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R-F
25-07-2011, 04:20 PM
I was just wondering what RPS's views on DRM are (I can already imagine, but eh), and I - personally - wonder why they even bother with intrusive DRM.

I can understand "minor" DRM, like CD keys and the like. It's a mild protection of investment that, whilst easily cracked, pushes away lighthearted non-bothersome pirates that would rather pay than mess about with it.

I can also understand the usage of multiplayer as a form of DRM. Additional content in order to force the player into buying the game is perfectly understandable and pretty much acceptable. It's fair to both the company and the player to use this method.

But then we get into the harsher DRM. Stuff like Securom or Ubisoft's DRM system (lol Assassin Creed 2) which are far harder to deal with as a regular customer. Forced registration or being online when trying to play a singleplayer game are just terrible things, especially when you realise that pirates do not have to deal with these issues.

The companies claim that it's to prevent piracy (which it never does, maybe casual pirates, but usually not even them) but most people suspect that it's to prevent resale. You can't sell something properly if the other person doesn't get a real product.

I'm fairly certain, however, that this level of intrusive DRM forces more people into piracy than it prevents resale. It's like burning the bushes behind you to get someone out of cover and then blanketing the world in thick smoke. It's just plain stupid.

What do you all think? Is this just braindead retardation on the part of the companies, or is there some genius sinister force at work here?

agentorange
25-07-2011, 04:24 PM
I must be the only person in the universe who has never had significant issues with DRM of any kind.

ColOfNature
25-07-2011, 06:47 PM
Nah, I'm the same. I listen to everyone bewailing DRM and all I can think is "meh, not my problem". Of course, now that I've said that every single game is going to stop working.

Nalano
25-07-2011, 06:50 PM
I'd like to see a day where a car you lease stops working the moment the weather screws with the 3G as it checks to see if you still have "rights" to the car.

I'd stake out a spot by the highway and laugh and laugh.

ColOfNature
25-07-2011, 06:56 PM
I don't drive.

Nalano
25-07-2011, 06:59 PM
I don't drive.

I fail to see how that stops you from understanding the analogy.

ColOfNature
25-07-2011, 07:16 PM
It doesn't, but the analogy is pointless. Firstly, do any car-hire companies actually use such technology? And simply saying "it's bound to happen" doesn't count. Secondly, being deprived of a computer game is hardly the same as being stranded by the roadside with a knackered motor. And thirdly, just because I'm not organising a lynch mob doesn't mean I'm not bothered by the issue, but frankly I don't see that it's going to change. DRM is a fact of life, it's not going away, and getting bolshy every time it's mentioned is a wasted effort.

When I slink into the forum and ask for help getting a game to work due to dodgy DRM feel free to lead the pointing and laughing. Until then, and as long as we don't go back to rootkits and DRM that actually breaks peoples PCs, I have no problem with games phoning home when I fire them up - although I'd look askance at one which insisted on being connected for the whole session - because I don't play games on a PC which doesn't have a permanent internet connection, and while I understand that there are those who do, well... meh, not my problem.

Nalano
25-07-2011, 07:17 PM
It doesn't, but the analogy is pointless. Firstly, do any car-hire companies actually use such technology? And simply saying "it's bound to happen" doesn't count. Secondly, being deprived of a computer game is hardly the same as being stranded by the roadside with a knackered motor. And thirdly, just because I'm not organising a lynch mob doesn't mean I'm not bothered by the issue, but frankly I don't see that it's going to change. DRM is a fact of life, it's not going away, and getting bolshy every time it's mentioned is a wasted effort.

When I slink into the forum and ask for help getting a game to work due to dodgy DRM feel free to lead the pointing and laughing. Until then, and as long as we don't go back to rootkits and DRM that actually breaks peoples PCs, I have no problem with games phoning home when I fire them up - although I'd look askance at one which insisted on being connected for the whole session - because I don't play games on a PC which doesn't have a permanent internet connection, and while I understand that there are those who do, well... meh, not my problem.

Methinks you're reading a bit too much into this.

Point was, we don't "own" the games, we "lease" them, and the lease can be terminated at any point for any reason. Traffic safety concerns aside, I'm just applying the same rules to a different market.

ColOfNature
25-07-2011, 07:26 PM
Has that been tested? If a publisher decided to unilaterally revoke my right to use a game I'd be looking for recompense, and if they did it to enough people they could be looking at a class action. Shutting down mutliplayer servers for years-old games is one thing, but I can't see them throwing the switch on an entire game. The backlash when that happens would cripple Twitter, for one thing.

Kody94
25-07-2011, 07:34 PM
I must be the only person in the universe who has never had significant issues with DRM of any kind.

Same here. The only time I've ever had an issue with DRM is when I lost the CD codes to Nox a few years back. I guess some of the more outrageous DRM (such as Assassin's Creed 2) can cause issues, but personally I've never encountered any problems.

Besides, if you have a problem with DRM then the logical thing to do is refuse to buy the game and bring the practices to light while using alternatives like GoG, freeware games, games without DRM (like Galactic Civilizations), etc. Whining about the problem and then forking out $60 isn't going to convince them that their practice is unacceptable, and pirating the game is just going to make devs more frantic to step up DRM.

I don't think it's a complicated problem, but I believe that the people who crusade against DRM are the very contributors to the "problem".

TheLastBaron
25-07-2011, 07:38 PM
Methinks you're reading a bit too much into this.

Point was, we don't "own" the games, we "lease" them, and the lease can be terminated at any point for any reason.

It could, but it wont.

Nalano
25-07-2011, 07:40 PM
It could, but it wont.

Except when it is.

Kody94
25-07-2011, 07:41 PM
Has that been tested? If a publisher decided to unilaterally revoke my right to use a game I'd be looking for recompense, and if they did it to enough people they could be looking at a class action. Shutting down mutliplayer servers for years-old games is one thing, but I can't see them throwing the switch on an entire game. The backlash when that happens would cripple Twitter, for one thing.

I can't think any time this has been tested, but honestly I can't see it happening any time soon. The second someone denies a purchased (leased) product to the client, public outrage would cripple, if not collapse, the company. Although I agree that the idea of "I'm renting a copy of the game" conveys a sense of "we're allowing you to use this product, with some restrictions" the fact remains that we are the paying customers and if we're screwed over enough or barred access to what we payed for, it's not going to be a good day at the office for publishers or gaming platforms (Steam, Impulse).

deano2099
25-07-2011, 07:47 PM
Has that been tested? If a publisher decided to unilaterally revoke my right to use a game I'd be looking for recompense, and if they did it to enough people they could be looking at a class action. Shutting down mutliplayer servers for years-old games is one thing, but I can't see them throwing the switch on an entire game. The backlash when that happens would cripple Twitter, for one thing.

There's a sizable minority that have had their entire Steam account banned and lost every game on there.

No-one has tried doing it to everyone yet, but it does happen. And as all the people that defend Steam make perfectly clear in the internet whining that follows: the EULA says it's perfectly fine for Steam to do that.

Some of them probably deserved it (hacking, pirating, etc) but that shouldn't be Steam's decision to make. In the same way Sony can't come around and take your TV back if you're found guilty of speeding.

The thing is, yes, it'd be awful business for any company to do that on a large scale, so they probably won't, will they?

And that's true but it's not how the world works. If I order a game from Amazon, Amazon can't just decide not to send it to me and not give me my money back either. There are laws in place protecting me and they're there for a good reason. The fact that if Amazon suddenly decided not to fulfill 20% of their order at random, everyone would stop buying from them, isn't considered a sufficient deterrent by any sense of the word.

