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Sony Patents Game Demos With Feature Erosion

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the annoyance-codified dept.

Patents 200

MojoKid writes "When a game developer releases a demo, it's typically intended to entice players into first trying and then purchasing the full version. This is the stuff of Game Design 101 for most of us, but a crack team of cutting-edge gaming researchers at Sony have applied for a patent based on a novel concept: game demos that become progressively less fun the more you play. Sony refers to this as 'feature erosion.' The idea behind this dubious concept is that gamers will become hooked on a game while it's still in demo, then squawk unhappily as features and abilities they've unlocked begin to disappear. In order to prevent this, the player ponies up for the full version. A demo or program that provides limited functionality or play time is one thing; a game that's purposefully designed to take your progress away, in an admitted attempt to get you to buy once you've been hooked, is something altogether different."

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What's the problem? (4, Interesting)

dtmos (447842) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380206)

Lots of demo software is designed to stop working entirely after the demo period expires. The concept of doing this gradually over time seems, if anything, more humane.

I suggest we roll over and go back to sleep -- or at least save our angst for worthy matters.

Re:What's the problem? (1, Insightful)

rastilin (752802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380278)

Lots of demo software is designed to stop working entirely after the demo period expires. The concept of doing this gradually over time seems, if anything, more humane. I suggest we roll over and go back to sleep -- or at least save our angst for worthy matters.

Let's try this with a car analogy. Do you want a car that works fine for several days then suddenly won't start, or one that will lose features over time? Which one is more humane?

Re:What's the problem? (4, Insightful)

blai (1380673) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380296)

If someone gave me the car for free...

Re:What's the problem? (2, Interesting)

rastilin (752802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380318)

If someone gave me the car for free...

It would still be irritating and you would start to dislike them just a little bit more every time you lost a feature.

Re:What's the problem? (4, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380332)

If someone gave me the car for free...

No one is "giving" you anything, they are allowing you to test drive it, that is all. So, for the car analogy, you go to the Ford dealership to test drive a car. After the first mile, it won't go over 30. After 3 miles, it won't go over 20. After 5 miles, it will only idle, forcing you to pull over. Then a salesman drives up in his demo model and offers you a ride back if you promise to buy the car. Yea, thats a good idea. Does that make you want to buy it? I didn't think so.

Re:What's the problem? (4, Insightful)

TuaAmin13 (1359435) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380490)

I may be in the minority here, but I think the above analogy is flawed and this might actually be a decent idea.

Try: You go to a Ford dealer and test a car. It goes like it should. You say "Eh, let me sleep on it" and come back the next day. Then you test drive it again, but this time the salesman thinks you're just trying to drive the car around town, so he gives you a shorter test drive, perhaps not on the interstate (thus limiting you to 35-45mph). You say "eh, I'll sleep on it" and come back 2 days later. This time he limits you to going around the block.

I don't know about you, but I play demos once, maybe twice. This is to prevent people playing demos repeatedly and not buying the game. See Zero Punctuation and mirror's edge (?). He says something to the effect of "Just play the demo repeatedly and you'll have the game." It's to stop stuff like that.

Besides, couldn't you just reinstall the demo? Delete the demo and delete your game save and redownload it (sorry for people with sucky internet connections). Thus your demo will be renewed. If you're willing to go through that hassle, fine keep playing the demo without buying the full game. I think a lot of consumers will be buying the game.

For Gamestop and other kiosks I suspect Sony will give them special demos that don't degrade if Sony ends up implementing this (regardless of whether or not they get the patent).

Re:What's the problem? (1)

SCPaPaJoe (767952) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381000)

This is Sony we're talking about. They'll probably leave a nugget in the registry that will prevent re-installation. I'm Just saying.

Re:What's the problem? (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380510)

Then a salesman drives up in his demo model and offers you a ride back if you promise to buy the car.

Playing a demo leaves you 5 miles from home? Dude, I want what you're having!

