Opinion: Let’s Not Celebrate DRM Just Yet

By John Walker on February 23rd, 2011 at 4:00 pm.

Woo! Party time!

Correction: It seems that Ubisoft’s new DRM will be requiring one activation at install, and then not again. While this is problematic regarding DLC, and I continue to argue (as the post below explains) still not okay, it’s not quite as it was understood from the ambiguous statements given before the article was written. However, the “always on” DRM continues to torment users of Ubisoft games like Settlers 7. Apologies for the confusion caused, and to Ubisoft for the incorrect statements.

Don’t be fooled, I say. Ubisoft, amongst others, have been getting a lot of good press lately, including from this very site, for the apparent backtracking on the DRM that had crippled a number of games. By insisting that players be always online as they played, Ubisoft’s games became a subject of headlines – gamers’ progress would be lost, players dumped out of their games, because BT pressed a wrong button somewhere, or the Sun’s flares caused a blip in a wifi signal. It took Digital Rights Management to a whole new level of pointlessly ruining valid customers’ experiences; while the pirates they were pretending to fight continued to enjoy a far better game. And so we celebrate as they remove this, and we compliment them for backing down from the nonsense. But I (John Walker, whose views don’t necessarily reflect those of his (inevitably wrong) colleagues) say: let’s just think about that a little more carefully.

No longer does Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood require players to be “always on” – that’s the claimed victory here. But the DRM still requires that players be online to launch the game. So what have we gained?

It’s still impossible to play the game without an internet connection. Which was the entirety of the issue in the first place. That the game would then crash because your connection dropped was farcical, but it wasn’t the reason people couldn’t start playing in the first place. And when Ubisoft’s servers are down – as they have been so often in the past – we’ll still not be able to load our games.

To be clear, we’re talking about the single-player versions of the games. To load them, you must first make a connection to their servers. Then after that your connection can drop. Which is great – the games no longer come with a ridiculous flaw as a boasted feature. But the people for whom we campaigned – those who do not have permanent access to an internet connection, those who want to play their legally purchased games on their gaming laptops away from a wifi signal, those who want to play a game on the night their internet goes down – are still locked out of a product they had naively believed they owned.

Of course Ubisoft are not the only publisher demanding this mindless DRM be a part of their games. But in celebrating the more berserk extreme of their system being revoked (let’s not forget that we were told it was a beneficial feature for players at the time – did that change?), we’re really celebrating the same malware that only affects legitimate customers.

RPS meet to discuss their shared views on DRM and piracy. Fights ensue.

It’s become the norm that games want a one-time online activation when you first install them. Simply by the mad perspective of the extremes that have come after this, such DRM has come to seem positively friendly to us. Of course it’s no such thing. Anyone who’s ever pirated a game knows that the version they download comes with the online authentication either hacked out, or with a way of getting around it. This DRM, much as with almost all other forms, serves only to put a restriction on those who legally buy their games. They cannot install their game on as many machines as they wish. They cannot play their new game if the gas people just dug through the wrong wire outside their house. They cannot continue to enjoy their games in years to come when the now-bankrupted publisher didn’t bother to switch off the requirement such that the game refuses to load altogether. Meanwhile, those who pirated the game are enjoying it without restriction.

This new development that games require a connection every time they load up seems so similar to the above at first glance that people are accepting it. Especially when it’s the option offered in place of something even more ludicrous. It’s like being grateful that you’re only having your foot stamped on, because the punches to your face have finally stopped.

Even Steam’s messy, fussy DRM has an “offline” mode, if you can only fathom it. Still the majority of games have the decency to run without a connection if you’ve proved you have one once before. So let us not sound the fanfares because Ubisoft is still forcing players away from their games. Nor indeed when EA, Activision, and so on do the same. We need to stand up to this, to say it’s not okay, to loudly point out that it uniquely punishes their customers while not affecting those who do not pay.

Large publishers have to prove to their shareholders that they’re attempting to “fight piracy” (a phrase as daft as professing that you’re about to “fight the sea”). So delighted businesses spring up, offering “solutions”, selling their own inexplicably expensive brand of redundant restrictions. The argument is so idiotic that it’s difficult to even have.

“We are putting in DRM to fight piracy.”

“But your DRM is demonstrably only affecting legitimate customers, while doing nothing to prevent piracy.”

“WE NEED TOUGHER DRM!”

Science.

It’s a brilliant technique. When one side’s position is so astoundingly illogical and batshit insane, you might as well throw oranges at a duck as try to reason with them. But we’re locked into it. A multi-million dollar business relies on publishers being willing to continue the farce, and the ill-informed shareholders keep being told unevidenced nonsense of “billions of dollars in lost revenue” against all reason. Of course they want this fixed – this imaginary loss sounds terrifying to them. Which leaves those attempting to argue with both logic and a desire for fair treatment shouting at a particularly obstinate and ignorant wall.

And let’s stress it again, to be abundantly clear here. We’re not talking about a game not allowing access to online high score tables, or not patching to the latest version, nor preventing access to DLC. And we’re obviously not talking about multiplayer gaming. We’re talking about single-player games played in single-player mode, requiring that we be online every time we launch them. Where once we were needlessly forced to have the CD-ROM in the drive (something that pirates have never been troubled by), now we’re forced to check in with the real owners of the game we’re renting at such an astonishing cost each and every time we want permission to load it.

So when Ubisoft announces that they won’t be going out of their way to make the experience of playing Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood as punishing as they possibly can, let’s not respond as if that’s a victory for the fair treatment of gamers. By genuine coincidence, as I wrote that previous sentence my internet connection dropped. It went up and down every few seconds, and then finally clapped out altogether. Thanks Be. Before I’d have been ditched from one of their games, now I’d be prevented from loading one of their games. For what reason? None that we have been offered.

To throw an orange at a another duck, I have to finish by observing what we all already know, and yet that which the publishers refuse to acknowledge: When your game comes with crippling DRM that prevents someone from legitimately playing it, but a pirated version has all this patched out such that it works as you would wish a product would work, piracy is offering vastly better customer service than you. And therefore your customers, literally unable to use the product you’re selling, will turn to the better offer. At the moment you are charging £35/$60 for a product that is much, much worse than one that can be obtained for free. Please, can you present this information to your shareholders?

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262 Comments »

  1. Thirith says:

    I bow to you, Sire John Quixote. You choose valiant causes to fight for, but I fear your work is in vain. In the hope that I am wrong, though, I cheer you on, my lord.

  2. Butterbumps says:

    I agree. this really looks like a case of “Let’s give them ludicrous ultra-draconian DRM for a while, so they’ll all celebrate when we ‘back down’ to a new, only slightly less strict version.”

    I only wish Brotherhood didn’t look so good. Must. Resist.

  3. CMaster says:

    “Please, can you present this information to your shareholders?”

    Fat chance. Aside from what you’ve already observed – TAGES, SecuRom etc would begin directly lobbying shareholders – it would mean that these companies would have to admit there’s a reason these supposed “losses” don’t appear on their balance sheets. It would mean they couldn’t blame a criminal act for when their games tank and profits dive. It would also mean publicly admitting that there’s no simple solution to piracy, when then media industry as a whole still believes that there is a legislative solution to the problem. They still think that eventually, they can make copyright law so strong, and convince governments to spend public money on hunting down the infringers, combined with a surveillance state to secure their profits. But if they appear “soft” on piracy, then the chances of that weaken. Just the same as everyone knows that recreational drugs prohibition isn’t working, but daren’t actually talk about it.

