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Games Your Rights Online

Video Games: Goods Or Services? 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sure-the-suits-will-decide-for-us dept.
silentbrad points out an article about the gradual shift of video games from being 'goods' to being 'services.' They spoke with games lawyer Jas Purewal, who says the legal interpretation is murky: "If we're talking about boxed-product games, there's a good argument the physical boxed product is a 'good,' but we don't know definitively if the software on it, or more generally software which is digitally distributed, is a good or a service. In the absence of a definitive legal answer, software and games companies have generally treated software itself as a service – which means treating games like World of Warcraft as well as platforms like Steam or Xbox LIVE as a service." The article continues, "The free-to-play business model is particularly interesting, because the providers of the game willingly relinquish direct profits in exchange for greater control over how players receive the game, play it, and eventually pay for it. This control isn't necessarily a bad thing either. It can help companies to better understand what gamers want from their games, and done properly such services can benefit both gamers and publishers. Of course, the emphasis here is on the phrase 'done properly.' Such control can easily be abused."
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Video Games: Goods Or Services?

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  • Goods, always. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:07PM (#39222303)
    The game itself should always be classified as a "good", and should be able to be used in some form or another on it's own.
    Connection to a server in order to play with others, however, is a service.
  • Our product is bits. Bits are arbitrarily reproducible by anyone with network bandwidth and storage space. Copyright laws are only a partial success in locking up our product as property we can sell in a shrink-wrapped box or rent-seek upon via licensing.

    What we want is an income for our work. What companies want is ever-growing profits. What customers want is either free stuff (as always, ultimately) or a concrete product they can buy and own like a car.

    Post-scarcity production and distribution technology is clashing with industrial-capitalist economics.

  • Both... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:11PM (#39222355)

    This is based on the RIAA's argument that mp3s sold online were merely licensed when arguing in the ReDigi lawsuit, but asserted they were sales through iTunes when arguing that they didn't need to pay an artist the contractually higher percentage of royalties due her for licensing her music as opposed to selling it.

    My guess is video games are goods and/or services depending solely on which is more beneficial to the MAFIAA goon in court, and nothing at all logical.

  • Resisting services (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:12PM (#39222359)

    I for one am resisting the "services" model all I can. I will not pay to play a game more than once.

    There again, I'm a cheap barsteward who won't spend more then $9.99 on a game anyway. I gain no extra pleasure from playing a $60 game than a $2.99 game that is a few years old.

    Rather than paying a $15 subscription- wouldn't it make more sense to buy a "new" cheap older game once a month- surely they're worth more for a month of novelty than it is to play the same old thing month in month out on a subscription game?

    As for steam- nothing but added problems... you get whatever bugs the game may naturally have- compounded by the extra bugs that running something through steam adds. I avoid steam when I can.

  • by Spazmania (174582) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:19PM (#39222467) Homepage

    My television is a good. The DVD in my DVD player is a good. The programming sent to my television over the air is a service.

    If it runs on my computer, it's a "good." If it runs on somebody else's computer, it's a "service." If part runs on my computer and part elsewhere in order to get the whole experience, the portion that runs on my computer is a "good."

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:29PM (#39222609)

    Make a game a service, and you pretty much completely eliminate resale and piracy issues.

    I see you finally mention the real reason right at the end. Game developers are far more concerned about evil consumers who resell their games than they are about pirates, because pirates would never have bought it in the first place.

    'Game as a service' is excellent for them because they not only eliminate the evil resellers, they can also turn off the servers and force you to buy the new version of the game at any time.

  • Re:Goods, always. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by American AC in Paris (230456) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:43PM (#39222807) Homepage

    Absolutely. What you're going to see more and more of, though, is a move towards thin game clients that are effectively valueless without the service--even in situations where you don't actually need to interact with other players.

    You'll still have your "good", and you'll still be able to sell your "good" to another person. The issue here is that said "good" is going to be effectively worthless without the service, much like a (non-smart) cell phone is.