Re:What's the problem? (4, Funny)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380516)

This post made me think that one really should be able to mod +1 quality car analogy.

But then we'd need -1 bad car analogy, and -1 stupid nit pick on car analogy.

Re:What's the problem? (2, Insightful)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380566)

No one is "giving" you anything, they are allowing you to test drive it, that is all. So, for the car analogy, you go to the Ford dealership to test drive a car. After the first mile, it won't go over 30. After 3 miles, it won't go over 20. After 5 miles, it will only idle, forcing you to pull over.

And Silly Car Analogy of the Year goes to....

One alternative, the time-limited trial, lets you drive with full features until the drop-dead date -- at which point the engine stops, the steering locks, the doors latch, the radio goes out, and you're riding a dead lump of steel down the highway at full speed. A red light on the dash comes on, informing you that you should contact the Ford dealership immediately if you want to continue your driving experience.

Another alternative, the feature-limited (or sample-level) trial, lets you test drive the vehicle for as long as you want, as long as you never go more than a hundred yards from the dealership and don't exceed 10 miles per hour. If you try to go beyond the 100-yard barrier, the car automatically turns around, and the in-dash display plays a Ford advertisement.

It turns out that when you express any free trial as a car analogy, it always sounds stupid and annoying.

Re:What's the problem? (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380776)

It turns out that when you express any free trial as a car analogy, it always sounds stupid and annoying.

Maybe that's because all "free" trials are stupid and annoying? We know what a demo and a free trial is. It is annoying when some arrogant business tries to redefine the meaning of these things. And stupid when they insult our intelligence by picking a greedy redefinition that's so weak it might not fool a 4 year old.

It's sickening, or funny in a dark way, to see the effort they put into these sorts of antisocial measures. Like the dedicated, resourceful bomber pilot in Dr. Strangelove, giving 100% to achieve a goal that he hardly paused to consider was best not achieved.

Re:What's the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380626)

It would make me want to buy it more than the current system of the car just cutting out completely after the first mile.

Re:What's the problem? (1)

halowolf (692775) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380820)

And a straw man was driving it?

Re:What's the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31381026)

If someone gave me the car for free... ...and the brake feature disappears while you are cruising down the street.

Re:What's the problem? (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380454)

Let's try this with a car analogy. Do you want a car that works fine for several days then suddenly won't start, or one that will lose features over time? Which one is more humane?

They all ready have cars like that they're called Hondas.

Re:What's the problem? (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380752)

Why do I have to pick Chevy or Ford when I can go Honda?

Re:What's the problem? (2, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380814)

Which one is more humane?

Oh, please, we're talking about a fucking video game. Not about someone starving to death or losing their dignity in some way.

Re:What's the problem? (1)

Just Brew It! (636086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380832)

If the car was a free demo, then yeah I think it would be perfectly reasonable for the stereo or A/C to stop working, or for the engine to refuse to start, after the demo period has expired.

Re:What's the problem? (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380280)

I also don't really understand the tone of the article. I mean, it's a demo, right? It's free.

I don't understand why something like this can be patented though. I mean, it's just an idea.

Re:What's the problem? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380360)

Of course, the summary says Sony applied for a patent. So if this is correct, the patent could still get rejected. It's not yet decided if this can be patented.

Re:What's the problem? (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380438)

This sounds very familiar.

Some game company announced, or possibly implemented a system called RUST, which degraded the game as part of a DRM scheme.
I can't find anything now though. Too many web pages about actual rust.

Re:What's the problem? (2, Informative)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381010)

Possibly you are thinking about the FADE, used first in Operation Flashpoint.

http://www.gameburnworld.com/protections_fade.shtml [gameburnworld.com] (first link on Google)

Like most DRM, it apparently has been circumvented.

It's already being done. (2, Informative)

naztafari (696863) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380676)

Game demos with feature erosion have been around for a long time in the form of developers gimping pirated versions of games or making them uncompletable/unplayable/play-hostile.

