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So it will take us a few hours to sort out and release a patch. Big deal. We're good for it.

Yeah. Except, you don't need to release one patch. You'll need a bunch. If you go out of business you'll need patches for every activation-based game you've ever released. Shoot Guy 2 through Shoot Guy 6, plus the expansion packs and the RTS.

That's not that many...

Plus the Mac versions for all of the above. And the international (European) versions. And the special Australian versions that replace the aliens with kittens and the blood with lowfat strawberry yogurt. We're talking about releasing dozens of patches that could represent hundreds of hours of labor.

We could get the patches ready ahead of time and put them out when the time comes.

A nice thought, although nobody has done this yet. Prey had online activation. It came out four years ago. When was the last time anyone saw that game on the shelf? What sales are being protected by the activation system? Nobody has ever made an official policy of, "We'll release a patch and take down a server three years after a game comes out." Everyone seems intent on running the activation servers "forever". If 2kGames hasn't released a patch for a game which is no longer for sale, why should your game be any different? And if you are serious about putting out the patch, why don't you give us a date?

They removed the activation check for BioShock!

No. In fact, that's specifically what they didn't do. They set the server to always say "yes" when someone does an install, but they never released a patch to stop the game from asking in the first place. If that server were to go down, it would no longer be possible to install the legitimate retail version of the game.

Really. We'll put up the patches. Seriously.

Put it up? Where? You've been bought up or are going out of business. You've come in on Friday morning to find all your stuff in a cardboard box with a terse note thanking you for all of your hard work. The servers are going down tonight. Where exactly will you be putting these patches?

We could put it on a torrent. Stop being so paranoid.

Keep in mind you don't actually own the game. You're either going out of business and your company now belongs to all the people who loaned you money, or you've been bought up by MegaCorp Publishing, and they now own all that stuff. And you're suggesting that you'll swipe their source code and invest hundreds of hours to release unauthorized versions of their software? On the torrents? You're either lying, you haven't thought this through, or you're crazy.

When you ask a gamer to pay for a game with online activation, you are asking for a great deal of trust. Which is outrageous, since the entire reason the game has activation is because you refuse to trust them.

To my fellow gamers: Buy, or do not buy, but always be aware of what you're getting into. Because sooner or later the publisher is going to die, and when they go they will take your collection with them.

Shamus Young is the guy behind Reset Button, Twenty Sided, DM of the Rings, and Stolen Pixels.

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