The game ownership issue.

In the Questions thread, Ed confirmed that the Big Blue will be playable offline without the need for an internet connection and that he does not support region locking. These are both great to hear.

The issues I raised in the Questions thread were:


-Ownership of the game: The practice of "this game is licensed to you and not sold" VS selling you the game on a disc which then becomes your private property (like retro games).

-Digital VS physical media

-Limited installs

Yesterday's unveiling of Microsoft's new console, the Xbox One, resulted in a universal, unprecedented explosion of negative feedback all across the internet against the business practices that are now common in modern games. The rage was not just from retro gamers, but also from core gamers who are major customers for modern games.

I think now would be as good a time as any to discuss these issues and how they relate to the upcoming Kickstarters for the Little Blue and Big Blue. Ed did say he's not ready to comment on the DRM issue yet, but his confirmation of the game being playable offline rules it out for the offline portion of the game. Specifically, I would like to hear what the community thinks on the issues of game preservation, limited installs, digital VS physical media for games, and owning VS being "licensed" the game.

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  • Another issue is the practice of EULA for PC games.

    I believe I read that EULA's are now legally unenforcable in Europe because of a recent ruling. This is something to take into consideration.

  • The following is NOT a personal attack on Ed or Playchemy.

    I am surprised this has not gotten any replies.

    Just to be clear, I am talking about private property, not intellectual property.

    On the game ownership issue, the line currently being touted by industry marketers and Xbox apologists is this, apparently taken from the manual of Call of Duty Black Ops II:

    "LIMITED USE LICENSE. Activision grants you the non-exclusive, non-transferable, limited right and license to use one copy of this Product solely and exclusively for your personal use...This Product is licensed, not sold. Your license confers no title or ownership in the Product and should not be contrused as a sale of any rights in this Product."

    They are trying to convince people that this has always been the case and that you can find a similar message in the manual for any video game from all generations. That's not true. Go through the manual of a game from any of your retro consoles, and I guarantee you will not find anything.

    Genesis: Nothing about licenses

    Dreamcast: Nothing about licenses

    PS2: Nothing about licenses

    That's because we OWN those games.

    I don't mean to post a rant here, but this is an important issue to any gamer and Playchemy's stance should be clarified in the Kickstarter. You will not win over backers by telling them that they are giving money towards a game that they will not actually own. Due to the increased awareness now of game ownership issues, opting to "license not sell" would very likely lead to the Kickstarter NOT getting funded.

    This may seem out of place that I am talking about consoles here, since none of the planned platforms for the Big Blue are consoles yet. PC gamers have not owned their games for some time because they have accepted this change which is now moving into consoles. There is nothing obligating companies to "license not sell" for PC games, they choose to do it because that door has been opened and it nets them more money. Because of that, companies assume that by only doing "licensed not sold", they assume that people will throw a fit then eventually accept it and give them money. As I said in the Questions thread, licensing is understandable for digital games, since it's not an actual "product" you can hold, but it is not acceptable for physical games. This is why I have been pushing for a physical copy to be made a KS reward, at least in 20 years I will still have access to the game (if we get the actual game on the disk). I am bringing all this up because PC is the only platform I have that the Big Blue / Little Blue is currently being developed for.

    What I would find very disheartening, is if a physical copy of the game is not the actual game and is "licensed not sold". The only function of discs for "licensed not sold" is to install the game to the computer and tie it to a limited number of installs which then make the disc garbage when they are all used up. I'm sorry to say, but if that is the case then I will not stand for it and will not be backing this project. I am not condoning piracy or encouraging people to pirate the Little Blue when it comes out, but "licensed not sold" games only make people more sympathetic to the pirates and drive up piracy rates further.

