#2. Wait Gaming
If you're not a casual gamer, you've probably never heard of wait gaming. Let me explain it to you: If you download a free (or even sometimes a cheap pay) game, it will only allow you so many rounds, minutes, or lives. Then, when you run out, a countdown pops up, and you cannot play again until it expires. Of course, you could always just pay to bypass the waiting ...
That's right: The new "feature" in casual gaming is Fun Cockblocking. A virtual time-out corner that you're automatically placed in for the crime of enjoying yourself too much.
And if you didn't just spit involuntarily at your computer screen while reading that description, you are a blight on society and you need to be purged.
Well, that was a bit excessive, wasn't it?
What's so wrong with the wait gaming model? It's not so bad when it's a free game: Candy Crush Saga is so addictive, and you paid nothing to start it! Surely a few bucks here and there is a reasonable expense. You'll get tens of hours of gameplay out of it, and you'll still probably ultimately pay much less for the experience than you would for a full-price Xbox game. And you'd be right to think that, of course. If it stopped there. But it doesn't: Now wait gaming is leaking into pay games -- still casual stuff, and on a very small level. Knights of Pen and Paper, for example: It's a pretty decent retro tabletop game for Android with a lot of heart, and it only costs a few bucks! There's a microtransaction store, but you can avoid it. The only wait gaming occurs when you buy new armor: Then you have to sit for eight real-time hours before the blacksmith finishes it. But not if you pay some gold -- just a few bucks' worth, of course. Then you can get your new armor right away!
Remember: You already paid for that game.
The dangerous thing here is assuming that this stuff won't affect you just because it hasn't so far. Every time you see a worrying new development like this, you need to watch and see if it succeeds. Because if it does, it's coming for you like a very slow missile sculpted out of kiln-fired bullshit.
You resisted buying the flamethrower, but now it's there for free because you weren't paying attention when you bought a special pack. You avoided wait games, but millions of others didn't, and so two years from now you'll only be able to hawk-stab three guards in Assassin's Creed XIV: Birdman Edition before a screen pops up prompting you to spend a mere 16 Ubipoints (only 86 real cents! But you have to buy them in packs of $15, which of course does not divide evenly by .86) to continue your murder spree.
#1. Third-Party DRM
A few weeks ago, I wrote this post on my own site about Sony's unveiling of the PS4 at E3, where I stated that -- amid all the cheers of relief that Sony would only be using the normal strap-on to fuck us, instead of the new bladed one that Microsoft just unsheathed -- we overlooked the fact that the PS4 was now allowing third-party DRM.
A very, very bad idea.
And a very stupid thing for me to say. Because apparently this practice was not new at all: Some thoughtful, erudite, and almost certainly heartbreakingly beautiful readers of mine pointed out that the PlayStation 3 has allowed third-party DRM for years. It's just that most people don't use it as viciously as they potentially could.
Surely that kind of unmediated self-restraint is going to last forever!
I got out of console gaming for just this reason. There's plenty of fuckery and DRM bullshit on every platform, but at least on a PC, it's your choice exactly how, where, and when you get fucked. Buy a gaming PC and you can avoid the games and services that screw you, even if it means you miss out on a lot of awesome stuff. Buy a console and the entire platform decides, universally, just how much deep dicking your consumer loyalty can take.
Don't forget that, by its very nature, your console is a type of DRM. It uses its own architecture and its own formats to lock the games to that device. That's the most basic form of electronic security. You're already giving up a little bit of ownership by agreeing that this separate product, the game, is only for use in conjunction with this other product, the console. It's not like a DVD player -- you can't play that game on a Vizio brand PlayStation 3. It's proprietary. That's DRM.
Cessna 172 Club
Probably a good thing, overall.
And that's totally fine. It is well within a company's rights to do this, and we all know what we're getting into. Nobody's leaving the store pissed off that their N64 game won't plug into their phone. But then the consoles started introducing more restrictions and penalties -- persistent connectivity, online passes, no used game trading (never forget that they tried), fucking spy cameras in our living rooms with no hardware off switch -- and all this in addition to whatever the third-party company feels like heaping on? Software runs into all sorts of problems when it has to interact with other, non-native software. If Android only ever had to work with Google-developed apps, it would be almost entirely stable. But it doesn't: That third-party software works as best it can with Android, but at some point it's going to do things its own way, and that's when shit goes sideways. Because of this, every level of third-party DRM, by its very nature, takes functionality and reliability away from the consumer. Steam is a fine example of a DRM platform: It has always been pretty stable in my experience, it allows me to play offline, and there are enough benefits to make the security measures worthwhile.
But that's all native stuff.
Steam also allows Ubisoft to launch Uplay, their own Steam-like service; they allow EA to make signing into their servers mandatory; Games for Windows Live prompts you to either sign into or create a profile before you can launch your game. Now you're launching a DRM service that launches other DRM services inside of it -- it's an Inception level of meta-fuckery to the consumer, and there's no reason for it.
Developers, come on: You will never stop piracy. Have you ever -- ever -- even made a dent? Or are piracy levels now -- even in this age of psychotically rabid DRM -- much, much higher than they have ever been before? The solution to piracy isn't to violently fuck everybody at the door, just in case they might be a pirate; it's to make the door look enticing enough and open it wide enough that all the non-pirates will flock inside.
The pirates are not your customers, and they never will be -- they've proved that already just by existing. Why are you fucking bothering with them? Worry about the customers you do have, or you won't have them anymore.