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Tools of the Trade

November 10th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

A lot of controversy has been stirred up in the last two years because of DRM. Notable examples include Assassin’s Creed 2, and Diablo 3. Though Blizzard still uses it on Diablo 3, Ubisoft did away with it, and it looked like the data side of the gaming world had been split, but for the most part, settled. It was a bad thing, and gamers got to rail against it for a bit and have a victory. Right?

Well, turns out that the hardware manufacturers may not be done themselves.

Razer recently updated their popular Naga gaming mouse with new software. Called Synapse, this software acts as to connect your mouse with Razer’s servers, requiring an authentication before allowing you to do anything notable with the mouse, like write scripts for its customizable buttons. Without the ability to add macros, what you’re left with is an $80 plug-and-play mouse. It’s not always on; once you finish your authentication, you can do what you want to with the mouse, but the notion that hardware now has an extra door to go through is galling. As professional gaming is taking off, the equipment those pro players use is under no scrutiny, except honest competition. In the same way that people might talk about which engines are best, or which typewriters have the least problems, gaming tools were just things to be honestly compared on their merits. He uses X mouse. She uses y mouse. The brands were notable for their difference in performance in only positive terms, like a car racer’s vehicle. You didn’t have to avoid a particular brand because of the way the keys might stick or the problems with a scrollwheel.

Now, those instruments must be scrutinized, and not just for mechanical faults. That’s painful and sad. There was something you could trust to be quality, and now, it’s tarnished. Fool’s gold. Razer’s addressed these problems. They’ll update Synpase to give the Nagas “a more robust offline mode”, but it seems like if they had to put out this software after just seeing what Blizzard and Ubisoft had to go through, it was a bad idea that got away from them.

Razer will still go on. They’re a large, successful company, and they’ve been slapped on the wrist, but coming to this point at all is unfortunate. Was Razer just the first? Will there be more hardware manufacturers who decide that they too have to collect data about their customers, and sell it to who knows who. Because of this, gamers are put in the unenviable position of having to go further in their research of products, and perhaps the worst case scenario is that they’re left with no choice in the matter at all. Don’t want to buy Razer because of malware? What you’ve got left is Logitech, really. Sure, there are some out on the fringe, but for the most part, Logitech’s the only other game in town.

I had hoped we’d seen the last of DRM on either side of the fence, but it seems that we have to worry now if our keyboards will have our login information, or if our monitors might store our favored search terms. This is probably a little hyperbolic, but at least we saw software malware years ago. Hardware malware had been largely off the radar until we got blindsided, and now we have to sit and wait to see if there’s more to it than just this.

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  1. Josh Fohrman
    November 10th, 2012 at 07:57 | #1

    I take it you haven’t read about Microsoft’s new kinect patent then? the one that tells them how many people are watching something so they can charge based on viewers for content…

  2. November 13th, 2012 at 15:56 | #2

    @Josh Fohrman I haven’t! Thanks for the tip.

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