So, E3 2013 has come and gone. Games for both XBOX ONE and PS4 were shown. Some of them more exciting than others but it is now very clear that Microsoft wishes to shackle us to the Internet by simply refusing to allow us to play XBOX ONE games without connecting to the Internet at least once every 24 hours. Don Mattrick even said that those of us who cannot or will not abide by this restriction can still enjoy XBOX gaming… with our XBOX 360’s!
So, Microsoft turns out to be the bad guy and SONY in the meantime are the awesome company that listens to what gamers want and will not restrict our freedom to truly own the game disc we bought and may want to trade-in in the future? Really? Well, no… the future of the PS4 may have some dark clouds and storms coming. Here’s what’s going on in SONY-land.
Back in September 12th, 2012 SONY has filed for a very specific patent. A patent that has probably been in R&D since 2010. This patent has been published January 3rd, 2013 and you can read about it here. What is this patent all about and why should you care? Well, here are a few paragraphs from the patent document as published by Google:
The development of electronic content including game applications (APs) is costly and therefore in a content business it is vital to redistribute part of proceeds from sales of the electronic content to the developers. On the other hand, the electronic content is being bought and sold in second-hand markets. In such a scheme where the electronic content is bought and sold in the second-hand markets or the like, the sales proceeds resulting therefrom are not redistributed to the developers. Also, since the users who have purchased the second-hand items are somehow no longer potential buyers of the content, the developers would lose their profits otherwise gained in the first place.
As a technique to suppress the second-hand sales and purchase, a user may be first required to send a password or the like to a remote authentication server from a reproduction device (game player) via the Internet and the reproduction of content may be permitted only for the device that has succeeded in authentication. However, where the reproduction device is not connected to the Internet, use of the content cannot be controlled. Also, where the connection to the Internet is an absolute requirement, user’s convenience may be significantly reduced. Besides, users may communicate to share the password between them and therefore the second-hand sales and purchase cannot be eliminated reliably.
OK, back? Good. So, lets take a deep breath and analyze what’s going on here. As you can see, SONY is worried about Developers and how they are not getting reimbursed for their work once a gamer bought a game-disc and can now trade that game-disc with his friends. In essence, we’re talking about a patent that seeks to completely prevent gamers from trading games amongst themselves let alone brick and mortar stores like EB Games / GameStop. This of course means that game-discs that utilize this system cannot be rented, so rental stores are also removed from the equation. It turns out then that just like Microsoft, SONY did include a very tight and restrictive DRM system in its newest console. The only true difference it seems, at least to me, is that SONY is doing offline — and through hardware — with Microsoft accomplished through requiring an online internet connection that synchronizes DRM signals once every 24 hours.
The question now remains: which publisher/developer then will choose to activate these DRM systems in their console games and which of them will not. In my opinion? All of them will and it’s just a matter of time.
You see, there is already a precedent of heavily enforced DRM where once a game is bought it can no longer be traded. PC Gamers will instantly know that I am talking about Steam and Origin. Both Steam and Origin allow gamers to buy games, download and play them and all that without any game-discs. Some PC games actually appear in brick-and-mortar game-stores as a normal DVD case but once opened, the case contains a card with a Steam registration number.
Now, to see why eventually all publishers and developers — at least those producing AAA games — will opt to use DRM in their console game we need only look at Game Development Studios and realize that every console game ever created for the PlayStation or XBOX through their generations was always created on a PC! No game to my knowledge has ever been developed on any gaming console without first creating it on a PC.
I am not bashing consoles here, nor do I wish to imply here that PC Gaming is superior to Console Gaming. I do however want to draw your attention to a very simple question: Why would a Publisher/Developer create a game utilizing so many PC workstations and then sell it only on Consoles? Wouldn’t they be losing money if they didn’t also sell it on the PC, especially since Steam makes it so easy to get rid of the necessity of game-discs and game-engines make it feasible to make a game for consoles but port it for the PC?
Now, if a game is made for consoles and PC’s wouldn’t they want to cut costs and eliminate the game-disc altogether where they can? So the game would come out as download-only on Steam for PC’s and game-discs would be produced for consoles. However since Steam restricts game trading, publishers and developers potentially risk losing money when making console games on game-discs!
And so, both Microsoft and SONY included DRM systems in their consoles and both companies are claiming that it’s up to the game developers and publishers to make the decision whether or not a game can be traded or not. Well, I don’t know about you, but were I the CEO of a big publisher I would decide to put to good use the DRM technology that Microsoft and SONY included especially since it already exists on PC’s through Steam!
Well, if you read this far, I owe you my answer to the question I asked in the title: “Who really won E3 2013?” In my opinion that answer is: The Game Publishers won!
As always, thanks for reading and even more so for commenting!