    Ed, you are literally the last developer I still care about. I would not be here making all these posts if I did not care a lot about this project. Please make the right choice on the "licensed not sold" issue and allow us to purchase a physical copy of the game that we will actually own. The copies of Ecco the Dolphin and Ecco: The Tides of Time sitting on my shelf are games I legally purchased and own: I can play them on as many consoles as I want, I can resell them, I can play them when I want. Those are not "licenses" wrapped in nice Genesis clamshell cases that I bought from you and Sega, they are games that I bought from you and Sega and they are my private property. Sega owns the IP and the copyright, I own those specific physical copies of the games.

    The practice of doing "this product is licensed to you and not sold" for video games is considered viewing and treating your customers and fans with contempt. The fans are the people who put bread on the table by buying games, they deserve to actually own what they are buying. I have every right to legally own a video game that I legally purchase, just as much as I do a book, a lamp, a car, a piece of clothing, a toy, or any other type of physical goods. Sure some people will plug their nose and buy the game if it is "licensed not sold", but I will not.

    Ed, I'm sure you must have been a gamer before you got into making video games. If you had an Atari 2600 when you were a kid, you still legally own all those video games you bought, just as I own the Atari 2600 games sitting on my shelf. The problem is that now PC gamers have largely had that right taken away from them and it is just starting now with the current and upcoming generation of consoles, and I will never support that. Please try to see it from our perspective as gamers and consumers.

    You say you want as many people as possible playing and enjoying The Little Blue - I guarantee you that will not happen by making the PC version "licensed not sold" with limited installs.

  • Icedolphin, every PC game in recent years has that license thing. It doesn't actually mean anything. The only time I know of a company trying to enforce it, they actually failed:

    I think there are far bigger issues with the digital market (which, like it or not, will eventually replace the retail market). This won't have any impact on a potential Kickstarter because nobody cares about it. Basically the consumer only cares when it actually affects them directly.

    As for other aspects, maybe I'll discuss those later. Suffice to say, I'm not a fan of DRM.

  • I don't care if it's enforced or not, the very fact that it's there means it opens the door to potential enforcement and it guarantees that I will not support any game that has it. I am grudgingly willing to come out of my cave and support a PC version for LB/BB since there are no console versions, but not if it is 'licensed not sold'.

    The fact of the matter is that courts and governments are increasingly siding with the companies over the consumer. In Canada, a bill unfortunately just passed in the federal parliament, Bill C-56, which makes it potentially illegal to import legally purchased, legal goods from other countries (parallel imports). It was disguised as an anti-piracy bill to fight bootleg clothing, but one of the clauses opens the door to making it illegal to import legal goods from other countries. It is protectionist bull crap. It got zero attention in the mainstream media because no competition means more money for them. Under the Bill, any copyright holder can request that the government seize all foreign versions of their goods entering Canada if they have a copyright on it in another country. The free market is now dead in this country.

    And when the video game market goes full digital, I will not support it. I will not be supporting the next generation of gaming anyway because of the restrictions already imposed upon physical games in the current generation and it is only going to get worse from here on out. PS3 and Wii games have a copy block on save files, ensuring that you can not permanently back up your save data or take your file with you to a friend's house, such as on a memory card. Their justification for it is that you might use it to cheat to get trophies, a stupid gimmick that only a minority care about.

    There are more than enough retro games out there to keep me busy for the rest of my life, and that is the path I see myself going on with the way things have been going.

    I just pulled out one of my childhood PC games, Sim Safari (Windows 98, 1999) and read through the manual. There is nothing about licenses or even EULA because PC gamers owned their games back then. The best part of all: the game was made by EA. Shows how times have changed.

  • Its a game.  Lets not get too worked up over legal issues.  Its about fun, fantasy, inspiration.  I am not interested in any of your commentary.  I am not interested in DRM or ownership issues.  Please forgive me for saying this but I don't care.  Go make your soap box blog posts somewhere else. 

  • I think Ed makes a fair point. Recent discussion is less about the game itself and more about everything else surrounding it. This forum wasn't meant for us to discuss everything that's wrong with the gaming industry, and it's certainly not up to Ed to change these things. These discussions aren't healthy for the forum as most people simply aren't interested in them (and clearly Ed isn't either). I'm fine with dropping any and all discussions about micro-transactions, DRM, game ownership and whatever else so we can focus on talking about the actual game itself.

