Developers & Fans Still in Copyright Cat and Mouse Game

December 1, 2009 -

Using Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture as quasi- guide, the blog Press Start to Drink takes a look at the current state of copyright law and enforcement within the game community.

Cease and Desist: Games Culture and Copyright Laws begins with Lessig’s assertion that current copyright laws are nothing more than “protectionism to protect certain forms of business.”  This, the author writes, is what has led to, in some cases, “an immense tension between IP holders in the games industry and the IP fans who consider some games part of their personal culture.”

The author details a pair of incidents where game development companies stopped fans from infringing on their copyright: a Gears of War fan that modified a toy to resemble a character from the game and the quashing—by Square Enix—of a community-made Chrono Trigger add-on.

On the other side of the fence, one company (at least) appears to be demonstrating Lessig’s “free culture” ideal: Valve Software. Valve exercised restraint when a group of community members undertook Black Mesa: Source, a project that uses Half Life 2’s source code to reconstruct the original Half Life game.

While Valve did not “openly encouraged the mods development, they have not taken any legal action to stop it.”

Also touched on in the article is the more radical example of when a developer lifts content from a fan-developed project. The author cites the book Play Between Worlds, by T.L. Taylor, who wrote, “several astute MUD developers noticed early on that EQ (EverQuest) appeared strikingly similar to a type of MUD called DIKU.”

The blogger notes that, “…ironically, in the Everquest case, the DIKU developers thought of the situation as a compliment, not a copyright infringement.”

Closing with a quote from Lessig, “The opportunity to create and transform becomes weakened in a world in which creation requires permission and creativity must check with a lawyer,” the blogger adds:

…the more developers and publishers that take up Valve’s position, the more creativity and innovation will emerge out of video game fan communities, already known for their intense fandom and desire to add to, alter, and reimagine their favorite gaming universes.

21 comments

GameStop Eying Acquisitions to Bolster Digital Distribution

October 22, 2009 -

As part of a plan to bolster its digital distribution offerings, GameStop may look to acquire or invest in an established company or service already involved in the sector.

At a recent analyst meeting, the videogame retailer outlined three ways to accelerate its digital distribution plans reports IndustryGamers: Increase in-store sales of online point cards, expand GameStop’s current digital distribution platform and make a strategic investment in or acquire a current provider of online games.

In an opinion piece in its newsletter, GamesIndustry speculates which companies/services make sense for GameStop to acquire. Metaboli, which purchased GameTap last year, might be one logical answer, as the French-based company would provide double the pay off for GameStop, offering a way into the European market in addition to its digital catalog of games.

The other acquisition possibility? GamesIndustry writes:

Unconfirmed industry scuttlebutt suggests that Zenimax - the parent company of Bethesda, which made headlines back in June when it acquired legendary PC studio id Software - is still on the acquisition trail, and has been making eyes at Half-Life creators Valve across the bar. Whether Bethesda, a hybrid developer / publisher itself, would want to keep Steam on board, or spin it out to a third party, is unclear - as are many other aspects of a potential deal…

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Valve Working With Aussie Classification Board

October 7, 2009 -

In the wake of an Australian Classification Board ruling three weeks ago that Valve's new Left 4 Dead 2 game would receive no classification, Gabe Newell was in Sydney to try to allay the boards concerns.

According to a story on Kotaku, the game was banned because of the amount of violence in the game and deemed "unsuitable for persons under age 18 to play."

Valve has appealed the board's ruling and that a decision should be forthcoming around Oct. 22. As a back-up plan, Newell said that an edited version of the game has been submitted to the board, adding that they don't want to ship a second version, but will if it means getting the game into the hands of Aussie players.

More from Kotaku:

The decision to submit an edited version was made to ensure Left 4 Dead 2 met its planned November release date. Given that the Review Board will not report back on the appeal until October 22, it means there may not be enough time to get the unedited version on sale for the global launch. Newell confirmed that if the edited version is released, then the Australian version would receive an update if the appeal proves successful. This would be free on PC, but he said he did not yet know how it might work on Xbox 360.

It is not out of the realm of possibility that the board could backtrack on it's ban. Warner Bros. Interactive was able to successfully appeal a no classification ruling of F.E.A.R. 2 to an MA15+ rating earlier this year.

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Xbox 360 Owners to Pay $7 for L4D DLC that PC Gamers Get For Free

September 9, 2009 -

Usually, it's the PC crowd that gets dissed by game publishers. But in the case at hand Valve is doing right by computer gamers while Microsoft seems intent upon squeezing the last nickel out of Xbox 360 owners.