For example, in Batman: Arkham Asylum, some pirated versions would have Batman's Gliding move disabled [strategyinformer.com] . In Grand Theft Auto IV, pirated versions would have gravity suddenly go berserk, and with the Penny Arcade On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness game, pirated versions would be rendered uncompletable by a glitch.

Since some people "try/demo" games using the pirated versions, you could say that what Sony is trying to patent has already been done.

Re:What's the problem? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380464)

Why does this have to work on a demo? This could be a good model for subscription based games (if you don't keep paying money in your MMORPG, you lose a level per day and a magic item per week).

Re:What's the problem? (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380914)

That sounds like an effective way to kill off income from returning players.

Re:What's the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31381004)

How is that not better than MMOs now? Right now if you were to stop paying, they'd just remove your account entirely. At least this other way you would only lose some items over a period of time until you could pay again.

Re:What's the problem? (2, Funny)

don_combatant (1039232) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380552)

I think Star Wars Galaxies was the first application of their feature erosion technology.

Re:What's the problem? (3, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380674)

"The concept of doing this gradually over time seems, if anything, more humane."

Feature erosion is common in marriage. One gets used to it over time...

So, (-1, Troll)

msauve (701917) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380208)

let me get this straight. They're complaining about something which is free?

How Much Is This Free Weekend? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380418)

Homer vs the Movementarians

Jane: We're having a free get acquainted session at our resort this weekend.
Homer: How much is this free resort weekend?
Glen: It's free!
Homer: And when this weekend?
Glen: It's this weekend.
Homer: Uh-huh, and how much does it cost?
Glen: Um, it's free.
Homer: I see, and when is it?
Glen: It's this weekend.
Homer: And what are you for this free weekend?

The 'Hood (4, Funny)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380210)

Don't crack dealers have prior art on this business model?

Re:The 'Hood (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380282)

The first hit is free.

Re:The 'Hood (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380398)

Don't crack dealers have prior art on this business model?

I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of businesses who have prior art over crack dealers on this.

Re:The 'Hood (3, Funny)

cormander (1273812) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380452)

You're making the assumption that computer games are addictive. I can stop anytime I want.

Re:The 'Hood (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380916)

And Google. Their crack is always free - with someone else paying for it.

It does not matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380996)

Since Sony owns the patent, we can be assured that nobody but Sony will do this.

So, we won't have to put up with it much, and it will mostly be for games we don't want anyway.

Or... (1)

stokessd (89903) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380212)

By the time you get comfortable and proficient in the game, it's worthless.

Sheldon

This was tested recently (4, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380218)

Didn't Sony recently try just this with the PS3? [newstechnica.com]

Microsoft, of course, has done this with the Xbox 360 for a while. "Feature erosion" produces fans so dedicated, some are onto their second or third 360!

o.O (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380222)

They just patented shareware?

Good Idea? (1)

Magneon (1067470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380226)

Hmm, like in Jedi Knight 2 and many other games, where you start with all your powers and lose them early in the game then have to earn them back... It might work. That or it would just be annoying than your run of the mill 30 minute gameplay demo.

Lucky Sony patented it (5, Insightful)

Ma8thew (861741) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380238)

I'm glad Sony have patented this. I don't buy Sony products, and no one else will be allowed to implement this.

Re:Lucky Sony patented it (2, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380288)

I don't buy their products either, but this doesn't seem like that bad of an idea from a consumer point of view as opposed to a demo being disabled completely. From a game vendor point of view it might be a bit dangerous if a person does not know that a feature has been disabled in the demo because of time constraints ... he might just think the game was broken, or just plain sucked. You would have to make it very obvious that the feature was removed, not just missing, and the reason for it. There are also a limited set of things this could be applied to without rendering a demo completely pointless.

Of course, it will also become a sport to see who can finish the demo completely in the allotted time.

