GWJ Conference Call Episode 140

Conference Call


Prototype, Tiger Woods 10 (Wii), Sims 3, AAA Blockbuster Games, Your Emails and more!

This week Cory Banks is in the captain's seat as he steers the show through the treacherous waters of AAA blockbuster games. Also, Sean Sands uses saucy language to make his point! If you want to submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563.

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined. You can also submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563!

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

"PodunkStump" (Ian Dorsch) - 0:37:01
"Los Pistoleros" (Ian Dorsch) - 1:04:27

Comments

Parallax Abstraction wrote:
Doesn't content downloaded through Steam not work if not launched through Steam? I just tried it with several games I bought on Steam (like Runaway) and when you click the EXE, it says "Can't find Steam" if the client isn't running and if the client's running, it can validate the content. To me, it seems as though the piracy excuse isn't a valid once when it comes to the Steam platform so the typical reasoning for not being able to return games doesn't apply. That's why I say this has never been about piracy, it's about publishers being able to release broken games on PC (as it becoming more common) and not having to be fiscally accountable for that.

Using Steam data with a crack is a little more technical than just finding the EXE, but honestly, Allen was correct above. I hate it when he's smarter than me.

Also, Switchbreak? Your run-on sentence made me smile, so there.

msaeger wrote:
Also how is it violating anything if I borrow my copy of ratchet and clank for the PS3 to a friend ? I don't remember any kind of EULA.

You might want to check the back of your game manual before saying that.

I also liked the DS9 reference

You guys seemed to imply that games without a big marketing blitz couldn't become a AAA/Blockbuster (I lost track of which you were referring to) but I almost immediately thought of both Portal and Bioshock, which became a AAA/Blockbuster game through word of mouth.

And I would say Uncharted was a blockbuster for the PS3 crowd. I think Blockbuster games can be specific to certain consoles and don't have to apply to gamers across the board - like Scribblenauts for DS as another example.

I find it interesting that every time Digital Distribution, Steam comes up but PSN and XboxLive are never addressed and I don't think they're the same animal at all.

Demiurge wrote:
Here's a good question. Why can't we return games to Steam? Couldn't they just deactivate your CD key?

They could, but at that point you've still got the data for the game and could easily work around the cd-key authorization. Which is why their return policy is simply that all sales are final.

Still, I know Impulse is looking into a used games model... For example, you buy for $50, resale (give up the key) for something like $30 or $25 towards another game, then Impulse has 1 "used" key they sell to another user for something like $40. I know, what's a used key? It's more like a control mechinisim. The key isn't any different, but the amount of keys they can sell at the discount price is only the amount traded back in.

Of course, this is all internet theory/rumor.

Lard wrote:
I also liked the DS9 reference

You guys seemed to imply that games without a big marketing blitz couldn't become a AAA/Blockbuster (I lost track of which you were referring to) but I almost immediately thought of both Portal and Bioshock, which became a AAA/Blockbuster game through word of mouth.

And I would say Uncharted was a blockbuster for the PS3 crowd. I think Blockbuster games can be specific to certain consoles and don't have to apply to gamers across the board - like Scribblenauts for DS as another example.

I find it interesting that every time Digital Distribution, Steam comes up but PSN and XboxLive are never addressed and I don't think they're the same animal at all.

AAA is the amount of money spent on the title. Blockbuster kind of has flexible definitions, like it could be Portal (sleeper hit), or it could be Prototype (mindless fun for the fun of it - a summer movie).

msaeger wrote:
I can't imagine ever paying 50 dollars for a downloaded game. The most I have paid by far is 20 dollars for Peggle from popcap. (Yeah I know it's cheaper on steam but from popcap I can install it on 5 pc's)

How's my copy of Sims 3 or Orange Box or World of Warcraft (or nearly every PC game I've bought int eh last two years) really any different than yours, other than the fact I didn't have to go to the store or dig my computer out of the closet?

rabbit wrote:
msaeger wrote:
I can't imagine ever paying 50 dollars for a downloaded game. The most I have paid by far is 20 dollars for Peggle from popcap. (Yeah I know it's cheaper on steam but from popcap I can install it on 5 pc's)

How's my copy of Sims 3 or Orange Box or World of Warcraft (or nearly every PC game I've bought int eh last two years) really any different than yours, other than the fact I didn't have to go to the store or dig my computer out of the closet?

