Editorial: THQ’s Online Pass DRM

By John Walker on January 6th, 2011 at 1:40 pm.

Nope, you're not getting in.

What do you own? Not “pwn”, you nu-gamer young person. But own. What do you pay for that’s yours to do with as you wish? Food, clothes, knitting needles. But what about games? When you pay money for a game, do you own it? Increasingly, not in any understood meaning of the word. Like music over the last couple of decades, we’re currently sleeping through having our rights as consumers taken from us, while the prices stay the same. If you buy an album, do you own that music? No – not at all. If you do anything with that music other than listen to it on the CD it came on, or as the files you downloaded, then you’re breaking an ever-more spurious collection of laws. And increasingly, gaming is going in the same direction. What was once considered sharing – and we’re not even talking about copying here – is now being treated as theft. And THQ, as reported by Shacknews, are going out of their way to prevent sharing or re-selling of Homefront.

THQ will be shipping Homefront – the Korea-invades-the-US FPS – with their Online Pass system. This means it ships with a code that only lets you create a multiplayer account once. Lend the game to a friend, or buy it pre-owned, and you’ll find you’re refused full access to the multiplayer. Instead, you’ll get what’s essentially a demo – you will only be able to reach level 5 of the 75 on offer. To get the rest of the game, you’ll need to pay $10 (or whatever the rest-of-world equivalents may be).

This essentially means that when you buy Homefront, you do not own the rights to play the multiplayer game. And as such, you cannot transfer that right onto anyone else. It’s presumably a reaction against the perceived loss of sales from the increasingly popular pre-owned market, where the full price of the sold game goes to the shop selling it, rather than shared with the original publishers and developers. There is clearly a large argument to be had here, about the relative fairness of this situation. But it has far wider reaching consequences than simply whether Gamestation can resell the same game twelfty times. It affects charity shops, jumble sales, yard sales. It prevents sharing with a buddy. It stops you from giving the game to a poor friend once you’re done with it. In all those circumstances, when you buy or borrow the game, you’re then are forced to pay a fine.

Which means that like music, increasingly when we pay our £30/$50 for a game, we’re not buying it, but renting. It feels like buying – we hand over a significant quantity of cash, and get given a product. It feels like buying a pencil case. Except when I then lend that pencil case to my friend, he doesn’t find that the zipper won’t open until he’s paid WH Smiths a fee. We take the box home, but we don’t actually own what’s inside it. It is the complete death of First-Sale Doctrine.

Clearly this has always been the case. If we owned it, we’d also have the right to make copies of it. (Although UK law currently completely contradicts itself on whether we’re allowed to make back-up copies of our games.) As we purchase, we automatically agree to a long list of criteria which we’re required to follow so long as it’s in our possession. But as that list gets longer, and more punitive, at a certain point we have to start asking questions about where our rights are going.

I would like to see a requirement that games very clearly explain on their front covers that while you are buying the ability to play the single player game (something that, thank goodness, Ubisoft is beginning to return to its customers!) you are in no way buying the rights to play multiplayer. With EA announcing another round of servers to be shut down, and THQ making it clear they don’t want multiplayer to be sold on or shared, it should be made absolutely clear to the consumer that multiplayer is not included in the price. And it would be nice to see the prices adjusted accordingly, if they’re not willing to sell it to us.

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133 Comments »

  1. terry says:

    This sounds rather like a move to the MMO model, where the client is assumed already to be in the hands of the enemy, so everything account-related is held server-side. It’s a nasty trend for me, having had problems with the various different accounts and whatnot to register games I intend to play exclusively singleplayer, CoH being one I can remember recently.

  2. Ravenger says:

    This isn’t much different from the way that EA locks the multiplayer component of Bad Company 2 on the PC to a single account, or even Steam which locks all your games to an account and you can never sell them or give them away. At least with the online pass you can sell your game second hand and the new owner can purchase the multiplayer, you can’t do that with the other account based systems.

    To be honest this wasn’t a massive issue for me until recently as I tend to hang on to my games, but when CODBLOPS arrived and was so buggy and unplayable I wished I could have sold it on, instead of it being locked to my Steam account.

    • Premium User Badge

      Fede says:

      At least, people not interested in the multiplayer portion of the game can now sell their code.

      The bad thing is that almost everyone is doing it nowadays, and many also for single player games: EA (think of DA:O), M$ (with the awful GFWL), Valve (Steam), Stardock (GalCiv2 for example)…

    • Urthman says:

      Exactly Fede. This is still much better than Steam because you can at least loan or sell the single-player game to someone else. Steam won’t let you do that.

      Surely John’s rage would make more sense aimed at Valve.

    • bob_d says:

      @ Urthman: With Steam, at least, you know what you’re in for. (This is why I never pay full price for Steam games.) Certain rights and uses have traditionally been assumed if you actually had the disk. No longer.

    • Barnaby says:

      Except that Steam’s pricing of games (for their own content) and their sales is completely reasonable. I can honestly say I have never purchased a $50 game on steam and I currently have about 140 games in my account. Complain about not being able to re-sell your games but the difference is Steam as a service is a useful tool and not just a piece of DRM.

      I don’t think what Steam is doing is very similar to what THQ is doing here. Having attempted to go back and play BF2142 a couple times, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to forget your login and not be able to play the game because of it, not to mention trying to jump through EA’s hoops to recover my account. Logins for specific games like this are a pain in my ass and only going to lead to more frustration getting online when you say, forget your account info. Multiplayer gaming is less and less attractive as the constraints to getting online pile up.

      Call me a fanboy but I don’t think your comparison is fair, Urthman.

    • Martha Stuart says:

      Seriously you are trying to compare Valve (hallowed be thy name) to EA and Activision? Seriously i want some of whatever you are smokeing.

    • bob_d says:

      @ Barnaby: In fact, I just realized that buying a Steam game on sale (for as little as 95% off the initial retail price) not only costs me less than buying then selling the game, it’s actually cheaper than the transportation costs of visiting any one of my friends and borrowing their copy. I really can’t complain about my lack of resell/borrowing ability when financially I’ve already done better than that.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    As I understand it we’ve never owned our games, we just own a license to use them in a certain way. It’s just that publishers are beginning to enforce that notion more. I’d argue that this sort of thing is probably counterproductive (why not let someone else in your family set up a multiplayer account, too?) but it’s not necessarily indicative that the facts of ownership are changing.

    • trjp says:

      You understand wrong AFAIK. If you buy a game (in the UK at least), you own that game – to do with as you see fit.

      Software Licence Agreements are legally untested in the UK/EU – this means they effectively mean nothing – any attempt to restrict your use would have to pass all UK Consumer Laws first.

      Any attempt toremove functionality from the original owner is arguably a violation of the Sale of Goods Act. Those laws do not cover subsequent owners however – there’s no law to say the goods must be usable ad-infinitum and the responsibility is with the seller to ensure the goods will work for subsequent owners.

