Another Artificial Market Created Thanks To Copyright: Download Insurance?

from the oh-come-on dept

Sneeje points us to a screenshot that’s making the rounds (thanks, not surprisingly, to Reddit), demonstrating that GameStop is apparently offering consumers the ability to buy “download insurance” for an extra $3.95. Apparently, that extra money lets you redownload the product in the future (assuming GameStop still exists and/or any DRM servers are still functioning):

Of course, plenty of online sites that sell digital goods offer the ability to redownload what you’ve already bought as a free service to everyone, but not at GameStop apparently. This is, of course, a ridiculous concept. I really do wonder if anyone actually signs up for something like that.

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Companies: gamestop

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Comments on “Another Artificial Market Created Thanks To Copyright: Download Insurance?”

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ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This was the last straw that got me to dump e-music. I was a happy user, until they changed their system to not allow redownloads, because somehow they magically knew whether the download completed successfully or not.

However, I downloaded several songs after they instituted this change, and ended up repaying and redownloading them because somehow they got corrupt during the initial download (one was a 130k file, when it was supposed to be several mb, so it looked like the download failed.) Add to it their crappy software that routinely blew-up, and it was nothing but fail. Now, of course, I go without, or download music I like from the band’s website directly, but I know others that dropped e-music and went back to torrents and piracy.

Yet another painful example of the company greed (in this case, the company accepting bad licensing from the majors to “access” their material,) driving the customer away…but this is status quo for copyright maximalists, who would rather see the world burn than treat their customers well.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And that brings up my question. Is this a complete installer file that you can backup, or is it like WOW and you have to re-download it every time you want to install it (if you didn’t pay a lot for the CDs)?

I started thinking of this when I started buying stuff off of Steam and thought “I really don’t want to re-download all this again.” Then I found I could export the files for a backup.

Bengie says:

Re: Re: Re:

You can always just make a copy of your WoW directory as it has no DRM.

Also, the new WoW client only downloads something like 120MB to bootstrap it. After that, you can start playing and WoW will just stream the content as requested and download the remaining content if you’re not immediately requesting something.

DataShade (profile) says:

Re: This article is forgetting something!

I don’t think that has anything to do with it. While Reddit just picked this up, this isn’t actually new. Gamestop’s digital downloads have always been limited; you could only ever re-download after purchase for like 30 days at best.

(As an aside: I’m kind of ok with the $5 “online pass” thing, because GameStop buying a used game from you for $5/$10 store credit, then selling it for $44.95 always cheesed me off – and it made me, and a lot of my friends, just pass around games we were done with instead of throwing them into the churning maw of the beast.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It does sound similar to something EA has had for a while for its digital downloads, though they don’t call it ‘insurance’. I forget the details, something like 6 bucks to be able to redownload the game that you purchased if you have a problem or change comps for a 2 year period?

*ha, I probably have that all goofed up, but this scheme does have a familiar ring.

Scote (profile) says:


I don’t think this is new. I seem to recall a retailer that had two price tiers for software downloads. One being a “we take no responsibility if your download fails” price, and a second, higher price that allowed re-downloading.

Seems to me that what GameStop is saying is that if the initial internet download fails they take no responsibility for the fact that they never actually delivered a product to you but will keep your money anyway. With physical products, if you don’t receive the product the implied contract has never been completed and they still owe you. I’m not sure why that should be any different for a digital product.

SD says:

Re: Fraud?

Seems to me that what GameStop is saying is that if the initial internet download fails they take no responsibility for the fact that they never actually delivered a product to you but will keep your money anyway.

I don’t think they operate that way, since they could easily generate and verify a SHA1 hash on completed downloads to save themselves from a lawsuit.

I bought a game from them the other day and when I just checked my account it says “Activations Remaining 3″… whatever that means.

The CD Key also was importable into Steam(a rarity) so I didn’t pay the inflated insurance price or download it directly from them.

Danny (user link) says:

Re: Fraud?

