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The Dark Side of Digital Distribution

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the careful-not-to-lose-your-right-hand dept.

Businesses 270

An anonymous reader writes "Game journalist Stuart Campbell has written an incisive piece on how the digital distribution model users have grown to know and love over the past several years still has some major problems that go beyond even the DRM dilemma. He provides an example of an app developer using very shady update techniques to screw over people who have legitimately purchased their app. Touch Racing Nitro, a retro racing game, launched to moderate success. After tinkering with price points to get the game to show up on the top download charts, the developers finally made it free for a period of four months. 'Then the sting came along. About a week ago (at time of writing), the game received an "update," which came with just four words of description – "Now Touch Racing Free!" As the game was already free, users could have been forgiven for thinking this wasn't much of a change. But in fact, the app thousands of them had paid up to £5 for had effectively just been stolen. Two of the game's three racing modes were now locked away behind IAP paywalls, and the entire game was disfigured with ruinous in-game advertising, which required yet another payment to remove.'"

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270 comments

Beyond the DRM dilemma (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150125)

So what s the DRM dilemma? Whether to just not buy DRM products or whether to burn down the houses of those who make them?

Re:Beyond the DRM dilemma (1, Insightful)

calibre-not-output (1736770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150321)

Neither of these is a dilemma. Any righteous person should feel the moral obligation to boycott DRM-inflicted products and inflict physical violence on the people who make them, their loved ones and their property.

Re:Beyond the DRM dilemma (1, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150377)

Neither of these is a dilemma. Any righteous person should feel the moral obligation to boycott DRM-inflicted products and inflict physical violence on the people who make them, their loved ones and their property.

I certainly hope you are only joking about inflicting physical violence, etc. It is a vexing new model of business, which the best possible means of making displeasure known is the age-old Voting With Your Feet (or dollars) by walking away from anyone practicing such things. I'm a slow adopter on quite a few things, largely because of my elevating level of disappointment with the way people are deciding is appropriate for doing business - by wrecking something you have already paid for and are using.

Re:Beyond the DRM dilemma (4, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150751)

which the best possible means of making displeasure known is the age-old Voting With Your Feet (or dollars) by walking away from anyone practicing such things. I'm a slow adopter on quite a few things, largely because of my elevating level of disappointment with the way people are deciding is appropriate for doing business - by wrecking something you have already paid for and are using.

You're right about "age-old". In fact I'm wondering what the news is here. That digital distribution is not abuse-proof or fraud-proof just like brick-and-mortar sales? That there are dishonest people with exploitative business practices? This has been going on in one form or another ever since the origin of barter and the later invention of currency.

How is this not another "... with a computer!" story?

The solution to this is to make such people notorious, so that potential customers think twice before doing business with them, same as any business that causes legitimate grievances and dissatisfied customers. Make them more famous for their terrible business practices than for any software they have created. Let them be the ones who fail while honest people with good business practices thrive. That's how you create an environment hostile to this sort of thing and select against it. It's just an iteration of that old saying, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

Re:Beyond the DRM dilemma (5, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150823)

Here is how it is different.

I sell you a book, car, TV, shirt, power drill. You pay a fair price for it.

Then with an update, I remove your book from your reader, limit your car to driving 30mph, your TV to only working with bluray content so you can't use your DVD's any more, remove the pocket from your shirt, and limit your power drill to using phillips head bits so you have to buy a nother drill for star, hex, and flat head bits.

You can't do those things. But with digitial updates, not only can you do it, it is happening already.

Re:Beyond the DRM dilemma (2)

Cosgrach (1737088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150871)

I agree that physical violence is appropriate in the case. If an update locks up an application that I have legally paid for and then demands yet more money to unlock it, I'd have to say that the developers need to be publically flogged and run out of town.

Re:Beyond the DRM dilemma (1)

dbet (1607261) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150971)

A boycott is an organized refusal to support a business. It's hard to organize in digital space. It's easy if it's say, a store in your neighborhood. Boycotts like this are a fantasy. You can refuse to buy, and suggest others do, but actual boycotts are near impossible. There's no way to stand in front of an app and tell people about to buy it what the problem is. Even bad reviews don't achieve this level of organization.

Re:Beyond the DRM dilemma (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150705)

This isn't a DRM problem, it's an upgrade removed previous functionality problem.