You also don't have to search for boxes when you want to reinstall, or worse, CD Keys. I can't say that I miss CD Keys. Impulse hasn't really nailed this yet (they still send you a key you have to add to you list, sometimes, sometimes they add it correctly), but you can add ANY game they carry with a CD Key to your digital library, no matter how old or how you aquired it. Steam only allows this to be dont with Valve games.

I actually am a fan of manuals, which are sorely lacking in online distro, but the last console game I bought came with a 4 page manual that explained how to insert the disk, power on the system, and where the buttons are on the controller. Not what they do, what they are (A,B,X,Y, etc). After that I just gave up on manuals. I guess they're dead in box or digital.

There will never be another manual like Fallout, so why bother?

Shoal07 wrote:
rabbit wrote:
msaeger wrote:
I can't imagine ever paying 50 dollars for a downloaded game. The most I have paid by far is 20 dollars for Peggle from popcap. (Yeah I know it's cheaper on steam but from popcap I can install it on 5 pc's)

How's my copy of Sims 3 or Orange Box or World of Warcraft (or nearly every PC game I've bought int eh last two years) really any different than yours, other than the fact I didn't have to go to the store or dig my computer out of the closet?

You also don't have to search for boxes when you want to reinstall, or worse, CD Keys. I can't say that I miss CD Keys. Impulse hasn't really nailed this yet (they still send you a key you have to add to you list, sometimes, sometimes they add it correctly), but you can add ANY game they carry with a CD Key to your digital library, no matter how old or how you aquired it. Steam only allows this to be dont with Valve games.

I actually am a fan of manuals, which are sorely lacking in online distro, but the last console game I bought came with a 4 page manual that explained how to insert the disk, power on the system, and where the buttons are on the controller. Not what they do, what they are (A,B,X,Y, etc). After that I just gave up on manuals. I guess they're dead in box or digital.

I with you there! The only thing I miss from digital distribution are the manuals but no one has made a good one in years. Console game rarely had good ones but PC games on the other hand used to have really cool manuals. But I think this largely died when PC boxes got shrunk down.

Steam usually has a PDF of the manual, but if it doesn't http://www.replacementdocs.com is a great resource.

Shoal07 wrote:
You also don't have to search for boxes when you want to reinstall, or worse, CD Keys.

(This isn't directed at you Shoal, i just cut out a load of other quotes to keep it tidy.)

You know, just because some people can't order their collections or keep track of simple things doesn't mean that they're bad.

WRT Rabbit, your copy of the sims 3 is different (WoW is not) because it doesn't come with DRM online authentication. As soon as the authentication servers and the place where you downloaded it from no longer support the game or exist you lose your game. The "physical" copy will keep working as long as he has the disc and the technical ability to run the game. Even then, cracks would be potentially easier to implement because there's fewer variables to work around and thus things like DOSbox et al come into play in the future on new tech.

The games industry likes to think of itself as a one way street - you buy a service, not a commodity (though looking at the definitions and realities of these two you see that most games are not services), you buy a license that is non-transferrable but never own the right to play the game if it's updated for new systems regardless of the license you paid money for, you have no protection against shoddy/broken game releases: an industry-wide "no return" policy. It saddens me to see so many people blindly follow the industry's attitude towards its consumers in the name of laziness.

Duoae wrote:

You know, just because some people can't order their collections or keep track of simple things doesn't mean that they're bad.

But if there's an alternative, why bother with the hassle of having to organise and keep track of something? Physical media and associated manuals/codes are liable to get lost or damaged. I tried to reinstall Baldur's Gate 2 a while back, only to find that my disc 2 is scratched and it won't install. If I'd bought on Steam I wouldn't have that problem.

And of course gamers are lazy: that's the point, it's an entertainment medium.

DRM is a separate issue of course, I agree that we need to make sure that consumers are still protected and that games can still be played if the company goes out of business - some kind of escrow auto-unlock system would work I guess - but that's not related to download vs physical media.

Zelos wrote:
Duoae wrote:

You know, just because some people can't order their collections or keep track of simple things doesn't mean that they're bad.

But if there's an alternative, why bother with the hassle of having to organise and keep track of something? Physical media and associated manuals/codes are liable to get lost or damaged. I tried to reinstall Baldur's Gate 2 a while back, only to find that my disc 2 is scratched and it won't install. If I'd bought on Steam I wouldn't have that problem.

