Digital Distribution: Exchanging Control For Convenience

from the all-your-digital-purchases-are-belong-to-us dept

Digital distribution can be a good thing, eliminating shipping, packaging, printing, storage, etc. and allowing instantaneous order fulfillment. Unfortunately, it has its downside, especially when digital products are tied to "walled gardens." The possibility always exists that the product you purchased, for all intents and purposes, never really belongs to you. We've seen it previously with Amazon's decision to suddenly remove purchased e-books from customers' e-readers.

Stuart Campbell at Wings over Sealand has another example of this unfortunate byproduct of digital distribution: the fact that you don't own what you've purchased. This means that at any time, for nearly any reason, the product you paid for can be rendered completely worthless.

In the case of iTunes, customers are not entitled to refunds on purchases, with the product in question being treated much in the same fashion as opened software, DVDs, etc. in brick-and-mortar stores. Once you've opened (installed) the product, it's yours forever, no matter how terrible it is.
"According to the iTunes Store Terms of Sale, all purchases made on the iTunes Store are ineligible for refund. This policy matches Apple's refund policies and provides protection for copyrighted materials."
In Campbell's case, the product in question isn't actually a bad piece of software, unlike the many clones and scamware inhabiting app markets. By his own account, he purchased and enjoyed the game (Touch Racing Nitro). After he purchased it, the developer (Bravo) went through a series of price adjustments, trying to find a sweet spot, ranging from £1.19 - £4.99. When this failed to make the impact on sales, Bravo offered a few free trial periods before marking it all the way down to 69p, which moved it back into the top 10 for a short time.

It's at this point that things get ugly.
Last October the game went free again, and stayed that way for four months. Then the sting came along. About a week ago (at time of writing), the game received an "update", which came with just four words of description - "Now Touch Racing Free!" As the game was already free, users could have been forgiven for thinking this wasn't much of a change. But in fact, the app thousands of them had paid up to £5 for had effectively just been stolen.

Two of the game's three racing modes were now locked away behind IAP paywalls, and the entire game was disfigured with ruinous in-game advertising, which required yet another payment to remove.
Campbell's paid-for software suddenly became indistinguishable from the free version, despite his having anted up for the game months ago. He fired off an email to Bravo, asking the developers to explain their reasoning for removing previously paid for content and asking these same paying customers to pay up again in order to return the game to its previous state.

He received a reply a day later from Ana Hidalgo, Bravo's "Social Media Manager":
"Hi!

Thanks for contacting us.

I'm really sorry about that. I knew that this could happen. The team had no option but to do that.

We're not trying to make money from people who have already bought the game like you did. It is not an excuse, but only 4% of the 2MM downloads have been paid ones. Unfortunately, Apple doesn't provide with any methods to know when an user has paid or not for an app. We just want to monetize the game from that 96% who are enjoying the game for free. Our goal is to monetize them via advertisement. We understand that this is annoying for the players that have paid for it.

Yes, maybe we could have released a LITE version, but if we release a new free version, we couldn't monetize near 2 MM free downloads we already have. And why we have 96% free downloads? A very bad old decision.. We've begun a new phase at Bravo Games and we definitely need some revenues from those downloads.

At the moment all our efforts are focused in new projects. When we finish those projects, we'll evaluate the possibility of adding new content to previous games like Touch Racing Nitro.

I regret to hear that you never buy another of our apps."
For all the supposed "entitlement" game fans have attributed to them constantly, nothing quite matches the entitlement "radiating from Sra. Hildalgo." For starters, if a developer feels that making an app free was a "mistake," it only compounds its errors when it starts taking it out on paying customers, especially when those customers number in the thousands.
If 96% of those were free downloads, that means that a whopping 80,000 people who paid money for Touch Racing have just been screwed. If we assume an arbitrary but reasonable average price of £1.19 (the second-lowest App Store price tier at the time most of the sales were made, though the app has cost at least twice that much for most of its life), that's just short of £100,000 that Bravo have extracted from consumers for what is in effect a "Lite" demo version of the game.

