Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs at Time of Purchase

June 24, 2009 -

If you purchase your video games from local retailers you’ve no doubt gone through the inconvenience of trying to track down a store associate to release your selection from its display cabinet prison. Or perhaps you’ve dealt with GameStop’s annoying habit of opening games and storing the discs behind the counter.
 
Hey, it’s an imperfect world where people steal stuff so it’s understandable why retailers take measures like this. But what if there was a better way?
 
The Entertainment Merchants Association, a trade association which represents a large segment of North American video game and DVD retailers, thinks it may have a solution which could save the retail industry billions by reducing costs, curbing theft and potentially making the purchasing experience more pleasant for the consumer.
 
The EMA’s solution is “benefit denial” technology that would disable movies and video games until unlocked at the point of sale - sort of like gift cards which have no value until activated by a sales clerk. EMA president Bo Andersen commented on the plan:

It is intuitive that, if we can utilize emerging technology to reduce the shrink in the DVD, Blu-ray discs, and video game categories and eliminate barriers erected to deter shoplifting, consumers will have easier access to the products, additional retail channels will carry these products, and costs will be eliminated from the supply chain.

Baring obstacles such as a lack of accepted standards for such an activation system, the need for staff training, and the cost of implementation, the EMA believes such a solution could debut in late 2010.
 
Via: Gamasutra
 
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen...


Comments

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

As pointed out, how are they going to remove or write new information to a factory pressed disc? If they are proposing changing to DVD-R for retail releases then they will have lost my business.

I've had enough personal cock-ups with magnetic security strips to not want to have to deal with anything new. Shoplifting sucks for the retailer, but it's not my problem. More inconvience means less sales.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hookers and Ice Cream aren't free. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/comics/stolen-pixels/5137-...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hookers and Ice Cream aren't free. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/comics/stolen-pixels/5137-...

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

I don't think they're proposing that the retailer add anything to the discs. I think their plan envisions all the disc manufacturers standardizing their manufacturing processing so as to include the activation-requiring device in the discs. If they can do that, I'd imagine it shouldn't be too hard for the retailers to trigger the activation. I'd imagine it's technologically possible to devise a way for the retailer to do so without even opening the product's packaging (kinda like the way an x-ray device scrubs the image off exposed film sitting in a camera).

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

I hear it's going to be unlocked via RF.

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Like I said, x-ray (just a lot lower on the frequency spectrum and without all that nasty radiation exposure).

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

It was originally to be unlocked via simple magic but the projected employee training costs turned out to be woefully prohibitive.

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Throw in the cost of supplying those little magic wands to every employee and you're looking at some serious money.

I can't believe how quick a community which I assume is comprised of some serious gaming afficianadoes who tend towards youthfulness is to discount technological possibilities. Leave that to the old Commodore 64ers and Betamaxers like me.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Get off my lawn!

Started with the Vic-20 myself. Omega Race kicked butt.

 

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

There is no technological way this can work, except perhaps by burning the disc on site. It'd be virtully impossible to mass produce games so each copy of a game has a unique code imbedded in the disc. Then, the system it's run on would have to phone home to check with the database as to whether that code's been authorized.

It's nothing but a fascist's wet dream.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Why would the code have to be unique? Why couldn't it be one code shared by all manufacturers and inserted in all discs? And if the code's function is to ensure that the disc can't be run on a system unless the code is removed at the point of sale, why would the system have to phone home? If the system is able to run the disc, that in itself means - at least in theory - that the code was removed at the point of sale.  

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

How do you remove something from a read only disk?

 

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Don't make it's removal dependent on having to read it. For example, make it subject to electro-magnetic erasure. Just like the information on a floppy disk can be erased simply by bringing it into contact with an electro-magnetic field. Or, as AE is impressed, make it subject to radio frequency removal. And "removal" need not, I think, be in the very literal sense. I'd imagine all that's really required is to somehow unrender whatever's embedded in the disc and which functions to render it unplayable. So "scrambling" would work just as well as removing. 