Re:Beyond the DRM dilemma (5, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150769)

In the old days if an upgrade removed functionality it was annoying but you could always reinstall from your original media and not install the updates (or install an older update since in the old days most devs made standalone update installers available) but with online activation and/or digital distribution systems that may no longer be an option.

that's the magic of auto updates (4, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150131)

come to the cloud, updates are free, automatic and easy

Re:that's the magic of auto updates (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150241)

You mean like that update to the NYT in the cloud...

Or the Gannett one. Yup, free all right.

Re:that's the magic of auto updates (2, Insightful)

GaratNW (978516) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150537)

This is purely developer/publisher fault. Perhaps Apple and Google should put more in place to prevent this sort of thing, but the correct, and customer friendly route, to changing something like this, create a new version. Now you have Touch Racing Nitro, and Touch Racing Nitro+. Already bought the first? Awesome. Enjoy and have fun. It's no longer available for sale, but if you bought it, its yours. Play TRN+ for free, and here's all these IAP things, such as paying to remove advertising. If those various pay things are important to you, you have them, if not, you can keep playing for free. This keeps their early supporters happy, with the version they bought, and provides them a better revenue generating version for fans, new and old, that they can probably even afford to update and add new content to. This was just crappy behavior, or poor planning, on the part of TRN team.

Re:that's the magic of auto updates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150911)

Do the appstores give the user the ability to download older versions? Google's Market doesn't, there are apps that let you backup the .apks, but you'll need to root your device and they might still not work on DRMed .apks.

Or how about Android Marketplace? (0, Troll)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150139)

I have a legitimately paid for Android phone, provided by my employer. Because it is provided by my employer, I do not intend to be buying music, or video rentals, or downloads.

Yet, Android forced through a MarketPlace update that makes me agree to all kinds of User Agreements for those services, which I do not intend to use. Therefore, I do not intend to agree.

Therefore, I can't use Marketplace again to update my phone.

Therefore, my paid-for phone is now becoming less and less useful.

Well, except for one thing. As long as I don't update Marketplace, none of the *other* malicious updates make it through.

*grin* Google being evil has protected me from others being evil.

Re:Or how about Android Marketplace? (4, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150257)

Explain how you not agreeing to the terms of use for a service disables said service is evil. If you dont plan on using the features of the marketplace, why do you care if its disabled? What exactly is it stopping you from doing? Your phones OS updates dont come from there, only apps and add updates. And since its Android, you can just install apps from the APK files and totally ignore the app store.

So how is it that your "paid-for phone is now becoming less and less useful"?

Re:Or how about Android Marketplace? (2)

jimshatt (1002452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39151023)

The evil thing here is, of course, that whilst you not agree to the new terms, the app (or whatever) is still updated and then disabled rather than not updated at all. Because the update is forced the new EULA is forced as well. Furthermore OP clearly states he intends to use Marketplace to update his phone, which he now cannot do anymore.

Re:Or how about Android Marketplace? (0)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150313)

I have a legitimately paid for Android phone, provided by my employer. Because it is provided by my employer, I do not intend to be buying music, or video rentals, or downloads.

Yet, Android forced through a MarketPlace update that makes me agree to all kinds of User Agreements for those services, which I do not intend to use. Therefore, I do not intend to agree.

Therefore, I can't use Marketplace again to update my phone.

Therefore, my paid-for phone is now becoming less and less useful.

Well, except for one thing. As long as I don't update Marketplace, none of the *other* malicious updates make it through.

*grin* Google being evil has protected me from others being evil.

Reminds me of the aggrevation I'm going through with Chrome. Imagine software on your computer which updates itself, in ways which make it less useful and even infuriating to find work arounds. One update cause all of our users to experience time-out issues which nearly broght about a revolt. We're choosing to support Firefox, for any who have had it up to here with Google's shenanigans.

Re:Or how about Android Marketplace? (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150571)

I've experienced problems with the auto-update of Google products in the past, which is the reason I refuse to even allow them onto my computer now.