At issue is Crash Course,  a bit of DLC for the popular zombie shooter Left 4 Dead. Valve, which doesn't charge for DLC, plans to give Crash Course away to PC players. Meanwhile MS will be nicking 360 gamers $7 for the download.

Not that he has any explaining to do (although MS does), but Valve's Chet Faliszek told Eurogamer why it's happening this way:

We own our platform, Steam. Microsoft owns their platform. They wanted to make sure there's an economy of value there...

Via: The Consumerist

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PC Version of Manhunt 2 May Carry an AO Rating, But How Will It Get Sold?

August 26, 2009 -

As noted by Joystiq, the ESRB is currently listing the upcoming PC version of Manhunt 2 with an Adults Only (AO) rating.

GamePolitics readers will likely recall that the console versions of Manhunt 2 generated a major controversy in the summer of 2007 when the game was banned in Britain and tagged with an AO here in the States. Rockstar subsequently released a toned-down version that earned an M (17+) rating for the U.S. market.

That was a critical milestone, because the Big Three console makers won't license AO-rated games for their systems, which makes it tough for a publisher to earn a return on its investment. That's why you don't see any AO-rated console games. While the open architecture of the PC negates licensing concerns, an AO-rated Manhunt 2 would still get thumbs-down from major retailers like GameStop and Wal-Mart.

That means that Rockstar is either planning a digital distribution campaign for Manhunt 2 or that it will edit the PC version - as it did with the console editions - to earn an M from the ESRB. Of course, there is a third scenario: Rockstar could ship an M-rated version to retailers while distributing an AO-rated version online.

We wonder how Valve might react to handling an AO game if its Steam service, which currently distributes Rockstar's GTA IV online, is under consideration as a potential digital distribution source for Manhunt 2.

Left 4 Dead 2 Writer Calls Racism Charges "Utter Insanity"

August 3, 2009 -

In mid-July GamePolitics reported on Houston Chronicle game blogger Willie Jefferson's assertion that video games are increasingly possessed of "racist undertones."

In support of his claim Jefferson mentioned the much-debated Resident Evil 5 as well as the recently-released Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. Jefferson also pointed to Valve's in-development Left 4 Dead 2 (screenshot at left):

I am disturbed by the growing trend of racist undertones that are cropping up in video games.

One of the games that comes to mind is "Left 4 Dead 2." ...Set in New Orleans, players will have to fight their way through hordes of zombies - with several of them who appear to be African-Americans. When I saw the first trailer for the game, all I could think about was Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath...

In the wake of Jefferson's charge, a writer for L4D2 has fired back, reports Destructoid:

While visiting Valve this past week, we asked how they felt about the [racism] accusations, and Left 4 Dead writer Chet Faliszek was quite frank with his response.

"Utter insanity," says Faliszek... "There are mixed races of zombies, there are all different races of zombies that you shoot, and since we placed it in New Orleans, that makes it racist? I honestly re-read the [Houston Chronicle] paragraph about five times ... but when two of the characters in your game are African-American, it's a weird thing to be accused of. We're like, 'how does this work'?

"... As far as Katrina goes, if you go down to New Orleans, Katrina's still going on. I mean, it's messed up, it is crazy that the city is still in the state it's in, and we treat that with the utmost respect... It's a place we love, it's dear to our hearts. We would not cheapen it. It's not a brick-for-brick representation of New Orleans; it's a fictional version, and I love that city."

51 comments

Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

July 15, 2009 -

Yesterday's edition of the Houston Chronicle's Game Hack blog ponders whether racism is becoming a norm in video game design.

Blogger Willie Jefferson expresses concern over 2009 releases Resident Evil 5 and Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (pic at left) as well as the in-development Left 4 Dead 2. RE5, of course, has already been the subject of much debate over its depiction of African villagers as zombies. Jefferson writes:

I am disturbed by the growing trend of racist undertones that are cropping up in video games.

One of the games that comes to mind is "Left 4 Dead 2." ...Set in New Orleans, players will have to fight their way through hordes of zombies - with several of them who appear to be African-Americans. When I saw the first trailer for the game, all I could think about was Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath...

The game that really inspired this blog entry was Ubisoft's "Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood." The game starts out with players assuming the role of Ray, a Confederate officer... the Confederacy, as far as I am concerned, wanted to keep their cheap slave labor and the like. I can not stand the Confederate flag... To me, the flag represents hate -- and offends me and many others to no end. [It] made me wonder how much research Ubisoft did for this game...

