Trust is a One Way Street

I don’t really care to comment on the abject stupidity of Good Old Games’ recent marketing boondoggle. It was cataclysmically mishandled, and although this idiocy does not quite measure up to the level of fraud in my book and therefore does not put the retailer into the camp of never to be trusted again, it does demonstrate a level of poor decision making that gives me and my wallet pause before our next inevitable buy.

Ok, so maybe I want to comment a little bit on the matter, but the larger issue and question to me is one that is only related in a secondary way to GOG in particular. The underlying issue that GOG’s brain-dead antics casts into terrifying and startling relief is one that many of us have glossed over for a long time, but which can be illustrated as a sort of retail Sword of Damocles.

It is the bugaboo of digital distribution's dependence on a service rather than ownership, and the danger of relying on a someone else to preserve and provide the games for which you have paid so much money. If GOG had, indeed, come to a thundering and abrupt end rather than simply bungling through a rebranding campaign inspired by Joaquin Phoenix, what would have become of my games and materials.

Full disclosure, I have gotten to the point where I exclusively use Steam for my PC games, and as a primarily PC gamer that is not an insignificant statement. I currently own 85 games through the service, and while many of them are older titles, games I bought on extreme discount or lower cost indie games, I also own more than a dozen higher profile games purchased at full-price. My investment in the service is measured in hundreds of dollars.

I have confidence that Steam is a safe bet, but much larger companies in the industry have on occasion come to quick and bitter ends in this industry. It is not a business landscape where any foundation is without cracks. The reality is that my confidence is built on the flimsy assumption that Valve wouldn’t do me wrong like that.

To be honest, it’s never a confidence I’d necessarily established with GOG. I like GOG because I like their product. I like that I can download games that normally reside under the gaze of misty-eyed nostalgia, and can do so unrestriced by DRM. Ultimately, they seem like a fairly small and obviously vulnerable company, so I never invested the same kind of trust that they would always be there. I always kind of assumed in the back of my mind, frankly, that they wouldn't survive.

Their closure was not a surprise. Even the fact that they mucked up their effort to launch out of what I hadn't realized was still a beta wasn't really that surprising.

Yet, now I feel slightly gun shy about all of my digital download services as a result of their actions. A bigger question to me is actually, what would happen if Stardock went under tomorrow? I realize, of course, that they have always espoused a strong client commitment, and it's likely that they would find a way to accommodate their customers, but I also have seen them make decisions that give me pause. Honestly, I don’t even know how a Stardock closure would impact my ability to play games like Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod or Elemental.

It’s all well and good to say that Company X is strong and we don’t have to worry about it, but purchasing through digital downloads, particularly when tied to a service that requires connectivity to access content, is a long commitment. There are no promises.

Maybe it’s good to be reminded every so often that the trust we think we have in these companies isn’t without its dangers.

Comments

Or you could be that 1 out of 12 that went with 92

Reggie 4 Life!

ClockworkHouse wrote:
I've been thinking about this a lot recently with regard to Xbox Live. Earlier this year, my console died, and I bought a new one. I was able to immediately play the XBLA games I'd already purchased on my new unit so long as I was logged in to Xbox Live, but when I moved shortly thereafter and didn't have an internet connection, I wasn't able to play them. (I had done a license transfer but hadn't realized that I still needed to re-download everything in order to authorize them for offline play.) If I hadn't been able to access Xbox Live not because I didn't have an internet connection but because Live no longer existed, I would have been out of luck and unable to play my games. It's made me gun shy about buying games I'm interested in both in the Arcade and in the Games On Demand section.

(Somewhere, Lard is dancing.)

Reading this again, I am now very scared for my own content... Going to update all my offline licenses tonight now

gore wrote:
Really, it's true. The courts have pretty much said as much: you don't ever own software, no matter how you acquired a copy of it, unless the license specifically says so. Normally you just have a license to use it in certain ways, but your continued ability to use that license is almost entirely up to the whims of the people who granted it to you.

Really? I was under the impression that there has been no legal consensus on the validity of EULAs, particularly in situations where you essentially agree to the EULA before you open the package (where you only can view it by running the disc, and subsequently can't return it for a refund if you don't agree). I'd love to see a serious challenge to the standard that a consumer only buys the license to a software, rather than owning it. It's pretty silly that you can't "own" something like a video game, but instead are treated to the "whims" of the license holder. I can very easily see that being abused as we continue further down the road of digital distribution.

