Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The State of Licences

So Microsoft had their new Xbox reveal and I find myself highly suspicious of pretty much everything they said. I was working for the company as phone support during the Kinect launch and the disparity between hype and delivered product there was hillarious. But that's not what I want to talk about today. Today what is irritating me is the downplaying of the issue with how MS look to be trying to prevent the use of second-hand games in the console. As it stands, it appears that the idea is to have all the media on the disc and to have a seperate code which will allow for a licence to be associated with the person's Xbox LIVE account.

Now ignoring that this is, essentially, the death of bringing games over to a friend's house for the evening there are more pressing concerns at work. Specifically, Microsoft's treatment of player accounts and how the concept of ownership is being eroded here. As the fabled Xbox "Terms of Service" currently stand, there is very little to prevent MS or the game's publisher from revoking a player's ability to play a game they paid good money for with no reason given nor any right of appeal whatsoever, but obviously that would be terrible business and will never happen (*cough*). What WILL happen is bans for various behaviours that may or may not be anticipated and covered in the ToS of a game or the overall service and how that would potentially result in a total loss of a significant amount of what used to be called "property". Witness the previous shenanigans with the Call of Duty "infected" lobbies, which would cause any player entering them to spread the modified gamestate to other lobbies they entered if they had not exited the game in the interim. This could, and if you believe some people did, affect players who had no intention of breaking the rules.

More likely to be a problem, any number of teenaged gamers have, quite frankly, shit for brains. They forget their passwords and disable their accounts in ways that render them totally inaccessible to those unwilling to read a popup box and follow instructions. These morons (also known as "the target market") are quite likely to find their library of games to be entirely defunct, and literally just taking up space. There is a similar complaint to be made about buying a game that requires a Steam account at the moment, but at least in that situation the disc can be used or discarded at your whim, and the game licence MAY be somewhat cheaper if you dig around the bargin bins. In the case proposed by this new console, the disc would only be necessary for initial install, but what happens when the console's limited hard drive space is full and you make some room for a new purchase? If the disc is now inaccessible will it be possible to download it via the LIVE service? At this point, who knows?

In many ways, the saddest thing about this is the knowledge that soon it may be entirely impossible to have a game sitting on your shelf available to lend to a curious aquaintance so you can share an experience. It isolates us as gamers, just that little bit more. And all just to add a few more dollars to the least significant digits of some seven figure numbers....

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