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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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  • Onw way to kill (Score:4, Interesting)

    by future assassin (639396) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:07PM (#39222299) Homepage

    Well that's one way to kill the first sale doctrine or second hand market. Its a service and in the TOS "No reselling allowed" Luckily for me between my NES/SNES/N64/GameCube/Sega Master/TG16/Jaguar/Dreamcast/Saturn there's enough games out there that I never have to bother with buying/supporting anything as a service for the rest of my life.

    • by chispito (1870390)

      Well that's one way to kill the first sale doctrine or second hand market. Its a service and in the TOS "No reselling allowed" Luckily for me between my NES/SNES/N64/GameCube/Sega Master/TG16/Jaguar/Dreamcast/Saturn there's enough games out there that I never have to bother with buying/supporting anything as a service for the rest of my life.

      I love retro games. I just don't see how any games on those systems can be substituted for modern online multiplayer games.

      • Well that's one way to kill the first sale doctrine or second hand market. Its a service and in the TOS "No reselling allowed" Luckily for me between my NES/SNES/N64/GameCube/Sega Master/TG16/Jaguar/Dreamcast/Saturn there's enough games out there that I never have to bother with buying/supporting anything as a service for the rest of my life.

        I love retro games. I just don't see how any games on those systems can be substituted for modern online multiplayer games.

        Or legally obtained and used as the second law takes its toll on the physical products. There's only so long that you'll be able to find Pitfall or Zelda in the pawnshops you know...

        Just because you've got the dog chewed or cosmic ray struck cartridge/disk sitting on top of the PC doesn't make emulators legal.

        Withdrawing from the market through hoarding or black market (self-disenfranchisement from the dollar vote) isn't a sustainable solution

      • Not to mention the fact that NES doesn't really look quite "spectacular" on a 60 inch HDTV like modern consoles do. Unless you want to really go for the retro thing and play on a 20" wooden console TV - extra credit for knobs and dials and not buttons.
        • Why does it have to look spectacular? I want game play and I want it too look like a game, if I wanted to see spectacular real life Id take up paint ball or car racing or pull out a gun and start shooting people.

          • Because I can do all of those things you mentioned virtually at a fraction of the real life cost and risk.
            Because hardware is at the point now where near realism can be properly done.
            Because I can still go back and enjoy the old games AND ALSO enjoy the new ones as well.
            Because sometimes I want more than 8 bits and 256 colors.
            Because the rare game that actually combines fun gameplay and decent graphics does sometimes pop up.
            Because other people like things and want things from a game than you do.

            I me
          • Just in case that's not all hyperbole [tinyurl.com].

            I know my own psuedo-anonymous internet arguments tend to verge on the mockheroic, so if that's the case with you as well, you can just have a nice laugh at my expense or give me the finger. But as a couple of school tragedies in the US reminded me this week, it's always worth asking someone how they're doing.

            You ok?

          • by Dynedain (141758)

            The problem is that classic console resolutions aren't scaled up linearly to HD resolutions.

            What I'd like to see is linear scaling, so crisp pixel edges and lo-def lines remain sharp at high resolutions. But because of the bicubic and other scaling algorithms, the edges of pixels* are blurred on higher-resolution displays, so everything just looks fuzzy. It's not all that noticeable for live-action video footage, but put something like an NES on there and its almost painful to look at. Even the Wii looks ho

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            if I wanted to see spectacular real life Id take up paint ball or car racing or pull out a gun and start shooting people.

            You just answered your own question. Those things are physically demanding, expensive and illegal. Not everyone can be a world class footballer but we can play FIFA.

        • by trdrstv (986999)
          I have a NES hooked up via composite to a projector and play it on a 97" screen. It seems that the people who have an issue with this generally are the types that wouldn't play it on a smaller screen anyway and it's their loss.
      • >I love retro games. I just don't see how any games on those systems can be substituted for modern online multiplayer games.

        It all depends on what you get out of it. I personally never liked 3d multi player games so no loss to me even my son who is 13 loves old school games. YES he does like to play multi player games BUT the games he spends most time on are basic games. I prefer a game to look like a game and not real life, so I can immerse myself into the "fake game" world.

