Consumers vs. Corporations- The Video Game version


#1

So I’ve seen two things in the last week that have really had me thinking when it comes to consumer issues. Three, in the last few months.

The first was Microsoft banning people who had modified xbox consoles.

The big issue with that was the term modification. Now, most people who had modified consoles were kicked off because they were playing downloaded games. If you get on craig’s list you can find hundred of adds by people who modify Xbox 360’s and it’s cheap.

What was interesting to me was that MS banned people who had modified systems, period. They didn’t release how they came to their conclusions, which is understandable, but it looks like some people got their consoles banned simply because they replaced some components. There’s a repair shop a few miles from my house that will fix consoles. A BOATLOAD of their customers had their systems banned because they replaced faulty disc drives and heatsinks well after the warranty was up. These people were told to go fuck themselves by MS. One guy had over 500 dollars in DLC and he has no recourse at all. MS hid behind their Terms of Use and fucked people who were legit customers. Twice. First with faulty ass hardware, and second, by banning those people because they decided to fix their consoles rather than buy new ones.

The second has to do with Apple and the iPhone. While not as blatant as what MS has done, their situation is a little bit different. They have constantly created updates that have bricked peoples’ phones, caused the phone to behave as it wasn’t intended (Looking at you 3.0 software). A few tech blogs have speculated that they’ve released these firmware updates prematurely just to cut off jailbreaking.

Jailbreaking is an interesting concept because it basically “turns on” features that the hardware is capable of. Simple things like being able to have a wallpaper, themes, and different sounds for things like text messages and emails. Something that’s standard on a Blackberry. There are ways to get things without paying for them, but the process can be pretty tedious.

Some friends of mine are completely against jailbreaking because they feel Apple wants to provide a consistent experience with every phone. That point definitely has merit, but I’m of the camp that says “I bought it. I can do whatever the fuck I want with it”. Unless, of course, that means updating the firmware. Updating to newer firmware will “break” your jailbreak, and revert the phone back to it’s original form.

The thing with the iPhone is you don’t have to update it if you don’t want to. There really aren’t that many changes from the 3.0 software to the 3.13. A few fixes here and there, but that’s it. If you’re having a stable experience with a jailbroken phone, then you’re okay. Apple doesn’t stop you from making phone calls or using the internet.

The third is Sony’s removal of the other OS feature on the PS3. Other OS is a feature that was arguably used by a few percent of PS3 owners, but it’s still pissed off a lot of people. If you read NeoGAF, they have a 52 page thread with over 2500 posts about the subject. People seem to fall into a few distinct camps; the ones who don’t give a fuck that Other OS was removed, the ones that are outraged that it was removed, and the ones who are outraged that somebody else is outraged.

The interesting part of the issue with Other OS is that it seems to be a knee jerk reaction to a hacker named Geohot, who claimed he’d found a way to install custom firmware on the PS3, which, we can assume, would allow the PS3 to become a pirate’s play land like the PSP.

http://geohotps3.blogspot.com/

Sony has hidden behind their terms of use but a guy from the UK actually got a refund from Amazon because of this.

The fucked up part about what Sony’s done is that people have a choice between updating their firmware (which is required for you to get on PSN) or keep other OS. I can only assume that newer games are going to require firmware 3.21 or higher to run, just like with the PSP, so the consumer is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can update to play the game and get on PSN, or not update, keep Other OS but lose the ability to use PSN or play new games.

Then there’s the stuff like Ubisoft bullshit DRM with Assassin’s Creed II that required you to be online at all times in order to play the game, despite the fact that their own internal servers went down and folks couldn’t play the game at ALL during this outage.

Anyway, I’m curious, I know we have some lawyers on here, and folks in law school and I was curious what the overall consesus on this stuff is. I’m of the mindset that what I bought belongs to me and if I choose to throw it off a building or jailbreak it, that’s my choice. It bothers me that companies like MS and Sony can flip a switch and fuck somebody’s system up. Ford can’t turn the AC off in your car because you went to a mechanic to fix your AC rather than a ford dealership.MS being able to ban people who fixed their own systems seems shady as fuck. Sony telling people to choose between playing new games and using PSN or keeping other OS seems shady as fuck.

Thoughts?


#2

It’s hard for me to take a strong stand on these issues as each case the product is in the grey area somewhere between commodity and service, although in the case you brought up with Sony I lean towards them. It’s not uncommon for software vendors to remove features from their products, and from what it sounds like, the chief use of this feature is for pirating. I think forcing users to give up the feature for firmware updates is a fair trade. Certainly better than targeting random users for million dollar lawsuits.