And while most people engaging in digital distribution at the moment are fairly clued up, when it takes off, the lack of any legislation protecting it is going to make it a haven for scammers.

ColOfNature
25-07-2011, 08:01 PM
Mail order is already a haven for scammers, there are plenty of fly-by-night companies out there. That's why you go to Amazon.

As for the Steam accounts shut down by Valve, are there any statistics on how many of them were shut down without reason and never reinstated? You do hear fairly often about this, but there's never any context. Why were they shut down? Did the owners do something that warranted it? What does in fact warrant that kind of punishment? Is it even legal, regardless of the contents of the EULA? Just because the service is digital doesn't absolve the provider of a responsibility to the customer, and I'm pretty sure the law would agree with that.

Kody94
25-07-2011, 08:14 PM
A quick Google search brought up some random incidents of people reporting banned accounts, but I didn't see any studies or credible reports on the issue.

Mistabashi
25-07-2011, 08:26 PM
The companies claim that it's to prevent piracy (which it never does, maybe casual pirates, but usually not even them) but most people suspect that it's to prevent resale. You can't sell something properly if the other person doesn't get a real product.

While I'm sure crippling the resale market is a factor in the descision to use DRM, I would say that it's main purpose is to prevent "day-1 piracy". Major publishers make most of their money from games in the first weeks or months of release, and DRM systems usually add a significant delay before cracked versions are available, so it makes perfect commercial sense for them, even if they do lose a few sales because of it. The most important thing to them is that their core market, in most cases 16-25 year olds who are well within their means to buy the game at full price (of have their parents buy it for them), don't have the option to download the game for free at release.


With regards to publishers revoking access to games: it happens all the time. Think about APB or Hellgate:London (although in both instances it was due to the developers folding, but people had still put down significant amounts of money up-front and ended up with no game shortly afterwards).

EA also regularly "retires online features" of many of it's games (probably numbering over a hundred to date), which may not be a complete denial of service but it's removing the ability to use a significant portion of the game.

Drake Sigar
25-07-2011, 08:30 PM
I want to be able to boot up a game decades from now with only a few minor tweaks. This sounds insane, but I’ve been doing just that. Modern DRM makes that scenario… uncertain. Will the company continue to support it? Will there be a patch for games which require a constant online connection to servers long since gone? Will I have to phone up customer service and say “hello, twenty years ago I bought a game from you and now I’d like my activation limit raised.” I just don't know, man. I just don't know!

Nalano
25-07-2011, 08:32 PM
While I'm sure crippling the resale market is a factor in the descision to use DRM, I would say that it's main purpose is to prevent "day-1 piracy". Major publishers make most of their money from games in the first weeks or months of release, and DRM systems usually add a significant delay before cracked versions are available, so it makes perfect commercial sense for them, even if they do lose a few sales because of it. The most important thing to them is that their core market, in most cases 16-25 year olds who are well within their means to buy the game at full price (of have their parents buy it for them), don't have the option to download the game for free at release.

I still say that if the company is relying on Day-1 sales, the company is trying to sell an inferior product. "Quick! Push out as many copies as possible before they discover it's shite!"

But that's neither here nor there. The point I'd like to convey is that the company is not on my side - that is, the side of the consumer. The company doesn't care if, for whatever reason, my access to the game is revoked. Be it by thunderstorm or whatever. The company only cares that it got my money.

After all, when access to my game is revoked, they still have my money.

Kaira-
25-07-2011, 08:41 PM
Yes, I can understand why companies would place online-reliant DRM on their games - it seems effective, and it apparently doesn't hurt sales too much. I am also quite interested to know what would be the first case of online DRM in games, would that be Half-Life 2 and Steam or was there some game else before that?

As for my personal position towards DRM... I don't like it, in any form. I can tolerate some forms of it better than others, but generally, I try to buy my games DRM free even if it costs me more than version with some DRM. I rather buy games with DRM which doesn't require any form of online as compared to, say, Steam or online activitations. And from that point on, I'll rather buy game with just online activation as compared to constant online connection, online when starting the game or requiring a third-party client. There is no way I'd pay full price for a game, even indie, if it's tied to Steam or any other 3rd party client, not to speak of constant online required. Online activation... well, only game that requires online activation that I've bought full-priced was The Witcher 2. I don't want to rely on a third party to give me access to my games.

ColOfNature
25-07-2011, 08:48 PM
With regards to publishers revoking access to games: it happens all the time. Think about APB or Hellgate:London (although in both instances it was due to the developers folding, but people had still put down significant amounts of money up-front and ended up with no game shortly afterwards).
MMOs are kind of a different deal. The subscription model puts them on a different footing to traditional, pay-up-front games.

deano2099
25-07-2011, 10:15 PM
Is it even legal, regardless of the contents of the EULA? Just because the service is digital doesn't absolve the provider of a responsibility to the customer, and I'm pretty sure the law would agree with that.

It probably is legal. It hasn't be tested, and would depend when you live. The thing is that there are no laws to deal with it because the law isn't set up to deal with digital distribution and large-scale consumer licensing. There's simply no way the likes of what Valve can do will be legal in 20 years time. No way. The law will catch up and do something. But it's still niche enough that for now no-one is legislating. And so Valve basically have an EULA that says they can do what they want.

Now in the UK, one could argue that the transaction on Steam, where you agree to give them money and they agree to give you nothing in return (sure, in reality they give you access to games, but they don't ever actually agree to that) falls foul of the Unfair Terms in Contract Act, which has a provision for hugely uneven contract agreements. But it's never been tested. One could also argue that Steam selling 'games' and saying you 'own' a game when they're only selling licenses may be something for advertising standards.

None of that has been tested, and if Steam only ban one or two people then no-one will ever have the money or time to take it to court. But this sort of thing can be legislated, and with all the stuff about cloud-computing and so on being such a big buzzword it will be. And making a noise about can have an effect because the more we do that, the quicker we can get such legislation through. Honestly the best thing you can do is write to your MP and ask him to ask in Parliament what they intend to do about consumer protection legislation for digital purchases.

TillEulenspiegel
26-07-2011, 12:43 AM
The thing is that there are no laws to deal with it because the law isn't set up to deal with digital distribution and large-scale consumer licensing. There's simply no way the likes of what Valve can do will be legal in 20 years time. No way. The law will catch up and do something. But it's still niche enough that for now no-one is legislating. And so Valve basically have an EULA that says they can do what they want.
Amen. Based on my fuzzy understanding of law, I think they're getting away with the justification that they're selling you a service. It's legally correct, but it's not the common perception; digital goods are things you should be able to own.

I'm fairly optimistic about the future, especially with the trend towards ebooks that will inevitably affect everyone. People should be annoyed when they're told, no, you can't buy a book anymore, you can just buy a license to read it. But the alternative dystopian future (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html) is quite possible too.

Kody94
26-07-2011, 01:33 AM
I agree that Steam's control over their digital goods is restrictive at best, but I'm also wary of involving government legislation. If governments can dictate what is a service and what is an item, some serious exploitations can spring up. For example, if its decided that digital games are purchased items, free to be used in any matter seen fit by the owner, then whats stopping the people from demanding subscription magazines or cable television be considered the same? If we legally "possess" games that have no physical representation, then why can't we legally possess a subscription that has no physical representation, with no limitations placed on us by contracts? Obviously this would be inconvenient for the companies running these businesses.