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

      by Truekaiser (724672) on Friday March 02, 2012 @03:50PM (#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.

      • by NIN1385 (760712)
        This entire comment sums up why I am done purchasing any new video games until the industry goes back to the "Goods" way of thinking, and with the way the MPAA and RIAA have been I've been boycotting them as well. The final straw for me was when I took my old PS3 Madden video games into gamestop for trade in value on the next year's version and they gave me $0.75 for 2010 and 2009. FUCK that shit.

        If I am only going to get less than a dollar of trade in value on what I initially thought was purchased as "
        • The scary thing lately is that the "questions" asked in one story/thread are answered within a week in a subsequent thread. From a few stories above this one:

          "A few years back, Sony bought up a small company running an online collectible card game called Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga. Two days ago, they announced that the servers will be shutting down on March 29, 2012. All of our virtual collectible cards? Poof. It's not surprising - the user base is small and dwindling - but it's proof that any server-

          • by NIN1385 (760712)
            Yeah I commented on that story too. My only comment was titled "The old saying..." I then said "If you want something done right, do it yourself. A lot of wisdom there."

            In other words, if you don't own or obtain a physical copy of whatever it is, it does not exist. The cloud is a joke and a grand illusion so that your private info is eventually readily available online somewhere. Hard to see when you're on the inside looking out.
        • I took my old PS3 Madden video games into gamestop for trade in value on the next year's version and they gave me $0.75 for 2010 and 2009. FUCK that shit.

          Or you could just continue playing with the old rosters. Perhaps you want this to be a service if you want to play with up-to-date rosters. Or you could buy one of the various Mario sports titles for Wii if you want an environment where rosters don't go stale.

        • This entire comment sums up why I am done purchasing any new video games until the industry goes back to the "Goods" way of thinking, and with the way the MPAA and RIAA have been I've been boycotting them as well. The final straw for me was when I took my old PS3 Madden video games into gamestop for trade in value on the next year's version and they gave me $0.75 for 2010 and 2009.

          Hmmm... methinks you've got that back-to-front. The very fact that you were given a trade-in proves that Gamestop is still engaged in the "goods" way of thinking. The fact that you got 75 cents for the games is simply a matter of supply-and-demand. Remember that you were trading them because you wanted the new version. A great many people do the same thing. Madden has a very limited market as a second-hand game.

          • by NIN1385 (760712)
            Okay, you've convinced me that I may have been thinking a little backwards on that one. I guess I have a bigger problem with how you have to purchase extra licensing to play them online on a different console. The way they are requiring additional purchases for games that are bought second hand is straight up robbery in my mind.

            Thank you for offering your point which did cause me to alter my opinion a bit.
  • Goods, always. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:07PM (#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.
    • Re:Goods, always. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by American AC in Paris (230456) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:43PM (#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 0123456 (636235)

        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.

        Server-based single-player games are just like traditional DRM, only worse.

        If I want to play a server-based game there are about a bazillion MMOGs already.

    • by parabyte (61793)

      More precisely:

      If the game state is maintained and processed on "their" computer, it is a service. Otherwise I would regard it as a "good" that is executed on my computer.

      p.

    • by Kenja (541830)
      Remember that the next time you ask for a game to be patched or updated.
    • Not only should the game itself always be classified as a "good," but nothing should be allowed to infringe on the buyer's right to modify the good he purchased. This includes, but is not limited to, the right to create his own service that interfaces with that good (e.g. bnetd).

      • Like fixing a software bug on their own (through decompiling & etc...) instead of purchasing the patch from the provider of the original goods? Help me get a feel for your perspective here because I'm not sure if my interpretation of your thoughts is internally consistent.

        Or are you talking about making and selling your own goods that would have no value without being based on the original work (which is a violation of even the original US copyright law). Could that be what you were talking about?

        • Like fixing a software bug on their own (through decompiling & etc...) instead of purchasing the patch from the provider of the original goods?

          Absolutely! Software is a tool no different from a car; people should no more be prohibited from modifying their own software than they should be from fixing their own cars.

          • by schnell (163007)

            people should no more be prohibited from modifying their own software than they should be from fixing their own cars.