#3

But the problem with that stance is that Other OS was something that was promised to consumers when they bought the product. Removing it after the fact seems like it’s totally fucking the customer, does it not? It would be like buying a card from Toyota and a year later they decide that you shouldn’t be able to roll down your windows. If you do roll down your windows the car will never be able to go into drive. Just reverse and park.

My issue with what sony did is that they’re removing features in a very arbitrary way. You bought the product as it was advertised. Nothing malfunctioned or required repairs, they removed it because they were afraid they were going to get hacked. So, just like DRM, the consumer suffers.

What if they just up and decided to remove media streaming play back, BC from models that have it, mp3 playback, etc. simply because somebody found an exploit? How would you feel then? Other OS is somewhat of an easy target simply because very few people used it. Something that folks use quite a bit like the media streaming or BC being removed would cause a much larger uproar.

I still think it’s bullshit they can do that to the consumer.


#4

I agree, I think cutting out functionality from the PS3 is bullshit (and didn’t realize the banning for the 360’s reached people who just fixed their systems, which is also BS). But I also think Sony had a legitimate reason for them to remove it in order to protect their system from being pirated. So yeah, I lean toward Sony in this case but still not happy about it.

I just read this article about the Sony thing, Sony will not sanction any refunds for lost OtherOS. I’m bringing it up because you mentioned how the PS3 was advertised, and this mentions it.

http://www.thinq.co.uk/news/2010/4/14/sony-refuses-to-sanction-ps3-refunds/


#5

Personally in my uneducated opinion, I think it’s just another form of control. That’s what corporations are afraid of, once their product is out, it’s out of their hands. I don’t think they are so paranoid that will somehow imagine that suddenly 80% of the population will grow actual motivation to pirate, mod, hack, etc. etc. their product, but I imagine that they use these ideas as a catalyst for limiting functionality or at most an excuse. Granted we are a bit more tech savy than we were 10 years ago, but imho I feel there is majority of the general public that doesn’t give two shits about modding and hacking a product where all they want to do is just play video games. However I think when there are cultures that have piracy embedded into their common lives (aka the R4 shit) and modding seems second nature, I suppose it’s a somewhat legitimate claim…which ruins it all for the rest of us. I guess the cost of patrolling specific areas of these problems cost more than the backlash of fucking consumers over by locking out functions.

OC


#6

Yeah you’re right, but also Toyota can say there’s a recall on those windows. if you don’t get your car serviced at a Toyota dealer (which keeping with the similie would be going online) it won’t affect you and they won’t mess with your car (PS3), but they can also refuse to service your car until you update the windows, which they do for free on recalls. Is this the strongest argument? Fuck no :rofl: Just trying to keep with the similie.

With the 1M banned from Live issue, now THAT is some BS. If they’re able to see exactly who has modified anything on their 360’s down to the fan being replaced then they should also be able to discern who is fixing their product so they can continue to pay them for Live and who’s just hacking/pirating or what have you. Yeah sure they can legally do that, but to me that is a completely blatant “We have you by the balls and we’re not letting go; nothing you can do about it” statement.


#7

In the camp of “I bought it so I can do what the fuck I want with it”. It can be a tit-for-tat issue, since the companies do bring up a good point, but stuff like the MS issue is still bullshit. The companies should figure out some way of distinction between modded and repaired, put some R&D into it. I don’t see this issue going away anytime soon either which is why I’m done with console gaming after this generation. It seems like the more advanced these systems get, the more control the companies have over what I spent money on and that’s not cool with me.


#8

That kind of makes me wonder about the corporations view on the market being a relatively young market. It’s grown exponentially but does anyone imagine that the console corporations have the stance of not only “We have you by the balls” but “you are powerless to quit your loyalty or habit for playing games, and you’re going to buy us anyway?” We as the consumer had exhibited few instances of boycotting or public outcry to the point where Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo listens at least to a point where they have actual change. Any example of them being hurt by that outcry isn’t from these problems outlined in this thread but by poor hardware choices (PS3’s lack of vibration initially, N64 choice of cartridge etc.)

OC


#9

The MS thing is absolute horse shit. It’s the only issue I feel particularly heated on since it has affected both my 360 and then a year later it hit my room mate’s. I don’t know if I can really continue to support them in any other way than buying Windows every now and then.


