Life, The Universe, And Gaming: Just Go Ahead And Pirate The Damn Thing
Surprise, surprise! A column that is exactly not about BioShock Infinite. Granted, that has been pretty much all I’ve been doing in the past week on account of getting adult chicken pox which is apparently like regular chicken pox only far more severe, apparently, I don’t know, all I experienced was acute boredom, being stuck at home and all. But no, our topic for today revolves around something that has been annoying me for a while, and that’s the absolute hubris of publishers in the gaming industry today.
Let’s all start off on the same page here, I am not a fan of some business practices and I will not sit by and watch as these practices permeate the entirety of the gaming industry. I will stand and very loudly protest until I am blue in the face and hope that somehow, in some way, minor though it may be, I have reached enough people to have made a difference. And then I will protest some more, not because I have nothing better to do (because judging from my gaming backlog, I do) or I’m a bitter person who cannot simply be happy about the current situation but because I feel it’s about damn time we stood up for ourselves as gamers.
This was excellently shown most recently when DmC: Devil May Cry performed poorly in sales, even though in my opinion it was a great game that didn’t really deserve it. Why did it perform poorly, then, you might ask? Because consumers finally opted to vote with their wallets, and quite a bit of them were simply unhappy with the Capcom reboot. As much as I feel the game deserved better sales, that was absolutely the correct response.
If you feel hard done by, by a publisher, you simply opt out.
You have that option, and you should exercise it regularly and well.
I for example, have never paid for an online pass. Okay that’s not entirely true, I bought one for Assassin’s Creed III with Magical Sexy Points I won, because it was cheap at the time and I needed those multiplayer achievements for 100% completion. Apart from that, I have played many other games which come with the option and not so much as looked at the multiplayer component as a result. I simply do not believe in the online pass system and I feel it is an excuse for developers to whittle just a little bit more money out of us, the consumer, because they feel as if they deserve a share of money they have already made. I’ve spent many, many articles detailing my disliking of online passes, so I will stop there. But not before I make mention of the fact that now, publishers seem to have changed the name of ‘online pass’ to ‘deluxe edition’ or equivalent and attempted to fool consumers into thinking they get exclusive content simply by entering a code which is effectively an online pass. Do not fall for it. Your copy of Dead Space 3 is about as ‘deluxe edition’ as every other person’s, who paid for it at retail.
Then we move onto the meat of this column slash rant, which involves the various DRM practices that have been brought to the fore of late. We know all too well about Electronic Arts and their Sim City saga. Or we ought to. Effectively, they released the game with an always-online component which meant that if you were not connected to the online servers, you could not play. Sim City. A mostly singleplayer experience, which they decided to take online because… well… lol, I guess. And there were weeks of disconnects and server issues that rendered the game unplayable, which had a negative effect on cities already created. The amount of damage EA did to their reputation with that game, and then they had the gall, the audacity, to then go and claim that DRM is a “dead end” and that Sim City does not use DRM, that its always-online component is something else, something different.
No, Electronic Arts, you fucking retards, always-online is exactly like DRM. It works exactly like DRM, it feels exactly like DRM, it is exactly like DRM. Therefore we will call it DRM. The other day, a white woman walked past a black man and held her purse until she had passed him. Is that racism, or not? I ask you. Was it acute racism? No, of course not, it was something more inbred, involuntary you might even say. But it was still racism. Like that, if you force people to stay online in order to play your game (read: authenticate their presences on an online server) then you are effectively forcing DRM onto them.
That. Is. All.
Finally we come to Microsoft, who may or may not be preparing a console which also has always-online capability. Read: DRM. Adam Orth sure was all about defending the console rumours, asking us to “#DealWithIt” on Twitter before Microsoft fired him and, we imagine, asked him to “#DealWithIt” (LOL). Nobody’s happy about this, and it makes you wonder then, how Microsoft could possibly actually be going through with it. If they are, of course. This one’s a little more up for debate so I won’t spend too long on it, apart from saying that if such a system exists on the next generation console, while it won’t really affect me because I’m usually always online anyway, I don’t have much faith in a console with always-on capability simply because as it stands, neither PSN nor Xbox LIVE is extremely infallible. Just this weekend, Xbox LIVE suffered an hours-long outage, and now I ask you, how can Microsoft presume to think they can handle an always-online console?
Always-online does not work because even if we keep to our end and constantly stay online, it’s not to say that the publisher will keep to their end and do the same. We have seen this with Blizzard, we have seen this with Sim City, and we will bloody well see this with that rumoured next-generation Xbox.
And yet, publishers continue to do as they please, putting in ridiculous DRM and all sorts of codes for ‘exclusive content’ that locks out some honest, paying customers. Imagine you bought Diablo III on release week and had to wait three weeks before you played it? Meanwhile, one of the scene groups released a torrent of the game, fully functional without online servers, that pirates had been playing since before you had even got the game. Error 37 be damned.
I’m going to very cautiously and very carefully say the following: If a publisher possesses the hubris of any of the above-mentioned examples, where they believe that they can strong-arm you into purchasing their product, and then once you do, that they still own that product (column on licensing and why it’s a bad idea, coming soon) and can tell you how to use it, then you are well within your rights to speak with your wallet and simply not purchase that product. You are well within your rights to opt out.
And you know what? If a publisher insists on being such a cunt about things, the way EA went on about DRM in Sim City, the way Disney went and closed LucasArts as if they weren’t bringing two amazing Star Wars titles, and the way Activision went and downsized High Moon Studios so soon after Deadpool had gone gold, then why not add a little insult to injury and hit them where it hurts? (Their sales.) Don’t just not buy the game. Pirate it. Go ahead.
I might get into trouble for that, but you know what? So be it.
Many industry insiders are predicting that this year we will see a crash in the gaming industry, and I am fully on board with that prediction. It’s all getting too much, too quickly, and I fully believe that publishers are of the opinion that short term wins out over long term, and that regardless of what happens now, they will be able to pick up the pieces and survive. It’s our job to ensure that they don’t get away with this. Granted I do make it seem a tad more melodramatic than it is, but that doesn’t change the way things are going and if you don’t want an always-online next-generation console as much as I don’t, if you don’t want totalitarian DRM as much as I don’t, if you don’t want to be a pawn to publishers as much as I don’t, then I ask that you speak with your wallets and you do so with some vociferous intent.
As much as it cuts me to advocate piracy, I, who have had in my possession an ISO for Crysis 3 for months now, refusing to install it on my PC because it is not a legit copy, and Crytek just does not deserve that level of disrespect. As much as I don’t want it around, sometimes escalation is necessary and I will wholeheartedly advocate the pirating of games such as Sim City and Diablo III if it means that paying customers finally get to play the games they paid for.
Imagine if that was standard?