Imagine if the rest of the world worked this way. Imagine you went to Tesco and bought three boxes of Corn Flakes on a "three-for-two" offer, only for a Tesco employee to turn up at your house one day a month later and confiscate not only the "free" box but also the second one that you'd actually paid for. There'd be riots, or at the very least a long court backlog of assault cases and battered workers. Yet apparently, for videogames it's the dynamic economic model of the future.
Campbell is, unfortunately, right. Digital distribution puts control of purchased products completely in the hands of the developers and the distribution service. There are some game developers who would love nothing more than to go to 100% straight digital distribution, not only for the previously mentioned savings, but to allow them to retain complete control of their products. A fully digital distribution disguises DRM as a facet of the service (constant online connection, some or most content inaccessible offline) and helps eliminate the used game market which seems to rank very slightly below straight-up piracy in their minds.

Whatever pluses there are for the consumer are greatly negated by these factors. Any dispute between the distributor and the developers puts purchased products in the firing line. Should a developer suddenly pull out of the walled garden, customers may find themselves without support or updates for their purchased products, or worse yet, find themselves without functioning products.

Campbell has adjusted his tactics accordingly:
WoSland is a pretty wily consumer, and currently has eight apps sitting in its iPhone's "update" queue which are never going to get those updates, because the "update" in question is in fact a downgrade, removing functionality and/or adding ads. We've deleted many others altogether for the same reason.
Of course, this is far from convenient. Once you run into this situation, you're left with the choice of allowing all updates (even those that downgrade your software) or tediously updating all of your apps one at a time after verifying that said update won't remove functionality. Hardly ideal.

As he points out, console owners aren't so lucky. Most updates are forced, giving you the "choice" of updating or not playing your purchased game. And it's not just games and apps. As referenced above, e-books readers have been victims of distributor meddling in the past. Users of "services" like Ultraviolet and the "drive your DVD to the retailer to rip it to the cloud" may find their copies bricked if these services are shut down or (more likely) get caught in the middle of a contractual dispute.

If it's all about "control" with gatekeepers and walled gardens, digital distribution is playing right into their hands, turning what should be an advantageous situation for everyone involved into little more than a mixed curse.

 



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  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 3:55am

    Control. That's the keyword. I think that's one of the main reasons I think at least 100 times before buying anything that I can't have the package to install elsewhere later. That's specially true with games. As things are now, as soon as some companies kick the bucket their content will be lost permanently. Maybe a thousand years from now ppl will look back and see a cultural hole instead of lots of materials (like books we have from the last millennium) all because of shitty DRM.

    I think it's about time we started pirating these digital contents. The working versions only, obviously.

     

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    WysiWyg (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 4:05am

    GoG.com

    I know we all know about them by now, but whenever the topic comes up someone should mention Good Old Games.

    I've bought several games from them, all downloaded and safely backed up. Even if GoG would go belly up, I still have my games.

    Still, I mainly use Steam, because of the convenience. While I tell my self that I am aware of the fact that I can at any time loose all my games from them, I also know that it would be a gigantic shock if I did. It's a shame that we have to choose.

    At the same time, they always talk about sales. Never once are they pointing out (perhaps in the legal clickwrap crap that noone reads) that it's a "license". Perhaps that's a lawsuit waiting to happen?

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 4:15am

    It seems like this arena is ripe for a whole new version of bait and switch.
    Offer the game, get paid, push an "update" to cripple it and invite them to pay you again to get what they had before.
    I think the response from the company should be used in lessons teaching how not to do business.
    Screwing over paying customers, to chase "lost dollars" never works out well.
    Oh crap, they got this model from the **AA's.

    The fact that Apple for all of their "its magical", "it just works", etc etc is still anti-consumer.
    Customers should contact Apple and demand they do something to stop this.
    For all of the hyper anal control they demand at every step, to allow someone to bait and switch their customers like this shows a lack of concern and forethought.
    If it meant being tossed out of the walled garden, do you think any company would do this? But because there is no downside, other than bad word of mouth, there is no reason not to.

     

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    Call me Al, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 4:25am

    I remember a few years ago I bought a Nokia smartphone. It has a GPS navigator app pre-installed which produced routes for walking. It was a little sluggish but still very helpful.

    A few months in it asked me to download an update, which I did. When my phone restarted I discovered that the walking functionality had vanished but if I bought an new version of the app I could use it again.

    The app wasn't expensive but I was so pissed off that I refused to download it. I went without that functionality for the remainder of my contract and then abandoned Nokia. I don't intend to go back unless they produce something truly spectacular (which is unlikely).