  4. DarkeSword says:

    Thanks for saying what I’ve been thinking more eloquently than I’ve been thinking it.

  5. The_B says:

    FOX NEWS Headline next week: “GAMING WEBSITE PROMOTES THROWING CITRUS FRUIT AT DEFENCELESS ANIMALS.”

    (On a more serious note – excellent article. Perhaps more developers and publishers should offer incentives such as extra bonuses or free DLC to those players who choose to register their game, rather than making it a mandatory requirement and punishing the legit customers.)

    • Zephro says:

      @The_B, And the only way to protect that free DLC only goes to legitimate customers is…. DRM…

      Some kind of DRM is with us to stay. As long as it’s a reasonable and less annoying version like Steam it’s fine.

      It’s probably worth noting that everything on the consoles is DRM protected in some way either by requiring a disc or by DRMing it against an online account and limiting the number of consoles it can be installed on. As platforms the consoles also have the advantage of an active “platform holder” chasing hackers and banning them. There isn’t the equivalent “platform holder” on PC, Windows Live never took on the role and Steam isn’t defacto enough. That’ll be a main reason publishers prefer consoles. If you’re game gets stolen on xbox you go and shout at Microsoft to do something about it. On PC…. you design your own moronic DRM system that explodes in your own face.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yeah, Steam is actually a very similar system to this, yes I know it has an unreliable offline mode. But, there is a major difference in that Steam provides a service that far outweighs the DRM and any downsides.

      If Ubisoft don’t want to get rid of this DRM then they should learn from Valve and give us a service that justifies the inconvenience that their DRM creates.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Steam provides a service that far outweighs the DRM and any downsides.

      I wouldn’t go that far. It certainly provides a service that goes some way to outweigh the DRM, but no service it has so far provided outweighs their licensing model (i.e. the fact that they can close accounts at a whim).

    • The_B says:

      @Zephro I know where you’re coming from but what I’m suggesting is a more ‘optional’ DRM. Yes, you might still have to register the product to get this bonus content, but said content wouldn’t be vital nor would it be awful if you didn’t have it (say a costume change or something) – but to those people who take the time to register their product get a download code or have the product tied to their copy of the game.

      In my opinion, rewarding genuine customers by offering incentives WITHOUT punishing those who are unable to connect online to get the same bonuses (or heck, make these bonuses able to still work without an internet connection, they just require some form of proof of the legitimacy of your version of the game to obtain in the first place.) Rather than the blanket ‘solution’ companies like Ubi seem to favour at the moment.

    • Zephro says:

      @The_B
      Yes but the only way of enforcing any of those additional bits of content is by putting DRM onto the content and quite likely by linking that to some DRM on the game. Optional would be a pretty bad technical model as it would be fairly easy to crack it apart.

      @Alexander Norris.

      ” but no service it has so far provided outweighs their licensing model (i.e. the fact that they can close accounts at a whim).”
      Which is an important part of how a platform provider ought to behave. Carrot and the stick, it’s also how xbox and playstation operate.

      I think a lot of problems would be solved by essentially treating Steam the same as a platform holder equivalent to xbox or playstation.

    • Devan says:

      Zephro: “As platforms the consoles also have the advantage of an active “platform holder” chasing hackers and banning them.”

      Yikes, I hope you don’t actually consider a “platform holder” to be a good thing for the PC game industry, not even for developers. Otherwise you can look forward to paying tens of thousands of dollars for the ‘privilige’ of releasing on that platform. And of course your game and all future patches and DLC must pass through their scrutiny, which incurs additional costs and gives you less control over what you produce.

      Whether it’s Steam or GFWL or OnLive or some other crap like Google’s future virtual OS, I sincerely hope that we never allow any system to become dominant enough to wield the control of a “platform holder”.

      /end off-topic rant

      And by the way, thanks for writing this article John. As both a consumer and developer, I’m with you 100%.

  6. Nameless1 says:

    Articles like this is the reason why I love this site.

  7. Starky says:

    People throwing oranges at ducks is responsible for one of the tastiest dishes of food ever created.
    Without those bold, dare I say mad pioneers who go around throwing fruit at things, where would we be now?

    Could you imagine a world where Terry never thought to throw an orange at a chocolate bar? No, I thought not!

  8. DevilSShadoW says:

    aaaaaaand cue “requiem for a dream”

    beautiful writing

  9. Pijama says:

    Why not add a special featured box on the site’s top just for John?

    “John Walker, ON FIRE

    (in journalistic terms of course)

  10. juandemarco says:

    I completely agree, but being DRM all about smoke and mirrors, they don’t really care if it’s effective or if it’s making the product actually worse than the pirated one. AAA games have not been for the players’ enjoyment for a long time. Instead, they only serve the purpose of demonstrating shareholders how much money they’re making.

  11. Maykael says:

    You’ve openly stated many times that you’d rather write about the world of television. Your recent articles have gotten me to selfishly wish that this happens as late as possible. Games journalism would much poorer without you, John.

    • John Walker says:

      That’s more of a financial logic than anything else. I think you’re stuck with me for now.

    • Kdansky says:

      Why TV? There is hardly anything that is as boring, misinforming, brainwashing and uninteresting as TV. Compared to FOX News, IGN is the holy grail. I dare anyone to find more than a two hours of really worth while TV per day. And that includes all stations, everywhere on the globe.

    • Thirith says:

      @Kdansky: Compared to HBO’s The Wire, RPS lacks depth, coherence and interesting female characters. It isn’t difficult to come up with false comparisons.

      There is lots of crap TV, just as there’s lots of crap games journalism. I have an inkling that John doesn’t want to work on the former.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Piffle, compared to Planescape, The Wire lacks depth, coherence and interesting female characters.

      I actually think the TV thing is correct. TV and film seem like they are steadily going downhill and running out of ideas while games just become more and more interesting.

    • Thirith says:

      If you compare the worst of medium X with the best of medium Y, you’ll come away with that impression. It’s difficult to see it as anything other than bias, though.

    • drewski says:

      What utter nonsense. There’s never been a better time to be into TV.

      2 hours a day? 14 hours a week? Of absolutely brilliant, top quality television? Just from the US, I give you:

      Boardwalk Empire (1 hr)
      Mad Men (1 hr)
      Community (30 minutes)
      30 Rock (30 minutes)
      The Walking Dead (1 hr)
      Breaking Bad (1 hr)
      Parks and Recreation (30 mins)
      Treme (1 hr)
      Modern Family (30 mins)
      Fringe (1 hr)
      Rubicon (1 hr)
      Friday Night Lights (1 hr)

      There’s ten hours of quality programming, from one country, and it doesn’t count daily satire like The Daily Show, or any of the myriad of very high quality, well written, well produced proceedurals like Castle, Bones, NCIS; or some of the more fringe shows like True Blood, Dexter or The Good Wife.

      If you don’t like the TV around at the moment, you just don’t like TV. It’s an absolute golden age.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      But… but…

      FIREFLY ISN’T ON!!

    • Jolly Teaparty says:

      Phantoon, that’s where you’re WRONG!

  12. Ravenger says:

    [thunderous applause] I like this article!

    Other recent examples include Bulletstorm. It requires an online GFWL profile to play even single player.

