License or Product?
I am buying only the license.
28% (40)
28% (40)
I am buying a physical product.
57.3% (82)
57.3% (82)
I pick a Third Option (explain what and why)
14% (20)
14% (20)
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Poll: What are you really buying? An attempt to spark discussion about the games you buy and DRM

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Topic partly sparked by the Facebook comments section of the latest (Diablo 3) episode of Jimquisition.

So, when it comes to games (this could apply to any SOFTWARE, but for the purpose of this discussion, let's stick to GAMES), what are you REALLY buying? This is key to the issue, because your rights as a consumer and the appropriate analogies that can be drawn will depend on what it is you actually bought.

The issue at hand is one of OWNERSHIP. That's the root of the "Entitlement Problem". If you buy spend your cash on a product that will be with you for an indefinite time until you give it away or resell it, I would sure as heck like it to slap a label on that thing that says "Property of Syntax Error".

I also hope this topic will bring out good arguments from both sides.

Well simply put...games are a product when that's convenient for the publishers, and games are a service when that's convenient for the publishers.

Basically, the moves some people on the publishing side have been pulling suggest that they want to reap the benefits of both and take the responsibility of none.

For example, if I am buying a license, the license agreement needs to be agreed to by both parties the moment the license is purchased, not later upon installation.

Vegosiux:
Well simply put...games are a product when that's convenient for the publishers, and games are a service when that's convenient for the publishers.

Basically, the moves some people on the publishing side have been pulling suggest that they want to reap the benefits of both and take the responsibility of none.

For example, if I am buying a license, the license agreement needs to be agreed to by both parties the moment the license is purchased, not later upon installation.

But when it comes to games, you only get to that point AFTER you purchase your game (be it through digital download or through physical media.)

Syntax Error:

Vegosiux:
Well simply put...games are a product when that's convenient for the publishers, and games are a service when that's convenient for the publishers.

Basically, the moves some people on the publishing side have been pulling suggest that they want to reap the benefits of both and take the responsibility of none.

For example, if I am buying a license, the license agreement needs to be agreed to by both parties the moment the license is purchased, not later upon installation.

But when it comes to games, you only get to that point AFTER you purchase your game (be it through digital download or through physical media.)

Ambiguous wording on my part. I meant "should be agreed to by both parties" as in, that's how it's supposed to work. If they're selling me a license, I want to see it before I buy it. Apologies for the confusion.

Vegosiux:
snip

Point Taken. But now I ask you, from your own point of view, WHAT are you buying?

Syntax Error:

Vegosiux:
snip

Point Taken. But now I ask you, from your own point of view, WHAT are you buying?

I like to think that I'm buying a product. That's why I oppose intrusive DRM as well, because after I buy it, it's mine. Whoever sold it to me has no business telling me what to do with it. Seriously "ba-haack in my da-haays", we had the "feelies"[1]. Best kind of DRM ever.

But, if I pull a TV analogy, I suppose I'd say that a TV channel is a service, but the shows on it are a product; akin to how Steam or Origin are a service, and the games products.

Vegosiux:

Syntax Error:

Vegosiux:
snip

Point Taken. But now I ask you, from your own point of view, WHAT are you buying?

I like to think that I'm buying a product. That's why I oppose intrusive DRM as well, because after I buy it, it's mine. Whoever sold it to me has no business telling me what to do with it. Seriously "ba-haack in my da-haays", we had the "feelies"[1]. Best kind of DRM ever.

But, if I pull a TV analogy, I suppose I'd say that a TV channel is a service, but the shows on it are a product; akin to how Steam or Origin are a service, and the games products.

You don't buy TV shows on cable. Those aren't a product unless you buy the DVD's or even the digital download of those shows. Cable TV is a delivery service just as Steam is but with Steam, you are buying the product that it delivers.

Games come in all sorts of flavors, some are services, some are products and others are a mixture. Any game that requires a company to provide something for you (like servers or a client needed to run it) to be able to use it is a service. A game that you buy once receive your copy that you can do anything with is a product, and if you break it it's your problem since they company has nothing more to do with it. Games where a connection isn't required, just recommended are mixed (aka any game that needs updates).

I buy terms of use.

I use these terms to play games.