As a minority, had the South won, I wouldn't be in this position I am today...

136 comments

G4's Adam Sessler Slams Left 4 Dead 2 Whiners

June 18, 2009 -

The unexpected gamer protest against Valve's E3 announcement of Left 4 Dead 2 has left more than a few obervers perplexed.

Add the name of G4's Adam Sessler to the list of those who don't get what the whining is about. On his latest Soapbox segment Sessler takes the L4D2 protesters to task:

We're going down that path again - this shocking, amazing sense of entitlement that always manifests itself in the gaming community... Valve does not have a habit of screwing people and if there was ever a developer out there I would just kind of give them the benefit of the doubt...

 

They don't owe you anything. It's a business... Where were you brought up and in what environment where you hugged so overwhelmingly that you feel that you need to be served as the only person that needs to be considered when other people are making commercial properties? It really is a little bit on the naive side and slightly embarrassing... It's kind of juvenile... The Internet, when it comes to games, can be such a nation of whiners...

Via: Gaming Today

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Steam to Carry New Version of America's Army

June 10, 2009 -

America's Army, the only video game in recent memory to generate a full-blown protest march, is getting an upgrade to v3.0; the new version will be carried by Valve's Steam service.

A press release issued by America's Army's P.R. consultant this morning announced that AA3 will be available as a free Steam download beginning on June 17th. In addition to Steam, fans can download the new version from other locations listed on the AA3 site.

Of the game's availability on Steam, Marsha Berry, senior executive producer for America's Army said:

We are very excited to work with Valve to distribute AA3 on Steam as it gives us access to great distribution technology as well as a tremendous user base. Additionally, we have incorporated Steamworks features such as Achievements and Steam Cloud to create a richer experience for Steam users.

 

Our relationship with Steam will broaden our reach to a new community and it offers our current players a great new way to get the America's Army game and keep it updated. Players will also be able to download AA3 using the America's Army Deploy Client from the Deploy network of providers listed on the America's Army download site.

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Left 4 Dead 2 Sparks Consumer Protest

June 8, 2009 -

There is, apparently, a consumer protest of sorts bubbling up around Valve's E3 announcement of Left 4 Dead 2.

A user group which opened within the last few days on Valve's Steam Community is actively calling for a boycott of the game and has nearly 17,000 members as I write this.

So, what are the protesters griping about? Via Videogames Republic, here's the list:

  • Significant content for L4D1 was promised, and never delivered
  • Valve put little faith in L4D1 since they almost certainly started working on L4D2 right after release
  • The fact that L4D2 is nearly identical to L4D1 will decimate the community for both games
  • The announced date is not nearly enough time to polish content or make significant gameplay changes
  • The new character designs seem bland and unappealing so far
  • L4D2 is too bright to fit in with L4D1’s visual aesthetic
  • The fiddle-based horde music is extremely disliked, though the differently orchestrated music is otherwise welcome
  • L4D2’s release will result in a drop in quality and frequency for L4D1 content, even compared to before
  • The community has lost faith in Valve’s former reputation for commitment to their games post-release

The group also has requests:

  • That Valve honor its commitment to release ongoing periodic content for Left 4 Dead.
  • That Left 4 Dead 2 not be released as a stand-alone, full-priced sequel but as either a free update to Left 4 Dead or an expansion with full compatibility with basic Left 4 Dead owners.
  • That Left 4 Dead owners be given discounts for Left 4 Dead 2, should it be released as premium content.
     

GP: To be honest, after EA's phony Dante's Inferno protest last week, I'm a but gunshy about declaring this one genuine and not another case of viral marketing. I'd like to hear more...

127 comments

It's Ugly: Valve Sues Activision, Activision Threatens to Sue Valve

April 30, 2009 -

An ugly court action is underway and it involves a pair of video game titans.

On Tuesday Valve filed suit against Activision Blizzard in U.S. District Court in Seattle. The suit alleges that Activision refused to honor an agreement to abide by an arbitrator's April 6th award decision involving a 2002 dispute over royalties.

The arbitrator in that case awarded Valve $2,391,932, an amount that Valve says is less than it sought, but which it will accept because both parties agreed to be bound by the arbitration process.

Activision, however, challenged the award, claiming that Valve had been overpaid by $424,136 in years past. For its part Valve alleges that Activision failed to properly raise this issue before the abitrator whom, the suit claims, refused to consider it for procedural reasons.

