The year is 2013. We live in an era where information can be accessed at high speeds with the simple click of the button. This inovation has enabled software publishers to shift from distributing their software on store shelves in lieu of being able to sell them digitally. While all have not fully adopted this system, it is possibly the future of mankind.
With the over-dramatic first paragraph said, let's get down to the main point: Digital Distribution of games is a thing and it's not going away any time soon. In fact, it'll probably only get stronger. The thing that holds it back at the moment is the current channels of distribution have yet to master it. Even Steam, which has been the best in Digital Distribution, is nowhere close.
A day or so ago, I conversed with HybridRain in the comments section of his recent video post, "Will you be able to sell your used games on Steam?" concerning this as well as some of the ideas that I had. He was even able to expand on my ideas by offering a few of his own.
If you need to view the video, go here.
The comments section of someone else's video is one thing. A blog post of my own is quite another. I want to publicise and discuss what I believe it will take to enhance the consoles of Digitally Distributed Games (DDG for short). I also want to discuss what is currently in place and what would need to be added to make it better.
Physical Copies, DLC, and Legality
I first need to say that I will not cover these topics.
I first need to start by mentionion that I will not talk about these topics. If a console wants to enable physical copies, then they may design it that way. I'm here to talk about games that are distributed digitally. I think Physical Copies are still necessary for those games that are huge in terms of Hard Drive Space that would otherwise take hours to download and install.
Also, this topic does not include DLC. Due to the nature of DLC, they are not the same as DDG and cannot be treated as such.
Finally, I will not discuss Legality. The research that I would need to do on things such as Digital Rights Management, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, First-Sale Doctrine, et cetra, would require too much time. I do want to mention that what I'm about to propose could possibly be blocked due to legal reasons, but if it is implimented and widely accepted by the develpoers, it could bring changes to laws like these.
Accounts and Game Locking
Anyone who has run Steam through more than one computer or anyone who has ever had to replace their iPhone knows how this works. You have an account that is associated with everything that you do. When you add money for future purcahse, it is locked to that account. When you buy a game, it is locked to that account and can be downloaded to any [compatible] device through that account. When you add something to your wishlist, you can see it on a different device when you access it through your account. If you ever have to replace the device, you simply have to add your account to the new device and be done with it.
I agree with locking a game to an account and oppose the idea of locking a game to the console, especially during the early days of my Wii and DSi. There was a game on the Wii taht I wanted that was 500 Points. There was a game on my DSi that I wanted that was 500 Points. I bought a 1000 Point Card. But due to the nature of the Wii and the DSi, I had to place all of the points on one console. This made me unhappy. And it made me realize that as much as I loved Zelda and Samus and Mario and all of the others, Nintendo was indeed a generation behind.
Nintendo has shown that they are continuing to do this, linking the points and the games to the console itself, with their Wii U, as demonstrated in this blog post by Sean Hinz about a month ago, which you can readhere. This is a terrible idea since if the console ever malfunctions or is stolen, then a person would have to acquire a new console and re-purchase the games again. An unfair punishment for a victim of bad circumstances.
Ultimately, it comes down to creating a universal account that is knows what I've purchased, what money I have, or even what special offers I can redeem (just thought of that) that can be transfered from device to device, if needed, instead of leaving it all in the hands of a device that may not always be there.
Continuing on from the previous idea, I'm aware that this has a problem , and I mentioned it in the "Sony Anti-Used" blog. If more than one person has an account on a console, and the games are locked to the account, then Account A cannot play the games of Account B. This would not be a problem with physical media, so we must determine a way around this issue.
One solution is "Shut up! You want to play the damn game?! Either log into Account A or fucking buy it!" But I don't like that idea one bit. It can be considered either a lazy design or poor design and it harms in the realm of customer service. Plus, it contradicts my intention for this DDG System.
Another solution is Joint Accounts where you can associate your account with someone else's account, and you can both play the game. But if both of you are playing the same things, then why not just make a single account that you both use? And once again, it contradicts my intentions.