  13. cliffski says:

    DRM was never designed to stop hardcore pirates. it was designed to stop me burning a copy of the disk for a freind while I show him how cool the new game is I just bought.
    Generally speaking it does that.
    I don’t use any DRM, but it’s easy for me to be able to say that, as a small one0man developer where there is generally goodwill between me and my customers.

    Not having any DRM means your business is like the guy with a trestle table outside his house with fruit on it and an honesty box. It works great for a guy selling a few apples, it works shit for sainsburys.
    I can’t see DRM going away entirely. Not unless publishers do what I’ve always said they should do, which is to track down and sue the fuck out of the uploaders and the file sharing sites, rather than worrying about the end gamer.

    • Zephro says:

      I think part of the trick is that on the consoles the publishers have policemen in the forms of Sony and Microsoft who they can get to chase up these things. PC land…. you’re a bit on your own.

    • John Walker says:

      One day Cliffsky, I will set you free of your DRM-prison-thinking. The point is, and always has been, that DRM *doesn’t* prevent piracy! Not including DRM doesn’t change a thing in terms of lost sales. That’s the key to your escape. One day.

      (My dream of convincing you that piracy is of benefit to you and your AAA peers is a more wild one, obviously.)

    • CMaster says:

      And when the uploaders and servers are all in Russia or the Phillipines? What then? Hire local heavies to smash up the computers?

      I also think that maybe the role of stopping swapsies in the playground of copied disks might have worked well a few years ago, these days almost anyone who wants games for free knows how to get em from BT.

    • cliffski says:

      The thing is John, if I copied and pasted this entire article to my blog, signed it ‘Cliff harris’, and gave no attribution, no link back here, and claimed it was mine, how would you feel? That I was helping you out?
      I suspect not.
      And if my blog had ads and I was doing nicely from the page views your article generated for me, for the incredible hard work of Ctrl+C plus Ctrl+V, would you still feel that was just dandy?
      And that’s for an article that may have taken a day to write. Imagine it’s your full time work for the last two years, with just 2 mouse clicks.
      Still happy about that?
      I seem, to recall RPG getting annoyed* at a site that just scraped and republished the entire sites content. You didn’t mind?
      :D

      *rightly, in my opinion.
      :D

    • John Walker says:

      Oh Cliffsky, you’re conflating two completely separate arguments. Fortunately I disagree with you on both.

      My point remains that there’s a bit of your brain in prison, which is why you cannot acknowledge what I’m actually saying: piracy happens independently of DRM – its inclusion or absence makes no difference at all.

      And piracy has *nothing* to do with claiming authorship of someone else’s work. I don’t really feel there’s a need to continue.

    • cliffski says:

      what?
      So people copying a software develoeprs work is like *totally different* from someone copying your work?
      I agree, there is no need to ‘continue’ if you can’t see the connection there.
      And I’m not sure how my brain is ‘in prison’. Just because I think that allowing people to trivially take your product for free undermines your business. But hell, what woudl I know, I’ve only been selling games for 14 years now.

    • Thirith says:

      @Cliffski: while I think that John’s tone in his replies wasn’t exactly helpful, he’s definitely got a point.
      1) Pirates don’t deny that developer so-and-so made a game. They don’t cut out the credits and replace them. They do not claim authorship. They deny that the developer has the right to require all players of the game to pay in order to play, but that’s different from claiming authorship.
      2) DRM doesn’t stop (PC) piracy, at least not permanently. IIRC, it took a while for the Ubisoft online DRM to be cracked, but in general games are pirated as soon as, or before, they’re on the market. In other words: DRM doesn’t stop pirates, and the more draconian it is, the more it may drive legitimate buyers towards piracy, because no one likes being treated like a criminal when they’re doing the legal, right thing.

    • CMaster says:

      He’s saying that you’re confusing someone just reproducing RPS’s content with taking credit for it.
      “Pirates” don’t strip developer logos and identifying information from the game – they just distribute it for free. Hell, some “scene” releases even feature a little text file asking you to buy if you like it.

    • Zephro says:

      “piracy happens independently of DRM – its inclusion or absence makes no difference at all.”

      Is this in the case of current PC implementations or in general?
      As up until recently Sony had secure DRM and no piracy because of it. Not entirely true of Xbox but the DRM allows them to punish people who violates the T&Cs. Obviously they are closed platforms so building secure DRM is far easier, which means the DRM is likely to be more effective.

      The point surely is that on PC DRM has historically been next to useless so has had no effect upon piracy? I guess that’s with an engineer’s hat on.

    • MadMatty says:

      Cliffski VS John- try the parking lot after 6 pints, i´d see that on youtube.

      One thing tho- Cliffski?
      What about that thing in Space Battles, where you just place your entire fleet in the top left corner of the battlefield in a triangular formation with no drives, then just wait for the AI to throw yourself into your guns? This will win every scenario ive tried.
      The game is gorgeous, and the idea is solid enough, i just felt it was let down by slightly under-par friendly and enemy AI, and as such i couldn´t get myself to consider the expansions.
      i had a great 7 hours worth of fun completing the old campaign, but i haven´t picked it up again.

    • Ravenger says:

      It’s interesting about the lack of PS3 piracy on the PS3 (at least until recently) because it can disprove several anti-piracy arguments. Firstly that if there were no piracy game sales would rocket – the PS3′s game sales are lower than the 360 (which has piracy), at least for multiplatform titles, and if there were no piracy games would be cheaper – PS3 games are just as expensive as the heavily pirated 360.

      Of course there are the counter-arguments. PSP and DS software sales have massively declined ever since their games became easy to pirate. That’s partly because the pirated versions are more convenient to use than legit versions, running off memory card rather than UMD or cartridge.

      It still doesn’t negate the argument that giving a better service than the pirates (like Steam does) is the way to fight piracy though.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Hi Cliffski I’d like to jump in here if you don’t mind. Couple of counter points.

      Firstly, to your original point: RE DRM stopping more casual piracy. I believe this was true back when I was using floppy disks and the internet was not widely available and prolifically used. These days I would estimate that if you have the technical know-how and inclination to copy computer game physically then you probably have the technical know-how and inclination to download a pirated version of the game free of said drm.

      Secondly, to your point to John RE claiming his article as your own. I would imagine that broadly speaking he would find that you WOULD be helping out. Not only would you be addressing even more people with the message he wants to be heard but you would ALSO, by indicating that you wrote the article independently, be adding another potent voice to the argument.

    • bob_d says:

      @cliffski: It’s copyright violation vs. plagiarism/piracy. The equivalent of publishing Mr. Walker’s article on my own site to reap the advertising benefits would be EA selling a Ubisoft game while taking credit for it. That’s clearly different than simply copying files (which would be the equivalent of making a web archive of this page available through bit-torrent).
      Personally I don’t think it’s useful or accurate to refer to either schoolyard disk copying or internet-file-sharing-based copyright violations as “piracy.” With piracy there’s a clear loss of income: someone else is selling your product to a customer who is willing to pay for it, whereas with copying it’s unclear whether the person who receives the files actually would have paid for them if the files had only been available commercially. This is a separate issue entirely from whether or not DRM stops copying.