Tinfoil Hat Time: The biggest issue I've had with Google's software is the privacy elements. It wasn't so bad to begin with but the last time I installed Picassa, it wanted to index my entire system and send all of that data to Google

That was pretty much the last straw. Why does an image viewer need access to any files other then /Users/UserName/MyPictures? It doesn't need to scan the entire system by default looking for pictures and it shouldn't but since it's almost impossible to get any kind of response from Google for Tech Support, I pulled all of their apps (Search/Picassa) and what not and prepped to Nuke it From Orbit and a clean install because Google's Updater wasn't removed along with all the scheduled task entries (It continued to update itself and transfer information to the mothership - malware/spyware behaviour) afterwards. Although I continue using Google for email, docs and such, I'm not sanquine about their efforts to profile/collect as much information about me as they are and I block Analytics along with some of their other efforts but haven't reached the point of giving up using things like Gmail, Docs and Calendar due to the usefulness.

Re:Or how about Android Marketplace? (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150661)

Therefore, I can't use Marketplace again to update my phone.

Then don't use marketplace to update your phone. Download the update elsewhere (i.e. manufacturer's website) and install it that way. Easy.

Re:Or how about Android Marketplace? (1)

Night64 (1175319) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150933)

And if your employer had provided you with an Iphone? It would be any different? You can't side load apps in IOS, can you? I mean, without jailbreaking the phone.

Well... (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150141)

I guess there might be a case for misrepresentation, though I'll wager the licensing agreement allows the company to do whatever they like.

The real solution here is, of course, not to pay these guys. Don't play their stupid game. If their stunt loses them customers, they're not likely to try it again.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150269)

Maybe you missed the point where people already paid them to play their stupid game, but now can't do that anymore?

Of course these people should not shell out even more money. But they are being scammed out of the moneya they already paid.

Re:Well... (2)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150303)

But what does that have to do with digital distribution? If the same thing happened with a game you installed from a DVD and then applied a patch for, what's the difference?

Re:Well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150371)

You can reinstall from the DVD.

Re:Well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150545)

The difference is I still have the version from the DVD. I can uninstall the patched version then install the version from the DVD and get my expected functionality back. The same cannot be done with an online version; the version available is outside of my control.

Re:Well... (1)

residieu (577863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150561)

You could uninstall the game and install it again without the patch to get back what you paid for. You can't do the same with this game, because only the latest version is available.

Re:Well... (1)

nevermore94 (789194) | more than 2 years ago | (#39151011)

I did not read if this was an Android or iOS game, but on Android you can make simple backups of any installed app/game with free apps such as AppMonster and then reinstall those backups should anything like this ever happen. This does not even require "rooting" or "jailbreaking". If you do choose to root your Android phone, then you can do even better complete app and data backups with Titanium Backup.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150391)

You're missing the point. They ALREADY got paid, up to $7 per copy. So not paying them isn't exactly a "solution" to anything. It doesn't get you back the game you paid for which is now being held hostage until you pay again.

Re:Well... (1)

Deathmoo (2578761) | more than 2 years ago | (#39151067)

Yes, your right, they already paid for it. Their money is gone. I don't think I'm missing the point. The $7 is apparently wasted. Sue them I guess would be another option. Good luck getting your $7 back then. The only real option from this point forward would be spreading the word, and as a poster above mentioned, this is really hard to do in the Marketplace. Poor rating being the only realistic thing to do. Bitch to Google? I bet they care.

Re:Well... (1)

Deathmoo (2578761) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150409)

Just so. Shady business practises are not limited to software vendors alone, although it seems to me like fraud and shabby business practises are EXPLODING on this front. Don't buy their shit. Ever. That's the only thing they will understand. Unfortunately, they probably already made some cash off of it, and now can turn around and build another, to repeat the process over again on unsuspecting consumers. Hopefully this kind of thing can be nipped by the Marketplace administrators, there does need to be some standards there about treating your customers so poorly (or plain stealing from them).

Re:Well... (4, Informative)

PIBM (588930) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150507)

I don't understand how they've been able to pull something like this. On a free game on iOS we added some stuff which required us to block some content of one of the levels for old ipods, as they didn't had the required power to play it. We were denied the update as apple said that nothing could be taken away from the users in an update (!), and we had to build 2 different code path & levels so that both could exists together. In a free game... I would expect them to prevent such a thing even more on a paid game!