With physical products, if you don’t receive the product the implied contract has never been completed and they still owe you. I’m not sure why that should be any different for a digital product.
Because with a physical item there is shipping (which leaves trails) and of course the item itself (like if you got it but it was damaged) whereas with a download they can literally lie through their teeth and say that they have a record of it being downloaded by your account and there would no accountabilty for it.

With a physical product there is some chance for getting hard proof you didn’t get it or you got it but it was damaged. With a download its nothing but you word vs. theirs.

DataShade (profile) says:

Re: Fraud?

I don’t think that’s true; I’m pretty sure you get a window of like 7 days from purchase to download the game. The ‘catch’ is that once you’ve downloaded the game, you have to make a backup in case you have a hard drive failure or whatever, whereas better download services (like Steam, Good Old Games, etc) allow you to redownload it free at any future point (and you can always make a local/physical backup of your download if you’d prefer to avoid the bandwidth consumption).

Mike says:

Why is this a "bad" thing?

The Reddit complaint is largely that it is automatically selected. But the idea of paying $4 so that the game is available for download again doesn’t seem like such a bad deal especially for large games requiring large amounts of bandwidth or space.

And, I don’t see anything that says you couldn’t just make local backups. And this has the added portability and security.

Finally to say that some services offer this for “free” is true only if you assume that such amounts aren’t already priced into the cost of the original download. I can’t tell but it seems, for example, that the Gamestop “total” price for the same game is currently less than Steam.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why is this a "bad" thing?

“requiring large amounts of bandwidth or space”: I bet the ‘insurance’ probably has a clause that says the service can be taken offline at any time without any prior notice so in a sense you are paying for insurance without guarentees. This is not like auto insurance where the company would be liable for claims against you because of existing regulatory bodies. It seems to be a trend of “pay me know for a feature that I can revoke at will in the future.”

Again, I am guessing about the whole clause thing because I would never care to read such a disclaimer or pay for such a service. (my opinion)

The Buzz Saw (profile) says:

Hello, Steam!

No one gets it except Steam. If you honestly believe that you are selling licenses (and not the game/movie/song itself), do you not have some obligation to ensure that the customer is able to enjoy the product for the duration of that license? I’d like to see such a contract out in the real business world.

“The 10,000 widgets will be assembled and delivered for $450,000. Oh, but if our truck driver falls asleep and zooms off a cliff, tough luck. You’ll have to buy the whole load again. However, for a mere $75,000, we will add insurance!”

Mr Claypole (profile) says:

I run a digital product site, and we have always allowed our customers to re-download their purchases for free, as many times as they wish. Stuff the bandwidth costs, it seems so anti-consumer to make them pay extra for access to something they’ve already bought. And it’s not like the file isn’t always sitting on our servers anyway. Seems like just another way to gouge money from people.

I just never understand putting artificial limitations on these things, like stock image companies who make a download link valid for 1 hour. Why do that? Or only allowing you 3 download attempts before the link locks out. It doesn’t stop piracy, it just makes genuine customers pissed off.

Keroberos (profile) says:

Download Insurance is a service that provides for a back up copy of the Digital Good(s) in your shopping cart to be stored for future download. A back up copy of these Digital Good(s) will be available to you for download for up to eighteen (18) months from the date of purchase.

Now there’s no need to worry should your computer fail. Just login to your account to download the Digital Good(s) again.

Hmmm…No need to worry…At least for 18 months…Then you’re screwed.

Anonymous Coward says:

And this is why...

…absolutely ALL of the software I have is FLOSS, and has been for many years. (I’m reasonably sure that the last bit of software that was otherwise was SunOS 4.1.4, and I stopped running that circa 1995.) Buying proprietary/closed-source/DRM’d software means buying into a never-ending cycle of hell. Best to just avoid it completely…and that gets easier every day.

John85851 (profile) says:

The wrong way of looking at it

You’re looking at this the wrong way: it’s NOT “download insurance” for the customer but another source of income for the company.

