Ownership

How important is it for you to own your movies and books and videogames?

I am one of those people who fills with righteous indignation on hearing stories about how EA or Steam can (allegedly) ban people from playing the games they paid for based on what they did on the forums. And yet I endeavor to only buy games on Steam – if there is no Steam version and its not an MMO, it doesn’t exist to me. The last console I owned was a PS2.

As I was reflecting on this seeming dissonance, I glanced over at my bookshelf. And what I saw were a lot of DVDs I had not touched in nearly a decade (or more), and unlikely to touch ever again.

What I realized I wanted was:

  1. the ability to play a game, watch a movie, or read a book.
  2. the ability to do so again, at some later date, without paying again.
  3. paying a discounted price for the loss of ownership.

To be clear, by “ownership” I am referring to my ability to resell or gift the item.

My Steam library is sitting at 205 games. There are exactly two titles out of those 205 that I paid full MSRP for, and they were Fallout: New Vegas and Portal 2. At $40, Skyrim was the next highest amount of money I was willing to pony up for the Steam service for an individual game since I first downloaded the client with the Orange Box.

So when people ask that “what if Steam shuts down?” question, a large part of it is moot: there is no scenario in which I’d miss Singularity or KOTOR or Far Cry. I might want the possibility of booting up Portal or Half Life 2 (like when Episode 3 comes out, cough) years down the line, but in all likelihood they would share the same fate as my pristine copies of Xenogears, the Tenchu series, and FF7-FFX in indefinite shelving purgatory.

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Posted on February 8, 2012, in Miscellany and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. But when you realize that you don’t must own a DVD… don’t you also realize that you aren’t willing to pay 30 bucks for a movie? Because a movie is never worth 30 bucks. Only the illusion to own a product made you pay that amount.

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    • Indeed. There is some small argument to be made that $30 is a reasonable price if you watch the movie with multiple people (movie tickets for a family of four is probably $50+ these days), and in the past burned DVDs were less reliable than the “real thing.” But nowadays?

      Netflix has ruined the movie industry for me. I never rewatch 99% of the movies I see, so who cares when they rotate out?

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  2. The most important thing for me is the ability to install/play/use media (specifically games) at a later date … even if the service I purchased it from shut down or the publisher/developer goes out of business. I am one of those people that still installs older games and plays them even years after they came out. As long as my computer can run them, the odds of me installing them and playing them is very high. TESIII: Morrowind, Ceasar 3, Lords of the Realm 2, and the KOTOR series are my most installed titles, but they certainly are not the only ones I do this to. As such, I quite resent having this ability taken away from me due to online activation/verification required upon install, always online DRM, or online clients required for functionality. Yes the companies who made/distributed the games are viable now, but there is no guarantee that four or five years down the road their story will be the same. There is always the possibility that patches removing online requirements could be released in the future, but something tells me that patches and the playability of old titles (ones that they already have our money for) will be the last thing on everyone’s “to-do” list when their company is going under, losing staff, and out of money.

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    • I have not investigated things too closely, but I am reasonably certain that you could get an external drive, download all your Steam games, and then add a Steam client that is set up to be Offline enabled (something you unfortunately have to set up while online). I have heard conflicting reports about whether the client self-destructs after X months while offline, but even if that were the case, there are undoubtedly cracked clients out there.

      Keep in mind though, if you ever lose the CD Key for games that required them, you would be just as out of luck as if Valve inexplicably shut down.

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  3. As a side note, I do not personally sell my games on the used market, because I hold on to them, but the used market is important to take in consideration. Used games make older titles available to players long after the manufacturer has ceased making it. If the title cannot be found via digital download, and hard copies are not being made anymore, then the used market is your only option. For instance, up until a couple of years a go, if I wanted a copy of Planescape: Torment the only option I had was to purchase a used copy. GOG fixed that issue for me in late 2010, but until then I had no other alternatives. As such, the ability to “own” a game and sell it later (without the game being tied to one person) can be quite important from an availability standpoint as well.

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    • Unfortunately, there is a large segment of the consumer population that hates itself, and thus sides with EA and Ubisoft and these corporations in attempting to destroy secondary game sales as though the used market is of zero value to the industry. It’s not just about out-of-print games either; it is about exposing consumers to franchises they would not have explored at the higher MSRP price-points. Pick up a $10 copy of Mass Effect at Gamestop or wherever, and you might suddenly get a fan who buys ME2 & ME3 on Day 1.

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  4. So what would happen if you bought ME1 and KE2 on Steam and it went away? Now ME3 comes out and you want a complete playthrough. Something that many players are doing right now. If Steam went away you couldn’t do that.

    And while it is rare I think a majorioty of players have played an older game at least once. I’m more of the exception as last year I replayed Witcher 1 (before Witcher 2 release), Planescape Torment, Fallout 2, Baulder’s Gate 2, ME1 & ME2 and some very old games like Panzer General and Masters of Orion. Since I owned all of these all I had to do was dust them off and load them up.

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    • Exactly. At the moment I am finishing ME2, I’m about to install Jade Empire, and will be dusting off Deus Ex sometime soon as well. This is the very reason that I only use one digital distributor – GOG. As long as you have the .exe file (and as long as your computer can play it) you are good as gold. I do have Skyrim on Steam, but that is the only game I have on there. I had gotten myself far too excited about the game before learning that it would require a client to play. Since installing it I’ve already had issues with the offline settings not working properly, with Steam taking up too much of my memory, and with the game simply refusing to launch until I mucked about with Steam setting for about half an hour. If Steam refuses to function properly, then the game (which I paid very good money for) will be non functional. As such, Skyrim is essentially a $60.00 rental. If it were any other game I would have passed. I’ve not purchased DE:HR, FO:NV and quite a few other titles I wanted to play because of client requirements. ME3 is now on that list, and I will be missing out on Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning it if requires Origin as well (I haven’t checked up on that yet). This is really a bad state of things and I genuinely do not understand why people are so willing to accept it.

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      • People probably accept it because it appears GOG only sells 26 titles released after 2005.

        And as I have alluded to, at what point does the difference between a rental and ownership become moot? A pacemaker doesn’t need a 100-year battery. I would agree, however, that full MSRP is pretty ridiculous considering that these companies likely would make less if we bought the game in the store.

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