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

And how does this work with millions of existing players?

 

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Don't all disc players, be they game consoles, DVD players, CD players, Blu-Ray players, all perform their reading operation with essentially similar technology? Both my DVD player and game console also read CDs. My game console plays DVDs. My computer disk drive does all three. I think they all have the ability to read various disc formats. No? 

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Yes, but that's not what I mean.

You have an unactivated disk. What prevents a current reader from reading them? It needs to be something passive, because you don't have anything on the player to interact with. All of these have error handling, so simple bad sectors won't cut it.

 

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Can't the error be a fatal error and one which is encountered in all sectors (i.e., one not subject to error handling capabilities or skipping ahead to other sectors). I got a Jay-Z CD with a scratch in Track 1 that won't ever let me skip over to Track 2 or any other tracks.  Completely useless. But, hey, wadda I know? I can't get a VCR to quit flashing "12:00."

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

And even supposing that is possible, it needs to be fail open or the disks have serious built in obsolesence.

Call it a hunch, but I don't think they'd care about that and consider it an advantage. Oh, your old stuff doesn't work, here buy some new!

 

 

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Like I said, I'm the first one to get lost in the techno-babble. And you're losing me fast. Far as I know, "fail open" is the result of a first date which didn't end up as well as it could. But the idea that a disc could be rigged to required point of sale activation didn't seem entirely far-fetched to me. It still kinda doesn't.   

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

This is a  hypothetical mechanism, but should explain what I mean.

Suppose it's a full disk dye that is made transparent by the activation mechanism (the opposite of those 'disposable' disks). You're a nice happy consumer, buy one, and it works just fine. Now, time passes, be it one year or ten, and the dye fades back in. Your disk is now worthless, time to buy another. That's "fail closed", which means things shut down when they go wrong. This is the only secure way to do it. But as you can see, it's not consumer friendly.

 

 

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

JDJK is right: no system will ever be perfect. And with U.S. retailers losing $35 BILLION a year to shoplifters, it makes an immense amount of sense to try whatever you can. It's not like they're trying to stop little Joey from swiping the latest version of GTA. What's killing retailers are shoplifting gangs - complete with lookouts and a getaway driver - who come into stores, steal a load of merchandise and take off. Video games are popular items because they can be resold quickly to small shops, flea market vendors or online. If it hasn't already done it, maybe GP could do an article about video game shoplifting, its cost to retailers, methods used, etc. How about it, Andrew?

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

I just watched a news segment detailing how the financial loss to shoplifting is rising and is thought by retail to be attributable to the current reccession's double-whammy of increased unemployment (increasing the need for people to steal) and decreased hiring (decreasing retail's ability to prevent theft). 

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

This is a weird issue I find unsettling most of the time, because what I've seen in my experiences with retail and those I know.   Yea people are stealing more, but if people were stealing food or something they actually needed I would feel more sympthetic I guess.   But the majority of what I witness being taken is just things that really have nothing do with getting by, it's things like Candy, Video Games, Movies, headphones, sport drinks, etc.

Alot of people aren't stealing because they need to survival, they're doing it to get away without having to pay for something.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

That's a natural consequence of creating a society based on materialism. If people are taught that they're better people if they have more "stuff" and worthless if they don't then they'll steal more "stuff". That's true for the lowly shoplifter as well as the AIG exec. Because I don't own a house, but instead rent an apartment, I'm looked at as a second class citizen and even treated by the US government as such.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Alot people also shoplift to see if they can get away with it to... which doesn't really have to do about Materialism XD

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Would this effect used games in anyways?

http://www.magicinkgaming.com/

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

The problem with this is that it's yet another opportunity to make games not work. The clerk could screw up the activation. The activation could just fail--probably silently. The activation process could physically damage the game. (How is this supposed to work on a disc, anyway--do they use a burner to mark the disc somehow? Yeah, no chance of screwing up your game there!)

