sarah_sensei: Midna: LoZ Twilight Princess (Default)
There are no shortage of articles out there promoting/explaining gaming in the cloud as well as downloadable or online exclusive content.

The worst of the downloadable content of course is the "Nickle and Dime" variety in which consumers are made to pay for things that are already on the disc, just inaccessible without a special code (that you pay for online). I'm a gamer of the old school variety and I feel that if I already paid you for the game, I should have a complete game. Other similar practices include offering expansion packs or the less obvious "mission packs" (though mission packs sometimes are fan-made in the case of PC games and may not be a for-profit venture).

But what about the whole hard copy vs. download debate? Some people have begun to distribute games exclusively as downloads. The idea is in essence one that should favor the consumer:

- By downloading the software directly the distribution costs go down to next to nothing, which should in turn, allow games to be sold cheaper due to the lack of shipping/packaging and manufacturing costs.

This model has worked well for some companies (mostly PC gaming companies) but not so well for others (PSPgo anyone?). I think the success of this model is heavily dependent on whether the company really reduces the price of the game. Consumers aren't complete morons and they can see when a company is being greedy by selling the downloaded game for the same cost as one you would have received as a hard copy (and therefore maximizing their profits).

My personal preference will always be to have a hard copy. This is mainly because of a few things people tend to forget about:

1) In "The Cloud," you are at the total mercy of the people running the service.

My copy of "Super Mario Bros. 3" works just as well today as it did the day I bought it back in the late 80's. (Even better since I did a pin replacement on my NES). As long as I have that cartridge and the working NES, no one can ever take it from me. Even if all the emu sites and all the virtual consoles of the world ceased to exist for some reason or another, I will still always have SMB3.

Now, I know it's a silly example but what I'm trying to say is, because I have a hard copy, no one can force me to upgrade, or deny me the pleasure of playing my game when I want to and where I want to. I don't need the internet, I don't need a login, or a monthly fee or anyone's permission. I paid the makers of the original software and they sold me a copy. It's simple, it makes sense and I will have it as long as I take care of it.

This is not the case when you put servers and the invisible middle man into the equation. The problem with putting things out there "in the cloud" is the person providing the service. The server can go down, the server can have a DoS attack, the people running the server can simply decide they don't want to offer the service anymore. There are a lot of games that rely heavily on this now and some services are built completely around the cloud concept like OnLive.

I honestly, am not interested in trusting some company to have a library of games for me to play. If they, for any reason, decide they don't want to carry my favorite game anymore, or if they go under, it may be gone forever without notice. If that's the case, then what the hell was I paying for? I never got a copy of my own out of it. It's like renting a house your whole life. You rented it for 15-20 years. You put money in some other guy's pocket. When you are done, you have nothing to show for it (and meanwhile the guy you were renting from paid off the house with your money). You may as well have bought your own house and paid your own mortgage and ended up owning your own house. I feel the same about games. I want to buy it, own it, and I want to have it for myself so that I can enjoy it whenever I want and for as long as I want (even 25 years later).

2) Additional online content only works when you have a server that works.

I'm not saying I am against all online content, but if the game cannot stand on its own without the aide of the servers, I'm less likely to buy it. For example, "Monster Hunter Tri" is a pretty sweet game. It is good even without the online service. However, the online service significantly adds to the experience (and makes some tasks so much easier). The problem is, I know that one day Capcom will likely drop the servers and future players will not have the same experience I had with it. Which is a shame, but the game is still pretty cool even without the online content.

But what happens when things go terribly wrong with the server or if some unforeseen circumstances mess up what the developers had originally intended? This is currently the case with the new "Pokemon: Black/White" games. Last month's earthquake in Japan has delayed the launch of the online content and "Dreamworld" that was supposed to be launched on March 30th. You cannot access the Dreamworld while the server is down. Now, it is not necesscary to access it and you can complete the game without loading it up ever. But, you cannot grow berries in Black/White any other way.

Because of the delay I will probably do next to nothing with it once the servers are online, since in the meantime, I already beat the Pokemon League. Once I level up a few teams worth of Pokemon, I usually quit. I'm sure there are a fair number of people in my same frame of mind (who grow bored with it after the game is beaten) and they will likely never bother with the "Dreamworld" online content either.

So, that one event, messed up all of their plans. There was no way to predict it. There was no way to stop it. And the scary part is, it could honestly happen to any company offering online content (so could hard drive failure or complete server crashes).

Fortunately, in this case, the content really isn't essential. But how many games rely on working servers for the players to access content? Quite a few these days (MMO's rely on it almost exclusively). I like online content if it is non-essential or is reserved mainly for multiplayer action. I do not like relying on a server to complete my gaming experience. (By the way, the online multiplayer trading/battle servers in Black and White were not affected but it is likely because those were probably localized. This of course would be the smartest solution, to have servers that are either localized or can relay or pick up the slack of affected servers).

3) Any jaded, nerd, with a computer could take your favorite service out on a whim.

Let's say your favorite cloud-gaming company pissed off some guy by terminating his service unexpectedly. That guy decides to write a virus program that takes out their main servers and targets user data. At best, you'll just not be able to play your cloud-games for a few days or you may lose save data. At worst, this guy made off with personal information, and infected whatever you use to connect to the service (whether that be your PC, smart phone or some other attachment like OnLive uses).

Whenever you make something very public like that, you open it up to pretty much any jackass in the whole world to make it his personal playground. The guy who was pissed off could be from Russia, and he could still affect your ability to enjoy the service. Consumers who do follow the rules are always punished by things like that.

4) Upgrade or die!

This is a non-gaming example, but I recently bought a new copy of Microsoft Office for my computer. I could have gotten it for roughly $120 but I decided to go with the more expensive $150 package. Why? Because it had a DISC in it. The $120 package only sold you a single license AND you had to go download the demo version off the Microsoft website in order to install it (so essentially, it was a $120 piece of PAPER).

Now, I probably could have downloaded the demo and saved it someplace. But, I'm one of those people who likes to think of every possible scenario and I obsess over all the things that can go wrong. What if my file gets corrupted? What if the internet is down? What if Microsoft takes the demo off their site and 5 years from now I need to reinstall everything on my computer????

You know their response will be: "buy a new version."

I feel a LOT better knowing I have the disc upstairs ready for my next install. Also, for just a little more money I got THREE licenses, not just one. So, I can install it on my computer, my husband's computer and the family computer if I so choose to, without violating any laws. It didn't cost me that much more and I'm willing to pay for the convenience and the peace of mind. I also will not be FORCED to upgrade until I see fit.

I'm not completely against online exclusive content. But I am NOT comfortable with cloud gaming and surrendering that much control over the content to the service provider. There still are just too many factors and too many things that can go wrong. From pissed off consumers to hard disc failure, to downed servers to simply getting rid of the service, the consumer is always the one who loses out. The company doesn't care if your favorite game is gone, they only care that they got you to pay for the stupid invisible service to begin with. I say, cut out the middle man, and give me a hard copy. I'll decide when the game is over.


sarah_sensei: Midna: LoZ Twilight Princess (Default)

January 2015

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