Unlearning To Share: The Industry’s Hatred Of Generosity

By John Walker on May 23rd, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

There’s a saying, quoted by the late socialist and storyteller Utah Phillips, that goes:

“Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free.”

In light of various confusions and controversies in the wake of the Xbox One announcement, and the many other matters similar to it in this industry, do we really have any notion of freedom in game ownership, and our right to share?

(This isn’t some grand essay, nor is it a definitively researched piece on the legal side of the matter. This is rambling thoughts, so treat it in that manner. And throw back your rambling thoughts in return.)

A friend of mine has two kids. One’s nearly three, the other’s about six months old. The toddler is in the process of learning the concept of sharing, and is currently stuck midway through this understanding. He has been told that sharing is good, and encouraged to share his toys with his little sister, and he wants to do this. So he offers a toy to the baby girl, who will gratefully take it. At which point he bursts into tears, distraught that he no longer has the toy.

But he’s going to figure it out. He’s eventually going to learn that sharing can mean not having that thing for the duration, and he’s going to figure out ways to be okay with that. He’ll recognise the intricacies of sharing, that it’s something that can be received as well as given, that it’s not pure altruism but a way of engaging with those around him in a mutually beneficial society. With the guidance of his parents, and his own developing experience, he’ll learn to share.

And then the entertainment industry will attempt to undo all that.

There has been much consternation, and certainly a large degree of confusion, about the new policies the Xbox One will impose on gamers. It seems that if you lend a copy of a game to a friend, and they want to play it on their own profile, they’ll have to pay a fee equivalent to the price of the game to be able to do so. If it is the case, it’s bewildering. It’s the end of something as ordinary and friendly as letting a buddy come over and borrow a couple of games from your shelf.

But there never has been freedom for games. The copyright messages printed on your average videogame impose draconian and unsocial instructions from a futuristic evil oppressive regime, that somehow exist in our era. Grab a box and look at the tiny print on the back, and there’s a good chance you’ll read:

“Unauthorised copying, lending, or resale under any scheme strictly prohibited.”

I nearly broke my eyeballs trying to read that on the rear-side of a copy of World In Conflict that happened to be near by. A copy I’ve now learned I do not have permission to lend to a friend. (It’s often said this is to deter library-style lending schemes, but let’s be sensible here – the language is deliberately ambiguous.)

Lending, or as I like to call it – sharing – is loathed by copyright holders. A borrowed game is an unsold game, I imagine they probably say to each other without evidence for such an obviously nonsensical claim. It is only the natural consequence of things for this new console to make sharing so extraordinarily difficult or expensive.

And yes, that oh-so-often given response is absolutely true.

“But what about Steam? YOU HYPOCRITE!”

Steam, and so many other digital distribution platforms, are abhorrent when it comes to notions of sharing. Our willing allowing of the PC gaming market to become unshareable makes us all complicit in this erosion of freedom. We went from plastic circles with idiotic impositions of limited installs, to pure data and not even the option for those few installs. And we thanked them for the convenience.

To return to Phillips’ quote, we did not resist at all.

There’s definitely a difference between a tangible, physical object, and an ethereal collection of data downloaded to a hard drive. Quite what that difference amounts to really becomes a subject for philosophy, but most people would recognise that having a box in their hand gives them a greater sense of a right to share. Microsoft’s purported decisions to make that impossible (the current line is that you’ll be able to put that disc in the machine at a friend’s house, but you’ll have to log in with your account for it to work) bring the message rather starkly home. It took the plastic box for the affront to be properly felt, despite our having allowed it to happen for many years.

We resisted to no degree, and thus we have no degree of freedom. We simply do not own our games. We don’t own them when we download them, and we don’t own them when we buy them in a box. We are, at the very best, renting them from the publisher at a hefty price. They reserve the right to take that notion of ownership away from us at any point, whether it’s by turning off vital servers to have a game run, or blocking accounts into which the games are tied. Right now, if you do something to offend Valve’s myriad mysterious and opaque rules, they can remove your access to your entire account, no matter how many games it may contain. While all of us who’ve never experienced this tend to feel like their Steam Library is their own, talk to someone who’s had it taken away to get an idea just how much it isn’t.

We’ve seen so very many people who have said something an EA moderator didn’t like on a forum, and discovered they’re no longer able to play the games they paid for via Origin.

When these things happen, we object. Often it takes a site like RPS to feature the story before anything is done (and sometimes just our sniffing around the story to see things magically fixed before we can even report it). We hear about its happening to someone else, get a bit worried about it, and then carry on.

So what am I suggesting? That we should all boycott these systems? But then we’d not have access to so many games we want to play. And that’s true, and I’m swayed by it. But I’m also acutely aware that the degree to which I’m resisting is defining the degree to which I’m free. And I don’t feel very free.

There are other options too, of course. Some developers will allow you to give Steam codes to friends, to share the game. There are DRM-free digital distribution channels that allow you to “share” products you’ve bought without resistance. Obviously things are a little more problematic here. My friend’s young son would have no issues with sharing if it meant creating an identical duplication of the toy for his baby sister to have, while he continued playing with the original. While there is a very good, strong argument to be made for copying to be understood as sharing, it does remove the factor of not having the original while it’s borrowed by another.

But slightly frustratingly, there’s a simple answer out there, already being used by a huge and notoriously vicious sector of the copyright industry: books. Kindles feature the ability to “lend” books. It’s suspended in your own account while it’s borrowed, and returns when your chum is finished with it. It simulates a physical book, which short of laborious scanning or photocopying, is absent when borrowed by a friend. And it’s a system people tend to be very happy with.

It’s a system that absolutely should be featured on Steam, Origin, UPlay, etc etc. And it’s a system we’re very unlikely to see, until people start making it clear they’re demanding it in huge enough numbers. Because right now the publishers much prefer the current setup: everyone has to buy their own copy.

My dad and I both have Steam accounts. Sometimes after I’ve finished a game I realise how much he’d enjoy it. Right now, if he’s to play it he’s going to have to buy it himself, or I’ll buy it for him. But that’s ridiculous! I’m done with it. I bought it, played it, and now I’m done with it. It’s his turn to have a go on the copy I bought. Why on Earth have I never resisted for the freedom to of course be able to divert my copy of a game from my account to his? No copy is lost, no unauthorised duplication has taken place. I’ve simply done the thing I always had before, when I’d finished with a copy of a game on my 360, PS2, Xbox, N64, DS, Atari… I would have shared.

The Xbox One, with all its creepy Kinect-spying, TV interaction weirdness for the seventeen people who still ever watch TV as it’s broadcast, and dog-based shooters serves a useful purpose. It takes the industry’s fervent ambition to prevent the natural, beautiful human desire to share to a clearer, more immediately offensive place. It highlights the freedom we’ve already given up. And perhaps it will shake us enough to start resisting at last.

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440 Comments »

  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    This is not related to sharing, but it does go towards the “do you own your games” part of the discussion. This is from the Egosoft newsletter. It’s a good read, I thought – in particular the fact that they have a nosteam.exe failsafe for if Steam happens to somehow deny you access to your game.

    Dear Customers,

    Ever since 2006, when our games became first available on the Steam platform, there have always been critical discussions about Steam in our community. After our move to make Steam a mandatory requirement for activation and updates of X3: Albion Prelude at the end of 2011, these discussions heated up and some of our fans turned away from our games in protest at this step.

    Since I take these concerns seriously, I would like to respond to the main criticisms from my perspective as a game developer, and make an important announcement at the same time.

    Here is a link to our FAQ to help those of you who want to know what Steam really is and what it does and does not do:

    The most common misconception is that people believe they have to be online to play our games. This is not true. You can play games without being online through the so called “offline mode”, but yes you do need to install the Steam client and have to be online when you install the game on a new machine. Another important fact: you can install our games on multiple machines, but you can not play on multiple machines at the same time (just like with a DVD). Every time you want to switch from one machine to another, you have to be online for a moment before you can switch that machine back into “offline” mode. But now lets get to the main reason for this mail:

    Long term support and new updates:

    Ever since the first X game, we have released free updates for our games. Among other things, these updates also allowed our games to continue to run on new versions of the operating system or on more modern hardware (this patch, for example, was needed to make XBTF run on fast machines) (XBTF patch for Win64). Developing updates for a game long after its original release, however, does cost money. This service is only affordable for a developer who is still making money from old games.

    Every developer who did not sell all rights to a publisher, but is in the fortunate position to sell directly on Steam has a huge incentive to continue to support their game in this manner. We have seen that even such an old title as X: Beyond the Frontier (1999) still finds new fans on Steam, and we have been able to develop the updates to make a game from 1999 run on Windows 7 64bit and Windows 8. Without Steam we would not have been able to provide this service; an advantage not only for us but for all our customers.

    Steam Play (Linux and Mac):

    Today when we talk of “PC Games”, we no longer ONLY mean Windows. For some time already, both Mac OS and Linux have become valid alternatives. External partners ported our games over to MAC and Linux and sold them as a new product, sometimes for a different price. Unfortunately these externally developed ports had a number of problems for us as a developer as well as for our customers:

    For the customer: Should you ever switch to a different operating system and want to continue playing our games, you had to buy the game again.
    For the developer: Since the porting is not based on a single set of source code, it gets increasingly expensive to develop updates for all platforms.

    Steam’s solution to this problem is quite radical and customer-friendly. Steam encourages all developers to turn their titles into so-called “Steamplay” games, where versions for all operating systems are part of just one product. You buy it once and you can play it on all operating systems that the developer supports. This even works if you bought a game for windows in the past and the developer adds support for another operating system later.

    Trusting Valve / Steam:

    I can not overstate how the above two points as reasons to consider giving Steam and the company that operates, Valve, a leap of faith. One argument commonly heard against Steam on our forums is that people are worried that they are dependent on Steam’s existence in the long term. What if Steam goes out of business in the distant future? Maybe I will not be able to play my games then. (sidenote: We do provide a “no-steam.exe” for our games for exactly this extremely unlikely case).

    It is much more likely, in fact, that a game you own on DVD will not work anymore at some point in the future because:
    a) The last available version of the game does not run on whatever the latest hardware or Windows version is.
    b) You may have switched to a different operating system or even a new type of hardware for your living room PC (read about BIG PICTURE below).
    c) Or maybe the DVD is no longer readable.
    Steam creates a financial incentive for developers to update their games long after release and to bring it to as many Steam platforms as possible. This is a big advantage for all customers.

    Also, do not forget that Valve, the company that operates Steam, has a direct financial incentive to maintain the platform in the future and keep it as attractive as possible. If our fans are happy and continue to use their service, they can make money selling games.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      I was rather disappointed by the mac port of x3ap, I’m pleased to see the issue talked about so openly

      • cairbre says:

        I think someone in Germany is taking a case against steam for this very reason. Of course if they don’t allow it we can make them through EU legislation. Let them stick that in their pipe and smoke it.

        Also game company’s can put in all the restrictions they like but if they breach consumer law they won’t be enforceable. There is a serious question mark over the agreement you agree to when you buy a game but as far as I know there has yet to be a case brought to properly test them.

        RPS could protect the consumer/gamer and bring a test case.

        • callmeclean says:

          Nothing lasts for ever, I’m sure in the long distant future when Steam shuts down or Valve becomes pure evil there will be many other options. However if valve banned my account for some reason I would be heart broken, and I don’t think I could ever invest in steam again except for maybe a few FP2 games like TF2. I would definitely re-download my entire games library through torrents which I think I would have every right to. Which brings me to another point.

          While some may not like people who crack and upload games as torrents, they are actually doing a really good job of preserving access to many games that you can’t find any where else, and it often requires a bit of effort to compile the games and cracks as well as all the people putting their bandwidth into seeding. I think they are doing a great service to Gamers even if many of us seem to hate them, and in the context of this article you could say they torrents are one of the main forms of resistance against this increasingly strict industry. As well as sites like GOG.

          • Lawful Evil says:

            “Nothing lasts for ever, I’m sure in the long distant future when Steam shuts down or Valve becomes pure evil there will be many other options.”

            I need Steam to only exist for as long as I am alive, after that it can go wherever it wants. And there are companies (IBM for example) that have existed for >100 years. Sharing games – not interested in that.

          • m_a_t says:

            I really don’t see the problem with GOG. It’s a very cool formula: they pack some oldie-goldie games in a way the common user can play them on their brand new system just by double clicking, without the need of a complicated emulator or of some old hardware and they keep updating their products while you, the user, get a DRM-free version you can use any way you like and the average price for such a game is a fiver. I, myself, am one of these persons who helped preserving an almost 30 year old black and white FPS that ran on DOS, 68k Mac and ATARI by uploading it to some notorious abandonware sites. For a very long time, every single version that was found online could be tracked back to a box on my shelf. Still, a person who downloads this product will have a very hard time getting it to run. First, you would need an 68k Mac emulator like vMac or Sheepshaver. Then, an ancient Mac ROM image. Alternatively, of course, a 25 year old Mac that still is in good shape. Then, a disk image with an OS, Then, a specific program to decompress and another to unpack disk images. You would also need a software called “Hypercard” in order to use the decoder that unlocks the game. Now you want to tell me that all this hassle isn’t worth a fiver for the company that takes it away by making the game playable on a modern machine and even offers you support for later OS versions and that the proliferation of a game is higher by half legal download and abandonware sites? I think that GOG is one of the best things that happened for retro gaming and that they have every right to exist the way they do. I also believe that many people who criticize GOG’s sales model are actually freeloaders. No offence. We all are at some point ;)

    • Clavus says:

      That last paragraph puts it quite nicely. Steam can both be seen as a service that might one day disappear taking your entire game library with it, or as a service that actually keeps your game library maintained and updated over the years.

      The only thing that would put minds at ease if there’d be a legal obligation for Steam to function or at least save your data in case of failure. However it’s a piece of software, not your water and gas supplier, I don’t think they’ll ever have that obligation.

      So in the end it comes down to trust. As for me, I’m content with the current state of affairs. In the scenario that Steam is shut down and Valve can no longer be trusted, I’d quit PC gaming altogether. Got to have faith in something.

        • MarcP says:

          Wow. First time I fell for a spam link in a long, long time. Linking a DM of the rings episode is the kind of thing that seems potentially relevant and geeky enough not to even glance at the actual URL, but it looks like bots are getting smarter.

      • m_a_t says:

        Here’s an idea (yeah, I know: I stole that line). Recently, I read an interview of musician Phil Anselmo who reported how his huge record collection got destoyed in a flood. While this can never happen to your Steam games, people start making a big fuss about the possibility of the company’s downfall, despite the following facts: 1) it is quite probable that the company would, in case of downfall, take a last measure to unlock anyone’s games if this is even necessary, given the existance of a no-steam.exe 2) it’s software and any software that ever existed in history and that had any major value has been hacked. If Steam happened to fall down and left theit users in the cold, which is quite unprobable, it would not take a week until an exe appears that grants everyone access to their library. Think of iPhone jailbreaks…

        • GiantPotato says:

          One of the mitigating factors for me deciding to use Steam is that I have a feeling that a lot of people who are A) passionate about games and B) very good with computers also use it. If it were to ever go offline in a big way then there would be a large number of very annoyed and very skilled programmers suddenly finding themselves with nothing to do.

