N4L: DLConspiracy

nxe_marketplace_011-1024x576With the rise of high-speed interconnection in today’s consoles. We’ve been given a theoretical unlimited amount of play to our favorite games. Not only can we get new cars in racers, but whole new adventures in other games. New weapons. Even overall enhancement in the form of better visuals, audio, and better controls. Along those lines. We’re also given a quick and easy way of renting or buying movies to watch instantly from our homes. And even now, we are getting the chance to buy full games from the comfort of our couches. We can then send friends a message and invite them to watch the movie we just bought or rented and chat with them while watching it. All from our cozy homes. Truly. This generation of gaming has made the biggest leap technologically speaking. Other systems may have tried these forms of Internet connectability (Genesis X-Band, Dreamcast. PS2). But they never reached the always on, always connected feel and ease of use that the newest systems have today. The ability to download demos, themes, music, movies, updates for games, enhancements, add-ons. Etc etc. The list goes on. All this is at a price though… How much are you willing to spend? How much as you willing to give up? Illusion of ownership: I’ve personally dealt with this very issue. When you download anything legally, unless it’s marked as NOT having any. Inside the file you are downloading is a piece of anti-piracy code called DRM (Digital Rights Management.). What this unseen code does is keep you from sharing whatever you’ve downloaded with anybody else. If you try and run it on a computer/console it wasn’t originally downloaded on. It simply won’t work. Obviously. There are ways around this. It’s not fool-proof. iTunes allows for up to 5 computers to use the media that’s been downloaded. not a bad number. Microsoft allows just 1… Guess what happens when your xBox.. With a 33% chance to fail… Fails. Well, this was my experience. My original release 20gb xBox 360 had suffered the RRoD (Red ring of Death.). Under Microsofts RRoD warranty (3 extra years). I was able to get it fixed for free. When I got the 360 back though, they hadn’t transferred over my licenses, meaning, everything on my harddrive was useless. But it was ok as I was able to transfer all my licenses over myself and then, after downloading around 300 pieces of DLC was able to use it all again, I did it myself. All was fine. Until Microsoft released the Red “Resident Evil 5” xBox 360. I decided to buy one. I sold my old one. And was happy as a clam. Until I found out that there was NO WAY TO TRANSFER MY LICENSES AGAIN. See, MS only allows 1 license transfer per year. Numerous calls and emails to Microsoft didn’t get me anywhere. The only way I could use the content I had purchased legally was to stay connected to xBox Live. This. To say the least, is annoying as hell. 3 people buying songs for Rock Band, when you select random setlist. The game will kick you out of the game when it comes across a song bought with a different profile unless all 3 are signed in at one time. This brings me to my first point. You don’t truly own what you have purchased. Buying the physical media (CD, DVD, etc). Means you can use that content whenever. For how ever long you like. Buying digital copies of anything only warrants you access depending on how long that companies DRM-server stays online. In 10 years. If Microsoft pulls the plug on the 360. But I still want to play it. I won’t be able to play any of my digital downloads if there server is no longer running. Sony BMG has publicly stated that You do not own your Music!. If they feel that way about music. Obviously they feel that way about games. It’s already happening too. If you have downloaded one of the original Xbox Live Arcade games that are no longer available. And they removed it from their server. That’s it. You have no way of getting it again. Even if you paid money. Because you didn’t buy the game. You bought the right to play it. For as long as they decide they want you to have it.  (UPDATE: MS now has options in place for games that have been removed and you can’t play it anymore.  if you are one of these people who own content that is no longer re-downloadable and you don’t have the copy on a system anymore, call 1-800-4MY-XBOX and you can get a refund for that item.) 

