I have a lot to say here, but it's generally just the same stuff I wrote before.The TL;DR version is:
[*]Everyone agreed to the same terms and service to play PTCGO, and those terms and service state that nothing we get in PTCGO is ours to claim any ownership over.
[*]We didn't invest anything in PTCGO, so we really don't have the ability or right to turn our "investment" into cash.
[*]iTunes isn't really the best example to support the idea of owning virtual property because Apple has clear restrictions on their products and services (we can't resell iTunes music, movies and iOS apps, can we?)
[*]Although perhaps these restrictions on the PTCGo may harm it (I'm not claiming that it will or won't), there is plenty of precident of other online games and services which place just as much restrictions--or even more--than what PTCGO does and they are large, thriving and extremely popular online games or services.
[*]There is no need to place disclaimers on the PTCGO code cards because customers wishing to use it either will evnetually encounter those disclaimers, or have already agreed to them.
[*]Finally, the online version is treated as an auxiliary, supplement, accessory version to the real version by Nintendo. Thus, the "restrictions". As such, Gems are simply the best way to spend money to get cards, even if it's done in an indirect manner (like the use of "Nintendo Points").
And now, the much longer, detailed version of the above.
...... "I think the troubling part is that many people acted and bought code cards anticipating that they would be able to sell the digital cards they might get."
Perhaps Nintendo needs to make that clearer before assuming everyone understands it, or maybe customers should read the Terms and Conditions clearer before blindly accepting them? Because, on one hand, information covering whether or not we own PTCGO cards is tucked away under "[y]ou acknowledge and accept that you have no property or other rights in any content on the Site"
in Nintendo's terms of service text... on the other hand the customers DID click on "I agree
" and, most importantly, ignorance of the law is no excuse (ignorantia juris non excusat
), so it's not Nintendo's fault that people blindly clicked "I agree
" without clearly understanding the terms.
Of course, whether that bit in the terms of service is "right" or "wrong" for Nintendo to have, that's something else which I'm not going to cover.
......"While the terms of service say that they may change at any time, changing a vague clause that eventually prohibits players from turning their investment into cash is damaging."
But the thing is, we didn't invest anything in Pokémon TCG Online, money-wise. The money we spent on a pack of cards with the free code card went to the pack itself, while the code card itself was merely a "BONUS
". For example, the cost of pre-code card packs in my neighborhood was $3.99, and a pack of BW Emerging Powers is $3.99... no difference, and thus no sound claim that actual money was spent to play PTCGO. Furthermore, many post-PTCGO packs did NOT contain a PTCGO code card, and they too were the same price as packs WITH the code card. All in all there isn't much of a claim to say that any money was spent to play PTCGO.
Then there's also the bit that restrictive terms of service covering the non-ownership of virtual property doesn't stop games and services from being popular, but I'll cover that below.
...... "Arguing that "virtual property" can't be owned by users is like saying that iTunes could take back your music collection at any time since they were just letting you listen to their infinite music library. "Except I paid for those songs!""
There's an issue with your example though, and I don't think it necessarily applies to the Pokémon TCG Online. The thing is, whether or not virtual property can be owned is up to the company giving out the virtual property. As such, the various terms and conditions between the various companies providing virtual goods and services reflect the different philosophies over whether virtual "goods" can be "owned".
In the case of Apple, they do feel that, because you are directly purchasing virtual music, you are also purchasing CERTAIN rights over it... right which include the ability to not have those rights revoked and your music deleted by Apple, as well as the ability to burn your music onto music CDs and to allow your music to be linked to at most five separate computers. On the other hand, Apple also doesn't believe that customers should be allowed to have COMPLETE rights and ownership over their virtual music, which means you can't have your music on MORE than five computers, nor can you transfer or sell your license to another iTunes music (which means there is NO way to purchase "used" iTunes music). If you think about it, Apple's restrictions--despite what rights we've purchased--basically state that we DON'T own our iTunes "property", simply because we CAN'T do EVERYTHING we want to do with them just as we could with other property which we do legally own.
Nintendo, on the other hand, believes that, because we are NOT purchasing any cards from Pokémon TCG Online (or at the very least are purchasing them INDIRECTLY via proxy), users have do not any rights over the virtual cards we earn from in the game. As such, they place restrictive terms over using Pokémon TCG Online, which basically means that we are instead only "paying" for the right to play with Nintendo's "infinite collection" rather than the right to claim that anything we receive in Pokémon TCG Online via our code cards as our personal property to do what we wish.
Then also consider that many other music services that shut down also did take their music with them. A perfect example was both MSN Music and Yahoo! Music; people paid for their services under the assumption that all the music they bought was theirs, only to later lose access to ALL their music when both MSN Music Yahoo! Music shut down their DRM servers. The same thing happens when various MMORPG games go offline, like Phantasy Star Online Ep.1/2 and Matrix Online; in all these situations, the money customers spent only went to purchasing the right-of-access of that service, not the right-of-ownership over anything associated with their account. People may be upset over this, but, again, if they didn't clearly understand the terms of service disclaimer for their good and service and simply blindfully agreed to them, they only have themselves to blame.
