Monday, 10 June 2013

Jeff Bakalar knows what's best for gaming

On the eve of Microsoft's E3 presentation (at time of writing) CNET's video game editor, Jeff Bakalar wrote one of the biggest pieces of bare-faced hypocrisy with his piece on  the Xbox One's pre-owned game policy. And how gamers shouldn't worry their little heads about "next generation game licensing." Though Bakalar admits Xbox One's policy to used games essentially means the end of the pre-owned market, gamers shouldn't complain about losing ownership of the very media they paid for, because they should of never really have owned it in the first place. According to Bakalar, owning, trading, borrowing and selling our games wasn't the right of the consumer, it was a loophole,

"In reality, that's what the outrage is all about: the closing of that loophole. One we've taken for granted for 30 years. I can sympathize with that. We've had it pretty good up to this point. But believe me, if the technology existed in 1985, there is no way on Earth Nintendo would have allowed you to let a dozen of your friends borrow your copy of Super Mario Bros.
Why? Because each time you lend the game out to a friend, it's money lost for the publisher and more importantly, the developer. And ultimately, that's not good for the industry."

Oh, I get it Jeff. Owning the physical media on which the game I play is on, was  a privilege, not a right. Despite shelling out £45 for my games, what I was really doing was borrowing them from Nintendo, so I had no right to briefly swap F-Zero for Street Fighter 2 with the only other kid in my class who has a SNES. Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt that if Nintendo could have developed a technology that blocked game rental and the used market during their glory days of the NES and SNES, they would have. Ninty was (and still can be) hugely dickish, as their iron-fisted control of the market and aggressive attempts to kill game rental in Japan would attest. But this whole mindset of, "every pre-owned/given away game is a lost sale." Like shit it is. First off, if a game is pre-owned, that means someone had to have bought it already, it represents a sale. If someone buys that game second hand or is given it as a gift or just loaned it, then maybe, just maybe, it's because that person couldn't afford to buy that game brand new or they didn't think the game was good enough to risk paying full price for? How is it a lost sale when they had no intention of buying it on the first place? If you remove the pre-owned market, then that person won't be forced into buying new, they just won't play it.  Maybe game publishers need to reassess their pricing policy? Nah, it's the gamer's fault with their decadent concepts of appreciating their consumer rights, the bastards! I bet they accept lifts in their friend's car as well, without a care of the lost sale to Nissan. While listening to the radio as well, not giving two shits of the lost sale to Todd Rungren. How do they sleep at night, eh Jeff? Inside a fucking house they bought off someone who owned it previously I bet!

Bakalar  points to the Xbox One's draconian game policy as simply progress. The huge popularity of MP3s and e-books as the main example of a digital product supplanting a physical one, which uses the same kind of licensing system, in that you don't own the files you download, just the right to listen to/read them.  Shitty long-term problem aside, the reason people jumped into downloading books and music with both feet is because the price of the digital product was significantly less than the physical, and the simplicity (most of the time) of purchasing said digital product. An ipod and kindle are small, lightweight items that store at least hundreds of songs and books from a massive library you can easily access.
The Xbox One is a big box that is shackled to your TV, needs to check onto the internet once every 24 hours,like it's under house arrest, won't allow the digital content you downloaded on the Xbox 360 to be transferred to it, and the price difference between  digital and physical games are zero, with digital titles having much slower depreciation than the irrelevant plastic discs that Jeff Bakalar says are so bad for us and the games industry. And he wonders why gamers are so vehemently against this new licensing policy.

Bakalar also brings up the popularity of Steam as a gaming platform that implements it's own DRM, much like the Xbox One will use (except no one at Microsoft wants to call it that)  but forgetting to look into really why Steam was popular in the first place. Convenience and common special offers. Something Microsoft isn't offering. Games aren't aren't going for rip of prices on Steam -and, at time of writing, Microsoft has yet to confirm any price difference for digital titles- with constant sales to encourage people to take a risk on games they might not normally play. Steam is on a open platform, (the PC) that can also access different game streaming sites. Xbox Live can only be access via that big, angular lump that only Microsoft sell. Steam has a far more welcoming platform for indie games, Microsoft will still require you to have released a physical game or use a established publisher, and Valve have said if Steam was to go tits up, they would deactivate the DRM, so you could still play your games long after Gabe Newell is pushing up daisies. From what we know of the Xbox One, all games are dependant on the 24 hour check-in. If the Xbox One fails, then when those servers are shut down, all the software you bought will be 100% obsolete, leaving you with a very expensive paperweight. Thing is, gamers tend to trust Valve based on their previous behaviour. Very few gamers trust Microsoft to properly handle the games they might buy on their unwieldy console, because they show so little regard for the 360 back catalogue and the very notion that people might want to still play them. Because I personally don't expect Microsoft to sensibly price digital games or take down the pay wall that is Xbox LIVE gold, that makes you pay extra for apps you can access for free on any other device, no matter how  optimistic Bakalar is that Microsoft can turn around the negative publicity.

But what really annoys -as it does when it comes to most game journalists- is the sheer hypocritical, corporate cocksucking that makes the journalist think they're some how better than the oiks who have to pay for their games. Granted, they may be better spoken or smarter (you only have to read most comments sections to prove that theory right) but the following really takes the cake,

"There's a stench of hypocrisy that emanates from a class of gamer who demands progress on every level from a new console, yet belligerently revolts at the discovery that won't be delivered on plastic discs any longer" 

For a writer who works for CNET, who built themselves upon using content that wasn't theirs to wag an accusatory finger at people who have serious reservations about losing what little consumers rights they have, which are surely to get the attention of the EU, like Steam recently did, is genuine hypocrisy. Or perhaps just stupidity? Or perhaps Bakalar secretly wants his next games console to be like a fascist state, where gamers are nothing more than a inconvenience between the publishers and the money they're so entitled to?

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