I’ve seen some very similar responses to today’s Xbox One news, whether it be the mandatory 24-hour “check-in” or the restrictions on game lending. It’s a defensive sort of reply, brought up by somebody who doesn’t see the news as downright terrible.
“But they’re still letting us trade games!”
“We can still play games if we login once a day!”
All without a hint of irony.
It makes me so sad I can barely bring myself to talk about it.
Is this what the last decade of video gaming has conditioned us to becoming? A market that simply trudges from one restriction to the next, shuffling our way along a road that ends with video game publishers getting the absolute maximum amount of money from us for the absolute minimum of effort?
It’s hard looking back over the years and seeing anything but.
Sure, we’ve always had some form of restriction with our games systems. Region locks have been with us since almost the dawn of time. But the rate at which things have escalated in the “online” era put things like plastic tabs on an N64 in the shade.
And yes, there are benefits to gaming’s modern infrastructure. Instant downloads, fire sales, convenience, connectivity. But those benefits have also come with some hefty conditions.
It would have been absurd if your SNES cartridges only worked in your SNES. Or if Street Fighter II couldn’t be played at an arcade if Capcom’s phone lines weren’t working. Or if Metroid’s “true” ending had only been available as part of a $5 expansion.
“I just want to buy a video game and play it, whenever and however I want.”
Yet those are the kinds of situations we find ourselves in today. Beginning with the launch of Steam and the first DLC for video games, and going on through online delivery services and online passes, we’ve gradually found ourselves gamers in a market that treats every sale as a rental, every purchase a privilege.
When did the consumer lose so much power? When did the market, the force that should be dictating how these companies behave by refusing to put up with anti-consumer measures and shaping policies with our wallets, roll over and say “have your way with me”?
The answer is we did it ten years ago. And five. And yesterday. And today. We love video games so much, this wonderful pastime, hobby and artform, that whenever a company that makes money off them places a load on our backs, we endure it, because we’re willing to put up with it to get to the games we want to play.
As they drop each load, one by one, we barely protest, because each small weight on its own seems worth it. It’s only when you look back, and see how much you’re now carrying just to purchase and play a video game in 2013, that you realise, wow, that’s kind of messed up.
I’ve often wondered whether we would ever actually break from the strain, and people would begin to