Odd Complementary Goods

Someone in the current corporate entity has spent the last year holding a fire sale on the goodwill that Blizzard spent a decade building. You can almost see some parts of the company working to maintain the customer’s faith, hope, and trust while other parts are strip-mining that resource. Anyone else have more metaphors I can mix in here, maybe something about BP?

Because I lack trust in the company’s businesses practices, and in light of the Battle.net requirement, I cannot seriously consider buying Starcraft 2 unless I know there is a hacked version available. I need to know that I can pop in the disk and the game will work, without an internet connection and without whatever requirements the corporate office decides are a good idea next year.

We have reached a point where the DRM has gone beyond annoyance to threatening to make your game unplayable at someone’s future whim. I am actually looking for reassurance from the pirates, in whose goodwill and long-term thinking I seem to place greater trust. We still trust the developers to make worthwhile games, but how much do you trust the corporation that employs them?

: Zubon

17 thoughts on “Odd Complementary Goods”

  1. Yup. It is not only Blizzard.
    Anything beyond Dragon Age – any extra CE item, any DLC, etc. – requires verification with your Electronic Arts login on the EA servers.
    Or think of the constant internet monitoring of Assassin’s Creed II.
    My issues with non-working Fallout DLC because of DRM caused me to backup the .exe and some other files and download a crack to play my legally bought DLC. I was almost finished with the DLC before they finally fixed all the issues.
    Steam is also some kind of DRM – I cannot play games in “offline” mode before I logged in.

    We can only hope that pirates or the makers release a no-DRM patch around the end of the life cycle of a product before the company goes bankrupt or simply switches off the verification servers. Sure, we probably won’t play any game that is 10 years old. But this will make sure we for sure can’t. Resale of bought games – near impossible with such systems.

    90% piracy rates of certain games without or little copy protection show that working DRM is quite important. But can’t they come up with solutions that do not put me in a state of inconvenience, that puts me under a general suspicion to be a pirate even after I bought something legally?

  2. I’ve been struggling with this in regard to Dragon Age lately. I just started playing the game and installed two pieces of DLC, but now I can’t play that character at all unless the game checks in with EA. I also can’t play the game immediately as it takes a few moments when I boot it up for the game to talk to the EA servers. So what happens when the servers are unavailable, or if I want to play the game without an internet connection? Apparently I’m screwed.

    With regard to Steam, it does a couple things that do not infuriate me like the EA drm: when I launch a game, it should verify quickly in the background (if it has to even do that) and I should be able to play in offline mode. I haven’t had trouble playing my steam games in offline mode yet, which is nice.

  3. The main reason I would buy Starcraft 2 would be for the map editor, but I recently found a hame that blows any other map editor RTS out of the water. Dwarf Fortress rocks, and I doubt DRM is even a consideration for future development.

  4. I know, we can stop buying their game so they realize that we’re mad, oh wait, zillions of other people that don’t care or are unaware have already bought it. Crap. Now what?

  5. “I need to know that I can pop in the disk and the game will work, without an internet connection and without whatever requirements the corporate office decides are a good idea next year.”

    Agreed. This alone is enough to keep me from buying the game, my other mild objections aside.

  6. This post reminded me that I can’t really think of any other industries/markets that are quite as blatantly anti-consumer as video games. Hell, even the music industry got a slap on the wrist when it attempted to implement draconian DRM measures, but game publishers have been doing worse for years now and I can’t really recall any significant backlash against it.

    Take Left 4 Dead 2, for instance, which was essentially an expansion pack for L4D that was sold at full retail price. There was a small movement trying to boycott the game, but it failed to gather enough steam to make an impact outside of sensationalist blog posts and the game was still released as planned for that price.

    Add to this aspects of the video game consumer experience such as:

    *Microtransactions, which have led to the shipping of incomplete games in order to nickel-and-dime consumers who have already paid full retail price, a la Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2.

    *GameStop, essentially a glorified pawn shop that has become the primary retail outlet for games. Trade-in prices are low, games used by employees are sold as new, consumers are urged to pay for nothing in the form of pre-ordering and all in all consumers are treated to a shoddy experience nearly chainwide.

    *The push by publishers against used games, which combines the above two travesties into a deliberate attempt to make end users pay more for the same product.

    It really makes me wonder why video game consumers haven’t put together a concentrated effort to change things.

    1. E-book publishing makes computer game publishing look positively consumer-friendly. No real microtransaction schemes (as yet), but no used market at all (try opening one, see how many minutes you stay open before the law comes a-knocking). DRM that’s not only draconian, it’s tied to specific vendors – imagine if next time you bought a game it would only run on ATI video cards. If your current video card dies, and you buy an nVidia next time around? You’ll have to replace your entire library of games. No refunds or exchanges.

    2. @Garrett Galvan: I wouldn’t equate the Left 4 Dead 2 price with DRM issues though. Everyone has a different opinion of a reasonable price.

      That’s entirely different than selling you a game and sneaking in a form of spyware, crippling the product from working in the future, or leveraging your identity for shareholder value just because social gaming is hot right now. Those are issues of backstabbing the customer for secondary markets. Using something like piracy or forum trolls as a convenient excuse to sneak the naughty bits in.

      If the price was higher than you liked, that’s a much simpler issue. Wait until it’s cheaper.

      1. Yeah, that’s true, I really intended it more in the sense of providing an example of another apparent anti-consumer move. In retrospect I’d probably have wrote about Sony disabling features on the PlayStation 3 via mandatory firmware updates instead.

        The past few years haven’t been good for video game consumers and that trend hasn’t shown many signs of stopping. While I supported the idea behind RealID, for instance (implementing some sort of personal responsibility online would be a great way toward building a more solid virtual community), I don’t think Blizzard springing it on their playerbase was their best move. Note, though, that a combined reaction from that playerbase and a significant portion of the gaming community at large actually did something – if only video gamers would fight back like that when developers and publishers slight them at other times as well!

  7. I know I will never buy a Blizzard game again due to them even thinking about that Real ID idea.

    And I have collector’s editions of every WoW expansion so far, even though I no longer play it.

    And about DRM, well, I’ve gotten around that by buying from D2D. As for having to log in, yes, that’s a PITA, but for me it’s less of a PITA than having to have a disc in the player.

  8. I haven’t purchased any of Ubisoft’s PC games this year because of the draconian DRM. These were games I was anticipating, especially Settlers 7 (I’ve bought every Settlers game since the first) which looks like a return to that series’ roots.

    I’ve been tempted to buy them anyway, then grab the cracked versions to avoid the sheer stupidity of Ubisoft’s paranoid DRM servers, but that would just support their bad habits.

    I’m not against DRM altogether. I’m perfectly fine with how Steam operates, because I feel it’s reasonable and keeps the player’s needs in mind. Ubisoft on the other hand seems hell bent on a self-inflicted prophecy of piracy. People must be pirating their games in droves to avoid their nonsense. EA has been treading the fine line lately too.

    To be clear, I’m not boycotting per se, I just cannot stomach what they’ve done to these products. I wouldn’t buy a broken car or a broken cel phone, so I’m not going to buy inherently broken games.

    I have a huge amount of game boxes in my closet, but I suspect all my complaints fall on deaf ears to those that see pirates everywhere they look.

  9. There are some awfully nice Indie games out there, made to good graphical quality, that use no dem at all. You just have to look.

    Stardock is one place to start. Elemental, a sort of updated Master of Magic (for those who remember the classics) is about the only game I’m sure I’ll buy between today and Guild Wars 2.

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