Tuesday, March 31, 2009

DRM and EULAs for PC Games

Great read over at Ars Technica about the Entertainment Consumers Association pushing for the requirement of full disclosure of DRM on PC game boxes, as well as the standardization of EULA agreements. Hal Halpin of the ECA told Ars Technica:

We suggested a few things to the FTC, one of which was we'd like to see DRM disclosed. So when people go to the store and buy the packaged good, the PC game, they'll see something on the front of the box saying there is DRM inside, and to what degree it will be invasive.

The second thing that we recommended was that EULAs get standardized, so again, rather than have 30 or 40 types of agreements, there would be one standard one for all different types of computer games. People go into the store, buy the game, open it, and they can no longer return it... by standardizing the EULA, consumers will have the confidence to know what it is they're agreeing to before they buy the product.

That didn't go over so well. There was a room of attorneys that kind of gasped when we suggested standardization. One panelist commented that the EULA really were there as consumer information, and that was the one and only time that the FTC jumped in and said "wait a second, this has nothing to do with consumer information, this is purely IP protection." I pointed out that when we ran the IEMA (Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association) we were able to get the size of the boxes standardized, and to get the PC CD-ROM logo on the box. These were not herculean undertakings, and they didn't require legislation. So if we can do those things, then certainly we can do these.
This can only be good for consumers, and I'm particularly pleased to see the ECA raising the conflicts that digital distribution channels like Steam have with the concept of ownership.

Friday, March 13, 2009

This Is Bullshit

Leaving aside the troubling racial imagery in Capcom's Resident Evil 5, I read this on Ars Techinca:

Capcom has sent word that a Versus mode will be added to the game... for a price.


Other than a screenshot or two, that's all we know about the content, except for price: the new mode will cost 400 MS points on the Xbox 360, and $5 on the PS3. We should expect the content "a few weeks after Resident Evil 5 is available." [emphasis mine]
Resident Evil 5 was released in Japan last week, and releases here, in North America, today. Ars Techinca reported this yesterday, before the game went on sale over here. I cannot believe that this is simply "extra content"; it seems a lot more like this "Versus" mode was intentionally left out of the initial release. It feels like milking the consumer. Downloadable content is getting out-of-fucking-hand.

Gamers should not be charged extra for modes of play that, for all intents and purposes, should have been released with the original game! Whatever you want to call this "Versus" mode, it most definitely is not an expansion pack. Beyond the Sword is an expansion pack for Civilization IV. Broodwar is an expansion pack for Starcraft. Capcom's "expansion" for Resident Evil 5 is more like the developer deciding to release an online tournament mode for Street Fighter IV, a noted omission from the initial release, as a $5 download (don't get any ideas, Capcom!)

I really hope no one buys this and Capcom realizes that gamers won't be swindled, but I know I'll be wrong. The popularity of XBox Live is enough to prove that there are a lot of suckers out there.

[UPDATE]: This is downloadable content done right:
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin fans are in for a treat next month, as Monolith has announced that it's going to be releasing "Toy Soldiers," the game's first new map pack, in mid-April. Of course, the biggest part of the news, though, is that the DLC is going to be free. [emphasis mine]

Monday, March 2, 2009

Amazon Caves to Copyright Fear Mongers

Last week Author's Guild president Roy Blount Jr. wrote a column for the New York Times arguing that Amazon's Kindle 2 is in violation of copyright law because of the unit's text-to-speech functionality. Blount argued that such functionality was a derivative work -- I won't get into why that is incorrect, since BoingBoing has a nice refutation of Blount's argument.

Today, I read an Associated Press article which reports that Amazon has caved to the Author's Guild:

Amazon.com Inc. changed course Friday and said it would allow copyright holders to decide whether they will permit their works to be read aloud using the second-generation Kindle electronic reader's new text-to-speech feature.
The worst part, though, is this:
The Web retailer also said the text-to-speech feature is legal — and wouldn't require Amazon to pay out additional royalties — because a book read aloud doesn't constitute a copy, a derivative work or a performance.
If the feature is legal, why cave to the Author's Guild? Allowing the author of a work to disable the functionality of Amazon's Kindle isn't good for users of the product. That would be like VCR manufacturers giving television broadcasters the ability to disable home recording for any particular program. Amazon's move here doesn't make any sense. Giving in to the unreasonable demands of overly-restrictive copyright proponents will only give credence to their arguments. Amazon should take a stand; the fact that Amazon's position is clearly of the right side of the law should have made this an easy decision.

I hope this blows up in the face of the Author's Guild and that e-books which allow the text-to-speech feature sell far beyond those that don't.