    • Zephro says:

      @Ravenger
      I suspect struggling sales on PS3 were unrelated to piracy. As sales of PS3 games suffered from the tiny English speaking install base compared to xbox. It was only in the last year or so that sales of PS3 units matched and overtook xbox globally (Europe except the UK and Japan PS3 lead for a while longer).
      Remember that PS3 units were initially several hundred pounds more than xbox and PSN was an utter joke compared to Xbox Live. Also due to reported difficulty programming a PS3 compared to an xbox, the PS3 tended to be the poorer platform for multi-platform games.
      So i think the “Firstly that if there were no piracy game sales would rocket” was both an argument that nobody was making and one that isn’t proven by PS3 software sales with out a far more detailed analysis.
      “It still doesn’t negate the argument that giving a better service than the pirates (like Steam does) is the way to fight piracy though.”
      This I agree with. It was simply an engineering point that DRM can stop piracy when done correctly.

      EDIT: Turns out Sony did it incorrectly anyway as it happens.

    • cliffski says:

      @SanguineAngel
      The thing is, people don’t just make a game so theirt ‘voice is heard”. The same is true when people who are in garage bands say “I’d be happy if my music was widely pirated”. I can understand that mentality, when you are fifteen years old, or you are doing it part time.

      The harsh reality is that people who make digital content fulltime need to earn money doing it. I would LOVE for GSB to be the number one player game on the interwebs, it would fill me with pride and joy. The problem is, if that happens but I have to go apply for a job at tescos to pay the bills, that’s not a viable business, or career…

      the trouble is, a lot of people who argue about piracy online are yet to be in full time work, or yet to run a business. it’s easy to be negative about motivations like “I need to make some money”, when thats not something you have to worry about :(

      I know people hate any developer talking in defence of why DRM might exist, but a whole bunch of devs I know don’t bother discussing it, and now make facebook games and flash MMOs instead. they have effetively given up on the viability of singleplayer PC gaming.
      At least I’m still here trying to make PC-centric stuff! :(

    • jonfitt says:

      I think the bit that John was saying doesn’t track is that key assumption that by including DRM you are helping the very terrible situation and improving your income.

      We counter that including it does not prevent or even deter piracy, so what do you lose or offer up by removing it?

      DRM as it exists now does not deter piracy, and does hurt consumers.

      However, the engineer in me does not see that it follows that DRM can never work. It only follows that that near-perfect DRM has not been created yet.
      Until the perfect DRM is created including what exists now is a net loss to consumers and makes no odds to pirates. I calculate that as a net loss to the producer of the game.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I thought Cliffski just proved himself wrong with his own argument.

      YOU COULD copy and paste Johns article easily, and yet he still doesn’t use any kind of protection for RPS. Because it would give the readers a frustrating service and they wouldn’t bother coming back.

      Also, who are these mythological ‘hardcore’ pirates? If my friend wanted to borrow the game, I would copy the disk and download a crack for him. It just sounds like you’re making up situations to justify your unnecessary expenses.

      In your case it would be fantastic for me to copy your game easily and hand it over to my friends/family. You are likely to get one or two more sales from each person I lend it to. I know my dad would never buy one of your games, except if I allowed him to borrow it. So I think you are implementing a service that costs you money, then loses you sales.

      Don’t get me wrong, you’re perfectly welcome to keep sticking DRM in your games, and I will keep not buying them, and reading your ridiculous but entertaining comments.

    • bob_d says:

      @Zephro: It’s a general rule that DRM will eventually be broken by someone, so at best what it does is delay the inevitable. The argument for DRM is that it guarantees the important early sales, but the DRM remains, of course, well after that point.

    • cliffski says:

      Ah abuse, how predictable.
      I don’t even use DRM. try doing a nanoseconds research next time.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      @ Cliffski

      I can totally see why people speak in defense of DRM and I do not agree with Piracy in general. Of course developers deserve to make a living off their products and naturally want to stop piracy as that is indeed theft, whatever the intentions. However, my point really is that current DRM simply doesn’t work at any level, even casual.

      I suspect that the best defense is an aggressive offense: beating the pirates at their own game by offering a better service. Granted, that will mean changes in the way a lot of businesses are run, time will have to be devoted to those services. Post release support will perhaps be a greater focus. But the industry is changing anyway, business practices are continually evolving. Why not leave redundant and possibly harmful business practices behind in favour of something new?

    • jonfitt says:

      I have a question for John though: Do you lock your front door?

      I just thought of that as an interesting comparison. it demonstrably does not stop burglars but there is the constant potential downside of being locked out of your own home with no key. Yet I’m guessing all of us lock our doors.
      Aside from the probably insurance implications, is there any reason to do so? The insurance company here probably represents the shareholders.

      Of course if you had a much more secure door with iris scanners and fingerprint readers then you could probably keep most thieves out but the hassle, cost and hassle would increase. There’s always the possibility that it could be circumvented anyway.

    • Deano2099 says:

      @cliffski

      Re. your initial point. DRM does stop people just copying a game to a DVD for a friend, or sticking it on a memory stick or whatever. And at some point you were entirely right and that really mattered. But do you honestly think the people doing that (at least on PC, rather than console-land) rather than torrenting an already cracked copy number any more than a small handful? Torrenting is so easy and simple to do that trading stuff on disc just seems pointless now. Or put another way, is anyone that can figure our Democracy 2 going to be dumb enough to fail to understand torrent sites.

      Second point re. copying John’s article. Of course he’d be annoyed. He’d probably e-mail you, ask you to take it down, and if not consider legal proceedings. But what RPS don’t do is have an annoying bit of Javascript that pops up when you highlight and right click the text saying “you can’t copy and paste from this website.” Because like DRM, it’s annoying to the legitimate user that just wants to quote part of the article, and like DRM, the determined pirate with the slightest technical nouse can run noscript or hit ctrl-U.

    • Jad says:

      @DrGonzo

      Why would you copy the whole game to give your father a taste of the game? GSB has a demo. Just send a him a link to it or download it yourself.

      I used that “I just want to test it out” rationalization for piracy back in the day — but never for games that had a demo. That’s dumb.

      And yes, the demo is long enough to tell if you like the game. I didn’t love it, so I bought it on sale, which is one more purchase than if Cliffski had not made a demo — and one more purchase than if I was handed a pirated copy of the full game.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      So how many sales do you think you’ve lost due to piracy, and how many sales do you think you’ve gained?

      Like I’ve said before, GSB isn’t my cup of tea. And that’s not a failing on your part, it’s for the better. I can’t be disappointed with a game that never said I’d want it, because I wouldn’t. It seems to me that in that case, it was well represented. It generated no ill will because it didn’t lie to me.

      But as a non consumer of your game, I’m not going to pirate it. What about the people who pirate that game and buy your next game?

    • Warskull says:

      I agree with Cliffski that some DRM to fight casual piracy can be a good thing. You don’t want to release a game, have a guy buy a copy, then pass it around to his friends and have 10 people playing the game off the same copy at the same time. However, most DRM implemented these days goes way too far and ends up hurting the people who purchase the game instead of the pirates who inevitably crack the game.

      The DRM to prevent casual piracy should be as transparent as possible, similar to the DRM consoles use. They check to make sure it is a legitimate game disk and then let you play the game. Plenty of people still pirate games on consoles and mod chip their consoles. However, it is enough to stop casual piracy.

      I think most of the DRM used by these companies is a waste of money. Some people are just scumbags who will never pay for a game. Put the bare minimum require to stop casual piracy then combat further piracy by looking at the reasons. Valve found out that simultaneous global releases really reduced piracy in the areas that were getting the games late.

    • DrugCrazed says:

      Mr Cliffski, I wish to ask why developers are developing for people who aren’t their target audience. Include a horrible DRM and you’re developing for the people who pirate. I’m against horrible DRM because it hurts me as a consumer.

