I agree 100% with Bel’s point, and also on how hard it is to talk about this — or certain aspects of this — without devolving into an angry rant.
This dust-up between Nvidia and certain dev/pubs — playing out in a public way — is looking like a very curious, very shrouded situation. GFN offered many games like Overwatch on the platform during its beta period, and that was apparently OK with ActiBlizzard and others. Once the service went live — more specifically, when Nvidia started charging for access — things suddenly became not OK, and ActiBlizzard and Bethesda and others demanded that Nvidia no longer make their games available on the platform.
What changed, and why? At the heart of it, I don’t know. Like Bel, I am only a consumer and I only know what I am told is the reason: dev/pubs want to have control over where their products are available. Now, I might just be a backwater consumer, but ’round these parts we have a saying: if it smells like bullshit, don’t call it a rose. There’s a lot of words that could be spilled about the history of owning-versus-licensing and the rise of digital distribution, and normally I’d be willing to spill that ink, but today I just want to say that GFN operates much like my having two PCs in my house, installing and logging into Steam on both of them, and using whichever one suited my situation at any given time. You could also think of it as using a service like Parsec to access my home PC from a laptop, where I only have the game installed once but effectively accessible from anywhere. I have done this. Everyone I know has done this. Hell, Steam has “family sharing” which allows my daughter to log in and play games from my account, even though she’s a good two-hour drive away from me most of the year. So having “control over where their products are available” has never been a problem before GFN “made it a problem”.
As a consumer, however, my guess is where almost any progressive-thinking, corporate-distrusting soul would end up: money. When GFN was free in beta, companies were fine allowing gamers to play the games they had purchased on remote machines. These companies only seem to have gotten cold feet as soon as money started changing hands which leads me to believe that dev/pubs aren’t getting anything financial from Nvidia out of this Brave New Situation. They probably believe that they should, but they can’t really come out and say “we demand that consumers who own our products re-buy our products to use on this platform” because game companies have worked for years to foster the idea that they’re just normal people. “By gamers, for gamers”, remember? They chat with us on social media. They hang out in our live-streams. They invite our feedback during crucial periods of decision-making and all of this is intended to make consumers believe that we are important as more than just ATMs for dev/pubs: we are “friends”. So instead we get lines about how one company has an issue with the other company. This happens way above the heads of consumers, like titans battling it out above the city skyline: we can’t participate as we are mere mortals, so we should just duck and cover and wait for it to blow over and not concern ourselves — or even have an opinion, because we can’t possibly understand what goes on behind closed doors in the game industry.
Newsflash: gamers have opinions. Oh boy do we ever. And that’s OK because dev/pubs also have opinions because “they’re gamers too”, right? Apparently some of those opinionated dev/pubs have been countering Bel’s point of view in what I can only describe as “insider privilege” — telling him in vague terms that his opinions are wrong or misinformed because he’s just a consumer and is therefor ignorant about what’s really going on. “It’s OK, sweetie. The adults are just…having a discussion. Go back to your room now.”
Here’s some fine print: consumers are allowed to be pissed because consumers are being affected by this and therefor consumers have a stake in the proceedings and the outcome. This is exactly the position the game industry has worked so hard to get consumers to believe. Yes, Nvidia is affected — greatly, in fact, because their service is brand spankin’ new and it’s performance in the first days will set the tone among consumers for years to come. Dev/pub behavior is crippling Nvidia’s nascent service and consumers being consumers, we might lose confidence in the service and never look back even if games eventually return to the platform. Effectively, dev/pubs are deciding the fate of GFN, and are doing so in a very public manner.
So why the public row? Companies like ActiBlizzard and Bethesda can’t not know what they are doing to the perception on GeForce Now as they have published products that have had rocky starts and have dealt with the lingering Fallout as a result, and while I understand they probably couldn’t care any less about the survival of a service they aren’t (directly) making money from, their public statements turn what could have been handled like forward thinking industry leaders behind closed doors into what has become a subtle smear campaign. If being a consumer puts me at any disadvantage here its that I cannot fathom how or why these companies didn’t simply work this shit out either before GFN’s launch, or silently after. While the parents bicker, the kids — the consumers — suffer because GFN is the streaming platform that appears to be the most consumer friendly, but we can’t have it because the games industry can’t get its shit together, insists on public platitudes, and tells consumers that we can’t have an opinion on why the games industry itself is we can’t have nice fucking things.