Why piracy is still the most attractive option available to consumers (…in most cases…)

Why piracy is still the most attractive option, even for those who actively WANT and are HAPPY to pay for the content on offer. In each scenario, I give the honest, law-abiding version, and the ‘dishonest/ illegal’ version. See which you find more appealing:

CINEMA

You pay to go to the cinema.

PROS: You get to see the film on the day of it’s release in the country of release. The film is (hopefully) good visual quality and on the big screen. If you have a rare, attentive and quiet audience, it’s enjoyable to share the ‘big screen experience’ with other people.

CONS: You have to pay. You are bombarded with anti-piracy adverts, ordinary adverts and trailers for films you may or may not want to see – some of which, if you pay to go to the cinema regularly, you will have already seen several times before. You face extraordinary prices for mundane things, and I’m talking a mark up of often several 100% over normal street prices. You are usually faced with an annoying, talking, rustling, popcorn munching audience with whom there is nothing enjoyable about sharing the ‘big screen experience’. The film may be already released over seas whilst it is still unwatchable in your country so you could be waiting an agonising amount of time whilst others are already reviewing, blogging and posting spoilers about it elsewhere in the world.

You pirate the movie.

PROS: It’s free. No ads of any kind, watch it when you want, share it with whoever you like, watch it on any device, usually a smallish digital file size, watch it as soon as it’s pirated – no ocean divides #nooceans, watch it with whoever you want with food that you’ve purchased yourself at reasonable prices, in a sociable environment if you so choose…

CONS: A smaller screen. Potentially fractionally lower quality, both audio and video – if you download a ‘cam’ then you’re looking at substantially lower quality, although why anyone would debase film like that in this day and age is a mystery to me…

BLU-RAY and DVD

You buy a DVD or Blu ray disc.

PROS: The best quality available. You can watch it at your leisure. It’s neatly boxed and packaged. You can lend the disc to a friend and they can watch it.

CONS: You have to pay. You are forcibly bombarded with anti-piracy adverts. These screens are nine times out of ten unskippable and frustratingly delay your viewing. Occasionally you have to put up with ordinary adverts too, despite having paid. You have to wait until the film is released on DVD/ Blu-ray, usually several weeks or months after it has been released in cinemas. As with cinema releases, discs are released at different times around the world, so others can be buying the film abroad whilst you’re still waiting. Studios release and re-release and re-re-release discs again and again in the hope of sponging more money from you. You might think you have the ‘Uncut’ version, but what about the ‘Directors Cut’ and the ‘Collectors Edition’ and the ‘Super Directors Uncut Collectors Edition’? A prime example of this was the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition blu-rays which were calculatedly released months after the theatrical version blu-rays. It’s not usually equipped with a digital copy, so you can only watch it with the right auxilliary hardware (ie. a blu ray/ dvd player).

You pirate the movie.

PROS: As before… It’s free. No ads of any kind, watch it when you want, share it with whoever you like, watch it on any device, usually a smallish digital file size, watch it as soon as it’s pirated – no ocean divides #nooceans

CONS: Potentially substantially lower quality, both audio and video.

BOOKS

You buy an eBook

PROS: Assuming you read it on the device it was purchased for; good quality, legitamate (so customer services to solve any quality issues) You can read it right away as soon as it’s downloaded.

CONS: You have to pay, and often pay exorbitantly given that there are no distribution costs (printing, transport etc.) If you lose the digital copy (considerably easier to do than losing a book) then you may have to buy another. It is incompatible with other e-readers other than the device it was purchased for (eg. Amazon – Kindle, Kobo store – Kobo reader etc.)

You pirate an eBook.

PROS: It is free. It is DRM-free. You can read it on any device (once converted to the appropriate file format). You can share it with whoever you like and redownload it as many times as you like.

CONS: It may need to be converted for your e-reader, athough usually it doesn’t need to. As a result of this, it may have formatting issues. If DRM-free content is detected on your device, some companies can and will remote wipe your device (including books you have legally purchased) – Amazon, I’m looking at you.

What is especially frustrating in the example of books, is that if you own a book, if it is on your shelf at home (ie. after you have paid good, hard earned cash for it), then you can trade it, share it, sell it on, give it away to charity, whatever you like. It’s yours. If you buy the eBook, despite paying the same amount (or in some instances more), you are bound by DRM and obstructed from sharing it, reading it on multiple devices, deleting and redownloading it. You are effectively paying to BORROW a book. That sucks. It shouldn’t even be legal, that’s what libraries are for.

SO HERE’S THE THING

When all of the PROS of honest, legal consumerism far outweigh the CONS, then you can expect a decline in piracy. Right now, in the two industries above (film and books) it seems nobody is making any effort to rectify the unbalance. Whilst that’s the case, why should the consumer go out of their way, to be inconvenienced and charged for an inferior product than they can get elsewhere for free?

You’ll notice that music is not one of the industries listed above. That’s because the music industry has slowly but surely tackled their piracy problem, at least to some degree. How? Through online shopping, streaming, and music on demand services, and through stripping tracks of Digital Rights Management (DRM) ie. DRM-free.

Almost all of the music I own these days is bought and paid for legitamately, through iTunes, or Google Play or Amazon MP3. I have spent more money on music since these online, music on demand services have launched than I ever did at any time in my life before that. Music in the cloud means that I can listen across all of my devices. It means if I lose a song I can redownload it. Most importantly, it means that once I have paid for a tune, it belongs to me. People are willing to pay for content, it just has to be worth paying for.