My point is, if we have legislators grabbing digital distributors by their ears and saying "no, THIS is how you do it", then not only does this strip the distributors' rights of controlling their businesses but it also opens the door for more government regulation in private businesses.

I still believe that if the issue becomes widespread enough, people are going to naturally demand a change in policies or we'll stop paying for your product, without governments interfering.

Nalano
26-07-2011, 06:33 AM
I agree that Steam's control over their digital goods is restrictive at best, but I'm also wary of involving government legislation. If governments can dictate what is a service and what is an item, some serious exploitations can spring up.

So, uh.

How does a lack of gov't oversight not leave everything open for exploitation?

It's not like exploitation exists because of regulation. Exploitation exists.

Ravenger
26-07-2011, 08:50 AM
The only form of DRM that really works is zero day piracy protection where the executable or other vital files don't ship with the game. That can be as simple as just requiring the user to download a patch manually on release, or an automated activation system like Steam.

The reason is that a lot of piracy happens because games are leaked somewhere along the distribution chain. All it takes is for a single copy of the game to leak and shortly afterwards thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people are pirating it before it's available in the shops, which can have a big effect on sales. This is much, much more prevalent on consoles than PCs these days, purely because nearly all PC games have some form of zero day piracy protection. Even the much praised 'DRM Free' GOG version of The Witcher 2 used such a system.

But to be honest I'd not really have problems with even fairly draconian DRM if it were patched out a few months after release, after the peak sales period had passed. By that time it the DRM has served its purpose, and you're only inconveniencing your customers and creating support issues for yourself by refusing to remove it.

Kody94
26-07-2011, 06:20 PM
So, uh.

How does a lack of gov't oversight not leave everything open for exploitation?

It's not like exploitation exists because of regulation. Exploitation exists.

No government intervention: people decide they don't want to put up with Steam's policies, Steam loses business, Steam changes policies.

Government intervention: government forces Steam to obey government's definition of digitally distributed games, government now has a foothold on the market and can dictate what is and isn't "correct" in digital distribution. Steam loses basic rights to operate their business in the manner of their choosing.

Gentleman Jim Stacey
26-07-2011, 06:29 PM
I must be the only person in the universe who has never had significant issues with DRM of any kind.

This

10char

deano2099
26-07-2011, 07:27 PM
No government intervention: people decide they don't want to put up with Steam's policies, Steam loses business, Steam changes policies.

Government intervention: government forces Steam to obey government's definition of digitally distributed games, government now has a foothold on the market and can dictate what is and isn't "correct" in digital distribution. Steam loses basic rights to operate their business in the manner of their choosing.

People won't decide they don't want to put up with Steam's policies though. Because Steam, on a whole, doesn't abuse the power it gives itself. The big players that are legitimately trying to make money don't need to be regulated. But say Gabe Newall decides he's had enough and wants to retire. He could turn off Steam tomorrow and take all the cash and there's no law in place right now that stops that.

Will he do that? Unlikely. Will some other unscrupulous twat set up a business with the intent to do just that - trade legitimately for a few months and then run off with the cash. Most likely.

deano2099
26-07-2011, 07:29 PM
I must be the only person in the universe who has never had significant issues with DRM of any kind.

I've never had an operation so I don't get why we all need these hospitals? And I've never been burgled so I don't bother with possessions insurance.

Mistabashi
26-07-2011, 07:48 PM
People won't decide they don't want to put up with Steam's policies though. Because Steam, on a whole, doesn't abuse the power it gives itself. The big players that are legitimately trying to make money don't need to be regulated. But say Gabe Newall decides he's had enough and wants to retire. He could turn off Steam tomorrow and take all the cash and there's no law in place right now that stops that.

Will he do that? Unlikely. Will some other unscrupulous twat set up a business with the intent to do just that - trade legitimately for a few months and then run off with the cash. Most likely.

I'm fairly sure you would have no problems pursuing a class-action lawsuit against Gabe if he decided to pull the plug on the entire Steam service for no good reason.

archonsod
26-07-2011, 08:30 PM
Just because the service is digital doesn't absolve the provider of a responsibility to the customer, and I'm pretty sure the law would agree with that.

Service providers have no responsibility to the customer barring whatever is outlined in the contract of service. In the case of services provided without a contract, such as Steam, the provider has the right to terminate service at any time for any reason. Steam isn't actually doing anything new as far as the law is concerned, private libraries have operated on the same principles for a few hundred years now.

deano2099
26-07-2011, 08:37 PM
I'm fairly sure you would have no problems pursuing a class-action lawsuit against Gabe if he decided to pull the plug on the entire Steam service for no good reason.

Yep, and then you'd have case law on the subject thus essentially making it law. And also extending it to other services doing it to individuals.

Rii
26-07-2011, 08:56 PM
No government intervention: people decide they don't want to put up with Steam's policies, Steam loses business, Steam changes policies.

Government intervention: government forces Steam to obey government's definition of digitally distributed games, government now has a foothold on the market and can dictate what is and isn't "correct" in digital distribution. Steam loses basic rights to operate their business in the manner of their choosing.

Right, now if we can just get the government out of the business of criminalising the free exchange of information we'll be set. Abolish so-called 'intellectual property' law, then you can get back to me about freedom from state interference.

Smashbox
26-07-2011, 09:27 PM
If you abolish so-called 'intellectual property' law there is no incentive to create the games, articles, stories, books, movies, TV shows, paintings, songs, etc. you enjoy.

ColOfNature
26-07-2011, 09:42 PM
Service providers have no responsibility to the customer barring whatever is outlined in the contract of service. In the case of services provided without a contract, such as Steam, the provider has the right to terminate service at any time for any reason.
Unlikely, in the UK at least. There may be no written contract, but there is an implicit one and they'd probably be held to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.

Smashbox
26-07-2011, 09:51 PM
More like Pee-R-phleghm amirite?

vinraith
26-07-2011, 10:00 PM
Unlikely, in the UK at least. There may be no written contract, but there is an implicit one and they'd probably be held to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.

The Terms of Service you agree to every time you buy something from Steam are quite explicit about the fact that Steam can deny you access to your games at any time and for any reason. You were apprised of your lack of rights, you agreed to it, there's nothing more to say here.

ColOfNature
26-07-2011, 10:09 PM
Sure. Because that's a cast iron contract right there.

archonsod
26-07-2011, 10:23 PM
Unlikely, in the UK at least.

That is UK law.

ColOfNature
26-07-2011, 10:32 PM
If they were only providing a service I'd agree, but the lines between providing a service and providing a product are blurred in Steam's case, and I'm of the opinion that they're more about the product. It's all academic until someone is cut off and takes the company to court, but my feeling is that all the doom-sayers may be pleasantly surprised at how it turns out. I have nothing to base that on but my shaky knowledge of consumer protection law in the UK and EU and a generally optimistic nature, but there you go.

deano2099
26-07-2011, 10:51 PM
The Terms of Service you agree to every time you buy something from Steam are quite explicit about the fact that Steam can deny you access to your games at any time and for any reason. You were apprised of your lack of rights, you agreed to it, there's nothing more to say here.

Hello!

It's actually impossible under UK law for a consumer to sign away their statutory rights no matter what they agree to.

If Valve changed those terms to say they were entitled to custody of your firstborn, would you turn to me and say:


The Terms of Service you agree to every time you buy something from Steam are quite explicit about the fact that Steam can take your firstborn at any time and for any reason. You were apprised of your lack of rights, you agreed to it, there's nothing more to say here.

