If Digital Distribution is the Future, We’re All Screwed
We all know the drill: pull out an NES cartridge, blow it off and relive a little piece of your childhood. Or since the system is more than a quarter century old now, your older brother’s childhood. But I digress.
More than 25 years later you can still play the same copy of the same game, more or less the same way you played it back then.
Digital distribution is changing this. While Steam certainly looks to be on solid ground, who can say how many of their competitors will be around five years from now? Will services that go under be bought out, or simply cease to be? And if they do get absorbed by the little black square that could, will Valve honor games on those accounts?
There are so many unknowns in this new economic model it’s hard to embrace it blindly. This is coming from a man who has, as of this writing, 281 games on his Steam account. Send help.
Some services like Good Old Games are a little easier to root for. Not only do they have the always popular lack of DRM, but without an overarching client long-term back ups are easy to make. Just break out the installer and play.
It’s fair for companies to sell new copies of their old games. I just hope they can’t find a way to remove access to the copies I already bought just because the calendar is a couple digits further along that when I bought the game. Remember the kerfuffle with Gears of War for PC a while back? The game had only been out a year and a half, and because a registry signature was given an expiration date the game became unlaunchable.
That time it was a bug or oversight, but what’s to stop a publisher from doing that on purpose? Do you think EA would really shy away from the prospect of auto-breaking every copy of Madden around the time the next one comes out? The multiplayer servers already have about a two-year lifespan at most.
It’s not even just PC games though. Have you ever tried to play a 360 without internet access? It won’t even let you boot some downloaded games, and games like Rock Band 3 won’t let you use any song that isn’t on the disc, making all your DLC worthless.
Next time on your trip to a used game store (gasp!) look for those Korean-made knock-off NES units. (Or even cooler, the combo NES/SNES/Genesis ones.) Wonder how they get away with selling those? Simple: the patents expired. Meaning that as long as they don’t steal the BIOS code or use the exact parts, they’re in the clear to make a system that plays NES/Famicom media.
I don’t think anyone can build a machine to access an account on a service that no longer exists.
Image via an overpriced t-shirt