What Happens When You No Longer Own Your Games?

I know I’ve already posted a few articles about the Xbox One detailing the changes the system is bringing to the way consumers look at home consoles, and also also posing the question of what happens next, but there’s another, much more important question that needs to be addressed here. What happens in five to ten years from now to all the games you’ve purchased on the Xbox One? Let me explain.

When I buy a game on Steam or on console, the game is stored on my hard-drive or on a disc, and that’s the end of it. Sure some PC games have a form a DRM which requires I be connected online to verify it’s a legal copy, but much more often these games don’t require this authentication. They simply work, and that’s the end of it. Disc-based games just need to be plopped in the system and that’s it. Now that we’re moving to this neat little future where our games are going to have to be verified at least once a day in order for them to work, the question has to be asked, what happens when the next generation rolls around? Will all of these purchased games move with me, will they still require authentication, or worse of all, will they be gone for good?

What happens to niche titles ten years down the road when the publisher no longer has active servers?
What happens to niche titles like Vanquish ten years down the road when the publisher no longer has active servers?

If you say “yeah, sure they will” well will they? Look at the PS3 to PS4, or the Xbox 360 to Xbox One, absolutely no software is being transferred over. That means that all of your digital purchases will continue to work on your PS3/360, but they’re staying there forever. That’s fine because they’ll continue to work with or without an online connection, but with the Xbox One it’s not that black and white. You see the games you buy are being stored on your hard-drive, but since they require a daily authentication in order to be activated, what happens when the servers are closed down? Do we stop being able to play the games we paid for? What happens to NHL 17 when NHL 18 comes out? Sure authentication servers won’t require the same space as multiplayer servers do, but how long will these servers be around for? These are extremely important questions that need to be answered, because we all know that companies close servers down all the time. Even omega popular online MMOs will eventually be gone for good.

It’s a very scary thought to live in a world where we don’t actually own a single videogame we buy for a home console, but it’s certainly looking like that’s exactly what’s going to happen unless people scream, and shout. These choices being made can be reversed. This is not a hardware problem, these are simply business decisions that are being made and implemented into the software. Publishers, and Microsoft can change this on a dime if consumers speak loudly enough. I’ll tell you one thing, if there comes a day where some third party company can prevent me from playing a videogame I bought, even a single player game, simply because they close the activation server down, that will be the end of that publisher in my eyes. I will not support business moves like this because they’re completely, and absolutely unacceptable. How is it I can go back and play a game from 30 years ago, but now, in 2013, there might be a time when I can’t play a game I buy this November? The worse part of this is that the control is being taken away from the consumer, and that’s a future I really fear.

3 thoughts on “What Happens When You No Longer Own Your Games?”

  1. Wow, very interesting point there. I hope a reporter asks that question at the Q & A after their press conference! Oh wait…. :P

  2. I really think this won’t be an issue, as this would probably be a legal issue as well. Let’s say all we’ve heard about the xbox one is true and doesnt change, when the next xbox hits, Im 100% sure Microsoft will update the One so it doesnt need online verification now. Same thing when EA shuts down a server, theyll let you play offline now.

  3. I’m sure Microsoft won’t keep these restrictions if Sony doesn’t announce something similar. There’s just no way in hell they’ll be able to stay afloat among all the bad PR. Just look now, they’re already taking tons of bad PR and people haven’t even seen the damn games yet. I think the next few days will dictate what Microsoft will do moving forward. Should Sony not announce these restrictions, you can bet MS will change things up at the Euro games show or before the system hits.

    As far as the legal issue behind this, lawyers are already looking into it. Steam has a policy that in the event the company should go belly-up, all games will be distributed to those that buy them DRM-free. In other words you won’t require Steam to play the games you purchased. That’s their loop-hole so they don’t get in legal issues. Microsoft will have to employ something similar or else!

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