This past Friday, an article of mine was published on GotGame.com, expressing some of my views on consumer ownership in the video game industry. I’d placed Scribblenauts in center spotlight for the piece, since it’s not only the hottest new title but also because it has one of the most offensive end user license agreements I’ve ever read.
Within hours of its publication, a reader posted a comment suggesting I’d plagiarized a similar article in the October 2009 issue of Game Informer, which had hit shelves just days before.
I wasn’t offended–I get my video game industry news almost exclusively online and I can prove that I’d written the article weeks ago, should the gauntlet be thrown down. Though it did spark my curiosity to pick up said issue of Game Informer, in the relief that I might have a kindred spirit.
Lo and behold, on page 38, there’s an article about consumer ownership rights by Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association. The ECA is an organization devoted to spreading awareness about consumer rights and the dangers of industry trends that threaten them.
While drafting my “You Don’t Own Scribblenauts“ article, I’d searched around for such an organization to give my audience further reading options (and to provide credence to my otherwise ravings from a paranoid lunatic). Unfortunately I could not find a group in time for publishing, having exhausted all the variations of “consumer”, “ownership”, and “rights” I could imagine into a search engine.
The organization sounds good and I support any other group cut from the same cloth. You can sign up for membership at the ECA website, but there is a catch. In order to claim independence from corporate influence, the organization requires annual dues paid by its members. If that turns you off, the article in Game Informer does offer a coupon code good for one year’s membership for free.
At the time of this writing, I’ve had difficulty establishing my own membership with the ECA, due to security red flags triggered in my web browser. I get the feeling that this is due to poor website design, but I’ve contacted their tech support for clarification.
I will offer my hunch… At first, it made sense to me that this type of article was published in Game Informer, GameStop’s proprietary video game rag. After all, GameStop’s entire business model depends on the secondhand market providing more than half of their revenue. Of course their publication is going to spotlight an article forewarning the dangers of digital distribution over tangible media. Nevertheless, I was happy that someone is covering this topic and that there’s an organization devoted to the cause.
As I investigate further, I’m beginning to suspect that the ECA may have even been founded, if not heavily backed by GameStop as an unofficial branch of their corporation. This implies that the ECA (who, by the way, also controls GamePolitics.com) is a subversive public relations device whose true priorities are geared toward sustaining the interests of retailers, rather than consumers.
What’s worse, if this is true, that means that the organization is a facade, with its membership fees being just another channel of income for GameStop.
Whatever your political view regarding GameStop, you may want to seek out an alternative organization with similar goals. Count on me providing updates regarding the ECA, as they come to me.