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39151079)

I suppose nothing's technically been *removed*, just shut behind a paywall. Your level was locked out altogether, TNR's modes can be unlocked with payment. And Apple like payment.

people's DNS - namecoin (-1, Offtopic)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150149)

Well, I think that in few years NMC will be the best option to register DNS names in a safe way, which is not controlled by any government. If nobody can shutdown a DNS, then digital distribution will be much easier.

sony all over again.. (2)

SuperDre (982372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150159)

yeah, I know, I'm stupid for bringing this up, but it's exactly what Sony did with OtherOS, you paid for certain functionalities but the seller changes it's mind and screws you over..

What the developer did in this case seems illegal to me from a consumerlaw standpoint.. But these things are stuff why I rather just have the old physical discs/carts..

Re:sony all over again.. (5, Informative)

poena.dare (306891) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150251)

On December 8, 2011, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg dismissed the last remaining count of the class action lawsuit, stating: "As a legal matter, [..] plaintiffs have failed to allege facts or articulate a theory on which Sony may be held liable." He then removed massive amounts of wax from his ears after the trial.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OtherOS [wikipedia.org]

Once again, I am in the wrong damn business.

Reminds me of an old scam (4, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150181)

There was something on Slashdot a few years ago about people buying a service, then having to pay more to disable advertising.

I'd dump them without a second through. Cut your losses and move one.

I'd probably warn others as well as prospective future clients, by going to /. and other sites and writing about the craptivation of the game.

Re:Reminds me of an old scam (3, Interesting)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150511)

There was something on Slashdot a few years ago about people buying a service,

Cable/DSS television.

then having to pay more to disable advertising

Premium channels.

Re:Reminds me of an old scam (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150689)

The trick is to do it gradually. You don't make people pay to remove advertising immediately. You give them a useful product, then a bit later you introduce a small, easy to ignore, amount of advertising. Then you give them the option of paying to turn it off. It's easy to ignore, so most people won't bother. You also add some new (minor, easy-to-implement) features or, better yet, a security fix, at the same time, so people will want to get the update. Then you increase the number of ads. Now people are locked into your app or, at the very least, used to using it. Now they'll pay to remove the ads. Repeat and you've got a revenue stream.

This is a small variation of the business model of a lot of proprietary software where you pay for 'major updates' which include features like 'not crashing on launch when you run it on the new version of the OS' or 'not corrupting your documents'.

I've come across this behaviour so many times that I now have a standard reaction: find the open source program that's closest to the proprietary one and give them a donation equal to the cost of the upgrade. The problem is that other people are willing to continue to pay companies that have screwed them over in the past.

Users respond with poor ratings (5, Insightful)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150191)

In response to the underhanded update, users take to the ratings system with a vengeance and downmod the developer into oblivion. Thus, the app ecosystem sees shady behavior as 'damage' and 'routes' around it.

Re:Users respond with poor ratings (4, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150331)

Poor ratings do not help those who have already paid for the shadily-updated app.

Re:Users respond with poor ratings (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150543)

Poor ratings do not help those who have already paid for the shadily-updated app.

Sure they do. The show other app developers what happens when you cheat your customers and helps prevent this from happening to any of your other apps or future apps you buy. There is also the very slim chance that after seeing sales dry up from this shady update the dev decides to try and save his app by releasing an update that fix's things.

And your comment is also kind of selfish, letting others know the developer is a cheat is a good thing even if it doesn't have some immediate personal payoff it certainly helps others avoid getting cheated. But oh well eff them.

Re:Users respond with poor ratings (0)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150579)

That's why they should have saved the installer so they could remove the latest version and install the previous one.

Oh, wait...

Re:Users respond with poor ratings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150815)

That's why they should have saved the installer so they could remove the latest version and install the previous one.

Oh, wait...

"Oh, wait..." what?

At least for Apple's stores it is perfectly possible to save earlier versions and restore them.

Re:Users respond with poor ratings (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150413)

In response to the underhanded update, users take to the ratings system with a vengeance and downmod the developer into oblivion. Thus, the app ecosystem sees shady behavior as 'damage' and 'routes' around it.

And thus customers become wiser. Slightly poorer, by five quid, but wiser.

Re:Users respond with poor ratings (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150611)

On the Android market, a terrible update (i.e. the last twenty consecutive reviews are one star) may cause the app's rating to drop half a star over a few days. For historically good apps, the developers can get away with quite a bit of user abuse before their ratings suffer noticeably.

