The way the games industry operates isn’t something I can honestly say I understand anymore. Perhaps practices related to game development and publishing has always been this confounding and I’ve just been hopelessly oblivious. It’s a business like any other, sure. Often the trade can seem somewhat confusing, with dubious actions applied merely to accumulate an increased revenue. The beleaguered strategy of commerce over craft has become a customary ubiquity, so much so that its easy to resent an industry that for most part provides so much enjoyment. But it’s also worth noting just how much things have changed and not always for the better.
The advent of digital gaming has had a profound impact on the way gamers purchase their products. The convenience of playing a game almost immediately is powerful incentive for any discerning gamer. There’s no need to wait for a delivery of a package that has no doubt been treated as well as a bruised banana, delivered by some disgruntled postal worker with the hygiene best described as “optional” and no need to worry about storage. Digital downloads have revolutionised the way we play to such an extent that you wonder, in a time of high-speed Internet and global online accessibility, why we even need physical copies? Well there was some interesting news that occurred a few weeks ago so innocuous that you may not even have noticed. Startling news that presents troubling implications for the accessibility and conservation of computer games.
Lego Lord Of The Rings and its equally blocky precursor The Hobbit, titles readily available to buy for some time now can no longer be purchased from digital retailers. Though there hasn’t been any official confirmation as to why, its likely that licensing of the property has expired. After all these are games are adapted from the movies and subject to a finite period of distribution. Apparently. Of course such restrictions don’t apply to existing physical copies of the game, as there’s no way to enforce the same licensing regulations. So even if you don’t own a copy of the game you can still buy it, even if you can’t download it. With the ever progressive nature of gaming however and its explicit need to moderate and control how consumers engage with content, that physical alternative may not be available to us in the future.
It’s not unrealistic supposition to suggest that publishers would like to eradicate the physical market entirely, imposing its own policies on the trading of games. So it’s not unreasonable to assume that most are actively encouraging the likes of Sony and Microsoft to mitigate and eventual cease their viability. So with such hypothetical parameters applied to the Lord Of The Rings incident, how would you play these games if you didn’t already own them? Well, you can’t. And this is why I believe that the preservation of physical gaming is so important.
Over the next decade, probably even less, games will likely begin to shift into streaming territory. Offering a pay monthly service that provides users with access to hundreds of on demand games, without the customer owning any of it. This lack of control over our purchases is worrying. It’s not really ownership anymore, just an extended rental. And that’s not even taking into consideration the price or availability of high-speed Internet connection that will be an absolute necessity to use such a service effectively.
Physical games isn’t just about trivial vanity. Garish ornaments that clutter your alcove. It’s not just shelves of decorated opulence to impress visitors as if they are desirable works of art or first additions of War and Peace. These vibrant cases and their circular contents are the very essence of gaming. Without it games are simply vacuous, electrical discharges, comprised in a bulky inanimate devices.