EDIT: I laugh at the people who think they own the rights to anything they spend money on.

That's such a silly idea.

Edited OP to better reflect what I want to see discussed :)

(first one to vote for the third option here)

Hm, you only buy a physical product if you buy a box, but even that comes with a license...
Books and movies don't come with a license that lets you read and watch them only x number of times before you have to pay again. Sure copying them is usually frowned upon, but if it's to preserve them or access them again when you paid before already... this at least used to be a fair use right.

There is a confusion here because the law and private interests are clashing with basic liberties and common sense. This already happened long ago with the coming of the printing press, every time a new technology allows culture to spread more easily in fact.

When what you're looking at is not completely dependent of it's support to exist you actually cannot really "own" it. No one can, even the ones "selling" it. What you can do here however is: reward a good performance.

I know this raises a number of moral issues with many, but I just find it sad to lower culture to the level of mere groceries, even if it's not culture you would necessarily respect. I see the media industry as a whole booming despite the supposed utter evil of piracy as good support of my position, but I'm prepared to argue of this in depth.

I am buying the physical product and the data contained there-in. This should only be reinforced with digital distribution.

I am putting the files on my hard-drive, I would not pay money to have the "right" to have the files on my hard-drive and use them. When I pay for a game, I am paying to use all the content contained there-in.

Do I have the right to copy them for friends? That's another argument that I don't know how to approach right now.

You buy a copy of the game, and own that one copy.

It's no different from buying a designer chair. You own the copy, and can use and resell it however you wish, but you obviously don't own the design. And hence can't start making more chairs to sell or give away.

Two exceptions though: Digital distribution, which generally isn't (yet) considered a sale of goods or give you any right to resell your digital copy, and MMO's where you might own the install DVD, but it is basically worthless since all the actual value lies in the service of being able to log in online.

Well, I'm not usually buying a physical product. I usually buy games through Steam so I guess I buy a license to download it through some specific servers. Those times I buy a console game without the need to write a serial code in order to install I buy a physical product.

Imperator_DK:
You buy a copy of the game, and own that one copy.

It's no different from buying a designer chair. You own the copy, and can use and resell it however you wish, but you obviously don't own the design. And hence can't start making more chairs to sell or give away.

Two exceptions though: Digital distribution, which generally isn't (yet) considered a sale of goods or give you any right to resell your digital copy, and MMO's where you might own the install DVD, but it is basically worthless since all the actual value lies in the service of being able to log in online.

Yeah, this basically what I was trying to say.

I have always just bought licenses. But I have always played on the PC (for a loooooooong time).

Game = Software = Licence. You own the physical disc, you have the license to use the data.

Imperator_DK:
You buy a copy of the game, and own that one copy.

It's no different from buying a designer chair. You own the copy, and can use and resell it however you wish, but you obviously don't own the design. And hence can't start making more chairs to sell or give away.

Two exceptions though: Digital distribution, which generally isn't (yet) considered a sale of goods or give you any right to resell your digital copy, and MMO's where you might own the install DVD, but it is basically worthless since all the actual value lies in the service of being able to log in online.

With digital distribution you don't lose the right to resell, you simply lose the ability because technology was used to place restrictions on the product you bought.

It's not an opinion thing, you are always buying a license to use a copy of a computer program, and digital files associated with it. If you're buying a box, then the cdrom & packaging is the only thing you really own.

This sort of sucks, because you don't have any guarantee to a permanent copy of the program, and are often discouraged, as it's illegal in many countries to break disc encryption, even though it's considered fair use to make a backup copy of your program.

Free software licenses like the GPL are the only thing that really guarantees you will always have a copy of your program, providing it's in existence. Game developers seem to be massively behind the curve on this compared to other parts of industry, like web servers, which sucks.

If it has a single-player mode or a significant single-player aspect, then I'm buying a product. If it also has a multiplayer component, then that's a separate service that should have no impact on my enjoyment or use of the single-player mode.

If it is purely multiplayer (really only the case with MMOs and MOBAs), then it's a license/service.

Obviously, that's not how it actually works at the moment, but that's how it should fucking work.

