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

Elysium's always looking for excuses to put on a dress.

Hey, Sean, you're not fooling anyone.

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

misplacedbravado wins the thread for the Clerks reference!

IMAGE(http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b63/SidDithers/Respek_Knuckles.jpg)

Why does this site suddenly smell like shoe polish?

I recently purchased a physical copy of Civ 5. The reason being I see that as a game I could play for years on end and didn't want to hinge that on Steam's long-term existence. Lo and behold, you install it from the disk and it still requires you to have a Steam account! Sigh.

Way back when, I was worried about Steam for a lot of the reasons cited in this thread. Now, I've got nearly 200 titles in my account.

I've become less anxious about the longevity of my account because I suspect that Steam really will be around for a long, long time to come. Right now, Valve is a fairly small and privately held company, but they have tremendous first mover advantage within the digital distribution industry. They have a huge customer base and pretty significant cash flow. I'd be surprised if they were less than ten times the size of their nearest competitor in terms of customers and titles sold. If Valve ever got into serious trouble, I think they'd get snatched up by Microsoft, Apple, Google, or one of the telecoms. Their new parent would keep the service going for many, many years to come.

Now, if that happened, I might start thinking about the wisdom of investing in more titles - but that's mostly because large publicly held companies seem to have a pattern of obnoxiously anti-customer behavior these days and I suspect that they might put much more restrictive licenses in place for new offerings. But, I wouldn't really worry about retaining access to all the stuff I've already bought.

There's no way I'd build serious game collections through any other digital distro service because I have no confidence that they're going to be around five years from now.

This thread does bring up an interesting question though: what happens with all of our Xbox live purchases and existing physical games at the end of this hardware generation? I don't think Microsoft has announced anything about how they're going to handle this. It would certainly leave a bad taste in my mouth if everything I've purchased from them over the last five years is no longer functional.

Steam has been around since 2003, so they have built up a reputation of what to expect over those years.

This thread does bring up an interesting question though: what happens with all of our Xbox live purchases and existing physical games at the end of this hardware generation? I don't think Microsoft has announced anything about how they're going to handle this. It would certainly leave a bad taste in my mouth if everything I've purchased from them over the last five years is no longer functional.

At some point it ends..but really just like always. But I'm sure you can keep your original 360 and play on that for a good long time. There are plenty of Atari 2600's still going strong

Hmmm..I miss my Neo Geo now that I'm thinking old school

polq37 wrote:

And what about the phenomenon of publishers selling their back catalog of arcade games and classics? Do they think we're going to buy them again for a new generation of hardware?

Ico HD, Shadow of the Colossus HD, PoP trilogy HD.... Splinter cell trilogy HD?

Duoae wrote:
Ico HD, Shadow of the Colossus HD, PoP trilogy HD.... Splinter cell trilogy HD?

I'd be happy to buy a lot of these things once, if they're offered for at a reasonable price through Xbox Live or the Playstation Network. And, at this point, I've got an Xbox live account that's spanned two generations of hardware and I've got a small number of arcade and digital download titles linked to that account. I'm going to feel pretty taken advantage of, if Microsoft doesn't preserve access to those titles in future hardware generations. I'm going to be especially annoyed if it cuts off access for backward compatibility reasons and then offers the same titles for sale again, ported to the new generation.

I think the issue of backward compatibility is going to be a bigger factor for the next hardware generation than it was for past generations.

On the other hand, if Microsoft or Sony do a good job of preserving the value of people's digital accounts, it would go a long way towards establishing and preserving market share in the next generation of console wars.

TheGameguru wrote:
At some point it ends..but really just like always. But I'm sure you can keep your original 360 and play on that for a good long time. There are plenty of Atari 2600's still going strong :-)

I dunno. There's something that feels different about this generation. The games feel more ... consequential.

Games from past generations tended to seem outmoded once the next gen rolled around. This generation, there's a larger population of games that are more strongly designed and less limited by technology.

And what about the phenomenon of publishers selling their back catalog of arcade games and classics? Do they think we're going to buy them again for a new generation of hardware?

polq37 wrote:
Duoae wrote:
Ico HD, Shadow of the Colossus HD, PoP trilogy HD.... Splinter cell trilogy HD?

I'd be happy to buy a lot of these things once, if they're offered for at a reasonable price through Xbox Live or the Playstation Network.

I get what you're saying but these things are already being offered as 'new' games on Blu Ray for the PS3. My point was that next generation we're likely to see more 'HD' re-offerings of games we already own along with 3D versions of current games (which i don't believe the current hardware is capable of doing at current resolutions and graphical shinyness).

Other than the big titles, we're likely to see updated compilations of Xbox Live and PSN 'classics' that work on the new hardware in a similar vein to the Sega and Atari compilations on the 360 and PS3. But there's pretty much a zero chance of them bringing across unsupported games for free....

I think it is foolish to buy any software with the assumption that it will be compatible with successive systems. It's a nice feature, and it definitely impacts my decision on when to move on to the new hardware. But I buy a new system to play new games, and have always assumed that I need to keep my old system to play old games.