    As I've posted elsewhere in this thread, this is the game maker's natural response to piracy. DRM stinks for the end user and publisher alike--and is impossible to manage once a crack is out in the wild. Server-based game content, however, is a very different beast. It's hard to cross-engineer, run, and maintain an unofficial game server. What's more, it's easy to track down such servers and shut them down for, say, illegal redistribution of copyrighted materials. All a cracker needs to do is drop a patch on the 'net once, and the cat's out of the bag.

  • by American AC in Paris (230456) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:54PM (#39222977) Homepage

    You're absolutely right--and as many other people in this thread have pointed out, the appropriate response to this if you do not like it is, very simply: do not give that company your business.

    You do not need to give these companies your money, and a company is not obligated to tailor how they provide their product to suit the demands of the consumer.

  • Re:Onw way to kill (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Truekaiser (724672) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:50PM (#39223821)

    And that my good sir or madam, is the whole point of the change over!
    most if not all of the console makers as well as the studio's and publishers have looked at the multi billion dollar industry that the second hand game market has become. with the likes of game stop, Babbages, vintage stock, etc earning large profits off of re-selling games after the original owner has payed them when buying them and thought. hey how can we get a piece of this action.

    so they have tried a few different things. some have draconian drm that tie the game to the machine as long as the registration servers exist. this works but it also pisses off the original owners because hardware failure and upgrades can render the game unplayable.

    in the case of a resident evil game on the nintendo ds, the cartridge is coded not to delete or reset game data making the game only playable once. this also did not fly to well as many people like to play games over and over multiple times to find everything.

    some others have tried online pass codes that are only good once, this allows the game to be sold at a second hand store but the new owner would then have to pay another 12 to 20 dollars to get a new code from the publisher. and on top of this they limit or shorten the 'single player' part of the game to make the product worthless without that code.

    I am guessing then some bright but not necessarily nefarious executive took a look at major it software where the 'software as a service' idea was born and thought. 'hey why don't we do that too'. combine that with the idea of digital distribution and similar minded t.o.s. that steam has claiming physical ownership of the parts of the hard drive that steam and the games reside on, and you have the modern digital black hole of gaming.

    you are correct in that today about 20 years after a nes cartridge was made you can go out, get a copy legally(as well as download roms of it.) and be able to play it at any time. the same can not be said in 20 years or so, or even as little as 3 to 5 years from now with the modern games.

    Because there is a irony in this killing of the second hand market. while it increases the short term profits of these people by forcing more people to buy new or don't buy at all. it also kills what makes large franchises with staying power or gaming culture as a whole. not to mention with tie in to digital distribution services which in turn are solely reliant on the existence of a certain company to continue to run. the long term prospects of modern games to last very long is not very good. all it takes is valve for example to have a bad year or two and boom. steam goes down for good, same with games for windows aka xbox live though it may take more then a bad year or two. Sega isn't even a hardware company anymore, but i can still go out and buy any of their systems and the games run just fine.

  • Re:Goods, always. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Defenestrar (1773808) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:55PM (#39223929)

    Probably, but only because gamers are dumb enough to buy that shit. I stopped buying games that require "phoning home" to play single player games, or have intrusive DRM, but everyone else seems to cheerfully throw their money at such things, so it isn't going to stop as long as people don't seem to mind it.

    You get the world you deserve.

    You also get the world you live in. Most consumers either don't know or don't care about these issues (they've got bigger issues than worrying about the legal details surrounding their short escape from stretching paychecks and herding children). The thing is that these are the people who will drive the dollar vote and it's up to those who care about the legal issues to protect the general public (or defraud them depending on POV).

    This is why we have the FDA to prevent snake oil salesmen and the EPA to prevent chemical dumping; what's needed is an equivalent for consumer level IP. Perhaps the new Consumer Protection Bureau could be petitioned to take up the task, but until then it's up to aware citizens to vote with their dollars on products, support groups like the EFF, write letters to congresspersons, and caution their friends and associates to do the same. Otherwise, if you have these feelings about the process, it's similar to knowingly letting an apothacary sell saccharo et aqua to a parent trying to treat his/her child's pneumonia (pick your own degree of severity).

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