Kyle Orland of Ars Technica had a piece from yesterday bemoannig Nintendo’s DRM decisions relating to the Wii U. The summary of Nintendo’s DRM scheme can sum up simply to “shut the fuck up, we’re Nintnedo, give us your money”, and it’s as anti-consumer as it is unsurprising. Anyone who downloads content on their Wii U cannot move it, or even the account they used to download it, to another system. At all. Ever. It’s the same system in use on the 3DS, and it’s awful. Did your system break? Ship it in for $60, and you’ll get it back in a few weeks. Oh, what’s that? Your system was stolen? Go forth and multiply, we bet you’re just a pirate looking for a free ride. This is a major reason I won’t buy a retail release digitally.
It’s infuriating, because every time I want to love Nintendo as a company for doing the actual games the right way, I hate them for the way they do business. Nintendo’s creed is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they have largely bucked the trend of microtransactions and nickel-and-diming their customers because Fuck You, We’re Nintendo. On the other, they institute hurtful DRM that bleeds money from their savvy customers and could at worst force their less-savvy ones to repurchase everything, and repeatedly hide behind Golin Harris when asked about it, because Fuck You, We’re Nintendo. Of all of the Japanese companies who do business in the West, Nintendo is the most ostensibly Japanese company; buttoned-down, close to the vest, and self-assured. While not as openly hostile towards their customers as some Western and Korean companies, they’re in the comfortable position of not caring what anyone says about them, and that reflects in their decision making and explanation. Even their “Ask Iwata” sessions are nothing more than public relations fluff, intended more for the dedicated fans than those who would actually have real questions.
It would be simple for Nintendo to at the very least allow a deauthorization process for their accounts, one that would allow me to say “my 3DS was stolen, may I pretty please deactivate that system so I can buy a new one and enjoy the virtual console games I’ve purchased”, or “my launch-era Wii just broke, may I deauthorize it becasue I’ve just bought another one of your systems”, but with no one of any consequence complaining – and with their legion of fans, no one in the press is consequential enough for anyone in Kyoto or Redmond to pay any attention to – they simply see no need to bother. Fuck You, We’re Nintendo. The only answer that really makese sense outside of that is that Nintendo’s ongoing fight against piracy of any sort, even the ability to play thirty year old games via emulated ROMs has led to the kind of senseless paranoia I see in IT security, that which comes from someone who extrapolates every single situation into “they’re going to destroy us”. The same mindset that causes an IT manager who Knows Better Than You because he worked on mainframes in the 70s to single-handedly approve every website you go to because he has the power, and because of EVIL HACKERS causes some Japanese corporate drone to put forth a policy that punishes users for making purchases that already benefit Nintendo because he has the power, and becasue of EVIL PIRATES. Fuck You, We’re Nintendo.
Articles like this and the realizations they bring forth hurt because at the end of the day, having a handheld system that allows you to buy the latest Super Mario Bros. game – even at the full-monty $40 price that I think needs to come down $5 for digital purchases – is an amazing thing that we need to see more of. It’s not only great for Nintendo games – imagine when Pokemon hits the 3DS – but it’s also great for those AA publishers that flesh out a company’s software lineup and bring in the niche gamers who really like certain genres that would otherwise be passed over in retail; imagine how many more copies Code of Princess, Devil Survivor Overclocked or Tales of the Abyss 3D – all games that I can’t find at Walmart or Best Buy – would sell if they were digital. But anyone with a brain would be a fool to buy such a major game knowing that if anything happens to their system, they have nothing to show for it despite the technology being there to prevent that. Maybe it makes a stuffed suit in Kyoto happy, but Fuck You, We’re Nintendo isn’t an acceptable enough reason to cause me to spend $40 on a set of bits.