to happen to our detriment.
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radixius is a good friend of mine. If you enjoyed this article you can read more of his non-vidya game writings here, or if you're musically inclined you can listen to some of the stuff he's made here. He also has a podcast which updates weekly.

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