Ultimately, each game needs to have its own set of adjustable settings, one of which being the ability to "Share" or "Loan" the game to anyone on the same console. The person who purchases the game can download it and then set whether or not this game is "Shared" amongst all of those on the same Console. This means, for example, if Dad buys Wheel of Fortune, he can set the game to be "Shared" so Mom can play it, too.
However, sharing should not be done unrestricted. If an Achievement system is in place, then Achievements should be blocked on a game that is being "borrowed" from another user. Also, if there are DLC or Expansion Packs for that game, those cannot be used because "that person doesn't have that game" technically, and you cannot install DLC or Expansion packs onto a game that you do not have. Even if Account A has the Expansion Pack, Account B, who is borrowing it, cannot play those because technically they don't have the game. I am enforcing this because if you like a game enough to want to play the DLC or Expansions, then I think you like the game enough to want to own the game youself instead of just borrowing it from someone else.
Having the ability to "share" a game with everyone else in your household is a great idea. I can buy my game, everyone else can play my game, and if they want a copy to call their own, then they can buy it themselves.
The Home Console
I realize that the combination Account-Game Lock and the Game Sharing creates a problem. If someone logs into any account that has a game on it that they want to play and sets that game to be shared, then that someone can play that game for free. A system like this is easily exploitable, enabling a form of piracy, and needs to be addressed quickly.
The solution is easy. First, do what most services that require an account do. When you log in to your account on another device, you are kicked off any previous devices that you are logged in at. Second, have a setting in both the Account and on the Console that says that this one console is my Home Console, the system that I primarily use to play my DDGs. These two measures together will create a result that is both secure and prevents piracy.
One of the things that happens is that when you log in to another device, you are logged out of any previous devices, and anything that you brought with you would be unistalled EXCEPT if that device is your Home Console since that is where you want everything to be, where you will bring everything back to. To verify this, an Internet connection is required, though for a short amount of time in order to get updates on the accounts currently on the console. If, when a console tries to do this it is unable to gain an Internet connection, it will put a lock on any foreign account (any accound whose Home Console is not the current one) as well as anything that foreign account has. An easy security measure to help prevent piracy.
Also, while you are logged in on your Home Console, and Internet Connection is not required to verify your account since you're at home. You would only need an Internet connection to make purchases.
WIth this in place, you would ordinarily need to disassosiate an Account from a Home Console from the Home Console itself. However, what happens if the console gets lost or damaged or even stolen? That thief now has access to your Account and can use it as they see fit. Almost.
There is only one thing that needs to be done: tell the Account that you don't have a Home Console anymore. This can be done through some form of customer service or through some Internet self-service where you provide the answers to some security questions and tell it to remove your Home Console. The Account would still be there with all of its purchases. But what would happen if a Home Console that has an Account as one of its residents logs on and finds out that the Account has moved? The Account's data on that console would instantly turn foreign, and we've already discussed what happens to foreign accounts. So the only way a thief could enjoy your Account on your stolen console is if they never connected it to the Internet. But that would be the price to pay for a system that distributes games digitally.
By associating an Account, whose logged information is stored on a server, with a Home Console and by using an Internet connection to verify it in the proper manner, this impedes the piracy that I had mentioned before. And swift response to customer service can also impede problems such as a bricked console or a stolen console.
I'm going to make this one short. Since consoles tend to be more proprietary than computers, its infrastructure is pretty finite. Therefore, verifying that the console is still what it is supposed to be can be performed by the console whenever it is booted up. If something returns bad, then depending on the error, it'll have to quarentine itself, blocking of Internet access, at the least, until it is serviced. This measure is also a hopeful means of fighting against hacking who would put the consoel into this altered state for their own selfinsh gain.
Selling Back Your Games
This has always been an issue with digital download. It's more of an issue on computers where you can go into the computer's file system and move/copy/alter the files as you please. This is not as easy to do on video game consoles since you have no access to the individual files without hacking the system. But since we just quickly nipped that in the bud (or at least slowed it down), then we can proceed with solving this problem.
