Any PC gamer will know, the PC was the king of games for years with W-A-S-D ruling the world of video games. It seems as though now we have become the forgotten child in the gaming family, the child locked away in the basement that a lot of developers wont talk about or introduce to their guests when friends come over for dinner. Apparently the reason is that there isn’t enough money in PC gaming and\or that piracy is strife in the PC world. Personally, both arguments are a bit of you kn ow what. Especially when there are developers like Steam who seem to be making more than enough money from their PC customers. I take a look at piracy and video games, the halal side of downloading software and games and Epic games latest announcement from Gamescom.
Piracy is strife everywhere, whether its console games, PC games, software or music. Personally I made a decision around 4 years ago not to download anything anymore. Ill admit I used to download plenty of video games, the main reason being that I was a poor student. That by no means justifies it, but I just wasnt in a position to be able to afford my addiction to games and software on my student budget. 2 things happened that changed my outlook and alhamdulillah, I havent downloaded any games or software since.
First reason came about from a discussion we were having around piracy with some Muslim friends and a local Imam. Many were trying to come up with different reasons as to why it wouldnt be haram but in the end the conclusive answer from the Imam was that it was theft. No matter which way the argument was swayed, if the result is you are downloading something that you haven’t paid for and if the owner of that property would not agree with you taking it and using it for free, then downloading that software or video game would be haram. If you don’t agree with the DRM or the licensing terms, then you shouldn’t play\download it. Pirating the game doesnt send a message to the developer\publisher in an ethical and halal way. A simple email can hold a lot of weight in todays global world. One of my first posts on this site was about how I purchased The Witcher 2 game just to support the developers because of their stance in regards to some Islamically offensive material that was in their game. I am hoping that sends a clearer message to a developer that potential customers, Muslim Gamers, also have money and also buy games, so do the right thing by me and I am happy to do the right thing back to you. Screaming and yelling achieves nothing, if you want to prove a point, hit a games company where it hurts most, with your wallet and their bank account.
The second reason was getting out of the student life and into a full paying job with a decent income. This now allowed me to have the extra income to spend on games and software. In my head, Jahannam wasn’t worth a few pirated games. So from that point on I have purchased all my games and software. I believe this isn’t just a Muslim stance, id say any decent person would want to support the developer of their favourite game, but I guess just not everyone can afford to do so. That’s where the move towards Free to Play and micro transactions may actually help the video games industry in many ways too. Whether that model will transfer to FPS games we are yet to see, but with Team Fortress 2 being a huge success with their damn HATS! You never know what might be around the corner.
So what are the options for the poverty stricken student gamer?
Steam sales! These are an excellent opportunity to buy games dirt cheap. Now that they happen a few times a year, its easy enough to avoid piracy, get your games legitimately and stay in the Halal Gaming arena. A second option is Ebay. I have purchased so many games for $10- $20 that are in retail for $80-$100 (games are expensive in Australia) that I rarely even go to retail to buy games. While I love steam, I also buy from Direct 2 Drive, and Green Man Gaming so that Steam has some competition. Monopoly for any company is never good for the consumer.
When it comes to software, open source is your friend. There really isn’t much you cant find as an open source alternative. I use Gimp and Inkscape for all the graphics on this site, I use wordpress for the blog, PHPBB for the forums, VLC for video and there are also alternatives for office all for free and thus Halal. Windows is really the only thing I cant get for free, but as my wife is a student, we can get Home and student editions for cheap too. Check out this site which shows you the alternatives to basically any application you need, you can filter it by open source and go from there.
So how does Gears of War fit into this?
Well Epic Games the developers of the hugely successful Gears of War series went exclusively with consoles on Gears of War 2 and the third game in the series which is due for release in April next year will also be an Xbox 360 exclusive. CEO of Epic Games Mike Capps admitted that it boils down to profits and that the money is in the console business. Crysis developer Crytek has also said piracy was the reason behind its decision to stop developing PC exclusives and move to a multi-platform release.
While I understand piracy hurts profits, I think a bigger reason is crap games, bad design, boring game play and draconian DRM hurt profits even more. More recently Blizzard has announced that Diablo will be unplayable without the net connection, Ubisoft has had a lot of issues with their always online DRM system. The end result, the gamer that goes out and pays for the game has a harder time playing his game than the gamer that downloads a cracked version and plays it as he\she pleases. How that is good business I have no idea. If a game annoys me enough, I buy it, then download the cracked version and play that… no wonder PC gamers are annoyed.
Well Epic Games has now announced that they are working on five new games that have nothing to do with Gears of War at all.
“It’s nice to target the PC as a primary platform again,” teased Capps, “not just for ports.”
The announcement was made during a presentation at Gamescom in Germany today. Responding to an audience question, Capps suggested these five titles maybe smaller in scope than, say, the Gears of War projects.
“At Epic we didn’t multiply the studio size by five when we started workig on these multiple projects,” answered Capps, “so you can make some assumptions about the size of those projects”.
Capps went on to suggest that companies need smaller-sized projects to counter-balance the big-bucks, high-stakes blockbusters.
“Everyone knows the middle class is disappearing from the console business,” he said. “Gears of War I hope will do really well, but a pretty good game doesn’t make its money back any more. A game like Homefront sells a couple of million copies and they close the studio, right?
“That’s not enough any more. That’s pretty depressing. You don’t want to see what happens to an industry where it’s Call of Duty, Halo and Gears and no-one else has enough money to make any games any more. That’s not a fun industry.
“I can’t bet my entire company every time I make a game,” declared Capps. “That’s a really dangerous business.”
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