Computer Games

Used Games

The games industry does not like the used-games industry.

The used-games industry quite likes the games industry, but likes selling games it got for nearly nothing at a high profit more, and often points to the fact that the car industry and the used car industry are fine.

The used car industry doesn’t kill the new car industry, partly because cars degrade, so people want used cars less. But also, because they *all* degrade, and while a car manufacturer won’t get a penny from the sale of a used car, they do get a steady income from people buying parts for one. In fact, there is a trend towards custom components and apple-style sealed engine units so that not only do mechanics have to get the parts per car, they also have to be specially trained in how to repair each new model.

You could argue that DLC fills in this niche somehow, but until you require DLC to continue your game, I’m not sure it fits. The things that fit into that “must do this to use the software” hole would be patches.

So, by this logic, they sell the new games, don’t care about the used ones, and charge per patch. Or per league update (hello, EA Sports).

The argument usually boils down to “Used games mean the developer doesn’t get paid” vs “New games are too expensive for me”. This is not a solvable argument because both sides are completely true, it depends on whose side you stand on, and you won’t generally shift people across the line.

Personally, I stand on the no-used-games side of the line, not because of any copyright issues, but simply because if games producers aren’t getting money for selling games, something is wrong.

So, as as a thesis: game producers should get some money out of used games sales.

How should that happen?

Below the producers, there are three transactions. The producer sells to the distributor, the distributor to the store, the store to the customer.

A used game sale is between the store and the customer, the distributor has done their job, and so isn’t on the hook here. This leaves three people to possibly give the producer money for a used game sale: Producer (zero sum game), the store or the customer.

Currently, the producer is attempting to get it out of the customer by one-time DLC charges (Project $10) that don’t negate the game entirely, but do provide an incentive to buy it new (and, by the side, a disincentive to buy it used. Most games multiplayer community doesn’t last long enough for the used discount to be more than $10, so used game + multiplayer >= new game inc. multiplayer.)

Other ways they could do this would be with a non-transferable code that gives you a permanent 30% off all DLC and downloads for that game. So there’s nothing in the box you that changes between free and used, but the new buyer has an incentive to be so apart from the aesthetic “Shiny clear film to open” reason.

The second option would be to charge the store, the producer to get a cut of every second hand game sale. This would enable the publisher to track used sales (and possibly prove to each other that game prices *really are* too expensive). On the plus side, this takes the cost out of the consumer and means the evil corporations don’t make as good a profit from selling second hand items, but on the minus side it’s completely illegal in most places due to the aforementioned legal rights to resale, which mean that the store is under no obligation to enter into such an agreement, cannot be contracted to do so, and therefore won’t.

Current Affairs


Church HIV prayer cure claims ’cause three deaths’

The women died after attending churches in London where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God would heal them, their friends and a leading HIV doctor said.

Which reminds me.

It rained for days and days and there was a terrific flood. The water rose so high that one man was forced to climb on top of his roof and sat in the rain. As the waters came up higher a man in a rowboat came up to the house and told him to get in. “No thank you, the Lord will save me!” he said, and the man in the rowboat rowed away.

The waters rose to the edge of the roof and still the man sat on the roof until another rowboat came by and another man told him to get in. “No thank you, the Lord will save me!” he said again, and the man rowed away.

The waters covered the house and the man was forced to sit on his chimney as the rain poured down and a helicopter came by and another man urged him to get in or he’ll drown. “No thank you,” the man said again, “The Lord will save me!”

After much begging and pleading the man in the helicopter gave up and flew away. The waters rose above the chimney and the man drowned and went to heaven where he met God.

“Lord, I don’t understand,” he told Him, frustrated, “The waters rose higher and higher and I waited hours for you to save me but you didn’t! Why?”

The Lord just shook his head and said, “What are you talking about? I sent two boats and a helicopter?!”


The "Disappointment" of the iPhone 4S

The iPhone 4S is not designed to make the IT Industry happy with Apple.

A while ago, while Apple were doing the iPod thing and their machines were still the main asset, the running joke about Apples was that they were obsolete before you got them home. Computers in general, sure, but Apple machines in particular. Now, the industry press is choc-a-block with disappointment for the new iPhone 4S, because there’s not much of a compelling killer-feature for someone who already has an iPhone 4.


Siri is a corporate lackey, as expected
My first iPhone – a 3G – was on an 18 month contract. This iPhone – a 4S – is on a 24 month contract. The vast majority of people buying the iPhone 4 won’t have had it given to them for review purposes, or bought it Sim-Free from the Apple store. They’ll have got it though their network on an 18 to 24 month contract. If they bought it on release date, that’ll expire June 24 2012 (Or July, if they were on CDMA. Or the following April if they bought it in white). The 4S isn’t designed to be a must-upgrade from the iPhone 4. It doesn’t need to be, and probably shouldn’t be. It’s a compelling upgrade for people with a 3G, or 3GS, though.