Re:Lucky Sony patented it (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380324)

Mod up! Looks like the ghost of the idiots who implemented rootkit-like 'copy-protection' on Sony CDs lives on...
I too voted with my wallet a long time ago, but for practical reasons also, (damn memory-sticks and equally non-compatible Vaio hardware...)

Re:Lucky Sony patented it (2, Informative)

Wuhao (471511) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380408)

I'm glad Sony have patented this. I don't buy Sony products, and no one else will be allowed to implement this.

Unless they license it.

Re:Lucky Sony patented it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31381096)

Hahahaa, Sony licensing their tech... good one, you played it dead serious too.

Re:Lucky Sony patented it (1)

andydread (758754) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380456)

I went from exclusively purchasing and recommending Sony products to the complete opposite. As a result of jumping into the content business Sony has changed to become a draconian, lobbying against our rights behemoth. No longer will i recommend their products until they leave the content business and denounce their proprietary ways.

Unshareware (1, Flamebait)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380244)

This is a complete 180 degree turn from the old shareware concept, where you get to play the first chapter or two for free (which I think is the best hook). This can possibly backfire as there could be some confusion for the consumer. Any game that becomes "less fun" loses its value to purchase, as the consumer isn't always going to understand the concept of diminishing features. They just know the game isn't as much fun as it used to be a few days ago.

While a novel idea, I would think that in practice it would be much harder to put into action without frustrating potential customers, including teens. It would seem to me that this would likely lead to more piracy, as *some* people would become frustrated rather quickly and resentful over limitations that they seem as unreasonable. Steam does a better job with the "free weekend" specials, and other games often have playable demos with limited levels. Both of these methods seem to be infinitely better ways to tease customers into buying, since they know exactly what to expect from installing the demo. The Sony way introduces a bit too much uncertainty, imo, and might have the result of having me passing the demo up completely.

Re:Unshareware (2, Interesting)

fbjon (692006) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380330)

It doesn't have to be silent degradation. Imagine a pop-up notification: "You have just lost 2000 XP and your +3 armor of wisdom, buy the game to regain them!", or "All injuries will now become instant headshots, this won't happen if you buy the game!".

Re:Unshareware (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380352)

It doesn't have to be silent degradation. Imagine a pop-up notification: "You have just lost 2000 XP and your +3 armor of wisdom, buy the game to regain them!", or "All injuries will now become instant headshots, this won't happen if you buy the game!".

Oh, even better. Being someone who won't buy Sony products, I would *love* to see them implement their new demo system in exactly this way. Nags to get me to buy something when I am trying to play, what a great idea. That would be like constant pop up ads for Viagra when you are trying to watch porn.

Re:Unshareware (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380412)

Being someone who won't buy Sony products, I would *love* to see them implement their new demo system in exactly this way. Nags to get me to buy something when I am trying to play, what a great idea.

If you don't buy Sony products on principle, why are you running a demo of one? Or is there some hidden shame fetish that you aren't admitting to?

Re:Unshareware (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380508)

Oh how Freudian of you. Now, go play with your toys and let adults speak.

Re:Unshareware (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380904)

This is a complete 180 degree turn from the old shareware concept, where you get to play the first chapter or two for free (which I think is the best hook).

That is a subset of shareware whose name escapes me at the moment. Other forms exist, like those you are not supposed to use after a particular time (trialware) including those which will still let you keep using them, but hassle you on shutdown, perhaps with a mandatory timeout (nagware). There is of course plenty of crossover. Reduced-functionality software (which gives only a subset of the functions, of course) is called crippleware; it's not new, although it's possible that this form of crippleware with progressive degeneration is genuinely new and thus reasonably patentable. I doubt it, though.

Better Yet (2, Funny)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380246)

Hook up electrodes to the controllers that at the same time offer gradually increasing levels of electrocution and let us absorb nicotine through our skin. Only way to play without risk of death or any pesky side effects of severe electroshock is to buy the game. Of course that means the PS3 or PS4 will once again require more power and downgrade controllers from being wireless to wired but its the best thing for the sake of progress.

demo? (1)

instantkamera (919463) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380256)

A demo or program that provides limited functionality or play time is one thing; a game that's purposefully designed to take your progress away, in an admitted attempt to get you to buy once you've been hooked, is something altogether different."