    I am happy to pay for apps which improve functionlity (though I always look for free first). I was happy to pay a bit over the odds for the contract I took out for my phone in part because of the walking directions. When things I feel I have already paid for stop working or demand more money to continue working it makes me furious.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 4:26am

    the point being that eventually things will go full circle so there will be nothing digital at all. then we will be back to having the 'gatekeepers' in complete control again, which is what this whole issue is about.

     

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    explicit coward (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 4:53am

    Bad word of mouth

    Earlier in the thread someone mentioned "bad word of mouth". I'd say that this is the appropriate answer to such bait and switch schemes.

    In the digital age word of mouth travels at light speed, reaching many consumer who belongs to some (digital) social network instantly and, what's more important, nearly automatically .

    The demand for unified services who offer genuine user reviews on purchasable (especially digital, but not exclusively) products will increase and become key for future generations of customers. This services will decide about rise and fall of a product and/or a company.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 5:03am

    You cannot use scammers to define a market. Apple clearly isn't putting any control on their apps, allowing the same name / file / reference to be used for different versions of apps. That leads to this situation, which is pretty dishonest. The paid version should have remained, and any move to make it "free" should have required a new app name / iteration that would not touch the paid versions.

    The company changing the paid version to remove levels is pretty much criminal, there is no security or other reason to do this, just greed. Basically, they appear to have forgotten about those who actually paid for the game, and are now trying to market to the freeloaders. The paying customer got caught because Apple allowed it to happen.

    It's not really about controlling what you have, it's about a nascent field of endeavor that is lacking in rules and methodologies, and so many things that would be illegal in the real world slip by. It's sad, but again points out why stronger law enforcement online is needed.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 5:03am

    One in the long, LONG list of reasons I avoid digital distribution as much as possible

    There are some cases where it's just impossible/too difficult to really avoid, and in those cases, I only make the "purchase" if I don't mind that cost being a long-term rental. Because that's what it really is, a rental.

    Other than what this article mentions (having content forcibly removed/changed without any recourse), digital distribution.....

    1) Does not allow lending (unless there's a convoluted system put in place like eBooks)
    2) Does not include the value of being able to resell the item later (so no secondary market)
    3) Allows the distributor to keep an artificially inflated price to the product (does the market think the product should cost $5? doesn't matter, the ONLY place to get it is the digital store, and that store has it for sale for $10. some may not buy it, but many will cave and just pay the asking price).

    And the only benefit is.....being lazy. Sure seems like a lot to give up to me for being lazy.

     

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    Robert P (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 5:11am

    Shazam managed it fine

    I "bought" the free version of Shazam back when I had my first iPhone. When they started to monetize their success (good for them) they were able to take all their users who had purchased the app for free and essentially convert them to fully paid versions. I continued to get enjoy the app with all the new features they were now charging for. During an iPhone migration, I briefly lost access to the app (It didn't recognize my new phone) but when I contacted them, I was able to provide proof of purchase and they re-enabled my account immediately.

    I don't see why Bravo couldn't do the same thing. Apple should make this a requirement (surprised it's not already) that app owners retain whatever access they had when they purchased the app, regardless what they paid for it.

     

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    WysiWyg (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 5:22am

    Re: One in the long, LONG list of reasons I avoid digital distribution as much as possible

    "And the only benefit is.....being lazy. Sure seems like a lot to give up to me for being lazy."

    Now now, that's not true. I've bought hundreds of games through out the ages before I got hooked on Steam. Guess how many of those I can still play. That's right, at best 5-10. The rest of them there are missing CDs/DVDs and similar problems.

    While it is true that I can only play my games as long as Steam lets me, it is also true that as long as Steam lets me I will ALWAYS be able to play my games.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:06am

    Re: Bad word of mouth

    The problem with bad word of mouth is that the Gatekeepers of the walled garden can remove those posts they find "not nice".
    It is hard to remember if you heard the name of company x or company that sorta sounds like x.

     

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    bob, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:09am

    And you only have yourself to blame

    The web vanguard could have helped keep the web a place that nurtured creators and helped them monetize their work, but instead everyone at this blog become hyponotized by the wonderful fun that could be had by making infinite copies. Once the nerd culture started equating making a living with "artificial scarcity", the free and open web was doomed.

    Game developers and other content creators have no choice. Oh sure, a few will be able to make a decent enough living giving scraps away, but most will be left broke until they find another way to make enough to pay the rent, heat and health insurance. Advertising doesn't work with artificial scarcity either.