IMHO, Google should integrate the change log and post-update reviews into the install screen for any update. Also, ratings of the most recent version of the app should have far more weight (obviously factoring in people that hate change, developers that may release rapid updates to game the system, and developers that abandon their app so it no longer functions).

iOS store price points were too low (4, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150197)

i noticed it a while ago that the price points were way to low to be sustainable. Not only were they low, but users expected unlimited updates for their $.99 game. and not just bug fixes, but new functionality. it worked for a while as the iOS installed base exploded but as growth slows down expect the return to version numbers.

it already started with "HD" versions of games and apps. separate iphone and ipad versions. sure you can run the iphone version on the ipad but it looks like crap.

next is the return to version numbers

cool racing game
next year is version 2 with new features and new IAP
and a new version every year and dropping compatibility with new iOS versions after a year or so

Re:iOS store price points were too low (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150373)

Versioning is oldschool back during the boxed days of software. The downside of such versioning is the buyer has to wonder if it's the "right time" to buy said software or if they should hold off, not unlike hardware itself.

Most software should just do away with that, and offer updates for a set period of time from purchase, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, etc. That eliminates best time to purchase, gives everyone the same fair deal, and provides the developer with steady income too.

If I were Apple, I would offer developers a subsciption functions, where they can offer software and updates for a specific time from purchase.

Don't get me wrong, versioning numbers can still be provided to tell users what new things the upgrades entail, but not as a fence that says "You don't get this because you bought a day too early. Nyah, nyah!"

Re:iOS store price points were too low (2, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150789)

HD was Steve Jobs fault. He was afraid that nobody would design an app for his 1024x768 screen when they had just redesigned the app for the iPhone's 960x640 screen. So what does he do? He locks out the 960x640 versions on the iPad, forcing a pixel doubled 480x320 screen even when the higher resolution version existed.

I wanted to throw a chair at him for that bit of assholishness.

Re:iOS store price points were too low (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150867)

Users don't necessarily require new features or functionality, just that existing features and functionality not be removed.

I see a class action lawsuit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150201)

if it were in the US

"Let's assume that "2MM" is the Spanish way of writing "2 million". If 96% of those were free downloads, that means that a whopping 80,000 people who paid money for Touch Racing have just been screwed. If we assume an arbitrary but reasonable average price of £1.19 (the second-lowest App Store price tier at the time most of the sales were made, though the app has cost at least twice that much for most of its life), that's just short of £100,000 that Bravo have extracted from consumers for what is in effect a "Lite" demo version of the game."

This is forbidden by appstore rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150203)

They will get in trouble and have to revert it. They aren't the first to try such a thing, as shitty as it is.

If only there was some way to avoid this! (3, Insightful)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150207)

Oh yeah. Delete the app. If you don't like it post change, don't use it. I mean I think it's a foolish move but it's their game. You are just buying a license to it.

Re:If only there was some way to avoid this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150285)

Yeah, great solution.

"Hey, I just got robbed!"

"So? Don't live in that house any more if you don't like people robbing it."

Re:If only there was some way to avoid this! (1, Troll)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150351)

The key difference is you don't own the house. You rent with a rental agreement that says the landlord can take the house away, change the locks at any time. Read the EULA some time.

Re:If only there was some way to avoid this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150793)

No, you're not "renting" the house here. You bought it, or at the very least bought the permanent use of it. And then "owner" came in and locked the bedrooms and told you that you have to pay him a fee to unlock them (a more accurate analogy than the grandparent AC made).

And no, a EULA does not and cannot make that okay.

Re:If only there was some way to avoid this! (1)

fran6gagne (1467469) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150403)

Yeah, great solution.

"Hey, I just got robbed!"

"So? Don't live in that house any more if you don't like people robbing it."

Since a license generally give you the right to use an application. A more appropriate analogy would be:

"Hey, I just got robbed!"

"So? Don't live in that apartment any more if you don't like people robbing it."

Re:If only there was some way to avoid this! (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150375)

You're buying a license to a particular feature set and level of functionality. I have no doubt that the people who actually paid money have a legal case if the update took away substantial features and functionality.

Re:If only there was some way to avoid this! (1)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150417)

Nope. You really should spend some time reading EULAs you effectively sign away most of those rights.

