Monday, February 26, 2007

Getting the Raw Deal

Please know that I'm a BioWare fanboy. A big one. They are my hometown heroes, and I can gush on about their corporate and game histories and achievements for longer then you'd care to listen. Everything they do seems to be done with their community in mind. They make games with care and detail, they provide their own support (and do it better than most others), and they encourage advancements in open and community generated content.

The Neverwinter Nights Premium Modules were a great step into the age of online distributed content. For a nominal price you can buy new content, professionally produced, that includes additional audio, textures, and other details not usually included with free, community created, content. Chances are you've read about this somewhere, so I'll not go into too much detail here.

I must tell you that I am now worried about the direction they are heading with online content. After a great start they seem to have fallen into the trap of offering bad deals in the name of online distribution. Here's the quick breakdown: Jade Empire Special Edition (for PC) comes out in a couple of days. EB Games is listing the game (with Bonus for preorders) for $40USD. BioWare is listing the Digital Download of the same game (no mention of bonus) for the same price.

Why am I paying the same price for just the data as I am for the retail packaging? They even warn on the information page:
This is a downloadable purchase. No product will be shipped.
Well, at least I know. But I'm guessing that the 6 gigabyte download (and 15GB install!) is going to take longer to get than a return trip to my local BestBuy to grab the meatspace version. From personal experience, 6GB is an overnighter. Which is probably why they are encouraging fans to pre-order now so that you can pre-load the game.

But all of that isn't what got me frazzled enough to write this post. I know that A-List games are suffering from content bloat. I realize that someone has to pay for the bandwidth to push 6GB several thousand times. I understand that they can get a better ROI by not having a disc, box art, and shipping costs. What bothers me is what I found in the FAQ section:
A full version digital game can be installed up to three times. If you have exceeded this limit please contact support with your account name and the reason the limit was exceeded. [emphasis mine]
Three times! There are many games that I've installed more than three times. The reason? I wanted to play it on more than three occasions. I've bought a new computer. I had to reinstall my OS. I simply don't have hard drive space for a (15GB!) game when I'm not playing it.

I don't know about you, but I play a game and then I generally uninstall it if it doesn't have a lot of immediate replayability. Some games get the privilege of a permanent spot in the Games folder. They are usually the ones that I can play for 15 minutes anytime, or can play online with others. Just because a game is story focused doesn't mean that I'll never play the game again. I'd certainly like to have that option.

Please don't buy the Digital Download of Jade Empire. Doing so would encourage the publisher-centric mentality that has gotten us this kind of raw deal. We need to send the message that they cannot confuse the consumer by offering something that sounds convent but really isn't. When you spend your money on content, you should have access to that content without the worry that you'll extend the limits of its use. This is not how online distribution of content should work, and we need to say so.

1 comment:

  1. I myself love digital downloads... of course, I am sitting on a bandwidth pipe that lets me pull down 6 gigs in about 2 hours, sometimes less.

    I love downloading my software.

    But I see your point in saying that digital distribution can be a right pain in the butt if people are forced to wait ages for it to download, and then hit with DRM restrictions that only let you install something thrice. That is just silly.