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    Fanning the Flames - Still Paying to Own?
    Monday, 6 October 2008

    Gamers are used to going into a shop and buying games and that game nestling on their shelves and it belonging to them for good. However a worrying trend is perhaps developing where gamers no longer own the games they think they are buying..

    Two recent cases have made the news and caused ructions and confusion as to the nature of ownership with regards to downloadable distribution. Whilst the likes of Live Marketplace, the Wii Shop Channel, Playstation Store and Steam have shown off how successful downloadable titles can be it is but it could come at a cost to the gamer.

    Rock Band 2 was recently released and many a gamer wondered what would happen to the content off the original Rock Band disc. Would they just lose it forever or be forced to buy it all over again as a download? The truth was neither of these, instead gamers had to pay a nominal fee to buy the license to use the songs in Rock Band 2. Whilst the fee was a relatively small amount it is still slightly worrying to find that whilst gamers now still own the songs on the Rock Band disc they only own the right to play the songs in Rock Band. It does draw into question whether purchases being made as DLC for the game are actually owned by the purchaser? Or whether they are simply buying the right to play the songs for as long as Harmonix either sees it fit or for as long as their agreements with record companies last.

    The most worrying recent case is to do with Sony's (relatively) new video download service. Video's be it TV or Films can either be downloaded as a rental or bought out right as yours to own. However it does not seem the own option is quite what it would suggest. When renting a video you have X amount of time to watch the movie. When buying you would think the video is yours to buy and keep no matter what and redownload onto your machine as many time as you want. It is after all yours much like when you go to a shop and buy a DVD or Blu Ray? Wrong. Whilst when you run out of space for DVDs the solution can be as simple as rearranging your shelves or at a push buying a new one. With the world of downloadables the solution should be even simpler download the desired film/tv show, watch it and either keep on your HDD or if your short of space delete it and simply download it the next time you want to watch it. Not so, Sony only allows you to redownload each title once. Whilst people who have the bigger capacity models or have upgraded their system themselves this may not be a problem, but for people with the smaller models and lack of technical know how this could be a common problem. Apparently a call to Sony will get you a one time cutosy download but thats not really a solution for the masses and Sony has clearly not thought out the process or are indeed well aware of the notion that gamers are not paying for the title outright.

    If this is indeed the case how can companies justify charging prices so close to full retail? It just seems madness to expect people to accept that once a title is deleted they are not perhaps entitled to expect it to be there for them to access again at a later date.

    Perhaps it is too much to expect that companies will store our purchasing history for the entire duration of our downloading life? Is it really visible for all the millions of the transactions ever to be stored on servers around the world? If you read forums gamers do expect everything and they expect companies to provide such services and at the moment they do but when will this end?

    As the amount of money spent on digital downloads continues to rocket up it will only take the downturn in solid media formats sales for companies to start thinking about how to continually perpetuate the money they make from the customers' downloads. One way to do this would be to simply license the games to the players and charge readily when this deal expires or the gamer wishes to redownload.


    posted by flameboy @ 13:00  
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