(Note: I like digital distribution, and have dozens of games on Steam and PSN.)

TheCounselor wrote:
TheGameguru wrote:

If Steam died tomorrow and I lost access to my over 90 some games I'd look at the HUGE pile of Xbox 360, and PS3 games I need to still play through and realize that in terms of being a gamer you can't get much better than right now with the over abundance of gaming choices we have at our disposal.

Besides, games are constantly losing value. I could buy ten full price games on Steam today and spend $500. In a year, they're worth no more than what I'd have to pay to replace them, which is probably $200 or less. In five years, we are probably talking about $50 in value.

This is probably the *last* thing Steam wants people to start thinking.

CheezePavilion wrote:
This is probably the *last* thing Steam wants people to start thinking.

Sure, but it's a common attitude, especially given the frequency of Steam sales. I'd bet big November releases don't sell very well on Steam.

Evo wrote:
gore wrote:
Really, it's true. The courts have pretty much said as much: you don't ever own software, no matter how you acquired a copy of it, unless the license specifically says so. Normally you just have a license to use it in certain ways, but your continued ability to use that license is almost entirely up to the whims of the people who granted it to you.

Really? I was under the impression that there has been no legal consensus on the validity of EULAs, particularly in situations where you essentially agree to the EULA before you open the package (where you only can view it by running the disc, and subsequently can't return it for a refund if you don't agree). I'd love to see a serious challenge to the standard that a consumer only buys the license to a software, rather than owning it. It's pretty silly that you can't "own" something like a video game, but instead are treated to the "whims" of the license holder. I can very easily see that being abused as we continue further down the road of digital distribution.

(Note: I like digital distribution, and have dozens of games on Steam and PSN.)

There was a recent case involving used copies of Auto CAD that found the EULA to be valid. Of course, any decent lawyer can make an easy distinction between software that costs $4,000 and software that costs $50. A court may assume that the guy paying $4,000 for software is savvy enough to realize what a EULA is and what he's permitted to do with that software.

Previous to 2009 I only had a few Steam games I played everything via disk. For the most part this was because I am an old gamer who usually doesnt get around to playing a game until its been around for a year or two, sometimes seven.

Now that I am massevely invested in Steam and to a much smaller amount GOG I really do worry if they will be around for the long term. That is why this stunt is so painful because when they do stuff this stupid it doesnt make you very positive about their future.

I will probably go Steam only for the next year or two but again who says Steam wont do the same darn thing.

TheCounselor wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
This is probably the *last* thing Steam wants people to start thinking.

Sure, but it's a common attitude, especially given the frequency of Steam sales. I'd bet big November releases don't sell very well on Steam.

I know, I just don't think it's an attitude a place like Steam sees as a positive solution to people being shook up by the GOG stunt.

That's the ironic thing: the backlash from this might be directed more at places like Steam than GOG. Tin foil hat alert, but what if GOG did it to get everyone thinking about the unthinkable, because they at least offer you an untethered download you can treat like physical copy?

I would go one step further than Elysium and Psu: even if GOG had really shut down, it still would have been a safer bet in the long run than a disc. This all assuming you downloaded it at least once from the GOG website.

Since the GOG games are DRM free, you can make unlimited backups. One could store a copy on the HD, on a DVD at his parents, on a cloud server, ... at the same time.

Copying regular disc games though, even for legal purposes, isn't that easy. Most have at least some copy protection, preventing simple copies. Imaging often works, but not without some technical knowledge. Very often you'll need some cd-check crack, requiring more technical knowledge and some savvy with regards to dodgy sites and their security issues.

Now I realize that most here have the skill to succesfully backup disc-based games, but that doesn't change the fact there are more hoops to jump through.

TheGameguru wrote:
This whole thing is funny to me... we as gamers are so finicky and choosy about our outrage.. we all probably own MULTIPLE Nintendo devices of various colors (note no added functionality) we treat so much of our hobby as disposable that outrage seems misplaced at this juncture.

