Our friendly neighbourhood games programmer Gillian Patterson from My Escape has her say on why Microsoft should worry less about pirates and more about our booty (and how we shake it).
The ways in which people play games are changing. We are living in a time when you are able to purchase a full game, download it to your console of choice and play it, all without ever leaving your armchair. Not so long ago this would have been the realms of fantasy. Along with this new age of gaming the issue of piracy has grown more serious, and publishers have engaged in a furious battle to prevent it in any way possible. It has now reached the stage where they seem to have completely disregarded paying gamer’s experience in favour of ever more restrictive forms of DRM. Allow me to illustrate with a little story…
I was recently invited to a party at a friend’s house. There would be gaming, drinks and pizza galore – the perfect night in. Being the Dance Central fan that I am, I immediately offered to bring along my copy of DC2 as well as my hard drive so that we could play all the songs from the original Dance Central (which I had imported into my game at a cost of 400 MS points) and the songs I had purchased from XBL Marketplace, in addition to the ones included on the disc. We were all set for an evening of butt-shaking fun. Along came the night of the party. I dutifully turned up, hard drive in hand, and went about setting everything up so that it was ready to go. We ate too much pizza and drank just enough to stop caring about how ridiculous we would look dancing about the living room to Hot Stuff. It was time. On went the xbox, I signed into my profile, booted up DC2, selected a song to best demonstrate all the hours of practice I’d put in before-hand and… Wait, what was that message? I’d not seen that before… A horrible sinking feeling set in as I realised my xbox wouldn’t let me play any of my downloaded tracks unless I was connected to Xbox Live. My friend had no internet connection in his house. All my hours of perfecting the “jackhammer” move from the Party Rock Anthem DLC had been wasted. The rest of the night was certainly still enjoyable, but there was a definite dampener every time a fun song was discovered to be unavailable.
Now let’s go back an analyse this situation, shall we? What just happened? I’ll tell you what happened – Microsoft’s DRM punished me. It punished me for being a paying gamer. If I had been the kind of person to illegally mod my xbox, then pirate copies of Dance Central and the associated DLC I would have had no problem playing without an internet connection. The DRM has actually made it harder for paying customers to play the games they want to, when they want to. If I was employed at Microsoft just now, this would be ringing major alarm bells. But you know what? I bet it’s not. I bet that if anyone from Microsoft even bothers to read this, they will just think to themselves “Who doesn’t have an internet connection these days?” To me, this marks a very worrying shift in attitude. Microsoft (and Sony as well, if the rumours about their new console are to be believed) no longer see themselves as the servant of the gamer, there to provide the best possible gaming experience to players worldwide. No, instead they see themselves as the master and are determined to dictate to me where and when I may play my games, and under what conditions they will function fully. I am being forced to jump through hoops in order to prove to them that I am not a software pirate. Guilty until proven innocent, eh Microsoft?
Gillian isn’t always mad. Follow progress on her upcoming games with My Escape.