Because legally, which is how you want to argue this, you just said that same thing. You can't just put whatever you want in a contract. In fact there's a whole stream of legislation in the UK that looks after this sort of thing. There are law firms devoted entirely to contract law.

The relevant bit in this case is what I cited earlier on, and the one ColOfNature cited again.

To make it easier, here's a link to Legislation.gov.uk (I preferred it when it was OPSI...).
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/2083/contents/made

What's that Mr. Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999? I should look at Regulation number 5? Why, what does that say? Why don't you tell the nice boys and girls?


5.—(1) A contractual term which has not been individually negotiated shall be regarded as unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.

Not individually negotiated? What does that mean Mr Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999? Ooh, what did you say? That's 5 (2)?


(2) A term shall always be regarded as not having been individually negotiated where it has been drafted in advance and the consumer has therefore not been able to influence the substance of the term.

So you mean this does apply to Steam then Mr Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999? So you're saying the only question left is whether or not Steam causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.

But how do we know Mr. Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999? How can we work that out? What's that? Because of what the nice Mr Vinraith just told us? He's such a helpful man!


Steam are quite explicit about the fact that Steam can deny you access to your games at any time and for any reason.

Wow, so Steam don't actually have an obligation under the contract to provide you with a game at all? So what is Steam's obligation under the contract? What was that? They don't have one?! Ooh it's not looking good for Mr. Steam is it? But what is the consumer's obligation? They have to pay money? So what is the consumer actually paying for Mr. Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999? Nothing?! Oh dear, that sounds like the most obvious case of a 'significant imbalance' you could possibly have. One party pays and the other party does nothing. Well this is awkward.

What's that Mr Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999? You think I'm being hugely patronising towards the nice Mr Vinraith? And that he might not even be from the UK and you have no clue whatsoever if there's any similar law in the US or in Europe? Eek, you might be right about that. But this isn't really directed at him, but at the tons of other people, including some that are in the UK, that just chant the same thing utterly unaware of their rights as consumers.

What's that? Mr. Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 needs to go pee-pee? I best hit reply then!

Good night boys and girls!

deano2099
26-07-2011, 10:54 PM
If they were only providing a service I'd agree, but the lines between providing a service and providing a product are blurred in Steam's case, and I'm of the opinion that they're more about the product. It's all academic until someone is cut off and takes the company to court, but my feeling is that all the doom-sayers may be pleasantly surprised at how it turns out. I have nothing to base that on but my shaky knowledge of consumer protection law in the UK and EU and a generally optimistic nature, but there you go.

Aye, as a rule, at least in the EU and UK, consumer regulation tends to massively favour the consumer when it's produced and when it goes to court. The problem is any individual claim against Steam would always be for a fairly small amount and rarely worth the hassle of pursuing. Because despite what I wrote about, there's a whole load of practical issues, like getting a judge that know what digital distribution is for a start.

Nalano
26-07-2011, 11:39 PM
It's actually impossible under UK law for a consumer to sign away their statutory rights no matter what they agree to.

Too bad I don't live in the UK.

Every day I worry that I may be called upon to tongue-bathe John Riccitiello's fleet of Mercedes.

archonsod
27-07-2011, 12:44 AM
If they were only providing a service I'd agree, but the lines between providing a service and providing a product are blurred in Steam's case.

No they're not, Steam is very explicit about what they are - they bill themselves as a subscription service. It even tells you when you purchase a game you are buying a subscription for said game.

Also worth noting UK Law considers all software a service in the first place, has done since the seventies. Thus the argument would be moot; you've never owned actual software unless you've produced it yourself, only a license to use it.



It's actually impossible under UK law for a consumer to sign away their statutory rights no matter what they agree to.

Actually it's not, but only in certain cases :P Note that your statutory rights when commencing a service, which is what you are doing with Steam, are somewhat different than those you have when purchasing goods.


So you mean this does apply to Steam then Mr Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999? So you're saying the only question left is whether or not Steam causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.

See, the first thing you should have checked is what the act applies to. Steam would be immune to the unfair terms laws, because they are not your sole supplier of the service, nor do you incur any cost from not using the service. The first thing a judge would ask if you tried that one is why, if you didn't like the idea of them taking away your games, you bought it from Steam rather than somewhere else whose terms were more acceptable.

Rii
27-07-2011, 01:25 AM
If you abolish so-called 'intellectual property' law there is no incentive to create the games, articles, stories, books, movies, TV shows, paintings, songs, etc. you enjoy.

Debatable, but that wasn't really my point, which was that the state is already in this up to its neck, creating and enforcing IP law at least in part because it ostensibly serves society's interest. Just as the state passes laws infringing on A's liberty of conduct with respect to B, so may it pass laws infringing on B's liberty of conduct with respect to A. If Kody94 and his ilk really wanted the state to step out of the way of all this then I could respect that, but they don't: they want the state to act - at taxpayer's expense no less - as Big Content's hired thugs exacting nothing in return.

soldant
27-07-2011, 10:14 AM
If you abolish so-called 'intellectual property' law there is no incentive to create the games, articles, stories, books, movies, TV shows, paintings, songs, etc. you enjoy.
I'd be inclined to agree but the problem is that social attitudes are changing while the industry (at least music and video) isn't keeping up. I don't think anybody objects to protecting intellectual property but some of the techniques used to do so are ridiculous. It's getting to the point where copyright infringement is one of the worst crimes a person can commit in terms of reprimand and punishment.

deano2099
27-07-2011, 12:21 PM
See, the first thing you should have checked is what the act applies to. Steam would be immune to the unfair terms laws, because they are not your sole supplier of the service, nor do you incur any cost from not using the service. The first thing a judge would ask if you tried that one is why, if you didn't like the idea of them taking away your games, you bought it from Steam rather than somewhere else whose terms were more acceptable.

They don't provide the exact same service though. And for some games (say, those published by Valve) they are the sole supplier. Could Valve weasel out of the law using what you stated. Probably. Possibly. I'm no legal professional. But I think it's fairly obvious what the intent of the law is. That's not enough, which is why I've been saying we need (and will get) specific regulation to deal with digital distribution explicitly, so if a company pull something, they can be taken to small claims and the thing resolved quickly, rather than requiring a judge to interpret how regulations written before this sort of distribution even existed apply today.

archonsod
27-07-2011, 03:08 PM
Given the only digital distributor based in the UK is Green Man Gaming AFAIK, I don't know what you'd expect legislation to achieve. Companies not based in the UK do not, funnily enough, have to operate under UK law.

Kaira-
27-07-2011, 03:45 PM
Given the only digital distributor based in the UK is Green Man Gaming AFAIK, I don't know what you'd expect legislation to achieve. Companies not based in the UK do not, funnily enough, have to operate under UK law.

But then again, companies based on outside of EU must operate under the legislation of EU, if they wish to do business in EU.

hamster
27-07-2011, 04:06 PM
I agree that Steam's control over their digital goods is restrictive at best, but I'm also wary of involving government legislation. If governments can dictate what is a service and what is an item, some serious exploitations can spring up. For example, if its decided that digital games are purchased items, free to be used in any matter seen fit by the owner, then whats stopping the people from demanding subscription magazines or cable television be considered the same? If we legally "possess" games that have no physical representation, then why can't we legally possess a subscription that has no physical representation, with no limitations placed on us by contracts? Obviously this would be inconvenient for the companies running these businesses.

My point is, if we have legislators grabbing digital distributors by their ears and saying "no, THIS is how you do it", then not only does this strip the distributors' rights of controlling their businesses but it also opens the door for more government regulation in private businesses.

