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Games Entertainment

Bleak Future for Videogame Customers 399

Posted by michael
from the imagine-a-boot dept.
jvm writes "A recent commentary on Curmudgeon Gamer speculates on the future of the videogame market. Among the predictions: no more rentals from video stores, no used games market, no lending games to friends, less upgradeable computers, pay-as-you-play software subscriptions, and other consumer-unfriendly changes. In all, less gaming value for your hard-earned dollar."
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Bleak Future for Videogame Customers

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:12PM (#8008245)
    This isn't purely a gaming industy trend, but an overall trend in the software industry as a whole. Everything sold as retail software now comes with at least a CD key, if not an activiation system. Software publishers have always hated piracy, and always hated the idea of selling used software.

    I don't see much of a difference between a play-for-play model, and the rental model... both leave you with nothing after your allotted time has expired. The Blockbusters of the world are the ones who are really shaking over the death of physical media, because they're not needed if everybody gets their rental content delivered online.

    The divorce of software from physical media is a result of a shift in business models, but I don't think there's any more reason to cry over the loss of the console gaming cart than there is to cry over the death of the RIAA-backed music CD. We're just getting deeper and deeper into the information age, and if we want our high-speed networks to be any good, we've gotta have data availalbe on it...
    • by Posting=!Working (197779) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:20PM (#8008305)
      Everything sold as retail software now comes with at least a CD key

      How does a CD key prevent copying anyway? I mean, pirates can copy a CD, but aren't smart enough to copy a 16 character key? Does it do anything other than piss off the consumer.

      Someone help me, but this is a concept I've never understood.
      • by LostCluster (625375) * on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:26PM (#8008348)
        That's why they realized that serial numbers had to be washed against a list of compromised numbers in some sort of revocation process. The result of that is known as "software activation"... phoning home with the CD key to see if that key is still valid.
      • by moresheth (678206) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:54PM (#8008523)
        Although it won't help regular office-type software, the CD-Key is the bane of online-gamers who don't pay for their games. Most games that use one will connect to a master server to verify its authenticity. So games like Quake 3 and Raven Shield require you to be legit to play in most of the open servers on the net, while games like half-life (even though it has a cd-key system) don't check the number online and are able to be cracked. I don't know this from experience, or anything.
        • Not that I know anything about this, but for at least a while, quake3 could be played online without a valid key. You would simply redirect connections to the authentication server back to localhost while running your own, personal authentication service. The real pain was that something in the hacked-up setup would always get broken every time a patch was released, so that would count you out of online play anyway.

          Believe me, everything can get cracked, and if it's not in the client, then it's the serv
          • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @06:22PM (#8010230)
            What you say is true, but keep in mind the audience versus the hosts here. Even though one can crack a client to bypass the authentication, and one can crack a server to allow cracked clients, the only time the clients can even play is when it's on a cracked server, a very rare case. While you have some people with the nessisary bandwidth and the desire to run a cracked server for everyone, the large server organizations that run their own servers and official game servers(SCI, HomeLAN, etc) aren't in the buisness of running cracked servers, and neither are most server owners in general.

            The point of all of this being, is that it goes to show how secure the current key-master system that Q3, UT2K3, etc is - at best, crackers can only unlock a portion of the "world." And this is why such a system is staying, as even after 5 years, it's largely held up, something no other system so far can claim. One only has to look at UT(CD protection) vs. Q3(key-master) to see why this is ideal - in the age of online games, must buy your game in order to play it, piracy just won't work.
      • by bryhhh (317224) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:58PM (#8008540)
        It doesn't make much difference for single player only games, but LAN & internet games will not allow installs using the same key to play together, but it still isn't that great a concept, as keygens seem to be widely available.
        • "keygens seem to be widely available"

          If you can't find the CD on an old microsoft application, try anything where the last 7 digits are a multiple of 7. e.g.
          111-1111111
          7777-7777777
          11111-11111-11111 -11111-11111

          more details [omnitechdesign.com]
        • Only certain games have that, and thankfully I haven't run into any games like that. The last thing I wanna have to tell my friends at a LAN party is :

          Me : "Hey guys we gotta go out and by X copies of the game for CD keys because we can play!"
          Them : "Its 1 AM, shut up and find up a CD key generator then."
          Me : "Right-o, looking for a CD key generator."

          Hmm, nevermind then..

    • by John Courtland (585609) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:20PM (#8008306)
      I'd say that it's important to have actual, physical copies of the information. It's far harder to accidentally corrupt a plastic disc than it is to have a transfer error screw up an application.

      I think that if big media seriously chooses this approach, a lot of people are going to abandon ship and start their own form of media distribution. This is just a ply for more money, going back to the old addage of not making something TOO good, or else your customers won't need to come back and pay for your services. This is a great way to lock people into your business, like electronic dope dealers.
      • This is just like trying to figure out how much or how little DRM to apply to music... right now there are several different models floating out there waiting for the market to pick the winner.
      • by roystgnr (4015) <roystgnr@nOspAm.ticam.utexas.edu> on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:56PM (#8008531) Homepage
        It's far harder to accidentally corrupt a plastic disc than it is to have a transfer error screw up an application.

        If you have a scratch on your plastic disc, you'd better hope that the disc specifications put enough error correction data on at manufacturing time to fix the problem. If you're transferring data over a network, during most of the transfer you only need enough data to reliably perform error detection, since over a noisy link the client can re-request corrupted blocks and the server can increase the percentage of ECC data dynamically.
    • See the real difference is that in the rental model if the consumer felt so inclined, they could copy the game to their X-box...

      Also, you have a better ability to trial software before taking the plunge and buying it, something that many of my friends do with the PS2 since the majority of game seem to be rush jobs with little end result. I'm not saying that the GCN or the Xbox is any better, it's just Sony seems to encourge quanity over quality for their software library, always have.

      The down side to th

    • Rather than paying for "the software" what you are paying for is connection rights to the server. If a game was written to allow free-as-in-beer downloading and the servers required payment for connection time, then a competetive market would be there, which is, IMO, a good thing.

      This works particually for MMOs and multiplayer FPSs. It might even be possible to open source the client software and have the server side code remain closed - although that would require rigourous security procedures it would al
      • by Technician (215283) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @05:14PM (#8009776)
        You just need to look at this from a different angle. Think of it like paying for petrol for your car.

        Some things like hammers and screwdrivers, I like to purchase and keep them on the shelf, not rent them. Same thing with my car. I own it. It's paid for. However consumables that I might need I can purchase from any corner supplier, not just Texaco. Single vendor lock-in is a bad thing. A screwdriver that needs a subscription is a bad thing. Not all software needs to be online to be useful. Artificaily tying a subscription to screwdriver software is a bad thing.

        Here is a great example of problems caused by a screwdrever needing to phone home. I put together a PC on my coffee table. I hadn't added a modem or lan card yet. To keep to drivers in check I don't stuff in all the hardware all at once. A keyboard and mouse are nice things to start with.

        MS had just came out with the optical mouse. (quite a few years ago) I loaded it's driver. Not only did it insist of having a CD key for the driver, but it complained loudly about being unable to find my modem! This I don't need. I imediately gave away the mouse never to use a MS mouse again. Who knows what it would have reported silently to home if it found a lan net connection. There is no reason for a screwdriver (mouse driver) to phone home EVER!
        My local LAN games shouldn't be any different. I buy them, I expect to play them with no hastles.

        However if I stick in an AOL disk for use with an Online Service, I expect it to phone home and want an account for the online access. It's used to access someone else's provided content for a price.

        A LAN game and Tax Preperation Software does not need this. Single vendor lock in is a bad thing. The software should be able to be purchased, not rented and I should be able to play a LAN game using a local server. There is no reason for a LAN game to phone home unless I choose to use the server provided by the manufacture to play someone in Guam. I should pay for service where service is supplied and I choose to use it. (subscription service) Lack of subscription should not break the local functioning of a program. EG a mouse driver or Word Processor that can't phone home shouldn't nag that I haven't registered or quit in 60 days.