    But once again, we run into the astroturfing from Big Search that demands that everything should be free so Big Search can keep all of the revenues for itself. Well, this is yet another example of rational developers making a rational choice.

    So if you want to have control over the code running on your machine, you better find a way for everyone to pay the person who creates the code. I don't care if it's open source or whatever, the creators need to be paid. If the free and open web can't find a way to pay for food for the developers, it's toast.

     

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    explicit coward (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:22am

    Re: Re: Bad word of mouth

    That's why I say that user review services with good accessibility (searchable product-database, transparent reviews, reviewer ratings, etc.) would be in high demand.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:25am

    Re: And you only have yourself to blame

    bob... if I give you a dollar will you put yourself behind a paywall?

    You obviously, yet again, haven't bothered to read the full article. You once again hop up on your soap box and rail at the sky like an impotent little man.

    The story was actually about a company that got paid, then changed the content and demanded payment again.
    So they were being supported by their customers, and opted to fuck them over instead to cash imaginary dollars.

    Press the little call button and tell the nurse shes late with your morning meds.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Bad word of mouth

    One would need a highly trusted source to run it.
    Once upon a time the BBB was respected and mattered, nowdays everyone has seen the proof that you can buy better grades for your company - no matter what sins you commit.

     

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    explicit coward (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:33am

    Re: And you only have yourself to blame

    "So if you want to have control over the code running on your machine, you better find a way for everyone to pay the person who creates the code."

    In the word everyone lies the error, dear Bob. It's the creation of the code that needs to be paid, not the code itself. The working hours, not the bits and bytes. And 99.99% of the working population of this planet gets paid once for a finite number of hours, not every time someone uses the result of their work.

     

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    explicit coward (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Bad word of mouth

    As said, such a service does not exist - yet.

    But wouldn't you say that if such a service existed, it would be in high demand?

     

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    LD, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:41am

    Snuggle Truck - better or worse?

    Another iOS game that has switched from paid to free is Snuggle Truck. As far as I know, all downloads prior to their new business model experiment had been paid, so there was no reason not to launch a new Free/Lite version as a separate product. Instead, presumably in order to transfer over their ratings/reviews/chart positions, the developers just replaced the paid version with the free one. However, to appease their existing customers, the new version detected if the older one was already installed on a device, and if so enabled all the paid features and disabled ads. They don't seem to have caught too much flack from this approach yet, but of course when users get a new iDevice, they'll discover that their paid game is tied to their old device, and that what's actually in their account is the free version.

    They appear to be about to try a similar bait-and-switch on Android, where they have just launched as a paid app with "all DLC included free for a limited time". My guess is that this is another way of saying that the app is "paid for a limited time" and will eventually be free. (Possibly it wouldn't make as nice an addition to the Humble Bundle for Android if it was free anyway). If so, I hope they manage the transition for paying Google Play customers better than they did on iTunes.

     

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    Michael Long (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:42am

    Re:

    "It's sad, but again points out why stronger law enforcement online is needed."

    No, it simply points out why Apple needs to modify the App Store to support trial versions and paid updates. I like the idea about not allowing "paid" software to go free, and removing functionality as described should lead to the app being pulled from the store. Adding ads after the fact should also be a no-no.

    The flip side is the developer did what he did with the tools available, and we need to keep in mind that the whole mobile App Store concept is a scant 4 years old. As you point out, it's early days yet.

     

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    gorehound (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:42am

    Re: One in the long, LONG list of reasons I avoid digital distribution as much as possible

    Every item I won is not Digital and never will be.
    I own a lot of books, vinyl records, CD's, DVD's, ETC.
    I own a lot of collectables.
    DIGITAL:::::::::::::::
    1.You do not own what you bought
    2.You can not resell it
    3. it has zero collector value
    4.if your DRM Servwer goes down it won't even work
    5.a company can just go in your stupid IPAD or tablet device and delete it without you touching anything.
    6.Digital has forced millions of US Workers into the poorhouse like my friend who once just as few months back ws lead designer for a huge book company.all last year they let go one after the other from her department until it was her turn.They also burned thru more than 60 Interns in one year.WAy to go DIGITAL !
    I really dislike Digital Books.I hate Digital Audio MP3,FLAC, ETC. LLoses all the good sound and depth.
    Digital Movies are full of Artifacts compared to a full Blu-RAy or DVD played back on good gear.
    I am done with this.Digital cost me my job of 18 years and between Digital/Internet there are many people like me from Retail who are now losing our homes.
    Thank You for supporting Digital.
    My fellow US Workers also thank you.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Bad word of mouth

    In high demand and the public would have high expectations.