No it isn't. Not if it's called "a demo".

Prior Art (1)

n0dna (939092) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380268)

Infamous, Prototype and Bioshock2 all got progressively less fun to play as they wore on...

Or does the patent only apply to demos?

Just no (0, Troll)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380272)

Go to hell Sony, we're tired of your shenanigans!

Re:Just no (1)

Gaian-Orlanthii (1032980) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380340)

Couldn't agree with you more.

Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380290)

A conceptually identical scheme can be found, of all places, in StarForce. One of the things StarForce can do, upon detecting a fake disc, is degrade game functionality. I haven't actually seen this used in production (developers prefer simply locking the player out of the game), but it's clearly stated as a possible option in the StarForce pitch.

What a demo (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380320)

Now, precisely how am I to distinguish one of these from a game that is fun for the first five minutes and then gets tedious?

Or, if I may take the liberty of a car analogy, how much would you be tempted to buy a car that started losing power and becoming hard to steer near the end of the test drive?

Car analogy (1)

ndogg (158021) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380344)

Sony is welcome to run with this patent. I don't think anybody else in their right mind would implement this.

It's like going into a car dealership, and the salesperson is all happy when you first meet him, but then when you take a test drive, he has you drive a beaten up version of the car. "Yeah, I'd show you how the car stereo works, but it's broken in this one, but trust me, it's awesome. Oh, by the way, I know it's like 100 F right now, but don't turn on the AC."

Re:Car analogy (1)

Onetus (23797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380444)

Okay - you should probably read the article before you do an analogy.

It's like going to a car dealership and picking up a demo model. You can drive it around and see if you like it. Now, after each week of using this "free car", it loses a feature. Say - it's 4 seat capacity drops to 2. then the colour paint-job changes to grey. Next the radio stops working, and the airconditioning, and so on. You're free to keep using this demo - but it will progressively lose all of it's features over time. You can stop using the demo car any time you want. If you liked the original experience, or some particular feature that stopped - then go buy the actual car.

The old "limited time" model is like going to the car dealership and picking a demo model. As you're driving down the street a couple of weeks later, it suddenly stops running and dumps you on your arse and refuses to run anymore.

Perhaps it's easier to think of it this way - Paying subscriber's weapons do not suffer decay. Those playing for free will find their weapons decay and will need to be replaced. Upgrade to your full subscription now....

ur windoz boxen slo? (1)

xactuary (746078) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380348)

"Don't call it a virus, or a bug. It's feature erosion." TM

It's a patent - not a proposal (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380370)

Patents are cheap. There's no way Sony are going to actually go ahead with this (unless some market research actually tells them it's actually a good idea), but someone might work out a way to make it work and licence the patent from Sony.

Missing the point? (5, Interesting)

WhatDoIKnow (962719) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380378)

I think the larger issue is not whether this is a good idea for a game demo, but why is an idea at this level of abstraction even patentable?

Re:Missing the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380518)

I think the larger issue is not whether this is a good idea for a game demo, but why is an idea at this level of abstraction even patentable?

First, we don't know if it's patentable or not yet. This is just an application, filed September 3, 2008 (earliest priority date) and just published on March 4, 2010.

Second, a broad claim from the application reads:

A method of distributing a software game to induce a user to obtain a permission to continue playing the game, the method comprising:

providing a software game with a plurality of play characteristics including at least one of a character feature, object feature, environmental feature and event feature, the software game being programmed to permit the user to use the plurality of play characteristics, the software game being further programmed with at least one trigger metric;

gradually eroding availability of at least one of the play characteristics as a function of the at least one trigger metric as a consequence of use of the software game by the user while continuing to permit the user to play the game, and wherein the at least one trigger metric is a game event-based function;

restoring availability of the eroded play characteristics upon receipt of the permission to continue playing the game.