      APB almost certainly violated the UK Sale of Goods Act tho – it simply was not ‘fit for the purpose’ within months of people buying it – hence, I suspect, why a lot of retailers offered some form of compensation…

    • Archonsod says:

      Software isn’t covered under the Sale of Goods Act, or even the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers regulations, since the definition is quite specific:

      “all personal chattels other than things in action and money, and in Scotland all corporeal moveables except money; and in particular ‘goods’ includes emblements, industrial growing crops, and things attached to or forming part of the land which are agreed to be severed before sale or under the contract of sale; and includes an undivided share in goods”

      In general both the UK and EU courts tend to view the actual software itself as a service, and a service provider has the right to change or terminate their service should they wish.

    • bookwormat says:

      @Gap Gen: We used to own a license to play the game, and that license was ours: could not be revoked, and given away for free or for money.

      Now you do not own anything. What Steam offers are service subscriptions, like when you subscribe to a cable TV channel.

      There is nothing wrong with service subscriptions of course – E.g. I prefer to subscribe to a gym instead of buying one. The problem with software is that both publishers and media do a very bad job informing their customers what they get for their money.

    • Butler says:

      @trjp afaik he’s right and you’re wrong, but unfortunately i don’t know any decent software/technology lawyers to ask to get a straight answer, and there’s little use in Googling it.

      most qualified evidence i’ve had on the issue is from the head of the BCS who stated, in no uncertain terms, that you do not own sh** when you ‘buy’ software. You simply purchase the right to use it.

      Think about what games are. They are code. Compiled code. And it aint yours, even if you ‘buy’ it.

    • SuperNashwan says:

      “You understand wrong AFAIK. If you buy a game (in the UK at least), you own that game – to do with as you see fit.”
      I could correct something in every sentence of your post trjp (yeah, big surprise) but this is the main thrust of what’s going on so this’ll do; when buying a game in the UK you have never bought anything other than the physical media and a licence to use the copyrighted material (ie the game code and assets). Software licences are perfectly legal and enforceable (providing they form part of the contractual agreement, a whole other argument).
      The problem I suspect people like John Walker have with this is that until more recently publishers had no or very little means to enforce such a limited ownership, but technology has empowered them and they’ve gone a bit crazy with it (see various DRM scandals in recent years, amongst other things). It’s only now that being a licensee rather than ‘owner’ makes a difference and some of the things we take for granted such as lending a game to a mate, which publishers have never liked, are going to end.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Just to add a bit of meta-perspective on this, I’m reading a great book called Bad Samaritans at the mo, by Cambridge economist Ha Joon Chang, about the many hypocrisies and lies in the West’s current forcing of neoliberal economics on the world. He points out in one chapter that we have in recent times become completely unbalanced in our use of patents (which are, like DRM, one aspect of intellectual property management). Patents’ purpose was orginally to provide a balance between allowing society access to the new technology on the one hand, and rewarding the inventor’s effort (so encouraging further effort) on the other. Throughout the C20th and C21st the duration of patents has been extended (the ‘Disney Law’ in the US now grants copyright to a business 75 years after work’s creation), and their enforcement pushed on more countries (to the gross stage where African countries were sued by Big Pharma for breaking their patents on unaffordable AIDS drugs). There is no socio-economic or moral justification for this shift, its simply thanks to the lobbying of government by big business. Its the powerful pulling up the ladder.

      Point I’m making is just that this unbalancing of power away from society towards business that we’re seeing with DRM is just the tip of the iceberg. And also that you should get a copy of Bad Samaritans. And get furious.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      Copyright doesn’t really have much in common with patents, @battles_atlas, but otherwise I agree.

      The ever increasing protection big business has on creative works and new ideas is very troubling.

    • Martha Stuart says:

      Shit! you guys think software copywright laws are crazy,Check out the the shit that bio-tech companies are pulling off. did you know that about 50% of the human Genome has been patented by various Bio-tech companies? Seriously they have patented your DNA. since when did they invent DNA. as far as i can tell that shits been around for about 4 billion years atleast on this planet anyway.

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      drewski says:

      They haven’t patented DNA, merely specific combinations of genes used for specific purposes.

    • Martha Stuart says:

      nope actually your wrong, well we are both right.

      ” About 20 percent of human genes, or about 2,000, already have been patented, including some associated with asthma, colon cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and muscular dystrophy.

      that was as of 7 years ago

      your Genes are what make up your DNA

    • battles_atlas says:

      @ Drewski

      You’ll have to explain to me how copyright and patents ‘don’t have much in common’.

      In the hallowed words of wiki:
      A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state (national government) to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for a public disclosure of an invention.

      Copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted by the law of a jurisdiction to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work.

      In the context here I feel pretty justified in lumping them together.

  4. Jason Moyer says:

    I thought it was fairly standard to lock a serial number to a multiplayer account (even for THQ – doesn’t Stalker do this?).

    • Hentzau says:

      I thought multiplayer being locked to CD-key or whatever had been around for nearly a decade by this point; I distinctly remember being locked out of playing with my brother using a single copy of Call of Duty because he’d already used the key.

    • Cooper says:

      Quake 3 did this.

      But you could always pass that CD key on to a friend if they borrowed a game. This way you’d have to hand your whole account over to a friend.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Kelron says:

    With the exception of paying extra for a new multiplayer account, aren’t there already loads of games that do this? I’ve bought pre-owned games before and had to return them because the key’s been used and I can’t activate them.

    • Ravenger says:

      Yep, this isn’t really news for PC gamers – it’s been happening for years with the various multiplayer games and DRM systems. It is new for console owners though.

      As much as I dislike high street retailers for their ever increasing focus on pre-owned which as a side effect has helped reduce the supply of PC games (because you can’t sell them second hand), I wouldn’t want console owners to suffer from the inability to sell on or give away their games, like we have to put up with PC releases.

    • Mechorpheus says:

      I really do wish for a way to ‘Deactivate’ a given serial key with Steam, particularly with the prevelence of retail boxed games which use steamworks as their DRM model. You buy your game, register the key with steam as required, then can at some later date deactivate it so that it can be used by someone else. I don’t really see a reason why this couldn’t be done.

      Although a system which supported all steam purchased game would be even better. They do refer to games in your library as being ‘Subscriptions’, so it seems to me to be fairly straightforward for them to give you the option to ‘sell’ a game, which is then removed from your account and a unique key generated for that game, which you can then give/sell to a friend.

      Wishful thinking I suppose…..

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      frymaster says:

      I’ll agree that steam should allow transfers of games between accounts (by whatever method you propose) as soon as otherwise-sensible gamers I know stop losing their accounts to phishing sites. Even if the original user gets their stuff back, which is pretty likely, in the mean time the scammer will have “sold” them on to some unsuspecting noob, who would then be out of pocket and have to try to claw the money back from the person who sold them the stuff. This is already happening to a degree with TF2 items on stolen accounts.

  6. Tei says:

    But this is how most multiplayer games with a profile work, like the BF games. Is don’t increase the level of DRM we get with this type of games.

    This don’t mean that I agree with these practices.. I think a fair system must let me transfer my rights to another person wen I am tired of the game.

