Every time I read my news feeds, I mark items that strike me as good blogging fodder. But lately I've been tied up at work and haven't had much chance to delve into a lot of these. So here are my brief, dumb opinions on some news from the past month or two - in no particular order, except chronologically.
--- Court Rules For Software Ownership Over Licensing
As my heart bleeds
for technology freedom, software licensing is something that's kept me up at night (well, not really). In the digital space, the software industry is fond of selling licenses, rather than products - meaning that the conventional rules of digital goods don't apply. Want to rip it off and sell millions of copies? Tough luck! Want to return your rightfully-purchased software for a refund? Just-as-tough luck! Wait, shit.
The story is about a guy who re-sold his copy of AutoCAD. Autodesk wanted to put the kibosh on this - naturally, they'd make more money from selling a brand new copy, instead. The court ruled in favor of the re-seller, stating that upon buying the software, it became his to do with as he pleased. Great news for anyone who buys things.
--- Steam gets its own pre-order bonus for Dragon Age
Nothing against Steam (more on that further down), but what is the deal
with all this pre-order bonus shit? Gamestop, Amazon, everyone seems to be getting in on this: if you're pre-ordering a big game, you can get a different crackerjack prize depending on where you choose to do your business.
I'm all for strong competition in the game-selling space, and as far I understand, a lot of these end up being paid or free DLC later on - and were probably in development long before anyone started talking about pre-orders. But I shudder to think of a day when publishers crack the whip on a game developer to implement Gamestop-exclusive levels and items. Blegh.
--- Online retailers boycotting Modern Warfare 2
Speaking of retailer competition - in line with what Randy Pitchford said a few weeks back, as good a job as they do, it is worrying that Valve has such tremendous vertical integration in Steam. Calling Steamworks a "Trojan Horse" is pretty stupid; but requiring a game that uses Steamworks to also
install Steam is just nonsense. It's an inconvenience to the consumer, it's anti-competitive, and there's no good reason why Valve can't spin all this stuff off into independent divisions.
Gamespy may kind of suck, but Borderlands didn't force you to install IGN's Direct2Drive, did it?
--- Square Enix: Final Fantasy shall not be exhausted
Yoichi Wada is a pretty smooth operator. That said - is he fucking kidding me? Come on, dude.
--- Kaz Hirai: We Want To Increase Brand Loyalty
This ties in with something I wanted to post about UPlay, and about Gamestop nonsensically trying to sell digital downloads in stores. With consumer dollars starting to dry up, everyone in the game business is looking to figure out how to keep the gravy train rolling; and it seems like a lot of them are thinking consumer loyalty
On the one hand, publishers and developers and retailers paying increased attention to retaining customers
is a good thing for the consumer. We can look forward to getting more stuff and better treatment in general. On the other hand, one should definitely be wary of the platform makers getting desperate and abusing their positions as masters of our game domains. Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are all in great positions to prevent third party software from competing with their own major franchises; hopefully they're not stupid enough to try.
--- Alienware Goes Digital With Steam
Re: what I said about Steamworks, above, and Brad Wardell's recent open consumer statement about Impulse et al, I've been giving some thought to how the digital distribution space might become more competitive. The other day I mentioned to some buddies of mine that I thought it odd, that Steam or Impulse or Direct2Drive had yet to appear pre-installed on PCs as an OEM deal. Then this happened!
It shouldn't be long until more
PC makers decide to bundle Steam with their kits. Then Stardock and IGN will (rightly) cry foul, and either their stuff will get pre-installed too, or everyone will come up with some mutually-compatible marketplace software, where everyone can live in harmony. Maybe I'm just dreaming about that last part.
--- Upcoming Tron game gets teased
Fuck yes. Please be better than Tron 2.0.