The entertainment industry’s war on consumers II

A year ago I wrote a post in this blog about my concerns around digital rights management and how companies like Microsoft and Sony are looking into ways of blocking users from buying and playing used games. This is a move that, in my view, is paving the way for the entertainment industry to transform consumers in a money-making battery farm through the introduction of such limitations in their upcoming consoles.

There’s been a lot of uproar in the comments section of technology news and information websites about this issue recently, and some people saw with optimism the statements by some Sony executives that PS4 will not block used games. Well, I don’t share such optimism.

First, if Sony isn’t looking to eventually block used games from playing on their consoles, then why they applied for this patent in the first place? Another point is that although they might not block used games from playing on their consoles, they can certainly restrict it. In fact, this is the sort of shenanigans that Tekmo Koei did with Ninja Gaiden III (at least for the Xbox 360) by including a product key with the game disc that must be activated with Xbox LIVE in order to allow the game to play online. You can always buy this feature separately (read: pay extra for this if you bought an used game that doesn’t include a valid code).

Second, the PS4 is paving the way to a new feature, which I deem quite dangerous for the consumer: The whole concept of streaming the game to your console. One could buy a game in such fashion, or just subscribe to the game on a monthly basis. I see several issues with this model, which outweigh any perceived advantage. So, what is the catch?

For instance, this will require an always on Internet connection (unless the whole game is cached on the console). So if you have an connection outage, forget turning on your console and playing a game to kill some time. Some might argue this might be a great idea (go out and enjoy the sun!) but who are they to say how others should enjoy their pastime?

Another issue is that the control of the content is now with the provider. They can always pull the content that you righteously paid for without notice. while some might argue the content provider has the right to do this, the fact of the matter is that different countries have different consumer statutory rights, and there are countries in where this is unlawful. One might think well if it is unlawful in some places so there is no way that a content provider will breach consumer statutory rights in that given place — but history tell us that this is wishful thinking. Content providers will dispute your claims until they are told otherwise by the authorities.

Call me pessimist, but if we the consumers let those corporations transform us into poultry in battery cages, this will only get worse. In my worst view of the future I see always-on Internet connection as a requirement for those consoles, where users will have to log-in to be able to use them. So if you don’t follow the rules you might have your account banned and as a consequence, not able to use the console you have righteously purchased.

And here is another worst-case scenario: Perhaps you want to play FIFA with some of your friends over some pizza on a Friday night. You log-in on your console and starts the game. When your friends try to join in, they are told they don’t have a license to play this game, and they must pay-up in order to enjoy a match with you. The way things are going, I don’t think this vision of the future is to be far-fetched as some could think.

The future of digital entertainment is bleak.


  • Why should we bother on the fight between SONY and MICROSOFT, as a consumer we just have to take advantage of price drowning.

    • Well this article isn't about a fight between the two, but on how companies are creating mechanisms to monetise on consumers as much as they can and in any way the see fit. You can see this article has been posted on Feb 26 (before any Xbox ONE announcements on DRM) and it mentions an article from Feb 2012.

      Since you mention price drowning, try to see this from another angle. Imagine if you have to pay extra to unlock a used game on your console, pay extra to play at someone else's console, buy a second copy of the same game because one license is for Europe and another is for North America… Now these are examples that I know first-hand that have been toyed with and demonstrated in proof of concepts (the last example about locked out regions happened in practice with StarCraft II). As a consumer concerned with price drowning, shouldn't you be upset that those companies are trying to leech cash from you by any means possible?

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