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Windows 8 Marketplace - Consequences of online integration

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    Authorised digital distribution is a great thing, it means I can get my hands on content quickly, (usually) at a reasonable price, and there's often fewer overheads imposed by old-world publishers, so I know the actual content creators are getting their fair share.

    So far, so good. And this model works great for places like and the Amazon MP3 store: you give them your money, you get your DRM-free media, everyone's happy.

    But I'm not so happy about places that integrate the purchasing side of things with various "online communities". Case in point: Steam.

    Steam, like PayPal, is great, so long as you stay within the rules (easy enough) and don't accidentally tread on a landmine.

    There are plenty of these landmines, for example, if your account gets hijacked such that it's impossible to recover (it can happen, if an account thief has also hijacked your email account), or if you get subject to sanctions because of online conduct (not that I'm defending being a griefer, but it can happen if you let someone else play on your computer whilst you're out. There's also the problem of how on services like Steam, your "Internet identity" becomes irreversibly linked to your "real-life" collection of games bought with your hard-earned money. Steam does not let you transfer games to other accounts, or "delete" your online presence (and keep the account only for gameplay), and I find this a problem.

    It hasn't happened to me...yet, but I'm sure it's happened to some people. Once you become a target for the more dickheaded cohorts of Anon or the chans you'll find you have no recourse: you cannot hide your online status (only block communication), it becomes possible to truely "follow" someone online, as though you were stalking them from game to game.

    This is why I want assurances that the Windows 8 Marketplace will have a clear distinction between purchasing and any inevitable communities, right now Microsoft only really has one I'm personally worried about: the "Live Games" community. I understand that the link between an Xbox Live/GfWL account and a Passport (aka Windows Live ID) is changeable: you can swap out your WLID for another in case anything goes wrong. That's a good thing.

    So in conclusion, social networking is a totally separate concern from purchasing, and companies offering digital distribution should enforce a firewall between the two sections. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

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    I agree with your assesment. I personally have no interest in the Facebook or any other social networks. I do have an interest in playing games. I would definitely appreciate having a seperation between the two sides. I'm sure that having the two be integrated makes it easier by requiring only one login but, like you've described, it can be dangerous.

    I'd like to see a way to have one billing account, and then seperate gaming accounts that can be set up. That way you can have a family account that buys the games, and then gaming accounts for each person in the family. This would allow the seperation, and would allow all kinds of nifty management options.

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    I've never used Steam, so can't comment on that, but I'm pretty sure that Xbox Live allows you to hide your online status from non-friends and you can certainly block individuals (and report them if necessary) so I'm no sure there is any real issue there. Also I do know that there are pretty good systems in place behind the scenes to validate complaints about XBL usage, so I doubt someone could forcibly get you banned unjustifiably.

    Ultimately if you wanted to participate in forums without using your "real" Gamertag/LiveID you could always create another free Silver account. And if you have no interest in using them at all, you don't have to. I'm not convinced this is really the problem you make it out to be (again, it may be an issue with Steam).

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