        Fighting piracy is one thing. Making the product less useful is also a bad business model. Competing is good. Trying to lock-in consumers is a bad business model. Consumers will find and buy the stuff that works with no hastles.

        If MS didn't do product activation, do you think Open Office would havd gotten much serious attention?
    • by Kobayashi Maru (721006) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @02:41PM (#8008800)
      This is a trend, I agree, but it isn't the whole picture. The dark cloud is rather ominous looking, but I see (a hint of) a silver lining. Often overlooked in these discussions is the open-source/free software philosophy.

      The large multinational conglomerates are creating the very niche OS/FS needs to flourish. We see it in the software market. For every increasingly restricted option, there is one or more viable, active OS/FS projects.

      And while *content* is almost invariably locked up behind ClearChannel, RIAA/MPAA, EA, Hollywood, et. all, I think it is only a matter of time before independent content producers begin to gain a foothold. I would cite the rise of the so-called "blogospher" as evidence of this. As a reaction to the percieved bias (in the general sense of the word) in popular media, weblogs are beginning to establish themselves as legitimate news alternatives.

      I think that is the power of the Internet. The physical medium is not very important any more. Because you have a broadcast tower or printing press does not guarentee you a news monopoly anymore. The instant dissemination of the Internet is breaking down (or at least challenging) the old barriers of entry. The same is true for the rest of the content industry. We all have CD burners. What need is there for a stamping plant? That's what makes the FS/OS model a viable alternative to the corporate machine. By severly lowering distribution costs, the players are forced to compete on product.

      I feel it is only a matter of time before the creativity is so far encumbered by the restrictions of the corporate world that it will flow to other, more open channels. You might have to give up the polish, as we reinvent the latest shading technologies or explosion sequences, but we will always have the creativity.

      If nothing else, this angle desevers consideration.
    • LostCluster wrote:

      The Blockbusters of the world are the ones who are really shaking over the death of physical media, because they're not needed if everybody gets their rental content delivered online

      The fact that the Blockbusters of the world are shaking is because they are showing an incredible lack of foresight about the advance of digital delivery.

      Even in the digital age, as consumers we still need an 'online store' to distribute the downloads available. Sure we could end up with a whole load of

    • Physical media will exist as long as people want control over content. Remember, physical media doesn't mean a CD or DVD. It can be a hard drive which downloads the movie and watches it. It's the exact same reason why people buy DVDs rather than rent from Blockbuster; they want the control to watch whenever they want. It's the same reason people use DVRs and TiVo. A DVR is a physical media; it's a hard drive. Just because you can't see it or transfer the information easily doesn't mean it's 'locked.'

      I see
  • ...makes a nice point:

    For one thing, I don't think gamers will tolerate it. There are pay-to-play MMORPGs now, but people are willing to pay for those because there's a good reason. Servers have to be hosted, content has to be added, players have to be policed. There's no corresponding reason in a single-player game of Half-Life, and there's no evidence to suggest that gamers will be willing to pay monthly if there's no justification for it.


    I'm certainly happy to have an actual CD of DOOM II so I can work on Ruby-DOOM [rubyforge.org] on whichever computer I'm closest to.
    • I'm never going to pay a monthly prize for a game. The reason is that sometimes I play a lot, and sometimes I don't have time to play at all for a long time.
      This is going the opposite direction of video-on-demand, now you can play whenever you want, with subscription you have to pay for the time you spend playing... *Hrmf...*
  • by Jarwulf (530523) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:14PM (#8008258)
    There will always be a p2p forum for trading games and piracy and quit harassing people and providing restrictive 'features' to control what users can do... The only way companies will end this is to offer better alternatives. Something I do not see happening in the foreseeable future.
    • by AIX-Hood (682681) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:20PM (#8008313)
      Yes but that's not looking far enough into the future. When everyone has extremely high speed connections to their house, or impressive local ISP based content servers, the game will be entirely executed over the network. Nothing will reside locally, and be available to P2P swap. Cable companies are already looking into doing centralized DVRs this way so that the content is never sitting in your house, taking more control away from the user to do illicit things with it.
      • by blincoln (592401)
        When everyone has extremely high speed connections to their house, or impressive local ISP based content servers, the game will be entirely executed over the network.

        I really can't see this being the case. People like to have libraries of things that belong to them, especially where the media they're collecting is rare.

        A friend of mine collects obscure horror and b-movies. He has two walls of a room covered with videotapes, most of which I've never even heard of. Even if a cable company thought it would
    • true , it seems unlikely now ... but 20 years from now (when high speed internet is as common as having phone service) , it'll be the norm. the article really is off track in that no real solution is presented (or even wanted ?)

  • Bleak? (Score:5, Funny)

    by sczimme (603413) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:16PM (#8008272)

    With a name like 'Curmudgeon Gamer', would you expect an upbeat article?

    :-)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... is XBox Live, hands down. $50 a year, unlimited play, fantastic selection of games.

    For those of you considering a subscription, give these three games a try - Project Gotham 2, Crimson Skies, and MechAssault.

    It's a blast, I promise.
  • by dswensen (252552) * on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:17PM (#8008279) Homepage
    "And I also predict that in the future Valve will employ teams of jackbooted thugs to come to your door and shoot you in the face if they catch you using a CD crack..."

    Okay, never mind the unthinking, chicken-little attitude of this article. Never mind the technological "predictions" that are often nothing short of ludicrous (a game that deletes the older levels as you play? What game company would do such a thing, and why?) Never mind the article's total ignorance of market forces, i.e. assuming that players will just put up with one staggering inconvenience after another and never migrate to an easier-to-use entertainment medium (isn't this why we have been hearing about the "death of the PC" for so long anyway)? This guy just needs to plain old proofread:

    "Quake players didn't need to with for a no-CD hack and Half-life players didn't need to connect to a master server to play single-player games, but DooM III and Half-life 2 owners just might have to."

    Apparently he's so curmudgeonly he's started speaking his own language.

    Maybe I am just a naive Pollyanna, but if I saw any video game on the shelf that required a monthly subscription fee, no physical media, and gigabytes of downloading to play, I'd leave it there without a second thought. I'd like to think there are others out there who would say the same. (Note: I know there are MMORPGs out there that are already somewhat like this, but I don't play them.)
    • a game that deletes the older levels as you play? What game company would do such a thing, and why?)

      Valve, and it already exists. You allocate a cache for STEAM and it clears it out as new stuff is added.
      • by Awptimus Prime (695459) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @02:33PM (#8008748)
        Compare the number of people who play the STEAM version of Counter-Strike to the numbers who bought half-life or CS Retail.

        It's like 35,000 retail to 3,000 STEAM, and STEAM is free for the taking.

        Nobody I know plays the STEAM version very often because you are locked into a few maps.

        Anyway, hardly anyone wants to contribute the costs of a server when the game company doesn't allow you to do anything except for an out-of-the-box configuration.

    • Not only what you've mentioned, but the need of owning something physical will always be there. Nevermind if it's pirated or original. If people can't have something that's theirs for keeps then well, whoever's trying to make a buck this way will be sorely disapppointed...
      I guess noone has explained the concept of trade to the author...because the customer in this case would be buying nothing.

      • by Malor (3658) * on Saturday January 17, 2004 @02:52PM (#8008873) Journal
        I've happily paid for a number of games where I didn't get anything physical. In all cases, of course, I got a file that will let me play the game forever (no need for a central server), but I don't have anything physical. And most shareware is that way.... or don't you register your shareware? And of course almost all Free Software comes without anything tangible... you can pay extra for a CD, but hardly anyone does in the era of broadband.