    • odgaf says:

      the games industry is a disgrace
      im an older gamer, one of the ones who supported the games industry from the late 70s
      when digital distribution first came round it promised so many things
      the games devs were tripping over themselves to get people onboard
      promising games would become cheaper as they would get a larger slice of the pie,, because removing the storage/transport/warehouse/advertising /packaging middlemen would lead to more freedoms and creativity
      fast forward 10 years ive watched them destroy the pc games at retail, they have singlehandedly driven most gaming shops into bankruptcy, losing the industry thousands of jobs, they destroyed the second hand games market just for good measure by introducing codes locked to accounts, once no retail outlets would touch pc games anymore they went on an anti piracy crusade saying piracy had killed the pc market and pc wasnt worth developing for no more
      so after hijacking the digital distribution network and killing the retail market and despite carving a larger chunk of profits out for themselves we now pay more for games than we ever have
      we have no rights, we dont own games anymore and we can now no longer loan a game to a friend

      can you imagine if the film industry did this, tried to lock a film to a dvd or bluray player ?
      can you imagine if the film industry made a film but released it without cgi or sound effects saying they would add them in the next patch….
      could you imagine if your film didnt play

      this games industry is a disgrace
      the worst of it all is the gamer
      theres practically millions of wealthy gamers floating around the net with hi spec gaming systems, adsl2 plus etc etc saying how great life is and how things have never been so good and slowly i have seen gaming become elitist, where only those with fast internet always on connections can play or even download games, which means that 2 3rds of the worlds potential gamers cant even play
      only those lucky enough to live in the west can now play games
      im sorry but this is abhorrent i see so many pro dev and i love steam freaks utterly oblivious to whats really going on because as long as they are allright its all that matters

      gaming is come full circle and now is really for the rich, the not so rich can go fuck themselves
      perhaps one day we will see the price of games escalate to something most westerners cant afford
      say 5000 dollars for battlefield 4
      youd soon see these pro dev pro steam nitwits scrambling for the latest fairlight cracks for games they downloaded off of piratebay

      games arent just for the wealthy its a fucking disgrace

      p.s. im so happy that buying online from steam is now more expensive than retail used to be
      the gaming industry have hijacked everything and betrayed all of us

      • Grape Flavor says:

        cool story bro

      • Lawful Evil says:

        the worst of it all is the gamer
        theres practically millions of wealthy gamers floating around the net with hi spec gaming systems, adsl2 plus etc etc saying how great life is and how things have never been so good and slowly i have seen gaming become elitist, where only those with fast internet always on connections can play or even download games, which means that 2 3rds of the worlds potential gamers cant even play
        only those lucky enough to live in the west can now play games
        im sorry but this is abhorrent i see so many pro dev and i love steam freaks utterly oblivious to whats really going on because as long as they are allright its all that matters

        And why would rich and “elitist” gamers care about those that are not? It is not their fault why others are less materially fortunate. Why would I care about 2/3rds of the worlds “potential” gamers? Let them take care for themselves, nowhere it is stated that being able to play games is some sort of fundamental human right.

        And yes, while I do not love Steam, it has brought many good things, and I am willing to turn a blind eye to a few issues that crop up from time to time. Sharing “issue” not being one of them.

        • odgaf says:

          thats right, you will only care when your excluded from doing something you like, luckily for me i like to share and i get a kick out of seeing communities grow and evolve despite the economic differences

          and when i said id like games prices to increase to a point that people couldnt afford it was targeted at people just like you

          anyway on a side note, i was debating wether to donate my nike airs to a charity shop cos i dont use them anymore and upon browsing through the 60 page nike eula that i agreed to at purchase,
          [that no 2 lawyers could ever come to an agreement over,]
          i discovered that i dont actually own the shoes im only renting the technology involved in the manufactureing of them
          i then came to the rather daft conclusion that if i were to donate these shoes to charity or simply give them away, or even worse… share them… somehow i would be depriving nike of potential lost profit on future sales and even possibly breaking the law
          needless to say i abhor illegal activity and destroyed them so future generations could enjoy nike as i have done
          please remember.,…… sharing isnt caring in the games world

          • Lawful Evil says:

            thats right, you will only care when your excluded from doing something you like

            IF I am excluded from doing something I like – I will care, or I will not. Neither you nor I can predict the outcome to such a thing.

            and when i said id like games prices to increase to a point that people couldnt afford it was targeted at people just like you

            Alright.

            i discovered that i dont actually own the shoes im only renting the technology involved in the manufactureing of them

            I was wondering when this thing would happen, it seems it has begun. Licencing to use the hardware.

            please remember.,…… sharing isnt caring in the games world

            I do not understand. You share not because you care, but due to some other reason(s)?

      • HadToLogin says:

        Hey, I don’t need to imagine film industry releasing film that needs patching. It’s called “Director’s Cut”. Some movies have plot holes that are later covered by DCs. Sometimes proper ending is only in DC version (Evil Dead Army of Darkness).

      • m_a_t says:

        I don’t get your argument. Thank to Steam, I can track down offers and if I’m lucky, I can buy the latest whatever-game for a fraction of the price. I can also buy older games for that fraction of the original price. How has gaming become so much more expensive? I remember these times you praise so much very well but I don’t remember them being so much better from now. Actually, the price for a new, high ranking game was exactly the same as it is now: in the order of 40-60£. Right? At the same time, I can buy a game that’s 3 years old and still great for 5-8£. What’s the problem? I think it might actually be that, to some people, anyone who’s trying to sell them something is automatically a crook, unless he resigns on making any profit.

        • odgaf says:

          the problem is that theres too many people like you, you dont care about the 2nd hand market, you dont care about sharing, you dont care that game ownership doesnt exist no more, you dont care about anything other than yourself, which is cool because steam caters more and more for people just like you

          the fact that you think todays games marketplace is actually better than the past tells me all i need to know
          im not a steam hater, i have 50 games on steam and use it often, i like the servive
          but do i think steam was worth losing the pc retail market for?, absolutely not
          or losing the ownership of games?? absolutely not
          do i think i get better deals in a steam sale as opposed to the 2nd hand pc market…… hell no
          can i sell my steam games … hell no
          can i buy games cheaper at retail than steam offers…. helll yes
          i only use steam because i have no choice its been stripped from me

          i do like steam but i feel we have given up far too much and got back far too little, the promise of cheap downloadable games has been completely hijacked and i feel we swapped a hell of a lot of rights for steam, and feel very exploited

          i could go on but when i look back i start to see how bad steam has been for gaming
          the whole digital copyright situation has spun out of control and games devs think nothing of selling teenagers a game with a 60 page license that means anything they want it to mean at anytime.
          a license so complicated no 2 lawyers could ever agree to what it says

          then i could start about how corrupt the industry is, how sites like ign got bought by people like the murdochs [newscorp] who have invested heavily in companies like activision or ea
          where ex newscorp executives now sit on the board of games publishers so you have a situation where newscorp invests in games development and simply gets its own games reviewed by its own games networks who supply all the advertising and hype
          and lets not forget how crooked the games devs and publishers are anyway,sucking in and paying journalists off, free booze laden trips, free gifts free flights,its not too hard to buy off some of the lowest paid least respected journos in the games market

          todays gaming indistry is just a joke
          anyone who thinks things are better now really isnt thinking too hard

          anyway thx rps been reading for years keep up the good work

          • DarksDaemon says:

            Jesus, next you’re going to tell us you had to walk to and from school uphill both ways through 10ft of snow and meteorites. The old games industries weren’t the lands of milk and honey you so fondly remember. I remember them as a time when the only PC ‘games’ I could find in retail stores was sims 1 expansion packs, I had to go searching 2nd hand stores for days to find a single game worth playing and even then there was a 50/50 chance it wouldn’t work on my PC. Retail hasn’t and won’t exist where I live, my only option being full priced online stores like Amazon, OR digital distribution. You claim to get a better deal at retail than in steam sales, well kudos to you for living in such an area that even acknowledges PC gaming as even existing.

          • m_a_t says:

            You certainly have a point in many things you say: yes, the industry, like any other marketing industry, is pushing to milk us as much as they can and leave us with as little as possible. That’s what industries do and even if they, themselves, don’t want to, they’ll be pushed by the harsh rules of the market so: no use to rave about it. There are only three powers in this game: the market, the legislation and you. Now, ou are very quick at drawing a picture of your next one based on a comment that is not completely negative on the changes that occur. Their are pros and cons. That’s my whole point. Just to put things straight: I am nothing of what you describe. Probably even less than yourself. I am totally pro sharing and pro second hand market. Now, if the industry kills the second-hand market without offering a valid replacement, what will happen? People will naturally feel less loyal as consumers and will start sharing more. That’s when the second power comes into play: legislation. That power can either work for you by regulating the market or against you by deregulating it… So, if you want to carry on consuming – and I do – our power to control the market by refusing it our money fades. The only power left to help us is legislation. What I want to say is: fighting for fairer laws for the market is our only chance. The companies won’t help us. Infact, it’s fairly simple: they can’t. It’s do or die. I will keep on fighting for a free second hand market and for ownership of purchases I make, but only until I don’t lose so much comfort that I would have to turn this into a life of sacrifice. I’ve done this for many years – even decades, believe me… it’s not worth it!

          • Tom OBedlam says:

            ‘You don’t care about anything other than yourself’

            Ad hominem attacks don’t make you look right dude.

      • Ingall says:

        so after hijacking the digital distribution network and killing the retail market and despite carving a larger chunk of profits out for themselves we now pay more for games than we ever have

        I remember 15 years ago paying nearly $100 for new games. I pay significantly less than that now.

        • m_a_t says:

          Absolutely. Now: with how many people would someone usually share a game. I assume: one average maybe about one person. At most. If two persons buy a game for 40$ each, is it worse than if one buys the same game for 100?
          If you someone buys a game for 100, how much will it be worth on the second hand market in – say – a year? 20?

          I’m a collector of Game Boy cartridges, NES, etc… it’s romantic but man… these times are fading.

      • mseifullah says:

        I don’t know what’s got people in such an insensitive mood today, but I appreciate your post and I think you’ve made some very critical points about the the collective broken promises of digital [games] distribution and the passive state of today’s Gamer.

        Today, we are Gamers that are unquestionably willing to pay more for less. We are Gamers that will consciously ignore the deterioration of all of our customer freedoms until we are personally affected by them. We are Gamers that will put up with all kinds of anti-customer EULA’s and ownership restrictions so that we may granted the privilege of giving these companies our money.

        Some Gamers are okay with this. I continue to accept these increasing restrictions myself in the name of “wanting to play this game.” But that doesn’t make it okay. As self-proclaimed Gamers with an invested interest in the health of the industry, we should let developers and publishers know that we want more freedom to do as we please with our purchases, not less. We should let them know that we will continually favor releases that don’t lock us into DRM and anti-customer & anti-social behaviors when given the chance.

        • m_a_t says:

          I’m not willing to pay more for less and I don’t. It’s mainly a matter of picking the right games. That’s where (we) games journalists come into the arena. A bad game or a bad deal gets crushed mercilessly by the main part of the games press nowadays. Include influencial YouTubers (Angry Joe, etc.)
          You’ll find that times aren’t so bad at all for games customers.

    • sophof says:

      His last point is actually the strongest and most often forgotten I think. Valve’s and its customers’ priorities largely overlap, which is rather unique. The danger lies in a possible monopoly and less in Steam’s details imo. In a healthy market, lending out games would probably be standard, now valve can play a little more with the freedom they grant us and keep a few silly things in that only benefit them. But the keyword is little, if they overstep, they lose hard and fast.

      The big difference is that Valve is not publicly owned, making their incentives very different from other companies such as EA and Activision.

      People that immediately shout “hypocrisy” if you use Steam oversimplify the issue. There’s also many advantages to Steam you can’t really get anywhere else and Valve has a good track record. That makes a world of difference from a system that is only designed to stop you from lending, since it is only anti-consumer, without any of the advantages, even though the principle appears to be the same.

      • yobokkie says:

        The other thing people forget when referring to steam is the incredible discounts they give. This “you must buy a copy” thing would be fine if the consoles were having sales where games were discounted by 75%. Then your friend who wanted to borrow the game could just buy it. But no, instead we have 5 year old games still selling for over half their original price. I personally don’t buy games from steam until the price has dropped… more bang for my buck. I recently bought a double pack of portal 2 keys just to give to friends so we can play co-op, just because it was less than 10 dollars. I have never seen anything like this on a console, which makes the ‘no-sharing’ thing all the more iniquitous.

  2. Christo4 says:

    TLDR: Sharing is Caring.

    • John Connor says:

      Sort of hijacking this comment to say this:

      PC gamers don’t care about Steam because we can already get games for free with zero effort.

      It’s much harder to get games for free on Consoles.

  3. Shakermaker says:

    Very elegant solution, John. Steam already has a trading system so it should be easily implementable. I hope it catches on.

    • S Jay says:

      It has? Man, I am always the last one to know… maybe it is not available in all regions?

    • b0rsuk says:

      And Valve hopes you never bring it up. “Hoping” is not enough, you need to demand.

    • Chalky says:

      This is an excellent article and there’s one additional benefit that shareable games would have over the current situation:

      You want to improve the quality of games? Giving companies a financial incentive to make their game so fun and so re-playable that you never want to lend them because it means you’ll have to stop playing. You’re not going to get shitty railshooters with 5 hours of gameplay or people trying to flog terrible quality games as the real deal with loads of marketing.

      The ones that really earn the big bucks will be games that you keep wanting to come back to – you’ll never want to lend it just incase you get the hankering to play it. Those are always the best games anyway.

      • basilisk says:

        This is a myopic perspective, completely ignoring the enormous variability of gaming as a medium. Some games benefit from replayability, others do not. Forcibly injecting artificial replay value into a game can absolutely can break its design. Your requirement is just as silly as demanding that “all games must use microtransactions, no matter what” or “all games must feature bunnies, no matter what”.

  4. pupsikaso says:

    Thank you, John, for being the only games journalist to highlite this issue in the press. You are truly unique among the masses of them out there. I dare say you might be the only real games journalist whose writing I’ve come across.

  5. RevEng says:

    John, I’m with you on this 100%.

    I was first struck by this when I bought a copy of Age of Conan, played it for three days, and decided I didn’t like it. About that same time, a friend of mine wanted to play it, so I was going to sell him my copy, or at the very least lend it to him, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even give it to him. The disc I had bought was little more than a medium for the bits; the ownership was tied to a one-time use code which was now tied to an account in my name that was tied to my credit card. Every part of the system was designed to prevent sharing, right down to the EULAs that accompanied them. I had bought nothing but a revokable license to use what they had provided me. No guarantees, no resale, no lending, and no returns. I had wasted $60 on something whose tangible value was 0.

    I had the same thing happen more recently with SimCity. After weeks of fighting with server issues and a broken simulation, I had given up on the game, but a friend was interested and wanted to “borrow” my copy to try it out. The best I could do was give him the login and password to my Origin account, giving him not just my (miniscule) collection of games, but also my identity and access to make instant purchases on my credit card.

    In the world of tangible products, most countries have various laws that stipulate something along the lines of a Doctorine of First Sale, which says that, once you’ve bought an item, you are free to do with it what you want; since you own it, it’s yours to do as you wish and the original seller has no right to stop you. Sadly, licenses have trumped this doctorine. We’ve all agreed (through our own laziness to fight back) to accept Draconian contract terms that include all of these limitations on our rights, including our rights to ownership and to do what we want with the item. This isn’t even a matter of copyright; it’s a matter of terrible contract terms. We no longer purchase things, we “license” them, and most people don’t know the difference.

    I agree that the publishers love this and won’t change a thing unless we force them to. And we’re all to blame for being so complicit in the erosion of our own freedoms. Yet, what do we do? With every new release of a DRM-ridden game, a vocal minor insists it won’t buy the game out of principal, but when every license agreement with every release of every medium contains these same terms, what is a conscientious dissenter to do? Boycott all media entirely? That’s a hard line to take.

    I don’t know what we can do now, but I agree that we’ve let it come to this with our inaction and that the only way to turn the tides is to start taking action. But I just don’t know where to begin.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      Did you know that file sharing is stealing? Sharing a game with your friends makes you worse than a car thief! How could you be so selfish?

    • 00000 says:

      Good job. You have discovered why people pirate first and buy later.

    • scatterbrainless says:

      This is a funny example of the property laws cutting both ways: licenses are presented by companies as a protection of their property and a prosecution of their right to own their product, which is largely accepted. The fact that this comes at the cost of the consumers right to property and the dispensation of the commodities they own seems to be largely ignored. An interesting example of companies’ rights trumping individuals’ rights that seems to happen more and more with the increasing reliance upon intellectual property in a digital age that makes the physical existence of a product redundant. Once a product becomes abstract in this fashion the transactional nature of the consumer relationship becomes deeply problematic, because there is no longer a meaningful distinction between an intellectual source (say, a patent upon a design) and its iteration as a product (the item for consumption produced from that design, which is the object of ownership for the consumer). Digital products, that are literally information, collapse the distinction between production and consumption. This is just me rambling, but I’m finding this trend increasingly interesting, since it’s not just games but a direction that society as a whole seems to be progressing along.

    • frightener says:

      I believe first sale doctrine (at least in europe) *does* trump a digital download EULA. Reported by our very own John Walker last July here on RPS, EU Courts of Justice ruled first sale doctrine applies to software downloads.
      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/07/03/crikey-eu-rules-you-can-resell-downloaded-games/

  6. Mr. Mister says:

    Think of the disk/cartridge not as the game, but the media to access it. You don’t buy the intellectual property, but a license to access it.

    Though I’d be okay with re-sales as long as the dev and the publisher got the same (absolute) cut.

    Have fun figuring that out.