It adds another layer of inconvenience and risk between the customer and the product they want to buy and use legitimately. DRM already pushes people toward illegal downloads, simply because the crackers offer a better product, one that doesn't require you to jump through as many hoops to use. How many times are people going to take a legally-purchased game home, only to find out it doesn't work, before they decide it's easier just to download it?

I understand the retailers' need to protect their goods from shoplifting, and I have no objection to them doing so. This, however, is a stupid, clumsy, over-complicated, and risky way to attempt it.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

I'm not disagreeing with your point here but try not to use fallacious reasoning. As one of your arguments for why it's bad you argue a point that you have no actual knowledge about (that being the process by which the disc is unlocked).

Yes, it's certainly a possibility that the clerk could somehow improperly unlock it, but to jump from that to using a burner to mark the disc seems a bit silly.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Oh great, the Circuit City DIVX model applied to games....

100% FAIL.

I will NEVER buy in to this. Game developers... if you go this route know that your game goes unpurchased by me.

DON'T HASSLE YOUR PAYING CUSTOMERS.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

DIVX is an apt comparison, I think you hit the nail on the head.

There's plenty of existing games I haven't played yet. I'm not offended by staying retro.

 

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

And let's not forget that walking with an employee to the big glass case is the only human interaction that many nerds will get during the week -- if we take that away, we'll be removing one of the few vestiges of social contact left to these inept personalities.  Won't somebody please think of the nerds!!

---
The Mammon Philosophy

---
Fangamer

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Oh, *joy*. "Let's change the system to be like gift cards, so we can be more like digital distribution but still in a brick and mortar store!"

Seriously, have you seen some of the shady stuff stores will pull with gift cards? Activity fees, inactivity fees, expirations, not to mention the can of worms this opens in terms of technical glitches. I've had to deal with store managers who get up in your face about an *exchange* over a disc that didn't work, and does anyone think this system will make this anything but worse when the game you bought and supposedly had activated doesn't play when you put it in the drive? Would this benefit the consumer in any way, shape, or form? No.

Some examples of gift cards gone wrong:

http://consumerist.com/5124058/gift-card-settlement-refunds-quarter-mill...

http://consumerist.com/5254184/your-visa-gift-card-will-self+destruct-if...

http://consumerist.com/359267/barnes--noble-error-leaves-gift-card-unuse...

And we want to let them use *that* as a model for how we purchase our games?

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

I'm not sure gift cards are the model for the EMA's suggestion or even informs it. I think gift cards were used by GP in its article as an example of the need to activate the product prior to being able to use it.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Yeah, I used gift cards as an example only but to be fair, it came straight from the EMA's press release:

"Another example is the gift card, which has no value until it is activated at the point-of-sale. Applying this concept to the home entertainment industry, systems have been developed to allow video games, DVDs, and Blu-ray Discs to be shipped to retail stores in a disabled state and then be unlocked during a point-of-sale transaction."

The other example was the exploding dye packs used on garments.

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

I don't understand the attitude people are taking over this proposal. It isn't DRM and it isn't there to "stop piracy" (or so certain organizations would want us to believe). It's there to prevent people from shoplifting it.

It's not like the retailer is going to stop and give you a cavity search or invade your privacy as you leave their outlet.

--- I do more than just play games. I draw, too: http://www.silvermelee.deviantart.com

--- I do more than just play games. I draw, too: http://www.silvermelee.deviantart.com

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Yes, because obviously all shoplifting prevention measures make consumers lives orders of magnitude easier.

Or have you never tried to open a plastic clamshell?

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

I had to do this after a clerk in Sears forgot to remove the plastic ink tag from the pants after buying them.

This was the same clerk who took a perfectly good pair of pants I returned on the same day (I didn't like the style) and marked Return To Vendor and put it in a container underneath the counter. I didn't even try them on.

RTV-ing a piece of merchandise is the lazy way out for not needing to actually return it to the sales floor. What a way to waste clothing that someone might need, and they were the only pair in that size.