That "level of abstraction" is generally allowable under 35 USC 112, second paragraph, for software applications because a person having ordinary skill in the software arts would know to take a description at that level of abstraction and turn it into software. Software generally has a very low threshold to overcome in this regard.

That "level of abstraction" however means that its open-endedness can allow a LOT of prior art to be applied against it, likely beyond what even Sony intended for the claims to cover. If such art exists, the claims will be narrowed and further clarified during prosecution.

At this stage, all we can really ask ourselves is whether the concept they're likely to get a patent on is new. I've yet to see otherwise.

Re:Missing the point? (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380976)

Novelty is probably not the problem. If I had to challenge this, I'd try to challenge the inventive step here. Bohemia had a feature erosion model implemented in Operation: Flashpoint. Cracked version were supposed to lower your aiming accuracy over time. Not for a demo though, but the man skilled in the art would most likely be able to create the claimed subject matter starting from Bohemia's model.

Why limit it to demo's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380392)

Why limit it to just demo's, just "erode" v1 when v2 comes out!

Yet another "PATENTS ARE FOR COMMIES" rant. (1)

AlexLibman (785653) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380436)

One would think that a company like Sony would be able to make money in the free market without the use of government force (i.e. patents), but you can't really blame them for using them. Their use of patents is the natural and unavoidable evolutionary result of having to work in a business environment where if they didn't use government force their competitors would, so instead of Sony, Microsoft, etc you'd simply have other nearly-identical companies, just with a different name.

Whenever you read a story about a company using government force to get its way (patents, copyright, "eminent domain", pork barrel contracts, corporate welfare, bailouts, military / prison / security industrial complex, etc, etc, etc) don't blame them - blame the government instead!

Hope they didn't think of this... (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380440)

What if, instead of increasingly raising the will to buy the real deal, the degrading demo would softly weane the gamers off the game in small steps... That would be funny and would serve Sony right because they're a big soulless corporation and besides, proprietary software is immoral.

Dear Timothy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380450)

Can you please just admit that you have no fscking clue how the patent process works and save us your idiocy?

Sony is in league with the Evil One. (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380458)

Here is proof: http://www.megatokyo.com/strip/33 [megatokyo.com]

Re:Sony is in league with the Evil One. (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381014)

What's this "In league with" bit?

So they patented crippleware. (1)

Seyren (1079827) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380466)

Well, progressive crippleware, at least.

What's next, cracks for game demos?

Backfire? (1)

cbope (130292) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380484)

I dunno, but this may backfire on them. Just one scenario: Picture a teenager with a limited budget, who plays games. Said teenager downloads one of these "demos" and plays it several times over a few days. The "demo" then starts to drop achievements or disable certain features before the teenager has the money to buy the full game. The demo becomes un-playable before the teenager's budget allows them to buy the full game.

Do you really think said teenager is going to be eager about buying the full game when his/her budget allows, if the demo has given them this kind of experience? I'm far, far from that scenario, but if I was in that situation and the demo essentially locked me out before I had the money to buy the full game, I'd be pretty pissed. And very unlikely to want to give the developer/publisher my money after that kind of experience.

After all, why do this at all? The demos are already "limited" in one or more ways, maybe a single level or a fixed amount of points or whatever. That is easy to understand and I have no problem with game demos where the limitations are known "up front". But a demo that changes the experience after a period of time or gradually disables features/achievements is a very different animal. Given a choice, I would probably not download these kinds of demos at all and stick to traditional demos. I only worry that if this becomes even somewhat successful, more developers will do it and the whole demo landscape will change for the worse. Or it will just drive more kids to download more illegal copies of the full game which don't have features removed.