And of course gamers are lazy: that's the point, it's an entertainment medium.

DRM is a separate issue of course, I agree that we need to make sure that consumers are still protected and that games can still be played if the company goes out of business - some kind of escrow auto-unlock system would work I guess - but that's not related to download vs physical media.

The problem is that DRM and digital downloads (with the exception of Impulse, though you could argue about the updates being DRM) are interlinked so currently, it's not a separate issue for most current and upcoming releases.

I've never scratched a disc, though i have had games stolen or 'lost' through borrowing by friends. I take care of my property so, barring the CD becoming oxidised/eaten by bacteria or becoming incompatible with technology i don't really worry about that sort of thing. With DD i worry that i have no control over the money i've spent and little recourse to actually be able to counteract any adverse behaviour on the part of the providers. Giving the example of BG2... it may work on Vista and current gen hardware but there's no guarantee that the steam version would be updated when it's required... and no guarantee that Steam itself will remain backwards compatible with old OSes considering its requirement to update to be able to continue working or even contact the authentication servers.

Duoae wrote:

I've never scratched a disc, though i have had games stolen or 'lost' through borrowing by friends. I take care of my property so, barring the CD becoming oxidised/eaten by bacteria or becoming incompatible with technology i don't really worry about that sort of thing.

Given the number of disc-polishing services, clearly it's a fairly common problem. Unfortunately my disc appears to be scratched from the top, so a polish won't make any difference.

With DD i worry that i have no control over the money i've spent and little recourse to actually be able to counteract any adverse behaviour on the part of the providers. Giving the example of BG2... it may work on Vista and current gen hardware but there's no guarantee that the steam version would be updated when it's required... and no guarantee that Steam itself will remain backwards compatible with old OSes considering its requirement to update to be able to continue working or even contact the authentication servers.

That's true of all games, though. I tried to install IL-2 and Medieval Total War from disc again recently and neither would work on my current system (I did manage to get IL-2 working upside-down for a while, but installing a patch killed it completely). It's a common enough problem that Good Old Games have created a business around doing all the patching/updating required to get old games working on new hardware/OS versions.

Zelos wrote:

That's true of all games, though. I tried to install IL-2 and Medieval Total War from disc again recently and neither would work on my current system (I did manage to get IL-2 working upside-down for a while, but installing a patch killed it completely). It's a common enough problem that Good Old Games have created a business around doing all the patching/updating required to get old games working on new hardware/OS versions.

That's the whole point though, services like Dosbox can only work if there's no authentication DRM. GoG works mostly with games that never had anything besides a CD check. In the future, unless a copy of the game can be obtained without the authentication DRM from the publisher GoG is going to be in violation of the DMCA and only once that's addressed can they begin to emulate or try and get those games working on new systems.

There are plenty of fans that can support these games but in this new age it's increasingly only possible via piracy. As the situation currently is, we're reliant on publishers seeing value in releasing the source code to a third party (GoG) to allow that patching or updating.

I will guarantee you that GoG iscworking with P&I lishers not backing some old CD some employee hapenned to save.

Fwiw I had the same experience with il2 recently. Hours of chasing patches vs oneclick instal.

I wouldn't be surprised if digital renting and subscriptions services wouldn't be predominant in relation to digital sales. After all a digital sale is just a rental with no expiration date, if the service goes down and you don't take the measures to back it up you lose your copy, and even if back it up you might end up with the same problems we have with the disk version, were is it does it run on windows 12 where's the emulator etc... I like steam and gog service a lot and I that is the future you log on to you account and download, or stream, the games you want play is it a sale a rental or subscription service that's up to you to chose. All I want is simple the collective works of all mankind, games movies music books to be just a click away the way you pay for that is up to debate.

rabbit wrote:
I will guarantee you that GoG iscworking with P&I lishers not backing some old CD some employee hapenned to save.

Kids, don't do drugs. Sent from an iPhone?

