DC Universe Online, Purchase at Your Own Risk?


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DC Universe OnlineThe President of the Entertainment Consumers Association, Hal Halpin, in a guest editorial on IGN takes on DC Universe Online which has made news for its licensing of the game, like PC games, rather than ownership, which is usually the case with console games (the game is available on the Playstation 3).

The game’s DRM limits the ability to rent, trade, or sell the video game after purchase.  With each disk comes an activation key, and you must use that key to load the game.  By doing so it connects the key with the Playstation account that the key was activated with.  This “locking” of the activation key prevents the game to be used with any other account other than the original account is was loaded with.

While this is common with PC games, it’s new for console games and the fact is this wasn’t disclosed on the packaging.  The PC game also retails for $10 less than the console game.  As a non-PC gamer and new to MMOs this fact and process was new to me, and even though I don’t sell back my used games the inability to do so makes me less inclined to pay for one in the future and the lack of transparency also makes me feel one has pulled over me.  Also, I contemplated switching to a new Playstation Network ID.  If I do so, I’d no longer be able to play the game I purchased.

As Halpin points out:

Console gamers were almost instantly up in arms about the perceived deception, as there was no disclosure about the required PSN key or license limitations on ownership and use. PC gamers on the other hand, were decidedly less offended and perhaps even feeling a little vindicated, thinking, “Welcome to the party!” The issue at first seemed like a non-issue from their perspective: MMOs have always been single use DRM locked games, so what’s the problem? The problem, of course, is that console games are sold and the ownership conveyed, along with rights. That’s one of the reasons that licensed products have a lower value proposition. In this case, the PC version of DC Universe Online sells for ten dollars less than the PS3 version.

Many were caught off guard by this.  No where on the outward facing packaging informs you it’s not a “traditional” console game.  In fact after reading through the entire terms of service there’s no mention the activation key is locked to one PSN account.  In fact there’s explicit language about the pre-order bonus and that you can only download it to one account.

The ECA is running a poll to see how this might affect people’s decisions about purchasing the game.  You can take the poll here.

Full disclosure: Brett Schenker consults for the Entertainment Consumers Association