When consoles and the Internet first came together in the mid 90s, the range of possibilities and features expanded dramatically. Suddenly there were new opportunities for post-purchase updates and knowledge sharing. A few years was all it took for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network to become household names.
When you’re paying around £40 for a game, is it fair that you’re not allowed to share this with a friend at some point? Is the Internet now going to be used by Microsoft as a tool to exert control over a customer even after they have purchased the game?
Hopefully, Microsoft will make a sensible decision and look after its loyal user base, especially since we know PlayStation aren’t going to be doing anything similar.
Look at it from another angle, if the successor to the Xbox arrives and we are prevented from playing pre-owned games, is this going to make us pack up our equipment and go out to buy a PS4? If Microsoft don’t think this is going to happen, what’s stopping them imposing more restrictions on us?
This isn’t a debate confined to the world of gaming. Amazon’s Kindle e-reader made it impossible to share a good book with a friend, as purchases are not transferable between devices and are stored locally. Perhaps we have to accept that to enjoy the inherent advantages of a device, we have to give up some of the flexibility we once had.
It’s very easy for large companies to see their customer base as a living cash machine and it’s becoming more and more evident through micro transactions in games where the gaming experience is enhanced through additional purchases. An example of this is Dead Space 3 in which players can purchase weapons using real currency. Can I argue that providing entertainment that is naturally designed to create a fantasy world around the player and simultaneously integrating real life opportunities to spend real money is borderline unethical?
Let’s see what happens when the console does reach the public and we have some facts in place. Microsoft are at a point now where they need to decide between nurturing their customer base or milking them dry. More on this to follow.