    • Tyshalle says:

      I don’t think cliffski has once directly responded to the main argument against his point. He just keeps yapping on about how a company has a right to try to protect their game, which is the most intellectually dishonest way he could hope to argue this issue.

      The main argument being made against you cliffski, is that DRM does not do anything to prevent piracy. Nobody is arguing that a game company has no right to try and prevent piracy. What is being argued is that DRM does not actually do that. All DRM does is hurt the customers, because the pirates wind up using hacked versions of the software that has no DRM on it whatsoever. And thus far, no amount of DRM has actually been able to prevent this from happening. Therefore, DRM *only* hurts the paying customers, and as a result, might send some of them off to pirate the software just so that they have a less aggravating product.

      Stop with the bullshit. It should be obvious what the argument is, and it’s not about whether a company has the right to protect their product. So address this issue if you want to remain on the other side. Stop being a politician and side-stepping the arguments.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Neither my dad or my brother like trying demos for some reason, they always tell me they don’t have enough time for them. But the point is, if he had the game he would then quite possibly buy the add ons or the sequel. What I’m trying to say is, he is not a lost sale as he was never going to play it.

      EDIT- I just remembered, the door thing I said was wrong. My parents house did in fact get robbed because they left the door unlocked.

      And I apologise if what I said came across as abusive as that wasn’t my intent, more a bit cheeky. Also, I didn’t realise that assuming your games used DRM as you were defending it in situations such as yours was a stupid thing to do.

      Another thing, I could write a list of the games I have pirated and then bought afterwards, it would be incredibly extensive. But no, I know I and others like me don’t actually exist, so doing so may cause some sort of paradox. And note, now I can afford the games I want I don’t pirate them, which I would think supports the idea that pirating a game isn’t a lost sale.

    • Lack_26 says:

      I’m going to have to agree with Clifski here (to an extent at least). John, you claim that piracy happens independently of piracy, a lot of it probably does but I think Clifski has a point about simply handing the game out to friends.

      I know a decent number of gamers who used to buy one copy of the game between and then just pass it around, since early DRM started they stopped; they aren’t really PC literate and they didn’t like going to pirating sites since they couldn’t differentiate a ‘clean’ crack from an infected one so they just started buying the games if they wanted them or waiting for a sale since they didn’t want the hassle.

      I don’t know of any figures out there about it, or even if there are any, but I’m willing to put forth the hypothesis that DRM ‘lite’ stops a fair number of people, especially ‘casual players’, from pirating due to distrust of cracks, PC illiteracy and other factors. It’d be interesting to see if it could be supported.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Uh. reply fail. The other way around this time. I think it was my fault, actually.

    • jplayer01 says:

      Huh, I know enough people who get games from their friends along with the appropriate no-CD crack in order to play it. Almost every less knowledgeable PC user I know has one or two friends who can supply them with cracked games/software. Maybe it’s just my circle of friends, I don’t know.

      But this and conflicting statements by others leads me to believe that anecdotal evidence doesn’t necessarily say much.

    • Keith Nemitz says:

      Casual piracy, in my book, is defined by casual computer users pirating software. They check their email. They write a word document. They play a few casual games. Folk answering in this thread haven’t a clue about a casual gamer’s limitations. Casual users dread learning anything new! If a button isn’t flashing brilliantly, and filling 10% of the screen, it won’t be seen!
      They aren’t stupid. They’re just so out of the loop on computer idioms, every new piece of software is a foreign object. Bittorrent is insanely HARD for them. Just visiting a torrent site feels like driving through the slums of Iraq, frightfully dangerous! The simplest, stupidest, friendliest DRM stops them cold.
      Cliffski’s problem is, he makes games for core gamers. So DRM is worthless, which is why he doesn’t use it. All he can do is rail about the kind of pirate who fully plays his game and refuses to pay what is asked, or even anything. Stop giving him shit for it.

    • EthZee says:

      John/Cliffski: I agree that republishing articles under a different name is not a good analogy to the DRM/piracy issue.

      How about this, then: someone sets up a website where the newsletter sent out to subscribers of Rock Paper Shotgun is published as it comes out, for anyone to access for free. Would that be acceptable? Would the Hivemind take special measures to prevent this from happening?

    • Deano2099 says:

      Yes, I imagine they’d sue the people that were doing that. And no-one is saying that games companies shouldn’t be able to go after the people cracking, distributing, and even downloading their games.

      I mean, if someone came up with a great game, a truly brilliant game, that had perfect DRM and couldn’t ever be pirated, but also didn’t inconvenience the end user… well, no-one would mind, they’d sell a million copies, charge people £8 a month to keep playing it a call it World of Warcraft.

    • lorddon says:

      Wow, that was an analogous fail of epic proportions, Cliffski. Piracy != making money from someone else’s content. The proper analogy would be piracy is like saving a copy of this article to your desktop to view whenever you want, without providing RPS pageviews. Sure it has an impact but it’s peanuts compared to frustrating legitimate customers with dRM.

    • John Walker says:

      To address a few points:

      Cliffski – there is nothing analogous between unauthorised duplication and claiming credit for someone else’s work, beyond both being recognised as crimes. So is murder, but that’s not comparable either. You may think both are wrong. What you cannot meaningfully do is think both are the same.

      My views on reproducing work do not reflect those of the others on RPS, so I cannot speak for the site. Taking credit for someone else’s work is scummy, and those violating copyright by duplication are doing no such thing.

      Regarding my front door, I am indifferent about locking it. I would much prefer that people didn’t take my property as it would be costly to replace. This, again, is not analogous with piracy, because in copying a game nothing is taken nor needs to be replaced. Grasping that is essential to any productive discussion of this subject.

      Finally, I’d like to reiterate my point that I believe Cliffski is widely missing. This article is in no way arguing for or against piracy. It is making the abundantly clear point that DRM does not prevent piracy at all. It is disappointing that Cliffski prefers to invent “abuse” rather than grapple with this exact point.

    • Tyshalle says:

      Also, can anyone explain to me why enormous amounts of DRM has to be created to prevent friends from sharing CD’s for PC games when they can just as easily do this with console games without issue. Also, there’s the fact that most games are digitally distributed these days, and as such there is no CD to be shared. All the arguments about DRM not being about piracy but instead about friends sharing CD’s sounds like bullshit to me.

    • Flakfizer says:

      Jonfit asked if John locked his front door.

      I would ask if Jonfit lets someone else lock his door? Does he have to phone a number to get todays password so he can be let back into his house?

    • princec says:

      @John, I think Cliffski actually is saying, you are wrong, and that a tiny bit of DRM – just a tiny bit, nothing too onerous at all – is perfectly good at preventing trivial piracy.

    • Deano2099 says:

      John – to be fair to Cliffski, I think he does have a point. DRM discourages casual piracy. That is, people copying stuff to DVD or memory stick and lending it to their friends. DRM does stop that I’m happy to admit.

      It’s the idea that that’s anything more than the teeniest, tiniest drop in the ocean compared to people downloading cracked releases from torrent sites that’s ridiculous. I mean, my mother can’t even send an e-mail but she can double-click a torrent file.

      And I kind of have the feeling that the number of pirates it actually stops is less than the number of people who don’t buy the game (or wait for the sale) because of the DRM.

      That’s all in the PC space of course. Console is a whole different game.