  7. MadTinkerer says:

    Okay, let me write a quick open letter to publishers:

    Dear Publishers,

    Would you like to not piss off your fanbase, but you also want to charge for multiplayer? It’s simple: sell the base game by itself, make sure everyone knows it’s single-player only, and sell the multiplayer as a Multiplayer Expansion, making sure that everyone knows it doesn’t come in the Standard Edition. You can also sell them as a “Complete Edition” bundle if you want, as long as you make the differences obvious. It’s honest and doesn’t insult or piss off anyone.

    Lots of publishers already sell variant editions of their games already. It’s not hard for customers to figure this stuff out WHEN YOU’RE BEING HONEST.

    Incidentally, I wasn’t going to buy Homefront anyway because military shooters are one of the few genres I don’t play much. So this is a bad example, but you understand the principle, right?

    Sincerely,
    The Mad Tinkerer

    EDIT: P.S. I hear that Minecraft multiplayer is now not only available to everyone who purchases single-player, but I can run my own Minecraft server myself! Fancy that: a game made from pixellated cubes is already better than your damn yet-another-fucking-modern-shooter-game before I even mention facts like how it generates whole unique worlds for me whenever I ask it to and your game will be stuck as the same pre-scripted Hollywood drivel for everyone forever with no replayability until the end of time.

    But, oh yeah, I wasn’t going to buy it anyway.

  8. noom says:

    To be honest that sounds fairly reasonable. Buy a game from the company and you can play it online; you’re buying a license for yourself to use that data, not other people (and allowing others to play on your account for demonstrative purposes will always be possible if you really want to). I don’t think the phasing out of second-hand sales is a great loss, especially as there seems to be a trend for games to go down in price in the months following their release these days (“big” titles notwithstanding).

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      FriendGaru says:

      I guess I just don’t see this as a big deal. As others have said, this is nothing new in the PC world. Selling a non-transferable license seems like a perfectly reasonable way of delivering a product, provided the conditions are made clear to the consumer. Of course, if I have a license, then I should be entitled to play the game even if I lose the physical media. As long as that condition is met I really have no problem with this sales model.

      Then again, I’ve never sold a game in my life and don’t plan to so I guess I would actually prefer the security of a license. I happily buy most of my games from Steam already and have no qualms with its sales model.

    • omicron1 says:

      I guess one problem with this is, the effects of this “license” idea tend towards “making the company money” more than “giving the consumer advantages.” For instance: Does it not make sense that if we purchase a license to a software, we should be able to play it on whatever platforms that software comes out on? But no – if I have Mass Effect 2 on Steam, that in no way gives me Mass Effect 2 on PS3, even if it’s downloadable. If I want to play a game I own the license for on multiple platforms, I have to buy multiple copies, and I don’t see the companies changing this system any time soon.

      Likewise, a lot of companies sell you a license, then refuse to deal with you if you lose the physical product. Why can’t EA provide me with a digital-download backup of Crysis if I buy it on CD? Why does Apple only allow you to download purchased music once (and then blame the consumer if they happen to lose it)? Why are Steam and Stardock the only companies that are even partly forward-thinking about this? (Steam allows you to register certain CD keys with them, and Stardock’s Impulse service seems to recognize the presence of games on your system (not through Steam, but that’s another kettle of fish) that they also distribute – and then give you a license to those games! I bought East India Company on CD, and now I have it registered on Impulse, through no discrete action of my own. Likewise, Red Faction Guerilla copied its license from Gamer’s Gate to Impulse.)

      In short, the various companies just now stepping into the digital distribution space are scared of the way we Internet people do things. They are taking quavering, feeble steps into our new reality, mistrustful and resentful of things we take for granted.

      Thus, to the EAs and Activisions of the world, to the Microsofts and Nintendos, to the Ubisofts and Sonys, I say, “Welcome to the Internet!” Now get with the picture!

    • Ravenger says:

      EA actually DO let you register your retail product keys with their digital distribution system, even EA games you buy from Steam.

      Also with the new Steamplay system you can buy (or should that be rent or subscribe?) a game on one platform and get access to it on another, e.g. PC & Mac.

  9. trjp says:

    Nothing new here really – it’s a quite legitimate (in my book) way for publishers to try to monetise the resale of games…

    The thing is tho, where it’s been done before, sales were GLACIAL (apparently – EA did a press release about it IIRC) which suggests that people who play MP buy the game early-on and new wheras pre-owned sales are mostly single-player (the MP game usually having no-one playing it by then anyway!?)

    I’d certainly take this sort of approach over any lobbying of industry bodies or worse to control pre-owned sales…

  10. Eclipse says:

    I didn’t care that much about this game before, but now I’ll stay away from it even more

    • BooleanBob says:

      You mean.. you’ll buy it even less?

    • bob_d says:

      @ BooleanBob : No, if we’re on the street, and the game happens to walk by, we’ll sniff disdainfully and look the other way.

  11. Jetsetlemming says:

    Doesn’t seem like much of an issue to me, especially on PC. EA’s been doing stuff like this for a while, for example with Mass Effect 2′s cerberus network.

    • Premium User Badge

      Joshua says:

      Nah. This is on a completely different scale. The Cerberus network are a few extra bits and pieces and an immersive news announcement. It’s just a small bonus. This is like… 90% of the game.

  12. DJ Phantoon says:

    Ubisoft drops insane DRM for something reasonable, and THQ ramps up insane DRM.

    One step forward, one step back. It’s really just the electric slide of DRM at work here.

  13. Rich says:

    Good job I don’t care much about multi-player. The Ubi DRM was much worse for the likes of me.

  14. noobnob says:

    Could this be why THQ dropped GfWL? To have complete control over access to their multiplayer services?

    Well, not like it really matters anyways. As it has been the case with every THQ PC title as of late, its value will quickly drop within a quarter, unless the multiplayer proves itself successful against the competition, which is doubtful considering this year’s lineup of manshooters. Looking forward to Brink myself.

  15. CMaster says:

    As others are saying, this isn’t new.
    Steam does this, as do many other games which require you to create an account to play online (I mean sure, you could sell the account as well…)

    I can see it being rather irritating for the console crowd however, for whom this has previously been less of an issue. I also find publishers hate of the second hand games market quite amusing. I’m sure that it does cut into their profits, but probably not as much as they think it does. All the brick-and-mortar games stores make a significant amount of their money through used games. If they couldn’t do that, they’d have to make more from new games, either by driving prices up (hence selling less games), or publisher’s shares down.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Crimsoneer says:

    Entirely fair, I’d say. I don’t see why we should go back to my high school days of all passing around and playing one copy of CounterStrike. You buy CounterStrike, you get CounterStrike. You don’t get the right to pass CounterStrike onto all your friends, family, and that random dude at the bus stop you sometimes meet.

    It’s definitely changing our notion of owning games, for the better.

    • zipdrive says:

      Seriously? Wwhy not just make it transferable? That way only one person can play at a time and you avoid piracy, but you can give your old games to your little cousin he you’re done!