     

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    explicit coward (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Bad word of mouth

    Obviously. The highest expectation of course that the overall review of a product would mirror reality as close as possible.

    With the right mechanisms in place - transparency, checks and balances, watching the watchers, etc. - an achievable goal.

     

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    Michael Long (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: And you only have yourself to blame

    "And 99.99% of the working population of this planet gets paid once for a finite number of hours, not every time someone uses the result of their work."

    Okay.... first, there's the minor fact that your team might spend a thousand man hours creating a game or app, leasing a game engine, doing marketing, and all that before it's done, before it's shipped, and before a single dime comes in the door.

    What dollars paid hourly wages, when you had no sales and no dollars yet existed? Oh? You invested your own money? Cool.

    Which leads us to the whole "risk/reward" thing. You might spend a thousand man hours making a game and sell a hundred copies. You might sell no copies. Or you might sell a million Angry Birds. The majority barely break even.

    The potential upside is regarded as compensation for the potential downside, that your thousand hours will never be repaid at all.

    Third, if you're the one working for an hourly wage, that was your decision. You're the one that traded the security of a steady paycheck against the possibility of a huge gain. Or a spectacular loss.

    If you're on the assembly line at GM and your car does well, you "might" get a bonus. GM gets the profits, because they're the ones who designed it, and because they're the one's who risked the company's money putting the product on the market.

    Finally, any profit made after recouping the original costs will probably be rolled back into funding the next game or app, again placing their dollars at risk.

    That's the nature of the market, be it making movies, writing books, or writing apps. It's a crap shoot, where everything can be gained, or lost, on a single roll of the dice.

    Stick to your day job, "explicit", because it's definitely not a game for cowards.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:13am

    Re:

    Contact Apple for help on this? Apple has been doing this for over a decade now, as anyone with one of the numerous bricked versions of Quicktime Pro over the years will tell you.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:21am

    Re: Re:

    Then find an AG willing to actually investigate if this is a violation of the law. I mean Sony got away with stripping Other OS, but in some places people successfully sued.

     

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    Michael Long (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:24am

    Re: Re: One in the long, LONG list of reasons I avoid digital distribution as much as possible

    "Digital cost me my job of 18 years and between Digital/Internet there are many people like me from Retail who are now losing our homes."

    You lost your job because of digital? Sad. but it happens. Tell it to telephone operators and typesetters and buggy whip makers. Things change.

    The flip side is that millions upon millions of people now make their living from "digital". Web sites, servers, developers, authors, buyers, sellers; the internet age has spawned a tremendous number of new jobs in new fields.

    I can see being bitter, but really, blaming digital? How about blaming yourself? Losing an 18-year job is unfortunate, but you can't tell me the warning signs weren't there years before: declining sales, cutbacks, other stores in the same market laying off people and eventually closing their doors.

    You should have read the signs, and figured out a way to transition out of that job years ago.

    We live in an age where the head-in-the-sand, pray-it-gets-better approach simply doesn't work.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:48am

    Re: Shazam managed it fine

    Incompetence that is why!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:53am

    Re:

    Lets count the pirate opportunist in this thread. This should be fun. +1

     

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    BentFranklin (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re: One in the long, LONG list of reasons I avoid digital distribution as much as possible

    I don't think you know what FLAC is.

     

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    Thomas (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 8:25am

    Nooks and Kindles..

    are nice, but why would anyone buy a book that the seller can remove from your possession without your consent and without compensation? Suppose you buy an eBook and then Amazon decides a month later that even though you've paid for it, you should not have it and simply removes it? I'll stick to paper books; if Amazon wants to try to take the book back they will have to argue with 95 pounds of German Shepherd and a Glock. I'd like to see them try.

     

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    explicit coward (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 8:36am

    Re: Re: Re: And you only have yourself to blame

    "Okay.... first, there's the minor fact that your team might spend a thousand man hours creating a game or app, leasing a game engine, doing marketing, and all that before it's done, before it's shipped, and before a single dime comes in the door.

