ID Tagged Games Are The Future?By: Zanpakutou posted at May 02, 2012 8:06 am
Does anyone remember Metal Gear Solid 2? ID tagged soldiers were carrying ID tagged equipment that can only be used by soldiers who have the matching ID. If it did not match, you could not use it. Metal Gear Solid 4 had a guy who could remove the ID tag from existing items so that anyone could use it. There are ideas floating around to use this system for games and it is already done on many of the saved games on the current generation of consoles. Gone are the days when you could carry saves around on memory cards to your friend's house.
One of the earliest methods of combating piracy was the use of CD keys that bound your account to that CD key. Only one person could be online with that CD key at a time. The idea was to prevent people from installing it. Instead, people just shared their CD keys with people who just wanted to play the game. Others decide to just edit the installation so that any CD key would work and you just could not play it online.
Next came DRM. DRMs are basically a security program that is installed along with the game on your computer with the idea of stopping piracy. Unfortunately, this opened your computer to various security breaches and really did not prevent piracy. On average, someone would figure a way around the game's DRM in roughly 48 hours. If it is something big, they can do it even faster by working together with more people who are interested. The result was a multi-million dollar waste of money that only delayed people for around a day.
Now, we are back to CD keys, but they have been renamed as serials or something like that. Some games now have them in their packages while you obtain others online. Unfortunately, this has caused the same problem that CD keys had. The easiest way? People buy a game (or just open them in the store) to take the CD key. They just return it afterwards and tell them that there was an invalid CD key in the game. Congratulations, you just got a free CD key and the next poor sucker to buy the game will have to pay $10 and navigate through their technical support to find a supervisor thanks to the online pass crap.
Some people believe that the way to deal with this is to implement a system that ties everything on the system together.
The problem? The costs are going to be extremely high. You would have to find a way to track and maintain the system. Each system would need to be installed with something that is the equivalent of a unique ID. On top of that, someone is going to find a way to get around it. We will have even more pirates and more illegal activity with consoles because people want to deactivate the pointless security. We do not want to be required to always be connected to the internet to play a single player game. It is a pain waiting for half an hour for a game to install onto the console so we can play. If the game has been out for a while, we have to wait for the potentially hundreds of MB of DLC and patches before we can even play it. If your game has a CD key, you have to figure out where to go enter it as well.
The rise of security has given rise to an even greater amount of piracy. All the security does is make it extremely annoying for players to even play the game. Some people are willing to go online to download a game just so they can get a copy of the game without the annoying security features despite owning an actual copy of the game. If ID tagged games and systems do become a standard, people will work hard on finding ways to break the ID tag and the entire used game market will go underground while piracy still remains. Used games are a system that allows people who do not want old games any more to sell them on the market at a lower price to recover at least some of what they spent. It allows people who do not have the money to spend on a $60 full priced game to eventually get a chance to play that game, even if they have to wait a year.
The main reason I see for this is that the developers and publishers need more money due to the ever increasing cost of game development. They rely on an ever increasing budget to produce the next game. Development of a AAA title game already costs anywhere from $20 million (low) to $50 million (high). There are distribution costs based on how many units they estimate to be sold. It seems that the same amount of money used to develop a game is used in distribution as well and far more goes into advertising. The more units you plan to sell, the higher the distribution costs will be since you have to make those millions of copies. Finally, the advertising. That is probably another cost that far exceeds the development costs of the game. The result is that you spend $100 million on one game. Not only is that a huge risk, it is extremely costly considering that it is basically a model that focuses on rushing out games at regular intervals.
To me, it seems like a ton of money is going into unnecessary aspects of game development. Adding ID tagging would increase the cost of the game even more. Each copy will need to come with a unique code or key to the game and you will have to deal with all the ones that do not work. This means maintaining a larger staff to deal with situations where they do not work. You will need people to generate them and include them with each printing of the game. Validating them is another issue as well because not all of them always work and beyond a certain point, the games become "unsellable" due to expired serials and no new ones being generated in their place.
Rushing a game has other consequences. If you increase the development time, you might actually decrease costs because rushing out games require more staff and tight schedules where mistakes end up costing far more. If there is a problem that arises after the game has "gone gold", then you need to spend more money to fix it by implementing something like a Day 1 patch and that costs money as well. Advertising is expensive as well. A 30 second TV commercial can cost around $100,000 and producing one could cost several times that. If you make 1 TV commercial, it might as well be half a million at the minimum. Of course, you will get more out of it if you run it a few times. Advertising during special events such as sports finals can cost up to $2 million for 30 seconds. That is a ridiculous amount of money, but you get more exposure for that much. Websites and magazines are alternatives where ads continue to be featured, but almost never for video games. These are far less expensive and have much more exposure yet few people ever consider them.
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