        PC gaming is probably going to become mostly distributed over the Web. As other, smarter people have pointed out, it's a great way for a PC publisher to make money: with no middleman, they keep a much higher percentage. Since the market for PC games is shrinking so fast ANYWAY, the old tradeoff of accepting a lower percentage in order to make many more sales doesn't really work anymore.... going for the boutique market, instead of the mass market, seems the only likely way for them to survive.

        In the electronic distribution field, I've seen three major models: Everquest, Valve, and Stardock. EQ and the other MMORPGs are a little different than anything else; they require a huge investment of servers and bandwidth to allow people to play the game, and a monthly subscription fee is the only way they could possibly pay for that. This model doesn't bother me at all....I'm a happy Second Life user, for instance.

        Valve's method, on the other hand, involves spending a whole bunch of money on servers and bandwidth, but it's not for MY benefit, it's for THEIRS. They do this to make sure that I'm not stealing their software... there is no benefit to me WHATSOEVER. And there's no WAY they're going to get me to pay them for servers to make sure that I'm paying them!

        Their games would work perfectly well on the old model of "sell it to me once and provide patches". They claim they'll be 'streaming content', but their content doesn't particularly need to be streamed. There are two main reasons for Steam; to prevent piracy, and to guarantee Valve a monthly revenue stream. They want to charge me monthly for features that benefit only them. Steam will not only cost me monthly, it will also provide me a service that is inferior to the one I've been getting for free. Because of that, I don't think it will fly.

        If HL2 comes out in the standard "all you need is the CD to play" model, I'll buy it. If I'm required to use Steam, I will be much less likely to purchase, and there is NO WAY I will cough up any extra money to subscribe after purchasing it. Valve claims they "provide lots of extra content", but I just don't see that.... almost all their content comes from the mod community, FOR FREE. If I can't get that stuff for free anymore, I'll go play something else... it's not like I'm short on options.

        Finally, there's Stardock's model, which I like a lot. I can buy an individual game if I want, or I can buy a subscription to everything they do. They have two subscriptions, one for their "serious" (Object Desktop) stuff, and one for their "fun" (Drengin Network) stuff. Anything I download during my subscription will continue to work even if I stop subscribing, which is critically important to me. If I still want to play the game I downloaded today ten years from now, it'll work fine (assuming the OS will run it, at least); there's no artificial barrier. They provide enough servers and bandwidth to provide me what I paid for; they're not building this complex copy-protection system and expecting ME to pay for it. I appreciate that they have no copy protection on their games... and I pay for it.

        Ultimately, I think the EQ and the Stardock models will fly. I very strongly suspect that Steam is going to fail miserably: if HL2 is good enough, it may carry them for awhile, but I think ultimtaely the idea of charging customers for inconvenience is not workable.

    • by Babbster (107076) <aaronbabb@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday January 17, 2004 @02:42PM (#8008810) Homepage
      Agreed, wholeheartedly.

      The most amusing thing about the whole spiel is the inherent assumption that the Internet is somehow magically going to have the bandwidth and reliability to permit the restrictions that he's describing. For example, the first time a customer's Internet connection goes out (due to outages, nonpayment of fees, whatever) and that customer can't play a game that s/he has already paid for, they're never going to buy such a pay-for-play game again. How about dial-up users? Getting closer to the source, what happens when the company's distribution servers go out? Or their authentication system? Is all this bandwidth they'll be using going to be free, too? It would cost a significant amount of money to send out hundreds of megs of data to every single customer every time they want to play a single-player game.

      This is what happens when someone believes too strongly in the "slippery slope." They see one one service (Steam) applicable to one company (which, by the way, doesn't yet signal an end for even THAT company's boxed releases) and they stretch it out to accommodate their gloomy prognostication.

      I know there are companies (see "Phantom") who are trying to tout this kind of plan, but the reality is that few are interested. Despite this article's claims to the contrary, there would be a revolt of sorts if all those predictions came true - I'm sure Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo would experience a bump in sales, at the very least. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:18PM (#8008292)
    If they try hard enough, maybe they can kill off the gaming market althogether.
  • I change computers every few years, and I seem to be behind the curve contrasted to many of my friends. I do buy games; I would think not many until I look at the book shelves next to me and realize how much I've laid out for games. When the games start getting so invasive that I can't move them to my next PC (which would be the same as not letting me lend a game I was done with and not using to a friend), I'll be back at the store making a loud and ugly sceen until I have a refund.
  • Oh Cmon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SparafucileMan (544171) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:19PM (#8008302)
    "This is the model the game industry is evolving toward: one which allows you to access software on the fly, download the content on demand, and pay for every use according to a schedule dicated by the game's owner."

    Look, the games still take up, what, 1-5 Gigs? Unless people are downloading _consistently_ at some 500k, you'll still ahve to go to the store and get the game on CD. Given the state of the broadband market in the US this pay-to-play crap is like 20 years away, and by then, the games will take up a few terrabytes anyway.

  • by Space cowboy (13680) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:20PM (#8008307) Journal
    it's the people who decide things like this. If sufficient people stop purchasing games that restrict their ability to play them, then it's a simple business decision for the company to make - stop over-restricting the user.

    If companies adopt the attitude that consumers en-mass are stupid (usually justifiable, to be fair to the companies) they might just get burnt on this one - gamers particularly and (to be fair to the great unwashed, this time) people in general are getting more au fait with the technology. Removing the ability to share games or play with friends may just result in non-protected-in-this-way games being more popular instead.

    The games market is very very cut-throat. It's similar to the post-production market (where I work) except that the games companies are far more in control than the advertising agencies (our paymasters). If one company goes down the "wrong" alley, I reckon another might just jump to go down the "right" one, especially if they're currently not the market leader...

    Simon.
    • by Talez (468021)
      If sufficient people stop purchasing games that restrict their ability to play them, then it's a simple business decision for the company to make - stop over-restricting the user.

      No.

      Blame it on the pirates, toughen up the DMCA and declare consumer hunting season open.
  • Sky Falling? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This is so much chicken little we are all doomed nonsense. Do you really think that the game companies are truly stupid enough to piss off their lifeblood? Granted they make some dumb calls, but I honestly do not think they are suicidaly stupid. Games a pain in the ass to own or play? Then just don't play it! They will die, and a service that meets the needs of gamers will surface. It all depends on what the gamers are willing to accept, end of story.
  • by YllabianBitPipe (647462) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:23PM (#8008326)
    If the game is good enough I'll go out and buy it, and even pay for a subscription fee to access the server or whatever. But don't think for a second I'd pony up dough monthly if the game sucks. Make sure it's worth the money. And if companies are all going to move towards charging more, don't think the customer is automatically going to pay more. I'll be even more price-aware and even more picky as to whether or not the game is worth the cost. In my opinion, out of all the games released this year, I could count the number of games I'd buy / subscribe to on one hand.
  • Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FTL (112112) * <<eman.resarf.lien> <ta> <todhsals>> on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:23PM (#8008328) Homepage
    If customers want the ability to transfer a game from one person to another (be it cartridge, license code, or whatever) and companies aren't providing this ability, it simply opens the door to a new games company who does. Supply and demand.

    Remember Id? Came out of nowhere, provided something that the heavy hitters didn't. Now they are a heavy hitter. It's not rocket science. (Ok, mabye it is in Id's case [armadilloaerospace.com]).


    • Exactly. There are enough geeks in the world, and I'm sure there are enough gamers who code to simply start an uprising when this happens. Hell, if Microsoft can put together an overheating PC in a box and call it a video game console what's to stop some enterprising case modder from doing the same? Then pretty much all the game companies are screwed...
  • The game companies will be renting the games, not selling them. Similar to some of the lawsuits with the record label selling CDs without notice. When the companies start start admit that they are renting the games, they will drop the price.


    A friend once told me that the money is in "Pay per play!"


    Remember video games were $0.25 per play?