    • zal says:

      I blame books for this (well and scrolls and tablets and other poorly designed medium)… if they’d been easier to erase, or if there’d just been a way to burn only their LETTERS, we could’ve avoided thousands of years of constant intellectual theft.
      But no, they were terribly thought out. They could’ve used inks that faded, or deliberately added cracking schemes, to prevent people stealing their material hundreds or even thousands of years later.

      But alas books were the only media available at the time to distribute information, and much like a cd-rom or a punch card it was what was in them that people were after.

      Just remember, the harder knowledge is to share and obtain, the better off we all are.
      Ignorance is the single strongest wealth generator there is.

      • Chaosed0 says:

        I’d just like to draw people’s attention to how awesome this post is.

      • Arkh says:

        Stop right there. I’m calling the fireman.

      • MrEclectic says:

        Hear hear

      • Grape Flavor says:

        What’s your point, exactly? Even in the era where paper books ruled the world, you never owned the rights to the text, you just owned the book. You didn’t own the software on the cartridge, you owned the cartridge. Nothing has changed in that regard except now there is no book or CD or cartridge.

        There’s an interesting discussion to be had about the resale doctrine and what that means in the age of digital distribution, and I’m all for it. It’s a tricky subject. But the “we don’t own our games anymore, just the right to play them” shtick ignores the fact that this has always been the case.

        • nil says:

          Respecting the ownership claims of others might be more palatable when you own things yourself; but that’s rather beside the point.

          • Grape Flavor says:

            Maybe people need to let go of this notion that they truly “own” a copyrighted work because they’ve paid money to access it. You don’t own it, you own the rights to use it, as it always has been. That’s the whole point.

            People won’t accept that these days because now that they don’t have a physical trinket to put on the shelf in their house, it’s been laid bare and they hadn’t thought of things this way before.

            Because they own it and you don’t. Deal with it. They don’t need to respect your claim of true ownership because you have no valid claim.

            I don’t chew out my neighbor when he complains about how I’ve borrowed his car without asking, saying “Well you know, if you had made me feel like I had more of a real ownership stake in the car, maybe I’d have more sympathy, man!” No, he’s going to look at you like you’re fucking crazy.

          • nil says:

            They’re realising they’ve been sold a bill of goods, and at least some of them are deciding that they are not okay with this. Seems legit.

            You can see that reciprocity (alt: “personal investment”, “skin in the game”) is a relatively cheap way of increasing the likelihood of other people respecting your property claims, though, right?

          • Grape Flavor says:

            Well shit, maybe publishers should hand out shares of their stock with each copy of a game they sell (or license, if I want to be technical). I dunno.

            It’s certainly never been done before.

          • nil says:

            Perhaps that sort of thing (not equity, but notional) is part of the attraction of Kickstarter? (qv. “distributed patronage” elsewhere in the discussion)

          • Simes says:

            Copyright does not have any effect over whether you own your copy of a work, it only restricts your right to copy and distribute that work. The clue is right there in the name. Maybe that’s why the “notion” is so pervasive.

        • Emeraude says:

          Define “always”.

          For most of human recorded history, NO ONE owned the text (technically, still, no one owns the text some people, in the name of fairness are given a temporary exclusive right to the making of copies of the text for profit, which is quite different). The book was all there was to own.

          The fact that the mean to transfer ownership was tied to the mean of reproduction and distribution was an incredible convenience. One whose innate qualities some are slowly relearning it seems.

          I keep repeating it, but seeing as copyright was mostly invented to protect authors from publisher – who would make fortune selling books while never paying back the writer for his/her work – it is highly ironic to see it now used to protect publishers from the public – quite often at the expense of the authors. And with help from the public itself no less.

          • Convolvulus says:

            “Always” in this case is about 300 years, I guess. And because public domain doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, copyrights never expire, so that “always” must extend to infinity.

          • Grape Flavor says:

            If the public is being a dick, why shouldn’t copyright be used to protect publishers from the public? And at the same time other laws be used to protect the public from the publishers.

            Everybody uses protection!

          • Emeraude says:

            If the public is being a dick, why shouldn’t copyright be used to protect publishers from the public?

            Because that is not its mandate ? Because in doing so it often goes against said mandate (and that’s before even going into how companies are being allowed to mix intellectual property laws that were never meant to synergize while refraining from paying back in return the reason for which they were granted those rights in the first place).

            Because the public is not “being a dick” when sharing the work. It does part of why the work was created for, and what it was created to do: being shared.

            Because, even to the mind of the people who created the modern authorial rights basic right of access of the public to the work was more important than the right of the author or publisher to be paid.
            To quote Victor Hugo while he was lobbying for author’s rights (poor translation mine):

            “The book, as a book, belongs to the author, but as an idea, it belongs – the word isn’t too strong – to humanity. Every intelligence has a right to it. If one of those two rights, the one of the author, and the of the human mind – had to be sacrificed, it would be, undeniably, the right of the author, as the interest of the public should be our unique preoccupation, and the rights of us all must trumps those of us few.”

            “Le livre, comme livre, appartient à l’auteur, mais comme pensée, il appartient-le mot n’est pas trop vaste-au genre humain. Toutes les intelligences y ont droit. Si l’un des deux droits, le droit de l’écrivain et le droit de l’esprit humain, devait être sacrifié, ce serait, certes, le droit de l’écrivain, car l’intérêt public est notre préoccupation unique, et tous, je le déclare, doivent passer avant nous.”

          • Grape Flavor says:

            You have a nice idealistic view of how society should function, and I don’t begrudge you for it.

            I tend to look at these things more from an economic perspective, not an idealistic one. And in that light, I would very much have to remind you that the vast majority of products, both physical and intellectual, are not created to be shared, they are created to be sold.

            There’s nothing wrong with being attracted to the idea of money and business and markets and economies just fading away and we all just do everything merely for the betterment of humanity. It sounds very nice. The question is whether attempting to create such a thing is even possible or practical – whether trying to construct such a society would actually result in change for the better. I’m not convinced.

          • Emeraude says:

            There is nothing idealistic in saying that a work was created for the purpose of being shared.

            A work that is not shared doesn’t exist – it only exists as soon as it is shared; it’s the very first mandatory condition of its existence as a product.

            “And in that light, I would very much have to remind you that the vast majority of products, both physical and intellectual, are not created to be shared, they are created to be sold.

            a) Both propositions certainly aren’t mutually exclusive.
            b) Intellectual products (many of great artistic value) have been created without economical incentive. Still are.
            In fact the idea that authorial rights actually enhance the degree of creativity in a given social body has been disproved. The reason they were enforced was strictly as a matter of fairness, and to hopefully promote a democratization of patronage. For lack of a better description.

        • reyn78 says:

          It seems you are entirely missing the point and do not understand the basics about “ownership”. Both John’s and the poster’s above. Put off the IP rights kool aid, please.

          Never before the gaming industry and digital distribution did anyone limit the right to own the item once somebody bought it. No they didn’t lease it, didn’t borrow it, didn’t provide you with a service. They sold you the item.

          In short you didn’t buy the right to some fictional IPs – you bought right to a specific item, one that you could as an owner borrow, sell, destroy, use as you pleased. Why, because you owned it. It is a simple definition of ownership.

          Now the industry has MEANS to limit these basic ownership rights and the only reason why they want to do it is obviously higher sales, and since they have very hard time explaining why exactly they are selling something without actually transferring ownership – they thought of the illusive “intellectual property” that needs to be protected. IP rights are everywhere – in every part of manufacturing and services. Yet only the gaming industry and some areas of entertainment do try to sell you stuff without actually selling it.

          Imagine that car industry would say that a car is only a physical medium of its intellectual property and thus only one person can use it, it cannot lend it, it cannot sell it, AND the maker can shut down remotely the engine whenever it thinks it is outdated. This is your logic of IPs.

      • DerNebel says:

        Okay. I’ve skimmed through the rest of the thread and I didn’t see any signs of sarcasm, so this post might be a bit misconstrued. If I missed the obvious clues, sorry in advance.

        WHAT. THE. HELL.

        What did I just read? Did you just frame shareable information as the bane of wealth? Need I remind you that shareable information is the only reason you’re even be able to watch your movies, read your news, go to the fucking toilet and yes, play your games. If books and parchment had been copyrighted we’d be relearning to write and even think every new generation.

        You would have the middle ages truly be dark to protect our pioneers? You’d make their efforts in vain? You’d let Columbus never tell anyone about America, just so his “competitors” wouldn’t monetize it? Imagine Newton, never standing on the shoulders of giants. He would be able to calculate neither the motions of the stars nor the madness of men.

        Would you deny Tolkien the folklore and written texts that let him build Middle Earth and spark an entire litterary genre? Oh, but the Brothers Grimm spend so much effort gathering those tales, surely people shouldn’t be allowed to share it, surely it should evaporate when they die!

        “Just remember, the harder knowledge is to share and obtain, the better off we all are.
        Ignorance is the single strongest wealth generator there is.”

        This is dystopic. This is indicative of laziness and apathy. I say, the easier knowledge is to share, the easier we can build on each others work, the faster we can progress. Absolutely NOTHING in our modern world is built from scratch. Everything has ancestry, everything is possible because of knowledge being handed down and shared. That goes for housing, sanity, transportation, foods and yes, movies and games.

        You would restrict the masses from learning, yet the aristocracy of the middle ages proved that few geniuses come from the heights of society. Voltaire wouldn’t be a sensation today, we have hundreds like him, all because information and education is freely available (at least in the west). And you’d destroy all that in favour of more first-world wealth.

        Knowledge isn’t something to be feared, it is to be embraced, and that means sharing. We’d be nowhere if the ancient civilisations had discovered DRM methods before sharing.

  7. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I’m frustrated by so many of my contemporaries who build as big a Steam library as they can. Whether it’s because they’re hoarders or simply can’t resist a bargain during the sales.

    I’m under no illusion that Steam is nothing more than a long-term rental service. How long that term is, is entirely out of my hands. I only own about 30 games on Steam but I have friends who have ten times that. And for what? Are they really going to play all those games from start to finish with commitments such as work and family? Highly unlikely. And what happens, God forbid, when Valve hit the rocks?

    Digital gaming is great at the moment, but make no mistake, it IS a bubble and bubbles burst. For any number of reasons.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      I’d be nice if at least they added the option to pass your games to another account when irreversibly deleting yours. You know, death and will.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      And make less money? Are you insane, man?

    • Nesetalis says:

      steam does have some end of life clauses in their plans.. but I agree with you.
      Most of what I purchased for steam, was purchased through humble bundles. Or something I first pirated to try, then purchased to pay for because I actually enjoyed it. The rest are free to play games.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        “steam does have some end of life clauses in their plans.”

        This old line of thought again.

        As always, I’d like a source for that. Show me a link.

        It usually ends up with: “Well, Gaben said so on some forum post or other or I read it somewhere.”

        Seriously, show me a source.

        • Grygus says:

          Is a screenshot from Steam tech support good enough? http://i.imgur.com/4sa1Ln6.jpg

          But it is irrelevant, actually, because pirated versions of Steam-only games exist right now; the community can already easily circumvent Steam if it comes to that.

          • Alexrd says:

            No, it’s not “good enough”. What’s in the EULA and the terms you agree with is that they are under no obligation to make your games available on such event. And that’s what counts, not some random post that only a couple of people searched for and read.

            Steam is above all DRM, as they control how and when you access your games. Plataforms like GOG and Humble Store are the ones worthy of support.

          • Grygus says:

            The question of whether it was good enough was in anticipation that someone might decide this was insufficient to allay their fears, and at least with you this turns out to be true. It wasn’t sarcasm. I don’t understand your use of quotes.

            Either way, the point stands that in the real world this is a non-issue. The main immediate downside would be the loss of the ability to easily and legitimately download any games not currently installed, but that is a risk with any download service, and the loss of multiplayer content, which is a risk with all hosted multiplayer content. I believe the much bigger losses would be Steam’s downward pressure on game prices and the presumed loss of a top-flight game developer.

            I think that, these days, most criticism of Steam is slightly silly. You like gog.com; okay, so do I. But it has all of the exact same problems that Steam has, though in the case of DRM to a much lesser degree.

          • Alexrd says:

            GOG is free of DRM, therefore it doesn’t have any problem with it. The criticism is about control. You don’t control how and when to install and play a game with Steam, since a server connection is required to install and play, and that server is on their hands.

    • realitysconcierge says:

      Though it’s contrary to your point, you could download and backup all of your games and the various cracks that go with them and never worry about it again.

      • DerNebel says:

        So either you play fair and get screwed by legal methods, or you go illegal and also get screwed by different legal methods.

        Is there something wrong with this picture? This is what the article is about, the industry shouldn’t look like this. It is an odd consumer who wants to protect the publisher from himself.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      “I’m under no illusion that Steam is nothing more than a long-term rental service”
      Except rental implies some kind of regular payment, which doesn’t apply here.

      • The Random One says:

        Not necessarialy. Rental implies you are paying for something you don’t own and plan to return at a future time. If you rent a car you don’t pay for it continuously, you pay once and use it for the time you’re allotted. Steam’s the same, only the time you’re allotted is legally set to be infinite and in practice set to be until such a time as when the Steam service ends.

    • Archonsod says:

      ” Are they really going to play all those games from start to finish with commitments such as work and family? Highly unlikely. And what happens, God forbid, when Valve hit the rocks?”

      What you’re basically saying there is “My friends have a large number of games they never play. What happens when we remove those games?” to which the answer rather obviously would be very little.

      The problem with your argument is that it’s impossible to have access to a game forever. All machines eventually break down, technology always goes obsolete, so at some point even if you owned the source code you’d be sitting on something you can’t use simply because the technology required to do so is no longer available..
      Since most games older than ten years tend to require intervention by either a third party or the developer to get running on modern operating systems, if we assume Steam will last at least a decade before going belly up you’re not actually losing anything. In fact, the argument could be made that since Steam provides a financial incentive to keep the game up to date because you can continue to sell it, there’s a far better chance you’ll be able to play the game in ten years time if you purchased it via Steam rather than say a hard copy.

    • sophof says:

      The practical difference between the lifetime of a physical copy of a game and a copy on steam are non-existent. You are being impractical for the sake of some vague notion of rights. You are probably right in the legal sense, but people generally care only for what actually happens. And what actually happens is that you have your games available anywhere and generally longer than the physical copies of your old games. Physical copes tend to get lost, the disk becomes unreadable, or it is no longer supported properly.

      A customer generally cares about value first and steam simply gives value. It adds convenience to your library of games.

      Add to that that in the case that Steam disappears, it is almost trivial to rebuild your library for free if you would wish it.

      This fear of disappearing games is irrational. It is also valid for every single download service (yes, including GoG).

  8. TwoToes says:

    you know what would happen though. “sharing” sites.

    • d3vilsadvocate says:

      Exactly. I’ve learned to become “free” once I’ve turned to the Bay and downloaded every good Steam game I own. Now I have a huge library of full working, cracked Steam games while I’m 100% steam-free. And my library looks way nicer than through that ridiculous steam interface:
      http://s22.postimg.org/i1rok9tmp/Untitled.jpg

      I only buy drm-free Game either boxed or on gog.com. Everything else gets the pirate hammer from me. Does that make me a freedom fighter now?

      • Gap Gen says:

        I *think* John is talking about the limited case of someone lending something to a friend, rather than mass piracy where you torrent a game to thousands of people you have never met. But the issues are sort of linked.

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        No, it makes you a free-loader – using things other people are paying for.

        • MrEclectic says:

          “downloaded every good Steam game I own”

          Quote from the “freeloader’s” post.

          • Ergates_Antius says:

            “I only buy drm-free Game either boxed or on gog.com. Everything else gets the pirate hammer from me

            Which bit are you struggling to understand?

    • Gap Gen says:

      While I don’t condone piracy, I’d argue that the industry’s failure to embrace digital technology led in part to piracy becoming more widespread. By not providing consumers with a convenient product, the consumers found the illegal product more convenient in many cases (DRM on music and games, region-encoding on DVDs, still rudimentary online streaming of TV shows even as illegal streaming sites abound).

      • Grygus says:

        Indeed. I did not pirate Might & Magic Heroes VI, but sometimes I wish I had. The UPlay layer is unfathomably hostile to people they have already verified to have paid them money.

      • Grape Flavor says:

        The content industries have made a lot of mistakes and if they had played their cards more wisely, things would be at least somewhat better than they are right now.

        Me, I don’t lionize the industry just because I criticize the pirates. It’s not black and white. What I do know is that regardless of their mistakes, content creators hold the rights to their works (unenforceable as that may be these days), not the people who merely consume it. And that is something a lot of pirates and their allies are unwilling to accept.

