I wonder how much worse they can get in an environment where streaming and digital licensing are the main gaming medium.
It can get a lot worse, and we don't need hypotheticals to prove this, because the future is now. Digital downloads and streaming already exist, and we've already seen what can come of it.
A physical, offline game is a complete product unto itself. And under current U.S. law, any physical console game is the property of the purchaser (same for physical music albums, books, and home video). Those cartridges and discs sitting on my shelves in my living room are my property, and I can sell, lend, gift, or trade them at my own discretion. Meanwhile, digital games are regarded as "licensed, not sold," and are still the property of the publisher and/or platform holder, and you can't do anything with those copies without the express consent of the publisher. But with a digital copy of a game otherwise not dependent on the internet you at least have a local copy saved if you've already downloaded it.
However, even then your local copies may not always be safe. There was at least one game where all local copies everybody had saved were remotely deleted from everyone's Steam libraries by Valve. Similarly, about a decade ago Kindle owners who had bought copies of 1984 and Animal Farm from a vendor that turned out to not be an authorized publisher had their copies remotely deleted from their devices. And there have been several stories of people having entire libraries of digital content nuked by the platform holder because of what were ostensibly TOS violations. These incidents show that it is possible for publishers and distributors to remove your ability to use even local copies, and it's something only possible with digital. You'll never see a book publisher knock on your door and demand you hand over a print copy of a book that turned out to be an unauthorized copy you bought from a flea market, or a brick-and-mortar store confiscating everything you ever bought from them because you broke one of their in-house rules.
But, at least in principle and (for now) in normal practice, you do have a local copy available when you download a title. That's not the case with streaming, which takes all the worst aspects of always-online games and applies them to literally every title. The publisher will literally control every aspect of every game from publication onward. You're no longer buying a product. You're paying for a service. And anyone can be prevented from accessing a service, in part or in whole, for any reason or no reason at all. You own nothing. You control nothing. You are completely at the mercy of the publisher.
Also, countless games have been de-listed from digital storefronts, usually because of some rights issue, with many of them unlikely to ever be available for purchase again. Now imagine if the only way to consume games was through streaming. With a lot of games, namely racing games and anything that had a lot of limited-time music licenses, you better enjoy them while they last, because they'll be pulled at some point, with no way to play them because having a local copy wasn't an option. More broadly, an untold amount of digital content is already lost forever. How many old websites or YouTube videos you used to like are now gone forever with no existing backup copies? While physical copies can be subject to physical destruction, a title only available physically won't cease to exist until all copies are destroyed. With digital media, all it can take is a flip of the switch for something to be eradicated from existence for all time.
If a digital-only future is inevitable, it will by a dystopia of sorts unless some major overhauls are made to current IP law.
I wouldn't even need to read what you write to say failures come from government "regulating" capitalism.
After reading your OP I can confirm I totally disagree of your premisses, at most I can agree that corporations only look at profit and that is exactly what they have to look at.
Nearly every regulation we have today exists because somebody abused their freedom when those regulations didn't exist. Companies were essentially unregulated for much of America's history, and what was the result? We had robber barons paying their employees wages that could barely count as "subsistence," subjecting them to obscenely long hours in unsafe conditions, and often having them live in company towns where they were paid in scrip valid only at the company store and effectively held in debt slavery, and then hiring mercenaries to violently suppress the workers who dared to have the audacity to strike for better wages and conditions. And that's just what they did in America (ever wonder where the phrase "banana republic" comes from?) Eventually it was decided that enough was enough, that the private sector had gone too far, and, thanks largely to the work of the Progressive movement, something was actually done about this.
In America's history we had rivers vastly more polluted than we do today, one even catching fire because of the unchecked pollution (if you want to be pedantic, the river itself didn't catch fire, but rather the crap being dumped into it did, but anybody who actually saw it probably thought "THE FUCKING RIVER IS ON FIRE!", technicalities be damned). We had cities like Los Angeles blanketed under nearly-opaque blankets of smog because of sulfate aerosol emissions from burning fossil fuels, much like what some Chinese cities have suffered from recently. We had lead compounds in gasoline being breathed in by everyone across the nation, leading to increased lead levels in everyone's bodies. We had ozone-depleting chemicals being poured into the atmosphere. And, perhaps most notably, we had the tobacco industry selling highly addictive products that were ultimately lethal to many of their users. These and other environmental and public health concerns led to things like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the formation of the EPA, and ratification of the Montreal Protocol, despite massive denial campaigns being launched by the affected companies.
The Progressive movement of the late 19th century and its modern descendants didn't come about because a bunch of angry Marxists were peeved that people were making money by selling goods and services in an open market. Rather, it and the reforms it successfully pushed for came about because the free market failed to prevent abuses against people or self-correct after producing obvious negative externalities. They weren't out to nationalize the means of production and create a workers' paradise. They simply wanted to reign in the excesses and abuses committed by corporations. Countless companies have shown time and time again that the private sector really, really does not like to self-regulate, especially when it comes to negative externalities. They want to internalize their profits and externalize their costs. Given the opportunity, many of them will choose to lie, cheat, take shortcuts, abuse people, and despoil the environment just to make a buck. We know this because history is rife with well-established examples of private-sector fuckery, which as mentioned included outright murder.
Libertarians and conservatives like to present a false dichotomy of unregulated "laissez faire" capitalism and totalitarian communism, that any sort of restriction on the use of private property by its owner is a heinous, tyrannical, and unforgivable transgression, but that's bullshit. I argue that regulations are not only not inimical to a market economy, but are necessary for it in a civil society. The market is a part of society, and a free market, like a free society, still needs rules of some kind to function. For example, I can't throw my garbage into my neighbor's yard without legal consequences, and neither should a company be able to fill the land, sea, and air with toxic chemicals without legal consequences. A lawless state is incompatible with civilization, and that applies to the market as well. The Gilded Age of the Robber Baron should never and hopefully will never come back.
Nobody is forced to buy microtransactions. People are just dump and buy anyways. The regulation of capitalism just resulted in the biggest failure of mankind: Central banks, that print money to save zombie companies like general motors, which should be dead along with dozens of companies who died in 2008. And they were saved at the cost of savers and taxpayers.
To add to what I said above, the idea that regulation of capitalism led to central banking is a completely ahistorical idea. Central banks existed long before the modern concept of capitalism did. The Bank of England was founded in 1694, and entities similar to central banks existed even before it. Meanwhile, Adam Smith didn't publish The Wealth of Nations until 1776. Also, the U.S. has had central banks at various points before the Federal Reserve, long before the late 19th-century Progressive Era push to start regulating large corporations.
Also, spare us that "microtransactions are optional" line. I've heard it before from all over the internet. It's always been a bogus argument. People need to stop making excuses for corporations and their bullshit.
Last edited by Shadow1980 - on 05 October 2019