    • Wulf says:

      I was about to make exactly the same reply.

      It’s fair, yes. But is it changing our views for the better? Is it really? A future of Restriction Restriction Restriction is not a bright one in the eyes of this old leftist. And this is one of the issues I do have with Steam, as I mentioned elsewhere.

      If only one person can play a game, then what’s the problem? You just make sure that only one person can access it at once, then you allow that license to be transferred from person to person, that, to my mind, is even more fair. This has to do with me being an old fart, though. If I have a VHS tape and I lend it out to someone, then I can’t watch it, that’s fine. I don’t think that I should have VHS copies – I can see the argument against that in this Capitalist world of ours, don’t worry, I’m not delusional, but if that VHS tape was permanently welded to me? I’d probably not be all that happy.

      To me, this is just consumers being obsequious and obeisant. A punch to the crotch leads to a polite request for another. Oh yes, please Sir, may I have another? And bit by bit you’re letting every basic right you thought you had slip away. So whilst I think it’s fair to disallow people to share copies around, so that it’s necessary for two people to buy two games in order to play them at the same time – thus making more money for the people who make games/other mediums, I don’t think it’s at all fair to restrict whom can play the game and when, providing it’s only One Person, One Game.

      The sad part though is that even if a person created a specific account for just that game, and then passed along the account with the game, THQ would probably shut the account down for ‘account sharing’, a la Steam. This is one of the problems I have with Steam too, as I mentioned elsethread, I do have some problems with Steam (more on this later). But yes, it’s non-transferable, and that’s the right that I think is being eroded, here, and I don’t think that’s a good thing, not at all. To be honest, if only one person is using one copy of a game, I don’t see any problems. In that case I honestly believe that the publishers are just being giant douchefucks (pardon my French) about this issue. And this includes Steam, yes.

      So what would I like Steam to do? The problem with Steam is that it could be gamed, so you put a few blocks in place to stop that from happening: You could, for example, have transfers only go one way. So once person A is done with a game, they transfer it to person B, but person B cannot transfer that same game back to person A, and the chain continues that way. If person A wanted the game back, they’d have to buy it anew or get it from someone else. Also, a fortnight’s or month’s ‘cooldown’ could be placed upon a game, so that once it’s been transferred once, a fortnight or month has to pass before it can be transferred again.

      None of this is ideal, really, but given the reality of our Capitalist world, I do think that this has realistic potential. It could be done. I’d love to see Steam head up such an initiative, to be honest, but I don’t think they will. I don’t think StarDock will even be interested in doing something like this, because companies are about making money. This is a perfectly reasonable thing in a Capitalist society – money first, ethics later. That’s the way of things. But still… it’d be absolutely grand if one of the digital distribution giants did allow transfers to work that way.

    • RadCap says:

      Wulf said: “that, to my mind, is even more fair”

      Of course, since the product for sale is not yours, your idea of what constitutes a “fair” trade for it is pretty much meaningless. It’s not your property, so your idea of its worth is immaterial. If you don’t like what someone is offering, or the terms for which he is offering it (ie you don’t think it “fair”), you are free to try to negotiate – or to walk away from the exchange he is proposing.

      That is why it is called *free* trade. No one is forcing either party to participate in an exchange. If you both agree to the trade, then it freely occurs. If either of you does not agree to the trade, then you freely walk away.

  17. jonfitt says:

    Can you even buy second hand PC games in Gamestation? I remember buying a few yonks ago and was very wary about the fact that I could be buying a used up CD key. As far as I know Gamestation had stopped selling PC games altogether. but it’s been a few years since I’ve been in one…

    Basically since PC games started using CD Keys for online play (Half-Life?) second-hand PC games have been on the decline.

    I see this as an important and already in effect thing for console-toys, but I see it having little/no effect on PC games. I imagine it was a goose/gander affair where if they were going to enforce that for console-toys they will do it for PC as well.

    • 8-bit says:

      gamestation do sell older second hand pc games but not new ones, non dedicated game stores on the other hand either don’t know about cd keys and online activation or don’t care. last year I bought empire total war second hand not knowing that it required steam (and how would I know the writing on the back of the box was microscopic), needless to say I wasn’t happy when I returned it to the store.

    • Urael says:

      Gamestation used to be really good for second hand PC games…but then they got bought over by Game and all that suddenly, mysteriously, stopped…

      They do still sell PC games but only a paltry few ‘top ten’ titles.

  18. Risingson says:

    OT: I remember a thread in …vogons? … or whatever old games forum board closed because the user said that he had borrowed the game from his brother, and the moderator said that this was blatant piracy. End of post.

  19. 8-bit says:

    If you buy an album, do you own that music? No – not at all.

    Issues about file sharing to one side and thinking more along the lines of simply putting a cd on my mp3 player, I think you are confusing the music industry’s legal rights and their ability do do anything about it.

    It would be interesting to know if the companies that complain about used games are complaining about the second hand market, or just the fact that games are available second hand on the day of release. I wonder if doing a deal with retailers so that games cant be traded in during the first week of release would be a better solution to all this online pass stuff.

    Also, Korea invades the us? I mean wizards and super mutants I can suspend my disbelief for, but north Korea couldn’t invade my back yard if I left the gate open and rolled out the red carpet.

    Also also, do you own the games you buy from steam, isn’t steam itself this exact same thing, buying the right to play instead of actually owning the game?

    • Wulf says:

      In all fairness, Steam is exactly that and a little bit more, as is true of most digital distribution networks – it’s the right to play the game up until the point that the service dies. For as long as the service exists, you can play your games. This means that 20 years from now I’ll be able to boot up Steam and play a game I bought yesterday. That’s the idea of it, and still being able to download them. It’s an insurance system as well, all tied into the same thing.

      It’s pretty nice, and it’s the way things seem to be going these days. Still, I long for transfer rights. I don’t think that would be so against the nature of Capitalism really (as I wrote above). And it’d finally let me get rid of Dragon Age: Origins from my Steam list. At this point I’d probably let Valve remove the damn thing for free. But it would be better if I could just give it away to someone who’d appreciate it.

    • RadCap says:

      Wulf said: “Still, I long for transfer rights. I don’t think that would be so against the nature of Capitalism”

      Indeed, selling transfer rights is not “against the nature of Capitalism” – just as refraining from selling transfer rights is not “against the nature of Capitalism”. BOTH are examples of capitalism – ie of *free* trade.

  20. SirKicksalot says:

    I thought all THQ games will use Steamworks, so lending and reselling won’t happen.

    As a side note, this lending and reselling business might explain why console stats for Bad Company 2 are so much bigger than the PC stats, although the game was more successful on PC.

    http://www.battlefieldbadcompany2.com/globalstats?platform=ps3

  21. deejayem says:

    There’s an interesting separation here between an object and the data it contains. It’s well established that when you buy a book, you own the paper, glue and ink, but you don’t own the words. Similarly I guess when you buy a game DVD you own the disc but not the data on it. The point about a physical book is that, once you’ve given it away, you can no longer read it – in-built copy protection. This obviously doesn’t apply so neatly with digital data, which can be copied much more easily and with less loss of value (photocopying a book is a pain in the arse, and a sheaf of A4 is much less convenient to read than a paperback). The difficulty is replicating that flexibility – the ability to loan or give away things you own – whilst preventing people from simply exchanging copies of the data and keeping the originals.