I know you're probably 90% right within the population on this website.... but not all of us have huge disposable incomes nor have multiple devices of the same sort (or HDTVs and surround sounds etc. etc.). The problem i have with this is that you're presuming that everyone who is 'outraged' (I think there's a big difference between outrage and annoyance) has this lifestyle and this worldview of ownership of objects and services. By doing so you're discarding many people's viewpoints without really considering them properly.

I could extrapolate my personal viewpoints and lifestyle onto the rest of the people here too... but that would leave me in the situation that some people have been on the boards here recently calling everyone drama queens and whatnot. Instead though i'd be calling them other names...

[edit]
To elaborate and possibly clarify my point - You treat so much of your hobby as disposable that outrage seems misplaced at this juncture. But then, of course, you're not 'outraged' so that all makes logical sense...

To elaborate and possibly clarify my point - You treat so much of your hobby as disposable that outrage seems misplaced at this juncture. But then, of course, you're not 'outraged' so that all makes logical sense.

No I go by what I read from posters here and their purchasing habits...As well as the nature of this industry where forced obsolescence is essentially mandatory. I spend $5 and probably receive a very disparate amount of "entertainment value" vs just about any other form of entertainment available to us...and yet I complain 7 times as much about it.

I do not have much to add beyond agreement that different people view our hobby differently and get different things out of it. I totally understand why cheap and convenient beats out a sense of permanence (whether merited or not) for some people. I personally find myself interspersing new releases with the curatorial joy of ten-year-old games I pull from the shelf to play on the original hardware.

That it was GoG which did this is especially interesting because of (1) the DRM-free easy-to-backup format that others mentioned; and (2) the nature of their product. If you are interested in GoG you are by definition someone who does not just play new releases; you have some interest in the long-term preservation of games.

Come to think of it, it is kind of interesting that given this unique audience, GoG has not offered boxed releases of its ports at an additional charge.

TheGameguru wrote:
To elaborate and possibly clarify my point - You treat so much of your hobby as disposable that outrage seems misplaced at this juncture. But then, of course, you're not 'outraged' so that all makes logical sense.

No I go by what I read from posters here and their purchasing habits...As well as the nature of this industry where forced obsolescence is essentially mandatory. I spend $5 and probably receive a very disparate amount of "entertainment value" vs just about any other form of entertainment available to us...and yet I complain 7 times as much about it.

But that was my point. You're assuming that the people who are complaining are those same people that have the mindset you put forth. It's not a compatible situation. Your generalising statement and the way you're judging the people who are complaining is what is wrong - not the complaining or the not-complaining. Otherwise you would not complain that (for instance) i was annoyed at the GoG mess because i don't own multiple Nintendo systems and i don't treat my hobby as a disposable and an inherently obsolete pastime..... I also know that, despite what you may think, we put up with a lot more crap per $ than other entertainment options. Sure, a game may provide 10 hours for $40 as opposed to 2 hours for $12 for a DVD or 5 days for a $7 book (so it works both ways in the price/utility argument) but when was the last time a book or DVD didn't work? When was the last time the chapters in the book you got were missing or printed in the wrong order or the DVD you bought would not play with the DVD player you have? It's, IMO, a difficult argument to make because there are pros and cons for every form of entertainment.

TheGameguru wrote:
This whole thing is funny to me... we as gamers are so finicky and choosy about our outrage.. we all probably own MULTIPLE Nintendo devices of various colors (note no added functionality) we treat so much of our hobby as disposable that outrage seems misplaced at this juncture.

I'm not reading so much "outrage" as I am "worry".

Having dropped several hundred dollars into Steam by now, including a fair chunk a few days ago for Civ V, a game which I will probably play for years and years, I do feel a small bit of concern for the fact that someday Valve may turn around and shut it down for some reason or another, in which case I will be able to use none of the products I have purchased.

I can go back and plug in a Gamecube or a PS1 or pull out my GBA if I want to play one of those games again, but I can't turn Steam back on if something happens to it, and I personally have no control over what happens to it. The entire GoG debacle only serves to highlight just how tenuous our grasp on these games really is.

I think a bit of concern in the fact of that realization being shoved in everyone's face is entirely justified.

gore wrote:
Really, it's true. The courts have pretty much said as much: you don't ever own software, no matter how you acquired a copy of it, unless the license specifically says so.