    What dollars paid hourly wages, when you had no sales and no dollars yet existed? Oh? You invested your own money? Cool."

    Crowdfund in advance, kickstarter shows how to do it.

    "Which leads us to the whole "risk/reward" thing. You might spend a thousand man hours making a game and sell a hundred copies. You might sell no copies. Or you might sell a million Angry Birds. The majority barely break even.

    The potential upside is regarded as compensation for the potential downside, that your thousand hours will never be repaid at all."

    See answer one. Additionally: Once you've built a (good) reputation (with the crowd) funding (from the crowd) becomes easier. The risk is still there, obviously, but it's spread thinner, more small funds, more small risks.

    "Third, if you're the one working for an hourly wage, that was your decision. You're the one that traded the security of a steady paycheck against the possibility of a huge gain. Or a spectacular loss.

    If you're on the assembly line at GM and your car does well, you "might" get a bonus. GM gets the profits, because they're the ones who designed it, and because they're the one's who risked the company's money putting the product on the market."

    The security of a steady paycheck? Because in case of failure the ceo and his stuff will look first for me and then for themselves? Bailouts anyone? Yeah, the taxpayer might look after me in case of failure...

    And about the risk, again, see answer one and answer two...

    "Finally, any profit made after recouping the original costs will probably be rolled back into funding the next game or app, again placing their dollars at risk.

    That's the nature of the market, be it making movies, writing books, or writing apps. It's a crap shoot, where everything can be gained, or lost, on a single roll of the dice.

    Stick to your day job, "explicit", because it's definitely not a game for cowards."

    Crowdfunding might get you less profit, true, but it would also diminish losses - at least for the company and in a monetary sense. Obviously, if you don't deliver what you were funded for, your reputation will go down the hill... A good incentive, if you ask me.

    But maybe you belong to the sort of people who need the adrenaline kick of a good risking game. I suggest, you try poker or gambling at the stock market...

     

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  32.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 8:51am

    Re: Re: One in the long, LONG list of reasons I avoid digital distribution as much as possible

    if your DRM Servwer goes down it won't even work

    gorehound, agree with what your saying, but this isn't digital alone, but DRM. For e-books, I buy them legitimately from Baen (which has no DRM) or from Amazon and pop the DRM (since the key is something you already have, your credit card number, so no hacking/guessing involved) and no problems if DRM server goes down or Amazon tries to pull the book.

    You still can't resell the book (kinda worthless to do since you just copy it,) but at least you have control over it and they can't steal it from you. Sure, it may be illegal, though I think they might have a problem getting that through court since it isn't like I cracked their sekrit password since I already knew the password as I gave it to them when I bought my e-book.

    I still don't like e-books because of agency pricing, which I think is highly illegal collusion on the part of the publishers -- but DRM is not really a good reason to hate them.

     

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  33.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 9:21am

    Re: Re: Shazam managed it fine

    Greed thinly disguised as incompetence I'd say.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 9:22am

    Re:

    Actually, bait and switch is illegal in the online world too, it's just that nobody files cases over it because of the tricky questions about extraterritorial application of state laws. But I'm pretty sure whatever state this company is based in (if it's in the US, sorry I'm skimming) has laws that prohibit this behavior.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    which is what this whole issue is about.

    Thanks to this phrase, I re-read your entire post in the voice of Hugo Weaving.

     

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  36.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 10:07am

    Re: Re: One in the long, LONG list of reasons I avoid digital distribution as much as possible

    As long as you have the license key, you can still install old commercial software. I have plenty of games and apps for which this is the case. The main stumbling block is the weak DRM so of this software has.

    Beyond that, I can still run games from the 90s on my current PC. This includes consoles, old PC games, and older non-PC platforms that were pushed out of the market by the Microsoft hegemony.

    With emulation and virtualization, you can completely emulate entire platforms.

    Some of the kid's favorite games are from the 80s. (mame)

    Software is eternal so long as you can copy and decode it.

     

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  37.  
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    Rekrul, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 11:42am

    Re: Re: One in the long, LONG list of reasons I avoid digital distribution as much as possible

    Now now, that's not true. I've bought hundreds of games through out the ages before I got hooked on Steam. Guess how many of those I can still play. That's right, at best 5-10. The rest of them there are missing CDs/DVDs and similar problems.

