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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Digital Distribution And Dennis Dyack

Dennis Dyack loves digital distribution, but you'll notice something telling about his comments.  Before we get to them, remember how I said that digital distribution isn't good for the average gamer, and that they'll reject any system that isn't in their best interests?  Dennis Dyack thinks so too, so he's trying to make you think that it's good for you.  Take it away, Dennis:

"In some ways it's the absolute elimination of any hardware as far as the consumer is concerned, because the hardware is the cloud," offered Dyack, a long-time advocate of a single standard format for games. "It helps on so many levels because it resolves the piracy issue, which is a massive problem today, and the used games issue, because you buy something and it's yours forever – it resides on the cloud. These are wins for the consumers and wins for the game developers."

I love the quote at the end.  What exactly is the win for the consumer?  You notice that he doesn't really have any benefits.  Both of his supposed "problems" are only problems for the companies themselves.  For instance:

1. Piracy.  Piracy is the ultimate consumer-benefit system.  I mean, all the games you want and you don't have to pay?  SCORE!  Don't misunderstand me:  Piracy is not good for game companies, but "free" is the ideal system for a consumer.

2. The Used Games "Issue."  Oh, you mean the issue where you can buy a game for less than retail instead of being beholden to the company who makes the games?  Yeah, by all means, let's get rid of THAT.

Both of these issues are problems for the companies themselves and not necessarily the consumer.  Dennis knows this, so he's going to try and make it sound like these are issues for the consumer.  It's a hearts-and-minds battle, and one that they'll lose.  For instance:

People confuse a one console future as a monopoly and that's completely wrong.

His argument is that it would be easier for anyone to pick out games because it would be all the same console, which is understandable.  If your grandma wants to buy you a DVD, she doesn't have to find out if you use DVD-X or DVD-Y, if you're running version 6.2.4 of the DVD-X firmware, or if you're connected to DVDLive! so you can watch the bonus features.  However, the vast majority of consumers understand the multiple-console system.  It's not a rampant problem, so it's a gigantic solution for a tiny problem.

In a perfect world, a one-console future wouldn't be a monopoly.  In a perfect world, games would be just like DVDs or CDs, with one format that's easy to use for everyone.  However, Sony is already stepping all over the next high-def format.  When someone makes a Blu-Ray drive or disc, they pay money to Sony (which is why Nintendo will never put in a Blu-Ray drive in their systems).  Blu-Ray is now the only high-def format available, and Sony charges at least $5 to $15 more per disc than standard DVD.  They want to make money.

In what future can you see a company selflessly creating a console format that everyone can use and make games for and NOT gouge customers?  Nintendo won't.  They make copious amounts of money off of their consoles.  Microsoft won't.  They want a foothold in the living room.  Sony won't.  They just spent millions of dollars on Blu-Ray, so they're not going to make a new format anytime soon.  That leaves a mysterious fourth contender, a dark horse, to make this nebulous "one-world" open format that will work on all consoles.  It would need to be a company with the clout to tell three giants what to do.  Can you think of any company that fits that bill?  No.  All three companies are extremely rich and don't have to answer to anyone.

Dennis, it's understood that you want the cloud.  We get it.  It would be great for your company, but it's not going to happen no matter how much you want it.  It's not good for the consumer so they'll reject it.  The main console makers won't agree to it.  And a word of warning to developers:  If you put too much emphasis on it, you'll run into major problems down the line.