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Businesses Software The Almighty Buck Games

The Dark Side of Digital Distribution 270

An anonymous reader writes "Game journalist Stuart Campbell has written an incisive piece on how the digital distribution model users have grown to know and love over the past several years still has some major problems that go beyond even the DRM dilemma. He provides an example of an app developer using very shady update techniques to screw over people who have legitimately purchased their app. Touch Racing Nitro, a retro racing game, launched to moderate success. After tinkering with price points to get the game to show up on the top download charts, the developers finally made it free for a period of four months. 'Then the sting came along. About a week ago (at time of writing), the game received an "update," which came with just four words of description – "Now Touch Racing Free!" As the game was already free, users could have been forgiven for thinking this wasn't much of a change. But in fact, the app thousands of them had paid up to £5 for had effectively just been stolen. Two of the game's three racing modes were now locked away behind IAP paywalls, and the entire game was disfigured with ruinous in-game advertising, which required yet another payment to remove.'"
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The Dark Side of Digital Distribution

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  • by Cinder6 ( 894572 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @01:15PM (#39150215)

    A couple years back (or maybe just a year), an "update" came out for WipEout HD on the PS3. The game cost $15 to buy, but the update added video advertisements to the loading screens of each race. Aside from being annoying, they drastically increased load times in order to force you to actually watch the ad. While not as bad as actually crippling the game as in this case, that event really soured me to the concept of digital distribution.

    Really, the only company I trust with digital distribution these days is GOG, who don't use DRM in any of their games. Yeah, they pulled that weird "shutdown" stunt a while back, but to my mind it only proved their value--nobody was unable to play their games during the outage (except for those few people who hadn't gotten around to downloading them yet).

  • Why update? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jimmyswimmy ( 749153 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @01:23PM (#39150329)

    This is one reason why I rarely update anything on my Android tablet. I have a number of kids' games on there which never had many privileges when I installed them, so there's little security worry (plus it's only connected to my WLAN). What could "Draw by Numbers" possibly need to update to work better? The only "upgrade" I expect is them to remove pictures. My 3 year old is thrilled with the 10 or 20 different things she can draw on there, and that probably is limiting sales.

    I only upgrade OS items now and disable the automatic upgrade checking for everything else. I'm sure I'll hear about why that's bad here. I think years of free and truly beneficial MS updates have confused a lot of us into thinking that an upgrade actually means what the word is defined to mean. Much like "gender" replaced "sex" I think the true meaning of the word "upgrade" is being replaced by something. Something not good.

  • by RealGene ( 1025017 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @01:25PM (#39150349)
    From the latest version of PocketCloud Remote Free (RDP/VNC client for iPxxx):

    What's New in Version 2.2.134

    We noticed we had mistakenly enabled multiple computer support on a previous release.
    This free version of PocketCloud has always been limited to 1 computer as documented on the app description.
    We apologize for the inconvenience and ask for your understanding.
    We are discounting PocketCloud Pro 40% to ease the migration for our power users who need to access multiple computers.
  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @01:37PM (#39150511)

    There was something on Slashdot a few years ago about people buying a service,

    Cable/DSS television.

    then having to pay more to disable advertising

    Premium channels.

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @01:59PM (#39150789) Journal

    HD was Steve Jobs fault. He was afraid that nobody would design an app for his 1024x768 screen when they had just redesigned the app for the iPhone's 960x640 screen. So what does he do? He locks out the 960x640 versions on the iPad, forcing a pixel doubled 480x320 screen even when the higher resolution version existed.

    I wanted to throw a chair at him for that bit of assholishness.

  • Caveat Emptor (Score:4, Interesting)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @02:03PM (#39150843) Journal

    A purchase is an investment in the credibility of the seller.

    There are so many ways a seller can screw over a purchaser, that's why letters of credit were invented.

    If you're purchasing something (effectively) that you have no idea how it works, from someone you don't know, and you give them (by update) the authority to make changes at will...well, to suggest that you are trusting is an understatement.

    We've become so habituated to this model, we've forgotten that in the same way that Darwinism works by death, capitalism works by failure. For people to realize a seller can be identified as unscrupulous, a number of people have to get screwed.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @02:45PM (#39151301) Homepage

    This is the government's fault for not making this behavior a felony.

    But ... but ... without corporate profit seeking, the Earth would stop spinning and the universe would collapse.

    We need for this to be legal, it drives the entire economy. /sarcasm

  • by ZombieBraintrust ( 1685608 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @03:18PM (#39151727)
    The goverment doesn't need to make new laws everytime a new product comes along. This is already a crime. The users just need to find a prosecurter who will prosecute it. (No sure if the word felony applies. This is a Swedish company.)
  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @05:13PM (#39153549) Homepage Journal

    It's the lack of daily violence that has allowed interpersonal interaction to get so out of control. No one is afraid to screw over their neighbor in any legal way because if you hit them for it you'll be the one to get in trouble with the law. Either we can build a byzantine legal code, or we can acknowledge the need to be able to push back against jerks.

"Well, if you can't believe what you read in a comic book, what *can* you believe?!" -- Bullwinkle J. Moose