        The consumer complains that content producers don’t respect their rights and interests, that may be so, but respect is a two-way street. A lot of the stuff consumers most bitterly complain about is in direct response to the public’s flagrant disregard of the producer’s rights and interests, and indeed it happens vice versa, in a vicious cycle.

        People love to have their cake and eat it too. You respect my rights, but fuck you if you expect me to respect yours? That’s not how a good society works, and both sides are going to have to realize that.

        • Gap Gen says:

          Yes indeed, there’s no “right” to pirate in any sense. People do it because they can.

        • gwathdring says:

          What I do know is that regardless of their mistakes, content creators hold the rights to their works (unenforceable as that may be these days), not the people who merely consume it. And that is something a lot of pirates and their allies are unwilling to accept.

          The consumer complains that content producers don’t respect their rights and interests, that may be so, but respect is a two-way street. A lot of the stuff consumers most bitterly complain about is in direct response to the public’s flagrant disregard of the producer’s rights and interests, and indeed it happens vice versa, in a vicious cycle.

          I’m sure you know the difference just fine, but your post seems to conflate intellectual and usage rights. Consumers generally aren’t concerned with not being able to market and sell the game as though they had invented it, but are rather concerned with being able to get a taste for the game before they invest a fair amount of money in it, and then play the game at their convenience after having paid for the privilege. The former is often much less reasonable than the latter, but that isn’t to say consumers should stop seeking that privilege or that producers shouldn’t try to make it possible.

          Content producers have a right to protect their intellectual property, to a point. Fine. But where does that statement get us in the context of this discussion, exactly?

          This war/epidemic/phenomenon/what-have-you is really between consumers and publishers. The authors and developers and musicians are certainly affected, but they are not the direct victims of the consumers and they are not the direct concern of worried publishers. At this point, as you say, it must be seen in full color. Publishers are big, established and powerful. Consumers are small, unestablished, and weak. The power dynamic puts the burden of gentleness on the publisher and, for that matter, the government. I am not suggesting that criminal activity should be overlooked simply because individual people are tiny, but we have to measure our actions properly and understand what exactly it means to face millions of tiny beings in combat.

          We cannot simply swat piracy away by moralizing or passing laws or coding ourselves into a black hole of consumer advocacy nightmares. Nothing will be solved by going about saying “oh, can’t you just see how wrong it is, you stupid ungrateful beastly things? No matter, these chains are for you own good.” If we react too strongly with laws and DRM, we end up disproportionately hurting all of the legitimate customers and for that matter, the minor criminals such as the try-before-buy pirates and the this-is-just-a-backup pirates and the I-bought-it-later pirates and the my-internet-connection-is-bad-and-I-bought-it-but-fuck-DRM pirates–while eventually all of your countermeasures are circumvented by the most dedicated pirates for whom, perhaps, piracy is the only source of games. It certainly sucks to be stung by bees, and for some people it’s even fatal. But stomp on the whole hive and for all the pain and inflammation you’ve endured the primary effect of your action is the murder of your own damn pollinators.

          Continuously making games into shittier and shittier products while the price stays the same is going to make things worse. You can moralize about how true patriots would either pay or go without games, but we’re dealing with a massive group of people. Millions upon millions of individuals. Some of them are going to be shitbags, some of them are going to be decent people caught up by indecent rationalizations and some of them will have the closest thing you can imagine to a “good” excuse for piracy–those people will pirate games if they can. And the road to making it so that they can’t is a dark road that makes gaming a really shitty hobby. Let’s try other things.

          Publishers are, legally speaking, a single entity. Or a few entities. They are macroscopic. Consumers are not. You cannot treat “Consumers” (note the s) as an individual. Talking about how consumers have abused and mistreated publishers is useless. “We” didn’t mistreat the publishers together. Some of us aren’t even pirates! Some of us only buy certain kinds of games! Some of us only buy games a presents for gamer friends and family! The consumer is not some monolith that can be spoken about as an equal of the publisher. The consumer is by comparison a small, fragile thing–difficult to pin down. Consumers need the protection more than the publishers do, no matter how much the publishers might whine. Consumers need to be respected as the separate and multitudinous body they are, not treated as a macroscopic, naughty child that behaves in a consistent and self-controlled manner. Each on our own, we consumers have control and make decisions. En mass? We are a phenomenon. A tide. We answer to greater trends and fads and forces. Respect that, understand that, and remember how much more powerful publishers are than we tiny individuals are. For all the harm a mob might do in one night, a brutal crackdown can do far worse to it’s individual members night after night after night after night.

          • Grape Flavor says:

            I love your posts. Every time there’s a debate around here you are so damn reasonable.

            The analogy is quite apt. Publishers are larger animals, the consumer, individually, is an ant, and we have to take that into account. It’s not a symmetrical relationship by any means. But at the same time a swarm of army ants can kill even a horse, and the ants should be aware of that.

            Yeah, I dunno what else to say, because I agree with you. DRM hurts primarily the paying customers, and trying to beat the consumers into obedience is only going to exacerbate the situation.

            I just really resent the people who act like it doesn’t even matter, like the games just appear out of thin air, like it’s some sort of magical well that we can all drink endlessly from without consequence, without considering what it takes to get games made and replenish the source.

            I know there are plenty of those here who think shoestring indies are the only thing that matters, and AAA can go the way of the dodo for all they care, but the numbers show that millions of people are pouring their time into the high-budget games and clearly very much getting something out of it, and would they would be sad if things fell to pieces. Myself included.

            It’s all about sustainability. That’s the important thing to me. And right now I think we have a situation where yes, the guys at the car dealership sometimes act like assholes, try to gouge you and sell you a shitty ride, but we also have a lot of drivers who are tearing around in their Hummers and seemingly could give fuck all about the environment or the energy supply.

            RPS comments lean too far towards the pro-piracy mindset, so I push back. But by no means do I truly consider it a black and white issue.

          • Upper Class Twit says:

            I don’t have anything to add to this conversation, so I’ll just say that I’m really enjoying reading through this specific conversation. Its so rare to see people on the interwebs engage in a proper civil discussion about a reasonably controversial issue. Its even rarer to see said discussion have such eloquent, well though out, and informative posts. Bravo duders.

          • gwathdring says:

            @Grape Flavor

            Fair enough. I’m less frustrated by it, but I certainly understand the tendency to push back against an echo chamber. I’m not particularly pro-piracy myself, and it is certainly important to recognize the harm piracy can cause. In the grand scheme (and it sounds like we agree on this), however, pirates aren’t the main antagonists, and publishers aren’t the main victims.

            Especially over here in the US, that means we ants have to make sure congress knows we’re the ones with our backs to the wall no matter how many of us commit crimes whilst so pinned. It would be nice if we also let our comrades in arms know that piracy can harm the industry, that digital goods can still be acquired unethically even if it isn’t the same as stealing, and that even awful people and businesses still have rights.

            Beyond that, intellectual property as it stands really isn’t a sustainable concept. It isn’t a sustainable business model, either, and piracy isn’t even the main reason for that. Really, most of the arguments publishers and government agencies have against piracy or for anti-piracy measures don’t hold up especially well. It’s a shame that so many on the consumer side of things take that as a sign that any and all free-wheeling piracy is good to go, but it’s much more of a shame that those arguments are being made and enforced in the first place.

        • sophof says:

          It is hard to control people anyway and especially in the case of piracy. ‘Pirates’ are a huge and diverse group of people all doing the wrong thing for different reasons. Quite often I would even argue that what they do isn’t inherently wrong and even when it is, it is really only a minor thing from a moral pov (like riding the bus without paying).

          The publishers on the other hand are a not very diverse group that do the things they do for a very small amount of reasons, that all can be brought back to: “I, personally, want to make money”.

          Putting those next to each other, it definitely makes more sense to me to expect the publishers to adapt. You can not really effectively stop piracy, stopping piracy generally hurts your paying customers and even if you stop it, the effect on your sales figures will likely be small and the fine (should be) tiny.

          When in the business of selling things, it is generally not wise to go against what people actually want. If you conclude you can not make money out of what people want, you simply shouldn’t try. A smarter person than you will likely succeed though.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Well, publishers do have a legal right to protect their IP and make money. And consumers have no right to get a certain product for free if they dislike any part of it. But it’s true that copyright is difficult to enforce and publishers have helped create conditions where people (illegally) seek out pirated versions of things by not providing services of equal quality to the pirates. Again, it’s not their obligation to, but they have been ineffective at reducing piracy rates by anything other than things that annoy consumers.

  9. LooneyPoirot says:

    The more things have become digital and intangible the less we become aware of our limitations and restrictions with regard to them although this argument is applied to games it a worrying current trend of society as a whole. Technology in this regard and it’s convenience is moving at a pace beyond our capacity to understand its connotations. Luckily the question of enforcement can be equally intangible but soon all the in’s and out of these EULA’s or other agreements that we so blithely click through will be enforced by hardware or tracked and prosecuted through algorithmic fines and bans. Some of the recent account problems at YouTube highlight when algorithms go wrong. I hope that we do indeed manage to wrest back control before it is too late to turn back but we will need to vote with our feet and and wallets as usual to be noticed and I fear the majority is not for turning from this path we are on. C’est la vie.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      Thank god for fucking EULAs, the world would be complete anarchy without them. I mean, it’s a good thing I get to read a48 page legal agreement every time someone at apple changes an icon on a button

      • Grygus says:

        EULAs could be a case study in how to undermine your own authority. If you are constantly pronouncing “important” things that people routinely ignore with no repercussions at all, nobody will be able to tell when you make a statement that actually matters.

  10. nrvsNRG says:

    If you really badly want to share a game that you’ve *bought,*, then FLT, RELOADED, SKiDROW et al, are there for you to use.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      And so are keyloggers and viruses

      • Shooop says:

        If you have a half-decent anti-virus app you never have to worry about that.

        Hell, you can even scan items on VirusTotal.com for free.

    • Emeraude says:

      So, “break the law” is your only answer ?

      I’d rather do that thing perfectly legally if you don’t mind. As I should be able to.

      • sophof says:

        The law means different things to different people, countries, religions, etc. If you believe strongly that you have a right (in this case the right to lend a game), it is perfectly fine imo to break the law. Just don’t be surprised if there will be consequences.

        My point is, breaking a law doesn’t make someone wrong. An obvious example would be any human rights activist in the past. Most of them broke the law for what we now see as legitimate reasons.

        And to be clear, I do believe the law is unfair in this respect. copyrights, patents, the whole thing has lost its meaning in this new age and is effectively doing the opposite of what it was designed for.

  11. WrenBoy says:

    GOG is good.

    • gekitsu says:

      +1 :)

      as for “degree of resistance” – i resist. the games i own are either physical, or bought from GOG, humble bundles, or directly from the developer. for non-physical purchases, i make a point to only buy product whose files are untied to a specific service. besides common sense and advantages in useability, i dislike being treated like a potential criminal, or such a hostile entity that i must be restricted from making good use of whatever product i bought. respect runs both ways.

      someone on twitter today opined that its the best time for gamers right now because digital distribution makes games cheaper than ever. lets just all let go of the bad oldfashioned notions of ownership and physical media that caused what was bad about the olden times.

      lets assume for now that every digital (steam-like, xbone-like) purchase is always less expensive than the same purchase as a physical medium – they damn well ought to be! the product sold is not on par with the products i bought for my snes: every cartridge i bought i can still play, given i have the necessary hardware, despite all kinds of support for the snes infrastructure being gone for years. that is because i bought the game in a form that allowed use independent from a given service infrastructure. not so on steam, xbone et al.

      the product sold to me on these platforms must be way below traditional retail price because i buy a traditional retail product sans service infrastructure independence and resale value, with all the inconveniences that includes (sharing with a friend).

      back to the chap on twitter: some parts of the landscape today are indeed so much beyond everything we always had. we can buy full-fledged games that rival and even surpass aaa retail titles for way less money, thanks to smaller developers being able to sell their games digitally.

      but just as well, we have xbone blurring the lines. part of the deal is a physical product, but its use is truncated of resale value and independence of usage. also, since there hasnt been any talk about how this amazing system allows lower price points than traditional retail sales, its rather safe to assume we wont see less than traditional retail prices for what is less than a traditional retail product. all the while, theres a flood of buzzwords to obfuscate that customers get a menu of the low ends of every stick.

      services like steam are somewhere in the middle. with steam, it is rather clear that you are buying a service-tied rental much more than an artifact that allows you independent use. the price points of their ridonculous sales are adequately low.

      relations of price and product are all over the place, and some players are deliberately opaque about it. im 100% with you, john, that the one thing we can do is pick where price relates well to product, and buy accordingly.

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        “every cartridge i bought i can still play, given i have the necessary hardware, despite all kinds of support for the snes infrastructure being gone for years. that is because i bought the game in a form that allowed use independent from a given service infrastructure”

        As someone else has pointed out – you’re more likely to still be able to play a game purchased digitally in 20 years time than a physical copy.

        You might not need 3rd party servers, keys, accounts etc. but what you do need is working hardware that is compatible with your game media. All hardware eventually wears out and dies, then what?

        Back at my parents house there sits a reasonable sized collection of games from my younger years – spectrum, Amiga and old PC titles. None of which I can actually play, because my Speccies and Amiga no longer work and I don’t have a 5 1/4″ or 3 1/2″ floppy drive for my PC (and even if I did – the games probably wouldn’t work on my current machine). So what advantage does owning the physical media give me?

        • gekitsu says:

          speaking of pc titles and not of specific drm the game itself may employ:

          i am more likely to be able to play the product i can install from a physical medium or the gog-style digitally distributed version whereas steam, origin, etcetera hinges on that service still being available. again, speaking of the form of the product only.

          thats why i made the distinction between titles that are not tethered to the presence of a service infrastructure and titles that are, not between all physical and all nonphysical media. the physical medium itself does not bring an inherent bonus when its tethered to the service, i.e. xbone. it drives up the price needlessly while withholding potential advantages. (it does keep the veneer of a trad retail purchase with trad retail purchase advantages, at a justified trad retail price point, though.)

    • Arkh says:

      I’m right there with you. I only buy games on GOG or Humble Store, and I share them with my friends like I did with my SNES games.

  12. RProxyOnly says:

    Bar some MMO’s and some GOG stuff, my entire games collection is physical, and with the help of ever available cracks I’ll be able to play them for ever.

    • AngoraFish says:

      I would suggest that the limited practical lifespan of your storage media, and the decreasing ability to find and download both cracks and patches, might throw a spanner in the works of your theory.

  13. Brun says:

    It’s suspended in your own account while it’s borrowed, and returns when your chum is finished with it. It simulates a physical book, which short of laborious scanning or photocopying, is absent when borrowed by a friend.

    The XB1′s system could likely support this. The functionality as described in other stories I have read allows you to transfer the game to another person (who pays a fee much less than that of the full price, on the order of $5-10) while your own install is deactivated. Remove the fee and it basically does exactly what you suggest. As to whether Microsoft would support that, it remains to be seen.

    That said, the whole system is designed to kill used game sales first and foremost, and lending is an unfortunate collateral casualty. The biggest losers will be GameStop and co., since they will now have to cut their used game prices drastically to compete with direct resales, especially if the XB1 includes some functionality (i.e. a used game marketplace) to facilitate these sales.

    Actually I take that back. The biggest losers will be things like GameFly and (lol) Blockbuster that do business by renting games, unless they can secure some kind of agreement with Microsoft.

  14. Brigand says:

    The App store allows you share your games with up to 5ish people. Of course, there’s a limited choice of games and you have to own a Mac but yeah I prefer to it Steam.

  15. mrwonko says:

    I like to think of buying stuff as stating “I support this.”

    You usually lend something because you like it, but that doesn’t support it, does it? Still, it’s basically saying “hey, you’ve got to try this!” So it’s more like a demo. In order for it to be fair for creators, when you lend something the receiver should be asked “do you support this?” after a while.

    It’s very easy to forget about the supporting once you’ve had your fun. On the other hand, having to pay up front usually means you don’t know for sure if you support it. (Supporting an idea etc. not withstanding.) So asking at the right time is important. Once you’ve played a while, again once you’ve finished the game?

    And how would your “I support this” look like? A fixed price isn’t all that good, is it? There will be people who can’t afford it but would still like to support you, while some might actually want to pay more. So maybe a pay-what-you-want model would be best? Once you’ve played for a couple of hours you get a notification: “Like this product? You can support us by tossing a few coins our way! Don’t have any money? You could recommend us! ”

    Hmm, I guess if I ever get a nice little game done I might actually do that. I wonder how many people would play along with that. It’s prone to abuse, obviously, but I like to think there are good people out there.