Re:If only there was some way to avoid this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150599)

Except in many many jurisdictions you cannot sign away certain of your rights. EULAs include a significant amount of language that is designed to give the impression that the vendor has certain rights under the contract that they do not in fact have. That is why there is always language in them that states that if one portion of the EULA is invalid, then only that portion will be disregarded and the remainder of the provisions will remain in force. This allows them to put anything they want in there and they take FULL advantage of this fact.

Re:If only there was some way to avoid this! (1)

TraumaFox (1667643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150669)

Many countries have laws that supersede EULAs. Even in the US, there have been plenty of cases where EULAs have been judged invalid. Publishers aren't allowed to put whatever they want in a EULA; you could agree to a EULA that gives the publisher the right to assassinate you, but that still wouldn't be legal.

This particular case, and indeed the entire purpose of pointing out and writing articles about cases like these, is to draw attention to the need for protection against what many widely consider unfair business practice, especially in places where that protection is limited or absent.

Re:If only there was some way to avoid this! (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150547)

Yup. Sucks if you paid $5 for it, but better to cut your losses than to support a sleazy racket like this. Oh, and be sure to leave some informative comment on the game in the app store.

Similar things have happened before... (5, Interesting)

Cinder6 (894572) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150215)

A couple years back (or maybe just a year), an "update" came out for WipEout HD on the PS3. The game cost $15 to buy, but the update added video advertisements to the loading screens of each race. Aside from being annoying, they drastically increased load times in order to force you to actually watch the ad. While not as bad as actually crippling the game as in this case, that event really soured me to the concept of digital distribution.

Really, the only company I trust with digital distribution these days is GOG, who don't use DRM in any of their games. Yeah, they pulled that weird "shutdown" stunt a while back, but to my mind it only proved their value--nobody was unable to play their games during the outage (except for those few people who hadn't gotten around to downloading them yet).

Re:Similar things have happened before... (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150337)

Really, the only company I trust with digital distribution these days is GOG, who don't use DRM in any of their games

While looking at the details of some of the recent sales and additions, I found out that at least some of the games do [gog.com]

Re:Similar things have happened before... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150407)

Except they have no control over that. The multiplayer *servers* for the game require a unique CD-key. How long have you been PC gaming?

Re:Similar things have happened before... (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150501)

Servers for games that have direct connections between players?

How long have you been PC gaming?

Re:Similar things have happened before... (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39151009)

I recall UT2K4 does the same, but authenticates serials by proxy: The clients send their (hashed) keys to the server, the server contacts Epic, checks the key-hash is valid, kicks if not. It is nice enough though that if it can't get a response (quite common at quick lan setups, there may be no internet connection) it'll just let the game continue. You can also quite easily disable it's ability to contact the auth server (It's an INI file edit), but this does also mean you can't advertise on the public metaserver.

Re:Similar things have happened before... (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39151033)

It'd be almost a perfect consumer-friendly DRM scheme, affecting only pirates with no obnoxious lockout technologies or compatibility breaking and no manditory internet connection. It is, though, marred by a flaw: Valid CD keys became so sought-after that some actually wrote key-stealing trogens into fake patches or mods in order to steal and impersonate the keys of legitimate users. So... close, very close, but still evil if only for creating an unintended incentive for malware.

Re:Similar things have happened before... (1)

Sez Zero (586611) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150565)

I found out that at least some of the games do

This looks like a technical issue in how the game functions, not necessarily a DRM limitation.

It seems like a lot more work to rewrite a game-server protocol than to just hand out free keys to everyone and use the existing system. I guess that isn't the idea solution, but look how good the DVD DRM was after DeCSS came out. If we all have the keys, is it really that restrictive of a DRM system?

Re:Similar things have happened before... (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150631)

It's still dependent on them.

The real fix, without rewriting the protocol, would be to bundle the keygen with the main download. No master ship for key requests.

Re:Similar things have happened before... (3, Informative)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150583)

GOG.com provides such good value, I have even repurchased games from them that I already own, because I know they have been properly updated, configured or bundled with DOSBox so that they run on modern Windows versions (and often Linux too) with absolutely zero hassle.

Re:Similar things have happened before... (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150717)

I've done the same. Finding this (first in NWN in the sale, then the America Conquest release, I don't know where else) has destroyed some of my good will towards them.

I wish they either said no to the original publisher or bundled the keygen with the downloads.

