So What Happened?
A few days ago, a Warner Brothers trademark filing called “WB Play” was discovered. Upon closer inspection, the trademark was detailed as an “entertainment service”, “online retail service”, and “downloadable virtual goods.” From the sounds of it, most people believe that Warner Brothers (WB’s) is creating a service to rival Steam, Origin, Uplay, EA Access, and the like; a virtual storefront for all WB’s future games. There was even a job listing for But what does this mean exactly?
What is this “digital distribution”?
With the advent and success of Steam, other video game producers decided to get in on the action. EA’s Origin and Ubisoft’s Uplay popped up, acting as digital distribution centers for their games, designated servers, download clients, and DLC vendors. Services like Origin then removed their future games from Steam and other online retailers and forced the consumer to shop through their own virtual storefront, requiring gamers to create an account and download software. By distributing their games themselves, producers retain all the money they previously would cut with sellers; Steam for example takes 30% profits of any game sold.
Now it appears that Warner Brothers wants a chunk of the action.
Why is this bad?
Well for some, it really isn’t; if you don’t mind downloading software and maintaining yet another subscription and account this shouldn’t bother you. For most, however, its just another nuisance; more middleware in between the consumer and their game. It is also a frightening indication that more of these Steam-rivals will arise in the near future. On the other hand, this offers an opportunity for unique deals and services that wouldn’t be available through Steam or other marketplaces. EA Access, EA’s newest subscription-based service, offers the chance to stream their Next-Gen games for $4.99 a month if you own an Xbox One, for example. It’s still not clear what exactly WB Play will be, however. It could be solely distribution based like Origin and Steam, it could be more subscription service based like EA Access and Playstation’s up-and-coming Playstion Now, or it could be even more comprehensive with WB’s billions of dollars wrapped up in the Music, TV, and Video Game industries; this all remains to be seen.
What IS really worrisome is that this is marking the beginning of a new trend – an age where all publishers create their own virtual storefronts and gamers must dance through hoops every time a new game is released. What we fear is this:
“Oh you’ve bought Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag? Great! Start the game… Now look in your game case and find the Uplay access code, and enter it to validate your game… Ok now wait for the Uplay installer to update… Great now sign in to the Uplay servers! Oh, whats that? You are a new member? Ok… Email and Password, please… Great! Now go to your Email and validate your account… Super! NOW you can play! OH… We’ll be sending you weekly Emails as well now, so prepare your inbox!”
Imagine doing this for an Ubisoft game, an EA game, and a Warner Brother’s game in the same day, week, or month? What if more publishers followed suit, and suddenly every game you bought required some sort of account or membership? Yea…
Opinions Around the Web
We are staying optimistically curious about the whole deal, but what are other opinions around the web?