I still believe that if the issue becomes widespread enough, people are going to naturally demand a change in policies or we'll stop paying for your product, without governments interfering.

This is an interesting point. But cable tv/subscriptions and PC games are fundamentally different. Cable TV dynamically and continually provide an ongoing service throughout the subscription period. This ongoing service is the supply of newly licensed shows/movies and cable companies will continue licensing new films, TV shows, documentaries etc. throughout. As such, Cable provides continual value.

Games on the other hand are different. It's the same, single product. Forever. I can barely think of a way you can argue that it is a service...unless it's rented to the player. But what kind of leasing agreement is this? You're allowed unrestricted, 24/7 access forever and forever, EXCEPT there's a bullcrap provision that says they can terminate the "contract" at their sole discretion, and there is no right of resale? Is that really a lease? For one thing the "I-win" provision can't possibly be valid. You don't need legislation to call it out - it's bullcrap, and i'm sure there's something you could invoke in the common law to that effect.

Another possible way of making the game into a service is to tack on some kind of ongoing value to the game. Possibly by adding a framework which adds value such as Steamworks friends/achievements/community or possibly the option to redownload the game anytime anywhere, but then again, it's easy to argue that the overarching structure that is Steamworks is completely separate from the game.

Another possible way of offering continual value: multiplayer only games. This would probably take quite some arguing though, since it would mean there would be a divide between multi only games and SP only games. And what about games with both SP and MP? Hmm.

Bottom line is: you can't just say something is a service and so it is a service. If I sold you a goddamn nail-clipper for 5 dollars but put a sticker on top with clauses to the effect that forbid you from reselling it, and gives me (the manufacturer) the right to revoke your access to it under any circumstance, where the hell do you think you stand? It would be a complete mockery of the first sale doctrine, not to mention the fact that highly significant, potentially contentious contractual clauses between corporations and consumers should, by default, be brought to the forefront to the consumer's attention, preferably bolded and in large letters. Not hidden away in a dense block of legalese that's like 500 pages long. Plenty of cases afford that kind of protection.

But this all ends up being v. interesting because it means there is some real tension now between retailers and developers. Stuff like Uplay effectively bar a retailer from reselling a game by tying accounts to cd keys (and adding a surcharge for an additional account). I wonder if that's a case of fighting against the retailers head-on or maybe it's a workaround in that extra accounts = governed by the online agreement, and it's reasonably to add a surcharge for an extra; that they have no positive duty to make resells as conducive as possible.

Kody94
27-07-2011, 05:36 PM
If Kody94 and his ilk really wanted the state to step out of the way of all this then I could respect that, but they don't: they want the state to act - at taxpayer's expense no less - as Big Content's hired thugs exacting nothing in return.

Digital distribution != Intellectual property. I actually have very different opinions regarding each; I believe that the state should keep their hands off of digital distribution (unless the market become so unruly that government intervention is inevitable, which is unlikely) and let the free market regulate itself. However I believe IP laws are necessary to protect not only "Big Content" but also small independent developers and the consumers.


This is an interesting point....-snip-

I agree that at first glance traditional subscriptions and game purchases are a ridiculous analogy, but as you mentioned one could feasibly consider multiplayer, continued updates (Minecraft, Terraria, TF2), special offers (since you own this game, you get 50% off this game!), achievements, community events, etc. as a "subscription". And since we can't say "look, I have a physical copy of the product!", just like we can't say "I have a physical object that is my cable subscription", it wouldn't be a long jump for a politician to decide that maybe other "imaginary" products can be regulated by the government, which I consider a very, very bad thing.


Bottom line is: you can't just say something is a service and so it is a service...-snip-

I agree, it would be a breach of consumers' fundamental rights. However nail clippers are a physical object, so it would be a bit of a stretch to call it a service. Besides that, if the consumer didn't mind the clause-sticker, then that's his prerogative to be placed under the burdens of the contract. If enough people decide that no, I want to own my nail clippers, then you better be prepared to lose business until you pull off those stickers.

hamster
27-07-2011, 07:02 PM
The sticker would indicate that you are merely subscribing to the license for using the clipper but anyway...so far I don't think corporations have done anything concrete to harm consumer rights (yet). The only thing they have attempted to do is kill 2nd hand sales. Is that detrimental to the consumer? Well yes, in a way, but then again the retailers selling second hand don't really mark down the games much anyway. As for the more contentious licensing provisions, at least nobody so far has had their access to a game cut off.

Um as for IP rights...obviously they need to exist. I don't know where Rii is coming from.

archonsod
27-07-2011, 08:28 PM
But then again, companies based on outside of EU must operate under the legislation of EU, if they wish to do business in EU.

Not when the business operates via the internet with no physical presence in the territory, no.

Veracity
27-07-2011, 10:07 PM
I'd not really have problems with even fairly draconian DRM if it were patched out a few months after release, after the peak sales period had passed.Agreed, and it's been known to happen, albeit usually in response to outcry over particularly crappy solutions. I can see why most publishers don't bother, though. Most straightforwardly, they seem to get away with it, so why go to the trouble? More importantly, I'd expect nerves re: creating a perception that it's "ok to pirate" after some arbitrary cut-off. Look at how many people already think abandonware is anything but a fluffy word for piracy, or seem genuinely to wonder why they should ever think of paying for Taito Legends or those Sega emulator-minus-the-options jobbies.

All else being equal, I'll pick a DRM-free version over an alternative, but mostly I can't get myself worked up about it. I prefer phone-home authentication to CD checks, which makes no sense from a future-proofing point of view, but plenty in terms of laziness. I think a lot of the reason it's so easy for publishers to get borderline abusive with this stuff is that video games are, however much a few people might like to think otherwise, largely disposable. UFO: Enemy Unknown I still have installed, but it's one in hundreds and, amusingly, I bought it again on DD for convenience because I don't have a floppy drive any more. Plus I generally assume that, if (eg) EA did decide to turn off Dragon Age: Origins' auth server before I got around to slogging through it, I'd just pirate it.

Tangentially, I do wonder what's going to happen in the next console generation now they're all connected. Is it just a given that BC will let you carry over all your XBLA/PSN purchases seamlessly?

Kaira-
27-07-2011, 11:13 PM
Not when the business operates via the internet with no physical presence in the territory, no.

I remember Steam's EULA saying that "IF YOU ARE A RESIDENT OF A EUROPEAN UNION COUNTRY, THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU" and "The terms of this section may not apply to European Union consumers."

Make of it what you want.

vinraith
28-07-2011, 08:03 PM
@deano

It must be nice to live in a country whose consumer protections are so ironclad that consumers can sign contracts willy-nilly without having to be concerned about what they actually say. You mention a hypothetical first born clause and ask if I'd be defending it. No, I wouldn't, but I sure as hell wouldn't be signing it either.

Regardless, in my country corporations have more rights than people, and I'm not about to make the assumption that my government is going to protect me from Steam doing exactly what Steam has told me it can do, up front and in writing. It seems to me that if you don't like what a contract says you probably shouldn't agree to it, rather than trusting that someone else will get you out of it if the need arises.

Nalano
28-07-2011, 08:07 PM
It seems to me that if you don't like what a contract says you probably shouldn't agree to it, rather than trusting that someone else will get you out of it if the need arises.

Except, y'know, you see the contract only after you spent the money. And no refunds. Whaddaya gonna do, not install the game?

vinraith
28-07-2011, 08:09 PM
Except, y'know, you see the contract only after you spent the money. And no refunds. Whaddaya gonna do, not install the game?

