Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 3, 2021

Email: Re: Always buy physical

Hello master Malstrom.

I agree 100% on buying physical, as you’ve said before, the game is yours and is outside of the control of any company. What I find sad nowadays is that sometimes you cannot make yourself with a game even though you bought it physically. Incomplete games on disc, or the disc is just the key to unlock the game that you have to download. Or games that are mostly on the disc or cartridge are buggy and must be patched. Or games that have DLC down the line are not wholly complete.

In the case of Nintendo games they’re usually complete, save for some DLC here or there, but that doesn’t bother me since usually Nintendo consoles are kinda easy to mod and when their servers are shut down I’ll just fire up the DLC via a mod. The same cannot always be said about M$ or $ony though, they love to secure everything so much and it becomes a hassle. Or when something is attached to some kind of copyright or license then it becomes unavailable eventually.

Something I avoid like the plague is games that rely almost entirely on their online functionality and that lack any kind of LAN play. When Mario kart servers shut down it won’t matter because one can always link up multiple switch consoles (up to 12 in LAN mode); but when some of the AAA shooter servers go down, you can no longer play the game. It’s ridiculous when these games have a full price tag and are basically online only.

Then you also have cheap companies like Capcom or Square that release games in the west physically but only include half the content, like Resident Evil 0+1 where only Zero comes on the game cart and RE1 has to be downloaded. Same with Final Fantasy X HD. At least the Japanese releases have both games in the cart and have language selection.

The industry dislikes customers having control over the content, if it was up to them, we’d have to buy things over and over again.

And it’s not only games of course, if it were up to the powers that be, we’d rent everything. Car makers don’t build cars for ownership anymore, they build them for lease. Every year is harder and harder to get a mortgage. And of course services like Netflix or Microsoft’s Gamepass revolve around a monthly fee. If it were for them, we’d rent everything, you get the benefits while you pay, but owe nothing in the end.

I’m extremely cynical about ‘digital games’ for a variety of reasons. But let us define ‘digital’ versus ‘physical’ for a moment.

By ‘physical’, we don’t really mean ‘comes on a disk or cartridge’. What we really mean is ‘I can control it’.

The truth is that all games, prior to consoles, were ‘digital’. With your diskettes, you were legally allowed to create backups. In other words, you could GENERATE as many ‘physical versions’ of the game as you would want (legally, it as for just one back up copy).

What prevented piracy? Copy protection. These included looking things up in the manual to code wheels. Say what you want about this era, I think it had the best games and many games got clever in how they did it. They used the PHYSICAL medium, such as a manual or map, to act as the key to the game which no one cared how many copies you used.

The RTS genre owes its existence to digital copying. Warcraft 2 had ‘spawning’, as did Starcraft, which allowed one CD to generate many copies of the same game for multiplayer. Red Alert came with two discs, one for each single player campaign, but it allowed two people to play multiplayer. Blizzard and Westwood were experienced ‘indie companies’ back then.

DS games allowed spawning via multiplayer. I loved how Bomberman for the DS allowed you to generate multiplayer versions of the game to all DS systems. I had many DS Bomberman ‘parties’ because of this!

This is why we cannot simplify it as ‘digital versus physical’ because that isn’t the issue. The issue is about centralization. A game company can sell you a physical product that can only work if you connect to their online server. Technically, that is a ‘physical product’, but it isn’t what we mean by ‘physical’.

Ownership versus non-ownership. You cannot OWN a digital game because you cannot RESELL it. It’s that simple.

Initially, I thought the move to digital was all about profit. There are certainly short term profits in digital, but there is no long term profits at all. The only reason why a digital game is selling at $60-70 is because it is disrupting the physical $60-70 game. When ALL games go digital, all prices will collapse. Look at PC gaming for this. Look at Steam for this. I’m trying to make a game myself, and I don’t know how to compete against AAA games selling for $5-$10 everywhere.

Despite the incoming price collapse, the Game Industry is impatiently hurrying towards ‘digital’. Why? Again, it’s about non-ownership. I also think it is about other things too.

When I started this site, I did something that hardly anyone did. I cited game sales. If someone said, “This game is amazing!” I would respond, ‘Why did it sell so bad then?’ And the inverse was “This game is terrible!” would be responded to, ‘But it is selling strongly. SOMEONE must like it.’