  16. golem09 says:

    Reading the bit before the break made me think that this article is about the announced 15 exclusives for Xbox One.
    Because that was the point that really made me sick about the whole new console generation:
    Braggin with exclusives again. When I thought we were almost at the point where everyone could play most stuff on every system, making it based only on budget and choice what we game, it’s back to the one system that is worse than any DRM out there.

    But of course, if you already know that your new publishing system will be hated by everyone, all you can do is throw more money around to makes stuff only available for your customers.
    I for one don’t get any joy out of knowing that some people get to play “my superior games”, because they bought other hardware than me.

    • Bob Vila says:

      Thats one of the things that really got me watching the xbox announcement thing. People cheered when they announced that they had so many exclusives. What the hell is that? In what way is that beneficial to anyone but Microsoft and maybe the publisher? People are all too eager to get screwed by these practices. Exclusives are bad for consumers, as well as often being bad for developers, and we encourage them just so we can say “haha, you don’t get to enjoy this great game, its only for us elite xbox/ps/whatever owners”.

    • realitysconcierge says:

      That’s actually what got to me the most as well. I think that they have so little value in their system that they fell back to exclusives as a selling point.

  17. MobileAssaultDuck says:

    I don’t think the freedom to share can exist alongside our current patent and copyright laws.

    To me this means we have to light our current patent and copyright laws on fire, then pee on them, then light them on fire again.

    Maybe I was brainwashed by 80s cartoons into thinking sharing is awesome, as some of my greedier friends have postulated, but if that is true I am actually glad I was brainwashed into being a good person.

    I’d rather be modified into a good person than simply allowed to continue existing as an asshole.

    • thegooseking says:

      Let’s not forget that the whole point of copyright in the first place was to share the cost of production of a work, democratising production by breaking its reliance on patronage by the wealthy elite. And developers need to make more than cost back because they need to have a supply of capital to underwrite potential future losses… otherwise risk-aversion in game development would be even worse than it is now.

      Crowdfunding is an interesting alternative. It’s like the benefits of patronage without the negatives: distributed patronage. It doesn’t in itself give you the capital to underwrite risks on future projects, but it is an inherently less risky development model anyway. But I don’t see a $100m game getting crowdfunded, and there isn’t a lot of room there for visionaries. People want to support old stuff that they know and love, not new and interesting stuff. So where does the innovation come from?

  18. S Jay says:

    “Some developers will allow you to give Steam codes to friends, to share the game”

    Really? Wow! This is awesome. Which ones?

  19. Oranje says:

    “…the natural, beautiful human desire to share…”
    vs.
    “At which point he bursts into tears, distraught that he no longer has the toy.”

    Maybe this is off-topic (sense I can’t think of a connection to want to share a game with a friend), but the toddler story suggests that the human desire is to own, not to share. As you describe in the following paragraph, sharing is a learned-trait based on our culture. It has be to taught to the child in order to overcome their natural tendency to possess.

    I do like the idea of a ‘lending’ option in Steam, though. But perhaps the culture of sharing is difficult to teach or inherently incompatible with a profit-maximising entity?

    • Brun says:

      I don’t think it’s inherently incompatible, but technology has created difficult questions such as “at what point does sharing become a public performance?”

    • Vorphalack says:

      Honestly, I think it could be a huge benefit to the business world. Imagine the corporate entity still in the child mind stage of development, reluctant to give anything away for free. Possession and profit are front and center of everything they do, but it blinds them to new ideas, new ways of reaching out to new audiences, and the effect of consumer good will. Eventually, someone will come along and develop a convenient way for gamers to share digital games in the manner listed in the article. I suspect that it will be Valve through Steam. At that point there will be quantifiable data on the effect of legal sharing on game sales. If its a positive effect, every other company under the sun will crowd that bandwagon.

      The question is, will it have a positive effect on game sales? I’m almost certain that it will. Other media have shown that access to a certain amount of free content boosts sales, contrary to the current fallacy that every free access is a lost sale. The best and most cost effective form of marketing is viral marketing, by getting your user base to endorse and share their experiences it drives others to find out what all the fuss is about. Sharing games over a distribution platform like Steam would be the next logical step for publishers.

    • hanneswall says:

      Well if you look at a child as the purest form of a human then empathy could also be seen as an unnatural trait since this is something a child has to learn over time.

      Children are unfinished, both psychologically and physically, and should as such not really be seen as a template for human behaviour. (Not sure if I got my point across there, English being my second language)

      That said sharing is not an act of altruism (In fact, there are quite a few psychologists who even argue that altruism doesn’t exist) since there are all kinds of social rewards to reap benefits from.

    • sophof says:

      The fact that we teach a child certain things does not make it by definition a cultural based thing. Many things are done on instinct, both by the parents and the child. As the person above me has indicated, empathy is a good example. It is something children learn, but it is shared by all humans (except sociopaths and the like). I think it is better to call it cultural if it changes per culture, not if it was nurtured.

      There is not a culture in the world that does not enforce sharing. I would say that is a very clear indication that it is not culturally based, but likely something we evolved. The conflict between wanting something and sharing is not unique. Without the want we wouldn’t have wars, without the sharing, we wouldn’t have families. It is the entire reason humans live in separate groups with conflicting desires and not one big happy family or a huge collection of just individuals.

      • Emeraude says:

        There is not a culture in the world that does not enforce sharing. I would say that is a very clear indication that it is not culturally based, but likely something we evolved.

        I would heartily recommend “Mutual Aid; a factor of evolution” by Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin on the subject. It’s in the public domain too, to remain somewhat topical.

        The fact that Darwin’s view on evolution still for the most part shapes the public opinion of what evolution is, and that Kropotkin’s work remains desperately ignored is a tragedy, I find.

  20. Widthwood says:

    Lack of massive backlash against Steam’s lack of sharing features may be attributed not to people giving up their freedom, but to ordinary laziness.

    Single player PC games in Steam are quite like books that have a text on the first page “By opening this book you agree that its content is licensed to you according to EULA and you can not share it”.

    What would people wanting to share this kind of book most likely do – simply give it to their friend after they are done with it, or loudly demand publisher to stop printing those letters, wait until the book gets rereleased without those letters, and then exchange their copy for the new one and share it?

    • John Walker says:

      But laziness is the means by which we give up most of our freedoms.

      • Phendron says:

        Real freedom isn’t as pretty as the idea of freedom. I don’t think most people understand how much suffering is necessary for freedom to exist.

        • sophof says:

          Freedom and similar concepts have to combat inertia. Changes never come slowly, but always through wars and revolutions. That is not because people are lazy, but because the human mind has to cross a certain barrier before it really starts fighting. It is not like the frog in the slowly heated water (well it is actually, because that’s a myth ;)), humans will eventually always ‘jump’.

          It is not a big surprise almost no one jumps when the concept of sharing a game is at stake, it just gets tallied up in the mind as another restriction, until it boils over. Exactly for this reason the current state of business with entertainment is not something that will stabilize. They will continue pushing until is suddenly breaks.

      • Widthwood says:

        I think this is one of few cases when it eventually does the opposite. Laziness in sharing games nowadays leads to NOT giving up your freedom at the expense of breaking a law (in some countries).

        Steam already showed publishers that digital distribution can successfully fight piracy if it provides better service, in-service sharing is just an extension of that. We do probably need a poster child to show others that it works, but in the end no one will do it if it doesn’t make business sense.

        Loud complaining from vocal few rarely turns corporations around nowadays unless it turns into massive shit storm – and even then its more about publicity than real actions, but silent and constant loss of money year after year due to people sharing through other means very well might.

        Or a law from EU, that’ll work too.

  21. solymer89 says:

    I am the result of time wearing on a conviction. My first Steam required game was The Last Remnant. I purchased the game at my local Best Buy and upon installing it I was appalled that I required this thing they called Steam, just to be able to play my game! With teeth gnashing, I begrudgingly installed this software only to then find out that I required an internet connection just to play this single player game that I bought from a brick and mortar store. WTF!? I did not like it. I was very against it and the only “good” thing I took away from it was that it stored your game key, which I always lost.

    Fast forward to today and I have over 30 unique titles and others that are expansions/sequels all purchased and downloaded from Steam. I have reached an apex in my gaming life that I now require a new experience after a couple of weeks of playing a game. I’ve played more titles then I ever thought I would to this point and spent more money on this hobby of mine then I thought I could.

    I still hate the fact that I don’t own the games I purchased. I don’t like that I don’t get a nice colorful box with art and the booklets that came with them. I love that I can browse, see something I like, then have it by only waiting a few hours for it to download.

    It’s a double edged sword but in the long run I think this current system works much better for the developers and has opened the possibility to take back gaming from the corporate misers that are only interested in making $$$.

  22. Bhazor says:

    So the takeaway from the final paragraphs of the article is “Lets have more restrictive DRM”?

    • John Walker says:

      Your capacity to understand the opposite of everything we write would be almost impressive. If it weren’t so numbingly tedious.

      • Bhazor says:

        But slightly frustratingly, there’s a simple answer out there, already being used by a huge and notoriously vicious sector of the copyright industry: books. Kindles feature the ability to “lend” books. It’s suspended in your own account while it’s borrowed, and returns when your chum is finished with it. It simulates a physical book, which short of laborious scanning or photocopying, is absent when borrowed by a friend. And it’s a system people tend to be very happy with.

        It’s a system that absolutely should be featured on Steam, Origin, UPlay, etc etc.

        If thats not asking for even more invasive DRM I don’t know what is.

        • Phendron says:

          Your current Steam gives you a total of ’0′ shares. John is advocating ’1+’ shares. More intricate, but less restrictive.

        • NathanH says:

          Yeah, just adding the lending ability to Steam as things stand now would cause a lot of trouble. Particularly for the sorts of games you play intensively on release until you finish it and then stop. You could simply buy the game, download the game, set Steam to offline mode, log on to Steam on another computer, and lend the game from there. You and a friend get the pleasure of simultaneously playing a newly-released game without both having to pay.

          Presumably if the lending feature can only be activated say 28 days after purchasing the game this wouldn’t be so much of a problem. Of course it is still trivial to abuse the system via offline mode but perhaps not many people would do this.

          • Widthwood says:

            That’s not a problem.

            Obviously they can put additional reasonable restrictions on lent games, since you are not selling them. For example, they can demand both accounts to be online when lending happens, and another steam account gets the game only when your steam deletes the game from the system and sends the confirmation (that would be a massive source of bugs though). Or a more simple and less reasonable way – you have to be online when lending, lent games are forced to have a timeout (e.g. max 30 days), and until every game is returned you can’t use offline mode at all.

            Trickier part would be stopping people creating random accounts, buying popular game, and then immediately lending it for several bucks.

            With enough accounts this can become quite profitable. Naturally lots of people will start doing it, lowering lending fee to absolute minimum, and essentially lowering game’s worth to maybe a dollar or even less.
            To keep that unofficial lending fee high they would have to force lenders to spend more time for a single lend, maybe by saying “”you can’t lend a game that has less than X achievements completed” or “X hours played”. Both very hackable of course, and very annoying when you want to lend a game you hated.

            The only semi-adequate way I can think of is having a minimum purchase-to-lend interval at 2-3 months or so. Still will suck when you want your buddy to play an awesome game you just finished, and still won’t stop exploitative lenders tho.

          • Grape Flavor says:

            @Widthwood

            Yeah, they could try and set up some kind of arcane system of lending rules like that, or, you know, people could just buy the damn game if they want to play it. Sounds more hassle than it’s worth, to me.

          • JackShandy says:

            Your friend could go through that intricate series of actions to play the game for free, oooooor they could just pirate the game.

            If people want a free game they’ll take it, regardless of how tight the sharing system is.

    • Incision says:

      No, the takeaway from this entire article is “WAAAAH!!! The freeloading that is the used games market may be over!! WAHHHH!”

      Honestly, people who try and defend the used games market are complete fucking morons whose inability to think is killing the livelihoods of the developers whose games they claim to love. And all the while, they whine like a mule about the big bad publishers.

      It boggles my mind that these people manage to play a game and breathe at the same time.

      • SwENSkE says:

        Seriously, it boggles my mind that you’re obviously able to write. Although your writing doesn’t make much sense.
        If the so-called second hand market (or lending/sharing games) would really be such a huge problem for the gaming industry (btw – the devs take the short stick anyway, the only ones who MAY make more money are the publishers) I really have a problem to understand how said industry could survive for more than 30 years now.

        • Incision says:

          Yes, and at no time during that period have developers gone out of business due to piracy or denial of revenue due to the used games market. None of them have ever dropped platforms either. No, that never happens.

          So your basic reasoning is essentially “There’ll always be a games industry so who cares if a few developers go broke.”

          Brilliant reasoning there, Sherlock. No doubt you’ll be one of those geniuses whining about “lack of support for (platform/genre of choice)”.

      • sophof says:

        For some reason it is always the stupid that are the most condescending of all. Your ‘argument’ is (extremely) flawed, but your attitude means you will never know why. Even if someone explains you why, you will probably simply decide they are wrong, before trying to figure out how exactly.
        Congratulations I guess.

        • Incision says:

          Every single argument advanced in favour of the “selling a game is my right” position are so clearly obviously flawed and yet they’re defended to the death using every trick in the book. The blatant dishonesty speaks of minds simply unready to mature and behave like adults.

      • Jim Dandy says:

        Yeesh, Incision, you’ve got some serious communication issues. Also, ‘whine like a mule’? I guess it makes about as much sense as the rest of your post which, incidentally, renders your sobriquet somewhat malapropos. I’d suggest something more indicative of a blunt instrument wielded indiscriminately. Hammerstorm maybe, or Brickpuker? How about Dickhead?

  23. slerbal says:

    This is why I never pay more than £5 for a game on Steam because I am treating the game as a rental.

    If publishers and developers are going to insist that you don’t own your game then I refuse to pay full price. Economically it only makes sense if I compare it to rending a DVD or equivalent.

    Ultimately I think a lot of the games industry (an film, television and publishing industry) fails to understand this basic economic fact that the more they restrict the game the less valuable that game is to the player, therefore the less the publisher is going to earn.

    When I was in the games industry I did make this mistake myself. Now I am an author I make sure that all the ebook versions of my novels are sold at the equivalent of a rental fee (around 25%) of the paperback price and that they contain no DRM so can be shared with friends and family. Plus I give a free ebook copy to everyone who buys the paperbacks – because frankly it is the decent thing to do.

    If I could trade my games as the EU ruling insists (and which everyone is ignoring until it goes to court) I would certainly consider paying more for the games.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      If you were being morbid you could say that everything you ever own is only a rental…

      But shorter term you could say that my copy of Grim Fandango on CD was a rental, I’d just love to play but can’t. Physical media is no guarantee of ongoing usability in any practical sense.

  24. ResonanceCascade says:

    I disagree.

  25. takfar says:

    You could share a steam account with your father/brother/girlfriend/dog/parrot, you know. You can’t both use it at once, but you could have an account to share single player games which you would play in alternation, and then you’d each have a personal account for multiplayer games, in which you would both buy and play a game at once.

    As someone else has said, I view buying a game as “I support you” message for the devs (even though, I know, the publishers take a large portion of my money, and seriously f*k the publishers). If the price being asked is compatible with my drive to play a certain game, I’ll buy it. Some I’ll buy for full price on launch, some I’ll buy at 75% discount on Steam.

    If I really like a game, I’ll tell a friend: “This game is really good, you should play it, go buy it”, because the devs deserve that much. I used to pirate lots of games when I was young and broke… now I’m almost 30, got a job, steady income, and so do my friends. What’s the problem with me *sharing* that money with the devs who actually worked on the game?

    • John Walker says:

      You are not everyone else.

      That’s probably relevant here.

      • Widthwood says:

        I like your articles, but these kinds of short “you are wrong” responses are really upsetting.
        Why waste your time writing negative responses that add nothing to the topic?

    • Widthwood says:

      Fun thing about steam is, when you buy from it a self-published game you actually support developer, not a publisher. Its not the same developer that made the game, but still, you are probably funding the development of Episode 3 :)

    • Emeraude says:

      “You could share a steam account with your father/brother/girlfriend/dog/parrot, you know.”

      Not allowed by the Steam EULA. You’re in breach of contract if you do that.