EDIT: Now that I think about it a bit more, the concept of a "license" wouldn't be too far removed from the concept of a product if and only if it was as difficult to rescind a license as it is to have your furniture/TV/appliances/etc. forcibly repossessed. Unfortunately, the whole digital distribution thing makes that rather difficult.

I'm only supporting the developers, very indirectly.

The copy itself is pretty worthless and it will soon sell for 50% less and then for a 75% discount and then another price cut and then another, etc.

For me. I buy the physical disc that when I insert in either PC or Wii activates the content and then I can play.
I have downloaded Free to Play games like Lotro and LoL and those have worked well so I could think about purchasing product like that and start dissmissing the physical stuff but I still like owning the copy of something I bought.

Legally, it's an open-and-shut case:
Current Intellectual Property and Copyright Laws say you own NOTHING but the medium the game came on.

In practice, "Possession is 9/10ths of the law". Even if the IP holder (usually the publisher) wanted to, if they can't take the game away from you without significant cost to their business (more than the game is worth), then it's essentially "yours".

The whole ordeal is further confused by how game companies have marketed most games AS PRODUCTS since the dawn of the gaming industry's existence.

DRM is nothing more than a means of controlling the legitimate customer; as it's been proven to do little to nothing to the pirates it's allegedly made to stop.

Sometimes it is a license, sometimes it is a product. It really depends on the game, sad to say. I would really like all games I purchase to be a product, not a license, but that is not where we seem to be going. And I don't like it. >:(

3rd option.

The single player should be mine to do with as I please, and fully encompassed on whatever physical item I bought to obtain it.

The multiplayer should be a license thing on any servers hosted by makers, due to the fact that they are using funds to keep them up. Private servers that emit their rules should also be allowed as well for the game to continue past regular server shutdown. I miss Demon's Souls.

It should be noted that single and multiplayer should remain separate to prevent exploits but always-online should never be required of a single player game.

Most of the time you're simply buying the right to use something, but lately I've been getting a feeling that I'm simply renting it for the time they (the company) see fit.

I've never really known any product you needed permission from the company to play, and while I see the reasons for D3 to be online only (less cheating, no way to edit characters/items) there really should be 1-4 slots for offline characters that are not playable online at all, ever. So there's no risk of loss there.

Because boy did I have lots of fun discovering I couldn't play for the 5th time yesterday! ...And that the website said the server status was up, despite 2 hours of downtime.

Edit: What am I buying? Child-like access to a game "May I play my game Blizzard?" Hmmm, no we're performing server maintenance for several hours. "Can I play it noooooow blizzard?" No, there's some things we're sorting out.

I expect a complete story that goes from point A to point B.
I expect to be able to play the game whenever I want to play it without being on the Internet to do so.

A complete story is not the same as a complete experience. I do not expect everything on the disc. A minor costume and an little adventure is not worth getting upset over.

There are exceptions. Having 14 characters on disc but locked is too far. That's 40 percent of the game's content and a great place to take a principled stand.

If you ask how far will it publisher's go, the answer is how far we will let them. Because Capcom backed away from on disc DLC because of the backlash, you can guess where the line on that issue is now.

Now that a lot of people are not using their Diablo III games one week after launch, Blizzard will be more hesitant to try always on single player DRM.

I'm buying an individual user license. People have brought this up before. If I buy a game and the server goes down through which I was authorized to download it, technically, I'm allowed to get it through "illegal" means. I'm sure the law doesn't see it that way, but I would bet the business does. They'd rather you not use their bandwidth if you can help it. In the case of brick and mortar retailers, you are buying a license AND a physical product, so you can't just snag a copy from Best Buy if you bought it online. Technically you bought a box, some paper, and a little circle of plastic. In the case of online passes, you also bought a license to use that product in that way.

What we are buying: a license to run the game when the publisher feels like letting us do so.

What, in my opinion, we should be buying: A chunk of code that we can execute (or modify) at any time regardless of new conditions. Oh, and be able to sell it to someone else such that we no longer have it.

I have seriously disliked the concept of licensing in games for a long time because it fundamentally decreases the value of the game. So many of the games that I love I've modded, run on obsolete computers and thirty years after they were made, etc. The modern trend seems to be towards making both of those much harder, and it really disappoints me. The more features that the companies take out and more rights they restrict, the higher the actual cost of purchasing the game is. These days I might shell out the 60USD for a launch title once per year, I just feel like the real cost of so many of these games is far too high- and that all comes back to what you're buying.

