Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 4, 2013

Email: Humble Bundle puts stop to Steam key abuse, users upset

i don’t know if you are familiar with Humble Bundle, so here is a quick rundown: they organise various game bundles where the buyers can decide on the price, with some games only unlocking if you beat the average. Aside from the bundles there is also the weekly sale, which is like a bundle from one publisher. They also run the Humble Store, which can be used by developers who want to sell games directly to customers (when you buy FTL from the developer’s site you do it via Humble Store). Usually the bundles are DRM-free, but the weekly sale isn’t necessarily.

You would also get Steam keys for the games if you want to have them in your Steam library. Those keys were intended for personal use only, but people kept trading and selling keys. Humble Bundle have been tolerating it for a while, but now they put a stop to it: to redeem the keys you have to link your Steam account to your Humble Bundle account:

The talk about convenience is BS, everyone knows the real reason. And I really don’t see any problem with it. The keys are for personal use and nothing has changed. Unless of course you are one of the scammers. Here is what baffles me: people feel entitled to get a bunch of games for a dollar and on top of it profit by trading the keys for other games. I could understand it if the bundle had a fixed price and you were forced to pay for games you don’t want, but here you set the price yourself. Have Steam sales and Free2Play games lowered the value of gaming so much, that the hardcore are now demanding every game to be handed to them on a silver platter?

I think this is part of a bigger issue I’m convinced is occurring. I keep thinking back on Clayton Christenson’s company saying this economic depression is truly a ‘Mass Disruption’.

Everything has good sides and bad sides. The computer revolution, despite what the nerds say, does have bad sides to it. (*cough* NSA *cough*) One of the bad sides is that the computer revolution has CHEAPENED INTELLECTUAL LABOR. Feel sorry for mathematicians. There is ZERO DEMAND for their services today, and they used to be seen as the intellectual giants. There is ZERO demand for mathematical services today because computers can do them all. Other professions that were expensive intellectual labor would be jobs like the lawyer.

Nintendo has been struggling to face this cheapening of intellectual labor. If you recall, there was once a letter sent in to Nintendo Power of someone complaining why NES games cost $50 if the cartridge, itself, only costed $5. Nintendo Power responded, correctly, that the actual price is for the intellectual labor concerning the art and programming code that is on the cartridge. When you buy a game, it is not the cartridge you want but the game that is inside it.

Today, gaming is in serious trouble because of the cheapening of intellectual labor. The high profit that was once available on NES games is no longer there on today’s games. Part of this is because game development costs have become so expensive. But another part is that games are no longer seen as special.

Another profession that are being wrecked by cheapening of intellectual labor would be the writer. Writers never made much before. Today, they make virtually nothing. While people used to pay $20 for a hardback book back in the day, today, people pay like $1 if anything for an E-book.

Everyone sees that intellectual property has been bulldozed by the computer revolution. But not many people see intellectual labor has also been flattened. When the computer revolution started, we thought we’d all be super intellectuals tapping away at computers and the ‘ugly jobs’ of blue collar professions would vanish. If anything, it has been the opposite. The plumber has job security while the programmer sees his job outsourced overseas.

Companies like Nintendo are facing a very big challenge in that more and more people expect games to be free (!) or to cost very little money. Nintendo’s response has been to integrate hardware and software to create value. I won’t go into reasons why Nintendo’s perspective is skewed on this.

One additional problem with lowering prices is that the customer population changes. Cheap products equals cheap users. The reason why online communities seem to get worse and worse is because the class of people coming in keeps getting lower and lower with cheapening introductory costs. I’ve seen this first-hand. Multiplayer PC gaming was wondrous back in the 1980s because it took significant money, time, and smarts in order to get into PC gaming at a high level back then. I remember Kali for DOS. The community was polite, fun, and well mannered. THERE WERE NO CHILDREN. When Kali went Windows, children began to pour in and the community suffered. Then came Battle Net (Battle Net was modeled after Kali), and IT GOT WORSE. You had to pay $15 for Kali whereas Battlenet was free.

Online communities determine the value of online multiplayer. The reason why I’m against Free-2-Play and even cheap sales of certain games is that it can wreck the online community (although there are so many online multiplayer games today that they cannibalize everyone meaning there are empty servers).

I DO think gamers feel entitled to cheap prices and even think they deserve to sell the extra Steam keys.

I don’t think, however, this is due to ‘dying culture’ or whatever society theory one wants. I think that cheapening prices = less classy customers.

“But I thought you were for the masses like with the Wii!”

Fool! Gaming used to be about CHEAP hardware and EXPENSIVE games. The games had value, not the stupid consoles! Today, it has become upside down. There is EXPENSIVE hardware and CHEAP games. I think this is a very bad combination.

I would like Nintendo to pursue a route of cheap hardware and expensive games. Besides, they make their profit from the software, not the hardware. Consoles are always ‘dumbed down hardware’ compared to PCs. The NES hardware was a joke compared to 16-bit PCs. Still, the games were good. There is a reason why the Golden Age of Console Gaming coincides when some games costed $70.


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