Greed in Gaming – why I'm worried

The prices of games don’t worry me, let’s get that out of the way. I like where they’re at right now. I can stand the price points, if I have to, and I’m always glad to see that consoles are being revised, but prices are still coming down. Very exciting.

I also think that the PlayStation Network trying to get everyone to go with the PlayStation Plus membership is understandable. Having an infrastructure the size of the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live isn’t free.

BUT PC gaming was always free!!! Yes, and PC Gaming has always been decentralized. Even at the end of life for most games, a patch would be released that would allow people to host their own switching servers that would list all of the game servers. These things don’t happen much any more (anybody seen any Matrix Online sandbox servers?), but more importantly: this doesn’t happen in console games.

You see, I’m not writing because games are too expensive, or the online services are – but this attempt to make a buck by making us register to play your game online? This worries me. Not just because of the price, but because of the problems that these greedy publishers are causing in the long term.

Earlier this week, I awoke and wanted to play some more of the single player races in Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. I was connected to Xbox Live, but I was not connected to NFS’s “autolog” server, it appeared to be down. Maybe there was an issue with my modem or router or something else, but it shouldn’t matter. I’m on Xbox Live, I’m on the internet – I should NEED to be VERIFIED by your server, just to play the game that I purchased, particularly if I want to play it offline!

These new off-site servers have been a fear of mine as long as online gaming and DRM has existed. Nobody likes it, but they keep pushing it on us, to protect their product. Here’s the thing: Microsoft protects your product via Xbox Live. Leave me alone. I don’t need another middle-man.

Season Pass for EA Sports games. Call of Duty Elite. Autolog for Need for Speed. Mortal Kombat’s Kombat Pass. These are all ways that the developers want to make an extra buck. So far they have “graciously” included the services with retail copies of the game, but as demonstrated in my experience with Autolog – membership or not, it doesn’t matter… if the service is inaccessible, so is your game – even if you just want to play locally.

The other games may not follow the same “authentication first” formula, but all of these little middleman services worry me, and they’re all in an effort to reduce piracy, and make a few dollars from the used games industry, which, in my opinion, is solely motivated by greed.

Can Wal-Mart save us from Big Oil?

Why isn’t anyone going up to bat for the little guy?  The little guy being you and I, by the way.

 

Everyone is blogging about oil prices this week, but I’m wondering why nobody is looking at it from this angle: the public needs support from larger companies.  It’s not every day when I think a big company should be helping out the general public, but this time I think I can make a case for it.

 

There’s lots of finger pointing going on and everyone is blaming one thing after another for high gas prices.  In 2008, the last time gas topped $4 a gallon in my neck of the woods, everyone said it was out of control and there was nothing they could do about it – but oil companies posted some of the largest prices of any company in the history of anything ever.  And I’m not being hyperbolic.  The latest round of rumors are that American oil production isn’t even operating at 100% right now, there isn’t a gas crisis or a gas shortage: it’s the futures market that is causing the crazy high gas prices.  I don’t care who is to blame, all I know is it hurts.

 

As gas prices approach the $4.00 per gallon mark, the economy can see (in broad terms) a slow down in sales elsewhere, like retail for instance.  We go through a national “belt tightening” every time gas prices get just a tad too high.  You can try to do things like buy gas cards, or even join Sam’s Club, where member-only gas pumps are often five to ten cents cheaper than neighboring gas stations…  but that’s not enough.

 

gaspumps

image credit: m_bartosch.

I think the big chain stores, like the Wal-Marts, the Lowes, Sears, Targets – they need to band together to find something to do about gas prices.  With enough pressure from them, there must be something that the Exxons of the world can do to trim back their excessively high profit margins.  While the consumer may be feeling the pinch now, I believe this could be bad news for the economy in the long run, because I sure will be going out less, doing less, spending less.  That many for my gas tank has to come from somewhere, and I need to get to work.  What I don’t need is to travel the interstates during my time off.  Stay-cation ‘08 is coming back for 2011!

 

Although large chains like Wal-Mart and Target might be able to ride out the storm, other chains that might not have quite as much draw may want to start putting a plan together, because I can certainly get by without visiting my local local RadioShack any time in the next six months, and might have to if I can’t afford the tiny luxuries of wasting money on random cabling and electronics supplies.  They might not be giants, but they’re big enough to get the attention of the oil companies and try to figure out what can be done to keep people like me on the road, instead of in the driveway.