    • Zephro says:

      “DRM has to be created to prevent friends from sharing CD’s for PC games when they can just as easily do this with console games without issue”

      The consoles do want to move away from this to counter act the resale market. They can’t because only 80-85% of their users have an internet connection. PC DRM can because near enough 100% of players will have a net connection on their PC.

      Also downloadable games and content on consoles work exactly like PC games.

    • Keith Nemitz says:

      @ Deano2099. So, you’re saying your mother discovered bittorrent, went to the web, found a client, downloaded and installed it, then looked for torrent sites, found what she wanted, downloaded the torrent, and then double-clicked it? ALL BY HERSELF? Dude, she’s a coder god!

      John Walker is wrong. Simple DRM can and does stop casual piracy.

    • Zephro says:

      Not to mention having to punch a hole through your router’s firewall which is often an issue.

    • John Walker says:

      So the argument given here is that DRM is only capable of preventing sharing amongst friends. It this is true, then it is more vile than I’d previously given it credit for. What have we become as a species when we credit the prevention of sharing as a win.

    • Keith Nemitz says:

      John, redefining your opposition’s argument, or otherwise said “putting words in other people’s mouths”, does not help your position. I clearly defined ‘casual piracy’. That definition had nothing to do with sharing between friends. ‘Sharing between friends’ applies to a much larger group than just casual pirates. Please keep your rebuttal to the concepts discussed. If you want to expand the discussion, provide context for the expansion.

    • Crimsoneer says:

      A species which prides itself on honesty and rule of law? I don’t see that as a bad thing. You rent a room for a week at a hotel, that doesn’t mean you can invite all your friends to trash it. You rent a game for a lifetime – and yes, that’s what you’re doing, even if it comes on a CD – doesn’t mean you’re allowed to pass it around.

    • jonfitt says:

      “Regarding my front door, I am indifferent about locking it. I would much prefer that people didn’t take my property as it would be costly to replace. This, again, is not analogous with piracy, because in copying a game nothing is taken nor needs to be replaced. Grasping that is essential to any productive discussion of this subject.”

      @JohnWalker The immaterial loss vs material loss is irrelevant in my example. Theft versus copyright infringement is in this case a thing which someone is trying to prevent with a system which is inconvenient yet easily overcome. The point is you don’t stop the unwanted activity with DRM or locking your door, yet people still lock their doors. Any copper can tell you how trivial it is to break into a house with your typical 40 year old yale lock, a swift boot is all most crooks use.

      Perhaps then it becomes a psychological game of putting a barrier which puts someone outside of their comfort zone. Perhaps the locked door requires people to make a criminal leap they are not prepared to do. A scrote might try a handle but would give up at that point.

      So maybe even weak DRM which requires you to run CRACKTEHGAMEZORZ.exe would put off an otherwise upstanding person who would justify things away in their mind if all they were doing was copying files.

      Maybe that’s what people mean by deterring casual piracy, making people do enough that there is no justifying what they are doing is anything but piracy?

    • Deano2099 says:

      Of course, back before the internet and bittorrent, we didn’t need draconian always-on DRM Starforce online-check account project ten dollar gizmopockets.

      A code wheel was enough.

      So if DRM is to stop ‘casual’ piracy, why does it suddenly need to be so much more over-the-top?

      I can actually see the argument from the point of view of say, Popcap, who make casual games, but something like AC:B. You’ll probably need to update your graphics card drivers before it’ll even run. And if you can do that, you can torrent a bitorrent.

    • Keith Nemitz says:

      @ Deano2099, I only disagree with one thing you said, “why does it suddenly need to be so much more over-the-top”. No one has suggested such a thing. Ubisoft DRM != PopCap DRM. Bad DRM is bad, regardless of the audience. Simple DRM for casual games is appropriate because it is effective without messing with the audience. (a self-defining sentence :-)

    • SpinalJack says:

      I remember not long ago some comments about using ad blockers on this site. That’s basically reading the content of this site without paying the writers in the form of ad revenue. Using ad blockers is more trivial than downloading a crack and it doesn’t cause the writers any loss, nothing needs to be replaced other than bandwidth and the ad revenue (same as if someone downloaded a game from a developer’s website and then used a friend’s serial or crack) and then they argued against it on moral grounds. You could argue that people who use ad blockers might link the page to their friends who don’t use ad blockers and so ad blockers are beneficial to websites.

      I don’t see why people are giving Cliffski shit about railing against pirates when RPS did the same against people who used ad blockers, everyone just wants to make a living doing what they love.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Err, RPS asked people not to use adblockers. They didn’t condone the use of clever javascript tricks that attempt to disable ad-blockers while also making the site harder to navigate for normal users.

    • Mattressi says:

      I don’t get where this ‘casual piracy’ argument comes from. I remember my friends and I easily sharing AoE2 between ourselves with no issue – back when games fit on a CD! Nowadays the DRM has become much more ridiculous, but why? I just looked up a torrent for Assassin’s Creed 2 (don’t worry, I’d never actually pirate that crap) and it says it’s 6.34 GB. Try fitting that on a CD or regular DVD! That’s likely quite compressed as well! If someone can ‘casually’ split the game files and compress them so as to fit them on two DVDs, I’m sure that they are quite capable of downloading a torrent program and googling for a torrent of the game they want.
      With internet speeds as fast as they are now (this is coming from an Australian BTW!), it makes no sense to argue that ‘casual’ players will attempt to burn a huge game onto a DVD or two, when all they need to do is double click on a torrent file of their choosing and wait a few hours.

      Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to copy my friends version of Assassin’s Creed 2 using 4403 floppy disks.

    • Archonsod says:

      “Try fitting that on a CD or regular DVD! That’s likely quite compressed as well! If someone can ‘casually’ split the game files and compress them so as to fit them on two DVDs, I’m sure that they are quite capable of downloading a torrent program and googling for a torrent of the game they want.”

      Why would they split it? Just take the Assassins Creed 2 retail disks to your friends house, install it on their system and take the disks home with you when you’re done. That’s the casual piracy DRM was supposed to stop. Hence the first and still the most ubiquitous is the old fashioned CD check.
      If for some reason you were reluctant to take your CD’s round you’d still have USB drives, memory sticks and even mobile phones which could transfer the files too.

    • SpinalJack says:

      Deano2099, RPS asking people not to use ad blockers is the same as Cliffski asking people not to pirate his games. Neither use DRM.

      Cliffski is just arguing that developers are justified in wanting to protect their livelihood.

      (Note that it is the publishers who usually add in the horrible DRM and I’m not in favour of giving the player a hard time)

    • jalf says:

      I’m always surprised at how more or less computer-illiterate people manage to pirate games.

      So no, I don’t buy the “DRM deters casual pirates” argument at all. In my experience, it’s just not true.

    • jalf says:

      DRM discourages casual piracy. That is, people copying stuff to DVD or memory stick and lending it to their friends. DRM does stop that I’m happy to admit.

      Are all DRM advocates really stuck in the early 90′s?
      This is 2011, a “casual pirate” is not someone who copies a goddamn floppy disk.
      It is someone who downloads a .torrent. *That* is the easy, convenient, casual way people pirate games. And DRM, trivial or otherwise, has no effect on it.
      No sane person would pirate a game by copying the DVD these days. I haven’t heard of that happening for close to a decade.
      All the “not having any DRM at all is like…” allegories are missing this vital point that to the casual pirates, the ones who don’t want to lift a finger in order to pirate a game, the ones who only do it because it’s easy, games *don’t* have any DRM. It’s been removed before the casual pirates see it.
      Only two groups of people see your DRM: your legitimate customers, and the people who crack the game.