    We’re in the early stages of the DRM debate in book publishing, where everybody seems to want e-books but nobody quite knows how to manage them. The big players are all taking their own approaches and waiting to see how the market responds. It’s pretty interesting. What e-book publishers are starting to realise is that tying people’s purchases to an account – à la Steam – gives you total visibility of their libraries, so you can do neat things like enable a loan function where the book disappears from your library and appears in a friend’s for as long as you want it to. (Better than lending a physical book in some ways because you have control over when the bugger bloody returns it. Gnargh.) Can’t see why Steam et al couldn’t implement something similar.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Because game publishers are much more childish than book publishers. They’d have a hissy fit if something like that was implemented. You’d also have to think about HOW it could be implemented. Say the game is installed on your friend’s machine when you lend it. What’s to stop said friend finding a way of keeping it there and fully playable?

    • zipdrive says:

      There’s exactly no reason why Steam or someone else can’t do it except for the publishers not allowing it.
      If I could talk to Gabe Newell, I’d ask him why they don’t allow this with Valve’s games…

      BTW, as far as I know, the only e-readers that allow lending limit it to two weeks, which is annoying but better than nothing.

    • Premium User Badge

      TheApologist says:

      I agree this would be a good idea. It’s essentially an extension of the demo system, and with restricted time limits of a week or so, you can imagine it benefiting sales.

      I might lend something to a friend and he gets it so we can play multiplayer, or he uses the loan to test if his system can handle the game, etc.

    • Wulf says:

      “What’s to stop said friend finding a way of keeping it there and fully playable?”

      Is this valid? That’s honestly not a rhetorical question, I’m just not sure if it is.

      The thing is is that doing this would be illegal – and by that very same merit, what’s to stop him from downloading a warez’d version of that game? In either case, to ‘keep it fully playable’ according to your scenario, the person keeping it would need to crack it. At that point it becomes warez, with all the risks involved. And if they’re going to do that, then it’s obviously going to be much easier to just download it from a torrent network or other sort of file-hosting service.

      In my opinion, I think that a system like this could work, make it restrictive at first, and then slowly run tests opening it up to show the prissy, bitchy publishers that it doesn’t cost them huge amounts of sales. In fact, by doing this instead of having people turn to warez, it could even encourage sales. I have an economist friend (I like to hobnob with nerdy college (or University, here in the UK) types, what can i tell you?) who has done some research into this field and found out some interesting things.

      One of the things he discovered was that artists who have no problems sharing their stuff for free, and/or no problems letting people trade stuff around actually do really well for themselves, even in comparison to big budget labels. He’s also noticed a growing trend wherein if someone downloads a pirated version of something, they may like the game so much that they buy the game officially – this removes the risk of keeping a pirated game around locally, and it also removes the many bugs that a cracked game can incur. Often, once people have been given a chance to try something, if that something has some kind of emotional impact with them, they’ll be more than happy to part with their money even if they’ve already experienced it fully. That’s human nature at work.

      And this is why the loaning system for eBooks isn’t completely ruining that industry. What the games (and similar) industry hasn’t realised is that in this modern world, they’ve gotten things arse backwards, and that they’re actually only hurting themselves. And if someone wants something for free, then they’re going to find ways to get around most lockouts anyway.

      So there you go.

      I would not at all be surprised if a Steam transfer/loaning system actually improved sales, across the board.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      “Is this valid? That’s honestly not a rhetorical question, I’m just not sure if it is.

      The thing is is that doing this would be illegal – and by that very same merit, what’s to stop him from downloading a warez’d version of that game? In either case, to ‘keep it fully playable’ according to your scenario, the person keeping it would need to crack it. At that point it becomes warez, with all the risks involved. And if they’re going to do that, then it’s obviously going to be much easier to just download it from a torrent network or other sort of file-hosting service.”

      It’s not a rhetorical question. It is, however, what a publisher will ask. Yes, what he’s doing is illegal. It’s essentially the same as piracy. By ‘keep it fully playable’ I mean that a plausible end to the lend would be the game becoming either deactivated or uninstalled, although I could have phrased it better. A publisher will take one look at a lend-service and ask how one would be disallowed from copying the game files.

      It may well improve sales, but there’s a lot to think about. Naturally, you’re also going to have people that crack the service.

    • Deston says:

      @ zipdrive – One of the great things about Valve is that you can talk directly to Gabe Newell: gaben at valvesoftware dot com.

      It’s well known that he replies to gamers quite frequently, and even when he can’t he claims to at least read everything he gets.

    • Ravenger says:

      Yep, I’ve had a personal reply from Gabe myself, so I can vouch that he does read and reply to emails sent to his public email address.

  22. zipdrive says:

    Yes, everyone, this is not new. Steam has always done it and so have other services. But that doesn’t mean it’s right, good or makes sense.
    [WARNING: Obscenities coming]

    The fact that it’s been done, and is still done in other software markets doesn’t mean that selling you a (limited) license isn’t fucking the customer up the arse without a lubricant. Combine the fact that I can’t even GIVE AWAY my old/used/unwanted games to someone who can make use of them FOR FREE, combined with the fact companies like EA can just cease allowing multiplayer sessions of their games whenever they feel like it makes buying a game a very inhospitable, one-way street.
    What’s next? Demanding that we wear purple-bunny-covered hats while playing a game and submitting the video to prove it? Maybe having to be online all the time while playing….oh, wait, that’s been done.

    [/WARNING]

    The thing is that we as consumers need to get smart and aware and object to this gradual disintegration of our rights regarding our games. Proper warning on these measures is phase 1. Preferrably, we should just avoid buying these handicapped games.

    This makes me so mad I could explode.

    • RadCap says:

      zipdrive said: “Yes, everyone, this is not new. … But that doesn’t mean it’s right, good or makes sense.”

      It is indeed “right” – ie it is “right” that the property owner may offer his property for trade at terms he likes, just as it is “right” that an individual may accept or reject the trade as he likes.

      It is indeed “good” – ie it is “good” that the property owner may offer his property for trade at terms he likes, just as it is “good” that an individual may accept or reject the trade as he likes.

      And it “makes sense” to the person offering the trade. That it does not “make sense” to YOU is immaterial, since it is not your property being sold.

      “we should just avoid buying these handicapped games.”

      Indeed. If you do not like the terms of a trade, then you should indeed not make it. That is the RIGHT, GOOD, and SENSIBLE response.

  23. kibayasu says:

    I really don’t see the big deal. Not only are games becoming expensive to make, with a base of potentially millions of people it’s becoming very expensive to host multiplayer. THQ isn’t controlling acccess to the game, they’re controlling access to their multiplayer servers.

