Windows Vista Released – What Happens to Indie Games?

Rumors and opinions

I’ve heard so many rumors about Windows Vista that it starts to be quite hard to track what’s really going on. In one indiegamer discussion thread there was some debate regarding the DRM (digital rights management) and how it’s done in Vista. It looks like Microsoft people are enforcing the DRM (compared to older windows versions) and how this affects is left to see. I know that personally I hate being forced to do something when I’m a good customer – and I actually wrote about this in the past. There are good points (in theory it should help against piratism), but it might be just really annoying to user in the end.

Security rumors

In the BBC article there was talk about the improved security. Bill Gates was reported to say that “Vista is more secure than other operating systems”. As we look in the past “secure” operating systems – and the need for security patches one after one – I have my own concerns. Finnish security professional from F-secure “It’s dramatically more secure than, say, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 2000 or Windows XP. However, it’s fundamentally not more secure than operating systems like FreeBSD, QNX, AS/400 etc, I would claim it’s not even as secure as another operating system from Microsoft; namely the operating system inside the Xbox 360.”. That’s something I can believe, and I bet we will see security packs in the future.

Compatibility

Then there has been talk about Vista’s compatibility: will older games work with Vista? Some people have reported problems, while some have said their products have worked fine. I wrote earlier that Vista wouldn’t affect indie game development – and took the older technology perspective arguing that since many indie games are played 5 year old computers which cannot run Vista. That’s why Vista won’t affect development of games that are targeted to older machines. Naturally Vista affects newer game development, AAA title development and eventually (when more and more people are moving to using Vista) it will affect casual games more and more. I thought Vista’s problem would be technical but there might actually be bigger issues: Game Explorer’s malware protection and ESRB ratings.

Rumors about Vista’s Game Explorer and ESRB rating killing casual distribution

ESRB rating is – roughly speaking – a symbol that lets people know if the game is suitable for kids or not. Unfortunately ESRP rating is expensive for indies and meant for bigger titles. This means Vista’s Game Explorer will give hard time for casual games. Besides the ESRP rating, the problem is the notifications about “hazardous” products. There was an article about this problem in GamaSutra which goes into detail regarding this.

Conclusions

I really don’t know what kind of conclusions to draw from the discussions. I bet DRM will be annoying, but it’s eventually the consumers who decide what happens: we are the ones who buy stuff or not. What happens to casual distribution is left to see, but I would expect Vista getting a lot of lawsuits if big games portals couldn’t let people install their casual games without warnings.

I suppose time will tell.

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