Granted, I did not like the idea when Microsoft announced, prior to the Windows XP launch, that future versions of Windows would require online registration. The thought of having to go online to register my copy and share my personal details and quite possibly other data and information with Microsoft didnít seem appealing at all. Iím not too keen on sharing my personal information with anyone that I donít know personally and certainly not with a multinational such as Microsoft. When Windows XP was launched it quickly became apparent that the activation process did not include the end user having to fill out a complete questionnaire, or disclose personal details, but all that had to be communicated was the product key, anonymously if you so chose.
In the past few years I have had to go through that activation process at least a few hundred times, and have yet to find anything wrong with it. If you register the same product key twice within a few days or weeks, youíre kindly requested to call the service desk so they can verify youíre not installing it on your neighbors PC but are simply doing a reinstall. So does the same concept work for games, or other applications? Well, it does, as many game developers have shown; only with a valid product key youíre able to play online and join multiplayer games. But one game developer has taken it a step further, and tackled the problem of pirated copies and a simultaneous worldwide release in one fell swoop.
Of course Iím talking about Valve and their Steam content delivery system which will be used for the first time with the long awaited release of Half-Life 2. With Steam, Valve has not only done away with greedy publishers; the game can be downloaded off of their servers and unlocked after purchase of a product key, no need to drive up to a local store or wait for the game to be distributed. They also made sure that a worldwide release has become a possibility by implementing a virtual switch, which, when triggered by Valve, will activate all copies at the same time. Although I welcome their solution to eliminate the middleman, thatís known to inflate prices, there are two things I have issues with.
Firstly, if you've eliminated the middleman, why keep the price at the same level as weíre used to from retail copies? Frankly I think it would be much more appealing if there was a reduced price for copies bought through Steam. But Iím guessing that Valveís licensing deal with Vivendi prevented them for doing just that, as Vivendi would lose revenues because much more people would opt to download it instead of buying a boxed version of the game. Secondly Valve shouldíve implemented the option to call a (international) toll free number to validate your product instead of only offering online validation, since not everyone is connected to the net. Besides these minor issues I think Steam does indeed offer a fast and convenient way to get the latest games and a working solution to counter piracy. In the next few days we'll see it in action, when Half-Life 2 is officially released on the 16th.