Doomed: Bethesda's Classic Doom Re-Releases Are Fixed, But Demonstrate Again That We Don't Own What We Buy
from the knee-deep-in-the-licenses dept
We have something of a long-running series of posts centering on the disheartening theme, “You don’t own what you’ve bought.” Whether it’s digital products such as movies and eBooks, or more tangible products like thermostats, large companies are making backend alterations to how products previously purchased work and the public is just now starting to realize the full scope of what this means. That doesn’t mean that same public isn’t surprised when it happens to them, of course, but it’s strange to watch the reactions to these anti-consumer practices range mostly from shrugs to actively joking around about it all.
Bethesda went through its own instance of this recently. Just to be absolutely clear, the problems we are about to discuss have all been resolved by Bethesda, so good on them. These issues weren’t intentional. Still, they demonstrate both how the current digital economy is one fraught with danger for people who think they’re actually buying things and also demonstrates the cow-like tranquility of the reactions of those affected.
In the past few weeks, Bethesda announced it was re-releasing several classic Doom games for the three modern consoles. It was great news for Doom fans, especially those that own PS4 and Nintendo Switch consoles. The re-release included the Xbox One, too, but that console had already seen a re-release of the classic Doom games. Except that gamers who had originally purchased the first re-release suddenly found that their purchases were no longer available.
But the news was different on Xbox One, where all three games had already received digital-download ports thanks to that platform’s hearty Xbox 360 backwards-compatibility program. And on Friday, Bethesda gave those version’s holders a rude awakening: the company completely delisted those Xbox 360 versions. As of press time, those games’ original SKUs can still be found in Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb’s definitive Xbox 360 backwards-compatibility list, along with reminders that those games came back to life on Xbox One consoles in 2015 and 2016. Clicking any of the affected Doom games’ listings right now, however, leads to dead Xbox 360 content pages, the kind you might find for delisted Xbox games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
Owners of the original licenses are not redirected on their consoles to the new SKUs, and as of press time, those games’ original owners are asked to pay full price to play the new, Xbox One-native versions of those classic games ($5 each for Doom and Doom II, $10 for Doom 3).
Again, this has since been corrected, mostly. The error that prevented those who had already purchased the games’ Xbox 360 purchases has been corrected. That said, this shows the vulnerability of both buying digital versions of games that are manipulable by the publisher and the casual acceptance in the gaming marketplace that this sort of thing is to be expected. It’s also worth pointing out that the new re-release removes some expansion packs compared with the Xbox 360 version, making all of this even more convoluted.
On its own, perhaps this story wouldn’t have been enough to land it on our pages. But the follow up was more fallout from fans who noticed after purchasing the re-release of the classic Doom games that Bethesda suddenly required a Bethesda.net login in order to play them.
Late last week, Bethesda surprised QuakeCon attendees and retro gamers worldwide with the re-release of the first three Doom games on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One (that last one with some issues of its own). It also surprised potential players by requiring a Bethesda.net login and an active Internet connection to play. That state of affairs led to a fair share of online joking imagining other classics given similarly restrictive DRM.
Now, again, this was an error by Bethesda. What was supposed to happen was that login requirement was only supposed to happen for members of Bethesda’s Slayers Club. But, again, we see how opening the avenue up for a game publisher to remotely dick with what people thought they were buying causes problems. And just because this was an error doesn’t mean some other company might not put a classic game like this behind a DRM-ish login requirement, despite such a requirement being the digital equivalent of requiring a key and ignition to operate a horse-drawn carriage.
Perhaps as concerning was that the reaction of the wider internet was to joke and meme-ify this whole fiasco. Humor is one thing, but anger and derision were probably vastly more appropriate reactions to all of this nonsense being layered on top of a classic game from the 90s.
But, since you don’t really own what you’ve bought, I suppose all one can do is shrug and laugh.