Maybe it makes me a bit of a luddite, but I still crave the tangibility of a physical product. I keep my stuff organized and I take care of it, so the only real worry I've ever had is bitrot; and since I built my 4 terabyte server, I've ripped ISOs of all the discs that have to be re-installed with an OS wipe (it's amazing how many games still work even after losing their registry entries). To me, one of the best parts of buying a game has been the smell of newly-opened plastic or cardboard, cracking the spine on the manual, and popping in the disc. It builds the anticipation in a way that a download just can't manage.

rabbit wrote:
msaeger wrote:
I can't imagine ever paying 50 dollars for a downloaded game. The most I have paid by far is 20 dollars for Peggle from popcap. (Yeah I know it's cheaper on steam but from popcap I can install it on 5 pc's)

How's my copy of Sims 3 or Orange Box or World of Warcraft (or nearly every PC game I've bought int eh last two years) really any different than yours, other than the fact I didn't have to go to the store or dig my computer out of the closet?

Well considering I still have friends who would rather buy the CD then download the album from iTunes, I think this issue extends to more than just games. I don't think there's anything different with the games themselves, some people just like to be able to look at their bookshelf and see all the jewel cases.

It's an interesting gedanken experiment because as soon as you move to an all-download model, it isn't much of a step to the itunes-like $5 per game level kind of sales, or maybe you could pay by the hour instead. I'm just not sure how the game companies are going to like not getting all of their $60 up front. And again, much of this depends on how fast your internet connection is. Here in raleigh, the most expensive you can buy is 10Mbit.

Duoae wrote:
It saddens me to see so many people blindly follow the industry's attitude towards its consumers in the name of laziness.

To be entirely frank, I read things like this and just don't want to even bother responding. You notice no one here is calling you -- nor should they -- a luddite relic spinning his wheels in idle stubbornness for the sake of misguided, outdated and largely imaginary ideals, because it would be totally unfair. Right? So, if you could spare me the motivation labeling and assume that we're operating at least from a place of good faith instead of just being lazy, I'd sincerely appreciate it.

I'm sorry Elysium, apart from the fact that it was a comment on consumer response to industry practices in the rest of the paragraph before it, i was responding to the justifications of preferring one over the other.

I understand that. It just really rubbed me the wrong way. I probably over reacted. It's the first time I've ever done that.

No, seriously.

Elysium wrote:
Duoae wrote:
It saddens me to see so many people blindly follow the industry's attitude towards its consumers in the name of laziness.

To be entirely frank, I read things like this and just don't want to even bother responding. You notice no one here is calling you -- nor should they -- a luddite relic spinning his wheels in idle stubbornness for the sake of misguided, outdated and largely imaginary ideals, because it would be totally unfair. Right? So, if you could spare me the motivation labeling and assume that we're operating at least from a place of good faith instead of just being lazy, I'd sincerely appreciate it.

I'm sorry Elysium, apart from the fact that it was a comment on consumer response to industry practices in the rest of the paragraph before it, i was responding to the justifications of preferring one over the other. Convenience/laziness (though personally i don't think it's really any more convenient than the current methods since we're not breaking up albums like with CDs). The argument against physical media seems to be just that: from the podcast to numerous threads on the subject. On it's own, the quote seems much more harsh than it was meant.

rabbit wrote:
How's my copy of Sims 3 or Orange Box or World of Warcraft (or nearly every PC game I've bought int eh last two years) really any different than yours, other than the fact I didn't have to go to the store or dig my computer out of the closet?

Shoal07 wrote:
You also don't have to search for boxes when you want to reinstall, or worse, CD Keys.

Zelos wrote:

But if there's an alternative, why bother with the hassle of having to organise and keep track of something? Physical media and associated manuals/codes are liable to get lost or damaged.

As to your potential idea of what my ideals are.... wanting to keep the consumer/creator balance somewhere in the middle; i never thought that would be considered luddite thinking. I just don't know of any other consumer/creator relationship in life where you allow yourself to get slapped in the face or sign off on your rights to what you've paid for yet we do it all the time with regards to the software industry and are doing so with increasing frequency as time goes on.

[edit]


[...]assume that we're operating at least from a place of good faith instead of just being lazy, I'd sincerely appreciate it.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by this - i've re-read it a few times. Do you mean you're acting on good faith towards the publishers/developers? If so: in another thread, not so far from here, i've been lambasted multiple times for believing what they said. Add to that, all the DRM store closures and their abandonment of their customers and i can't scrape together much faith in the industry's promises or for them to act in a way that respects their customers.

Elysium wrote:
I'm sorry Elysium, apart from the fact that it was a comment on consumer response to industry practices in the rest of the paragraph before it, i was responding to the justifications of preferring one over the other.