  24. Navagon says:

    So now I definitely won’t be buying the game. Way to protect against loss of sales, THQ!

  25. Gaff says:

    This is essentially just the latest example of what happens to the PC eventually happens to console gaming too, whether this be HD resolutions, internal hard drives, online connectivity or a myriad of other things.

    As others have said, this isn’t exactly new for PC gamers but some console-ites might be in for a rude awakening.

    Surely at the end of the day though you can just give a friend your username and password for the multiplayer component of a game, if you trust them enough. I guess it depends on whether the game is locked to your specific console or not.

    • Jad says:

      Thank you. This is the interesting part of all this — as many have said, this is not new in the PC space. But it is new to consolers. Back when the Ubisoft DRM came out, I was complaining about it on multiplatform sites like Kotaku and getting lots of “well, I only play on Xbox/PS3 so it doesn’t affect me”. And I always responded with “Yet”. If a DRM scheme succeeds on PC, it will eventually make it consoles, which is why I was trying to explain to consolers that they should boycott Ubisoft even if it doesn’t immediately affect them.

      Anyway, on PC this fight was lost a long time ago. It started, I think, with Half-Life 1 and it’s WON CD keys, and ended with the sales of Half-Life 2 and it’s enforced Steam connectivity. Interesting that it was Valve that ultimately killed off the PC reseller market …

  26. RadioactiveMan says:

    I think this is a Bad Thing.

    I am not much bothered by the fact that the game allows you to only create one multiplayer account- this is probably a reasonable measure to manage piracy.

    What does bother me is that these DRM measures increasingly feel greed-driven to me. DRM seems to be transitioning from, “how can I limit my loss of sales from piracy?” to, “how can I maximize my profits?”. This difference between these is significant, and this change is worrisome!

    It worries me that game developers and distributors appear to be one-upping each other with their DRM measures- not to see who can best manage actual piracy, but rather to see who can squeeze their consumers the most. It worries me that developers and distributors may begin employing people (or whole divisions) whose responsibility is managing digital rights. These people will certainly want to keep their jobs, and they will almost certainly be pressured by management to improve sales, whether or not piracy is the cause of flagging sales. It is not hard to envision companies implementing more restrictive DRM in response to a bad financial quarter, rather than a legitimate increase in piracy.

    Its terrible problem, and its also a hopeless battle. Increased DRM will push people to create more and better counters that will be available on the internet, and in the end the honest/ignorant consumer will suffer the most.

    • DrazharLn says:

      OTOH, we have numerous indie developers and even big publishers and retailers like gog and stardock releasing their games DRM free and even Open Source.

      Stardock even released something called Goo which was a fairly friendly form of DRM that allowed users a legitimate and official way to transfer their licence for a game. If I ever released a game commercially, I would most probably use a similar (or even more lenient) system.

      It was a pleasure to play with you in the River of Spiders, btw. I don’t play die2nite any more, but I loved playing it with everyone for that week and a bit I survived and I was quite upset to die in the end because of my meatspace carelessness.

      May all your Rivers be filled with Spiders indeed.

  27. SwiftRanger says:

    Sorry John but it’s nothing new on PC as many have said already, whether it’s called an online pass or not. I think it’s rather baffling you point your arrows into the direction of THQ while Steam and plenty of other services/publishers have done this for an eternity on PC! Hell, it doesn’t even make a single difference with THQ’s previous PC games as those were already Steamworks-powered in recent years.

    It’s not right at all no but with CD keys, multiplayer/game account registrations and that fabled “digital distribution solves all”-motto PC gamers have effectively lost the right to sell their games to other people.

    Only now will console gaming get to know this sad evolution too with THQ’s online pass and EA’s thingy. This editorial should be fit for a console mag.

    • sneetch says:

      Yeah, I’m confused that this is suddenly an issue with PC gaming… I mean my PC copy of Bad Company 2 may not have had a Project $10 activation number in it but I’m the only one who can every play it as the serial number is tied to my account.

      Surely this is the same as any other online activation game in the past?

  28. Premium User Badge

    Big Murray says:

    Not that I was too interested in this game before, but it’s pretty much made sure I won’t touch it with a barge-pole now.

    Is barge-pole hyphenated?

  29. Jimbo says:

    It’s not unique to THQ. EA are doing the same thing with their Sports games. Dragon Age and ME2 did something similar with their DLC.

    I don’t really have a problem with it *unless* the box/advertising implies that multiplayer is an inherent part of the product itself. If they pitch multiplayer access as an additional service which you are given free access to with a new copy of the game, then I think it’s fair enough.

    You quite clearly won’t be “forced to pay a fine”. That is a ridiculous thing to say.

    This is a bigger deal for the console market than the PC market tbh, because EULAs have typically taken care of all of this for us already. For console games I’d argue they are actually just de-valuing their own products in the first place by seperating multiplayer access from the product itself. You will know when you buy it that it has less re-sale value, and so you can take that into account when you are deciding whether the game is still worth what they are asking.

    By devaluing used copies, they have also made them ~$10 more appealing to people who don’t care about multiplayer at all. If used prices do go down as a result of this policy, then some people who would have bought new will now buy used instead. Overall I don’t think they’re really going to achieve a whole lot with this move.

  30. Pijama says:

    IMHO, the technological shift that happened in the last decade pretty much proved that the legal (and why not the entire socio-economic) system needs to be constantly “on maintenance” so to speak. The issues with digital intellectual property being treated as a question without ANY consistent basis either on law or economic study is what baffles me the most.

    Intellectual property, above anything else, is information. Once you get access to it and “use” (listen, read, see, interpret, learn, whatever), it’s contents were already reproduced on yourself. It can be subject to personal worldviews of course, but for all intents and purposes, the content of book X and album Y are already on your brain. And if we were to stretch it a bit for the sake of argument (for it would be a pain in the arse to memorize War and Peace)… Get the necessary skill and means of production and you can copy it whatever times you need whenever you need.

    Games are no different, in certain means. I think a lot of it has to do with the complete inexperience of the new investors who have no knowledge whatsoever regarding the intricacies of the PC and the complete lack of legal and economic (not even basic) understanding by the part of the developers who sign the contract with the publishers and have no fucking idea on what that entails. I do not doubt that there are many who regret such things, but they preferred to “sign it” blindly instead of researching the implications and what good that would do for their would-be clients.

    And others who know what they are doing and decide for the draconian measures deliberately. In that case, fuck you all, you bloody money-grabbing shit-eating bastards. =D

    With the internet, we can either capitalize with the free flow of the information and put it to great use in order to expand our cultural boundaries further, or use it as a leash to ANYTHING we might consider using in terms of intellectual production.

    And there are people who still defend corporations. What the fuck…

  31. Premium User Badge

    TheApologist says:

    Not sure this is new, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth discussion. It hasn’t had enough really.

