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FREE GAMES!…legally August 9, 2010

Posted by maxfreund in General, PS3.
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The promise of free games, or a free computer, or even free cheese is often met with skepticism by the general public, and for good reason. No one ever wants to come out behind, and if you give away a product with no strings attached, you generally end up bringing up the rear.

But I was recently made aware of a way to obtain essentially “free” games on the Playstation Network, and it is a completely legitimate and legal action. Intrigued? Let me explain.

The three major consoles, the Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360, all have substantial online catalogues. Complete with simple flash games for a few dollars, all the way up to full 40 – 60 dollar games, that could be found at your local Best Buy. These virtual stores are tremendous places for gamers to find niche, indie developed gems, or just get a new game without having to put their pants on and brave the outside world.

But with so much content available for download, questions about ownership have arisen.

With normal, retail games, when you purchase a game, you get something physical. In the old days it was a cartridge, and now it is a Blueray or DVD, but it is something tangible. You can hold it, bring it from house to house or console to console, and resell it at Gamestop or Ebay when you are finished with it. But with downloadable content, it isn’t so black and white.

When you purchase a game via an online store, a file is downloaded to your system. And while you “own” the game, and can play it all you want, you loose that physical aspect.

This is a legitimate concern for game companies, because if a person is expected to purchase all their content digitally, the consumer will need to have that same sense of ownership that they are used to, or the transition to digital distribution shall not go smoothly. These concerns have led to an interesting concession by Playstation, and brings me to your “free games”.

DRM or Digital Rights Management is the ownership of a piece of code, and governs what a person can and cannot do with that code. Every game that is downloaded by a user off the Playstation Network is tied to that person’s profile. This tether allows the user to delete the game file from their consoles’ hard-drive to make space, and then re-download it to their system at a later date, free of charge.

But what if your console kicks the bucket, and you have to go drop 300 bucks on a new PS3. It is a different console. One that has no memory of your prior downloads. You do not have to buy all new disks for your new PS3, could Sony possibly expect you to repay for all your downloadable games?

Well thankfully, no, they don’t.

Sony has granted each person the ability to re-download any game onto 4 other consoles. This covers a person who may own two systems simultaneously, by not making them buy the same game twice, as well as any situation where your system dies and you need to grab another one.

But in my humble estimation, 4 re-downloads on different systems seems excessive. I have owned consoles for the past 3 console cycles, and have never once reached more than 3 systems of the same type (damn you red ring!). So what am I expected to do with these extra downloads?

I am legally alloted them. They are just sitting there, waiting to be used.

Well, the simple answer is to trade with friends! And thus, the free games. If you have a friend who owns a PS3, they undoubtedly have downloaded some PSN titles that you may be interested in playing. Well all you have to do is sign onto their system using your user ID. Go to the PSN store. Click on the downloads history button, and re-download all of your games onto their system.

Doing this will knock off 1 of your 4 allotted re-downloads, so pick the friends you trade with wisely.

When I learned of this, I was excited. Frankly, games are really expensive, and to a starving college student, any little freebee is welcome.

And while this may seem slightly sneaky, or subverting the intended use of not making a person pay for the same game twice on two of their own systems, think of it this way.

Back in the days of the N64, did all your friends own a copy of Super Smash Brothers? Of course not. You brought your copy from house to house, spending hours enjoying it with different people at different times. Think of this as just a way to digitally share the wealth and borrow your friends favorite game.

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Total Digital Distribution Can Wait January 27, 2010

Posted by maxfreund in General, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360.
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I recently played through the delightful Pixle Junk Shooter, a downloadable title on PlayStation Network, and it got me thinking about digital distribution.

Most people agree that eventually all our digital content, be it movies, music, television, or video games, will be streamed via the internet to whatever device we are using. We already see this in some forms such as Netflix Instant Watch, Xbox Live, Play Station Network, Itunes, and many more. And I no qualms about downloading the latest blockbuster title rather than walking to a store and buying a disk, as long as the small games do not suffer.

Currently, the PSN and Xbox Live Arcade are filled with great small games. Quirky sidescrollers like Castle Crashers, deep and vibrant puzzle adventures like Braid, and enjoyable old-school-style shooters like Pixle Junk Shooter are given a place of prominence, and I fear if they were going up against the God of War IIIs of the world, they would be overshadowed.

Sure, the smaller price tag would allow them to get some traffic, but I fear it would be hard for the average consumer to sign onto Xbox Live, go searching for a game, and not help but overlook the smaller titles in favor of the latest blockbuster release.

This is why I enjoy the current setup of having major releases relegated to disk form, and the downloadable scene reserved for the indie titles. It gives both types of games a space of their own to shine, and I hope it remains that way for at least alittle while longer.