Quick hint: If there's a license, you probably don't actually own the software.

TheGameguru wrote:
I'd say that we just all need to put our big boy pants on and realize that nothing in life is certain.

While I really like that conclusion, I feel compelled to ask:

TheGameguru wrote:
Elysium wrote:
Checking my closet I see nothing but big boy pants. No evidence of poor jersey-buying decision making though.

Your a Packers fan..

Whose "a Packers fan"? And why would you type two periods in a row on National Punctuation Eve?

Also, a fun fact: My grandmother once gave me a Mark Chmura jersey as a gift. I think it was before the sex scandal, but not long before.

The issue of Steam going away is terrifying to me. However, over the last two years it has subtly changed my purchasing habits. I rarely buy a game for more $30. Digital distribution has actually reduced the value of any given game in my mind. That said I still pay full price for a select few titles.

I love digital distribution. For me the benefits; incredible sales, varying price points, more diverse titles, direct feedback to the developers and publishers, outweigh the risks. By purchasing the vast majority of my titles at a lower price point makes me feel like I'm at least minimizing my risk.

On the other hand, this was the EULA that Steams asked me to agree to when I installed Civ 5:
IMAGE(http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4127/5018991128_efdcd8a1b7_o.png)

TheGameguru wrote:
This whole thing is funny to me... we as gamers are so finicky and choosy about our outrage.. we all probably own MULTIPLE Nintendo devices of various colors (note no added functionality) we treat so much of our hobby as disposable that outrage seems misplaced at this juncture.

I can't speak for others, but my own reactions to these circumstances has nothing to do with whether or not I view the toys of this hobby as disposable. It has to do with the fact that I think that in a capitalistic economy (society?), it is important for the consumer to stand against producer/server-side actions that we don't agree with. If we don't, we shouldn't be surprised when our products and services deteriorate.

There is a balance of power inherent in this dynamic. Consumers must be as vigilant about their desires as companies are about generating profits.

Mister Magnus wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
TheGameguru wrote:
Elysium wrote:
Checking my closet I see nothing but big boy pants. No evidence of poor jersey-buying decision making though.

Your a Packers fan..

Whose "a Packers fan"? And why would you type two periods in a row on National Punctuation Eve?

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA... YAY!

Gameguru used the wrong "your" so wordy was correct to use "whose" instead of "who's."

wordsmythe wrote:
TheGameguru wrote:
Elysium wrote:
Checking my closet I see nothing but big boy pants. No evidence of poor jersey-buying decision making though.

Your a Packers fan..

Whose "a Packers fan"? And why would you type two periods in a row on National Punctuation Eve?

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA... YAY!

As for losing what I've got: My biggest concern is how my digitally downloaded XBLA, PSN and VirtualConsole games are going to survive the step up to the inevitable next generation. I figure the Nintendo downloads are as good as worthless.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Mister Magnus wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
TheGameguru wrote:
Elysium wrote:
Checking my closet I see nothing but big boy pants. No evidence of poor jersey-buying decision making though.

Your a Packers fan..

Whose "a Packers fan"? And why would you type two periods in a row on National Punctuation Eve?

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA... YAY!

Gameguru used the wrong "your" so wordy was correct to use "whose" instead of "who's."

Right on ClockworkHouse. Right. On. 0_0

(or did he? duhn-duhn-duhnnnn~)

wordsmythe wrote:
gore wrote:
Really, it's true. The courts have pretty much said as much: you don't ever own software, no matter how you acquired a copy of it, unless the license specifically says so.

Quick hint: If there's a license, you probably don't actually own the software.

That's generally true, although it's important to remember that licenses for open source software specifically grant you certain rights, to the extent that you may think of such software as something you actually do own. I know that this is not overly relevant in the games industry, as very few game companies use open source licenses (even id, which open sources bits of their game code, doesn't give such a license on their finished "games" as products), but it's worth remembering that some software comes with no strings attached.

One thing I'd really like to see, but am sure will never happen in this country, is an explicit consumer right to back up and continue using digital content, and a mandate that digital content distributors provide a facility for this to be done. If we're going to continue to embrace the fiction of "intellectual property," I strongly feel we should grant consumers the kinds of ownership rights that they expect from the real property. Why is it OK to walk into a store, "buy" a game just as you'd buy any other product, only to have no guaranteed right to even be able to use it, or any real recourse if you're unable to?