Against that backdrop, Activision cut Valve a check last week for $1,967,796 - the amount handed down by the arbitrator less the disputed $424K. According to Valve's suit, Activision said that it wouldn't pay the rest and if Valve went to court Activision would countersue. Valve has apparently called Activision's bluff and the parties are now once again at odds.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the complaint... 

UPDATE: The original 2002 lawsuit was not against Activision, but instead targeted Sierra in a dispute over licensing Valve games to cyber-cafes. Sierra was owned by Vivendi, so when Activision merged with Vivendi in 2008 it inherited the Valve case in the deal.

27 comments

Buyer Beware: Free Far Cry 2 Offer is a Scam

February 21, 2009 -

PC gamers, if you've received an authentic-looking e-mail offer from Steam for a free download of Far Cry 2, don't click through.

The ad is not legit and the link does not go to Steam, but rather to the perhaps aptly-named ripway.com.

Here at GP we received two of these offers yesterday, and several members of the Joystiq crew received them as well.

We've notified Steam and we trust that they are taking the appropriate measures to shut down this apparent scam.

17 comments

Valve's Gabe Newell Disses DRM in DICE Keynote

February 19, 2009 -

Valve founder Gabe Newell did some outside-the-box musing during his DICE Summit keynote, reports Stephen Totilo of MTV Multiplayer.

Among other topics, Newell ripped DRM for games:

Newell believes that [DRM] that is presented as copy-protection gives a game a stink. It leaves customers unsure about how flexibly they can access their games. So they turn to pirates who offer games with fewer strings, he suggested. “There is evidence anecdotally that DRM is increasing piracy rather than decreasing piracy.”

 

Valve’s solution: battle the pirates by providing better services than the pirates do. The effectiveness of pirates, he said, is to get content to people who want it more swiftly and easily than the companies who make the content do. An outfit like Valve, however, can get provide even better service, even by doing something as intrusive as data-mining their customers’ computers — as long as they are transparent about it and can prove to the customer that taking such measures will make the customers’ games better.

GP: Nice... We're adding Gabe Newell to our list of game industry white hats who are keeping the most important person in the business - the game consumer - in mind.

73 comments

PCGA's Randy Stude: Piracy Helped PC Game Biz Grow

February 14, 2009 -

Since it is Valentine's Day, I will admit that here at GamePolitics we heart Randy Stude (uh, that's in a manly, want-him-on-our-side-in-team-deathmatch sort of way).

The president of the PC Gaming Alliance invariably talks sense and pulls no punches as an unabashed advocate for the computer gaming crowd. Plus, he's a great interview, as we found out in December (see: PlayStation 4 Might Live Inside Your PC and Other Wisdom from PCGA's Randy Stude).

Big Download is the latest beneficiary of Randy's insights. The site has posted a fascinating interview in which the PCGA head talks about the issue of piracy and PC games.

Most notably, Randy points out that, back in the day, piracy actually helped grow the PC industry: 

I don't think that [those who protested Spore's DRM scheme] is anti-DRM as much as they are anti-Spore's approach to DRM. Their protest has been echoed many times on many gaming forums and the PCGA is listening...

 

If you ask [Valve and Stardock] about the rate of piracy for their games you may find that one has rampant piracy and the other has almost none. The PC Gaming Industry's history is littered with examples of startups (including Stardock and Valve) that actually benefitted from wide spread piracy to grow a market for their future titles.

 

Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating piracy... However, how would Quake, Doom, Starcraft, Counter-Strike, or Half-Life have been able to grow widespread brand recognition without a widespread network of gamers openly sharing these games. These titles (and many more) defined the industry. Personally, my first experience with a first person shooter was with Doom (back in the day) and I did not pay for it. Id Software turned the corner and has a very successful business built on the back of the early free/open source exchange of their games...

 

27 comments

Valve: Pirates Are Underserved Customers

January 16, 2009 -

While the traditional video game industry view portrays game software pirates as criminals, Jason Holtman of Valve has a different view.

Speaking this week at the Game Business Law Summit at Southern Methodist University Law School, Holtman described pirates as potential customers.

GameDaily reports on Holtman's remarks:

There's a big business feeling that there's piracy. [But the truth is] Pirates are underserved customers. .. When you think about it that way, you think, 'Oh my gosh, I can do some interesting things and make some interesting money off of it.'

[At Valve] we take all of our games day-and-date to Russia. The reason people pirated things in Russia is because Russians are reading magazines and watching television -- they say 'Man, I want to play that game so bad,' but the publishers respond 'you can play that game in six months...maybe.'