  26. Drake Sigar says:

    I’ve been fighting tooth and nail for years! You have no idea how many classics I missed (starting with Half Life 2 and it’s Internet requirement not mentioned on the box) or how many times a month I check Amazon hoping to see a boxed release of an Indi game (StarDrive, Walking Dead, and Masters of a Broken World this month, woohoo!).

    Inbefore someone says ‘You haven’t bought the game, you’ve only bought the license’ without having any idea what that means,

  27. Jimbo says:

    Complaining about it won’t change anything.

    • slerbal says:

      Really? Seriously? You really think complaining won’t change anything? I think you will find that complaining is exactly what will change things.

      Businesses in particular require customers, and any business that ignores the valid complaints of its customers for too long won’t stay in business.

      • Bhazor says:

        any business that ignores the valid complaints of its customers for too long won’t stay in business

        Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… oh that’s a good one… ha ha… wait you’re serious? …bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

        • Lawful Evil says:

          Agreed.

          • Milky1985 says:

            Actually its true, but it takes longer for the bigger companies, it starts out with the informed customers who keep up with X market and it slowly trickles down to the less informed customers, but it does happen.

            EA would make a lot more sales if they didn’t continuously act like to pricks to basically every market. Even the casuals and the Fifa fans have started to notice that they just churn stuff out with no new content, why do you think they shut down the Fifa servers so quickly now compared to the start of the generation.

            I’ve reached the point where no EA games will be purchased now because of the levels of asshattery they are exhibiting at the moment over the used game market and Nintendo (I’m now thinking that the falling out with Nintendo from EA is because Nintendo told them to go fuck themselves when EA wanted this used game sales system put in place)

      • Phendron says:

        The problem with freedom in the gaming industry is that the core consumer market is a placid, shortsighted, unconscious lot. The nature of the industry is providing escapism to disenfranchised people, people who would rather pump hours into dragon slaying than be conscious and capable of action against corporate exploitation. Sure, EA or Blizzard will drop the ball with some bad drm ideas and get put in the pillory for a couple of weeks, but then it’s back to the same routine.

        I firmly believe that gamers don’t want rights or freedom as much as they want their vice. At the end of the day, our wallets are lighter and we still get to binge on our entertainment.

        • Jimbo says:

          Or they just don’t assign much value to being able to lend games? And they recognise that whatever value that does have, the absence of that right was already accounted for in the price they agreed to pay? People aren’t weak or stupid just because they don’t consider a term of sale to be as important as you do.

          Nobody is having their freedom ‘taken away’ here. Game creators have the freedom to offer access to their game with conditions x, y & z, and every single potential customer has the freedom to not take them up on that offer. If they freely choose to give up some of their freedom by agreeing to those conditions then that’s their business surely. The only ‘taking away’ of freedom here would be telling game creators they must only offer their game in a certain way or not at all.

          If somebody understands that they aren’t allowed to (or don’t even have any way to) lend, agrees to the transaction on those terms and then still proceeds to complain that they can’t lend, that person is just an idiot. If they lost some freedom here it’s because they made a choice to give some of it away, not because the evil games industry took it from them.

          • Phendron says:

            I don’t understand your position. Are you saying that there is no problem or that no one should take action to the problem?

          • Jimbo says:

            I’m saying there’s no problem. And if there is a problem as a result of somebody agreeing to terms they were fully aware of but aren’t actually ok with, then the responsibility for that problem is entirely on them, not the party who proposed the terms.

            My first comment was merely to point out the hypocrisy of an RPS article like this given their freedom of speech policy (in short, you don’t have it) which concludes with ‘Complaining about it won’t change anything’.

            You should fight for your rights! err… just not here.

          • Lawful Evil says:

            I agree. I do not see any problem worthy of mentioning here.

    • Sakkura says:

      Then drag Valve before the European Court of Justice and kick their ass. Should be pretty easy seeing as there’s clear precedent.

    • Jimbo says:

      What? I was just quoting RPS’ other stance towards giving up your freedom. The one everybody commenting here acquiesced to.

  28. ZHsquad says:

    The only games I’ve bought for Steam are HL2 and the Orange Box. I despise the fact that I can’t share my games anymore with my Dad. He used to finish a game and then give it to me, it was great. Now you can’t do that. I’m sad I can’t use a lot of games now for this very fact but I truly do not like this fact. But, not everyone is willing to stop buying games if they’re on steam (it’s stupidly annoying). But publishers won’t budge.

  29. golem09 says:

    I don’t think this is the way that the console world will go, but what all this comes down to in the PC market:
    Ridiculously low prices. WIthout this account binding DRM, those prices wouldn’t exist.
    But now that they do exist, I can try out much more games than I usually couldn’t.

    I have to say I’m quite happy how things turned out with steam.

    And if you honestly think about it, what is the difference between two people that played the game for free, when one stole it, and one got it from a friend?
    One was fortunate enough to have that friend, the other wasn’t. That entitles the one with the friend to get something for free that other people paid for?
    On the contrary, if you don’t have that friend, you are a bad pirate for stealing it, and other gamers will be mad a at you for abusing the system and not supporting the developer.

    Of course I lend stuff too. The system Microsoft has set up is the reason for me to never buy that console, no matter the exclusives.
    But I think I stopped bullshiting myself. I don’t do this, because it’s morally right to be able to lend my friend stuff, and want to protect my human rights to shar.. It’s because I wan’t shit for free. Because I’m just as greedy as every other person on this planet. But of course people don’t like that concept of themselves, because they are always the good ones. And getting to this point of view could be very hard for most. So let’s protect our birth given right to always be in the right about stuff that gives ourself the greatest advantage.

    • Christo4 says:

      Well then i guess that if someone steal a car and someone gets a car for free from a family member/friend it’s the same thing. I should just steal a VW since a cousin got one for free right?

    • golem09 says:

      So let’s protect our birth given right to always be in the right about stuff that gives ourself the greatest advantage.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      Excellent post. Always good to know there are still some sane people here.

    • basilisk says:

      Thank you for this.

      I believe there’s something of a philosophical leap you have to make when considering this issue, in which you simply have to forget everything you knew about physical ownership (because pretty much nothing of it applies to digital in any meaningful way) and look at this new reality unbiased. And what you posted is pretty much the conclusion of any sane analysis.

      Now I’m not saying this is the only way it could work. People are surely going to invent new pricing/sharing models suited purely for the digital age (pay what you want is already a minor economic revolution), but for the traditional licensing type of deal, tying purchases to a person’s account seems only fair towards those who make the content. And it can drive down prices considerably, so in that sense it’s a win-win. You only lose some perceived freedoms which you never had in the first place. Neither in a legal and (arguably) neither in a moral sense.

      • nil says:

        “some perceived freedoms which you never had in the first place.”
        Speak for yourself. My systems are configured to protect my own interests, and I take a dim view of those who would infringe my freedom to ensure they continue to do so.

        • basilisk says:

          And guess what, content creators also have their “systems configured to protect their own interests”. That’s the whole point.

          There is no “freedom to share”. There never was. There is a first-sale doctrine, but that just won’t work with digital goods.

          • Emeraude says:

            Not only there is freedom to share, it is the default state.

            As for your assumption that first sale doctrine doesn’t apply to physical goods, relinking this to disprove you: http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2012-07/cp120094en.pdf

          • nil says:

            When the bits they arranged are loaded into my hardware, it’s pretty far from “their” system. Freedom to copy, let alone share, is the default – the state of nature – when it comes to digital information.

          • basilisk says:

            Emeraude: This does not disprove anything. Yes, the principle still applies, but quoting from that judgment:

            Furthermore, the Court states that an original acquirer of a tangible or intangible copy of a
            computer program for which the copyright holder’s right of distribution is exhausted must make the copy downloaded onto his own computer unusable at the time of resale

            Emphasis both mine and theirs. This bit is what makes the doctrine highly problematic in the digital world, because it’s absolutely impossible to enforce this without some pretty restrictive DRM (time has shown quite conclusively that an honour system will not work, full stop). Hence, your argument for freedom pretty much ends up promoting DRM. Are you sure that’s what you wanted?

            nil: But their work lies precisely in the arranging of the bits. Everything else is quite irrelevant. I am saying that for their efforts in arranging the bits into this particular shape which I like, they are entitled to ask for some compensation from me.

          • nil says:

            They may ask, just as they may decline to arrange, or to make available, in the first place. But buying legislation outlawing specific configurations of my own systems? Promulgating same through “free-trade” pacts? I’ll keep my freedoms, thanks; the law be damned.

          • Emeraude says:

            @ basilisk

            Apologies, I misread your “but that just won’t work with digital goods.” as “but that just won’t apply to”, which is what I was addressing, if you reread that post.

            I *do* agree that the current situation *is* highly problematic.
            As I’ve been saying since Valve announced their idea of Steam Marketplace (secondhand or otherwise): the amount of DRM – of power over the market – we’d have to give to Valve for this to work would be reaching – on some level maybe exceeding – governmental level.

          • gwathdring says:

            @nil

            I’m somewhat confused. From my perspective you seem to conflate your system and their data at various points.

            Would you agree that the creators have a right to expect compensation before you acquire their data? And would you agree that distributing that data as though you were the originator–without compensation to the true originator–is unfair?

            I agree that we should be able to configure our system however we choose. But I think we have to honor our agreements, too. Given an easily readable, reasonably clear contract (i.e. not a EULA), I should be expected to obey it’s terms before accepting data onto my system. Disliking the terms should not be grounds for acquiring the data without the originator’s permission.

            What I’m getting at practically: I should have a right to physically modify all hardware and software that I own. I should have a right to copy and modify all data in my possession so long as it is in my possession legally. But supposing I agree to pay a reduced fee for a digital movie with the caveat that I have to delete it after 2 hours. It should not be illegal for me to develop a hardware or software solution that would permit me to copy the video by circumventing their data protection scheme, but it should be illegal for me to actually use it to obtain their data in violation of my contract with the company.

            This is all dependent on clear contracts. It should be legal to circumvent DRM, but illegal to violate contracts of sale so long as they are reasonable and within the law–and I think rental contracts and subscription services and licensing services are reasonable and that they should be within the law. I think it makes for poor products, but I don’t think always-online DRM is unethical or a violation of consumer rights so long as it’s presence is clearly presented and honestly explained. Similarly, if it is the clear intention that the user be able to possess the game data on their machine for an indefinite period without further payments, it should be within the users rights to modify that data and remove any DRM so long as they do not obtain data not permitted to them or distribute data they are not permitted to distribute.

            Basically, I think data originators have a right to control who possess their data, and for how long. MMOs could have simpler contracts, for exmaple, that stipulate how long game data may be leant to a user for a given payment plan. Data consumers have a right to control how they use their data so long as it remains legally within their possession. Games companies shouldn’t be able to legally bind me to control how I play their game in a legal sense; they’re welcome to enforce rules on their servers in MMOs or other multiplayer games, but they are not welcome to prosecute me for modifying a non-subscription game to work offline.

            Obviously loggon systems and DRM can enforce these agreements and provide the company with assurance … but the contract should only be legally binding with respect to the possession of the relevant data and never it’s use.

            The exception is, of course, when the data is never possessed by the user. In a cloud based service I can reasonably claim that the user is not intended to possess the cloud-side data, and as such it is just a service being sold. I have a right, then, as the provider of the service to determine how the service may be used. When I provide both service and product, it is unreasonable for me to control how the product is used–again, I have every right to control behavior on company-run servers (that’s the service aspect) but not behavior on the user’s own computer (modifying and copying files, playing offline) save where that behavior infringes on my right to just compensation for the data I originated.

            This is my personal, ideal working model of how the gap between digital and physical goods can be bridged.

  30. i saw dasein says:

    I don’t really mind the evolving license model of software “ownership.” It’s true that purchasing a license instead of a good outright gives me as a consumer a less valuable interest in the software: I can’t resell it, share it, modify it, and so on. But the purchase of a license has a lot of benefits. I no longer have to worry about storing, moving, or preserving a piece of physical property. I can access my license at any time from any machines. And most importantly, the price of software seems to have gotten a lot cheaper. So while I can’t share my copy of Half-Life with my brother, it’s trivial for me to buy him his own license. I’ve found the same to be true of ebooks and music: music is anywhere from 50% to 90% cheaper as a digital license compared to its price as a physical good.

    In a world where even relatively new releases cost 5$ in a Steam sale, I find it hard to worry about used sales or sharing.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      It’s not about cost, it’s about entitlement. Sure, you could wait till a game is on sale for $5, or you could buy it full price at launch, but I want it at $5 at launch wah wah blub blub! and then sell it when I’m done! It’s this attitude that on sole virtue of a consumer being interested in something, he/she has a right to have it exactly on whatever terms they so desire, and if that right is denied them, then it’s oppression!

      Also very interesting how when it comes to piracy, people are falling all over themselves to say that’s its not theft because one is a physical good and the other just data, and they’re different – and they have a very valid point – but then when it comes to sharing and transfer rights, suddenly the way everything worked back in the days of pre-Internet physical media is the gold standard and must be continued at all costs, even though things are totally different now.

      It just goes to show, that like many things, this has nothing to do with intellectually consistent principles and everything to do with simple guarding of interests. Just that whatever advances my interests is right (even if it screws over the other guy) and whatever limits my interests is wrong.

      • nil says:

        If you want to emulate the artificial scarcity of physical objects, at least have the decency to be consistent and admit the consequences that entails.

        Myself, I’m quite happy treating nonexcludable bitstreams transiting my excluded (by construction) computation, storage, and communication hardware as different in kind, and I’ll do with them as I please; and this is stronger than a “right;” it’s a brute physical fact.

  31. FakeAssName says:

    Speak for yourself on that “no resistance” issue; I own all of five games on steam, three were accidental in that I didn’t know Dark Messiah was steam, misread the fine print on Darksiders, and retardedly forgot the Orange Box would require it.

    Shadow of cherbobyl I have since replaced with a non steam version, leaving Zeno Clash …

    Whether or not my resistance is futile remains to be seen, but GOG sure likes it.

  32. derbefrier says:

    I dunno it doesn’t seem so bad to me. I mean I am not a big fan of always online drm and stuff like that but something like what the xbone is doing(xbone, heh) doesn’t seem to bad to me. I assume its the equivalent of steam where each account has to have it own unique key to access the game. I mean hell i put up with it already. In the age of digital distribution when “lending a game to your friends” can mean “lending it to the entire internet” people who earn money selling something you can now very easily, get for free is a scary thought. I think we also sometimes forget this is all relatively new and people are still figuring things out. It may get worse before it gets better but I think because of a free market and well, the vast amounts of information consumers have now thatnks to the internet everyone will be able to find something they can live with i means we have things from steam to GOG already and many indie devs release games DRM free so I guess I think there’s really nothing to worry about.

  33. Sakkura says:

    The EU has already told Valve to make it possible to sell used Steam games. So your premise is wrong there. Also makes the occasional EU-bashing by RPS seem a bit silly. The EU is a GOOD thing for gamers.

  34. AIAndy says:

    The problem is that the customer protection laws have not evolved along with the changing ways that customers acquire things. Probably because customers don’t have the lobby or money to push for that kind of law.
    Of course it depends a lot on the law system if the old laws can still offer some protection and even more so if they can be enforced.

    In German law for instance if you misapprehend a treaty when you sign it, you can go to court for it to be undone. And the software companies claim that they sell you software all the time (just look at a random games selling site). Sometimes you even buy it in a shop like regular goods. So were you not misled into thinking that you make a regular purchase and not just license something (with numerous conditions that are often not even visible when you make the purchase)?
    The problem is of course that the amount of money that is on stake in each case is too little for a full blown legal case so I don’t think this has ever been properly evaluated by the higher courts.

  35. mickygor says:

    Quoting a socialist on freedom…

    • Gap Gen says:

      Socialism serves the economic freedom of the working classes, and classical liberalism the economic freedom of the upper classes, both to the detriment of the other. And then there are many flavours in between, such as social liberals such as Mills who argue that classical liberalism will lead to a bad society due to inevitable mass poverty and income inequality, regardless of how hard-working people are, but who don’t promote state control of all economic activity as is the extreme cas. Suggesting that socialism as an economic model is opposed to freedom belies a very poor understanding of how societies operate.

      • mickygor says:

        Or, y’know, classical liberalism. Besides, in a classical liberal model, the poor are still free. They just happen to be poor.

