After being spurned by Valve for the past 12 years, Mac users were finally given a tiny taste of Steam today. Of course, that doesn’t include the Half-Life games, because I’m pretty sure that the day Half-Life shows up on Mac is the day that everyone dies in a horrible inversion of reality which will rend the human mind unto insanity. But we did get Torchlight, which will be totally great once I finish my current book layout project and can spend time with things that don’t involve InDesign.
The cross-platform aspect of Steam — with its “cloud” design that allows a player to jump onto any Steam-enabled computer and not only load up their account but also their current progress in any of their games — really demonstrates how utterly behind the curve Nintendo is when it comes to digital rights management. Wired Game|Life posted a story today that I’ve been wanting to write for a couple of years spanking Nintendo for its atrociously backward approach to digital accounts. There’s no excuse for the fact that you can’t easily (or, according to some, simply can’t) transfer games from one Nintendo device to another; all your personal data is linked into their servers, connected through Club Nintendo, and well-documented in a variety of means. The fact that they force you to re-purchase all your software if you should have the audacity to upgrade/switch/lose your system almost certainly has nothing to do with technical limitations and everything to do with the company’s collectively awful grasp of the social and end-user aspect of technology.
Heck, even Apple blows Nintendo away in this regard, despite its own shortcomings. Lose a music or video download to a hard drive crash or whatever and you’re sadly outta luck; but even so, Apple allows you to share your purchases among several computers and a number of portable devices. Complain as I might about Valve’s habits and Apple’s drift from its former standards, but at least they have the decency not to assume that their customers are inherently criminal. Maybe some day Nintendo will extend us the same benefit of a doubt.