  • I apologize if you interpreted my posts as a personal attack. However, if this is how you feel then you should have said so at the beginning instead of wasting my time. I do not know why you are getting offended. You did not comment on or try to refute any of my points and now you are acting like this. I never insulted you. I never insulted your company. I never insulted your games. I made it clear that my grievances were with the practices and not with anyone personally. I never said you were going to use those practices. From your "zzzzz" post it is clear that you did not even bother reading the subsequent posts on that page, which were me responding to other members and not even directed at you.

    You have been making games independently for 10+ years so there is no way you could not have had to think about game ownership issues, you would have had to make decisions about them in the past. Draikin was the one talking the most about DRM, not me, so I do not know why you are attacking me for it. Furthermore you have been giving us contradictory statements on these issues. First you say that you are not ready to make a decision on DRM and game ownership issues, now you say you do not care at all. If you do not care, then why is it so hard to give us what we want? If you go with Kickstarter, that cuts out the publisher and the decision will be entirely in your hands and you will have to think about it. If you do not care about these issues then you should go with a publisher because they do not care either.

    I do not see how making lengthy, detailed posts counts as a "blog" or that I have trashy "soapbox" views. I always backed up and fleshed out my side instead of making short, sweeping arguments. Most forums appreciate long posts and have rules against short replies that do not add to the discussion at hand. I do not see how presenting my case and trying to help you understand how to get the consumers to fund your game somehow turns me into the bad guy. My point was not to dictate to you, but to present my case for you to take into consideration. Over 800 people pledged money to you on KS. How many of them migrated over here? There are maybe 6-7 active members here. You should be grateful for the few people who actually take the time to post here and try to help you. If you do not understand or care about the consumer, then your game will never get funded.

    If you go to Kickstarter, you have to deal with us directly. If you go with a publisher, you still have to deal with us down the road. Like it or not you still have to deal with the consumer at the end of the day and the customer is king. Games are a commercial enterprise. You can get funding for a publisher or wherever else, but it will always be the consumer that will provide the return on that investment and any profits. I understand that as a general rule, what is good for the consumer is not for the developer and vice versa, but it is about finding a balance between the two. Whatever someone may think of the quality of modern games, there is no denying that the industry is shrinking economically and that is because the consumer is getting the short end of the stick so they are less willing to spend money on new games.

    Most of my posts on this forum have been me talking about the game itself. I said I would be patient and wait for your response on these issues, I was not prodding you. If I am not welcome here and you think I have sleazy "soapbox" views that contribute nothing of value to the discussion of your game then you should be upfront about it. Sorry for being passionate about my hobby.

    Yes, it is a game, and I agree with you on that. But games are not enjoyable when they have so many economic and legal strings attached. Think about what made owning Ecco enjoyable in the 1990s. Or, think about what happens when you buy a DVD. People want the core product, they don't want all the unnecessary stuff like animated menus and unskippable commercials (or DRM in the case of bluray) dragging it down. If the legal issues are not your thing, then that's fine. But people will be asking about those issues anyway because they are real and valid concerns. If they were not, then there would not have been this massive backlash against the Xbox One, which was almost entirely about legal issues.

    If this issue bothers you so much, then maybe you should direct us to someone at your company that we can present our case to and you can handle, on this forum, all aspects of the actual game itself. If you do not want this issue discussed here, fine. But it's not going to go away by ignoring it so we should have someone to talk to about it.

    Since you are the head and director of this project, I assumed that you would be involved in managing all aspects of the game's development and would be willing to listen to us on all issues. I apologize if that is not the case.

  • I don't feel personally attacked and I respect that you have very strong opinions about these issues.   To be honest I don't know how to respond, not only can I not fix your problems but I dont even have the interest to talk about them.   Yeah its been 20+ years of making games and that is what I do.  Its not a hobby for me, its my life, and I could care less about any of these ownership issues.   

