Comixology was my go-to-app for digital comics for the past couple of years. Escalating prices on Marvel's graphics on real-world store shelves finally stretched beyond my budget (skirting nearly twenty quid for six-issue collections when other publishers offered similar for nearly half that). The digital comic retailer's pricing was within my fun money bracket, and it even saved me space at home. One tablet replacing multiple bookcases.
Then last week, the company initiated its first change since being bought by Amazon; it removed the ability to purchase comics within the App. We're now redirected to a browser-powered store to browse, choose and pay, then back to the App to download and read.
You can see why they're doing it - effectively wiping out any commission percentage that'd go to Apple. And a couple of extra swipes with your finger? Any complaint to the change seems born of laziness.
But: convenience. Making it as simple as possible to get the consumer to part their cash for your wares. Amazing how even an extra step can be an immediate turn off. It did with me. I know it's only a matter of an extra few flicks with my fingers, yet still...
This sectioning off of content is nothing new. Music, films, books and games are linked and synced with different providers. At most, you'll go through one per medium, but more likely you'll stick to one, maybe two. And with that choice comes the understanding you mightn't have access to everything out there.
Content is fragmented across multiple companies. Of course, everyone wants your dollar. There's a power struggle to claim your allegiance by way of offering more, new, and exclusive content. As corporations clash, we bare the brunt of lines drawn, divisions made. And we got to live with the bumps.
I pay Sky's Now TV monthly subscription, not because I'm fully happy with the service (the video quality on my Xbox 360 ranges from decent to abysmal, and I've had numerous issues just streaming) but because I know this is what I need to catch up with the latest Game of Thrones, Modern Family and True Detective.
The clash between Amazon, Apple, Sky, Netflix is little different than the console wars waged in the 90s. Except then, you had a sense of pride in your choice of platform holder. Now you just feel abused.
We're not going to get a all-in-one system, unless every media corporation bar one drop dead of a financial heart attack. But it'd be great to have the services we want on the machines we have. I get better quality on my Xbox One Netflix, but stick with Xbox 360 because Not Tv's available for it. I'm impressed by Sony's Music Unlimited service, but I've a half-decade's worth of songs on my iTunes account.
Movie streaming services are great for random finds and decent suggestions, but if I'm after a particular film, I usually have to skip between four different services to see if the flick's on it (one thing to give thanks to Microsoft's Bing for, which compiles a search through every App). But I usually have to stop and swop between devices to get the content I need. Wouldn't it be great if we could have everything in one place?
I saw an argument on Facebook just earlier about the range of indies coming to PS4 and PS Vita being poor because they were already available elsewhere. So what? As a PS Vita owner and non-PC one, I'm happy to get some of the indies I've heard so much about on my handheld.
We may have different games, music and films cropping up under different services, but we're getting used to the idea of a homogenised machine under the TV. Microsoft's push for the all-in-one multimedia setup was never a bad idea in my eyes. But no matter what console we pick up now, we're going to get fairly similar options - across games, movies and TV. But the closer we get to that ultimate all-in-one, the more the smaller inconsistencies grate.
Music's a big one. Microsoft have their own service, as do Sony. You're on their machine and they want you using their own brand. I get that. But as I stated, I've got five-year old iTunes library giving me my older favourites, and a Spotify Premium account to check out new stuff. Both are synced to my laptop and mobile. I'm working or I'm walking, I've got access to the content I want, no fuss. I'd love to be able to include the living room as well. As it is, I've got another set of cables, another set of devices if I want to run the music I've bought anywhere other than my home office.
I remember when Microsoft quietly dropped a blandly-labelled App for Xbox 360 early into the console's life. That small download allowed you to stream your iPod music through the machine. What's that? Convenience. We'll never see iTunes support for Xbox One or PS4 (just getting regular music going outside their branded apps is tough enough). But I want that convenience.
Exclusive first-party games aside, I want to have one console hooked up to my TV and sound system. I want to have the Apps I use on my laptop and mobile also available on it. I want to run the music I have on the services I subscribe to, watch or rent movies and shows on one service provider - not jump between four trying to find the film I want to watch. I want things synced. I want things convenient to me. I want the all-in-one system.
Maybe what I really need is to buy a PC. But I'd love to see my consoles do the job.