I'm not saying the whole situation isn't horseshit, I'm not saying it shouldn't be illegal, but it's not as if you don't know what you're getting into after that first purchase.

Nalano
28-07-2011, 08:53 PM
I'm not saying the whole situation isn't horseshit, I'm not saying it shouldn't be illegal, but it's not as if you don't know what you're getting into after that first purchase.

So would you, knowing what you now know, tell a young dude looking to get into PC games not to bother?

vinraith
28-07-2011, 08:55 PM
So would you, knowing what you now know, tell a young dude looking to get into PC games not to bother?

No, I'd tell him to buy DRM-free when possible, buy from places that exert the minimum of post-purchase control when DRM-free is unavailable, and encourage him to price his purchases according to the rights afforded him by the distributor in question. That is to say, Steam gives you what amount to rental rights, so buy from them at rental prices.

Nalano
28-07-2011, 08:57 PM
No, I'd tell him to buy DRM-free when possible, buy from places that exert the minimum of post-purchase control when DRM-free is unavailable, and encourage him to price his purchases according to the rights afforded him by the distributor in question. That is to say, Steam gives you what amount to rental rights, so buy from them at rental prices.

The EULA's the same no matter where he gets it.

But back to DRM, would you, for games that simply will not not have DRM and other intrusive third-party programs, suggest a legal purchase and then an immediate post-purchase piracy or reverse-engineering?

vinraith
28-07-2011, 08:59 PM
The EULA's the same no matter where he gets it.

The enforceability's not.

The difference here is whether you need the government to protect you from a ridiculous EULA, or whether you can do it yourself. In the UK it may well be the case that the former works fine, but I'm always going to feel "safer" having as much control of my own as possible over the situation.

deano2099
28-07-2011, 09:20 PM
That is to say, Steam gives you what amount to rental rights, so buy from them at rental prices.

No, they don't. I'd actually be fine with that. If Steam said games were only guaranteed to work for 12 months or 5 years or whatever. The Steam contract gives no guarantee that you'll ever get to play the game. But fair play to you for not buying off Steam.

I use it on the basis that I probably won't lose access to my games, and I keep them all installed and know where to cracks for them if need be so if Steam disabled my account it'd just be inconvenient.

But yes, I regularly rely on my government to protect me from any abuses of my civil rights. Frankly I don't understand half of most EULAs and I'm fairly intelligent. Firstly, like all people to be able to enjoy games, and shortly music, film, books and everything else too. I don't think they should be restricted to people with a law degree. Secondly, I don't have time to read every contract I agree to these days. If it's only a small amount of money, I'll just say yes, safe in the knowledge that there are laws out there to protect me.

vinraith
28-07-2011, 09:29 PM
@deano

And again, I'll just say I envy you UK consumer protection laws, I fear I know how the court case would go were it brought to the US Supreme Court.

And you're right, of course, it isn't even quite to the level of rental rights. Personally my solution is to limit purchases on the site, never spend more than $5-$10 on anything bought from it, and like you to try to keep cracks on hand when available. It's a crappy situation, honestly, and it seems to be getting crappier as the whole "games as service" thing becomes the dominant paradigm. I'd love to see that challenged.

Lukasz
28-07-2011, 09:37 PM
Not when the business operates via the internet with no physical presence in the territory, no.

that is completely not true. there are international laws, wto, agreements between countries which makes what you just said not true.

If valve wants not to fall under EU's law it cannot provide any service to people in EU. so regional blocking would have to implemented on whole steam catalog.

physical presence is irrelevant mate. it had been before internet was born.

Nalano
28-07-2011, 10:26 PM
The enforceability's not.

Lemme rephrase that: The EULA's the same when you live in America, no matter whether you get the game off D2D, Impulse, GoG or a brick & mortar.

vinraith
28-07-2011, 11:19 PM
Lemme rephrase that: The EULA's the same when you live in America, no matter whether you get the game off D2D, Impulse, GoG or a brick & mortar.

I understood you, my reply is the same. If I bought it off GoG and have it locally backed up, there's no way the publisher can keep me from playing it hsort of showing up at my house with the cops. With Steam, they can just flick a switch and, at best, I've got to hope I can find a crack. The EULA's the same, but the enforceability of the absurdities in that EULA is not.

Nalano
28-07-2011, 11:28 PM
I understood you, my reply is the same. If I bought it off GoG and have it locally backed up, there's no way the publisher can keep me from playing it hsort of showing up at my house with the cops. With Steam, they can just flick a switch and, at best, I've got to hope I can find a crack. The EULA's the same, but the enforceability of the absurdities in that EULA is not.

Minus Microsoft's GfWL, Rockstar's Social Club, UbiSoft's sign-in service & whatever EA's new thing is.

Fuck, I just depressed myself.

Smashbox
28-07-2011, 11:34 PM
whatever EA's new thing is.

I think it's called the EA Ballstomper™.

P.S. EA, can I have a BF3 alpha invite pretty please?

Nalano
28-07-2011, 11:36 PM
I think it's called the EA Ballstomper™.

No, that's Blizzard's service.

And damnit, I forgot Blizzard. Add Blizzard to the list.

vinraith
28-07-2011, 11:38 PM
Minus Microsoft's GfWL, Rockstar's Social Club, UbiSoft's sign-in service & whatever EA's new thing is.

Fuck, I just depressed myself.

GOG is DRM free, maybe you meant Gamersgate? Anyway, your point is well taken, though of course if you've bought the game through Steam you get those PLUS the Steam lockdown, which just compounds the unpleasantness.

Anyway yes, the whole industry's a damn mess in this regard, you'll get no disagreement there. Steam's not unique, and it's far from the worst of the lot, but it's often an extra layer of crap on top of some other horrible thing.

Nalano
28-07-2011, 11:41 PM
GOG is DRM free, maybe you meant Gamersgate? Anyway, your point is well taken, though of course if you've bought the game through Steam you get those PLUS the Steam lockdown, which just compounds the unpleasantness.

Anyway yes, the whole industry's a damn mess in this regard, you'll get no disagreement there. Steam's not unique, and it's far from the worst of the lot, but it's often an extra layer of crap on top of some other horrible thing.

Oh, I was basically saying the distributor didn't matter because the games themselves came bundled with cornfed shit. And I know Steam isn't the worst: I still say that Steam at least offers a service with their DRM. God knows what the hell all those other companies were thinking.

vinraith
28-07-2011, 11:43 PM
Oh, I was basically saying the distributor didn't matter because the games themselves came bundled with cornfed shit.

Well, GOG matters becaue the games can't have the aforementioned cornfed shit, by definition. Otherwise I concur, of course, but if the distributor is adding an additional layer of manure to the game that's that much worse IMO.

Nalano
28-07-2011, 11:46 PM
Well, GOG matters becaue the games can't have the aforementioned cornfed shit, by definition. Otherwise I concur, of course, but if the distributor is adding an additional layer of manure to the game that's that much worse IMO.

Well, GoG doesn't have the selection, either; tho I've bought eight or so games from 'em. But anyway, buy-then-pirate seems a reasonable, if extra-legal, solution.

archonsod
29-07-2011, 01:03 AM
If valve wants not to fall under EU's law it cannot provide any service to people in EU. so regional blocking would have to implemented on whole steam catalog.