We found that our piracy rates dropped off significantly [by releasing in Russia]... [There are] tons of undiscovered customers...

42 comments

Report: Valve's Gabe Newell Disses DRM

December 2, 2008 -

When it comes to DRM, it seems that Valve president Gabe Newell is one of those in the game biz who wears a white hat.

That is to say, he espouses a reasonable approach, one that is not a de facto screwing of game consumers.

In an e-mail to a gamer by the name of Paul Reisinger (posted on the ih8evilstuff LiveJournal page), Newell writes:

Left 4 Dead is developed entirely by Valve. Steam revenue for our games is not shared with third parties. Around the world we have a number of distribution partners to handle retail distribution of our games (i.e. make discs and boxes). EA is one of those partners.

As far as DRM goes, most DRM strategies are just dumb. The goal should be to create greater value for customers through service value (make it easy for me to play my games whenever and wherever I want to), not by decreasing the value of a product (maybe I'll be able to play my game and maybe I won't).

We really really discourage other developers and publishes from using the broken DRM offerings, and in general there is a groundswell to abandon those approaches.

Via: Tech in Hiding Games

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MaskedPixelantehttp://steamcommunity.com/app/251150/discussions/0/43099722329318860/ In this thread: Idiots who don't understand how licensing works.07/29/2014 - 9:20am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/07/28/gaymerx-in-dire-straits-after-nis-america-allegedly-backs-out-of/ NISA backs out of GaymerX support, but it seems like the only people crying foul are GaymerX.07/29/2014 - 6:30am
Papa MidnightIt's not bad so far, but I am honestly not sure what to make of it (or where it's going for that matter)07/28/2014 - 9:44pm
Matthew Wilsonis it any good?07/28/2014 - 9:36pm
Papa Midnight"Love Child" on HBO -- anyone else watching this?07/28/2014 - 9:27pm
MaskedPixelanteNah, I'm fine purple monkey dishwasher.07/28/2014 - 4:05pm
Sleaker@MP - I hope you didn't suffer a loss of your mental faculties attempting that.07/28/2014 - 3:48pm
MaskedPixelanteOK, so my brief research looking at GameFAQs forums (protip, don't do that if you wish to keep your sanity intact.), the 3DS doesn't have the power to run anything more powerful than the NES/GBC/GG AND run the 3DS system in the background.07/28/2014 - 11:01am
ZenMatthew, the 3DS already has GBA games in the form of the ambassador tittles. And I an just as curious about them not releasing them on there like they did the NES ones. I do like them on the Wii U as well, but seems weird. And where are the N64 games?07/28/2014 - 10:40am
james_fudgeNo. They already cut the price. Unless they release a new version that has a higher price point.07/28/2014 - 10:19am
E. Zachary KnightMatthew, It most likely is. The question is whether Nintendo wants to do it.07/28/2014 - 10:12am
Matthew WilsonI am sure the 3ds im more then powerful enough to emulate a GBA game.07/28/2014 - 9:54am
Sleaker@IanC - while the processor is effectively the same or very similar, the issue is how they setup the peripheral hardware. It would probably require creating some kind of emulation for the 3DS to handle interfacing with the audio and input methods for GBA07/28/2014 - 9:30am
Sleaker@EZK - hmmm, that makes sense. I could have sworn I had played GB/GBC games on it too though (emud of course)07/28/2014 - 9:23am
E. Zachary KnightSleaker, the DS has a built in GBA chipset in the system. That is why it played GBA games. The GBA had a seperate chipset for GB and GBColor games. The DS did not have that GB/GBC chipset and that is why the DS could not play GB and GBC games.07/28/2014 - 7:25am
IanCI dont think Nintendo ever gave reason why GBA games a reason why GBA games aren't on the 3DS eshop. The 3DS uses chips that are backwards compatable with the GBA ob GBA processor, after all.07/28/2014 - 6:46am
Sleakerhmmm that's odd I could play GBA games natively in my original DS.07/28/2014 - 1:39am
Matthew Wilsonbasically "we do not want to put these games on a system more then 10 people own" just joking07/27/2014 - 8:13pm
MaskedPixelanteSomething, something, the 3DS can't properly emulate GBA games and it was a massive struggle to get the ambassador games running properly.07/27/2014 - 8:06pm
Andrew EisenIdeally, you'd be able to play such games on either platform but until that time, I think Nintendo's using the exclusivity in an attempt to further drive Wii U sales.07/27/2014 - 7:21pm
 

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