So here is the message, and hell, how it’s heart felt:

Studios, distributors, publishers – if you fuck with the consumer, the consumer will fuck you right back. Instead of attacking consumers, labelling them as criminals, trying to frighten and intimidate them through legal tactics and law suits, how about you just offer a fucking service that people are happy to pay for?

As the soul slides from the Xbox, I examine the alternatives

I’ve been an Xbox fanboy (or fanboi to use the colloquial) for the vast majority of my life. Maybe the marketing campaign Microsoft ran throughout the 90s and 00s got me jumpin’ (the very same campaign that they continue to run – “jump in!”); or maybe the flashing green rings around the on button (I didn’t know the red rings denoted ‘Death’ until recently) drew my attention; or could it have been the giant X that was sprawled boldly across the top of the original console (we all know that X is a key letter used to denote so many exciting things…) More likely my obsession could be summed up much more simply than all of the above: HALO.

Yes, Halo reigned supreme among online multiplayer FPS for a long time (I state “online multiplayer” because nothing has ever come close to the Half Life series as a straight FPS franchise). Halo still does reign on Xbox live, even compared to the likes of CoD, although Reach was a step backwards in many ways from Halo 3. However, now that that fantastic world of Humans, Elites, and Floods worse than Brisbane has drawn to a close, or at least reached an optimum peak of player enjoyment, I find myself looking at the alternative gaming options available.

It should go without saying that little challenges the PC for power, graphics etc. It’s still my platform of choice for RPGs (although I deviate for Mass Effect), and for a long time was almost my sole gaming platform whilst I played WoW. I’m not typing that out in full… Also, recently the iPhone has really come into it’s own as a gaming solution. It provides a quick fix that you can score during a toilet break, or while you’re waiting for a bus/ train or other delayed public transport. Initially I was sceptical of the iPhone has a gaming device, but games such as Osmos, Plants Vs Zombies, GeoDefense and Spirit soon changed my mind. It’s just a different style of gaming, and one to be embraced.

Likewise, I was dubious when the Wii, The PS Move and the Kinect for 360 tried to put action, I mean literal, physical action, in to gaming. It has always been a passive hobby. RSI was just an occupational hazard, and hardcore gamers were proud to risk it. This motion gaming tech seemed to trivialise gaming, pitched it to the wrong people. Hardcore gaming was for an elite, the part of society that didn’t want to get involved in the social mix, who were often actually outcast from the social mix anyway. To attract the average consumer to consoles seemed like heresy. It’s still seen as such by an obstinate few. I am not one. As with the iPhone, I see that motion gaming has introduced a different way to experience technology. Indeed, I would say that my Kinect isn’t really about gaming at all at the minute, but is instead a personal trainer – a gym that even I will frequent regularly. That can only be a good thing.

If I’m honest, against Microsoft, who had the might of Bungie at their beck and call, Nintendo and Sony had never even received a second glance from me. I’m afraid Nintendo are now definitely out of the competition (although I am almightily intrigued by their specless 3D), but Sony might just be worming their PS3 up alongside the Xbox 360. Nowadays I have to think practically. That means: value for money vs media solutions vs gaming enjoyment. There are several things to note here:

Online. PS3 is free for online gamers whilst Xbox live is extortionately priced and Microsoft seem to be messing with their pricing all too regularly. Online gaming is essential in this day and age where the majority of video games either provide multiplayer or use it as their primary selling point (Halo being a prime example).

Blu-ray. It is a joke that even after a redesign, and re-release, the 360 still lacks this technology that has been available on the competition since the PS3 first hit the shelves. Blu-ray HD technology could do so much for the 360 both in terms of games and films and there is no excuse for it to still lack the facility.

Bluetooth. While we’re on Blu things, yet another lacking feature for the 360 is bluetooth compatibility which has the potential to open up the console to a myriad of new devices and technology.

BBC iPlayer/ ITV Player/ 4oD/ FIVE Demand/ Love Film. Microsoft fairly recently released a statement which used words to the effect that, because iPlayer is free, and the BBC wouldn’t agree to Microsoft only providing access to it to Xbox Live GOLD subscribers, it wouldn’t be available at all. Money-grabbing scum. That alone is enough to make you look elsewhere. The 360 also doesn’t have any of the other TV catchup or rental services mentioned above, aside from Sky on Demand (which costs £10 monthly and sucks. Trust me. Been there, done that, got a big bill).
What should be clear from this post, is that whilst consoles used to be defined as “gaming solutions”, they are now so much more than that. The whole ‘Media Center’ hype that Bill Gates tried to stir up a few years ago has actually taken ahold now, and as they say, the proof is in the pudding. The pudding being that I use my Xbox 360 to watch films and workout as much I watch my blu-ray player, and I would watch it more if it’s media playback was vastly improved. Which is where my sudden interest in the PS3 derives from. The PS3 has Media capabilities that slam the 360 in to the ground. You only need to see a video of each side by side and it’s easy to see which has the slicker interface, and faster, more user friendly compatibility with other home tech devices. If only it was possible to achieve the best of both worlds. Aside from owning both it’s definitely not and won’t be for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, yes, I think I’m adding the PS3 to a very long list of desirable objects that I intend to one day afford and buy, below the iPhone 4, the iPad, some sick Sennheiser Wireless Headphones I’ve been admiring for sometime and a shit load of Blu-ray dvds. Bah, being an attentive consumer is so much effort…