Funnily enough there's no EU legislation which says that. As far as the law is concerned, if you're buying from a non-EU company it's Caveat Emptor.
The international laws are even more interesting. The only nation who could force Valve to stop trading is the US, by shutting them down. Other nations could criminalise the trade, but it's not Valve who'd face prosecution for the trade, it's the buyer.

vinraith
29-07-2011, 01:14 AM
Well, GoG doesn't have the selection, either; tho I've bought eight or so games from 'em. But anyway, buy-then-pirate seems a reasonable, if extra-legal, solution.

The concern there is always the safety and reliability of what you're getting, of course, and in some cases the compatibility with mods and the like. Well, that and just finding a copy of some things, Steamworks games and indie Steam games don't seem to be cracker priorities.

Nalano
29-07-2011, 02:24 AM
The concern there is always the safety and reliability of what you're getting, of course, and in some cases the compatibility with mods and the like. Well, that and just finding a copy of some things, Steamworks games and indie Steam games don't seem to be cracker priorities.

Indie games tend not to be shipped with third-party DRM a la GfWL. And while Steam is ultra-convenient, finding cracks isn't THAT hard.

Batolemaeus
29-07-2011, 04:52 AM
Indie games tend not to be shipped with third-party DRM a la GfWL. And while Steam is ultra-convenient, finding cracks isn't THAT hard.

One could argue that steams convenience is its most effective DRM by far. The technical drm is, like all drm, easily broken thanks to the drm breaking contest it created.

Nalano
29-07-2011, 05:18 AM
One could argue that steams convenience is its most effective DRM by far. The technical drm is, like all drm, easily broken thanks to the drm breaking contest it created.

I think I made a comment somewhere in the archives of RPS that the sheer convenience of Steam put one of piracy's feet in the coffin.

Indeed, if they kept up the deep discounts and leveraged their market share to convince other companies not to keep adding ridiculous DRM on top of their own, they might be able to prove that treating customers well results in more customers.

ColOfNature
29-07-2011, 08:14 AM
...they might be able to prove that treating customers well results in more customers.
I'd argue that they've proved that already, and quite conclusively.

Ravenger
29-07-2011, 08:57 AM
I'd argue that they've proved that already, and quite conclusively.

I once emailed Gabe congratulating him on his comments about bad DRM at a developers conference.

His reply was that in Valve's experience even the smallest amounts of good service negate piracy, and in general pirates are competing on service, not price.

Batolemaeus
29-07-2011, 09:12 AM
In the demography where game developers actually can make money, piracy definitely only competes due to higher quality of service. I think that has been thoroughly proven, just look at the music industry.

Nalano
29-07-2011, 06:37 PM
I'd argue that they've proved that already, and quite conclusively.

To us, perhaps.

To the industry overall, we still need time.

Mistabashi
29-07-2011, 07:12 PM
There's an interview with Gabe Newell floating around Youtube where he talks about the perception by major publishers that there's no market for PC games in Russia because "they're all pirates", but when Valve looked at all the Russian torrents they realised that the people cracking and distributing games were also adding or improving localisation, and releasing them before the 'official' Russian language release which is often long after the US & EU release dates.

So Valve decided to make an effort with better localisation etc and since then they haven't found piracy to be a significant issue. Incidentally this seems to extend to Steam itself, which is available in more countries than any similar service as far as I know. GFWL for example has huge problems due to it's very limited region support, meaning many people actually get locked-out of online features of GFWL games because of where they live, another incentive for pirates.

As mentioned above though, most of the industry is blind to this kind of thinking. I guess it's easier for Valve because they're a privately owned company, operated at all levels by people who know and are interested in games. With most big publishers these kinds of descisions get made by people who have been headhunted from the packaged food industry (for example), and are essentially slaves to a board of shareholders who don't give a toss about games or their customers as long as they get their dividends.

Nalano
29-07-2011, 07:19 PM
There's an interview with Gabe Newell floating around Youtube where he talks about the perception by major publishers that there's no market for PC games in Russia because "they're all pirates", but when Valve looked at all the Russian torrents they realised that the people cracking and distributing games were also adding or improving localisation, and releasing them before the 'official' Russian language release which is often long after the US & EU release dates.

So Valve decided to make an effort with better localisation etc and since then they haven't found piracy to be a significant issue. Incidentally this seems to extend to Steam itself, which is available in more countries than any similar service as far as I know. GFWL for example has huge problems due to it's very limited region support, meaning many people actually get locked-out of online features of GFWL games because of where they live, another incentive for pirates.

As mentioned above though, most of the industry is blind to this kind of thinking. I guess it's easier for Valve because they're a privately owned company, operated at all levels by people who know and are interested in games. With most big publishers these kinds of descisions get made by people who have been headhunted from the packaged food industry (for example), and are essentially slaves to a board of shareholders who don't give a toss about games or their customers as long as they get their dividends.

Couldn't the whole "Russia isn't a market because they're all pirates" meme be refuted simply by listing the Russian games companies? I mean, by that logic 1C Company couldn't exist.

Lukasz
29-07-2011, 10:17 PM
Funnily enough there's no EU legislation which says that. As far as the law is concerned, if you're buying from a non-EU company it's Caveat Emptor.
The international laws are even more interesting. The only nation who could force Valve to stop trading is the US, by shutting them down. Other nations could criminalise the trade, but it's not Valve who'd face prosecution for the trade, it's the buyer.
You make no sense mate.

to not fall under EU law you cannot trade in EU. Trading via internet is trading in EU if you allow IP addresses from EU. Not sure what legislation you are taking about here.

As Valve is registered in USA you are right that USA would have to force them to close down. Which they would if valve losses a court case in EU and would not pay the damages ordered or abide the ruling of the court. The international trade laws are complicated and i got only 60% from them so I dont remember exactly what and how. From top of my head (did presentation on that) Kraft Foods had to get permission from EU as well as Australia (since they are trading in Australia) when they wanted to acquire Cadbury. Neither company are located in Australia but if ASIC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Securities_and_Investments_Commission) did not allow it they would have to abide by their ruling or they would be forced to completely withdraw from the market.

The buyer would not face the prosecution at this case as it is not illegal to buy computer games in EU. It would be Valve who would not be allowed to trade yet they would trade.

thegooseking
29-07-2011, 10:18 PM
To be fair, Valve also sells their games ultra-cheap in Russia (and region-locks them so people from outside Russia can't take advantage of the ultra-cheap prices). I'd argue that their lack of difficulty with pirates is not just about quality of localisation and service.

Nalano
29-07-2011, 10:34 PM
To be fair, Valve also sells their games ultra-cheap in Russia (and region-locks them so people from outside Russia can't take advantage of the ultra-cheap prices). I'd argue that their lack of difficulty with pirates is not just about quality of localisation and service.

And yet Valve still pulls a profit in Russia if they're willing to put in the effort.

Which kinda draws the question: Why are WE falling for these high prices?

Mistabashi
29-07-2011, 11:30 PM
You make no sense mate.

to not fall under EU law you cannot trade in EU. Trading via internet is trading in EU if you allow IP addresses from EU. Not sure what legislation you are taking about here.

As Valve is registered in USA you are right that USA would have to force them to close down. Which they would if valve losses a court case in EU and would not pay the damages ordered or abide the ruling of the court. The international trade laws are complicated and i got only 60% from them so I dont remember exactly what and how. From top of my head (did presentation on that) Kraft Foods had to get permission from EU as well as Australia (since they are trading in Australia) when they wanted to acquire Cadbury. Neither company are located in Australia but if ASIC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Securities_and_Investments_Commission) did not allow it they would have to abide by their ruling or they would be forced to completely withdraw from the market.