            Not trolling, genuinely curious... I am not legally prohibited from fixing my own car (thank goodness). But I am legally prohibited from certain kinds of tinkering. I can't disable the seatbelt warning. I can't remove the muffler. I can't disable the distracted driving warnings on my GPS system. I can't change it in ways that would make it violate emissions laws.

            If you return to the software/car analogy, do you think there are things like the above that *are* fair game to prevent people from tinkering with?

            • But I am legally prohibited from certain kinds of tinkering. I can't disable the seatbelt warning. I can't remove the muffler. I can't disable the distracted driving warnings on my GPS system. I can't change it in ways that would make it violate emissions laws.

              On the contrary; it's perfectly legal to do all those things. You just won't be allowed to register it for use on public roads later.

              If you return to the software/car analogy, do you think there are things like the above that *are* fair game to preven

        • by Anguirel (58085)

          Or are you talking about making and selling your own goods that would have no value without being based on the original work (which is a violation of even the original US copyright law). Could that be what you were talking about?

          What? All those unofficial iPhone covers (or similar sorts of accessories) are a violation of original US copyright law? Third-party PS3 controllers? Windows for Dummies (and equivalent types of books)? VMWare? Multi-chat clients like Trillian (particularly before the non-proprietary service interfaces like Jabber were added)? Any number of other unofficial add-ons and mods for popular programs?

          I get not being allowed to use the Trademarked name, or being required to state that you aren't officially l

          • I was referring to derivative work under copyright (not patent), which is what protects much of the consumer viewed portions of software. Patents are increasingly becoming part of software, particularly the back end, but there's even a trend toward front end software patents. Most of the examples you provided were not violation of copyright (especially derivative work). So reference books are allowed, but fanfic or game mods are not. Fan art needs to pass the transformative test (much easier to do when
    • by Jonner (189691)

      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.

      So, where does that leave multiplayer only games? It makes sense to consider a multiplayer game than can connect to a server run by anyone a good. For example, most of the Valve engine based games like Counter Strike seem to be this way. However, for many multiplayer games, each player only has a client and the server functionality is never released in any form. Most MMORPGs are this way as well as many games of other genres. Does it make sense to consider the World of Warcraft client a good when it's utter

  • Thank you Captain Obvious, but we'd already realized the game industry was going towards game-as-a-service years ago.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:09PM (#39222335) Journal

    Is never a good idea for the purchaser. This doesn't change when it's video games instead of spreadsheets or databases.

    • by Mitreya (579078)

      Software as a service ... Is never a good idea for the purchaser.

      Why do you say that? Game as a service _may_ be a good idea for the purchaser. Of course game publishers implemented it in the greediest way possible, so it isn't currently. For example, if I could subscribe to World of Warcraft for a month and try it out, I probably would. But somehow I need to pay $60 for the game and _then_ the monthly subscription. Game itself should be free if you are selling a service.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Because software as a service is fundamentally incompatible with your software freedoms.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      That depends entirely on what you're buying.

      The whole point of the SaaS industry is not to sell you the software, but to sell you the services around maintaining and deploying that software. If it's "never a good idea for the purchaser", there are a "few" people in North America and around the world who've made a "mistake" in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

      SaaS is the very heart of most open-source based businesses. The software is free; the packaging, testing, support, and distribution

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

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

      While I somewhat agree with that, I see no conflict between modern digital distribution of software products, and shrink-wrapped boxes.

      You provide me a copy of software product, I pay you 1x fixed amount for the privilege of having & using that copy. Whether that's shrink-wrapped box or download only is irrelevant for this purpose. X people buy their copy, developer gets X times fixed amount. If developer sells X copies / month, then developer has X times fixed amount / month coming in to support that s

      • by Vario (120611) on Friday March 02, 2012 @03:36PM (#39223605)

        Unfortunately the situation is not as simple. Just one example: With physical items it takes time and effort to share them. You own a book, the neighbor down the street might own the same book. The likelihood that you are reading it at the same time is pretty low, so why not share it? In a digital world this is no problem, just send some bits, use dropbox or something similar.