Of course, instead, we're moving in the exact opposite direction.

TheCounselor wrote:

Amen!

Besides, games are constantly losing value. I could buy ten full price games on Steam today and spend $500. In a year, they're worth no more than what I'd have to pay to replace them, which is probably $200 or less. In five years, we are probably talking about $50 in value. I have DVDs and games that have cost me thousands. Today, they're probably worth a few hundred bucks, max.

I have a difficult time getting behind this argument. Mostly because I fully subscribe to the idea that value is in the eye of the beholder. If I'm a big fan of a game and want to play it over the course of years, its perceived value is no different for me than the day I bought it (in fact it may even be higher.) Just because it may cost less and less to replace them doesn't mean I should have to spend money to replace something that I've already purchased. If I accidentally break a game disc - thats my bad and I'd pay to replace it. If however a DRM verification server goes offline and I can't play my game, that is something else entirely. As others have mentioned I actually think GOG falls somewhat outside of this realm given that you do have legal means of making your own back-ups and such.

Also in the scenarios that have been discussed it is entirely possible that for some of these games there won't be a legal route to replacement. Sure it is probably true that a given game will be pirateable but I don't really see that as legitimate recourse in any situation.

All that said I'm a huge fan of the convenience of digital distribution and really would just like to see some form of generalized policy in place for these situations so at least I can go in knowing what to expect.

The last time I worried about this was 1996. I bought Quake the only way possible at the time. I got the $10 shareware at the store, and then was forced to call iD and talk to a live person in order to get my unlock code for the full game.

I actually had to call a couple of times to get new codes when I went through crashes and such. I was convinced that I was gong to be screwed if iD ever went under.

Almost 15 years later, and it seems really silly to worry about my access to the game.

I love digital downloads so much now, that there are some games that I actually wait for the download version via XBL instead of buying a disc. I get them cheaper, and they are far more convenient. And if the next Xbox comes out and I no longer have access to them, so be it. I suppose there will be new games to play.

If the games are really worth playing, I'm sure new versions will come out on whatever hardware I happen to have.

TheCounselor wrote:
TheGameguru wrote:
Seeing that I now read that Digital Distribution in aggregate has surpassed physical sales I'd say that we just all need to put our big boy pants on and realize that nothing in life is certain.

Life is to short to worry about $5 games not being able to be re-downloaded.

If Steam died tomorrow and I lost access to my over 90 some games I'd look at the HUGE pile of Xbox 360, and PS3 games I need to still play through and realize that in terms of being a gamer you can't get much better than right now with the over abundance of gaming choices we have at our disposal.

I mean its really no different than the dozens of $200 Philadelphia sports team jerseys I have of players that got traded the year after I bought their jersey or decided that sit-ups in the front lawn was better than playing football.

Or died in a car crash... :(

Amen!

Besides, games are constantly losing value. I could buy ten full price games on Steam today and spend $500. In a year, they're worth no more than what I'd have to pay to replace them, which is probably $200 or less. In five years, we are probably talking about $50 in value. I have DVDs and games that have cost me thousands. Today, they're probably worth a few hundred bucks, max.

I agree. I bought FarCry 2 for $59.99 at launch. The lowest I've seen it go now is $9.99. In a few years, it will be part of a 99 cent bundle. If Steam goes t!ts up, I'd say the 10 games out of 200 I'd ever plan on playing again I could always.. re-buy if I really got that nostalgic itch.

But really, by that time, I'll be playing FarCry 4, and I'll care as much about FarCry 2 as I care about playing my dusty copy of Halo 2!

Heh, after reading this I figured that the GOG banner for the site wasn't going back up so I bought a couple things just through regular GOG. Now I see it's back up.

GAMERS WITH JOBS YOU FOOLED ME INTO THINKING THE GOG BANNER WAS DOWN FOR GOOD. YOU HAVE LOST A CUSTOMER HERE AND I SHALL NOT TRUST YOU AGAIN!

Would it help if I dressed like a monk?

Elysium wrote:
Would it help if I dressed like a monk?

You could take the site down for four days and see how we feel about you, just to drive the point home.

Or just add something like "I assure you, we're open" to the banner.