Why did I do this? It wasn’t so much to say that sales equaled quality, but to bring reality into gaming conversations. Saying ‘This game sucks!’ while the game is selling left and right makes the gamer blind to a huge market. Also saying a game is ‘awesome’ that no one buys is showing the gamer might be in an alternate reality.

The point is that we want more reality, not less, in order to analyze anything.

Because everyone (masses) looks at sales data now, more and more of that information has been pulled from the public or outright faked. “Our game is selling AMAZING!” It’s marketing. It’s hard to get accurate information, and information that is voluntarily disclosed will always be used for marketing purposes.

In the past (1980s, forty years ago!!!), game developers wanted to create things that PLEASED PEOPLE. People would then BUY THE GAME, and the game developer could do it for a living. Now that game development has become an ‘industry’, this has largely changed.

“They just want to make money!” This is true. And I have no problem with anyone making money so long as the product is pleasing people. But how do you make money without pleasing people? They could put in hidden fees, addiction wheels, gambling, and so on. This is what they are doing and have been for a while.

What I see the trend moving to is game developers wanting to make games no one wants to buy. If games are getting more and more expensive to make, how do you make games no one wants to buy?

Look at the cable TV business model. There were many shows on there that no one watched. Yet, they got funded because they were part of a ‘package’. When you bought cable subscription, the customer normally just watched sports and maybe a few TV shows. Yet, that package was funding ridiculous channels and shows that NO ONE would ever pay for!

THIS is the future of gaming. All the ‘subscription game services’ are going to fund games no one wants to play. What is the purpose of making games no one wants to play?

Today’s developers do not want to PLEASE people. They want a DEVELOPMENT LIFESTYLE. They want to make-believe they are developers, drink lattes, and sniff their own farts over how CREATIVE they are. They want a life where they ‘talk about games’, not actually make something people want to play. I believe this is the core engine behind making games no one wants to play.

Another incentive may be for propaganda purposes. Games people want to play, say sports games, will be funding games people do not want to play, i.e. propaganda games. They’ll use the game as a political platform and use the subscription services to fund it.

In the 1990s, newspapers (remember those? haha) angrily chided game developers because so many of their games catered to male interests. This mean fun stuff like spaceships, war, and hot women.

Above: Games used to be about fun. In Red Alert 2, it was a crazy mesh of time travel, world war, and hot babes.

The game developers would respond, “If they want games about these things, there is nothing stopping anyone from programming and selling those games.”

But as games become more and more expensive, there is more and more control by those who control such money. This would be large publicly traded companies. This means people not involved in game development are going to be those deciding how and which games are made.

So the reason why I don’t buy digital goes WAY beyond the lack of a ‘physical dongle’. I want games to succeed or fail based on consumer enjoyment, not investment reaction. I have no problem with ‘developer lifestyle’ games or propaganda games. NES generation remembers the ‘Bible Tree’ unlicensed NES games of the past. The point is that they sold those products direct to the consumer. Bible Tree did not use the sales of Super Tecmo Bowl to fund religious games. Who funded the religious games (outside those religious organizations)? It was the consumers themselves. Since I don’t think too many people bought the Bible Tree games, they stopped being made. But if Bible Tree had the cashflow from other games, say in a subscription model, then they would keep putting out bad games to this day.

I want a positive market meaning products people want. I do not want a NEGATIVE market where nothing is produced that people DON’T WANT. Can video games exist as a negative market? Only if the direct relationship of product to consumer is altered which is exactly what ‘subscription games channel’ is doing.

To those who think I am just imagining things, the biggest mover in this space is Microsoft. Microsoft’s past is about putting out consoles that lost BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of dollars. In a true market, the Xbox could not and cannot exist. It only existed because Microsoft FUNDED it through its other departments

When I see ‘Game Pass’, I don’t see a ‘great deal’ for gamers. I see a ‘lousy deal’. I see the set ups for breaking the relationship of product and customer.

When I see Microsoft buying all these game studios, I do not see ‘gaming renaissance’. I see ‘gaming dark age’. The purpose of these game studios is to either create reasons for people to throw money at the service OR to create some sort of propaganda. The former will finance the latter.

In the past, a console company wanted a HIT GAME because it would cause people to buy the hardware. It would be a ‘killer app’. Today, that is NOT the purpose. Microsoft doesn’t care if you buy its hardware or not. They just want you in their SUBSCRIPTION. They want you to go for games you want so they can give you games you don’t want. This is their way around the economics of consumer satisfaction.


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