        Or think of network licences in a company. For a lot of special programs we only have around 10 licences for 250 employees. It's never a problem usually, as very few people are working with the same software at the same time. So we only pay for 10 instead of 250 because sharing the licences is seamless. If the software company would charge the same amount for the 10 network licences than for 250 regular licences they would damage their business model quite a bit. In comparison we use a lot of reference books. I would guess we have around 100 copies of the most used ones, so that you don't waste your time looking for one. It would be painful to only have 10 and then search the whole place to get hold of one.

        This is just one aspect but illustrates that there is a conflict. I personally also prefer a game that I can buy and sell as I want to like a physical item but I have tons of games that I only play for a few days per year. In principle I could give away all those games for most of the time on some kind of lending model but that would definitely influence sales of all those companies that produce games, software or other digital items.

      • If you don't force people to pay the developers' price, especially if they can just share and duplicate the software amongst themselves, nobody but the early-adopters will ever buy the software for money. Everyone will torrent it. This is an economic fact.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      You're thinking like the RIAA. They used to be in the RECORD business, but now consider the "music business". It doesn't work like that.

      If you're trying to sell bits, someone else will sell competing bits in a shiny box that they don't need a network connection for that the customer can resell and run you right out of business.

      Fear of piracy is stupid unless your product is shit. Most people have no qualms about paying for what they get, and to make your product less desireable to them in order to keep it f

      • You are agreeing with me quite vehemently.

        If you're trying to sell bits, someone else will sell competing bits in a shiny box that they don't need a network connection for that the customer can resell and run you right out of business.

        The problem is that, often enough, that someone else is living in their mother's basement without paying rent, or permanently squatting at MIT with administrative permission (Stallman).

        Even without "piracy", competitive markets cause prices to converge to the marginal cost of production. For bits, that cost is zero, so prices converge to free. The only way to counter this is to circumvent a competitive market: copyrights, patents, and ultimately Software as a Service (in which you keep the actual bits under lock and key but hire out your trained priests to operate on the bits for a monthly service fee), Cloud Computing (in which you compete to offer a pseudo-hardware paltform for other people's bits), and User as a Product (in which the user pays nothing, because someone else pays for access to the user).

        Basic capitalist economics is, lacking government intervention on behalf of software firms, incompatible with making a living writing software-as-a-product. This is exactly the reason that some of the largest players in the software industry (IBM, Amazon, Google, large parts of Microsoft) have gone for these models, and many others (Apple, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, MS) have gone in for the Digital Restrictions Management tech necessary to lock down their products and pretend they have a nonzero marginal cost of production.

        • Post-scarcity economics leads to some fun debates about pricing. I've found that many people want to pay for good software but not many people can agree on what a fair price is. Most indie houses I've visited tell me they struggle mightily on deciding what the "right" price point is. Ultimately their answer boils down to "whatever the market is willing to pay." They just sort of take the pulse of the market and set a price that seems consistent and fair with respect to similar titles.

          But that seems wrong to

    • by Jonner (189691)

      Indeed, traditional ideas of property and copyright are no longer sufficient. I think the solution for code is that it should all be released as Free and Open Source at the same time a game or other product or service using the code is released or made available to the public. That allows for service models without the downsides for users. I'm far more likely to pay for a service if I know that I'm not locked into the one provider by their proprietary server and/or client software. If all services were like

  • Both... (Score:5, Insightful)

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

    • This is what I see in games, cherry picking the best of both world.

      For instance, say I buy a physical copy of an Xbox 360 game. If I lose or break the disc I'm boned, I'll need to buy it again. Of course I can also sell it to someone else when I'm finished with it. So it seems like a good to me. However, what happens if there's a part of the game that's only available if you buy it new? All of a sudden I don't own part of the game, it's more like a service (a non-transferable license). When it comes to dig
  • Resisting services (Score:4, Insightful)

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

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

      Paying twice isn't even the biggest problem, the biggest problem is when you want to go play your game and you can't anymore because the servers are down, or worse, down permanently. In those cases, sometimes you'd be WILLING to pay twice, if they would let you. But you can't, so you go outside instead. Climb a tree. And never buy from that company again. Which isn't hard since the company is out of business. So you cry.