I understand that. It just really rubbed me the wrong way. I probably over reacted. It's the first time I've ever done that.

No, seriously.

No, i don't think you over reacted. (So there's still going to be a first time ;)) I know i can harp on about stuff a bit too much. I try and scale it back but sometimes i carry on for too long.

Sorry for causing you and anyone else any offense.

Elysium wrote:
I understand that. It just really rubbed me the wrong way. I probably over reacted. It's the first time I've ever done that.

No, seriously.


Duoae wrote:
No, i don't think you over reacted. (So there's still going to be a first time ;)) I know i can harp on about stuff a bit too much. I try and scale it back but sometimes i carry on for too long.

Sorry for causing you and anyone else any offense.

There you guys go again, demonstrating that this site is home to thoughtful and reasonable discourse.

flashbolt wrote:
Well considering I still have friends who would rather buy the CD then download the album from iTunes, I think this issue extends to more than just games. I don't think there's anything different with the games themselves, some people just like to be able to look at their bookshelf and see all the jewel cases.

The thing with CDs is that their audio quality is better than that of the mp3s you can generally download, so people who care about that sort of thing sometimes want the CD just so they can rip it themselves. Games don't really have the same issue.

The one aspect that seems to be missing or under-represented in this discussion of digital distribution is the difference between consoles and PCs.

Paying retail price for a digital distribution of a PC game doesn't bother me that much because I don't see many benefits to having the physical copy on the PC side; there are various technical hurdles (DRM, CD keys, different system specs) that complicate the transferability of that software anyway and there isn't really a capacity for renting physical copies of PC games for full version trial either. (In fact, digital distribution actually opens the door to trial periods of full software versions. Case in point: the "free weekends" that Steam runs on various games, like UT3.)

In the console/portable marketplaces, however, the value in having a physical copy is much greater because the platform is inherently more suited to transferability. As long as my friend has a 360, I can hand over my copy of Gears of War without any concerns. I can rent Punch Out to get a quick impression of the game before making the $50 plunge. For console and portable owners, the physical commodity will almost always hold more value and, as a result, I feel like the digital distribution price needs to undercut the retail price point to match.

It's one thing to say that the future of PC gaming lies in digital distribution, but it's another to say that it's the future for all of gaming. The PSP Go may have shown one step towards that future for handhelds, but I think both handhelds and consoles will still have much farther to go before they catch up with the distribution channels on the PC side.

That's a really good post, Ozymandias.

I like digital distribution because it allows me to get some software that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to, but when it comes to most other games I fail to see an important difference with buying the box.

Why isn't anyone talking about price though? The promise of digital distribution was that games would be cheaper, but I've not seen any evidence to support that claim. I've actually seen the opposite occuring. What exactly is the benefit of digital distribution for the end-user like me, other than minor conveniences (internet speeds aren't that fast yet). Also, the fact that developers are purported to get a bigger slice of the pie through digital distribution means nothing to the average Joe.

Duoae wrote:
Elysium wrote:
I'm sorry Elysium, apart from the fact that it was a comment on consumer response to industry practices in the rest of the paragraph before it, i was responding to the justifications of preferring one over the other.

I understand that. It just really rubbed me the wrong way. I probably over reacted. It's the first time I've ever done that.

No, seriously.

No, i don't think you over reacted. (So there's still going to be a first time ;)) I know i can harp on about stuff a bit too much. I try and scale it back but sometimes i carry on for too long.

Sorry for causing you and anyone else any offense.

Get a room you 2.

harrisben wrote:
I like digital distribution because it allows me to get some software that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to, but when it comes to most other games I fail to see an important difference with buying the box.

Why isn't anyone talking about price though? The promise of digital distribution was that games would be cheaper, but I've not seen any evidence to support that claim. I've actually seen the opposite occuring. What exactly is the benefit of digital distribution for the end-user like me, other than minor conveniences (internet speeds aren't that fast yet). Also, the fact that developers are purported to get a bigger slice of the pie through digital distribution means nothing to the average Joe.

Games aren't cheaper the day they come out, likely because the publisher has an agreement with Gamestop and Bestbuy that all copies will be sold at retail price for the first month or whatever they negotiate on. After that, just check out the deals on Steam, or Impulse, or a host of other sites. The discounts are incredible, and put downward pressure on prices across the board. If you haven't seen it, keep looking, because it's definately out there.