The buyer would not face the prosecution at this case as it is not illegal to buy computer games in EU. It would be Valve who would not be allowed to trade yet they would trade.

IP addresses can be spoofed or simply incorrect, a fact which gog.com recently used to get around regional ratings restrictions for the Release of The Witcher 2 - they don't use IP addresses at all, instead the customer specifies what region they are in. They can obviously do that without fear of prosecution because the customer would essentially be at fault for providing incorrect information, but I imagine there's many other 'loopholes' such as this that can and are exploited to avoid getting tangled in regional consumer law.

Your example of Kraft buying-up Cadbury's isn't relevant at all, that's not about selling goods in the EU, it's about a huge multinational trying to buy a large and well-known company with all the concerns of monopoly that entails. That's not something you can 'back-door' so easily, especially when hundreds of Cadbury's employees and other concerned people are writing to their MP's and newspapers complaining about it.

Lukasz
29-07-2011, 11:38 PM
IP addresses can be spoofed or simply incorrect, a fact which gog.com recently used to get around regional ratings restrictions for the Release of The Witcher 2 - they don't use IP addresses at all, instead the customer specifies what region they are in. They can obviously do that without fear of prosecution because the customer would essentially be at fault for providing incorrect information, but I imagine there's many other 'loopholes' such as this that can and are exploited to avoid getting tangled in regional consumer law.
of course. law is exploited all the time. that was not the point.


Your example of Kraft buying-up Cadbury's isn't relevant at all, that's not about selling goods in the EU, it's about a huge multinational trying to buy a large and well-known company with all the concerns of monopoly that entails. That's not something you can 'back-door' so easily, especially when hundreds of Cadbury's employees and other concerned people are writing to their MP's and newspapers complaining about it.

It is relevant. Although a bit an extreme example. American company acquiring british one and it had to have permission from Australian security commission. EU also forced them to get rid of wedel, another chocolate company.
In this instance a company of american origin and a company of british origin fell under Australian law.


If you are doing a business one way or another in another country you must obey the local laws. Physical presence of the company is not relevant here.

here:
http://ipmall.info/hosted_resources/crs/RS21596_050407.pdf

quick search showed some info on VAT. If they want to sale to EU they have to pay vat. We know steam does it as well as gog (which takes it from own profit cut i presume)
so if they have to obey tax rule of course they have to obey different rules.

Mistabashi
29-07-2011, 11:42 PM
of course. law is exploited all the time. that was not the point.



It is relevant. Although a bit an extreme example. American company acquiring british one and it had to have permission from Australian security commission. EU also forced them to get rid of wedel, another chocolate company.
In this instance a company of american origin and a company of british origin fell under Australian law.


If you are doing a business one way or another in another country you must obey the local laws. Physical presence of the company is not relevant here.

What I disagree with is "must" :)

There are plenty of circumstances where companies are forced to abide by local laws, but there's also plenty of cases where local laws don't necessarily apply or aren't enforced.

Lukasz
29-07-2011, 11:59 PM
What I disagree with is "must" :)

There are plenty of circumstances where companies are forced to abide by local laws, but there's also plenty of cases where local laws don't necessarily apply or aren't enforced.

You are of course correct. This is a valid point.

A company can find loopholes, can just not care or the law might be simply not valid for one reason or another.

The point made by archonsod is that a company not from EU does not need to give crap about that and can sell stuff over the net without care in the world for EU legislations.
That is not correct as for example steam pay vat on all EU sales.

Batolemaeus
30-07-2011, 12:00 AM
And yet Valve still pulls a profit in Russia if they're willing to put in the effort.

Which kinda draws the question: Why are WE falling for these high prices?

How's the average income vs. the average price there and here, though?

Nalano
30-07-2011, 12:07 AM
How's the average income vs. the average price there and here, though?

Moscow's one of the most expensive places in the world (http://www.citymayors.com/features/cost_survey.html) to live.

And besides, Valve is not a Russian company and has no assets in Russia (so the purchasing power of Russians compared to the cost of implementation and distribution shouldn't be a concern) and yet makes a profit selling the exact same product at greatly reduced prices there. They wouldn't be selling at a loss - that'd be silly - so clearly the overhead of running a digital distribution platform is far, far lower than what we're paying for.

Which draws the question: Why are we paying so much? Hell, it kinda sounds like they could do the world a great favor by selling 10 million games at $5 instead of 1 million games at $50.

Lukasz
30-07-2011, 12:15 AM
Moscow's one of the most expensive places in the world (http://www.citymayors.com/features/cost_survey.html) to live.

And besides, Valve is not a Russian company and yet makes a profit selling the exact same product at greatly reduced prices there. They wouldn't be selling at a loss - that'd be silly - so clearly the overhead is far, far lower than what we're paying for.

Which draws the question: Why are we paying so much? Hell, it kinda sounds like they could do the world a great favor by selling 10 million games at $5 instead of 1 million games at $50.

how can they sell at a loss? they are digital shop. the expenses of a single sale are extremely small ( excluding transaction fees it does not cost them a single cent per purchase) So they make money even on 1 dollar sales.

And how do you know they would sell 10 million games? There is no guarantee on that and there might not be a market for 10 million copies of most games.

You ask why games are priced so high?

the answer is simple

It was concluded that those prices will bring more money than higher ones or lower ones. They came up with that assumption after analysis of the market, hard math based on previous sales.
They might be wrong of course but probability of them being wrong is lower than of some guy on the net.

no offence.

Nalano
30-07-2011, 12:36 AM
And how do you know they would sell 10 million games? There is no guarantee on that and there might not be a market for 10 million copies of most games.

[...]

It was concluded that those prices will bring more money than higher ones or lower ones. They came up with that assumption after analysis of the market, hard math based on previous sales.

They might be wrong of course but probability of them being wrong is lower than of some guy on the net.

no offence.

These are the same companies with permanent "crunch time" because they can't figure out how to schedule their manpower correctly and spend millions on ridiculous DRM that gets cracked nigh-instanteously, being beaten out by a company that's doing everything wrong and yet making a profit in an "impossible" sector.

What makes you think they're smart?

Mistabashi
30-07-2011, 01:07 AM
Russia's GNI in 2010 was about 1/5 of the US, so I can completely understand lower regional pricing. Russia also has a rather enormous wealth divide.

At the end of the day, whatever market you are in you price things based on a balance of what you think customers will be prepared to pay vs. how many people you think would be prepared to pay it. Games pricing and sales events are a prime example of this even within a single market - once you think you've run out of people willing to pay $40 for a game you lower the price and get more sales from people that weren't prepared to pay the full full price.

Batolemaeus
30-07-2011, 08:38 AM
Moscow's one of the most expensive places in the world (http://www.citymayors.com/features/cost_survey.html) to live.

Russia isn't Moscow however.
They have less money available on average, hence why pricing is adjusted to a different price point.

By the way, yes they could easily sell at a loss. Game devs aren't working for free. They do factor in their own opportunity cost into their pricing...

hamster
30-07-2011, 09:52 AM
All about price elasticity my friends. As for why we're shelling out 5x more the mistake is to assume there is a correlation between cost and sale price. When it comes to intangible non commodity products you can price it any way you want. Vs the price of a fork which consumers do understand roughly the production cost and simplicity of function.

Speaking of management it does seem that in the Industry guys r always being held back by technical barriers. Hopefully we d have some kind of industry wide tool that already has the commonly use goodies so companies don't end up say scrapping rope arrows because of tech problems.

ezekiel2517
30-07-2011, 11:45 AM
145

short