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Penny Arcade has a comic series on the evolution of DRM, with original comics but guest posts from others in the industry. Wednesday's from Kotaku's Brian Crescente was an excellent start, and today's was good also.

Though it's not a popular view, in my mind a lot of gamers are overreacting--look how many people buy music through iTunes, whose DRM mechanics are hardly lenient.

Stream of consciousness follows:
People put up with the DRM of iTunes because they want to have the music they own on a proprietary device, because that proprietary device is (I guess, I don't own an i-anything) so unassailably cool and powerful and great that it's worth putting up with the DRM to be able to use the device. My first thought after that was, what exactly is the carrot that goes with the DRM stick for PC gaming? Is it the same, a device that's cool enough to want to game on (for a plethora of reasons, from its multifunction nature to mouse/keyboard controls) that we're expected to swallow the DRM? Or is it (or should it be) something not hardware-related but product quality-related; that is, should the publishers themselves be giving us the carrot for putting up with their stick? Steam does that for a shload of people in the near-transparent updates, digital distribution, more frequent sale prices, community, etc., which is one very poignant explanation for why Steam escapes most if not all of the DRM-fueled scorn that's heaped on EA et al.

That led to another thought, that the iTunes model might be more closely related to each individual console market than the PC market. Console owners have to have the right proprietary device to play the games they want to play, with no interoperability at all, and no other options other than switching devices or owning multiple. They can handle the stick of proprietary-ness because they have little choice in the matter, and the millions of people who are iPod stalwarts would argue that the iPod is so superior in every way, that they have just as little choice.

Somewhere along the line I got to the latest under-the-counter theories as to the real reason for the new age of install-limiting DRM. Given that it's absolutely proven that DRM does not limit the availability of pirated games one iota, there must be another reason for it getting more strict these days. The latest theory is that it's to purposefully limit or eliminate the secondhand market (booooooo, says all the cheapskates like JT). I stumbled on these articles on touching on the issue (all from the developer perspective):
"I think it's really damaging to the single-player experience," he said. "Games like BioShock and Assassin's Creed, where they're perfectly valid games, but once you've played them they go into the pre-owned section."

"The sales don't reflect the actual sales of people playing them because someone has gone out and bought, at almost the same price, a pre-owned copy because they couldn't get an original. It's very frustrating that they don't carry that stock any more."

If this guy thinks that folks that buy used are buying used because new copies are hard to find, he's an absolute blithering idiot. A), just because the GameStop on the corner might not still stock new copies of Bioshock (which I'd be willing to bet they still do, even a year post-release) does not mean at all that said consumer can't find a new copy anywhere., Amazon, GoGamer,com, anyone? Sheesh. And 2), don't be a moron dude, they're trying to save 10 bucks each so that the same $360 buys 7 games instead of 6.
"The fact is that we're making new innovative videogames all the time and it costs a lot of money to do that," commented Eades. "If we're only seeing one slice of the profit then that makes the games more expensive in the first place and the more expensive you sell a game for the more inclined [consumers] are to swap games... improving the rental market for videogames sounds like a really good solution."

"From the gamers' point of view it's really good because you can effectively pay a tenner buying a game, which is great, which is maybe where the price point for games should be," he added. "But of course we can't really reduce the price point of games if the only profit we're getting is off of that first sale. That's why retailers aren't the most popular people with game developers right now."

Leaving aside that there already is a rental market (Blockbuster, GameFly) and that this guy just wants to replace the used market with a larger rental market... Why is this guy so fixated on "we only get paid on the first sale of the product, waaaah"?!?! Neither Oldsmobile nor Universal Studios nor Del Rey Books got a piece of the sale price I got when I sold my old car last year, or the Serenity DVD I bought off eBay the year before, or the two Star Wars paperbacks I bought at the corner used bookstore last summer. And this guy's whining about not getting a piece of the $30 I paid when I picked up CoD4 in February? He even has the gall to say, basically threatening, "it's because we only get a piece of the first sale that we're not making enough money to make even better games!" Double Sheesh. If Michael Bloody Crichton came out and said, "Used bookstores better stop selling used copies of Jurassic Park, or else my next book isn't going to be as good!" he'd get laughed off the freakin' stage. That is, if he happened to be standing on a stage when he said it.

It's a thorny thing though, 'cause the technology to prevent used sales of games is obviously here (it's only being used on the PC, but it's almost as viable in the console sector, with almost-always-present-internet, they just haven't gotten there yet) in a way that's impossible for dead-tree books, and just flat didn't work for DVDs (divX - or was it Div/X? Divx?). One school of thought is that publishers should be allowed to put any kind of restrictions on their products as they want, as long as they're spelled out before purchase. I think before this all shakes out we may actually see a court or two issue rulings on the Fair Use Act as relates to used sales, and if publishers have the right to forbid the secondhand market the way it looks like they're wanting to.
"It's hard to gauge the effect of used game sales on Halo, but I'm sure it's big," O'Donnell commented. "Complaining about sales when you have a multi-million seller is somewhat difficult to justify, but it seems to me that the folks who create and publish a game shouldn't stop receiving income from further sales."

This guy (Halo dev from Bungie) is just as out of touch with reality as the last guy. Tell me why again is the game business so different from the book or movie business, where the creative producers deserve some extra-special kind of protection against a consumer buying a product and then re-selling it? If you don't want us to ever ever sell our round shiny pieces of plastic with Halo 3 on them, make sure you make a game that I'm never going to want to sell. That's what appeals to folks who buy & collect books or DVDs, building & maintaining a library against the chance that later you'll want to read those books or watch those movies again. Same goes for games, and the used market should be treated no differently.

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