    • by El Torico (732160)
      Team Fortress 2 is free to play now and it's still the most fun multi-player game I've seen. They now sell in-game items, but they don't really alter the balance of the game; mainly it's just silly hats, which fits that game well. Most of the items can also be crafted, so no one is compelled to buy the in-game items. However, you still have to deal with Steam.
      • Aye, the free ones I can handle.

        Got a little addicted to Puzzle Pirates for a few months. It's just- don't expect me to keep paying over and over for the same thing.

      • by Culture20 (968837)

        However, you still have to deal with Steam.

        You had me until this line.

    • by Imrik (148191)

      Actually, depending on how much time you have to play, $15 for a subscription can be cheaper than the older games would be. (ignoring the availability of free games)

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

      Actually "services" isn't a bad match: you play a game 1 week, you pay for 1 week. You play it all year, you pay for a full year. With shiny boxes it's kind of the same: buy box, play for some time, buy another box, play for some time, repeat. With appropriate pricing levels, this could average out to the same overall costs of playing games X, Y and Z over random periods of time.

      However I also resist the "services" model, but in principle because what's paid doesn't match the work done by vendor: When vendo

    • by Jonner (189691)

      I have adopted a hybrid approach. Like you, I usually wait until I can get an older game at a significant discount since the quality of a game has little to do with whether it was released in the last year. However, there are some which I'm willing to pay full price to get as soon as possible.

      Although I hate DRM in principle, Steam is the least problematic DRM system I've encountered. In my experience, Steam has not generally interfered with what I want to do with games and the automatic updates are conveni

  • by Spazmania (174582) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:19PM (#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 LanMan04 (790429)

      The programming sent to my television over the air is a service.

      Not quite. The programming is a good as well, being delivered BY a service.

      • by Spazmania (174582)

        Nope. Transmitting programming that your TV can view does not confer on you ownership or even simple possession of a copy. Its display on your television is strictly ephemeral. Hence not a good.

  • ...not specifically for video games, but for software in general and particularly for custom-developed software. I've seen this a lot because of work on "failed IT project" lawsuits -- the goods vs. services distinction brings different legal standards, requirements and remedies to bear. Generally speaking, commercial off the shelf (COTS) software is usually seen as "goods", but the more customization and original development involved, the stronger the "services" argument. And, of course, the whole movement towards "software as a service" and cloud deployment muddies the waters more. ..bruce..

  • If you sell gaming as a service, you're effectively eliminating piracy. You're also entering an area where the legality of the contract between the two parties involved is much less of a gray area. True, you need to maintain the server environment to support the gaming experience, but that's easier to plan and budget for than trying to account for how piracy will affect your sales.

    Understand that the gaming industry's shift from a goods model to a services model is, at its very root, a direct response to p

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

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

        • by Mitreya (579078)

          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.

          Problem is, they are not disclosing everything in big red letters. If I buy a game, I reasonably expect single-player to run without internet connection. I also expect that I will be able to re-sell that game. Because I certainly know that there is no way in hell I can return the game if it is not adequate
          Otherwise they sell me a game that is defective and I am left with no recourse. Would be better if I could make the decisions to not give them money _before_ I purchase.

          • Five years ago, this argument carried a lot more weight than it does today; in another year or two, it'll be largely invalid. One of the great benefits of the growth of the professional blogosphere is that there are now sufficient eyes looking sufficiently hard at this sort of thing that news of a company's attempted shenanigans tends to break even before the game is released to the public. Case in point: we, the gaming community, knew all about Blizzard's always-connected brouhaha before Starcraft II ha

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          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.

          At issue is the question of your rights vis-a-vis the game client. Are you within your legal rights to modify it, under first sale law? Or to reverse engineer it for the purposes of interoperability, as guaranteed by the DMCA?

      • by chispito (1870390)

        Game developers are far more concerned about evil consumers who resell their games

        Don't you mean Game publishers are far more concerned?

      • by brit74 (831798)
        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.