    I reckon:
    i) that the fact that this is a service with restrictions should have to be plastered all over the marketing and made doubly plain at the point of purchase.
    ii) the fact that it is a service shouldn’t make developers, or platform holders like Steam, be less creative about sharing, even if exchanging or selling on is less appropriate. Loaning access, or a one week free trial for a friend, or free access to multiplayer to friends for a fixed period etc. would be good alternatives to demos.

    I am comfortable with Steam, but I have had to consider that in terms of the fact that if Steam goes, my games go. I see it as paying for a service, and that has effected what I pay for the games. I buy in the sales, and I almost never buy anything for more that £15.

    • SuperNashwan says:

      I think it’s definitely an important point that this is all happening in the context of games being cheaper than they’ve ever been. I can’t remember the last time I paid more than £20 for a game and most of what I buy these days is closer to £10 on average. I used to pay much more than that for Amiga and console games back in the day, before you even consider inflation.

  32. Serenegoose says:

    A lot of the comments validate exactly what I thought. A whole load of people have that ‘well, it’s not my problem’ attitude to DRM when it comes to multiplayer or second hand goods. ‘oh, well I don’t play multiplayer, so it’s not really a problem for me’ but that’s exactly the point. Stripping consumer rights away happens exactly like this. Target something not everyone cares about, and take that right away. By the time they come up against something everyone feels they have a right to, they’ve established so much precedent of stripping those rights away that it’s hard to argue against them. The only reasonable course of action for a consumer is to oppose these decisions, every single one, regardless of whether they directly affect us, because eventually they -will- affect you, and you won’t have a leg to stand on.

    • Jad says:

      A whole load of people have that ‘well, it’s not my problem’ attitude to DRM when it comes to multiplayer or second hand goods. ‘oh, well I don’t play multiplayer, so it’s not really a problem for me’ but that’s exactly the point.

      I don’t think people here are saying “its not my problem”, but rather, “It’s my problem and has been for at least five, if not ten years, and I’ve gotten used to it”. I mean, back in 2004 I could not sell my copy of Half-Life 2 or buy a used version of it, single-player or multi-player.

      Sure it was an issue back then, and I complained a whole lot about it (on Slashdot, if I recall), but it happened and everyone called HL2 The Best Game Ever and Valve became the Savior of PC Gaming and I gave in and now have 100+ games on Steam which are forever non-resellable. It’s a battle long-lost on PC.

      Now, if you’re calling on me to push back on THQ implementing a similar feature for consoles, I guess I could get behind it, but I fear that I as a PC gamer have very little influence on this. We can’t even get Ubisoft to commit to removing far more draconian DRM on their upcoming games.

  33. neolith says:

    I remember when the first StarCraft came out I was given additional multiplayer-only copies for free to be able to play with my friends who didn’t own the game…

    • deejayem says:

      Those were the days …

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Yes. A few—not many, but a few games in the ’90s did that. It was a great gesture by the game companies. Shame it doesn’t happen by the big players anymore, only a few indies (as with Sleep is Death and Frozen Synapse for example).

  34. Javier-de-Ass says:

    just like with anything you buy on steam this is a subscription

  35. RogB says:

    happy to see that the comments are quite rational and not just entirely I AM ANGRY, RAAGHH.

    >>it should be made absolutely clear to the consumer that multiplayer is not included in the price. And it would be nice to see the prices adjusted accordingly, if they’re not willing to sell it to us.

    it is included in the price, you said so yourself here:
    >>This means it ships with a code that only lets you create a multiplayer account once

    now what WILL have to be made clear, is shops selling pre-owned will have to have some way of telling the consumer that the multiplayer referred to on the back of the box will not be available if its a pre-owned copy. I bet they bloody dont though..

  36. plugmonkey says:

    As many other people have pointed out, Steam has been doing exactly this for the entire games for how many years now? Only I get a good service out of it, and Valve are the industry’s darlings, and so nobody really seems to mind much.

    The issue for developers where multiplayer in particular is concerned is that users increasingly expect it to be something that is supported with ongoing content. You can’t really do that if people have stopped paying for it.

    Anyway, this is an irrelevent stop gap measure that is of absolutely no importance in the grand scheme of things. 10 years from now, everything will be digital download at the least, and subscription based at the most, so everyone will pay.

  37. BAReFOOt says:

    Wow, sorry, but what universe do you live in? Because in this universe, you could never, can’t, and will never be able to own information. It’s completely absurd.
    Ownership is defined as control over an object. Normally also a physical one.
    But information that you pass on, is out of your control. And information you don’t pass on… well, try to prove it exists at all. You can’t, unless you reveal the part whose existence you have proven.
    There’s a reason it says “license”. when you install the game.

    The rest is all FUD on a criminal level, by those who used to abuse artists and now, with the artists becoming free because of the Internet, struggle to survive.
    And following that, of course, calling making a copy “theft” is complete and utter nonsense.

    Information is the result of a service. Plain and simple. You can ask for something in return for that service. Before doing it. But you can never ask for something in return for information that you already passed on. It’s too late. Control is gone. Should have made demands earlier. Boo-hoo.

    Well, I have developed a couple of business models that are based on this actual reality of information physics, suggested them to the Pirate Party and others, and will use them myself. I think I even mentioned one of them here.
    So you can join me, or go down in flames. Your call.

  38. Dave L. says:

    Not to be one of those guys: but why is John dedicating an editorial on RPS, a PC games blog, to an issue that is (in all likelihood) only going to effect the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of a game?

    Given THQ’s commitment to using Steamworks in all their PC games moving forward, I’m quite certain that Homefront will ALSO be using Steamworks. As there is no secondary market for Steamworks games, having an ‘Online Pass’ to discourage secondary sales wouldn’t make any fucking sense whatsoever.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      yeah, it’s definitely using steamworks. so this only applies to the console version of the games as the pc version is already locked down in a similar manner.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      I was wondering the same thing.

  39. Premium User Badge

    Okami says:

    As many others have already stated, this isn’t really anything new for pc gamers. CD Keys have been around for ages and in many cases your multiplayer account for a game was bound to the cd key – even if it wasn’t only one game with the same cd key could be logged into a multiplayer match at any given moment.

    The whole Steam issue has already been discussed here, so I won’t even go into that.

    I’m pretty sure that this move is primarily aimed at console games, since from a publisher’s point of view the used games market is pretty much the console equivalent to piracy – people are playing their games and they don’t get any money for it. What’s even worse, other people are getting rich, reselling their old stuff.

    So it’s only natural that publishers want to have a slice of that particular pie – and they get it by charging buyers of used games for the multiplayer mode. It’s the same reason why most console games these days ship with free codes for mini DLC that’s avaible at launch: it’s a free feature for buyers of the original, but used games customers have to pay extra.

  40. invisiblejesus says:

    Admittedly I’m being pedantic here, but I should point out that none of what John said applies to music sales in the States. No idea about the UK, but we can legally sell, give away or loan out CDs or purchased music files here without a problem. Sales of PC games are a bit different, though we’re less affected than our UK counterparts as there’s no real trusted market for used PC games over here. Ebay is pretty much it.