I’ve been to a number of sites selling digital content that offer this re-download service for a fee. Most them do it for one reason: they hope the customer doesn’t catch the extra fee. And if the customer does catch it, so what- it’s only $1.95 or $3.99, so it’s not that big of a deal.
Multiply the $3.95 charged by GameStop by 1,000 customers and that’s an easy $3,950, which is pure profit for the company. After all, it doesn’t take much effort to allow the customer to re-download the file. But it takes effort on the customer’s part to UNCHECK this “insurance”.

I’m surprised it’s taken this long for this practice to come under fire.

Anonymous Coward says:

These types of policies is why I avoided digital downloads for the longest time. As a gaming geek, I’m building, rebuilding, new computers 2 or 3 times a year.

So limiting the number of activations/download generally takes me out of the market for their products.

Steam, however, does get it right. I can install on as many computers as I like and makes recovering/rebuilding very fast and easy.

HothMonster says:

A lot of this probably stems from the retailers lack of margins on new games. I know bestbuy only makes like 75 cents on a new video game, I imagine gamestop is in the same boat. That profit probably barely covers the cost of hosting and distributing the game, let alone having to maintain the files for ever and allow multiple downloads.

Not saying it isnt a shady practice and why anyone shouldn’t just by digital from Steam or something like it but that is probably their reasoning.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

It?s All In The Name

If they call it an ?extra charge?, people get upset. But if they use the word ?discount?, people are happy.

Instead of offering the multi-download option at a higher price, they called that the ?regular? option, and renamed the cheaper one as a ?single-download-only discount?, we probably wouldn?t be having this discussion.

Casey Bouch (user link) says:


So I’m adding Gamestop to my boycott list. Techdirt has really helped me compile this…

From someone who has over 90 games on Steam… (credentials, check) I can’t imagine how this is anything more than pulling money from loyal customers. It will make them some money in the short term but I believe this kind of practice will only push people towards Steam. I haven’t even considered unlimited downloads a ‘Feature’ until today because of Steam. Add to that their regular discounts and their ability to give Indie games a competitive boost… (Terraria as a current example)

I guess the only thing I’m hedging on is that Steam won’t disappear in my lifetime. If it does, they have promised us the ability to download each game DRM free before it happens. (prepares 10 TB hard drive). Hell, before I die I plan on including my steam account in my will. Something I could do before with DVDs but now I don’t have to worry about format changes, scratched discs, etc…

Does Gamestop allow me to do this?

Phillip Vector (profile) says:

Re: "We will unlock Everything" Myth

Actually, I’ve been hunting this down for awhile now and have come to the conclusion that this is incorrect.

No where does a Valve Employee ever state that they will do this. They might have said they have the potential to, but no one has ever said they WILL do this.

This is a myth. Pure and simple.

Phillip Vector (profile) says:

Re: Re: "We will unlock Everything" Myth

As a side note, if you can point me to a URL that quotes a valve employee by name and says this, I would be most grateful.

BTW, any gaming site that has this MUST state what Valve actually said. Allot of them say, “According to Gabe, they will offer it after Valve goes bankrupt”. This is not a valid quote. I want to see the actual words spoken (or listen to them if on a video).

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

What are they buying?

This brings up the old question of what people are buying when they download a digital copy of something. If they’re paying for that particular downloaded file itself then not allowing free re-downloads seems reasonable. However if they’re paying for the right to use the download it should be made available to them for as long as they’ve purchased user rights. (re-downloads are go!)

Of course in the case of the former I should be allowed to do with my legally purchased file that which I could do with legally purchased physical content; ie back-ups or loaning to friends. Where as the necessity and practice of backing up and loaning licenses is not a consumer right.

There are trade-offs and benefits for both retailer and consumer in both cases, and the seller needs to make clear to the buyer what transaction they’re offering for sale.

enilegnave21 says:


Could it not be that this extra fee is to recover some of the cost associated with one person buying the game and then sharing it across multiple computers so friends can play free? So it takes care of the thinking, “if we pool our money together, we can buy one copy and download it multiple times to each of our X# of computers and all play together online”…..?
Maybe this policy is because GS believes most people are dishonest.

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