Cutting out the middle-man



Best Buy Price

Game on Demand

Mass Effect



Assassin’s Creed



Lego Star Wars: Complete Saga






This may not sound bad at all. Wholesale items always cost less. Here is a quick explanation of How this works: Best Buy will buy a metric fuck-ton of product. Because they buy so much in bulk from the manufacturer, they get a deal. Best Buy doesn’t usually pass this on to you (unless there is a sale, of course.). They will charge full price and get the extra to make a profit. All stores do this. Wal-Mart can give you a little discount because they buy so much more bulk then any other retailer. This happens with games too just at a much smaller profit margin. A retailer will buy a bulk of games at about $52 and charge 60 for around 8 bucks profit.  This is how stores like Best Buy, Target, Wal-mart, etc. all stay in business.  Honestly, not a big deal, they serve a purpose and then get a profit, not a big deal really. The issue I have with digital distribution is the amount of greed I see with it. Since they are digitally distributing their product over Xbox Live and PSN. They don’t need to pay for packaging, disc pressing, inserts, shipping or warehouses to store it all. Also, we aren’t paying the retailers cut of the profit of around 8 or so dollars….. So…. Why are downloaded games the same, or sometimes MORE money then the physical copy?  If you look at the “Games on Demand” section of Xbox Live right now, you will see that every single game is the same price or MORE than what the physical copy costs.  To the right you’ll see some quick examples I pulled up in a matter of seconds.  Really, making the table to put them in took longer.  We see that if the prices aren’t the same as Best Buy’s, they are Higher… HIGHER!.  Why on earth would they need to be higher in any stretch of the imagination?.  And clearly, these aren’t the cheapest you can find, this is what Bestbuy.com sells them for, you can bargain hunt and find them for even cheaper.  On a note.  You can now buy Bioshock and Oblivion together as a pack for only $39.99.  on Xbox Live, this would cost you $59.99 and take up over 11GB of Hard drive space. Really the only answer is greed. Since Microsoft and Sony (Nintendo currently does not release full retail games via Shop Channel) expect you to buy a disc copy. They’re is no need to cut the price. They are essentially betting on lazy people unwilling to move from their couches or people excited about the new technology without knowing truly what they are getting into. These 2 issues already spell bad news for the PSPGo. Which is a digital only device. So, think about this before you buy one. A.) You don’t own the full priced games you buy.. B.) You pay Full price for something you may not be able to pay in the future.

The guise of More With the advent of downloadable content. We are promised more from our favorite games, at a price of course. New levels, weapons, characters, cars, etc. Etc. Personally. I love this concept and have seen some companies really break the mold and dish out as much as possible to give there games extremely long lifespans. The first one that comes to mind is Burnout Paradise. This game started off as simply a”good game” and has been transformed by it’s endless list of downloadable content into a highly polished and fantastic game. Not only did they released new cars. But they also released updates that made the game look better, run smoother, control better, included motorcycles for free. But also released an entirely new island to drive in. New modes of play. Toy cars and movie favorites like the Ecko-1 from Ghostbusters and the DeLoren from Back to the Future. Criterion Studios has extended their games lifespan by probably a few years. Other companies do an amazing job of this as well. Rockstar with their Episodes for Grand Theft Auto 4. A game that already has 50+ hours of gameplay gets about 10+ more tacked on for 20 bucks. Not a bad deal. Bethesda increased Fallout 3’s lifespan from 100+ hours to… Only God knows how long! Harmonix releases at least 6 songs every week for there music game Rock Band which already had a decent sized list now has an unheard of 800+ songs available! These companies are doing it right. They are creating full games and adding more to it. As of late, though… I’ve been getting a feeling that some games are being released at half the size they should have been, only to be charged extra to play the rest.

SteamResident Evil 5 was slammed for this. When it was released, a couple weeks later a “Versus Mode” DLC was released that allowed players to play against eachother. For 5 bucks anyways. Thing is. The download was only about 2megs. Which lead many to believe that the code to play the versus mode was in the game the whole time. And they simply paid 5 bucks to download a “key” to unlock it. Capcom denied this, but honestly. If you look at what they did with Dead Rising, it’s easy to see why everyone thinks this. In Dead Rising. You could download “keys” to the lockers to unlock new outfits. Funny thing is, the “keys” were just “keys”. Haha. The outfits where always in the game. The tiny bit of code you downloaded simply allowed you to use the outfit. Seems Capcom did the same with RE5. Beatles:Rock Band feels more like a money grab than this to me though. With all other music games coming with at least 80 songs. It’s hard not to see the sparse 35 song list as a way to hold onto the other Beatles albums to charge for DLC. Which is hard to swallow when you see that the full band set of Beatles:Rock Band costs 50$ more than the Rock Band 2 set. Sure. The equipment “looks” fancier. But review after review shows that the quality simply isn’t there. So, in a round about way. You are paying way more for the Beatles stuff than Rock Band or Guitar Hero. Through higher priced plastic and getting the same number of songs you’d get from the others will cost you monies in DLC. For the most part. DLC is working quite well and brings great value to your games. Be it updates to fix issues that slipped past testers, new content, or new ways of playing the game. But there are rumblings that I see and feel that could turn the tide of Digital distribution from “nice addition” into that 1989 Apple commercial where everyone is being controlled by an all seeing voice of “god”.  I’m just waiting for the day where you buy a game, pop it in and it’s as anemic as a “Demo” and you’re forced to download something just to finish the game, period.

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