When you buy a product digitally, it cannot be sold back. You have purchased it. You have the data. It is not a physical copy that can be passed around. You are screwed.
Once again, I have a solution. When you buy a game, a flag is set to your account stating that you own that game. This way, if you ever need to download it again, you can free of charge. And if this variable can be set, then why can't it be unset? This is essentially what selling back digital copy entails.
In a DDG Console, you would have to log in to your Home Console (for security purposes) and click that you want to sell the game. By clicking YES, the game would uninstall (except for Save Files, of course), you would receive small credit, which I recommend is no less than 25% of the game's current selling price, and your account would show that you no longer have that game.
In short, selling back a digital game would relinquish the account user's rights to play that game, requiring that they buy the game again if they want to play it again. However, this possibility of enabling and disabling access to a game like a switch and repeat purchases opens the door to one more thing that DDG Consoles do not have.
Let's face it. The Video Game Rental Industry sucks. Most rental stores have only recent or popular titles of the most recent consoles, leaving out anything old or obscure. This is partially due to shelf space and partially due to projected sales. What game is possibly going to make them money is what's going to be on the shelves. As a result, your options are limited.
With DDG, this is not the case. There is no shortage of games being developed for DDG, and when funds are limited, you need a better means than a demo to try the game before you buy the game. This is where renting comes into play. But how do you rent on a DDG Console?
With the ability to easily switch whether you own a game or not in place, all that is left is to impose a time limit. This is where that "Game Settings" file that I had mentioned earlier comes into play. What there were settings that the user had no access to, one that only the console had access to? What if one of those settings was an expiration date, a time at which the game would be automatically uninstalled? This is how.
When the game is rented, the game is installed as usual except with this expiration date. When the console sees that this expiration date is reached, it will uninstall the game automatically. However, if you are playing the game when that "expiration date" is reach, I think it would be curteous to extend the date by one hour so that you may save your progress before the console automatically boots you so it can "return" the game by uninstalling it (leaving only the Save File).
I do have two recommendations. First off, Renting can only occur on the Home Console and that game cannot be brought to another console but it can still be "loaned" on the current console. This is for the purpose of security as well as one of the restrictions.of renting a DDG game as opposed to buying it. The second is that the price needs to be small. I suggest either $2 a day for a number of days as specified by the user at the time of renting or 20% of the game's current price to rent it for 5 days. There are various other options, but the price is ultimately up to the console developer.
Renting is necessay in this day and age of numerous AAA-budget titles. Even if a company had put millions of dollars into the development of a game, that game may still be a game that I'd rather play and not own. This is the possibility with any game. A game might be fun to play once, but are you going to play it again? If the answer is no, then it's probably better to just rent the game until you beat it rather than buying it outright.
This, in turn, could give the developers a better idea of what games are really worth the consumers' time while giving them a few extra dollars in their back pocket. How many people are renting the game versus how many are actually buying the game. This would raise a red flag at the studio and make them re-think just how good their game actually was.
With the inclusion of the rental system, games become far more accessible while enabling a paid form of an extended demo which has the side effect of providing companies a slightly more accurate number concerning tbhe popularity of their games.
Simplifying It All
Games are locked to the Account. The Account has a Home Console. The account can go to other consoles but will log you out of the previous consoles and remove all of your stuff EXCEPT when that console is your Home Console. You can loan games to anyone else on your Home Console. You can Rent games on your Home Console. You can sell games on your Home Console. And all of this is through a Digital Distribution service.
With Digital Download becoming more popular, it's only a matter of time before the video game industry adopts this system 100%. And when it does, it needs to be able to provide the same services as with the physical industry. And this might just be the start with how it does it.
What Do You Think?
This took me a couple of days to write, so I want to know what you think? Would you buy like a DDG console like this? Or do you think the concept is way too ludicrous to be plausible? Let me know what you think.