The Internet (it is capitalized right?) has killed console gaming forever. It wasn’t something that the causal gamer saw coming, and in fact, very few gamers of any age can really see the implications of how gaming was infected and destroyed by the Internet.
Point 1: Physical Media
Ew… gross… what are those disease carrying, oddly shaped things?
Those, my ignorant gamer of the future, are called “game cartridges”. Those use to be how we played games. They weren’t beamed down from a space station, through your body, to your T.V. set. No, the information was placed on these “carts”, we plugged the “cart” into the game system and played until our hearts content.
This might sound silly now, but I’m telling you, in no more than twenty years from now, no major game company will think about the possibility of placing their cutting edge game on any kind of physical media. Physical media has some major flaws that a business doesn’t want to be apart of anymore.
I have to buy them again!? But I can get the cart for $2 at my local game shop!
It’s a one time buy – Companies don’t want you to purchase their content once. They want you to purchase it as many times as possible. A game cart, if taken care of, can last the life of the player. Look at the some of the oldest games that are available at your local game shop (i.e. Atari 2600 games). These carts are decades old, but with care, they will still function. This is bad news for companies. The media has to be disposable, forgotten about, or unreliable so that, years down the road, when you want to play that “retro game for the Xbox 36o” you will have to buy it again via an software download.
Look at the popularity of the Xbox Arcade, Playstation Network, or Nintendo’s Wii Shop Channel. The games that are on these services already exist in one if not multiple versions stretch across many consoles and PC set ups. Game consoles you probably already own, maybe even the game itself, but people will buy it yet again for many reasons: convenience, minor updates typically in a graphical nature, rare if not impossible find, etc. The issue with this is that we are feeding the monkey. And it’s not a nice monkey. It’s an evil, evil monkey. By buying into this program, we are telling these game companies that it’s OK to release the same game year after year with little to no incentive to us and we will keep on buying.
Money – placing any kind of information on a disk, whether it be a cartridge or compact disc, is expensive and prone to failure over time. After coping so many discs with the same application, there is always a testing phase to make sure that the games actually work on the console.
Now you might be thinking, well I can get 50 CD-Rs for 10 bucks surely a major corporation can get a better deal on media than I can and I’d say you were right. And they more than likely add that additional cost into the price of the game itself at the point of purchase. But if we are so use to paying $50 and $60 dollars for the latest Xbox 360 game, why would we shake a stick at paying the exact same amount for the same game only to have it downloaded to a hard disk that’s attached to your console? With the blazing speeds that are available for the internet now-a-days including broadband and fiber optics, to download a 4 GB video game would be done in minutes not hours like in the past. Which would cut their production of developing a physical media all together. Less work means less workers means more money in the business’s pocket. Because the games sure as hell won’t cost less.
This type of model has been around for ages really pushed through by Apple’s iTunes app. Here’s my story. Many years ago, I purchased an album from iTunes that was recorded locally and was no longer in production for a physical copy. A few years later, my iPod had crapped out on me, so I went back into iTunes to download the album again. To my amazement, I had to purchase it again since so much time had gone by. But I bought it already didn’t I own it? No. I didn’t. Most digital media that is purchased online is actually only being “rented” from the company for an unknown amount of time. Meaning, if I lost my copy, I will have to buy another.
Now, this is similar to a physical copy as well in some small cases. If I own the CD, and I lose it, I no longer have that copy and I will have to purchase a new one. The difference is I have the ability to make a software “back-up” copy of the hard copy for just this case. Now, the laws of copyright can be read in either direction pertaining to “back-ups” but at the time I was allowed to have one backed up copy of any physical data that I owned.
Apple, and many other companies, use a security called DRM or Digital Rights Management that will only allow you to have one copy of the medium. You are not legally allowed to copy that DRM media from one source to another. Many other companies and just about everyone else is against this model of security but that doesn’t stop deep pocket companies from using it. And the only advantage is to the company not to the user.
In part two, I will be discussing the issue that has cropped up with console games that are just down right broken and how it’s considered “OK” now to release such titles.