Whenever I rant on about the terrible trend of digital distribution, I risk being stamped a kook. Then events like the recent PlayStation Network outage emerges and I feel vindicated. My rhetoric isn’t of issues that could arise; they’re consequences that are happening.
Ultimately, the outage was Sony’s reaction to hackers breaking into the network and pillaging private user information. I’ll likely expand on this, the true catastrophe of this event, in a later blog post or the podcast since it’s relevant to my religion (of sorts). But for the meantime, I’d like to begin by fortifying my previous points.
My basic position is that consumers are being duped into accepting it’s more favorable to pay admission for access than to trade for property. If digital distribution becomes the standard for media, consumers lose all their power in the market.
One of the bullet points in my case is that consumers will be completely dependent on the distributor to access the products they buy. Third party services like Hulu Plus and Netflix are reportedly included in the outage, which means that their subscribers have paid for services that they now cannot use. Video games that include multiplayer are now reduced to less than half of a full product. And thanks to DRM, some games are now effectively dead.
There are only two titles–Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 and the Final Fight/Magic Sword game pack–that have been crippled by the outage (shame on you, Capcom!). But they’re still proof in the pudding that publishers are exercising their power over the consumer. Realize that this is like your favorite store in the mall closing down for renovation…except while it’s closed, any products you purchased there are suddenly revoked.
Every second that PSN is offline, Sony is losing money. Not just in game and video sales, but also stock value in products already sold that depend on online connectivity. Sony will want to make up that lost revenue somewhere. You need only reach behind you to grasp where they’ll get it. No, not there, but you’re close. Expect justified high prices and tighter access restrictions on the products you buy from here, forward.
These are the inherent risks in the “cloud” business model. The longer that this limb of the company is cut off from circulation, the faster it necrotizes. Too long, and it risks poisoning the entire organism and it must decide if its best course for survival is amputation. Once the service is terminated, everything you paid money for on it vaporizes. This isn’t likely to happen for PSN within the next couple years, but that is its inevitable fate.
The PS3 release of Portal 2 should have been magical. Not only was it the arrival of a multiplayer Portal, but also one that was cross-platform with PSN’s otherwise rival, Steam. PS3 players are fortunate that Valve included local multiplayer–a mode that’s becoming a rarity–so that they can still share the experience with close friends.
To appease the hearts and minds of its users, Sony could very well issue some kind of compensation for the outage, though they’re under no obligation. But when you stay at a hotel and are denied your complimentary continental breakfast because the kitchen stove is on the fritz, you have a right to be upset.
You may be told you’ve really lost nothing since it was “free”, but it was part of the hotel’s advertisement. The cost was part of the overall price; you paid good money for that free breakfast! You factored that into the math; weighing your choice of this hotel against taking your business to a competing one. It was promised, and for that you are due something.
Accepting the universal transition to cloud-based media distribution is a leap of faith. The Lord giveth, and the Lord can taketh away. Frankly, I don’t trust corporations to look out for anyone but themselves. Nor can I confidently rely on them to uphold sufficient security to prevent my private information from falling into the hands of bandits.