Re:Similar things have happened before... (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150359)

But there is a digital distribution company that is trustworthy! Here [thepiratebay.se] ; don't forget to donate for their noble work.

Re:Similar things have happened before... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150907)

The original publisher already made their money (or not) on the bulk of the decade+ old games GOG is selling. It's not a model for publishing a modern triple-A title.

Best way to drive your customers away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150225)

I have a Xbox 360 and a Sony PS3. The day that Sony released the PS3 'upgrade' that removed the 'Other OS' feature was the day I stopped updating my PS3.

Since then I have purchased titles exclusively for Xbox 360. The PS3 is only used for blu-ray movie titles only now.

Di34 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150249)

more. If y/Bou feel

No Refund Terms of Sale (5, Informative)

dietdew7 (1171613) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150311)

It's in the terms of sale from the article that Itunes has a no refund policy. It's also true for Barnes and Noble. I've been reluctant to purchase any apps and now that seems wise whereas before I was just being cheap.

Re:No Refund Terms of Sale (1)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150445)

When apple removed the google voice apps from itunes I was able to get full refunds for those apps. So they will do refunds.

When they do a refund, they also screw the developer. The developer eats the full cost of the refund and apple keeps the money they made.

Re:No Refund Terms of Sale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150783)

Such terms of sale are illegal and therefore unenforceable in many countries, including the UK where that blog is based.

DVDs have always been doing this (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150315)

It isn't just games. When I purchase a DVD for home use, it comes with advertising that I can't skip. Why is that? I already paid for the movie, I shouldn't have to pay again by being forced to watch ads.

Why update? (4, Interesting)

jimmyswimmy (749153) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150329)

This is one reason why I rarely update anything on my Android tablet. I have a number of kids' games on there which never had many privileges when I installed them, so there's little security worry (plus it's only connected to my WLAN). What could "Draw by Numbers" possibly need to update to work better? The only "upgrade" I expect is them to remove pictures. My 3 year old is thrilled with the 10 or 20 different things she can draw on there, and that probably is limiting sales.

I only upgrade OS items now and disable the automatic upgrade checking for everything else. I'm sure I'll hear about why that's bad here. I think years of free and truly beneficial MS updates have confused a lot of us into thinking that an upgrade actually means what the word is defined to mean. Much like "gender" replaced "sex" I think the true meaning of the word "upgrade" is being replaced by something. Something not good.

Re:Why update? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150437)

I'm always reluctant to update unless I have a compelling reason. If it isn't broke don't fix it! And I always make sure I have a backup on hand just in case I discover something is missing from the new version or functionality I relied upon or enjoyed is removed or impaired or significantly modified.

I've never been a fan of this move to "constantly update all the time to stay current." It's akin to manically checking your email just to see if there's something new there. While it feeds into the limbic system's feedback that kind of behavioral loop isn't always positive, and it can be influenced to as great a negative impact as the positive potential.
g=

Where's the Update : Never setting? (4, Interesting)

RealGene (1025017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150349)

From the latest version of PocketCloud Remote Free (RDP/VNC client for iPxxx):

What's New in Version 2.2.134

We noticed we had mistakenly enabled multiple computer support on a previous release.
This free version of PocketCloud has always been limited to 1 computer as documented on the app description.
We apologize for the inconvenience and ask for your understanding.
We are discounting PocketCloud Pro 40% to ease the migration for our power users who need to access multiple computers.

Really? Is this the worst that can happen? (1)

ColdSam (884768) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150467)

This is not the sample case that proves the evils of digital distribution.

This is a minor inconvenience, at best. Since the app had been free for many months already, there were probably few of the original purchasers still playing the game. If they were, the vast majority had probably already received more than enough value from their dollar.

Claiming that those original purchasers have been screwed out of $150,000 is as absurd as saying that software companies lose full value for every game that is pirated.

Re:Really? Is this the worst that can happen? (2)

dietdew7 (1171613) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150517)

I from a generation that has the mindset that if I pay for something it stays paid for.

Re:Really? Is this the worst that can happen? (2)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 2 years ago | (#39151077)

the vast majority had probably already received more than enough value from their dollar.

At what point is it OK for me to steal your car since you already received more than enough value from your dollar?

Caveat emptor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150499)

It's not an industry problem that jacka** sellers and buyers exist. Magazines may change format/content after you subscribe, a book or movie you buy may suck. Just because you don't get what you expected doesn't mean the distribution method is to blame. It means you picked a bad seller! Beware who you do business with!

