10 February 2011

Do Game Developers Need To Care About UBB? - by Neil Gower

      Posted 02/07/11 10:33:00 pm  

Periodically, issues like "net neutrality", "fair use", and "usage-based billing" will catch the attention of the mainstream media, resulting in a few debates in the lunch room among game developers. For most of us, these discussions never go beyond the water cooler. However, for Canadian developers, the stakes have been raised.

The issue that the game industry needs to be paying attention to today is "usage-based billing" (UBB). The really short version is that the few big internet service providers in Canada who control all of the network infrastructure want to not only put crazy low caps on monthly transfers (around 25GB/mo), they also want to charge exorbitant rates for overages, and they want to force wholesalers (Canada's closest approximation to "competition" in the market) to do the same.

This will make digital distribution of games, one of the hottest areas of growth in the industry, prohibitively expensive for our customers. Sure, most PSN and XBLA games are only a few hundred megs now, but full-sized retail games (many gigs each) are already being bought through digital distribution services on PC. You don't need a crystal ball to predict that these games are going to get bigger with time.

Digital distribution isn't the only place our industry gets hit. UBB makes it more expensive for players to play (even free!) MMOGs and social games. Cloud-based game streaming - forget it. And this kind of policy kills all kinds of future innovations that we don't even have catchy buzzwords for yet.

As a "new media" industry that thrives on innovation, this is a big problem for game developers. It's not all doom and gloom though. The extensive media attention (like this and this) surrounding this issue has triggered the government to ask the CRTC to reconsider their pro-UBB decision.

If you want to take a step beyond the water cooler, think about showing your support for one of the advocacy groups like OpenMedia.ca. Amazingly, people signing these web petitions is actually having an impact on the decision makers. It looks like the internet might just be useful as more than just another pay-per-view outlet after all.

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Carlo Delallana
8 Feb 2011 at 7:02 am PST

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