    So the problem with physical distribution methods is that you're too neglectful to properly care for your copies?

     

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  38.  
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    Rekrul, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 11:48am

    Current Parent: When I was your age, we played pretty simple games like Space Invaders and Galaxian.

    Current Child: What did they look like?

    Current Parent: I'll show you... [hooks up Atari system]


    Future Parent: When I was your age, we played pretty simple (by the future's standards) games like Touch Racing Nitro.

    Future Child: What did it look like?

    Future Parent: Well, I wish I could show you, but because of the DRM, there was no way to make a backup copy, and the company is long gone...

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 5:33pm

    Re:

    And Nokia wonders why they are going downhill financially. Screw your customers and after a while you get to have very few customers, then you go broke. It is Basic Business 101. The geniuses at Nokia apparently wish to learn their lessons the hard way, at the expense of their unfortunate shareholders.

    In early 2008 Nokia shares (NYSE) were over $30. Now? Under $6. If that is not enough to get the shareholders mad, what will?

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 5:55pm

    Re: Bad word of mouth

    The amazing thing is, bad word of mouth does not seem to discourage customers. Neither does good word of mouth encourage them. On Ubuntu, over a dozen games are installed as standard, with hundreds (maybe thousands) more games available for free download. You can play any of them for ever, legally, no hacking required, for free. It is the greatest games bargain on planet earth. The free web browser, the free email program and the free office suite all work fine, as well.

    Yet, Ubuntu has a desktop operating system market share of well under 1%. Absolutely everybody can have just gorgeous software for nothing, from the real decent awesome human beings of the world of open source. Why do people still mess about with abusive companies?

     

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  41.  
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    WysiWyg (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 12:52am

    Re: Re: One in the long, LONG list of reasons I avoid digital distribution as much as possible

    "Digital Movies are full of Artifacts compared to a full Blu-RAy or DVD played back on good gear."

    You ARE aware of the fact that BR and DVD are digital right? What you're referring to is compression, which can be done with minimal loss of quality. In fact, when it comes to DVDs I no longer see any reason to compress them.

     

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  42.  
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    WysiWyg (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 12:54am

    Re: Nooks and Kindles..

    Which is why you make sure that your ebook reader isn't connected directly to them.

    I use Calibre (great program) to handle my Sony eReader, and there is just no way that they can remove any books from me. They MIGHT be able to lock them down so that I won't be able to transfer them AGAIN to my Reader, but once it's there they can't touch it. *Hammertime*

     

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  43.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 3:55am

    Re:

    It's sad, but again points out why stronger law enforcement online is needed.

    If by "stronger law enforcement" you mean "if this were a 'real world' good or service it would fall under fraud or consumer protection laws and those are supposed to apply to digital goods and services already" then probably yes. If you mean "We need more laws" then definitely no.

     

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  44.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 4:33am

    Is it because no-one cares?

    I find myself wondering whether the reason for such "digital distibution" rip-offs is because no-one really cares. Those who are tech-savvy enough to know the ramifications often either make sure they buy products to which this can't happen, or route-around the "protections" that make it possible. For most of the world-at-large, experience suggests that many people if asked the question "Do you own that game you just bought?" would say "Yes, of course I do".

    The real ramifications of DRM, click-through EULAs etc rarely raise a ripple. It's not like "thousands of customers cheated out of something they paid for" stories are common in mainstream media.

    I'd be interested to see what would happen if all the constant-connection and update-to-brick DRM in the world all failed at once. I wonder if that would cause a big enough splash to inform the public what they sign up for.

     

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  45.  
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    indieThing, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 4:53am

    Re: Snuggle Truck - better or worse?

    "They don't seem to have caught too much flack from this approach yet, but of course when users get a new iDevice, they'll discover that their paid game is tied to their old device, and that what's actually in their account is the free version."

    If the game implements the Apple recommended method of restoring paid for items within a game, then switching devices shouldn't make any difference. I speak as someone who's just finished implementing an in-app-purchase system on iPhone.

    Although, if it's an older game, it may not support this.

     

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  46.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 7:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: And you only have yourself to blame

    So your answers are Kickstarter, Kickstarter, and Kickstarter, in that order? Got it.

    First, let's ignore the fact that less than half of Kickstarter's projects are successfully funded. Or that it's not really suitable for major software or motion picture projects.