And then there are OTHER services like Netflix which also don't allow their customers to download or claim ownership over any of the movies their money most certainly allowed them to watch. That is to say, just because someone pays for the ability to watch a certain movie as many times as they want as if it was a movie in their own personal video collection (and are even listed in their Netflix watch list), it doesn't mean that they are entitled to claiming that it is theirs to do as they wish, which includes selling their rights to that movie to another user. .... Of course, it doesn't help that every Netflix user has the same access to the same movies, but it's more like a Netflix user "selling" "their" movies to a non-Netflix-using person.
Basically, the issue is over whether the money spent on an online good or service simply purchases a "right to access" of that service, or if it purchases the "right of ownership" over the specific products and services within that online business. My understanding is that, concerning the PTCGO, what money we spent on the PTCGO merely purchased a "right to access" the services and products of PTCGO, and did NOT purchase any rights over the individual cards our code cards products. And this is not my opinion but is based on the terms of service of activating a Pokémon Trainers Club account.
......"Precedent was set in the digital marketplace for trading card games that came before (like Magic). Anything that delivers less than users expected will be negative for the reception of Pokémon online."
Precedent for the reverse has also been set in the digital market place by other games and digital services, such as the aforementioned iTunes and Netflix, as well as in various online games such as World of Warcraft and Farmville. In all those services, it is against their terms and services to "sublicense, rent, lease, sell, trade, gift, bequeath or otherwise transfer your Account or any Virtual Items associated with your Account to anyone"
(quoted from Zynga's TOS). Despite these restrictions, it hasn't stopped these services from exploded in popularity and become some of the most widely used--if not most popular--services online.
Of course, it may also be that these companies don't really enforce their rules against trading, and THAT is why these services have exploded in popularity; as such, it may end up proving that the PTCGO IS taking the wrong route by restricting "players from turning their investment into cash". As such, the only REAL way to show anything for certain is to have Nintendo continue to do things they way that they feel is best and let reality prove things one way or the other.
...... "If getting caught up in agreements/terms of service/legal text is something that we want to do though, I'd note that it is negative to NOT list on the code cards that there is a terms of service."
The thing is, in order to use the cards, you have to use it through your Pokémon.com Trainer Club account. If a customer don't already have one, then they can't use the code card until they sign up for one; this would mean that they will also need to read and agree to Nintendo's terms and services, which does state that users don't own anything associated with their account.
If a customer already signed up for a PTC account before they use their PTCGO code card, then they already agreed to--and are thus supposed to be aware of--those terms and disclaimers. As such, I don't believe that Nintendo needs to place any kind of disclaimer on the code cards because customers wanting to use the code card EVENTUALLY will run into the disclaimer, if they haven't already agreed to--and are thus aware of--them.
The whole point of this, again, was just to point out that we don't own anything on PTCGO, by virtue of the fact that we all agreed to the same terms and service specifically stating that we don't own anything here, as well as that we simply CAN'T do anything with what we have on PTCGO (as opposed to what we have to own in real life).
The thing is, we already HAVE a version of the Pokémon TCG where we can claim ownership over our collection and do anything we want with them--sell them, burn them, feed them or our pets, etc.; it's called "Pokémon TCG" and they're sold in packs of 10 cards for about $3.99 MSRP. If we want that right, we'll stick with that version of the game. The online version is simply an auxiliary, supplement, accessory--and most importantly, FREE--version to the "IRL" version, and thus isn't treated as a separete and indepenent game from the "IRL" version by Nintendo. Thus the "restrictions".
Is it a good or bad idea that Nintendo doesn't treat this as an independent version of the game and completely separarte from the main game, as opposed to how Wizards treats Magic Online (as Magic online has its own sets like "Masters Edition")? I'm not here to argue that. I'm simply pointing out the reality of the PTCGO, which is that it is NOT a unique and separate entity and that nothing we acquire here on PTCGO is ours in the sense that we truly OWN them. We don't, and I feel that if anyone wants to argue the "Ownership Question", they should really argue for changing the terms of service first before arguging for the "right" to sell our online collection to someone else or other concepts which involve purchasing Pokémon TCGO cards directly with money.
Yes, Gems are coming, but I feel that's simply enough because people can simply just treat gems as a proxy... it represents the card they want later on. Like, I'll buy a Gem and trade it for a Yanmega Prime. Someone else will take that same Gem and trade it for a Donphan Prime. Then THAT someone will take that same Gem and trade it for a Charizard. Just because the END result of a Gem means a hat or other item for your avatar, it doesn't mean that it can't be used in an infinite number of trades before it's finally used. Basically, Gems will be the "Nintendo Points" of PTCGO, and for that matter it's just as good as money.
....but anyways, that's what I think, for what it's worth.
Nick15 — Pokémon TCG player since the beginning
* http://www.pokemonaaah.net/— Pokémon Aaah!; I plan on doing something with this in the future.
* http://www.pokemonaaah.com/— This is what Pokémon fandom looked like in the year 2001.