Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pay-Per-Demo and Wannabe Thomas Crown

Last week Nick Earl, general manager of EA-owned Dead Space studio Visceral Games, revealed a new strategy that may involve selling "premium downloadable content" before a packaged game's release. According to analyst Michael Pachter, "The PDLC would be sold for $10 or $15 through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, and would essentially be a very long game demo, along the lines of 2009’s Battlefield 1943." Essentially what this does is "limit the risk of completing and marketing the full packaged version, and serves as a low-cost marketing tool," (His words, not mine). Insert slippery slope here. This worries me a gamer because of the implications this could mean. According to David Jaffe, creator of the God of War series, gamers would rather have bite-sized portions they can play for 3-4 hours at a time and see the fruits of their efforts, rather than sit down for a 20, 30, or 40 hour experience (paraphrased). The problem with this line of thinking is that it allows game developers and publishers to cut back on production and instead of giving more to the gamer, the gamer gives more to them. DLC in my opinion is already a bane on the video game industry, as it justifies the developers to hold back or cut parts of a game that were intended to be included in the final packaging, and instead deal them out arbitrarily to garner more money out of the consumer. With this new strategy that EA-company Visceral Games has in mind, the free demos that pushed titles such as Bioshock, Portal, and the recent release of Just Cause 2 (which hit 2 million downloads) could potentially hurt the company and gamers alike. Instead of building word-of-mouth about your game, the companies will push away consumers and box sales will suffer because of it.

Wannabe Thomas Crown
This story is still in developing as I write this, so details might be sketchy at best. During the last day of PAX East in Boston, MA, there was an attempted theft of Atomic Games' Breach on the show floor. During the event, the alleged thief was able to download 14MB of the game's code onto his laptop before running into the crowd. According to David Tractenberg, a spokesperson for Atomic, "The suspect did admit to us several times, including as he was doing it, that he was stealing the code. He said to myself and several other team members, after being caught, that it was not a big deal, he just really liked the game and wanted to play it with his friends."

Joystiq.com was able to contact the alleged thief through his Gamertag, where he claimed he wasn't stealing the code, but merely trying to get online in the Hynes Convention Center. "I got online using the ethernet cable hanging outside their booth, because wifi wasn't working. They stopped me, checked my computer, and saw the Xbox Neighborhood application. Because that was on there, they accused me of stealing Breach, even though it's not on my computer." After being apprehended, the game's code was found on his laptop. The alleged thief spent four hours in jail, and his laptops, modded Xbox 360, modded PSP, modded DS and XMP3 were confiscated by police. He was then released from jail on a $200 bail.

The suspect had an earlier incident during the event with
Stephen Toulouse, director of policy and enforcement for Xbox Live. During the Q&A section of the panel "Enforcement on Xbox Live: Tales from the Din Part 2" (audible beginning at the 40:15 mark), the alleged thief asked if he could have his Gamertag unbanned. Toulouse asked him what he'd done, and he said that he'd played Forza 3 before release, which Toulouse told him he shouldn't have done.

An arrest warrant has been issued for suspect, 20-year-old Justin
D. May, after he failed to show up in a Boston court today. According to the police report (which can be found below), May's attempted theft of Breach was valued at over $6 million dollars. May's current whereabouts are unknown, Joystiq.com does have his Gamertag, which shows that wherever he is at the moment, he's playing Modern Warfare 2.

Thanks to Joystiq.com for sticking with this story as it develops.

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