      Seriously, when was the last time you heard of someone even *trying* to copy a game?

    • AbyssUK says:

      Wait I am confused… John (in a nutshell) is saying DRM only works to push people over to piracy it has no other use because it is so easily circumvented so is just a waste of resources for developers / bad marketting. John also realises that for commerical level products to work the makers need to be rewarded/paid for there efforts (if its worthy). Without DRM good makers will still get rewarded perhaps even more so.

      Cliffski, did a survey and basically found out that many people think this so his games now come with no DRM.. so therefore Cliffski realises DRM is pointless so has no parts of his brain locked up like in some bad xmen episode. Cliffski however also realises that for major digital content to work people need to be paid/rewarded to make it otherwise it’ll never work on a commerical level.

      So my question is what exactly is the beef/duck as you seem to both agree with each other?

    • JonasKyratzes says:

      Let’s use logic!

      1. Developers need income so they can live and make more games.

      2. Games need to be bought by players to provide that income.

      3. The purpose of DRM is to prevent a game from losing paying customers to piracy.

      4. DRM prevents paying customers from playing the game they bought.

      5. Therefore DRM encourages piracy.

      6. Therefore DRM lowers developer income.

      7. Therefore DRM is illogical.

    • Jolly Teaparty says:

      @jonfitt I think you’ve got a good point but I’d like to clarify your stance a bit; getting entrenched in analogy is a surefire way to start talking past each other in an argument. Are you saying that publishers need it to make their shareholders feel safer? Are you saying that it prevents this sort of casual piracy where it’s so easy it doesn’t feel like you’re doing anything wrong?

  14. Flobulon says:

    Well I guess it figures, I just checked the calendar and sure enough this is The Year of the John.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      KG left his “#1 BESTEST GAMES JOURNALIST EVER” hat on John’s head as he strode out the door.

      I think it’s rubbed off on him a bit.

  15. Crapknocker says:

    I, for one, am celebrating that Miniluv has raised the allotment of chocolate.

  16. zind says:

    It is SO NICE to hear someone in the media actually saying these things. The referenced RPS article as well as a similar piece on Joystiq seemed to be completely leaving that out.

    I’m also glad to know that I’m not the only one who still has a distaste for mandatory online activation.

    Of course, I’m also a giant hypocrite in that regard, seeing as how about 83.2% of my PC game collection exists through Steam. However, I think that it’s perfectly justifiable to have different drm-related expectations between digital purchases and physical ones, since the act of making a digital purpose suggests at least a semi-stable and available net connection. That said, if Steam hadn’t had an offline mode, it would never have gotten a purchase out of me (beyond the purely-multiplayer TF2) – just like Ubisoft won’t be getting a cent out of me while this DRM is in place.

  17. Gnoupi says:

    I wish I could pay an extra 2$ on my donation every time RPS posts such worthy articles.

    • John Walker says:

      Hang on, let me find my bank details…

    • Sunjumper says:

      You can.
      The link that you can se to subscribe to RPS (remeber the code of gamer honour and subsrcribe now you’ll even get love letters from RPS and early access to betas completely free!) also provides you with a nifity donate button with which you can provide your favourite games journalism outlet with money.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Or have a contest in the forums where you give away a month subscription or something. Nothing stops you, and if that person likes the secret whatever stuff enough, they’ll continue to subscribe.

    • TheTourist314 says:

      Last December I only clicked on the “donate” button rather than subscribe. I gave a decent amount, about 10 months worth of RPS, but I don’t get any bonus features that others may do?

  18. James G says:

    It reminds me of an argument I heard regarding the forest selloffs. The person insisted that it was always intended to be a sacrificial piece of legislation, that the coalition could back down on, appearing to listen to the critics, and hopefully as a result steer attention away from the other policies. In a similar manner, the extreme DRM was always implemented with the realisation that any backtracking would end up looking positively fluffy in comparison.

    In practice, Im not sure I buy either argument, although I’m sure some of the points were considered retrospectively in backing down. In Ubiosoft’s case, I expect they always considered backing down, but genuinely wanted to give UbiDRM a run for its money, observing impacts on both sales and piracy.

    • Crimsoneer says:

      Which is a ridiculous argument, mainly because the forest sales was a perfectly sensible piece of legislation which was shouted down by the hounds of populist democracy.

    • Temple to Tei says:

      Sorry Crimson did not follow the argument well enough myself.
      Quick summary of the good points of the legislation please? (and as this is the internet I need to point out I am not being sarcastic -it really did seem like the sort of legislation that the Tory bogeyman would be sure to make)

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      The problem the bill was meant to solve was that the forestry commission is both a regulator of woodland maintenance, and maintainer of the public woods. The solution was to sell off all the woods to private individuals and companies, because this is always the best thing to do in all situations.

      The “populist democracy”, meanwhile, was understandably averse to a further loss of commons, and thought that perhaps for-profit bodies could not be trusted with the woodlands. The usual argument made at this point is that nobody is calling for the renationalisation of already-private woods, to which the best retort is “So what?”.

      I’d prefer to put it down to stupidity, in both cases: the government is attempting to put through so much legislation in so little time, and Cameron is such a hands-off PM, that the bills being introduced are largely trash even if you adhere to the Coalition’s liberal ideology. (I realise “it’s all ideology!” is getting old, but there you are.)

      The people calling the shots at Ubisoft have no idea what games are beyond the abstract, and I’d imagine they’re taken to lots of nice dinners by the lovely folks at Tages and Securom, et al.

  19. Thermal Ions says:

    Exactly. It’s a back down from an extremely ridiculous DRM implementation to a ridiculous DRM implementation.

    “OPINION:” in the title? Hell no, should be “FACT:”

  20. Gnomocide says:

    Would you say Ubisoft managed to move the Overton Window in regards to DRM?

    • Jad says:

      Just looked that up on Wikipedia. What a useful term, thank you!

      And yes, without a doubt, Ubisoft has moved previously “unthinkable” DRM into “acceptable”. It’s rather impressive, in an evil way.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I would suggest Steam has done this to a much larger extent.

      I recall that a lot of people weren’t happy with Steam when it launched because of the online requirements and also having to have it’s program running in the background at all times.

      It’s not got much better over the years (in terms of DRM, it has added extra features for those that like that sort of thing), but at least the offline mode apparently works these days.

      Now, when you see non-Valve games that require a steam account and so on, people suggest that this is a good thing! I view it as anti-competitive practices under the auspices of a service (DRM+).

    • Zephro says:

      I think it’s a good thing as it can establish the PC as a competitive platform against the consoles. It’s not anti competitive as if you don’t agree with buying from Valve you can go buy an xbox game. Anti-competitive would only constitute a monopoly on their entire industry. Within your own “closed platform” you can do what you like. It just happens that Steam is a software platform rather than a combined software/hardware platform.

  21. Ravenger says:

    The only DRM which does have an effect on piracy is zero day protection, where the executable files aren’t shipped with the game, and instead are downloaded on launch.

    That doesn’t even need a full-on DRM system to do it, as it can just be downloading the executable when it’s available online, and the game not even attempting to go online if the executable is present. It can be tied into an auto-patching system which is generally a good thing.

    It’s also the sort of DRM that can easily be patched out after launch, meaning that the legit version is no longer inferior to the dodgy version.