    • Yep, and there was nothing to copy in your home, you'd have to go out in public to even play. Yeah, I don't think the value of video games will ever get back to that far in favor of the publishers...
  • by Myriad (89793) <myriad&thebsod,com> on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:24PM (#8008336) Homepage
    In all, less gaming value for your hard-earned dollar.

    I suspect that the longer this trend takes to implement, the harder it will be for the game makers to pull it off. Why? An ever increasing back catalogue of existing games that don't have such restrictions

    Take a look at all the consoles over the years, that's a huge library of games. Ok, sure, the graphics and features decrease dramatically as you travel further back... but does the entertainment value?

    A current Xbox, modded, can happily run MAME. Making one console able to play litterally thousands of titles.

    If the software makers push thing to the point where it's no longer worth it to buy, I suspect many people won't. Oh, some will, because they'll always want the latest and greatest. But many may well be content revisiting some of the existing titles.

    I used to contantly upgrade my PC hardware to the newest stuff released because I actually benefited from it. These days I rarely do. My existing gear performs well enough that I see only a marginal benifit. Maybe gaming will be similar.

    Blockwars [blockwars.com]: multiplayer and free.. and I'll get around to updating it some more soon. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "no more rentals from video stores, no used games market, no lending games to friends, less upgradeable computers, pay-as-you-play software subscriptions, and other consumer-unfriendly changes. In all, less gaming value for your hard-earned dollar".

    This is ridiculous - for people who actually pay for software, they do so because they get an equivalent in _having fun_ while using the software or hardware, as the case may be.

    People who "borrow" (yeah, right) games aren't _customers_ anyway, why would an
  • by ImTwoSlick (723185) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:28PM (#8008353)
    In all, less gaming value for your hard-earned dollar.

    This means fewer people will buy these restrictive games, and motivated entrepreneurs will release games we do want to buy.

    • Not necessarly.

      Chances are, if things such as renting and sales of used media are going to be stopped, it's going to have to be stopped as a piracy measure. See, when you purchase something used, or rent it, the company who produced it gets practically nothing from you. Maybe the renter or the used seller has a legal right to sell it, but you have no legal right to use it.

      And if you don't want to purchase a game straight out without trying it first, just find another entertainment medium. Isn't that the c
  • by Schlemphfer (556732) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:28PM (#8008361) Homepage
    From the article: And that's where were headed, like it or not. No physical media. No rentals. No used games. No sharing games among friends. Limited hardware upgrades. Pay-to-play. Unless something seriously changes the course of the industry, this is the future.

    Only one problem with this scenario: I'm not buying, and neither will a lot of other gamers. No doubt video game companies could come out with a really great sounding version of Half Life or whatever, costing $12 a month to play. But if they try to foist subscription fees on me, my money's staying in my pocket. Dollar for dollar, video games represent probably the cheapest form of entertainment ever developed. A few years back, I spent $20 on a copy of Unreal Tournament, and that is some of the best entertainment money I've ever spent. I've doubtless played that game more than a hundred hours. Same thing with NHL '94 Hockey on the Sega Genesis; I got it used for $10 or so, and I'm still playing that game today in emulation.

    No doubt, the video game industry would love for all games to switch over to subscription on-demand models. The only trouble is cheapskates like me won't ever let this happen. When I buy a game, I expect it to be a one-shot expense, and I further expect to be able to play that game ten years from now. If, for the sake of argument, the next Half-Life comes out as subscription, I'll just buy UT 2004. And if UT 2004 comes out as subscription, then I'd keep playing my original UT until Quake 4 or somebody responsive to my needs comes out with a non-subscription game.

    No doubt that subscriptions will capture a growing portion of the gaming market, but it's silly to think companies will forsake the model of one-time sales. There's too much demand from gamers who wouldn't have it any other way, and nobody's going to leave that much money on the table.

    • Only one problem with this scenario: I'm not buying, and neither will a lot of other gamers.

      Yeah, if I'm going to put money into something every month, I'll just start modifying my car.

    • by SurgeonGeneral (212572) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @02:31PM (#8008742) Journal
      Dollar for dollar, video games represent probably the cheapest form of entertainment ever developed.

      This guy is totally on point.

      Not only that, but if you think of a good idea and know how to program well, its one of the best ways to make millions of dollars.

      Video games are the modern board games. Once people made millions off of homemade board games that became outrageously popular, and many people tried to emulate the success. Now a hundred years of free market evolution has filtered out only the best board games, but guess what : people are still making millions off of them, and people are still loving games made even before the depression. Even still, if you have a bright idea you can easily enter the market (Think about the very popular new-comer "Cranium")

      Video games are the same way. I still play Nethack religiously on my 17" wide laptop (full key keyboard with numpad. oh yes.) with a 128 meg graphics card and half a gig of ram. Why? Because its good and its FREE. But I also BUY the latest stuff if its really top-notch. I play Warcraft III, and I'll tell ya Blizzard is raking it in without all that bullshit the article talks about (unlike the creators of nethack who do it for the love of the game).

      Would I pay a small, not-for-profit server maitance fee? I might. But we live in the age of free market competition, and its damn easy for cheap knock offs to cash in. And brand loyalty is certainly not a pressing concern, for me at least.
    • EXACTLY. (Score:3, Interesting)

      That is exactly why the doomsayer author of this article is wrong. People SUCH AS THE AUTHOR HIMSELF are willing to shell out $50-$60 for a boxed title with no subscription fee rather than have anything to do with monthly charges and so forth. If the major game companies banded together and all went with subscriptions, someone else could start a game company and market their products as being *SUBSCRIPTION FREE*. The major companies, however, are not likely stupid enough to abandon a large market segment
  • I can't agree (Score:2, Interesting)

    by flowbee64 (708623)
    The videogame industry doesn't focus mainly on pc games, it encompasses console games as well. I can't remember any console game where I had to type in a cd key. I can't remember playing one that I didn't have the original media for. I don't remember need a no cd hack because consoles don't work the way our pc's do. Pay for Play online gaming has been tried as a business model before, and never has worked out. The closest we came in the states was Sega.Net, which tanked.

    What do I know? It may change
  • by bender647 (705126) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:30PM (#8008369)
    The anti-pirating schemes already in place have all but killed the gaming experience for me. Why is it I spent uncountable hours playing my older games online with friends, but anything I've bought in the last year needs to meet up on a server. You spend wasted time in a lobby watching people type in profanity and hate speech, then as your friends all try to start the game, something happens and it doesn't launch. Time's too short, I'll just won't play games with needless restrictions and I wish others wouldn't either.
  • by Crasoum (618885) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:30PM (#8008370) Journal
    But is hardly strong enough.

    Yes games that allow you to play on OTHER people's servers are more restricted, because it is THEIR servers. Granted there are plenty of public Half-life servers, but they still are indexed by VALVes master server. In doing so they get people playing on their server, and VALVe is assured the people playing on these servers are using legitimate products.

    If one has a problem with the 1984 style, then don't play on the servers, instead use other servers like one can use with open battle net. You can connect without any legit CD key, but you also are playing with less people; more then likely. As always a trade off.

    As for Steam only downloading the parts you'll "Use in the near future" the author does NOT know what he is talking about. Steam downloads the levels as you play them, yes, aside from the core levels that come with the mod you are playing (or the original game). By core levels I mean, if you download half-life it downloads all the game content you need, but no added developer levels unless you go on a sever that has them, then it downloads them and you keep them on your hard drive.

    It is for two reasons. To be gentle on VALVes bandwidth, and also if you never play any other levels/mods (like Counter strike, or Day of defeat) then there is less Hard drive space taken up on your computer.

    As for the rest of the author's comments on making everything non-tangible, I doubt that will happen for a few reasons.
    One of which is people like to have a product for convince they can grab and install if their system crashes.
    Two people would want more for less, if they don't have that solid backup to go back to.
    Example. Through steam, you either buy the game in the store or get an unlimited subscription to steam, or you pay 5 dollars a month for the same service.