GameSnooper

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

In Germany, the most annoying thing I've seen so far is stores that lock games individually in plastic cases. And that's not even particularly annoying because it's not very common and they're opened at the check-out as you pay. Well that, and there's that single German store chain that also opens every game and stores the discs behind the counter - the German branch of GameStop. (The only other store I know to do that is Libro, in Austria.)

German stores seem to be content with keeping an eye on the goods and the small device glued to the plastic wrapping that sounds an alarm if you try to leave without paying.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Borders here in the US used to do that for CDs and DVDs (haven't been there in years so not sure they still do this). Most games are in glass display cases so the plastic cases are less of an issue.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Curiously, the only thing that's locked up in my area are Nintendo DS, but those are locked up consistently almost everywhere.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

So what if the idiot working at the store does this wrong and you buy it last minute on a Saturday or something - I guess you're stuck.

I mean - I don't mind the idea of trying to reign in piracy some - but these ideas lead to more frustation with customer support - who, in my experience; at most game companies really, really suck.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

This isn't about reigning in piracy, it's about preventing shoplifting.  More specifically, it's about making shoplifting prevention less annoying for the customer.

Yes, if the clerk messes up and you bought it right before closing, well, you'll just have to grab your receit and go in the next day.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Not sure how this might work but it sounds like DRM dressed in silk pajamas. Instead of acting like a criminal using the back door it's putting in a disguise to make you feell warm and fuzzy.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

 Wow thats a dumb idea either A) it will be cracked in minutes or B) it will be another invasive DRM system that accomplishes nothing since oh did I mention it will still be cracked.  You build it we crack it get use to it.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Won't Happen. That's my prediction. If in late 2010 it's available, i'l eat a horse penis, live off the horse.

Won't Happen

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

I don't see anything wrong with this idea - it's not a "punish the customer" measure like so many other theft-deterents - but I always wonder when cost saving measures are put into effect if we will actually see any of those savings.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

If this works as proposed I see no problem with it.  I just imagine that in the early stages human error will create a hassle.  It used to be relatively common for gift card activation to get messed up.  Over time it became less common, so participating retailers need to be sure that the training is properly implemented.  An accident in a gift card had minimal effect on businesses, but in this situation we are talking about the majority of the business model for retailers like GameStop.  How well individual store managers implement the training will determine if they see a negative effect on their business. 

I don't see this as having any kind of effect on piracy, but it will likely deter shoplifting. 

GameDrunk - Celebrating our two greatest passions.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

And this system will be hacked in MINUTES by dedicated crackers.

---You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

---You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

No loss prevention system is perfect. There are professional shoplifters who can remove those plastic anti-theft devices from a garment in a nano-second. The more useful analysis involves weighing the inevitable losses which will result from theft against the gains which result from the deterent effect, reduced costs to the seller, enhanced buyer experience, increased sales, et., etc. If the gains outweigh the losses, then it's a useful loss prevention system. But it doesn't have to be perfect. And it never will.

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

mikedo2007

I agree, there's no way you can have activation on the game disc, it's not going to work. There's too many complicated stuff that's beyond our technological limitation of today.  I don't think putting activation on disc may not work because there may be not enough space for that.

About the "professional shoplifters who can remove those plastic anti-theft devices from a garment in a nano-second".  Are they going to blame Mcguyver for this one??

note: I'm typing from my worksite, and it won't allow me to paste my signature from the bottom.    

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

So lemme get this straight. You think that when the EMA speaks about "emerging technology" which makes their suggestion a workable possiblity, they're just blowing smoke up eveyone's ass and it's a technological impossibility? Lemme put aside my belief that what they propose wouldn't involve much more than a few additional lines of code and a device at the point of sale which would unlock the code and assume that you are right when you say that it's technologically impossible. The questions I must then pose to you are: "Why would the EMA risk its reputation by publicly proposing a loss preventition system which is a technological impossibilty?" and "What could they possibly gain from making themselves look like idiots?"      