    All you're doing with Kickstarter is helping to fund the initial project and, as such, mitigate risk. And using Kickstarter to fund a project does nothing to solve your original rant...

    "And 99.99% [pulled from where, btw?] of the working population of this planet gets paid once for a finite number of hours, not every time someone uses the result of their work."

    The vast majority of funded Kickstarter projects are still PAID products, be it a gadget, an app, a book, a video, or a song. The funding group gets theirs, and then it's sold, one at a time, to everyone else.

    Yes, you COULD give it away afterwards, but it appears that most don't. It seems most would like the opportunity to do more than just break even on a project.

    I mean, when was the last time you turned down a raise?

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 7:56am

    Re: Re: And you only have yourself to blame

    I take issue with your liberal use of the word "man" where the word "boy" seems to be more appropriate. While the adjective "little" qualifies your statement to your favor, I imagine a nation of dwarves outraged and demanding an apology for the insult by association.

     

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  48.  
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    explicit coward (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 11:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: And you only have yourself to blame

    "First, let's ignore the fact that less than half of Kickstarter's projects are successfully funded."

    No, don't let us ignore it. Let us speculate why that's the case. Could it be that although it's becoming more popular (as known) it still needs to establish itself in the business culture on how things can (not should) be done? Still, even if every internet citizen new about it, there would still be projects not reaching the minimum required. Would that be such a bad thing? Maybe it would be better if certain project didn't even start...

    "Or that it's not really suitable for major software or motion picture projects."

    And that is based on what kind of assumption? Say George Lucas wanted to finance his Star Wars TV series this way, with a budget of 5 to 10 millions an episode. Do you really think there wouldn't be enough Star Wars fans on this planet to kickstart it? One season, 20 episodes, 200 millions. You then need 200 million people paying 1 dollar, 20 mill paying 10, 10 mill paying 20, 4 mill paying 50. Say the ones paying 50 would get a lifetime access to the digital version of season 1, don't you think 4 millions of people would be found easily on a global level?

    "All you're doing with Kickstarter is helping to fund the initial project and, as such, mitigate risk. And using Kickstarter to fund a project does nothing to solve your original rant..."

    Look, there might have been some misunderstanding due to me expressing myself inadequately (english is not my native language, so please bear with me) and you jumped to the conclusion I might generally be against the concept of profit. Well, I'm not. But I'm definetely against exagerated profit as in "create once, profit forever". Yes, you shoud get paid for your work. Yes, you should make some profit on it and no in 50 years you should not still get money for it.

     

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  49.  
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    Jonson (profile), Apr 1st, 2012 @ 7:32am

    nice post

    Why are we screwing around, we just need to turn the lights out... For good. NNEMP generators can be carried as a payload of bombs and cruise missiles, electromagnetic bombs with diminished mechanical, thermal and ionizing radiation effects and without the political consequences of deploying nuclear weapons. A couple of these and the lights go out in Tripoli. It will leave them helpless. These are not something from a science fiction book, they do exist and they should be used immediately.

     

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  50.  
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    Wally (profile), Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:14am

    Digital Distrobution

    There are two companies i will always get my games from for my PC that are outside of brick and mortar. GOG.com and Valve's Steam....they remove any, if not all DRM to ensure that publishers don't pull this kind of crap...if they do pull it, they will immediately be taken off the list and therefore loose the money they make. Apple needs to make it a policy that companies cannot change the price of content.

    The statement made that Developers have no way of knowing if someone has paid for their product is bull shit.....iTunes works like Valve Software's Steam, once you have paid for it, the information is saved to your account and by policy, all updates for Apps (mind you News Stand and iBooks are exempt)must be free, should never downgrade a client, and are liable for lawsuit from users if this occurs. Apple is not responsible for publishers' actions, they only distribute...and they can choose not to distribute or bring legal action against those developers.

     

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  51.  
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    Rekrul, Apr 13th, 2012 @ 6:21am

    Re: Digital Distrobution

    There are two companies i will always get my games from for my PC that are outside of brick and mortar. GOG.com and Valve's Steam....they remove any, if not all DRM to ensure that publishers don't pull this kind of crap...if they do pull it, they will immediately be taken off the list and therefore loose the money they make.

    Umm, Steam itself is DRM. Try to install a Steam Crippled game on a system without internet access and see how far you get.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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