The game publishers are just getting too greedy for money. I say publishers and not developers because this is mostly a publisher problem. It's closely related to DRM... they simply want to squeeze as much money from an many customers as possible. They will not be content until they can rent your games to you. And they will call this a "service". Oops, skipped your rent payment for a month?... sorry, you have to "buy" your games all over again. And remember what re-playability used to mean? Seriously, this is the direction the game industry seems to be headed in, driven by the big, greedy publishers.

Just my .02...

Prior art... (1)

joel.neely (165789) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380536)

...abounds, under the name of Planned Obsolescence [wikipedia.org] ! How could any patent examiner with at least a high-school education fail to know that?

Planned obsolescence was first developed in the 1920s and 1930s ...

Re:Prior art... (1)

Kenshin (43036) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380772)

No, that would be if the game stopped working around the time a sequel or new version was released. Let's say, your copy of Street Fighter 4 mysteriously died when Super Street Fighter 4 was released.

This is giving you something free, and trying to get you to pay for the full version.

Escape Velocity... (1)

mellon85 (1723140) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380540)

It remembers me Ambrosia Software Escape Velocity, great game, but the more you played the more a fake user will come in the game (Cpt. Hector) to steal your money and (as last resort) kill you, if you didn't buy the complete version after the demo period.. it's not *exactly* the same. but the main idea is there, date 15 years ago

Standard effort by Sony (1)

DadLeopard (1290796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380576)

This seems right in line with Sony's "shoot yourself in the Foot" efforts for quite a while now! They haven't seemed to get it right for quite some time, or even to "Get it" at all!

is something altogether different (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380580)

I like to refer to it as an 'arrogant scam', and not a 'demo'.

If Nintendo had patented this... (1, Troll)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380622)

... the summary would be about how clever and beneficial this was for the user experience.

blatant (1)

Theodore (13524) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380624)

Such idiotically blatant disrespect for their customers,
only Sony could be so stupid.
Oh, wait...

Game cracks (1)

Krakadoom (1407635) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380698)

I think we should thank Sony for simplifying the process of cracking games. All you would need to do is reset the counter and possibly lock it, instead of having a figure out obscure and involved algorithms?

Microsoft has prior art. (1, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380724)

If you play the demo version of Windows 7, after some time period it starts locking up periodically, and you must buy a full version to restore the full game functionality.

Re:Microsoft has prior art. (1)

DaRanged (735002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380882)

Errmm... actually that probably applies to all versions of Windows, demo or not! :-)

Why would anyone play one of these to begin with? (1)

taoye (1456551) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380744)

Umm... wow. This doesn't even sound fun to begin with. In fact, it sounds so un-fun that I'm specifically going to avoid playing one of these! Obviously, if the demo gets progressively less fun, one can only assume the same thing for the full game.

My demos are better than yours... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380782)

Because they are served from Piratebay.

Games that can't be gotten from there? Little to no interest.

Aww, You Know... (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380800)

That's pretty much every game Sony gets its hands on! I guess SWG was just an early prototype. You know, how they took it and made it suck for everyone! Hey, I have an idea, maybe Sony could buy EA! Then they could also patent making increasingly crappy sequels to demos as time goes on, too!

Sounds like yet another Sony Stoopid (1)

SpzToid (869795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380804)

After the rootkit fisaco, Sony has done nothing to elevate themselves. Patenting some feature-limiting systems sounds like classic Sony.

In other Sony Stupidity, it seems they recently stole part of a popular Amsterdam landmark, to attract publicity towards one of their games. You'd have thought they would have learned from widely-publicized mistakes of others.

http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/press-review-wednesday-24-february [www.rnw.nl]
http://playstationlifestyle.net/2010/02/24/heavy-rain-washes-away-amsterdam-landmark [playstationlifestyle.net]
http://news.google.com/news/more?um=1&cf=all&ned=us&hl=nl&cf=all&ncl=dQbgbhcNvNSes9Mf7y66XftD669lM [google.com]

It is hard to believe Sony Marketing would really steal these huge, heavy steel letters without SOME kind of permit issued by the city, but I haven't been able to locate anything other than clues to Sony's breaking laws for $elf--promotion. If this marketing stunt really is true, that Sony had no city permit, I am very Angry with any corporation that would do this.