Re: Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs ...

Maybe it made them feel good and/or relevant to say it, kind of like your need to whip out your e-penis every time a reply runs opposite of your opinion.

 
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Mattsworknameof players, over and over for the last seveal years. Among non RPG games, which make up the vast majority of current games, I think that you still see a large scale disparity between male and female in the AAA industry.07/01/2015 - 1:36am
Mattsworknamewilson. Out of RPG players yes, thats true, and in pc ciricles im not suprised, but RPGS make a small fraction of Console games these days and while pc gaming is seeing a resurgance, MMOs are actually retracting in size , as shown by WOW losing millions07/01/2015 - 1:33am
Matthew Wilsonhere is the study to prove it. http://www.pcgamer.com/researchers-find-that-female-pc-gamers-outnumber-males/07/01/2015 - 1:17am
Matthew Wilson@matt wrong over half of rpg players, both singleplayer and mmos, are female.07/01/2015 - 1:15am
MechaCrashRight, women don't usually play AAA games because none are aimed at them because they don't play them because none are aimed at them because okay you see where I'm going with this.07/01/2015 - 1:11am
MattsworknameI think the better path is this, more games built to give you the Choice of playing as male or female, and give the females good voice actors07/01/2015 - 1:08am
Mattsworknameup more then a fraction of the AAA games industry, but they make up a much larger part of the moble market.07/01/2015 - 1:04am
Mattsworknameandrew is right, to a point, as you are seeing a slow increase of women in games, but the sales shows that the lions share of gaming money comes from a male demo, and while andrew is right that it is changing, it's gonna be a LONG time before women make07/01/2015 - 1:04am
Andrew EisenI think more professional gamblers should get into games publishing. They'll play the odds but they'll also take risks to maximize profits.06/30/2015 - 11:57pm
Andrew EisenAt the end of the day, the ball is rolling and it's rolling in the right direction. Maybe not as fast as we'd like, but it is moving. All we can do is play the games that interest us and make our thoughts known.06/30/2015 - 11:55pm
Matthew Wilsonits unfortunate that the dataset is so tiny for female leads, and is a mixed bag, so money people get the wrong idea.06/30/2015 - 11:54pm
Andrew Eisen"Duke Nukem Forever sold poorly. See? Games staring white guys don't sell!" Pretty silly thing to say.06/30/2015 - 11:50pm
Andrew EisenOr, at the very least, that gamers aren't turned off by female leads.06/30/2015 - 11:49pm
Matthew Wilsonyou would think games like metriod, portal and tomb raider would show that it work, but hopefuly those knew ones will.06/30/2015 - 11:47pm
Andrew EisenBut, luckily strides are being made and the money peoples are slowly learning that diversity -> larger targeted audience -> more potential dollars.06/30/2015 - 11:43pm
Andrew EisenSure does. That's why there should be more than just one or two attempts. (7 games at E3 with female leads and 35 with a gender option. I think it's safe to say that not all of these will fail!)06/30/2015 - 11:42pm
Matthew Wilsonthat puts alot of presure on the early stuff to do well. lets hope games like recode and harizon are good, and sell well.06/30/2015 - 11:38pm
Andrew EisenLuckily, money people also like to follow trends. So, it's a "simple" matter of making proper representation a trend. And wouldn't you know it, we're seeing the beginnings of exactly that!06/30/2015 - 11:34pm
Andrew EisenBut yeah, money people are risk averse. That's why we see so many sequels, reboots, and adaptations. To a lot of money people, "there's no evidence this works because it's rarely ever been tried" is the same as "this doesn't work."06/30/2015 - 11:33pm
Andrew EisenThat's why I think it's worth convincing the money peoples that proper representation (in any of its forms) isn't a financial risk, it's the path to expanding your audience and making even MORE money!06/30/2015 - 11:32pm
 

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