Life, The Universe, And Gaming: License To Own
This week we’re going to have a far shorter column for two very simple reasons. One of those being that I simply left it too late and the other being my PC woes, which have rendered my system a slow, sluggish shadow of its former self.
Having opted not to go to university early today, I don’t even have the luxury of the LANs on offer to me there. Thus, I am sitting in front of my brother’s prehistoric laptop, typing at the pace of a normal person because I cannot type for shit with a laptop, and attempting to string together a coherent article that is worthy of this games-loving site. Even if I cannot actually make a custom header… Sigh.
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So. Shorter column this week, preceded by some complaining. Done.
Since the Xbox One Reveal last week, there has been furore and heated debate, sometimes between the closest of friends with differing opinions, and one of the biggest sources of the bickering happens to be the used games issue. Put simply, we don’t know exactly what Microsoft is planning, but we know that they’re planning something regarding used games and paying a fee in order to play them. I won’t use this column for speculation but many months ago, I thought up the topic that I am going to talk about today, which has suddenly become pertinent again.
The thing about publishers of games is, unlike any other industry in the world, if they feel entited to your money for some reason, then they will come after you. In this situation you are selling a game that you’ve already bought and played. That means that the game has been paid for, by all the laws of men. At that point in time, your business with the publisher has concluded and you ought to be free to do with that game as you please.
Unfortunately, many publishers still consider a game to be their property, where you are only licensing the product that they’ve given to you. Thus, you are paying for the license to own that product, rather than actual ownership.
Once again, this is only relevant in the gaming industry. You will never find, for example, a car manufacturer chasing after you if you try to buy a car secondhand. Likewise, if you buy a TV secondhand. Or actually, quite a lot of things. Even things that technically are licensed products, such as gaming consoles. But the gaming industry and specifically publishers want to feel special. They don’t want to give up their ownership of anything. They want to own you through all their products for a lifetime.
And thus the question comes in: When I buy a game, am I buying the license to that game or the game itself?
In the case of the latter the user is then fully allowed to do with the game as they please, which includes reselling. I have my reasons for not wanting the secondhand market around, but I will not stand on ceremony and claim to not have benefited from said market.
If a publisher wishes to maintain control of a game after you have paid them for it, then I call ultimate greed, not known in other areas of the world’s industries. Sadly, this is the reality we face, with software and IP laws never quite being defined in the correct way, such that a piece of software, once purchased, constitutes a change of owners. Thus, we must accept EULAs before we can use a product, even though most products that are not games do allow use by multiple sources. Except of course for that expensive operating system we all know and love.
I for one would like to own the products I pay money for. How about you?
With the Xbox One, I feel that publishers are strong-arming Microsoft into creating something to handle the secondhand gaming ‘issue’ and thus, enforcing the licensing of their games, rather than empowering ownership by gamers. I wish I knew a solution to this but right now, all I can really do is talk about it. Licensing games is not cool. I want to own the games I pay for, as I’m sure you do too. I don’t even mind paying for a game secondhand if it means that when I pay for it, I become the owner of that product until such time as I relinquish ownership. No further fees involved.
Maybe some day…