  41. vash47 says:

    This has been the case for PC games since I can remember, these are measures for consoles.

  42. RDG says:

    I don’t get the fuss about Homefront. It looks like an expansion for MW2. All of the animations are the same, the explosion and smoke effects, hell, even the effect you get when you get hit are identical. I don’t get how the hell this is not the same game. Even the storyline has similarities to MW2′s Russian invasion part.

    On topic, I’m not surprised publishers are squeezing more money out of the customers. If it were up to the publishers we’d all be having to pay subscriptions for single player games. The only reason you don’t have a “Insert credits to continue” message flashing on your screen is because the infrastructure wasn’t there. It’s perfectly possible now, however, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the way we’re headed in the near future.

  43. Diabolico says:

    Hahaha FAIL! goodluck with the sales. You lost one here :D

  44. Resin says:

    I don’t think there is a single correct sales model, all I ask for is transparency and functionality.
    If all I’m buying is a license to use some software for a given period of time why not go with a subscription model like Netflix? Big studios need big money to fund their big games and associated advertising costs; when they do stupid things to outrage their customers they know they can get away with it as long as their next item is a “must have” game. Hey, whatever ,I hate EA as a company but that doesn’t mean I won’t buy the next game they make that I actually want to play.
    Still I feel much better about something like the humble indie bundle, but these types of games are qualitatively different from what big studios produce. They can take greater risks, use more original ideas, don’t have to vet all their ideas through boards of people interested in only dollars; but what they can’t do is have staffs of hundreds of people working on their games. So if not being an asshat is just one more way to level the indie/bigstudio playing field then I’m all for the studios shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly. I just hope that enough consumers prefer the non-asshat sales methods that industry leaders start to notice and rip-off other peoples better ideas.

  45. Spooner says:

    I used to buy and sell second hand games all the time. I would buy at £30 and part exchange a month later for £10 off the next purchase. Now the only difference is that I wait until a game is <= £20 before buying it, since I know it is utterly worthless the moment I get bored of it and I am even more cautious since I know that if I buy a lemon, I can't just sell it on immediately and cut my losses. Is that really better for the publisher?

    • Ravenger says:

      And of course the advantage with waiting is you know if the game’s any good from the user reviews, you get it fully patched, and possibly with all the DLC included in a GOTY version, for a lot less than the on-release price.

  46. Deano2099 says:

    This is fine, just needs a quick thing added for fairness – if you’re selling the multiplayer separate, you should have to sell the multiplayer separate. In other words, if me and my 7 mates just want to play multiplayer, we should be able to buy one copy of the game between us and an extra 7 passes.

    By the way, Steamworks… if I bought say, New Vegas, from GAME, got it home, installed it, and found it to be entirely broken on my system… well what I’d do is take it back to GAME as unfit for purpose. But what happens then? And assume I’d kick up one hell of a fuss in the GAME store if they refused a refund as they are selling me a physical product (I never signed any contract in the transaction in which I purchased it from them) so the Sales of Goods Act does apply.

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      And they would say they can’t do that, as it’s against their company policy, and then you insist on speaking to the manager, and he repeats the above, and then you mention the magic words “Office of Fair Trading”, and then they quietly give you a refund just to stop you making any more fuss.

    • Mistabashi says:

      You can’t claim software is “unfit for purpose” as it isn’t covered by the Sale of Goods act. The disc itself is, so if it didn’t work because the disc was faulty then you could make that argument, but the data on the disc isn’t purchased, it’s licensed, so you don’t really have any rights regarding it’s suitability / functionality as far as I’m aware (if you did I imagine we’d see a lot less horribly buggy games :D).

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Mistabashi: perhaps not, but if you look like you’re going to put up a fuss, it’s usually less hassle for the shop to just give you a refund anyway.

      I’d also argue that faulty software results in a faulty CD/DVD; after all the software is a permanent part of the hardware disc, it can’t be erased.

    • Deano2099 says:

      And how is one meant to know if a game is broken because it’s bugged or because there’s a small scratch on the CD rendering the data corrupt?

  47. steamingnewell says:

    I dont understand why john walker has them in a bunch over this and doesnt mention that this is exactly what Steam does with all the games they sell, both online AND offline components. Does his undivided love for Steam’s big sales not let him see that? Steam reduces games to brief subscriptions which you dont own or have any ownership over. But hey, let’s not the real deal of Steam spoil the endless love affair of Steam with the masses of sheeple and the gaming websites.

  48. snv says:

    What this article describes is one of the main reasons why steam is a bad idea – though i get the feeling the majority here love it.

  49. Kefren says:

    Thanks for covering this John – it is a subject which should be raised and discussed. I wish to make three points.

    1> Talking about physical discs and boxes, I think the second-hand market or even just giving a game away when you are bored with it is tremendously important for environmental reasons. We should be cutting down on waste. Yet publishers would rather you play a game, realise it is crap with no replay value and you have been conned by the publisher’s hype machine, then only have the option of adding it to the huge mound of plastic waste our society generates every day? Hardly responsible.

    2> Restrictions like this, and DRM systems that offer limited installations, are pushing me away from games I would have been interested in a few years ago. You know the game I have spent longest playing recently? Desktop Dungeons. Since I started that I have completed two other games which I bought and then was disappointed with, but I am still playing Desktop Dungeons. Big publishers can act like dicks, in the long run they just put many people off their products and instead I can quite easily survive on free games and DRM-free indie games (I still haven’t got bored of all the indie games I bought in recent years, everything from Osmos to The Path, Humble Indie Bundle 1 to World of Goo). I dread to think how much money would have gone to THQ/EA/Actiwank etc if they had gone DRM-free!

    3> “As we purchase, we automatically agree to a long list of criteria which we’re required to follow so long as it’s in our possession. But as that list gets longer, and more punitive, at a certain point we have to start asking questions about where our rights are going.”

    Vaguely related to this, I recently did an experiment. It is my belief that EULA’s and T&Cs are ridiculous nowadays, and the only people who could read and agree to them (as opposed to just clickign the proceed button) would be insane lawyers. From 6 august to the 30th December 2010 I copied and pasted every EULA I had to agree to during that period into a Word document, with full details of where it was from and the date. In less than six months it grew to (quick word count… back now) 331,993 words, or 592 pages of dense single-spaced legalese. Seems ridiculous doesn’t it?

    • RadCap says:

      Kefren said: “We should be cutting down on waste.”

      You are certainly free to “cut down” on anything you like. But please don’t hold a gun to anyone else’s head to dictate what they must “cut down”.

      “Restrictions like this, and DRM systems that offer limited installations, are pushing me away from games I would have been interested in a few years ago.”

      Good for you! Walking away from trades you don’t like is indeed your right! It is indeed to be respected. One only hopes you, in turn, respect the right of others to offer trades you don’t like.

  50. zeekthegeek says:

    Almost every EULA will NOT hold up in court and so this bullshit talk of only licensing is moot. Yes we own the right to play the game no matter what some corporate fuck says. We don’t just buy the paper of a book, we’re paying for the words too.