    I'd love to hear arguments against what I've said, so please...
  • by No Such Agency (136681) <abmackay@gmail.cRASPom minus berry> on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:34PM (#8008392)
    (Offspring, I believe)

    To do any significant game-related downloading, you need a fast internet connection. A LOT of users (self included) are still on dial-up, simply for cost reasons. If you add the cost of a required broadband link, plus a pay-per-play or subscription model for games, people will decide it's simply not worth their hard-earned money. I know people who pay $80/mo for their cable TV & internet, but they're double-income, middle class families. Students, young workers, and other lower-income people will not - often can not - pay through the ass just to play video games.
  • This is not consumer unfriendly - it's about getting a better experience, and especially a social experience where you meet other people.

    One of the main reasons why Counter-Strike got so popular, was that dead players could chat with each other - it simply added a social experience to the computer game.

    The future is not much different from going to Disney Land - you only have the experience during the time period you paid for, a big part of the experience is being there together with other people, and you
  • Fantastic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:36PM (#8008410) Homepage
    As soon as games are unrealisticly restricted, more people will feel the need to write GPL ones.

    We are seeing the groundwork already, in good GPL game engines, and the free content community already has proved their worth on proprietary engines (NWN modules and Quake 3 mods etc). All it needs now is someone to tie it all together.

    DRM is the ultimate free software motivator.

    (Anyone remember Total Anihilation that had a multiplayer spawn install and let you play 3 computers with each valid set of disks over the LAN/Internet?)
  • by Metaldsa (162825) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:36PM (#8008415)
    is just as valuable as any other forum opinion. Why this guy was posted on /. is beyond me (slow weekend). He says that it is guarenteed we will have to pay for play, no rentals, no used games, and no physical media. That is his GUESS people.

    After reading 1/2 of the article I realized it was as useful as reading someone's opinion on any message board. He drew up educated guesses and that was it.

    Now of course every industry wants a subscription like service for their product. Yearly upgrades and that sort of thing can equal huge profits. But it doesn't work in a lot of industries. Everyone thought MMO games would be HUGE after EQ. I mean EQ is a cash cow. But besides SWG which survives on the star wars name alone, no other MMO game has come close to EQ in the US. For every success I see a dozen failed attempts.

    So how this author thinks I will pay $10 a month for an average game is beyond me. Doom3 and HL2 could squeeze a few months out of me but the second I stop so do my payments. And 99% of games out there AREN'T Doom3 or HL2 quality. The subscription based model would actually hurt most companies because they would rather take the $50 and run. Besides Doom3 and Half-Life2 I can't think of one game I would pay for longer than 1 month. Planetside is a great example of a FPS game trying to charge per month and failing horribly (with a decent product). And they had a reason for the subscription, server costs, while other games will not.

    This author doesn't have anything to back up his opinion so its just as valid as mine (do I get the front page if I buy a domain name and post this?). The most obvious conclusion in the next 5 years of gaming is 90%+ games still being bought, rented, etc and maybe 10% have a subscription for things like Xbox2 Live and MMO type games. I rent almost every console game instead of buying it because I know I won't play it longer than a week. So if they try to force a $50 + $10 a month tag down my throat it would fail horribly and they know it.
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:39PM (#8008430)
    Some of us remember older games that tried to protect their contents from illegal copying. I had a Commodore 64 and there were a few things game makers tried to do:

    1) Keyword:
    It was like the ID code that some games use today, but instead of ID that tied itself a single copy, this method relied on keywords in the game documentation that you had to enter at the start of every game. The thinking was that if you had documentation, you must actually own the game.

    Some of them were like: "Enter the last word in the third paragraph on pg 14 of the manual". Others relied on a password/countersign. Some relied on decoder wheels. Of course, these were all easily defeated by a magical invention known as a photocopier. Some hackers who were probably very bored or cheap acutally wrote hacks against these protection schemes.

    2) Copy protection build into the medium.
    Back then we used 5 1/4" disks. To build copy protection into the disks, game makers broke standards on the disks. Game makers did things like add extra tracks onto a disk that only the game could access. Add code that changed the how the disk drives read and wrote. Some games actually required a part to be attached to a port on your computer.

    These were harder to counteract, but there were utilities that could bypass most of these protections. Again hackers at work.

    Much of the new protection is predicated on the fact that there is no medium to hack. There will be some software stored on your computer but the important parts are on the server. But that leaves the communication to hack.

    Well, hackers are bright people, and these new protections only give hackers a challenge. There's nothing more that hackers like than a challenge.

    Another potential problem with this type of protection is that it almost requires broadband due to the high bandwidth. Currently multiplayer games only communicate data about the user and the game environment. But if it has to send code as well as data, there's a lot more bandwidth to be needed. While broadband is gaining popularity, there will be dialup only users for a long time.

  • Retail sales will continue because people like to make impulse buys. If people wanted all their games delivered via the internet, meatspace gaming stores would have gone under already. Most gaming stores have noticed that people want to buy used stuff too, so they have new and used games. An excellent example is Software Etc., which purchased Funcoland, basically the USA's leader in used games/game equipment sales, and the Software Etc.s started selling used stuff. As a consequence, I go to Software Etc. again. We even bought the Myst trilogy DVD box set there, but mostly I buy the used stuff. As long as there are successful outlets which bring in gamers, however, video games will be sold in stores. That means, stores which sell used games, stores which sell game consoles, stores which sell gaming peripherals.

    Next, let's talk about registration keys. The only thing these keys can really be used for is preventing people without them from playing on official online servers, or these days, from using the official master browser server. People will patch their way to playing, otherwise. But so-called piracy prevention methods have never been about preventing people from pirating games. Game developers are not idiots. Well, some of them are, of course. But any of the good games necessarily could not have been created by total morons. These people know it is impossible to stop piracy. The point of these copyright protection methods is to make it inconvenient to pirate the games, thus ensuring that the majority of people will pay for them.

    As for the death of game rental, this commentary is largely applicable to PC games, not so much console games. Console games will continue to be distributed in physical form for some time to come, and it will be a long while until every home in america has the broadband internet access necessary to download games, which are only getting larger. Playstation 2 games are typically on DVD these days, even on broadband it takes a while to download a full DVD. Not only that, but I got the "official" word from Comcast that I'm only allowed to download 80-90 GB/month. (Yes, I finally got a AUP violation letter.) Just a few games and movie trailers, and you're over your limit. So, it's going to be a while before the death of physical media.

    The fact is that the widespread adoption of internet use necessitated the use of registration keys and activation in all types of software to make software copyright violation less convenient, because it became so easy to get copied software, and cracks/deprotects/serials for same. As usual, the users are to blame, not the companies. It will still be possible to copy these games well into the future; it is still a truism that anything a person can put together, a person can take apart.

  • ..no more rentals from video stores, no used games market....

    Until they come rip my 386 laptop with nethack on it out of my dead hands, I am safe.

  • The bigger question that we've long been aware of is completely ignored in this article. The world needs a business model or seven which allows those who write content to profit from their work. After the original sequence of bits have been cobbled together, they can be duplicated endlessly without any help from the original author(s). The concept of "intellectual property" is crumbling, and something new is going to rise up in its place.
  • ...just means people will once again be able to create their own as we did before the days of Big Media.

    Why is this a bad thing?
  • History repeats (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nuggz (69912) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:44PM (#8008460) Homepage
    Remember CD keys?

    Did he forget the generations of copy protection before this?

    The C64 copy protection battles, with the crazy disk access.
    The code wheels and papers, and manuals

    Companies keep trying, get some success, then it starts to fail, then they improve. This is just the copy protection arms race.