    I dont mind if you want to continue the discussion and I can promise I will consider all angles to the many complex issues about games and ownership etc, but please understand I can't spend that much time on such things.  

    I am sorry if I came off frustrated. 

  • So are you saying that you don't care about the consumer so long as you can keep making games, or are you saying you don't care enough about these issues to implement anything that would be harmful to the game?

    All these issues and practices only punish your most passionate customers: people who care enough about your game to want to be able to still play it in 20 years. Most developers can only dream of people still being interested in their games decades after the fact. These practices are not going to effect the pirates. They're not going to effect the casuals who won't play the game for more than 6 months and will move on to the next, flashiest thing. It only hurts those who actually want to support the company by buying the game and want to be able to play it in the future.

    Modern video games are designed to be disposable so that when the installs run out or the servers shut down, the companies can force you to pay for a poorly emulated ROM on some download service on a new machine for a game you already own and should still be able to play.

    I went through and installed some of my old offline Windows 98 games just to check. There's nothing in the manual about not owning the game, no DRM, there's not even a EULA when you install the games. All this stuff only became rampant in the last decade and it has actually killed the used games market for PC games. Most retailers no longer accept or sell used PC games anymore simply because they're designed to be disposable, some of them after a single install, and they can't sell them to people because of that and nobody will or does pay for it.

    All these issues only limit the audience for a game and harm those who actually want to support you. Nobody lends PC games anymore simply because they're designed around these destructive business models and by lending a game, it will either not work or it will further limit its lifespan because of the limited installs.

    This gem was in the news last week:

    Basically what he's saying is "We're going to keep making games that you won't own and if you don't like it you can go f**k yourself".

    Developers like to blame these practices on the economy, but that's not a valid excuse. In Japan, the 16-bit era was the golden age of gaming and was extremely profitable, and the Japanese economy was in trouble during that time too. An incredible amount of creativity and quality games came out of the country during that time. Not only that, there was also a much more diverse, healthier selection of competition. For consoles there was the Megadrive, Super Famicom, PC Engine and Neo Geo (to a degree), but there were also a variety of dedicated gaming PCs like the MSX and X68000 in addition to DOS, Apple and Amiga computers. In comparison, the industry of today has a very limited selection of competitors. It's not like video games weren't profitable 20 years ago before all these anti-consumer business practices came along in the modern age.

    All these practices are simply about taking game ownership away so they can give the game a set lifespan and force you to constantly repurchase it in a vicious cycle every time the servers go down and a new machine comes along.

    Developers only see the money these practices bring in in the short term. But in the long term it is destructive and it breeds spite and bad blood with the consumer. It is a big part of why the industry is in a state of decline. Not caring about the consumer brought down Atari and Sega. It has brought Sony and Nintendo to their knees. And it has sunk a plethora of game developers. Very few developers survived the last two game generations in good shape.

  • Weirdly I am 100% confident I will make the best decisions for the games and the players when the time comes.  I'm not religious about it since all games are different and times and attitudes change.  With respect to BB, I am not sure what the appropriate business model will be.  I'm not saying I don't care about the feelings of the game players, I'm saying I will.  

  • Very well. I apologize for this whole heated exchange. No hard feelings. Though I stand by my statements.

    I have restored the Ecco the Dolphin Wiki's support for LB/BB. The wiki (and my site) will continue to support and cover the games until and after they are released. If a flood of new content becomes problematic for the wiki's structure in the future, then we can decide if a separate LB/BB wiki is needed. Given that larger wikis have thousands of pages, I do not think it will be a problem.

  • On physical vs digital media,

    Digital-only limits a game's availability entirely to those with credit cards. Many people are still justifiably paranoid about online shopping as if it's 1999, especially outside of well known services like Amazon and Ebay. It's something to think about.

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