        100% of pirates would've never bought it in the first place? Nonsense. I know people who converted from being good paying customers to saying "why pay for anything when you can get it free [through piracy]?" If you could eliminate piracy, they would go back to paying beca
  • As a matter of interest, Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Ed., defines the relevant terms as:

    Good: 1. Tangible or movable personal property other than money; esp., articles of trade or items of merchandise. ...

    Service: ... 3. The act of doing something useful for a person or company for a fee. ...

    License: 1. A revocable permission to commit some act that would otherwise be unlawful; ...

    In the case of a software game:

    1. the box, CD, manual etc., is a good;
    2. permission to use the software in spite of copyright an

    • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:52PM (#39222941)

      2. permission to use the software in spite of copyright and patent protections is a license;

      Assuming US law, let me fix that for you:

      2. permission to use the software in spite of copyright and patent protections is unnecessary.

      Copyrights due to Title 17 S 117 [cornell.edu] (part a1 for the most part), patents because you don't need a patent license to use goods created by someone else.

      As much hate as Congress gets, Title 17 S 117a1's wording is very flexible. For instance, if the instructions for using a program say you have to install it to a hard drive, that copy is "created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner." Same goes for the copy in RAM when you load it.

      It does say "and that it is used in no other manner," which, strictly speaking, makes reverse engineering it illegal, but I seem to recall other laws protect that.

      • by debrain (29228)

        Assuming US law, let me fix that for you:

        2. permission to use the software in spite of copyright and patent protections is unnecessary.

        Nonsense. You have fixed nothing, and completely misconstrued the law.

        Software is a literary work under Section 101 of the USC. Case law has held that the code, audio and visual work of software is protected by copyright.

        Customers are liable for operations that violate the patent. Users have generally been saved by the impracticality of such litigation. For example, Apple has sued Samsung for the patent violations of the Android software that was developed by Google.

        As for Title 17 s. 117, that relates to c

    • by magisterx (865326)
      #2 is murky. Clearly the box and physical items are goods, and interactive online access is a service. But it is not clear that a license should be needed for software. While there is now some case law on EULA's it is far from clear yet. After all, I do not need a license to read a book. Why should I need a license to use software I purchased? And even the cases that say a EULA is enforceable generally view it as a contract of adhesion, which means it is subject to scrutiny for what the company can pu
      • by debrain (29228)

        I do not need a license to read a book.

        You are not copying the book by buying it. The copy was made by the publisher, which has a license from the copyright holder to make said copy (or is violating copyrights).

        You are likely copying software when you install it but that being said, we do not have strong and clear relationship for lawful use of software. We have instead pigeonholed the issues into traditional copyright, patent, service and license agreements. The results have been ugly at times, but I would not now describe them as murky - with

        • by tepples (727027)

          You are likely copying software when you install it

          This sort of copying is not an infringement under United States law, 17 USC 117(a)(1): "Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer program provided: (1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner".

          The legal question has typically been whether the software is a "work" to which copyright law applies.

          Computer programs are li

          • by debrain (29228)

            I have a point that you may find interesting or illuminating.

            You are likely copying software when you install it

            This sort of copying is not an infringement under United States law, 17 USC 117(a)(1):

            Copying without permission is infringement. However, one is not liable for infringement where (1) you have permission to make the copy through a license of the copyright holder, or (2) alternatively through exception set out in 17 USC 117(a)(1).

            There is an implied license upon purchase of software, essentially an implied warranty for fitness of purpose. I believe 17 USC 117(a)(1) is a statutory codification of that sort of implied license.

            By insta

            • by tepples (727027)

              the onus is on the accused to prove they have a license.

              Why wouldn't a 117(a)(1) defense be easy to argue in summary judgment?

              Recent issues around intellectual property for fonts I am unfamiliar with, but interested in.

              Are you familiar with the Best Western case? This logo [wikimedia.org] is not copyrighted because this letter from the Copyright Office [wikimedia.org] says it isn't.

              • by debrain (29228)

                Why wouldn't a 117(a)(1) defense be easy to argue in summary judgment?

                If you had a license or proof of purchase, it ought to be straightforward to succeed whether in summary judgment or another method for a determination on the merits.