  • by fname (199759) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:45PM (#8008469) Journal
    A lot of these schemes (such as activation) described in the article are nothing more than good ole' fashioned copy-protection. I think in the early 80's, software makers saw copy-protection as the holy-grail, and would go to great lengths to make there wares hard to copy-- even for backup purposes. For a while, I think many folks thought it was against the law to copy a make a copy of your own VCR tape.

    However, many of these copy-protection schemes. USB dongles, codes that had to be typed in with each boot-up (remember SimCity?), or extra discs that had to be kept in a 2nd drive. Most of these schemes failed because mostly what they did was make it difficult for the owners (or licensees, whatever) of the software to use it. So instead of selling 100,000 copies and having 20,000 pirated, they'd sell 80,000 and have zero pirated versions. Seems hardly worth the bother, eh? This is most recently evidenced by the TurboTax fiasco of 2003.

    Right now, this push is most evident in the world of digital music sales, which are grossly restricted compared to regular CDs. I think at one point a major label will decide it's pointless to sell copy-protected (I hate the term DRM) tunes when the pirates will never pay for them anyway and can get them from other services.

    Will video-game rentals and re-sales go the way of the Dodo bird? It will start to look that way for a while, then a really good game will come out with any restrictions and sales will be tremendous, despite (because of?) the casual piracy that is sure to ensue. Publishers will then remember this: organized piracy=bad, casual piracy=both good & bad, copy-protection does nothing to stop the first and may in fact encourage it, while doing a great deal to hinder the latter. They'll then ask "what's the point again?" and will use the business model that works the best for their particular game instead of trying to restrict everything to the nth degree.
  • by dido (9125) <didoNO@SPAMimperium.ph> on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:48PM (#8008487)

    IMHO, I think that the worst trend that has been hitting the PC gaming industry in recent years is a near-total lack of serious innovation and originality. The kinds of trends described in the article are nothing compared to this. Compared to the 1980's and early 1990's, the games of today seem to me anyway, comparatively lackluster and boring. Every major gaming company seems to be suffering from a me-too syndrome that causes the market to flood with dozens of similar games on the coattails of the last major innovation (which comes more and more seldom thanks to this phenomenon). We have hundreds of first-person shooter games and their close variants, more and more games in a genre that was saturated long ago. Real-time strategy games seem to suffer from the same problem. IMHO, the worst thing that ever happened to the gaming industry in recent years was the 3D card, which has seen more than its share of abuse at the hands of the major game companies. They seem to think that making a game 3D with impressive graphics is enough to make up for all of its shortcomings; in fact it's usually more true that abuse of the 3D engine can very quickly become a game's biggest shortcoming. Good graphics does not make up for an RPG's lack of plot and coherent storyline (cough...Ultima IX...cough), nor is it even required for many genre of games (cough...Warcraft III...cough).

    DRM-ish measures in games and the other inconveniences mentioned are relatively minor compared to the mess that is a mediocre or unoriginal game.

    This article [the-underdogs.org] is a better, more insightful read into what's wrong with the gaming industry today.

    • Actually there have been quite a few original games out there in the past few years. Pretty much one or two per system:

      I think one of the most unique game designing companies has been skunk studios [skunkstudios.com]. Why they haven't been able to score a deal with the PSX or Xbox is beyond me.

      They have two unique games: Spelvin & Sveerz

      The concept is common word and tone/sound match up - but the gameplay is VERY original.

      The new Mario Cart on the Gamecube is a really unique spin on racing as well.

      Tetrisphere for

  • by unfortunateson (527551) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:50PM (#8008500) Journal
    PC-based gaming is on a decline. My two teens asked for not a single game for their windows machines, only X-Box. That's probably a good thing, since they're running 450MHz machines with wimpy 3D cards, and they'd have demanded upgrades.

    And yet, they play on those machines constantly: java/flash or small games from places like MSN, Weebl, Homestar Runner, etc., and "The Apprentice" to let them play MtG or other card games without owning the cards.

    Occasionally they foray into their unfinished back stock too.

    Meanwhile, the subscribe or die approach is hitting X-Box: X-Box Live is the only requirement listed for "Phantasy Star Online" until you open the package, at which point you find that a separate subscription is needed to play the online game!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:51PM (#8008504)
    I don't share such bleak predictions for the future, even though I know they are within the realm of possibility. Why? Because that isn't how I want to play games, and that's what matters to the market in the end.

    Anyone remember Divx as something other than an avi format? Or does anyone remember when the future of television was supposed to be pay-per-view after its success in the 80s?

    The opportunities aren't being afforded by new advances in technology, they've been there for a while.

    If companies want to stake their future on consumers playing the DRM game along with them that's fine - it's their dollar to lose or win. Corporate efforts to institute it across-the-board are mind-boggling, but I always have the option to buy something else - and the march towards centralized control, whether it's a slow and concerted push or a quick overhaul, will always create a niche market as a result. If the niche products are absorbed or converted, the niche remains. Ah, capitalism!

    So I'm not concerned with companies banding together to push DRM - because all they're doing is shooting their monopolies in the foot, and giving potential competitors a (healthy, unshot) foot in the door - I'm concerned with cartels pulling strings in DC to make standards law.

    If the conglomerates are willing to throw away market share in the mad shift towards total information control, why should we stop them? I eagerly await the demise of Sony & Microsoft-qua-game companies.
  • I'd like to be able to play Half Life 2, but if they insist on selling it without physical media (that I can install and play without needing an internet connection) I am quite sure I'll be able to survive without it. Or better still, I'll wait for the inevitable hack to show up.

    As much as it is Valve's prerogative to sell software with a limited lifetime and useability, is it also my prerogative not to buy it. It is entirely up to them, then...

  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @01:53PM (#8008518)
    Quake players didn't find themselves looking for a no-CD hack and Half-life players didn't need to connect to a master server to play single-player games, but DooM III and Half-life 2 owners just might have to.

    This is going to make it really tough playing it at work in a DoD Tempest-shielded room. I may have to drill a hole to run a net cable ...

    (Just kidding, guys: put away your ISP subpoenas)

  • by Tim C (15259) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @02:01PM (#8008557)
    The way he goes on about CD keys, you'd think that they were the root of all gaming evils.

    I don't read the site normally, so I have no idea how old the guy is, but surely he can't be so young as to not remember some of the hoops we had to jump through back in the old, 8 bit, tape-based days?

    Hands up who remembers spending an hour or more fiddling with their tape deck to get Jet Set Willy to load? And then have to type in a particular colour code once it had loaded? Or the LensLok system that Elite used, where you held a very breakable plastic lens up to the screen to make a code readable? Some games even came with little hardware dongles.

    He seems to think that it all started with Q3, when in reality, the computer games industry has been doing that sort of thing for about 20 years. Ubiquitous, high-speed net connections may well take it to the next level, but I can't see it being anywhere near as bad as he paints it. If that were true, it should've already been intolerable for a decade or so.
  • by El Camino SS (264212) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @02:03PM (#8008568)

    With the proliferation of the video game market and the recent (last year and a half) realization by people that video games make a lot of money...

    Every argument that the marketplace is going to stink goes directly against every economic theory out there. Greater competition and demand is a great thing. I am tired of people saying that a LUXURY ITEM like video games is having some EA games conspiracy or something like that. This is pure drivel.

    When I was a child I payed sometimes $35 for a game on the original NES system. Now, I pay $50 for Call of Duty. Which do you think was a better benefit? Which was the bigger bargain? Which is the best deal? I think that argument alone is enough to debunk what people have been saying about the video game industry going to hell in a handbasket... and that we should all put on our crash helmets and prepare to be screwed.

    This whole argument is bunk. Go spin some of those tinfoil conspiracies elsewhere... and stop crying because you can't rip off games anymore. When someone rips off the GPL, everyone is up in arms, but a game that is cracked? TOTALLY COOL, RIGHT?