        • Gap Gen says:

          I dunno. Were the factory workers in Victorian England free because they had the choice between doing a terrible, life-threatening job or starving? Remember that access to capital is economic freedom, and capital tends to be easier to accumulate if you already have it. I’d argue that people in a social liberal state are on average freer than people in a classical liberal state because the social programs are designed to give them more opportunities that the free market doesn’t afford them, and to prevent destabilising inequality.

          • Strangerator says:

            Socialism imposes hard caps at either end of the freedom scale. You have to decide if you like this or not. However, the problem comes when you realize that the bottom and top “freedom caps” in any given socialist system are not constant. That is, you can only ever have as much freedom as an arbitrary authority allows, or perceives as acceptable.

          • Gap Gen says:

            1) How are you defining freedom? Free in what sense? Am I freer if the train line I’m riding on I’d owned by one company or a government agency? Am I freer if I have to pay a company over the odds to grant me health cover than if the government does it automatically? (Note, I live in the UK and am largely a fan of the NHS).
            2) Socialism isn’t authoritarianism. I’ve lived in Britain and France, both of which are socialist to large degrees and both of which were instrumental in developing the modern ideas of democracy and liberalism.

          • mickygor says:

            I’d argue the opposite. The choice between working and starving is still a choice. Where’s the choice of the people whose assets are stolen to fund the nanny state? Where’s the choice of the person who’s wound up falling into the benefits trap and managed to worm their way out, to keep their earnings and prevent themselves falling back in?

            At least in a classically liberal society, you still have choice. there’d be no protection racket masquerading as the state, and you’d be free to shape your own destiny. Equality of outcome is a noble aspiration and all (well really it’s not, but plenty of people think it is), but equality is not liberty.

          • Muzman says:

            You make it sound like power cannot accumulate anywhere else but the state. And that the state is the only factor in preventing social mobility of any description.
            The Classical Liberals did have some belief in democracy (for men who owned property at least)

          • Gap Gen says:

            I’m still not sure what you’re defining as freedom, so there’s a limit to how I can reply. However, your specific case about choice to pay taxes is easy – canvass government for taxation reform if you believe in the power of democracy, or emigrate if you don’t. Also, don’t use any government services like schools, the fire department or the police.

            Equality of opportunity *is* a question of liberty, because if people don’t have an opportunity to do things then they aren’t free. It’s also worth noting that even a classical liberal state has to impose rules, because capitalism can’t work if I can just take a rock, kill you with it and take your stuff. So again, I’d be interested to hear what you think freedom is, because absolute freedom to do whatever you want isn’t possible.

            The thing about taxation is that I don’t care about paying tax because I get paid enough. The problem with the US is that wages have frozen in real terms since 1980 or so. Ironically, when taxation in the US was much higher (1930s to 1970s), people had a much better standard of living because of the effect of wealth redistribution. The funniest thing about the US for a European is how the poor and working class have been convinced that they are middle class and thus this wealth redistribution is against their interests. Well, OK, tragic for them, but eh.

        • SwENSkE says:

          Poverty is Freedom

          WAR IS PEACE
          FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
          IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

          Are you working at Minitrue?

    • RanDomino says:

      Utah Phillips was an Anarchist, not a Socialist in the big-government sense.

  36. Gap Gen says:

    So aside from this being a power issue, and publishers not wanting to relinquish power, there is the issue that copyright is broken in an age when copying gets easier and easier. And society should probably find an actual answer before 3D printing pushes back the list if commodities that can’t be replicated. Except we won’t, because the extant power structures will be threatened by such a reform and so will rather have insane solutions like DRM than find a good fix, even if it hastens their fall.

  37. PikaBot says:

    A counterpoint: I may not be able to share my digital games, but I am also assured that I will not lose them – assuming my distribution method does not die out, but I’m not worried about that.

    I have played a lot of Warcraft III in my time, and in that time I have had to purchase the game and it’s expansion no fewer than three times apiece, between Los and broken discs and lost CD Keys. I don’t have to worry about that with Steam. It’s a tradeoff, but one that’s served me well.

    • vivlo says:

      actually, you can – even if i’m not sure you could at the time you’re talking about – register your Blizzard games on their site, which adds them to a kind of library, from which you can download any of the installers you won – you then have to use your cd key to install the game, but i think the site stores the cd key too. It’s not an application like Steam, just online account – oddly, it’s kind of an exemplary way of managing customer game’s properties….

  38. Yosharian says:

    Sorry but there is no real reason for you to be able to lend copies of your games to other people. I’ve always borrowed console games from friends, and vice versa, and I never once thought that it was a ‘right’ of mine to do so. It was _always_ cheating the system to get something you hadn’t paid for.

    Reselling games is a little more problematic but really I see this problem as games being viewed as consumables, where you consume your little game experience and then move on. Truly great games are ones you want to own forever.

    Also, used games isn’t the biggest problem for the consumer, it’s massively overpriced games that’s the problem. PC games, thankfully, are fairly cheap by comparison.

    • Christo4 says:

      I guess that parents buying food is also cheating the system. Kids should buy their own food!

    • John Walker says:

      It genuinely gives me the chills to see you write that.

      How fucked up have things become for you to believe that your decision to purchase an object then imposes upon your rights. Brrrrr.

      • Bhazor says:

        And what about the rights of the content producer to protect/control distribution of their product? People always seem to forget their rights

        • The Random One says:

          Their rights end at my rights to not have to play twister to partake of the media they have created.

        • GH Moose says:

          Nobody has forgotten their rights. Their rights were in full force when the product was purchased. But you’re purchasing a product. Yes, they’re trying to redefine that as a license, but it’s fundamentally a product in operation. And everybody knows it, that’s why they’re trying to further redefine it as a service, but without any of the actual ‘service’ associated with an actual service, and none of the concern for actual customer service that implies. They are, in most cases, just trying to redefine a purchase so some people will accept restrictions that are counter-intuitive and nonsensical.

          Tell me, do you make sure you send a check to the builder every time you stay in a hotel? The owner doesn’t. Do you send a monthly check to the builder in addition to your rent? The owner doesn’t. Do you send a check to the cars manufacturer when you buy a used car? The owner doesn’t. Do you send the publisher and author a check for every book you’ve ever borrowed from a library or used in a school?

          Why should software inherently increase the rights of the creator beyond that which is clearly traditional and, I daresay, reasonable? It shouldn’t, in my opinion, and it’s quite reasonable to say that it’s only happening because we, as a collective, are letting it. As stated above, this has become an issue of freedom – your rights are being eroded. Resist.

          • Bhazor says:

            When I purchase a book I do not own the words in the book. I own the book. When I buy the license for a piece of software I do not own the coding of the software. I own a license.

            This is the way it’s always been. It’s just now manufacturers are in a position to enforce it. When you bought it on a CD you did not own the code on it you merely owned the right to use it. The only difference is that to remove my license back then the maker would have to physically take it from me.

        • Yosharian says:

          Ugh, I’m agreeing with Bhazor? Now I feel a little dirty inside =p

        • Emeraude says:

          And what about the rights of the content producer to protect/control distribution of their product?

          Not the right, the privilege granted by the social body to one of its minority, at the expanse of the majority.

          • SwENSkE says:

            Clap Clap Clap Clap Clap

          • Jimbo says:

            No, that principle protects the interests of the consumer (majority) as much as the creator. Without it nobody would bother creating anything* in the first place, which hurts everybody.

            *anything which takes a lot of effort and resources to develop but virtually no effort or resources to reproduce an infinite number of times.

        • Muzman says:

          You mean all those massive laws they keep passing to change, expand, merge all legal precedent of copyright into one and spread it internationally and for all time? Bending copyright out of all intended shape and proportion? Those rights?
          Oh yeah, real easy to forget. No one’s ever thinking about those at all with all those massive new bills that are proposed annually. Copyright is like poor little Cozette weeping in rags, dying alone from lack of care and attention.

      • Grape Flavor says:

        Gives you the chills, eh? Poor fellow, you have my sympathy. I know what that’s like, I too feel almost ill when I read certain opinions. In fact, you’ve been writing some of them.

      • Yosharian says:

        This is not about rights, but about what’s morally right. If I buy a product from someone, I do not then have the right to give that product to whoever I want so that they can experience a product they didn’t pay for. I’d do it in a heartbeat, and have done in the past, both ways, but I would not for a second believe that I had the _right_ to do so.

        The line becomes murkier when reselling physical games, as then it is a bit fairer to expect some rights. However, it’s absolutely understandable that publishers want to protect their investments from this kind of thing. If there was a way to legimitately transfer ownership through certain systems in an ‘official’ manner, then this type of transaction would be fine, however that would obviously then open the door to the publishers taking their ‘cut’, which would fuck the middleman, i.e. Game, Gamestop, whoever.

        • nil says:

          ” If I buy a product from someone, I do not then have the right to give that product to whoever I want so that they can experience a product they didn’t pay for.”
          Yes I do, and stopping me from doing so is morally wrong.
          Duplicating it and giving them a copy is where things get murkier.

        • SwENSkE says:

          Edit: Sorry, misread…

        • Muzman says:

          You’re injecting absolute morality into an economic exchange that has taken many many forms over the last 150yrs or so. We can’t really pretend this reflects the tradition or that its suddenly inflexible. It’s a new thing that various groups have been trying to assert into law ever since digital came along (and they’ve rewritten copyright law in order to do it), piggybacking onto some sort of weird pure capitalist econo-morality that has grown in acceptance.
          This doesn’t make it real or the only choice in the matter. It only actually works if you privilege individual exchange above all other forms of ownership and possession and there’s nothing intrinsic about that to digital product or licensing. People have just tried to insert that that’s the way it is because that’s the way that they want it.

        • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

          > If I buy a product from someone, I do not then have the right to give that product to whoever I want so that they can experience a product they didn’t pay for. I’d do it in a heartbeat, and have done in the past, both ways, but I would not for a second believe that I had the _right_ to do so.

          Yes you do. It’s hard to state this strongly enough: you have the right to dispose of property that you have purchased as you see fit. This right is fundamental to all property rights, even to the entire concept of property. It’s been recognised by civilisation pretty much for as long as there has been civilisation.

          There are, of course, exceptions and exclusions to this right, as there are to any—but they are exceptions. You’re not permitted to sell alcohol to someone under 18. You’re not permitted to sell a car to someone without notifying the government of the change of owner. You’re not permitted to build an extension to your house without getting planning approval. You’re not permitted to reproduce the words in that book in a non-transformative way. But they are exceptions, and always far more limited in scope. The right is primary, the exceptions are secondary.

    • Koozer says:

      Yeah, it’s like those scumbags down at the library that just give away books for free to anyone who wants to read one! A real travesty.

      • Yosharian says:

        A book != a piece of digital entertainment, analogy fails

        • nil says:

          My local library lends both. Analogy holds.

          • Yosharian says:

            Irrelevant, the analogy does not hold, digital content can be copied endlessly, and therefore is not subject to the same rules as normal content. This is obvious. Also, literature is an entirely different medium. Not many people are interested in either copying, or purchasing digital copies of Wuthering Heights.

          • nil says:

            Analogue content can be digitised, it merely costs more.

            Probably because Wuthering Heights is older than Mickey Mouse, and thus out of copyright.

          • Yosharian says:

            But the analogy does not hold primarily because the demand is not there. Pirated, used or ‘lent’ copies of the latest Call of Duty are far more in demand than any book.

            Furthermore digital entertainment at the library isn’t the majority of their content by any means.

          • nil says:

            Hence “analogy”, not “equivalence”.
            Good point, though. I wonder how long the reserve list is for the latest CoD.

    • Asherie says:

      I see where you’re coming from and despite the backlash I will no doubt get, I agree. I think when we play through a singleplayer campaign and then never play that game ever again, that game can be compared to a hotdog, rather than a piece of furniture. I paid for it, I -experienced- it, I enjoyed it. If anyone else wants to enjoy that product they should pay the people that created it. The problem currently (from the developers point of view) If everyone organised themselves properly, only one person needed to buy [insert storyline driven single player campaign game], complete the game, sell it on for £1, repeat this until everyone in the entire world has played the game, the developers are out millions and literally sold only 1 copy of the game while everyone in the world made enough money to fund the game (collectively) HAHA,. This is not acceptable/moral. That is an exageration of course but if 1 in 5 people lend their game, and half those actually enjoyed it and would have bought it, the loss of sales build up. If everyone paid for their 8 hour long campaign game, the price of the game could be lower. As it stands 2nd hand sales and lending are factored into the price to begin with. The game creators -know- that a portion of people will lend the game, or trade it in. So to combat that games cost £45+ because that’s the real price of 3 people playing it. If 100% no one could lend, or trade in their games (or pirate), game prices would go down. Or rather they wouldnt have gotten as high in the first place. Competition between developers would drive keep the price low (in comparison to now). Single player campaign games could be much cheaper. Sandbox games like Minecraft are traded in less because you are always likely to want to play it again in the future, the makers know this and so can afford to sell the product for less. This debate doesn’t really affect such games.

      TLDR: story driven single player campaign games shouldn’t be lent to friends, it’s not fair on the people that made the game. It’s even more unfair to resell that game. It’s akin to watching a movie at the cinema, going back in time, and giving your ticket to a friend to see it. You are hurting yourself because you are constributing to the rise in game prices, and hurting the developers.

      PS it’s irrelevant that we can currently lend books and other physical objects. Just because we -can- get away with it now, doesn’t mean it is ethical. It’s just hard to enforce any sort of copyright rules on a physical object. If chair makers could have it so when you buy a new chair your old one is destroyed rather than sold on or given away, all chair prices would go down because the seller isn’t losing as much money on 2nd hand sales that he sees no money from.

      -edit- Reply-fail. This is to the original person in this mini-discussion.

      • The Random One says:

        I would also be complaining about hot dogs if they cost as much as a closet.

        • Grape Flavor says:

          Surely you are not so silly as to not realize that a hot dog can be made much more cheaply than a AAA video game.* If hot dogs cost tens of millions of dollars to produce I would be less upset if they tried to charge $60 for it, I think.

          Besides, it’s not really about the cost, is it? Certainly not in this digital distribution era where $60 games can be had for $5 if you wait for the sale. Let’s be honest here. It’s about the idea that the consumer, by merit of his/her mere interest in the product, has the inherent “right” to acquire whatever product they want, when they want, for whatever cost they want (or no cost at all), how they want, and then is free to do with it whatever they want and reproduce it however they want. And the corollary being that the people who labored and invested to create the work are to have virtually no enforceable rights at all.

          That’s what this is about, as far as I can tell.

          *saying that you personally do not care for AAA video games is merely changing the subject.

      • Yosharian says:

        Ok, but I’m not sure I agree that it particularly contributes to the rise in game prices. As we’ve discussed before, piracy rates don’t exactly reflect ‘lost sales’, more ‘sales that would nearly all not have existed in the first place’. Publishers are not in the position to claim the rising price of games is due to piracy. Rather it’s due to excessive development costs (for all the wrong reasons) and corporate greed. As well as just simple price gouging, sometimes.

  39. xalener says:

    Then again you could always trade your actual steam account with your real close friends.

    Not defending steam’s bullshit, but it’s that simple.

  40. Yehat says:

    I’m not sure I agree with the notion that sharing or reselling something over the internet can be compared to doing so with physical goods. If you’re selling a retail copy of a game to someone, you need to actually deliver the copy to the other party which requires at least some effort, especially if they live in another country or somesuch. The internet on the other hand is an apartment block full of neighbours ready to sell their unneeded games with minimal fuss.

    Digital distribution is fundamentally different from retail distribution, I think, and when it comes to digital reselling I feel that the risks of prices rising considerably and indies (especially those making “weird” or obscure games which many people aren’t ready to buy for the full price since they’re not 100% sure of what they’re getting) losing sales they desperately need outweigh most other concerns. Sharing might work, though. No doubt there would be all sorts of community sharing sites, but they still wouldn’t be as convenient as piracy if you want to get free games.

    Blocking the sharing and reselling of physical copies or revoking access to an account full of games because of a forum ban or a multiplayer ban in one of the games is total bs, of course.

  41. The Sombrero Kid says:

    With steam it was give & take, with the consoles it’s always just take, pay more subscriptions, higher prices, stop trading it in, but no you still have to get it from the high street retailers, no independent games for you, arbitrary hardware changes render you back catalog unplayable, never mind buy the ‘HD’ remix.

    Consoles are designed from the ground up to be about lock in, they’re designed to have the only virtuous part of capitalism taken away from you, you’re ability to vote with your wallet.

    IMO when you’re taking something away from people, people will be OK with it if the value proposition is there.

  42. Muse says:

    I think you might be making too many assumptions about the degree to which companies like Valve and Microsoft can legally divest you of your ownership of games.

