How you feel can make you real

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.

11 thoughts on “How you feel can make you real

  1. I’m actually a little bewildered that there seems to be no one with sway at Nintendo who might say “you know, I really don’t think this will go over well at all.”

    Worse still is the issue with some save files that can’t be carried over, not to mention Miis.

    It almost seems as though getting set up with a new kidney or other organ would be easier in the end than getting set up with a new version of a Nintendo system that one has bought previously.

  2. I think the appropriate statement people need to tell Nintendo is:
    “Hey Nintendo, your systems are going to get pirated anyways, so why screw the consumers with your obtuse end-user rules?”

  3. I get the impression that the lack of an upgrade path isn’t a hardware limitation, or even an outdated relic that they haven’t bothered to address, but actually a core facet of Nintendo’s digital and classic game strategy. For all their family friendly marketing Nintendo has shown itself, since day one of the NES, to be utterly ruthless in its business decisions when given the opportunity.

    How many times have you purchased the same classics from Nintendo? With that precedent, they’re not going to give up now if they don’t have to. And really, I’m not sure if they do. This is something the hardcore care about, but that’s not Nintendo’s core demographic. They can buy their games on Steam, XBLA, and PSN. Nintendo’s Virtual Console and Wiiware/DSiware seem to be more of a leasing program. Maybe the only competition that Nintendo will heed in this regard is Apple, but as you pointed out Apple isn’t exactly Steam in its user rights.

    As an aside, the idea of games as limited time leases is becoming troublingly more tangible. With all the backlash against the resale of used games, EA’s project ten dollar (have you seen the new twist on this: pay $10 to play EA sports online if you didn’t buy it new), Ubisoft’s ludicrous new PC DRM, etc, the concept of owning a game with no additional costs down the road seems to be in jeopardy.

    So this is why I’ve stopped purchasing games on Virtual Console. I was fine with the extra cost for higher quality emulation, but I don’t want to be treated like a second-class consumer. Valve, and to a lesser extent Microsoft and Sony (three cheers for cross PS3 and PSP emulation of PSOne games) should be commended for being customer friendly in this regard.

  4. This is exactly why I’m nervous about the Wii’s successor. I have a bunch of games downloaded onto my Wii. It has to be at least two or three hundred dollars worth of them, if not more. And that’s all just money down the toilet when the new system arrives. It certainly makes me needlessly wary of their hardware.

    And you’re right. Developers need to knock it off with the locked save game data. Keep the online mode stuff in a separate file if you must, but don’t make me sacrifice my single player data. Machines break and my time and interest are not so great that I will be willing to start from square one on some 100 hour epic.

  5. “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.”

    Oh Jeremy, ALL companies involved with PC software assume all of their customers are criminals. Just look at any DRM in the last 5-10 years. And yes I am counting Steam as DRM, it at least offers some conveniences in return for it.

  6. I understand the why – publishers are skittish about multiple downloads of their precious media – but it still stings that Apple will freely let you re-download apps but not media.

  7. I had no idea that you couldn’t transfer Virtual Console games from an SD card to a new system. What’s the point of using an external device for your data if you can’t use it as a backup. Is it really true that some saves for retail can’t be transferred? I was mad that if you re-download 360 games to a new console you need a constant internet connection to play them, but this just dickish!

  8. On the one hand, Steam and Portal on Macs is all well and good, but dear gods it’s crazy how many times I’ve had to explain to people in the last 24 hours that I totally don’t meet the system requirements to run the Mac Steam client. It’s like people assume a download assistant isn’t going to require a high end system with the absolute latest OS version or something.

  9. You know, I’ve got over 40 Virtual Console and WiiWare titles saved to my Wii’s SD card and I know about this policy, but it still pisses me off that if my Wii croaks, that’s a few hundred dollars down the gutter. Backwards bullcrap like this is why I chose the Mario Hat as my Club Nintendo Platinum gift last year instead of Doc Louis’ Punch-Out!; if my Wii screwed up, I wouldn’t lose the hat.

  10. It might do Nintendo some good to lose a few points of market share to Apple in the mobile space. Nintendo got a little sharper about 3rd party support back in the early 90s when Sega stole some of their limelight.

  11. I think both Nintendo and Apple are criminal when it comes to their download services. I should be able to play anything I want whenever I want on whatever system I want, tied to some sort of account. I think a mix between steam and PSN (with the game sharing, which turned on more than a few of my friends to the PS3) is the only way digital distribution will supplant retail…for me, anyway. Unless I have the physical copy in my hands, I’m not really sure of anything.

    Oh, and I’m not buying a damn thing on Wiiware/VC. Nintendo doesn’t care, though! And as long as they keep giving me things like Mario Galaxy, well, I”ll still give them money. Just not as much. Principle only goes so far. :I

Comments are closed.