    Get a grip, whiners. Go live in a mud hut for a month if you need to get away from the screwjob of the video games because you think you payed too much for a copy of MADDEN 2004 or whatever.
  • this is absurd (Score:3, Interesting)

    by r (13067) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @02:07PM (#8008595)
    the lengthy article finally asserts: "And that's where were headed, like it or not. No physical media. No rentals. No used games. No sharing games among friends. Limited hardware upgrades. Pay-to-play. Unless something seriously changes the course of the industry, this is the future."

    and even at the end of the painfully apocalyptic argument, he still hasn't managed to convince me this will be a bad thing at all.

    games without physical media - wonderful! i lose the warm comfort of actually owning the shiny disc, but i gain the ability to install and play the game whenever and wherever, without worrying about lugging the media with my laptop, having to have the CD in the disc drive, losing it, etc.

    no rentals? now that's absurd. of course there will be rentals. publishers aren't so dumb that they don't realize many gamers don't actually want to buy everything; that they're willing to pay a cheaper rate to try a game out for a short while. and an automatic delivery system like steam would make it easy to do just that.

    indeed, steam would be much better for the independent developers than the current blockbuster-style rentals, of which the author is so fond. at a rental shop, when i rent a PS2 game the profit goes to the shop. over steam, however, the developer could arrange to rent their games, earning the profits themselves, and only paying valve for the use of their infrastructure.

    then the author's attacks shift to DRM. "limited hardware upgrades" and "no sharing among friends" pop up in a frequent, if circumspect, manner. and here he's finally getting it. the new approach goes to great lengths to prevent piracy.

    what bothers me, however, is that the author seems convinced that anti-piracy measures are bad. why? while i understand the motivations of the typical high-schoolers who want the ability to copy and trade as many games as they can, only the most ridiculous ones would argue that piracy is actually a positive social force for which our techologies should accommodate.

    that's just patently absurd. people who make the games need to get paid. and our technologies need to prevent people from stealing the fruits of others' years of hard work.

    but this the author doesn't seem to grasp.
  • by fleener (140714) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @02:25PM (#8008706)
    Don't worry. Any self-respecting gamer who has played with voice chat on Xbox knows pay-for-play is doomed.

    The idea seems cool, until you strap on your headset and start listening to your teammates' squeaky prepubescent voices. No thanks. I'll stick to lan parties.
  • by jeffkjo1 (663413) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @02:51PM (#8008868) Homepage
    Aside from the fact that consumers want a physical, tangible medium and don't want their games to stop working 5 years from now because John Madden wants more money, this articles writer is missing a major point, one completely beyond the control of the gaming industry.

    ISP's.
    I don't mean people on dialup either (although they are still the vast majority of American internet users.) I mean bandwidth caps. So I'm Bob Comcast user, and oh look, its January 17, since I play Half-real Tournament 2016 a few hours a day, I've used up tons of bandwidth, since the server caches most of the games information.

    End of the month rolls around, and I get a letter from Comcast saying to stop using so much bandwidth, so I cancel my game subscription. Half-Real Tournament 2016 developers don't get paid. Developers attack marketing guy who claimed subscriptions was a great idea. Marketing guy gets a clue.
  • by paradesign (561561) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @03:07PM (#8008963) Homepage
    dont pay for it.

    seems simple to me, if enough people reject it, companys that banked on it will fail and the people will win. In theory at least.

  • by Powercntrl (458442) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @03:08PM (#8008983)
    Everyone here probably remembers Internet Appliances, right? You know, those loss-leader crippled computers that would provide basic web access via dialup and required a higher-than-average-cost (for Internet access) monthly fee. Yea, those did real well, didn't they?

    The author of this article is making the same mistakes as the people that thought Internet appliances would take off. The author is looking at a small segment of the gaming market, out of context, and assuming it is the direction the entire gaming market is going to take.

    Yes, for some games, a monthly fee is appropriate. As others have said, if the game has a continuing operating cost to the company that is producing it (new levels/quests/etc., server upkeep, paying people to moderate/admin the game, etc.) and ALSO offers the consumers value for their monthly fee, a subscription model is well justified.

    Maybe some companies will try a subscription model for games that should instead be sold - there's no reason they can't try. If the past is any indication though, competition and people voting with their wallet will quickly send such ideas the way of Divx (the original Circuit City DVD competitor, not the MPEG4 codec) and the Netpliance I-Opener.

    What I do think we'll see in the future is the same thing we're seeing now... If you want to pirate a game, fine - but the second you try to connect that game to the outside world, don't expect it to work. With a modded Xbox, for example, you can "backup" games to your heart's content - but you cannot play them on Xbox Live. This isn't an indication of game companies planning on something more devious in the future, they're just simply using the tools they have available now to cut down on piracy. Whether or not you're still able to make backups to play on your own system in the future will not be determined by gaming companies interest in subscription models, but by whether or not people buy into "Trusted Computing" aka Palladium.
  • by superultra (670002) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @03:16PM (#8009028) Homepage
    Also in the news, e-books from Amazon will obiliterate the printed book market, grocery delivery services will annihilate the brick and mortar grocery stores, DigiScent [wired.com] smelling PC devices are the next video cards, broadband video retails are the wave of the future, and PointCast [businessweek.com] rocks.

    (I'd have thrown in more digitally oriented links, but the websites are all, well, gone)
  • by DroopyStonx (683090) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @03:20PM (#8009064)
    No doubt this is a move to curb piracy, but as usual with these "clever" ways to fight it, there's always a way around it.

    Those pirating console games are people who know how and where to get a mod chip installed and how/where to download/find the games. The people who copy console games aren't the average joe who will be fooled by this new system.

    They are intelligent people who will look into the new ways of how to copy games. Look at GameCube.. Nintendo though it was fool proof, but if you know anything about the Phantasy Star Online exploit (although, a bit more advanced than modding/copying), then you'll know that the GC is just as exposed and vulerable as a modded PS2/XBox with game images constantly being uploaded to usenet.

    I can't blame 'em for trying, I guess, but I really do wish they'd stop inconveniencing their customers to try and stop the inevitable.
  • by Thedalek (473015) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @03:27PM (#8009109)
    Sorry, it just seems that the article makes the assertion that this "will" happen without mentioning "why" or "how." The market trends he describes would only apply to the PC market anyway, and no one rents PC games.

    Furthermore, he makes assertions that are out-and-out wrong: Both EBGames and Gamestop sell used copies of Warcraft III, Half-Life, etc in their physical stores. The only place they don't sell these titles is online, mainly because the condition of used PC games varies so much: Console games are accepted in trade only if they have their packaging and documentation (usually). PC games are often accepted in just a jewel case. So while a store may have 12 used copies of Used PC Game of the Moment, 5 will just have the disc, 3 will have the documentation, 3 will just be in the box with no documentation, and 1 will be complete.

    His whole argument is based around the idea that it will take just one bestselling game "like Half-Life 2" to be sold this way to make it the future. Well, Half-Life 2 isn't out yet, so it's not bestselling. Furthermore, if it's only available in a format where I don't own it when I buy it, I won't have it. At least, not legally.
  • by BTWR (540147) <americangibor3@yahooELIOT.com minus poet> on Saturday January 17, 2004 @03:30PM (#8009127) Homepage Journal
    One reason why the companies DO want to do this is because game prices have been pretty stagnant over the last 2 decades.

    I mean, Super Mario Brothers 3 sold millions of copies at $50 each in 1988, and today Grand Theft Auto 3 and VC sold millions of copies each at $50 each.

    $50 x 1,000,000 in 1988>$50 x 1,000,000 in 2004

    So, not that I support this (which I don't), but the game companies haven't upped the price of games in 15 years or so, so they're just trying to make more $ in other ways. (In fact, I remember in the early-mid 90's there was a temporary trend in which games were sold for $59.99 - I remember pre-ordering Rebel Assault II for that much).
  • by The I Shing (700142) * on Saturday January 17, 2004 @03:44PM (#8009205) Journal
    You know what would really be awful?