The classic quote I read in Dutch was: 'Can I reference this theft also, once Sony takes me to court for copying music CDs?'

Re:Sounds like yet another Sony Stoopid (1)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381084)

Actually, you can easily look at this in the reverse: They can now offer you a "demo" that is practically the full version of the game. It's larger, more complete, and more fun than the demo. Only problem is that as soon as you start to get towards the really good stuff, and you're hooked, you slowly start to erode... This is already done in a similar fashion with some Asian online RPGs: You can play the entire game for free. But some items aren't free. And if you want to be the best, you have to pay for certain things. It is called the "microtransaction" method and it's actually quite effective if done right.

Prior art... (2, Funny)

DevConcepts (1194347) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380826)

Windows has had "Feature Erosion" since 1995...

rats, DevConcepts beat me to it! mod up (1)

swschrad (312009) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380862)

so did argent. mod up.

Get a grip, and worry about the real issue! (1)

Just Brew It! (636086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380872)

You're not entitled to anything, they gave you the demo. As a business model it may not work out that well... but then again, it might. It is impossible to predict whether the number of people turned off by this tactic will be outweighed by the number of people it convinces to buy the full version.

Quite frankly, it is the patent troll aspect of it that bothers me more. Trialware software which disables certain features after the trial period expires is nothing new. Why should Sony be able to patent this idea?

Worst. Article. Ever. (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380890)

First off, TFA only manages to quote the abstract and show some figures. None of this really bears much relevance to what the application is actually directed toward. For that, you have to read the claims (such as this one):

1. A method of distributing a software game to induce a user to obtain a permission to continue playing the game, the method comprising:

providing a software game with a plurality of play characteristics including at least one of a character feature, object feature, environmental feature and event feature, the software game being programmed to permit the user to use the plurality of play characteristics, the software game being further programmed with at least one trigger metric;

gradually eroding availability of at least one of the play characteristics as a function of the at least one trigger metric as a consequence of use of the software game by the user while continuing to permit the user to play the game, and wherein the at least one trigger metric is a game event-based function;

restoring availability of the eroded play characteristics upon receipt of the permission to continue playing the game.

And second, the headline on this article is wrong. No patent has been issued. Sony has not patented this. The only things that have happened are (1) the inventor has filed an application for a patent, and (2) after 18 months elapsed from the filing date, the USPTO published the application. Sony could eventually get a patent on this, or they might have to amend the claims to get around the prior art, or they might end up abandoning the application.

The patent system is one big fu. (1)

el_jake (22335) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380970)

I would like to patent the idea of patenting ideas. geee.

Such brilliance should be rewarded... (1)

BlueF (550601) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381036)

If only a person could win a "darwin" award, for the stupidest idea... that does't kill you, this would be in the running, hands-down!!!

Please tell me the geniuses who game up with this idea are sterile??

Huh? (1)

Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381070)

...squawk?

Seems typical these days... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31381108)

Always more concerned with making games not work than they are with making them work.

Sim City (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31381144)

I recall the original Sim City had a unique form of copy protection in that if the game was pirated, natural disasters would be repeatedly unleashed on your city at a rate much higher than usual, making the game decidedly less fun. Very similar concept to this patent application. I don't know if it would count as prior art though.

How about the PPV movie ver of this where a box th (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381154)

How about the PPV movie ver of this where a box that says do you want to buy this movie at $ yes / no? just gets bigger and bigger to point of going full screen.

This is a great idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31381192)

It's like having a girlfriend that does more and more intolerable things until you agree to marry her!

Month 1: Throw dishes on the floor
Month 2: Crash your car
Month 3: Screw 40 men in 'Gangbang Sluts 4'.
Month 3: Put strychnine in your coffee

Thereby, your incentive for marriage increases dramatically over time! It's genius!

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