In January of 2010, I decided to change my outlook on how I manage my gaming time, how I collect games, and how I contend with the nemesis that so many gamers share: the dreaded backlog....
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Since the advent of broadband internet, and even a bit before, “piracy” has been a problem. I use quotes because there is probably a better term that evokes illicit copying rather than Captain Hook. It is one of those problems that is supposed to get the same reaction from anyone. Asking a congressman to justify almost anything they do yields the response “because ______.” Only one of the following reasons is acceptable to fill in that blank:
Why is our defense budget so high? Because terrorists. Why do we need to take away all the guns/arm all the teachers? Because the children. Why can’t we unlock our cell phones? Because Nazis… I mean, because piracy.
No one is learning how wrong-headed that is right now more than EA. They bought and resurrected one of the most beloved and storied game franchises of all time, Sim City. It released this week, and was purported to be fantastic. The majority of the people who bought it, though, apparently would not know. EA designed this game to require a constant connection to their servers, even though it is essentially a single player experience. They claim it is for a social aspect, so people can share cities or something, but let’s be honest: it is for piracy. EA wants your $50-60, and wants to make damn sure that you can’t play if you didn’t pay. (Also hilarious: they are not offering refunds.)
In an ironic twist, many who did pay still can’t play. EA has been working on adding servers all week to support demand, to no avail. Rather than updating the game to remove the requirement of connectivity, they have decided to save their precious game-breaking DRM by disabling the actual game features that require the internet, like leaderboards. Kotaku has billed this fiasco “Sim City Disaster Watch.” Polygon, who initally gave the game a review score of 9.5/10, has lowered its score to a 4. I can’t say it better than Chris Kluwe:
Next question @simcity: How many lost sales do you predict from word of mouth versus general piracy rates? What does the maff say?
— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) March 7, 2013
The other end of the spectrum is Game of Thrones (or it is a different spectrum, not sure). HBO could care less that it is the most pirated TV show for a couple years running, because it gets people talking about Game of Thrones. However, in their case, it is more about necessity than stealing. They offer no other avenues of purchase besides subscribing to their network (on top of a cable subscription, in the age of cable cutting).
Really, there has to be some middle ground here somewhere. A way for a company to take my money in exchange for a good product. Capitalism, maybe?