    If videogames became such a hassle and so expensive that people stopped buying them and started spending time with their families and engaging in physical activity.

    The horror.

    This pointless sarcasm was brought to you by the Committee that Offers to be Flamed Over and Over (COGFOO).

    But seriously, I'm an older man, now, and when I think back on my fondest memories, they don't really include any of the time I spent playing videogames. I remember my joy at learning how to make my own photographs from scratch in a real, actual smelly darkroom, and I fondly remember going to outdoor music festivals and playing the guitar and singing around a campfire in the middle of the night, but for some reason I don't well recall how I felt about getting to the end of MYST, or Marathon, or StarCraft, or finally defeating Shang Tsung on the first SNES version of Mortal Kombat.

    Videogames are lots of fun, but believe an old man when he tells you that you are not building a lifetime of happy memories by playing them, even when you're doing it with your friends. I don't want to bore anyone with my theories as to why, but they would include the repetition of it, and the lack of physical engagement. I propose that for every hour spent playing videogames, one spends two hours doing something else. Sleeping and working don't count.
  • Rogue Servers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by orionware (575549) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @03:49PM (#8009239)
    Some of you migh remember several years back when Ultima Online came out (which Roxored back then! I blew many hours on that game!) somne folks figured out how to create a open source server that you could connect to using the retail client. What was cool was folks could build out and set up their own world and let other folks connect to it. It was quite cool.

  • Missing the point? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by InternationalCow (681980) <mauricevansteensel@@@mac...com> on Saturday January 17, 2004 @04:11PM (#8009345) Journal
    It seems to me that most people are missing the point. This is not about having physical media or whatever, this is about the value we attach to intellectual property and how we handle revenue that is to be procured from it. Consider: if I were to visit an art gallery and buy a painting I like, I pay the painter indirectly for his/her artistic vision and labour in making something for me to enjoy. The PRODUCT of the vision becomes mine, the vision is the painter's. If we assume software to be an intellectual construct comparable to a painting, the problem with subscription services becomes obvious - you rent a product but never get to own it and may not enjoy it as you please. This would be comparable to the painter coming to your home and removing or changing the painting without your consent. The question is - do we want it to be like that? I for one wouldn't. There seems to be something inherently wrong with having people pay for subscription to a final product without actually ever getting to OWN the product -to be able to do with it as you please- it subverts every notion of property that I have. If I were to do science in this way I would never publish my results; instead, my colleagues would have to subscribe to a results service and they would not be able to use the results unless I were to be paid handsomely. Obviously, that wouldn't work at all and halt all scientific progress. I agree with other posters in judging that making all games available as rentals will be the death of modifications. I think it would be the death of gaming as we know it. IMHO a good reason to go open source all the way. How do other /. readers feel about this?
  • I don't buy it. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pendersempai (625351) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @05:16PM (#8009790)
    First, computer gaming is on a trend AWAY from DRM. Long, long ago, diskette manufacturers screwed with the physical floppy to prevent copying. This caused more problems than the copy protection solved. Look-up solutions in game manuals ("Page 3, paragraph 2, word 4?") have also faded out as people became frustrated with keeping the manuals on hand. Recently, we're even seeing a move away from must-have-CD-in-drive copy protection.

    Second, the computer game market is pretty elastic. If games become too expensive (as measured both in dollars and inconvenience), people will not buy them. They aren't like food (where you die of you don't have it), like MS Office (where you can't make money as effectively without it), or even like music (which we are culturally brainwashed to crave). If we don't have video games, we do something else.

    Third, there are no central gaming companies secure enough in a monopoly to risk upsetting the market. If MS unilaterally started implementing fascist copy protection, people would turn to Nintendo or Sony. This is not a risk MS is willing to take.

    In conclusion, I think it's baloney.
  • by DeadPrez (129998) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @07:34PM (#8010673) Homepage
    The true threat to games of today and tomorrow is the lack of quality in games on the market. As small game developers are swallowed up by the EAs and UBISofts at the same time the production cost of making a game rises vastly meaning fewer and fewer small companies can be successful without major backing from an EA, UBI or Microsoft. Competion won't be completely stifled but innovation will certainly be slowed.

    My friend recently purchased an Xbox and went on a binge on aquiring games. I thought I'd jump in with him and help him get some good ones. I spent about 2 hours on the Xbox website purveying all released and announced games. Only one piqued my interest [xboxaddict.com], and its been (wrongly) accused of racial insensativity. Every other game with some potential was part of a series and for the most part, not up to par with the original.

    Even the games for PC are having the same issues. Doom 3, Half-Life 2, Counter-strike 2, Starcraft 2, GTA 5 are the only games I am looking forward to and I don't expect them to move the bar all that far. On the MMORPG front there is very little innovation even announced since Shadowbane's dismal showing. Sony's control of the MMORPG market certainly dims the future on this front.

    I'm sure a few games will surprise me but I predict a dark ages period in true innovation for the next ten years or maybe even until a happy mix of movies and games can be made, which is a long way off.
  • by iamhassi (659463) on Saturday January 17, 2004 @08:35PM (#8010968) Journal
    Ok, what the hell happened on /. today? First the "News Anchor Feels Pain from Afar" [slashdot.org] story where they bitch and moan because a news anchor spends 2 weeks a month in Florida during the winter but still reported Boston news from afar, and now this gloom and doom article about the "future" of video games with not one shread of evidence that anything the author says is coming true.

    What's next? Some kid's blog that says the sky is falling?

    I mean please, this is really sad. How about reporting real news for once and not this crap.

  • by petrus4 (213815) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @10:25AM (#8013255) Homepage Journal
    This story IMHO is pessimistic garbage. The author states his case by looking at an unfounded future...I can refute it by pointing to a well-established past.

    Consider that id eventually opened the source of both Doom and Quake, and that originally these two games were their flagship moneymakers. In doing so, in my mind id proved three things:- (a) That they'd already made more money than they could need or know what to do with, (b) That once they had established their livelihoods, that they wished to contribute to the future of first-person gaming, and (c) That although earning a living was important to them, (we all need to eat and pay the bills) finding a means of expression for their phenomonal levels of intelligence and creativity, contributing a form of entertainment to the world, and enjoying themselves in the process was the primary motivation in persuing their enterprise.

    We need to remember that perhaps unlike the RIAA or MPAA, the gaming industry is populated by some of the most intelligent, lucid, and conscious human beings alive today. Active copy protection is in place for the first 2-3 years of a game, because yes, games do take time and money to make, (if you know anything about the industry, you'll know it's typically large amounts of both) and the people involved want to get something back for their efforts. After that time however (typically after a game hits "platinum" status sales wise) and it is assumed that no more income can be reasonably expected from the title, then in most cases the copy protection is removed, and in some instances the source of the game itself is opened, as we have seen. The copy protection of both the original Unreal Tournament and Half-Life was removed in later patches.

    It might be true that Microsoft are planning on making their own products more closed and crippled, but in looking at this, you need to look at the history of individual companies. Fascist behaviour is par for the course in Microsoft's case in particular, but just because that's the norm for their behaviour, that doesn't mean it's that way for everybody.

    I can't emphasise enough that (at least in my opinion) id and Epic represent two of the most intellectually and creatively gifted groups of human beings that I've ever heard of. The RIAA might be unreasoning, jackbooted idiots, but these two companies aren't, and that being the case they know that binding up the mod scene and doing other such things would only be shooting themselves in the foot. After all, let us not forget that Steven Polge, Epic's own AI programmer, was initially recognised due to a modification he made for the first Quake game, the Reaper Bot. The gaming industry trying to kill modding would be a case of them biting the hand that feeds them, and I believe they would be highly conscious of that fact.

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