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A New Windows

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doug_thompsonA New Windows

By Doug Thompson

The worst criticism of the new Windows 7 operating system so far: It’s that it’s just a cleaner, leaner, more stable version of Vista.

OK.

That sounds exactly like what I want.

Yes Apple lovers. Your system is cleaner, faster, prettier, etc. Beyond looks, it really does make more sense when you use it. It has elegance and a logic Windows lacks.

But it doesn’t run the computer game “Mass Effect,” at least not without some added software.

I’m one of those relics who use computers to play games. I know you can buy a Mac that can play many new computer games. I also know you can buy programs that let you run Windows software. In the end, though, I can buy a custom-built Windows machine with twice the processing power and three times the graphics card muscle as a factory-built iMac that costs just as much.

We’re a small bunch, we computer-gaming diehards. I’m one of an even smaller tribe. I don’t play World of Warcraft or Sims online. I’m not one of those who play against other people. Market-wise, I’m not all that relevant.

People like me are not even loyal to Windows. We’re just practical. Some of us would play on Macs if it were practical.

I don’t expect us to be relevant at all much longer. They’ve started making games for the iPhone. After all, the iPhone has more processing and graphics power than a typical home desktop computer did 10 years ago, or at least more than a console of that age.

A big problem with “mobile gaming” was using the keypad for a game controller. That was clumsy, especially with a keypad smaller than the watch pocket on my jeans. Touch screens may alleviate that.

A potential gold mine for gaming on iPhones will never happen. The vast backlog of games for the old Gameboy series fall well within the hardware capability of a modern cell phone. The chances that Nintendo will license that to somebody else are zero. The same goes for Sony’s game on their hand-held, the PSP.

A very brief article on Monday in an English newspaper goes so far as to say that Nintendo DS (the heir to the Gameboy) and PSP market dominance has peaked.

The biggest problem with mobile games, however, appears to be their vulnerability to bootlegging.

(Note: I refuse to use the word “piracy” to describe illegally downloading electronic content. I don’t approve of bootlegging, but “piracy” is a term invented by public relations firms. It conjures up visions of hardened criminals boarding treasure galleons and killing people. “Bootlegging” or “counterfeiting” or “ripping off” have no such propaganda baggage. It is what it is: Cheap duplication of something of value.)

Four out of every five copies downloaded for a recent iPhone game were downloaded illegally, according to a game developer quoted Monday at the website www.joystiq.com. The game, Tap-fu, only cost $1.99 to get for the full, legal download.

Cheap as that sounds, consider that $1.99 is too much for a game you don’t like. I’m not defending illegal downloads. I’m asking developers to ask themselves why I should buy a game when I don’t know if I’ll like it.

How many people buy a DVD of a movie or television show they’ve never seen? People who like a movie buy a DVD of it. If that were not true, studios would sell movies on DVD before having a theatrical release.

That’s the core problem with illegal game downloading: People want to see what they are getting before they buy it. If they get a whole copy for free, however, why buy it later.

I happen to own a game called “Jutland.” It is a very detailed naval wargame. Before ordering, I downloaded a trial version. The full version was big enough, detailed enough and demanding enough that a considerable chunk could be put into the trial version. It was a sample with enough size to make a test worthwhile.

You just can’t do that with a flippant little amusement like an iPhone game. That’s a problem.

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