    I AM a lawyer, and though I admit that copyright and intellectual property are not my field, I casually follow these sorts of issues as best I can. I’m not sure that there has been very much in the way of legal precedents regarding what the consumer can and cannot do with a piece of software, versus what the copyright holder can do with it (at least in the US).

    And, in my opinion, the copyright holders are nervous — extremely nervous — about this issue. I’ve actually gotten Valve to validate a code to a used game before, just by threatening them. I flat out told them that I had legally purchased the disc, I had the CD key and all of the documentation, and that they had no right to stop me from accessing the software that I had legally purchased.

    And they caved. They asked me to send them the manual with the CD Key on it. I did so, and they transferred the game to my account.

    It may very well be that the courts will validate their view (I personally have very little faith that courts in the United States will not prostrate themselves before any corporation that asks), but this is far from settled.

    • John Walker says:

      Well, I’d suggest that the actions taken by the RIAA and MPAA in suing tens of thousands of people for sharing music/films online could be an example.

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        Are you suggesting that reselling or lending the single copy of software you’ve legally bought to someone else, is the same as uploading it onto the internet and giving it away to free to anyone and everyone who wants to take it?

        The actions of the RIAA and MPAA being stupid, pointless and draconian not-withstanding, these are not the same thing.

        • John Walker says:

          No, I’m not suggesting they’re the same at all. They have many similarities of course, but they’re not the same.

          • Ergates_Antius says:

            I’d argue that technology aside they don’t really have that much in common at all.

            One is working withing the concept framework of property and ownership, the other is working against it.
            One is considering a game to be a tangible “thing”, the other is considering it to be nothing more than a collection of data to be duplicated and distributed on a whim.
            One is a reasonable thing to expect to be able to do with something one has paid for, the other isn’t really (especially as one probably hasn’t paid for it in the first place…)

          • The Random One says:

            From a technological point of view, though, both of them consist of taking a file from the hard drive of someone who has purchased it and moving it to that of someone who hasn’t without paying or notifying the distributors. The only difference is volume.

            Which interpretation do you think corporations will try to enforce?

          • Ergates_Antius says:

            In technological terms, yes. In commercial terms, no. Not only do the volumes make a huge difference, but there is commercial precedence for lending – Bosch won’t go out of business if you lend/sell your neighbour your drill.

            Bringing up the actions of the RIAA and MPAA just muddies the waters and actually weakens the argument for the reselling/lending of games by association. You can disagree with what the corporations did and the way they went about it, but it’s hard to argue that the people who distribute films/games/music they don’t own to thousands/millions of others, for free, aren’t doing *something* wrong on some level. These aren’t people you want on your side in your fight for your consumer rights – they’re just freeloaders.

          • Grape Flavor says:

            @Ergates_Antius
            You’re wasting your time with John. Bring up something else, like all those filthy moochers unfairly bilking him out of ad revenue by using adblock on RPS. You’ll have more luck with that.

        • Jim Dandy says:

          Ergates, you said:

          ” Bosch won’t go out of business if you lend/sell your neighbour your drill.”

          So, globally, we have (using entirely arse-derived figures for illustrative purposes) 5 million drill-owners lending their drills to 5 million neighbours. Are you seriously suggesting that Bosch and their shareholders aren’t interested in increasing their profit by selling 5 million extra units? I’m fairly certain that if they could find a way to force those extra sales they would – maybe a Butcher’s Bay-style DNA lock would do the trick.

          You and Grape (and Incision, if the rabies subsides to a manageable level) might find this interesting:

          http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/IPR/pdf/ipr03.pdf

          IPRs are complex, with sometimes counter-intuitive results. Chang is mainly concerned with the relevance of IPRs to developing economies, but the general concepts he’s talking about are relevant to this discussion. What seems an obvious ethical issue is not so clear-cut when you look at its history and application.

      • Grape Flavor says:

        Someone did something illegal and they actually got sued for it? Terrible! What has the legal system come to, enforcing the laws on the books? Tyranny I say.

        In a fairer world laws would be merely voluntary and be required to hold no consequence, civil or criminal, for flouting them.

        • nil says:

          In a fairer world, copyright would not perpetually extend to cover a dead man’s cartoon mouse.

        • Emeraude says:

          “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

          • Grape Flavor says:

            Haha, okay, I got a kick out of that one.

            Nonetheless, if the law is unjust, then it should be changed or repealed, not selectively enforced based on who the violator is, or the personal opinions of the authorities charged with maintaining the law.

            That undermines the entire point of having of laws in the first place. Rule of law over rule of man is a decision few would want society to go back on.

          • Jim Dandy says:

            “not selectively enforced based on who the violator is”

            Grape, may I point you towards the link in my post above? It turns out there are some quite convincing arguments for the selective enforcement of IPRs. Obviously a few hours of entertainment are not comparable to AIDS treatments for developing countries, but the ethics of denying access to products on a monetary basis are vastly more complicated than you seem to realise.

  43. Consumatopia says:

    You know what I’d like to see? I’d like the game industry die. Replace the whole mess with hobbyists maintaining old games and creating new ones, the new ones usually being terrible but occasionally good. It would be more fun to share things as a community, even if graphics and content never progressed beyond the state they are today, or even regressed. And the immense amount of brain power spent on creating games as a commercial endeavor would go solve some actual problems in the real world.

    So when people tell me piracy is killing the industry, I always think “if only”. Same thoughts on all the other entertainment industries as well.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      I get a kick out of people who say they would like nothing better than to destroy the entire hobby they claim to be a fan of, in favor of some extremist ideological pipe dream. Why you’re commenting on gaming sites instead of some other group more suited to your tear-it-all-down interests, though, is beyond me.

      Seriously, I’m sure you can find some other forum positively full of nutters who would like to see the world, or parts of it, burn for whatever reasons. Why come on a gaming site to say it, though? Just to upset people?

      • Consumatopia says:

        Do you ever say something non-idiotic, Grape Flavor? I don’t want to destroy the hobby, I want to save it from the industry. It’s the industry that’s tearing everything down, replacing fun with hype, community with commercialization, sharing with paranoia, freedom with surveilance. I’d rather play with a community of friends sharing fun things to do that they had found or created, even if their graphics don’t keep up with Moore’s Law, then keep chasing the shiniest toys inside a Doritos-branded panopticon.

        Community is awesome, industry is boring. More power to anyone who’s working to destroy the latter. If some soulless industry suckups are upset by that, good–people like you are the ones destroying the hobby.

        • Phendron says:

          Where there’s interest, there’s money. Wishing for an anarchist decentralized coding cabal isn’t going to change the fact that a new Madden is going to come out every year.

          What you described basically already exists in the indie scene, it’s just marginalized by the juggernaut that is Big Gaming.

          • Consumatopia says:

            In the counter-factual industry-less world, there would still be continually updated sports games. In fact, they would be better–you could insert any team you wanted, filled with whicher players you wanted. These games would probably be more “simulation” oriented, in that coachesmight actually participate in their development and use them for training purposes.

            But, yeah, I’m not saying that my desires have any hope of happening, but it completely changes the context of intellectual property arguments. ‘Without maximalist copyright our industry would collapse.’ Like I said, if only. I’m sure the industry would find some way to survive if all copying were, rightfully, legal. But where or not it does, I certainly shed no tears for it, and I see no reason for my freedom to be infringed or our communities fractured just to sustain a system I don’t even approve of.

            That’s not to say that I approve of piracy–I don’t think it’s killing the industry, in contrast I think that by stealing this crap they give legitimacy to it.

  44. paranoidandroid42 says:

    So what am I suggesting? That we should all boycott these systems? But then we’d not have access to so many games we want to play. And that’s true, and I’m swayed by it. But I’m also acutely aware that the degree to which I’m resisting is defining the degree to which I’m free. And I don’t feel very free.

    Well, call me a cynic, but continuing to buy products from people you claim to loathe does not strike me as an effective way to induce them to change their behavior. There are a panoply of options for gamers who do not want to deal with DRM, including GOG, independent devs who self-distribute, and so on. Putting a greater share of your money towards such services, and encouraging others to do so (here you have a special advantage the rest of the gaming public does not, John), may eventually pressure bigger players in the industry to slide in that direction as well.

    Of course, that may not happen. But at the end of the day, these companies make money by selling their games to their customers–so if you can’t drum up enough support for a successful boycott movement, then that would suggest that most gamers either do not care about this issue, or do not care enough about it to affect their purchasing decisions. So why should your preferences be given priority over the preferences of others?

    As an aside, how do online games fit into your paradigm? Your argument (and this is a gross simplification, I will admit) suggests that I’m being ripped off if I pay for any game that I could not dig out of my attic and sell at a garage sale fifty years from now. Wouldn’t your agrgument imply that companies should (or should be forced to–it’s not entirely clear to me from the text of your article if this is a “there oughta be a law”-type argument) keep up servers for their online games in perpetuity, since otherwise I will be “robbed of my freedom (to keep playing that game)” at some point in the future?

    • Grape Flavor says:

      John seems to assume that because he is outraged about something, society is or will be outraged about it too, if only he can bring it to their attention.

      The self-selecting nature of people who continue to come here will disproportionately slant towards agreement in the comments, but the evidence suggests that gamers at large, though, seem quite happy with Steam and will continue to be.

      Hey, by all means, avoid or boycott something if you don’t like it. That’s your prerogative. Post about it on the internet. But if millions of people love something you hate, whether it be a game or a service or whatever, that’s also their right to support it.

      Live and let live, that’s how I see it. For example, I don’t agree with some of the stuff on this website, this article included, but I’ve never once suggested that they don’t fully have the right to post it.

  45. Eddy9000 says:

    John I think you’re forgetting that Steam does let you share the games you have bought with friends – by inviting them round to play the game on your own computer, perhaps knocking back a few beers, playing some music and generally hanging out and being sociable. If they like what they play of the game so much that they want to play it more round at their own house on their own then why shouldn’t they pay for it? I honestly don’t understand how people will take this big anti-piracy stance but then argue that someone should be able to play a game through without paying for it because their friends have bought it.

    Also I don’t know that much about Steam validation but if you like your friend enough to lend a game to them couldn’t they just use your Steam account and arrange to play it when you’re offline, like when you’re out for an evening or away on holiday?

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      And have them overwrite your save games and soil your carpet? What madness!

    • John Walker says:

      First of all, I take absolutely no anti-piracy stance, so there’s that.

      And secondly, huh? I could invite my friends around to listen to me reading a book out loud, but I don’t think that is mutually exclusive from my also lending them a book to read when they get home.

      • Grape Flavor says:

        Oh yes, I know, John, and I respect you the less for it. God forbid someone block your ads – the injustice of it! But game developers expecting gamers to give something back when people enjoy the fruits of their hard labors and vast expenses? You can’t be bothered to mumble even a few words of vague support.

        I doubt I’m the first one to notice the bitter irony of your entire livelihood being based around this industry whose rights you have no concern for, your audacity in getting all mad when someone cuts off YOUR revenue stream, and your hypocrisy to the effect where losing the “right” of resale and expecting each player to pay for his/her own copy is terrible oppression, but that expecting anybody to respect the actual, legitimate copyrights of content creators is the same.

        As a fellow thoughtful type of conscience and principle, I hope you can try to understand how articles like these make me feel genuinely guilty that I haven’t installed an ad-blocker yet to prevent you from getting paid for this kind of stuff. I know that wouldn’t seem fair to Jim and the gang, but really, something must be done, and besides, they’re enabling, so that makes them complicit.

  46. Ein0r says:

    Just stop it already; Give up. Resistance is futile. Just give it.. mm… 10 more years until the next generation makes their own purchasing decisions on the internet. They wont care anymore about rights taken away because until then they wont have any rights left.
    Stuff like Acta, or getting obsered by your Kinect, or probably not being able to use your console if you dont allow it to get internet access every 24 hours are already here. Not many and not fast, but they come. Over and over again. Until even the hardest defender will either give up or are decreased to such a small minority that they will get laughed at.

    Nobody will care anymore about “sharing media”
    Yea, i am pretty pessimistic, but there is nothing here at the moment that could make me optimistic about it.
    “If i read some forum rules that state that, “whatever you write into said forum is not your intelectual property anymore but the sole property of Company X”, why should it already stop there? Just spread it out to every single media.

    Sharing is caring. But the number of people that care is already decreasing pretty fast.

  47. AstroNerdBoy says:

    > Our willing allowing of the PC gaming market to become unshareable makes us all complicit in this erosion of freedom.

    I wrote something similar last year, noting that the same people who decry limitations placed on movies, TV shows, & music are fine with even more severe limitations being placed on games. I’ve never understood this. It is amazing that the game industry has achieved what the other parts of the entertainment industry have not been able to do…yet.

  48. psepho says:

    This is great. I’m totally with you on the notion of Kindle style sharing.

    It is the issue of access that makes it so blurred. Giving up access so someone else can have access is one thing. However, duplication, as you say, starts to look a lot more like simply distributing someone’s product. The fact that we have to artificially create barriers to access (account suspension for lent games) simply in order to replicate a pretty basic human behaviour raises some really interesting questions about the extent to which technology has put us outside our social/economic/legal comfort zone.

    I hope you push this discussion — it can be one of RPS’s missions for 2013.

  49. strangeloup says:

    Something that I think could work would be the ability to sell Steam games that you’re finished with to a friend. The charge could be somewhere between 10-20% of the game’s current price, with a cut going to Valve. You don’t have to keep a game you don’t want anymore — god knows I’ve got enough I’m never going to play — your friend gets a game they want for a song, you get a couple of quid out of it and so do Valve. Who loses here?

    • Asherie says:

      The original developers lose out. If there were only 5 people in the world, and 2 of them made a game for the other 3 to play, in exchange they wanted a watermelon from each person (so they want 3 watermelons). The other 3 people grew their own watermelons for a living, so survive. The 2 people that created the game starve because only 1 of the 3 paid for their game, then lent it to the other 2. Rewind a bit, and this time the 2 game developers know in advance that the 3 would share the game they create, so they make the price of the game 3 watermelons. Multiply this up and it is actually how it works. We pay a lot more for our games than is necessary so that the developers don’t lose as much from lending and 2nd hand games.

      ps so basically if steam allowed for this trading used games system, no matter the cost, the price of our games would go up to compensate for the estimated loss in trade-ins. Anyone in that situation who doesnt aqquire their game 2nd hand, or trades their game with someone loses the most money(price of game+estimated loss of income from the trading feature)

      • MentatYP says:

        I replied to you further down in a different thread, but since I’ve now seen your reasoning in action I’ll elaborate here. Your model would work if not for the fact that corporations are inherently greedy by nature and would have no incentive to lower prices in your scenario. Less money lost to used sales and piracy (debatable, as I would contend that without the potential for used game sales they’d actually get less sales at their initial asking price and very few converts from the ranks of pirates, but let’s roll with it for sake of argument) would simply mean more money in their pockets, not lower prices for us. That’s not being cynical–that’s just the way business works.

        • i saw dasein says:

          First, competition between publishers would provide downward price pressure.

          Second, removing the ability to sell used games mean that, all other things equal, consumers will buy fewer copies of the game. This is because consumers will pay more for a good that carries a right of resale compared to the price they will pay for a good that does not carry that right. If publishers wish to sell the same number of games as they sell now, they will have to lower prices.

          • Blackseraph says:

            I find your reasoning unlikely, besides even if true price would most likely still be more than for used games now. So What exactly would be the benefit for consumers.

          • i saw dasein says:

            Steam and similar services offer a number of benefits to the consumer. I no longer have to worry about keeping and preserving physical media, I can download and redownload my purchases easily and to any number of machines, I get access to all of the steam infrastructure, and so on. And in my view, prices will fall significantly, as they have on PCs as digital distribution has become the norm.

            But really, I think that’s a bit beside the point. For me, the question is whether a consumer and service provider should be able to agree that the service provider will provide a non-transferable license, and the consumer will pay for it. I’m perfectly happy to buy a non-transferable license, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to buy it. If you don’t want to buy that license, then your answer is simple: don’t buy it.

        • mickygor says:

          If people are willing to pay the ripoff prices, they’re clearly not ripoffs. That’s what they’re worth.

  50. mattevansc3 says:

    These aren’t new policies though, maybe they are to console gamers but not to PC Gamers. The XboxOne is operating like a PC, the disc is there to install the game,not play the game. The only difference is that the CD-Key is on the disc and auto-registers it to the Xbox Live account instead of requiring you to key it in during the installation.

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