Jayhawker wrote:
I think it is foolish to buy any software with the assumption that it will be compatible with successive systems. It's a nice feature, and it definitely impacts my decision on when to move on to the new hardware. But I buy a new system to play new games, and have always assumed that I need to keep my old system to play old games.

I think the issue becomes that old games are now becoming linked to services that have a finite life. You may still have your 360 in ten years time and in working order but your DLC and downloaded games might no longer work - doubly so if they're tied to an account that needs to be active in connection to a certain bit of hardware. e.g. a marketplace game wouldn't work if you couldn't log into Live! and you'd had to put your HDD onto a new 360.

So the problem is that you're limited on two fronts - hardware/physical and service/software. Live! Still exists but (and i'm not entirely certain of ins and outs of this) no longer works for the original Xbox.

I've had it happen to me already with an old-school game CD that its copy protection didn't recognize that it was in the drive, and thus didn't want to let me play it, when I reinstalled NFS: High Stakes a few years back. Easy enough to circumvent using a crack from gamecopyworld, but still a DMCA violation, even though I only wanted to use the product I'd paid for.

At least with GOG's stuff, if you've downloaded and backed up your setup files, and have the requisite PC and OS, you can still play your game.

The issue with XBLA and other small downloadable games is less pressing to me, simply because the games are so much cheaper. I'm usually fine dropping $10 or $15 dollars on a game knowing that there's a possibility that Microsoft may stop supporting it in five or ten years, leaving my ability to play it inextricably tied to a particular piece of hardware that's known to be finicky. Making that same deal with the devil with a $50 or $60 game would be a lot less attractive. But then, I regularly spent upwards of $50 on NES cartridges back in the day, and how many of those lasted ten years? Some, sure, but not even close to all.

Fortunately, the only platform that uses online authentication with full-priced games is the PC, and when it comes to PC games, Bittorrent is the ultimate backup service. It may not technically be legal, but as long as I've paid for a legit copy of the game, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it should it ever come to that.

Papageno wrote:
I've had it happen to me already with an old-school game CD that its copy protection didn't recognize that it was in the drive, and thus didn't want to let me play it, when I reinstalled NFS: High Stakes a few years back. Easy enough to circumvent using a crack from gamecopyworld, but still a DMCA violation, even though I only wanted to use the product I'd paid for.

I doubt that portion of the DMCA would hold up in court in a situation like that, especially given the new exemptions just passed by the Librarian of Congress.

Gizmodo wrote:
The fourth exemption is narrower than the first three, granting the right to crack video or computer game DRM (such as SecuROM) for the purposes of research or “investigation”. The language here is broad enough to give a little wiggle room (after all, anyone who’s curious can investigate).

I don't worry about the game I purch- sorry, I mean rent-with-a-one-time-fee for download any more.

It's not because I think the services will continue to be around in five to ten years; I fully recognize they may not.

It's not because I think the games will work in new operating systems or on new generations of consoles; I fully recognize they may not.

It's not because I think all these things can be cracked to get around the DRM or run in emulation to make them work on new systems - they may, but rarely will I want to make the effort.

No, it's because I've learned to let go.

Hans

hidannik wrote:

No, it's because I've learned to let go.

Hans

Thanks! I see you are now better than a lot of the rest of us. Let us know how enlightenment goes.

Duoae wrote:
hidannik wrote:

No, it's because I've learned to let go.

Hans

Thanks! I see you are now better than a lot of the rest of us. Let us know how enlightenment goes.

:)

I think he is just trying to say that games are fun. They've been for for the last 30 years. They will continue to be fun for the next 30 years. Big companies will always try to maximize profit. But in the end, they will continue to make affordable fun games.

It's the only way they stay in business. If they get dumb, they may go the way of Atari, or countless other companies. But luckily, someone else keeps stepping in with another fun and affordable way to play video games.

Letting go just means accepting that while things may change, spending so much time worrying about what might happen ruins the fun you are having right now. Because in the future, even if you can't boot up that classic game you loved so much, you will still be enjoying something.

Jayhawker wrote:
Duoae wrote:
hidannik wrote:

No, it's because I've learned to let go.

Hans

Thanks! I see you are now better than a lot of the rest of us. Let us know how enlightenment goes.

:)

I think he is just trying to say that games are fun. They've been for for the last 30 years. They will continue to be fun for the next 30 years. Big companies will always try to maximize profit. But in the end, they will continue to make affordable fun games.

It's the only way they stay in business. If they get dumb, they may go the way of Atari, or countless other companies. But luckily, someone else keeps stepping in with another fun and affordable way to play video games.

Letting go just means accepting that while things may change, spending so much time worrying about what might happen ruins the fun you are having right now. Because in the future, even if you can't boot up that classic game you loved so much, you will still be enjoying something.

IMAGE(http://www.celsius1414.com/images/keanu_whoa.jpg)

Seriously though, it's a good attitude. It's so easy to get caught up in this modern consumer angst that it's easy to lose perspective.

Things may change, we may occasionally lose out, but the wheel will turn.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
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.

Several people would die if that happened.

My employer might suddenly realise that they are paying me full whack for an 0.5 FTE job, which might be a little bit of a problem.