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Is the Gaming Industry Moving Online Too Fast? 185

RyanDJ writes with his reaction to the Sony PSN outage, wondering if our rush to online services and digital distribution for games is a bit too enthusiastic. "I love technology, I just want it to slow down. I know I sound like an angry old 'get off my lawn' kind of guy right now, but until my 8-bit Nintendo dies from plastic corrosion and age, it will continue to play any game I find just as it was supposed to. Online dedicated games, one day, will lose servers. System crashes, such as the Sony problem, will cause interruptions. I feel if we don't slow down, stabilize the current technology and ensure its safety, find ways to guarantee that items bought are permanently owned even without a physical copy, we might see a company such as Nintendo saying that online isn't worth it!"
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Is the Gaming Industry Moving Online Too Fast?

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  • by Adambomb ( 118938 ) * on Saturday May 07, 2011 @11:24PM (#36060036) Journal

    Honestly, this is ridiculous. I don't know if the submitter is some sort of apologist or just really lacking in the history of online gaming but online gaming and online game distribution has been around for about 25 years now give or take [], and thats just one example. This would be about EXACTLY as old as the revered plastic grey box in question, give or take a couple if you were living in japan or not.

    Different networks and system have been more secure than others this whole time, and the real question is "Why would some companies risk security in the name lower maintenance costs given the number of terrible consequences these days". The PSN outage and data leak raises questions about Sony and their decision making processes, not about the state of digital distribution and online gaming in general.

  • Sounds practical (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kenoli ( 934612 ) on Saturday May 07, 2011 @11:25PM (#36060038)
    After all, there's lots of profit in making sure your games remain playable for decades.
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday May 07, 2011 @11:30PM (#36060054)

    Nothing about "too fast" here. Having your databases with customer data not adequately protected is just plain old incompetence. Same as with RSA on SecureID. My guess is IT security (and possibly network maintenance) spending is decided by managers without a clue, and on the other side the "engineers" supposed to operate the network securely are also incompetent. With just one of both parties screwing up, you do not get into a mess like this.

    Caveat: I am a IT security consultant, and, yes, it is not only as bad as you think, corporate IT security is usually worse. There are a few players that really get it and these often in addition pay people like us to make sure they did get it right. But those that do not get it usually only go for help if they are forced to by outside forces. It is quite clear to me in what class Sony falls. Not a surprise either, this had to happen to them sooner or later.

  • by SpiralSpirit ( 874918 ) on Saturday May 07, 2011 @11:33PM (#36060066)
    It's more than that, though. I didn't move to buying stuff online until I felt there was a company/service that would be secure and have a relatively promising future (so that they didn't go under next year). The service I did choose, Steam, also mentions that should they close for whatever reason, they will release a way to play steam games without needing the steam service. This is unlike EA's system, where you need to be online to play at all - causing problems with the games who use those DRM schemes. I have games on steam I bought almost 10 years ago that I can still download and play, and often still do play. That's the benefit of it. I've also backed up a complete installation with all the games I currently own to a spare hdd, in case something untoward happens. If I want to play in offline mode, I can. Not so with the latest crop of 'always online' drm. that's sort of what this guy is saying. That being said, haven't pirate groups already cracked many of these types of games? I imagine in the future, when the servers are long gone, cracked exe files will be the only way to play the games.
  • by lanner ( 107308 ) on Saturday May 07, 2011 @11:38PM (#36060082)

    Former gaming industry guy here, who worked in the online (MMO) space for games (mostly PC).

    It's incompetence. That's all. The gaming industry is full of excited youthful noobs who are willing to work 50-60-or-more hour workweeks in exchange for working "in a cool industry" and occasionally getting a free tee shirt or some other crap.

    The "online" portion of most game shops is seen as sort of like support. In fact, I've seen several places (some of them failed) where the online management (sysadmins, networking guys, etc) was actually manged by the online support person -- the same person responsible for level-1 customer support goons.

    Since it's not programming, not art, not design, and not the "core" part of making the game, it's just something necessary sucking money away from the people who really deserve it, so it gets minimal attention.

    That's all.

