The Problem with Digital Distribution and DRM: Reduced Value

Posted by | July 3, 2013

In the most recent Extra Credits, published by Penny Arcade, Daniel Floyd talked about some of the issues strangling the community over used games and how they collide-and-explode with digital distribution. This is especially problematic when viewed in light of the Xbox One attempt to saddle the community with grossly disrespectful DRM as well as restrictions on trading used games.

He points out, correctly, that digital clearinghouses like iTunes and Steam represent the same problem but gamers have less of a problem with these than they do with used games being impossible to return. He may have covered it in a previous video, but for the most part I have less problem with Steam because most of the games that I buy there happen to be in their 50% off sales or more and at that point my inability to trade them back (which reduces the value) isn’t a problem since the value I’m getting matches the value I receive.

DRM reduces overall value of a product.

If I am unable to use a product in the way I expect to be able to use a product—even entertainment like video games and music—then it has less value to me. If I cannot return a game that totally failed to live up to its hype or basically failed to work on my computer it presents a risk to me: I am not willing to spend $60 on something that if broken I cannot return. Also, due to the presence of the used game market, many gamers can blend together three or four older games they no longer play to buy a new game off the shelf—if I cannot sell those older games anymore (nor even deliver them to my friends so they can experience being a gamer) then they’re certainly not worth $60 anymore.

Being the first person to play a video game is not valuable to me personally.

A physical game, that comes with a box, with a DVD I can reinstall, paraphernalia and other ephemera connected to the game that all has value. My ability to play the game on any system that should have been able to support it without needing to connect to the Internet, phone home, or give up personal information to a developer or publisher has value. Worse: I’d like to know that if publisher/developer goes out of business I can still play the game in the future given the right equipment. If I cannot, that’s less valuable.

If publishers and distributors are looking at digital distribution as a reason to expect less backlash from brick and mortar retailers (or even Amazon) when their products don’t live up to spec they should remember that in the end their audience is gamers who want a product that works when they buy it. And the really numbskull part of DRM is that often the pirated versions often work better, with fewer restrictions.

Give me a $60 value with my $60 game and I’ll buy it; otherwise, I will weigh the risks and wait for either developers and publishers and platforms who respect me as a gamer or I’ll buy far less games on the expectation that I can lose that money.

via Youtube.


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