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In need of software reform

There needs to be a reform in how software purchases are counted. I originally wrote a paper called "The Open Letter to the Gaming Industry" where I outlined many points of interest that need to be reformed in order for the gaming industry to allow for greater competition. I did not, however, publish this paper because I never finished it. But, there is one major point that I continually address that needs to be changed.

When a consumer goes to their local software vendor (Best Buy, CompUSA, EB Games, GameStop, etc.) and purchase a game, that purchase gets marked as a purchase for the dominate platform which that game gets played on. For example, If I purchase Final Fantasy 12 for the PS2, that purchase gets marked as a PS2-based sale. If I purchase Halo 3, that gets marked as an XBOX360-based sale. Where things get confusing is when you make the move to the PC gaming section. If I purchase Unreal Tournament 2004 on DVD, that is marked as a Windows-based sale. Even though UT2K4 comes with a GNU/Linux installer and even though I plan on installing and playing it on a GNU/Linux based machine, it is still marked as a Windows-based sale. There is a reason for this.

In todays world of marketing and market research, a company needs to find the best means to find out their market dominance. If a company makes available a piece of software that allows for third party applications to run on top of that, by monitoring the sales of those third party applications will give the company an idea on just how well their product is selling. Now, if said company were to influence the distributors into counting all third party application sales to be counted in favor of them, they are catering the market research in their favor, making the numbers appear to be higher than what they really are. Said company can then use those numbers to influence the game publishers to only publish games for their platform because of their dominance.

Let's look at, what I think is, the best example of this. In 2005, Mindware Studios developed the game Cold War with the intent on making it completely cross-platform. Even though they succeeded in making it run not only on Windows but on MacOSX and GNU/Linux, their publisher, Dreamcatcher Games, felt that the market for MacOSX and GNU/Linux is not worth it for them to publish the game for those platforms. Why did they think that? Because they were reading the press releases that were funded by Microsoft saying that all game purchases from retail outlets are applications and games meant to run on only the Windows platform. So what did Mindware do about this? They contacted Linux Game Publishing to publish the GNU/Linux version and Runesoft to publish the MacOSX version. Unfortunately, by purchasing the Windows version, there is no GNU/Linux installer built in (unlike with UT2K4 which has a Windows and GNU/Linux installer on the same disc), you can purchase the game with one from online retailers like Tux Games. Furthermore, by purchasing the games from outlets like Tux Games, this gets accurately marked as a Linux-based sale since Tux Games deals with nothing but GNU/Linux application distribution.

Unless you purchase a copy of GNU/Linux from a retailer, they all believe that you are purchasing software to be run on Microsoft Windows (unless they are from the MacOSX shrine aisle). This is the biggest area in need of reform that I am aware of and something needs to change.

Side Note: I know some people will say "Well, if you purchase a PS2 game, its obviously for a PS2." Not true. Especially in todays world of emulation. I can play XBOX 1 games on my desktop, or PS2 games on my desktop (rather, I have the ability to, I don't actually because I choose not to. But, if I wanted to, I could.)


You make good points and I

You make good points and I definitely agree that the way software sales are accounted for should change to one which is not so prone to manipulation. Each sale that is cross platform should count for each of the platforms for which it is available equally, unless we want to get the buyer to say which OS is (s)he buying it for and then count it as a sale for that platform only (this would be most precise).

On the other hand, most software sold this way today is probably proprietary while Free Software is usually distributed (and even sold) digitally, through downloads. One way to measure this is to count the number of downloads and also record the operating system information of the downloading person, if such information is available, and then create OS charts based on that. Standard web stats programs widely used, like awstats, already have built in OS statistics page.

Then there could be a standard way that software download and digital sales sites would share these OS charts in a decentralized way (similar to P2P) and make it available to all publicly, which would possibly amount to the most correct market share information with regards to software sold digitally. Merge the offline sales information (if and when offline sales include a purchaser specifying for which OS is it being bought for) into this digital database and you might get something closer to the real market share of each OS based on the software sold. Smiling

Anyway, this is just a quick brainstorm which I think might show that there definitely is a better way to measure things. It just has to be done.

That's a very interesting


That's a very interesting point.
But how would you count for which OS the product is sold?

If the product comes as a separate version for each platform, there's no problem. But what if it's the same for all platforms (ex: UT2K4)?

Personally, I would prefer a multi-platform product so that if I ever switch platform, I can install it on the other one too without buying it again.
I suppose that this way is also simpler for production since it's one packaging and one support for all.

Apart from asking the buyer what he's buying the game for, I think that online-registration/activation would be a better system.
A lot of games already do that altough it's not required (which is good since not everybody has internet access (cf the horror of "steam")).
All they have to do is add an "OS" field.

I just read the criticism section of steam in wikipedia and found something very disturbing:

Changes to minimum specifications

On 26 February 2007 an update to Steam was released that warned users running Windows 98 and Windows Me that past 30 June 2007 their systems would no longer be able to run the program, or any games that previously supported those operating systems, and which also warned users without SSE processors that Source engine games would no longer function "within the next few months" if they did not upgrade their computer hardware (due to the impending release of its multiprocessor update).[38]

Although according to the Steam Hardware Survey both of these new criteria affected only a small percentage of Steam users,[38] they show how Steam's automatic updating can exclude people significantly behind the technology curve - who without Steam would have no such issues.

One more reason to fight DRM, trusted computing and similar stuff...

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