Polytron and Trapdoor, together responsible for the indie title “Fez”, have decided to not release an update to their software due to certification fees. Microsoft released a public statement to assert that they would be willing to work out arrangements if fees solely prevent the patch from being released. Either way it reiterates serious concerns about content dependent upon proprietary platforms and how that conflicts with art.
Long-time readers of my editorials have probably figured out that I have not been a fan of consoles, anti-piracy, and several other issues for at least quite some time. Humorously it is almost universally assumed that a PC gamer who bashes his head against his desk whenever he hears an anti-piracy organization open their mouths must be a perpetual cheapskate worried about losing his free ride.
I mean, clearly there is no reason for someone who has an education in higher-level math with a fairly strong sense in basic statistics to argue with the ESA, BSA, RIAA, or MPAA. I clearly just prefer the PC to rip off game publishers.
Measure your dependent variables, control your independent variables.
So then, why do I care?
I have been growing increasingly concerned for art over the past several years. The most effective way to help art flourish is to enable as many creators to express themselves as possible and keep those creations indefinitely for archival and study. Proprietary platforms are designed to hide their cost as effectively as possible and become instantly disposable as they cease becoming effective for future content.
Console platforms appear to be the cheapest access to content by having a low upfront cost to the end user. To keep those numbers low they are often sold at under the cost of production with the intent of reclaiming that loss; the research, development and marketing losses; and other operating costs over the lifespan of the console. Profit is also intended at some point as well.
As Polytron and Trapdoor have experienced: one way to recover your costs is to drench your developers and publishers in fees for their loyalty to your platform – of course doing the same to your loyal customers is most of the rest. This cost progressively adds up atop the other expenses that increasingly small developers must face.
The two main developers for the PC, Blizzard and Valve, understand the main value of their platform: markedly long shelf lives for content. Consoles are designed to be disposable along with the content which is dependent on them. DRM likewise adds an expiration on otherwise good content if it becomes unsupported or the servers in charge of validating legitimate customers cease to exist in the name of preventing casual piracy.
For non-differentiable entertainment that is not a tragic loss as there will always be another first person shooter. Content with intrinsic value, on the other hand, cannot simply be exchanged for equivalent media.
For all the debate about whether videogames could be considered art – you would think it would be treated as such.