The Internet has been a godsend to gaming. Having an infrastructure in place to connect multiple systems together for collaborative or co-operative play has made millions of hours of entertainment possible and verified the art as a viable social pastime. However, the Internet has brought with it some of the biggest controversies of the modern technology era.
Over even just the past few months, the industry has been alive with controversy over DRM, stability and other Internet-related worries and the announcement of Microsoft’s Xbox One last week has sparked the latest batch of discussion. Today we’re going to take a look at some of these controversies and how they might be affecting our gameplay.
DRM is a three-letter initialism that is guaranteed to send chills down most people’s necks. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but is sure to dominate industry news whenever something goes wrong.
DRM, or Digital Rights Management, comes in a number of forms but always boils down to a system used by intellectual property holders to control how digital content is managed once it’s been sold. It also comes in many different forms, the most extreme of which have caused significant problems.
The release of SimCity internationally in March was far from smooth. The basic concept of the franchise’s 2013 reboot centred around being online, and the DRM systems put in place took advantage of this. Although EA maintains that the need for a persistent Internet connection is for more than mere DRM, the overall requirement led to EA’s systems being obliterated, locking many out of their game, a topic discussed a few months back in my piece on outages. While this specific example may be moot due to the influence of online activity to positive gameplay in the title, it does show that adoption of Internet-based DRM is already causing problems for many.
Digital Distribution and Used Games
One of the biggest concerns over Microsoft’s reveal of the Xbox One came in regards to distribution in the secondary market and how used games would be handled on the next-generation of consoles (and the evolving landscape of the PC in favour of digital means of distribution, such as Steam).
Microsoft has not announced full details (and, in fact, we’re not certain at all whether this is true or what their stance is, considering various Microsoft-based sources have contradicted themselves) but it does seem that the Xbox One will have a system in place to limit the use of used games, requiring a fee of some sort to play a game you didn’t pick up new. When you first play a game, the vague details we have on Microsoft’s system implies that it will be bound and licensed to your account in some way so when a different user on a different console wants to play (i.e., a user you’ve sold the game to), they’ll have to pay a fee, potentially up to the full retail price, in order to play.
Microsoft’s not really doing anything morally wrong here. In fact, by limiting the value of the secondary market this way, developers should get a cut of used game fees, thus giving them more funds to make more games. However, many gamers do take advantage of lower-priced used titles which could see them further limited in what titles they can play.
Largely, this seems like it’s change that’s a bit late in happening. After all, it’s not all that easy to lend your Steam copy of Black Ops II to your mate and almost impossible to sell it on to regain some of the investment you made in it. Yet, the console gaming industry is used to the physicality of owning a game and it’s not going to be easy to convince them otherwise.
As we established before, the Internet has had some huge benefits for gaming and i’m sure few would argue they’d prefer it leave the industry altogether. However, there’s definitely concern to be had over how some developers and hardware manufactures are taking advantage of the Internet and the both direct and indirect effects they’re having on their users’ experiences and wallets.
Have an opinion on how the Internet may be negatively effecting the PC market or next-gen consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4? Let us know in the comments!