If we turn that onto the Android market and attempt to apply the same values, it gets a little strange. It’s almost impossible to have a top-of-the-line Android handset for more than two weeks right now, and at one point last year the top-range HTC models were being released *after* the next level of phones had been annouced for release the following month. All of these phones, unless you have the disposable income to drop on the unlocked versions, come with a 18 to 24 month contract. If I hadn’t bought my original-model Desire unlocked, I’d have another six months before I was able to switch, and that would be to a phone that HTC stopped supplying OS updates to a year ago, and didn’t even bother patching for the most recent security lapses.

So I won’t be getting an iPhone 5, because when it comes out I’ll be halfway though the contract for this one. But I’ll probably be right in line for the 5S, even though ZDNet & Engadget think it’s a “Disappointment”.


Siri-ous business

Tripped, Fell, Bought a new iPhone.

So far, so phone. I had an iPhone 3G, so the wonders of the iPhone aren’t very new to me, and the iPad means I’ve been playing with iOS5 for a little while now. I’d forgotten how much I liked iOS, to be honest.

So, reviews, then:

News Stand

News Stand is one of the smaller features of iOS, because really it’s a glorified categorisation. Previously, Magazine Apps were Apps, and went into App Places. Now they get automatically put into a drawer called “News Stand” which looks different.

However, since I got the iPad I’ve kind of bought into the “Future of magazines” koolaid. Not that the iPad is, specifically, but that Tablets may be. Paid content on the internet is a business, but not a very big or scalable one. The only people who’ve really made it work is the porn industry.

I’ve been reading three things in News Stand, PC Gamer, Edge and the new Guardian app. All are notable because the content is also available for free on the site, so it’s linkable and sharable, but all the sites suffer the great rolling news tragedy. Writing for rolling 24 hour access sites is speed, writing for tomorrow’s newspaper is speed and craft. Plus, instant updates tend to favour the Now over the Important, and the craft of a magazine or newspaper format, with the analysis of what’s important that will *stay* important and thus “Front Page News” is valuable.

They download into off-line form automatically as they become available, and from then it doesn’t matter if you’re about to go into a tunnel when you want to read the next page. The text is as big as you want it to be, you can fit the last two week’s newspapers – in searchable format – into a space the size of The Very Hungry Catapiller. Plus, the Guardian one’s free until January.


Siri is the most impressive piece of voice recognition software I’ve ever used.

It manages this by two methods. The first is by being limited in scope. It’s not that much different from the old Infocom lexographical parsers for adventure games. It recognises what you want to do partly by matching it against things you *might* have said and choosing the most likely.

Second, it cheats. I realised this when I wandered to do the laundry under our towerblock, and Siri stopped working. I don’t know *what* it sends out to get analysed, I’m assuming it’s not a full voice recording, but it doesn’t work without network.

You can use shortcuts for people, too. Like this:

“Who is my Girlfriend”
“What is your girlfriend’s name?”
“Okay. Do you want me to remember that Fyrheafoc is your Girlfriend?”
“Okay Aquarion, I’ll remember that Fyrheafoc is your girlfriend”

And so it does. Kind of. If your “me” contact is a contact that ‘belongs’ to a synchronised Exchange account (or, at least, with Google Sync) it doesn’t seem to be able to create a record of “girlfriend”, and logs the contact name as “Spouse” or – amusingly – “Manager”, and entirely forgetting the ‘girlfriend’ bit (so you go though the above roundabout again). I got around this by creating an iCloud-synced contact called “Aquarion” and setting that as my “Me” contact, and everything after that was fine.

But the most annoying thing?


“What is the distance from London to Glasgow?”

For questions that Siri knows the answer to, it answers.

For questions that it doesn’t, it checks to see if it’s something Wolframalpha knows.

For everything else, it says “You can search the web”.

The exception is for things that the US version of Siri, which has maps and location information enabled, knows, but the Non-US versions don’t. For those, you get this:

Siri Sorry

Now, the fact that it launched without location data outside the States sucks. But:

"Ask Wolfram Alpha the distance from London to Glasgow"

"Search the web for distance from London to Glasgow"

If you can’t do it, Siri, please pass it over the things that can, like you do with everything else.

This comes across as “It sucks”, but it really doesn’t. It’s right almost all the time, and when it isn’t it’s almost always because I wasn’t speaking clearly. But the closeness makes the wrong bits so much more infuriating.