                Practically speaking, a proceeding is unlikely to get to any summary judgment as on the presentation of proof of a licence a plaintiff/copyright holder will likely dismiss its claims.

                Are you familiar with the Best Western case? This logo is not copyrighted because this letter from the Copyright Office says it isn't.

                I am not familiar with this case. I understand the USCO to have jurisdiction to determine the suitability of works for copyright protection. I recall their decisio

  • To me it's fairly clear that there's two components:

    1. The goods. The actual game software delivered to you, whether in a box or via download. It can be purchased and paid for, or provided for free, but it's a good delivered into the hands of the buyer.

    2. The service. This would be access to the servers run by the game company and technically needed to run the game, verify account authorization and such.

    You can have a mix of the two, depending on the degree to which the game does on-line play. You have comp

  • The fact that it takes this much discussion to determine the answer should tell you you're probably asking the wrong question. There's no need to classify things as either a good or a service. Those classification categories are obviously lacking nuance and don't fit modern reality. So stop using them.

    And if you're using these categorizations to try to re-mold reality into a shape that personally benefits you, then stop pretending and stop being deceitful. Reality doesn't cater to your needs. It just i

  • I refuse to play along with the 'games as service' model although I did bend over and spreadem for THQ this week because who can play UFC without having Alistar Overreem in there?
    So yeah, I bought a damn online pass AND overreem and i'm not happy with myself.
  • Coleco 21 LED football handheld game: good.

    WoW: service.

    What I don't like are the games that masquerade as goods, but want to suck you into services after you're hooked. It's more obvious (and acceptable) when it's a free to play teaser, but paying a $50 entry fee for something that doesn't clearly spell out what you'll be spending later on, or that the service will be shut down at some future date, (GT5 online racing, I'm looking at you) is wrong.

    • by idontgno (624372)

      Coleco 21 LED football handheld game: good.

      In 1979, it was more than good; it was PURE AWESOME. Too many hours wasted playing that damn game.

      What I don't like are the games that masquerade as goods, but want to suck you into services after you're hooked.

      Games (even single-player ones) that are crippled "out of the box" after paying $50+ and make you buy DLC to get more than a couple hours of play are another example of this trend. They certainly fail on the "bang for the buck" criterion, and publishers

    • Coleco 21 LED football handheld game = about 3 years total time of my life playing this game. How awesome watching a few led lights flash on a tiny screen. Could you even imagine if you handed this to a 10 year old today? They would look at you like you were stark raving insane.
      • Coleco 21 LED football handheld game = about 3 years total time of my life playing this game. How awesome watching a few led lights flash on a tiny screen. Could you even imagine if you handed this to a 10 year old today? They would look at you like you were stark raving insane.

        Tell them it's cultural history - immortalized in SuperTramp's "Logical Song."

        http://www.handheldmuseum.com/Movies/LogicalSong.htm [handheldmuseum.com]

  • In a world where online connectivity is not only the norm, but absolutely REQUIRED for modern games (WoW, CoD, etc)....we will only see this trend shift more towards the service based model.

    Of course, it doesn't hurtthe game manufacturer to insist you buy a base copy of their game (for $60 or so) and THEN basically force you to subscribe to the service going forward. This puts more money in their pocket even before the game is available as well as keeps you hooked. We see this paradigm shift in games su

  • I'll take a good. Don't need the bad. The last thing I need is a new, grubby friend who's always mooching money off me.

  • I bought the game and the data is stored on my hard drive. I don't see how it could be called anything but a good that belongs to me.

    • How many people can play together with the copy of the game stored on your hard drive? Online multiplayer requires a matchmaking service. As for offline multiplayer, PC game developers have historically ignored the market of people who have connected two to four gamepads to a PC.
      • Well, I meant that I think the version of the game that is stored on storage devices belonging to me is mine. Any servers are theirs, and are thus services.

        Some companies seem to be under the impression that the game isn't actually yours. They think you only get a license to use it.

        • by tepples (727027)

          Some companies seem to be under the impression that the game isn't actually yours. They think you only get a license to use it.

          Which is leading to development of more multiplayer-centric games, where "the version of the game that is stored on storage devices belonging to me" is useless without the server.

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