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zgerhard avatar 9:19 AM on 02.23.2010  (server time)
Anti-Piracy, Anti-Used, Anti-Consumer?

CNBC just posted an article entitled "Game Publishers Fight Back Against Used Games." Used game retailers and game developers and publishers have been bickering about who gets what in a used game transaction, but the measures some of these companies are taking to ensure more new game sales are starting to get ridiculous and overly taxing on the consumer.

Ubisoft's new DRM for PC games is ridiculous. PC game piracy is, unfortunately, very rampant in the industry. However, forcing every PC gamer that wants to play a Ubisoft game to have and maintain an internet connection is a bad mistake on Ubisoft's part. Yes - probably 9 out of 10 people who own a PC and want to play games will also have an online connection. However, that one person who doesn't have internet is now out of luck. What about those people who are in between homes and have not yet set up their internet? Or, what if there's a problem with a consumer's ISP and they aren't connected? LAN parties are now also screwed, unless of course every PC at the LAN party is connected (which doesn't always happen).

Anyone who was an avid Half-Life player back in the day will remember the WON system. They will also remember the frustrating switch to Steam and how Steam was not functional for almost a week because it got overloaded (not entirely unlike what happened to Xbox LIVE last Christmas season). One of the large criticisms of Steam when it first came out was that it lacked an Offline Mode. Ubisoft needs to re-read this little chapter in video game history and understand that tying the functionality of a game to an online service will not be a sustainable way to combat piracy. Well, it will fight piracy for sure, but it will also do more to push away consumers who would love to fork over cash for games... you know, until they find out that unless they have an established internet connection, that game is really just a fancy paperweight.

Sony has their own plan. The PSP Go, the all digital handheld, is a good concept idea, but they should've waited for the PSP 2 as re-releasing this 4th iteration of the PSP cut out all of the current PSP owners by not offering them a way to turn their hard media into the digital media the PSP Go uses. That was the first mistake.

Sony also has implemented a way to lock out features of games that you will need to pay extra for if you purchase the game used. For instance, the new SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo 3 on the PSP, will require online activation to use all of the features. Now, if you buy this game brand new, the activation is free. If you buy the game used, you have to spend another $20 to activate the on-line play feature, among others.

The only system I have seen that I agree with is EA's system. When purchasing a new copy of, say, Mass Effect 2, Dante's Inferno, or DA: Origins, you get a code that gets you DLC for free. Obviously, buying the game used will force consumers to pay extra for those DLC packs. This lets people who don't have the money to buy games used and still get to play and experience the game, but also gives people who have the money to buy it new and get some free stuff.

I understand the game publishers and developers looking to make more money, but they are going to great lengths to make a few extra bucks, and it's not going to work because it's going to punish the consumers in the end. However, I did some research on EA's earnings and they are still making quite a lot of money.

By doing some quick research on EA's earnings, I found that EA's gross profit from 2006 was roughly $1.93 million. In 2009 (we still have another month - their fiscal year ends March 31, 2010), their gross profit is $1.86 million - and they have yet to release Battlefield Bad Company 2. I see a pretty stable company, to be honest. I am no financial genius, but from what I see, in the past 4 years, they have done a pretty swell job developing and publishing popular games that grossed them a solid amount of cash.

Now, as publishers/developers keep bickering about not getting a cut of the used game sales by certain retailers, they are spending money and time in developing ways to make buying new games more lucrative. EA's system, like I described earlier, is one that I agree with. However, other companies are taking extreme measures for a problem that really doesn't seem to be that big of an impact. Used game retailers do very well in promoting the industry, after all, as gamers can use their old games to help buy themselves a new game.

Game publishers and developers will be digging their own grave if they keep pushing the issue. Without specialty retailers for video games, the industry will take a big hit. One of the reasons why the game industry hasn't suffered as much as other industries in this financial crisis is because consumers can use their old product as payment for new products. Cut that out and you are going to lose a lot of business. Making DRMs like Ubisoft will push willing consumers away. Making games a hassle to play will cut interest in the newer games.

I suggest holding onto your current consoles and maybe investing in a few retro systems, because if the current trend keeps on going, requiring stable internet connection for every game, then you're going to be longing for those game consoles where you can just plug it in, pop the cartridge in, and game.

Sincerely, I hope the game industry starts to think more about their consumer than their bottom line, because pushing this issue as they are now will only push the paying customers away, and even though the bottom line will look bigger at first, it will not be sustainable.

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