Will gamers see a fairer digital future?

Will gamers see a fairer digital future?

By Alex Ward

August 12th 2014 at 11:00AM

’The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves,’ quotes Alex Ward

In May, James Cameron did an “Ask Me Anything” piece on Reddit. One question was Terminator-related. It read, “Are there any timelines where Skynet wins. If yes, how?”

His response “One could argue that the machines have already won. All you have to do is look around at how many people are face down texting 100 per cent of the time, everywhere they are, and it’s hard to imagine that the machines haven’t won.”

Over the past few years, the digital world has given me a simpler and happier life. But I’m still not able to lead a digital life in the way I want to when it comes to gaming. Thanks to my Kindle and iPad Mini, I decluttered my shelves, I’ve bought more books and I can combine my collection with my family. Result: I read more, and buy more.

In 2007, I ripped all of my favourite movies and TV programmes to my Mac. But it’s mostly redundant now – if I want to re-watch The West Wing, I just fire up Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, which runs on every device I own. I’m watching more movies and discovering more new shows. Result: I’m watching more, and buying more.

But digital gaming remains messy and complicated. I should be good to go 100 per cent digital, right? Wrong.

GOING DIGITAL

First off, the prices are simply extortionate. Why would anyone pay £64.99 to download Watch Dogs to their PS4? That price makes no sense. Digital should be cheaper – simple as that.

 Ridiculous pricing isn’t happening elsewhere with other content. New films on Amazon Instant Video, Blinkbox, or Xbox Video are priced roughly the same as the physical content. Publishers spout off about “supporting a healthy retail channel” – but why not have a healthy digital channel co-exist at the same time? Do publishers and format holders enjoy a healthy mutual relationship at the expense of the consumer?

Sharing is the second flaw in the digital dream. It’s not simple to move games and saves between my consoles at home and at work. Xbox One’s simple Syncing makes it bearable. And I can auto-upload my PS4 saves to the cloud. Mario Kart 8’s steep digital price of £49.99 put the brakes on my purchase.

So what of the near-future? Will there be streaming subscription-based services? I’d love to pre-order the Watch Dogs sequel now, and get early access or extra content, but I don’t want to pay over the top to do so.
I’m really interested in PlayStation Now.

I hope Microsoft offers something similar. I wish both of these systems offered backwards compatibility. There are a lot of great games from last year I could easily spend the next year playing. But the early reports of beta Now access shows very high price points to access very old content. I’d be partial to the odd game of Rage Racer or other PlayStation games via my PS4, but I’d rather pay one price to access the entire library. I’ve been burned too many times on Nintendo’s eShop. How can an old NES game cost over a fiver?

 We’ve had Netflix and Amazon transform how we access movies and how much we pay. iTunes and Spotify changed the way we access, find, share and love music. But gaming seems stuck in the Dark Ages. The access is complicated. The prices are insane. The sharing is limited. Both the publishers and the format holders won’t act until we hit them where it hurts them the most: their spreadsheets. Gamers deserve better than this. They deserve a fairer digital world.

And just like James Cameron’s prologue at the beginning of The Terminator, this battle will not be fought in the future. It will be fought here, in our present. Tonight.