#10

I am in law school currently, but I have yet to take any sort of in-depth looks at consumer protection law, intellectual property law, or any other of the related stuff. UltraDavid I am sure has some good insight on stuff like this. I can impart my basic knowledge though. I am fairly positive that a normal consumer and definitely a normal technology user sees the X-Box/PS3 or the cell phone and X-Box Live/PSN/cell phone service as one in the same, the law treats them as two separate things however. So if the product fulfills the warranties by working as it should, with no focus on the extra capabilities, then it complies with what the law requires. Furthermore, I guarantee the terms of use requires arbitration and all that good stuff. The only legal action that will come about is someone suing for some sort of Deceptive Trade Practices Act issue.

tl; dr version: Consumers buy products and willingly submit to the Terms of Use and are similarly bound by them.

imo.


#11

It’s a war between pirates and the corporations, and we are caught in the middle. It sucks for the people who do innocent things and get screwed for it, but it also sucks when people are jacking your stuff all the time. People fixing their x-box’s and then getting banned is pretty ridiculous, much like the recent DRM attempts, but it’s all part of the process, trying to figure out the best way to protect their interest without screwing over innocents.


#12

I hate what’s happening recently with stuff like this but can’t really see any way for it to actualy be combatted, I mean boycotts are useless because not enough people give a damn about the features being taken away and is a “Stop fucking us over with terms of service bullshit” law, really ever going to come into place when the government seems to always be on the side of the big companies? (At least over here anyway)


#13

i agree. i read that TOS and did not like it, so i did not buy. If only more people would do the same. But if people still keep buying then i guess the majorioty of people think everythings is peachy. so good for them. ah well


#14

damn, 1 million banned from XBL hahaha that is rediculous


#15

I know how you feel, back in the day, we could buy a Nintendo and games. We physically owned the games and the system. If one component stopped working we could get it fixed or replaced. Nowadays, gamers don’t own anything, they simply pay for a temporary right to use, which can be terminated at any moment, legally, as governed by the relative Terms of Use.

I’m surprised you didn’t use the banning and loss of all of your characters and items on DFO as an example, did you get a refund for the NX you bought with that cash you won from that tournament?


#16

I don’t really think that “hiding” behind the Terms of Use is the right way of putting it. After all, people agreed to them and signed on the dotted line. You can’t really get pissed off because you don’t like something that you agreed to. That being said, I agree completely that it wasn’t fair. If I have the choice between buying a new system or replacing the one you made out of Mexican shit, then I’m going to take the cheaper route since you’re trying to screw me over. Yes, the Terms should be changed to fix this. No, they will not be changed.

As for the PS3 thing, I recently made the switch from 360 to PS3 and honestly I couldn’t care less about this subject. The thing works, I like it more than the 360, even if its free online interface blows ass.

DRM is complete and total horse shit. An explanation is not required in the least.

Also, I have an iPhone but I really don’t fuck with it so I also can’t comment on that whole thing. Meh.


#17

You know, it’s funny you should mention Geohot. Don’t know if you’ve seen it, but literally IMMEDIATELY after they kicked off the April 1st update,[media=youtube]1-9wLWQ4-uA"] he turned around and did this. People are infuriated, saying that he’s at fault should Sony opt to take more drastic measures. Some other people in the UK have come forward to also attempt and take the Other OS case to task. [URL=“http://www.thinq.co.uk/news/2010/4/14/sony-refuses-to-sanction-ps3-refunds/”[/media]


#18

I dont see how this Other OS thing is a big deal. I mean sure it would be a big deal to cats who actually do put Linux on their PS3s, but come on… 99% of PS3 owners are content with the PS3 part.


#19

the only thing i see no problem with is the assassin creed 2 thing where you have to be online. for pc games i use steam and you need to be online to play so it is like whatever. if their shit goes down for a little bit that is how it is and you roll with it, if your internet goes out tough luck wait it out. i dont really see it as a big deal.

some dude from pcgamer magazine tripped out about needing to be online to play ass creed 2, and the only thing i could think of is really? you never used steam before?

im outi

Roberth


#20

I didn’t use Other OS personally, so it doesn’t affect me, but I can see the concern. Nothing is stopping Sony from removing BC…all they need is a reason. I don’t know if Sony looked at other options with regards to fixing the Other OS issue, since a complete removal struck me as a last resort. What was Linux on the PS3 used for, anyway (besides pirating)?