  • by hellwig ( 1325869 ) on Saturday May 07, 2011 @11:54PM (#36060148)
    And yet, it took only 4 years for Microsoft to shut-down their MSN Music service []. This should be the point of the article (in my opinion). However, the OP loses ground when he talks about companies like Nintendo deciding Online isn't worth it. I think consumers will decide Online isn't worth it, especially if Sony can just shut down the actual game servers when the next iteration of their console comes out. And no, it's not paranoia, remember, Microsoft shutdown all Multiplayer servers for the original X-Box. []

    Sure, I have a lot invested in my Steam games, and I hope if Valve ever shuts down their servers I can at least backup my games and play in "offline mode", but we'll have to wait and see. However, as opposed to a console, my PC is still useful even if Steam does go down. If future consoles play online-only, when those servers DO go down, the consoles will be worthless, regardless of how hard you blow into them. Will the manufacturers price the consoles and games accordingly? Doubtful, not as long as there's profit to be made.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 07, 2011 @11:58PM (#36060158)

    Get rid of this dedicated official server bullshit that we have to deal with, it gives me a headache when we all live within a block from each other in Australia but suddenly get shunted onto a US East server with 400+ pings. I understand why you would have to do it for something like an MMO, but a two or four player game? Ugh. Hamachi shouldn't be a requirement when you want to play games with brosefs without dealing with network shenanigans

  • by Leslie43 ( 1592315 ) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @12:00AM (#36060166)
    Don't lay Sony's stupidity on the rest of the industry.

    Just because Sony was too stupid/in a rush/incompetent to encrypt everything like they should have, doesn't mean everyone is moving too fast.
    It just means whoever decided not to waste time on encryption, should have their head sitting on a stake at Sony Software HQ as a warning to others.
  • Bad news. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @12:03AM (#36060176) Journal
    I'm afraid that the poster is simultaneously correct, and totally missing the point.

    Is it overwhelmingly the case that games are trending toward(and many are already there) a place where they will be somewhere between crippled and bricked when some ill-thought-out online integration or financially shaky company bites the bullet? Hell yeah. Are those same games increasingly likely to be locked down as hard as the publisher can lock them, ensuring that hacking together a 3rd party equivalent will be pretty tricky? Yup. In that sense, he is entirely correct.

    However, he seems to be under the impression that this is some sort of honest mistake, a product of over-enthusiasm for cool gizmos among developers. Wouldn't that be nice. Beyond whatever bare minimum is required to sell the thing, longevity is a defect, not a virtue, from the perspective of the seller. After they get paid, you are a cost center, not a customer(Obviously, rank incompetence like having your walled garden go down during a major launch isn't in the seller's interest; but things like that are only a major deal because multiplayer functions are increasingly being forcibly centralized, rather than made a server offering that any player can run). People happily playing classic games are of no financial utility. I suspect that we will see much more of this, and it will not be by accident.
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @12:28AM (#36060260) Homepage Journal

    find ways to guarantee that items bought are permanently owned even without a physical copy

    That's just it! These companies don't WANT you to "permanently own" anything. This way they can sell it to you over and over again.

    And, with the move to online distribution, they have grasped you at the base of your snarglies because when THEY decide it's time for you to upgrade, they simply shut down all the older stuff. Period.

    And the lack of a physical copy simply gives them even more leverage.

    "We have no record of you ever buying anything through us. Sorry! Maybe it was the PSN hack a few years back! Heheh! PAY UP!"

  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @01:17AM (#36060372)


    Just look at need for speed world. Not a bad game at all but and it's free to play but the whole point is when EA wants it gone it's their right to just shut it down. That on the whole is bad for gaming. Older PS2 games which had multiplayer shut down their multiplayer services, when you buy a game it should in theory never break and never become unavailable to you. This is the thing I hate about MMO's the most. MMO's mean revenue for game companies but it means no one gets to own the game and that sucks, especially if games keep putting online components in them which companies can simply disable or stop supporting.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @02:15AM (#36060500) Homepage

    Online gaming, as in a MMORPG, is fine. What's seriously objectionable are supposedly standalone games that insist on constantly checking in with a DRM server to work at all. They should forbidden the use of the term "buy" or "sell" in advertising, and should be required to advertise their products as rentals.

    Nor should PC game installs require administrator privileges or installation of services. Game companies can't be trusted with those privileges given their track record.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.