It's like leasing a car, but at the sticker price in a lump sum...
Also you can't repair it yourself...
Also it might crash if lots of other people drive the same type of car...
Also the dealership might call in the lease at any time with little warning...
Also you can only drive it on dealer owned roads...

...i could do that all day.

I went with third option:

When one buys a book, they don't buy the story. They buy a wad of papers (or a digital file) that contains words that form a story. I have a similar view with games.

When I buy a game disc/Steam download, I'm not buying the rights to the game. I am buying the rights to access the game and play it. I'm well aware of the End User License Agreement (though I've never actually read one, the most important bits have been summarized).

That said, once I've paid for access to that game, I strongly feel I shouldn't have to pay for it again. After all, I bought the access; I didn't rent it. I own access. If I've lost the CD key (from games of yore), I seek out listings of all the CD keys for that game and try them all until I've found the right one. If I can't find one of the install discs, I look for an image to use in its place. One thing I love about Steam: Once you buy a game, you can download and install it on any machine any number of times no matter what because what you have purchased is access to the game and they let you have it.

Of course, there are some cases where I do need to buy a new copy, like that one time I didn't use my brain and attempted to move my Xbox while it was still running. I heard a terrible noise and found that the disc inside had gotten scratched. Yes, the thing is poorly built, and yes, I'd already paid for access to the game, but the fact that I couldn't access it then was purely my own damn fault and there was no way I was going to be able to play it without buying a new game. Besides, it was Dragon Age: Origins, and at the time I felt it was worth paying for a second time.

Sober Thal:
I buy terms of use.

I use these terms to play games.

EDIT: I laugh at the people who think they own the rights to anything they spend money on.

That's such a silly idea.

Hehe, not only do I buy terms of use but I also buy these cool pieces of plastic that allow me to use those terms of use.

Judging by the pole and not surprisingly people on here are pretty ignorant about what they are buying.

Syntax Error:
Point Taken. But now I ask you, from your own point of view, WHAT are you buying?

From my view, I am buying a Game.

By that I mean a piece of entertainment, as opposed to a piece of commercial software like Solidworks or Photoshop. It is not a service (ignoring MMOs for the moment), it is a disc with a piece of software on it for my enjoyment, there is no contract or agreed terms on how, when or what I do with it. I don't have the right to breach copyright law or sell it for commercial gain, but I have the right to pull that particular disc/download apart and do as I please with it. It sits in the same bracket as DVDs, music and even footballs, no laws against home editing.

What it is not (to me) is a commercial contract that the publisher/developer can take away at any time. Companies that do that, whether by always on DRM or subscriptions or Ninja-thief squads, will not be getting my money. I'm buying a toy, not entering a contract.

Seeing as I do most, if not all, of my gaming on my 360, I usually end up buying the physical product, if there is one. Then, there's only several exceptions where I bought a digital copy.

Such as:

Psychonauts.

Halo.

The Dishwasher, and Dishwasher: Vampire Smile.

I MADE A GAME WITH ZOMBIES IN IT (Can't remember how exactly its spelled with its 1337speak and all, so forgive me for spelling it normally).

And Techno Kitten Adventure.

I don't count DLC since its essentially getting an expansion pack, or extra goodies for something you already have. But, everything else gaming wise, is a physical product.

I'd say liscense, when you buy a game, you certainly don't own the code. That would suggest being able to copy/modify/sell it on. Even the developers that make your games don't own all the code; think about game engines. The developers don't always own the engine, they just liscense it to use in their product. If the developers don't own all that is in their game then the consumer that's playing it certainly doesn't.

If I'm buying the game over a digital distribution service, such as Steam or PSN, for which I signed a user agreement detailing the exact terms of the transaction beforehand, I'm buying a license with all the restrictions that come with only holding a license. If I bought the game at a physical store or through a digital distribution service with no such user agreement, such as GOG, then it's a product with which I should be able to do whatever I please (so long as it doesn't involve outright copyright infringement) and play whenever I please.

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