Re:Caveat emptor (1)

Rastl (955935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150831)

It's not an industry problem that jacka** sellers and buyers exist. Magazines may change format/content after you subscribe, a book or movie you buy may suck. Just because you don't get what you expected doesn't mean the distribution method is to blame. It means you picked a bad seller! Beware who you do business with!

The flaw in this logic is that if I buy a physical product I get to keep exactly what I bought. With digital distribution the product itself is changed in ways I may not want. Remember Amazon pulling books that people had purchased? They couldn't do that to a physical book in my home. At least not nearly as easily.

I believe the flow of the article is more about how easy it is to make changes to digital products. That doesn't mean the game didn't suck at purchase - it easily could have and then you bought a product you didn't like. No different from a bad movie or book in physical form. Something that was free or fully functional at purchase and then crippled in an update is a different situation.

Update? Downgrade! (1)

TraumaFox (1667643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150587)

There are a number of clear solutions to this issue, they all just require better flexibility on Apple's part or new consumer protection laws (or better enforcement of existing ones). Cases like these involve carefully tiptoeing around the fine line between update and upgrade; you download an update, but instead receive a downgrade.

'games' on smartphones =/= real games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150729)

i always refer to them as 'trivial distractions'

Re:'games' on smartphones =/= real games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39151015)

I've almost finished replaying the 10 year anniversary edition of GTA 3 on my droid, it's every bit the same game I played on PS2, with perhaps even a better frame rate. Plug the tablet into the HDMI of my TV, use a PS3 or other bluetooth/usb controller, and boom... A console you can pick up and magically becomes a gameboy with a 10 inch screen when you need to take a dump.

You're thinking about angry birds. There's more available than angry birds.

Caveat Emptor (3, Interesting)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150843)

A purchase is an investment in the credibility of the seller.

There are so many ways a seller can screw over a purchaser, that's why letters of credit were invented.

If you're purchasing something (effectively) that you have no idea how it works, from someone you don't know, and you give them (by update) the authority to make changes at will...well, to suggest that you are trusting is an understatement.

We've become so habituated to this model, we've forgotten that in the same way that Darwinism works by death, capitalism works by failure. For people to realize a seller can be identified as unscrupulous, a number of people have to get screwed.

Even worse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39150875)

I've purchased apps that eventually spin off into a "new version" which is practically identical to the original. Forced to "rebuy" to get future updates. I find this practice to be akin to bait and switch. Whats a 99 cent app purchaser to do? I understand that I got significantly more value than the original price paid but it's not my fault you didn't price your app properly.

What the market will bull (2)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150889)

Customers dumping products and companies that do things like this is what traditionally kept them in check. The underlying problem seems to be not that merchants have started using these underhanded tactics - that's been something merchants have always tried for centuries - but rather that the customer base accepts it. Gripes perhaps, but predominantly accepts it.

When is the last time you heard the word "boycott"? Particularly when it comes to digital media, consumption has become so convenient that large swaths of the customer base will put up with it. And thus it continues. Peoples' standards are more lax today than they used to be, and the standards of customers overall have the moral uprightness of a bowl of yogurt. Remember when stores used to thank you for your patronage, rather than just your business? That was in the fifties. They would be glad you stopped by and considered making a purchase, and were eager to build a relationship with their potential customers. Nowadays, it's 30-minute seating limits and Restrooms For Customers Only. How nice.

With the internet facilitating so much free communication (well, for the moment at least) and social co-ordination, there's even less of an excuse for people to be accepting this kind of treatment. Boycotts are even easier to organize than they were in the Seventies, and when people still don't manage it you really have to wonder about the acceptance level of the People. It seems they'll take quite a bit. That also accounts for much of our political situation in the U.S., by the way. If people wouldn't tolerate it, let alone enable it, it couldn't perpetuate.

It's less a matter of, "Et tu, Brute?" and more one of the People collectively forgetting their life skills. And getting consistently shorn for it.

This isn't a technical issue (5, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39150955)

This is not a technical issue. This is an issue of unfair trade practices.

shady? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39151063)

So, create a model where anyone can write a program for your system. Thus making it impossible for most developers to do it full time. Then those developers act shady. Shocking.

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