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EMA Suggests Standard For Activating Video Games After Sale
EMA Suggests Standard For Activating Video Games After Sale Exclusive
December 1, 2008 | By Leigh Alexander

December 1, 2008 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Could point-of-sale "activation" software for games and DVDs discourage theft? The Entertainment Merchants Association seems to think so, and has published a set of standards for what it calls "benefit denial technology" that would render discs inoperable until they're paid for at retail.

The effort is codenamed "Project Lazarus," and the EMA says it's assembled a consortium of retailers, home video companies and video game publishers to see how easily such "benefit denial technology" could be implemented, and to evaluate possible cost-benefit analyses.

The initiative is similar to security tags used in clothing retail that spill ink on garments if they're forcibly removed, thereby destroying the item. In such a situation, shoplifting is discouraged by implementing a solution that only the retailer can remove at the point of sale.

EMA president and CEO Bo Andersen says, "The deployment of benefit denial technology would reduce shrink in video game and DVD stocks, increase open marketing of video games, reduce packaging, decrease labor costs, improve consumer access to video games and Blu-ray discs, and make the categories more attractive for additional retail channels.

"Given the myriad of potential benefits, EMA recognized the imperative to bring together major stakeholders to provide an impetus for further development and timely deployment of effective benefit denial technologies for DVDs and video games that are useful and effective for a broad range of entertainment retailers."

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Bryan Diggs
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I didn't realize that retail theft of video games is a huge out of control issue. This sounds like a giant waste of time, money, and a big headache for gamers. In fact retail activation is something you do for subscription products, mainly stuff like phone cards, not things I'm going to own physically. Whats next after the retail activation you have to connect to the internet on your console or computer to complete the activation. Some of us just want to buy the game, play it, and have it in our collection, not jump though hoops to play. Personally those are the games I steer clear of. But who knows how most consumers will react?

Björn Nordvall
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It depends on how it is implemented. If they have activation codes, etc. that you need to submit and other such nonsensical things, then it is a poor decision. But, on the other hand, they may be trying to develop something more in line with those little plastic things they have on shirts at some stores, so the game would be ruined if it hadn't been payed for. All that would mean, if i understand it correctly, is that the store clerk would have to deactivate the mechanism they stick in there, which would take place after payment.

Simon Carless
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One thing that's interesting, Bryan, is that video games are mainly under glass in stores like Target in the U.S. (and CDs/DVDs are not) because of alleged theft issues, and it's been claimed that the industry loses a lot of money from 'impulse buys' because of that. So I guess it _is_ a problem. Not sure what the solution is, mind you.

Rocket Man
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The only solution that works is WOW-style subscriptions.

The rest?. Harassing the customer for nothing. Just look at the myriad of APIs and DRMs that GTA4 for PC is bringing onboard. I now I wanted to buy it and I'm not going to, I think it's way too much.

The publishers are losing customers because they don't want to see reality: they're doing nothing against piracy, they're not stopping second hand sales and they are alienating customers. And it's all their fault.

Bryan Diggs
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Personally I think subscriptions would be a terrible move for the industry, I know that when I played Planetside, it was one of the only games I played. I felt that since I'm paying per month I ought to get my moneys worth. I think that thats how most people would probably feel, playing one or two game for several years. That could just be me though.

And as far as retail sales go, I've heard Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer of video games and they keep their games behind glass and still manage huge sales.

Honestly, this just sounds like another move to control media, not for protection of the industry, but just to have control. Much like DRM, digital distribution, and online activations. Perhaps I'm just being paranoid.

Rocket Man
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Oh, I certainly hate the subscription model, but it's the only one publishers can justifiably say that protects most of the content (yeah, even for WoW are pirated servers).

The rest?. SecuROM, StarForce, TAGES, online activations, disk checks, install limits... All of those fail, HORRIBLY. They only bother customers, and publishers who use them deserve no money.

I've heard many times "but they are trying to protect their content!". They are not. They've know for the last *30 YEARS* that it doesn't work, and still, they put worse DRM over us every f***ing year.

Publishers are the ones killing the PC.

Stephen McDonough
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I don't see how ink clips on shirts translates to DVDs and Blu-Ray, for either movies, music or games.

Most stores already have theft prevention techniques at point of sale, glass cabinets, or keeping the actual discs in a locked cabinet the staff have to collect when the consumer brings the box to the counter.

They've had case locks ever since DVDs came in. Fact is if one person buys the game and uploads it, point of sale is out of the equation.

Ryan Wiancko
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Wow, did someone over at EMA get software piracy confused with physical theft? While I guess it is a shame that $300 Million is lost every year to shoplifting ( I would be willing to wager that a thief who has no qualms about facing arrest and prosecution to steal again, if thwarted, has no problems pirating it online or at least getting a friend to do it.

To be clear, DRM's and publishers are not ruining the PC Gaming industry, do a little thinking before speaking. Market trends towards consoles as a more mainstream entertainment medium are simly providing the public with a more convenient way to digest their, albeit fluffier and more superficial, video games than the PC has. Publishers are simply following the money and going where it is less risky, and with 20 Million dollar budgets do you honestly blame them?

Jamie Mann
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In the UK, the main game retailers have long since figured out a way to keep theft to a minimum. They simply store the game media behind the counter and leave empty boxes on the shelves.

This does mean that there's additional stock management overheads (opening the boxes, filing the games away) before it takes longer to serve customers (plus there's always the possibility that the disc has been lost or mis-filed, which is frustrating for all concerned), but it's an effective way of giving consumers access to a physical item which can help drive impulse buys.

Overall, it's simple and effective - the only downside is the ongoing human-resource cost - though I'd wager that a more technically inclinced solution is liable to have significant up-front costs and have similar ongoing costs, thanks to the potential for extra confusion and failures.

Still, a natural progression when we come to the next generation of consoles (current consoles don't have enough local storage) will be for game stores to sell empty boxes with an authorisation code in, which users can then take home to register and download. Whether or not this will prove popular (unless there are significant improvements in streaming technology, this will require additional delays before playing, plus high-speed bandwidth and large amounts of disk space) is food for thought...

Guy Matte
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I like the idea of having a code for downloading the game. Conversly, I think that the actual Dvd with the box has the adventage that you can play it whenever you want without having to think about storage limits.

Direct streaming, now that's a thought. you play from the game server and save your progress online... I like it.

Oliver Panopio
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This sounds all to familiar. Isn't this similar to DIVX DVD idea, minus the rental option? We all know what happen to that, it didn't even last a year.

What happens if a consumer forgets to enter the deactivation code and the game is ruined? Like with clothes, clerks sometimes forget to remove security tags. In turn, the items is accidentally ruined or the consumer is hassled to return to the vendor to remove the tag. There could be consumer backlash and could cost retailer / distributors / studios a bundle due to consumer mistakes.