Forced Registration

J Marv

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As I'm typing this, thousands of people are beginning to install their copies of Half-Life 2, the game every PC gamer has been drooling over since 1999. Some of these people, namely those who camped out at Best Buy or EB to get a hard copy of the game, are in for a rude awakening. Half-Life 2 forces registration. I'm not entirely sure on the specifics, but after the code leak sent production haywire, Valve was pretty much determined to prevent a leak of the final (or a late beta) version of the game from even mattering, a lesson the console world would do well to heed. The game has to be activated, after the user is granted an activation code from Valve, seemingly through the Steam client. Now, that's not to say that the game is "unpiratable," that would be stupid, but it has already stopped pre-orderers whose stores gave them their copies as soon as they had them from getting to play the game before everyone else, and makes the CD images that are floating around the Internet the rough equivalent of a paperweight for hard drive space. At least until a clever hacker finds a way around the activation code and distributes his solution to general public, that is.

And so begins the era of forced registration.

Personally, I like the idea. As a gamer who tends to register his games (mostly for the tech support, and online play requirements of many games) I feel better knowing that piracy is much harder on games that employ a similar method. Since the industry cites piracy as a reason for the general high cost of games (not that it's outrageous or anything, but that's a different topic) maybe industry-wide adoption of this system could cause prices to decline. I also like the idea of having a gamer type kinda thing for match-making in online play. If I buy a lot of RTS games, I don't really want to play with someone random who just got their first.

Granted, there are downsides. Many people see this as a big brother sort of thing. Many people don't like giving out personal information (like address and phone number) to companies. There are probably other downsides too, but I can't think of any right now.

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I used the term Big Brother rather loosely, but if you have to register and then play the game online, there is no reason to think there isn't a way for them to gauge how long you and your friends play against each other.

Take it one step further, and yes this is the conspiracy theorist in me, but by how you play, what weapons you use, your defensive and offensive tactics, they could do a basic psyche profile on you. That coupled with your original registration information is a great marketing profile on you. They can not only use this for themselves, but sell it to others.

Now, I'm not actually against any of the above, I think it would be cool when games are tailored to the person playing it, the adds on the billboard in the warehouse district are directed at you and not just general adds. But tell me when you are doing it, because I'll sign up, but until then, don't convince me you are doing something for the good of the industry, when in fact it is to line your own pockets.

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