DRM and Micro-Transactions Coming to a Car Near You?

Micro-transactions have been complained about a lot amongst software users and gamer’s alike. Now, your car could be the latest addition.

It’s been one of the most complained about aspects of software and video games: DRM and micro-transactions. In the world of games, micro-transactions ultimately became the precursor to loot boxes. That concept has gotten enough controversy to spark regulatory action.

The idea of micro-transactions is fairly straight forward. You can get a basic product, but if you want to enjoy the full set of features, you have to pay a monthly subscription fee. On the surface, it sounds like a great deal for consumers. This is because consumers could theoretically pay for what they want instead of paying for hugely expensive products. In practice, consumers generally pay more to get less product.

A number of years ago, Adobe went from selling their software to a subscription only service. The move caught a huge amount of controversy partly because if you stop paying for the subscription, you end up with nothing afterwards.

The video game industry, of course, were also early adopters of this concept. Many games were sold or given away for free. However, additional features cost money. Sometimes, it’s just to buy extra skins and other features that doesn’t actually improve a players chances of success. This eventually gave way to the concept of “pay to win” games. In order to beat the game, you either have to grind for hundreds of hours for certain items or upgrades or spend that extra cash for that item.

Of course, for people who aren’t into graphic design or video games, this concept seems like a world away. It’ll never affect them because they aren’t into this whole “computer stuff” to begin with. Well, that kind of thinking could soon be obsolete. Car manufacturer, BMW, is looking into putting the concept of micro-transactions into cars. From Engadget:

In an expansion of its ConnectedDrive Store, BMW wants to give owners of its cars the option to access specific hardware and software features through a subscription (via Autoblog). BMW hasn’t detailed exactly how the service will work, but the short version is that the automaker would offer select driver-assistance and comfort features in exchange for a reoccurring fee. All of the features the automaker wants to monetize would already be built into the car when you buy it, and you would pay for them through the company’s ConnectedDrive Store.

The way BMW sees it, making some hardware and software components accessible in exchange for an optional fee gives its customers financial flexibility. Say you buy a model with heated seats. You could pay for that feature only during the cold months of the year. Similarly, if you later sell your BMW to someone, they can customize the car to include only the things they want.

Of course, the less charitable way to frame the entire idea is that BMW wants to make more money on its already expensive cars. Even one of its more affordable models will set you back about $36,000. It’s probably safe to say that’s a price at which most people don’t want to pay a monthly fee for features their car already includes.

It probably was only a matter of time before other industries began latching onto an idea like this. After all, when an industry continues to rake in billions, other industries are going to take notice. It doesn’t take much research to find out that one of the main business aspects is micro transactions. Just about any business type can look at that and ask, “Hey, how can we incorporate that into our business model?”

Probably the only thing vehicle owners can be thankful for is the ability to look into what they really have to look forward to before such a concept makes its way into their vehicle. This does assume that this concept does spread to other manufacturers. At this point, it almost seems like it’s only a matter of time.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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