    • arccos says:

      Yes, that’s pretty much the most sure way to prevent 0-day, but its not that friendly for consumers, either.

      Consider that to patch it out, you still need a ‘net connection and their servers to be online. The game’s GOTY edition might be playable out of the box, but if I buy the game (in stores) shortly after release and their server is down or I don’t have a net connection, I just bought another coaster until it comes back up.

  22. Theory says:

    Ubi’s quote is “after an initial login, will be playable offline in single player mode”. It’s not clear from that whether the “initial login” is needed every time you start the game, or (like Steam) only once. Can you clarify, John?

  23. hmrf says:

    Great article.
    Not much else to add.

    I’d definitely say that (for a SP game) everything more than an offline serial check is too much. And unneccessary. And will be cracked anyway.

    To say again what so many people have said before: Instead of wasting time, brains and money and stupid DRM one could actually try to make better games. Which will lead to more sales.

    The sole reason why I like DRM is that it’s always new “puzzles” for the crackers; it’s fascinating to see what can be done and what always can be defeated by often quite clever people ;)

    And yeah, I buy most of my games. Except for those which are bad. So, publishers: Give me better games (and more time to play them, please ;) and you will get my money \o/

  24. Delusibeta says:

    If it turns out that AssCreedBro is using the same DRM as AssCreed2 currently uses, then it goes straight onto my “games to never buy due to shitty DRM” list, alongside all of Ubisoft’s games with UbiDRM.

  25. Terraval says:

    I recall you saying as much in a PCG podcast about a year ago and I am utterly astounded that the majority of publishers still don’t understand the effectiveness of better customer service through purchase in reducing piracy.
    Mr Walker I salute you for your continued rationality in the face of absurdity, and for being a beacon of logic in an insane world.

  26. Xiyng says:

    Wait, someone actually realized this instead of trying to tell me how DRM is inevitable despite not being more than a minor hindrance for pirates?

  27. Nick says:

    Sorry, ducks off.

  28. MadMatty says:

    I think some kind of DRM works as a mild detterrent, as the original is often patched up to date, or allows access to updates, it can with mild DRM be less hassle than pirate copies (sometimes virus infested and all)- much like Cliffski said.
    As for bilions lost, wheres all this money supposed to come from?
    Supposedly pirates must be spending their gaming budget on beer or something.
    I think if there were no pirate copies in the world, people would be:

    A: Playing fewer games longer or
    B: Do something else like read a book or watch TV

    Edit:
    The Ubisoft DRM seemed utterly ridiculous, tho fortunately i dont play Assassins´.
    Also, the other day i tried to register my GFWL protected Dirt 2, coz i wanted to take a quick spin… 30 mins later i had to give up on it till the next day, coz there was so much fiddly shite with the registartion. I eventually got it working a day later, but these episodes reccur more and more often these days.
    If publishers would also recognize, that IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW HARDCORE YOUR DRM IS-
    Removed is Removed, innit?
    Smarter people than you, crack games for sport.

    • bob_d says:

      “As for bilions lost, wheres all this money supposed to come from?”
      Aye, well, that’s the supposedly-multi-billion dollar question. If people can’t download games, will they reallocate their discretionary income in order to purchase more games, or will they simply play fewer games? Personally, based on the scant research I’ve seen on the subject, I think the first choice is very unlikely, and the second isn’t of benefit to the industry (fewer games exposed to = fewer future purchases, which are also more likely to be the blockbuster titles).
      I think the industry basically knows this, that the industry as a whole isn’t losing (m)any sales due to copying, but is driven by fear: no one wants to be the “low hanging fruit.” I.e. if one game is easily copyable, and another has so-far unbroken DRM, and your target audience has the money for one game, the fear is that the copyable game will lose all its sales to the game with DRM. There may be something to this, but the opposite also applies: if there are two games and you have money enough to purchase one, will you buy the game with obnoxious DRM or the one without?

  29. Durkonkell says:

    John, it’s as if you have actually beamed the thoughts out of my head and have written them up in a coherent manner!

    Needless to say, I’m in agreement with you (with the minor exceptions of finding Steam’s offline mode pretty reliable, and I think steam adds utility rather than being pure DRM).

    • CMaster says:

      So they create a DRM system that involves faffing with email activation codes for legit users, while telling everybody how very easy it is to crack.
      I appreciate what they were trying to do, but at the end of the day it’s just like all DRM – extra hassle for users and no effect on pirates.

    • princec says:

      Actually – no hassle whatsoever for users. Nothing more to download. No need to be online to play. Never forget any “codes” as it’s just your email address. Share easily with friends. And works even if Puppygames vanishes. Our customers love it.

    • CMaster says:

      You talk about having to do something for 10 times. A confirmation email or something of the like?

    • princec says:

      You normally don’t have to do anything except type your email address into the game after you’ve bought it. If you install the game on another machine or other OS, you do the same again and it sends you an email with a link that unlocks it again. That works automatically 10 times, then it asks you to email us, and if you do, we reset it again. And we specifically encourage you sharing with your friends and family.

      And if you’re not on the internet, or if Puppygames goes tits up, or our registration server is broken for any reason, it still works. How’s about that then eh?

    • Dozer says:

      I’d passed over Jim’s article about your game in the RSS feed earlier today (I only read a few RPS articles each day) but having read your DRM page, and then seen the video for Revenge of the Titans, I am interested! I will look in more detail once I’ve finished the washing up.

    • Starky says:

      Got to say I was reading your DRM page and thinking bad thoughts on how much of a hassle it is, how much of a bad idea the whole thing sounded until I got to the bottom…

      The simple fact that if there is a problem, if the server is down, if your email vanishes forever, if you guys get hit by a meteor and your company vanishes forever the game defaults to fully unlocked full game…

      Bravo, seriously well done chaps.

      That is getting near to my ideal of how DRM should work.

      DRM should be a REWARD for paying customers authenticate the game and get free maps, free updates, alternate skins, pets hats and outfits. Get score tables, built in community features and other such things.
      If that DRM fails for any reason, well you just don’t have access to those added features, but still get the full base game + any paid for content.

      In other words DRM should be used to prove people are paying customers so they can get extras, not to limit them in ways that pirates are not limited.

      It is one of the reasons Steam’s DRM is so palatable. The added value it offers for using it’s brand of DRM result in a better experience than the pirated version can offer (at least in many steam games).

    • CMaster says:

      @Prinec
      I’m still not even remotely seeing the point.
      So whenever I (if I were a legit customer of yours) reinstall windows, or want to put the game on my laptop or what have you, I need to enter my email address (no big deal) and then wait for a confirmation email and then follow the link within? So you’ve now added an extra step of hassle (minor though it is) to paying customers on top of installing. Meanwhile pirates are perfectly capable of just downloading the demo and then telling their firewall “no” when it connects to the internet (paying customers can do this as well of course).

      So while you’ve got the very best intentions at heart, your DRM is still failing that crucial hurdle – it makes things easier for pirates than paying customers. Reading the article, it felt like you went “hey, I can program this so it checks on the net that only people who paid for it can pay” followed by you doing a load of “what ifs” and ending up with this system that seems to only have wasted your and everyone else’s time.

  30. DarkFenix says:

    AC2′s DRM was broken, it took a while but it was broken. As such, AC2:B will take less time to break, perhaps even a release day crack.

    What is certain is that while Ubisoft use such DRM they will not see a penny from me, I will pirate their games regardless of any other factor. A shame, since a series I enjoy like AC deserves support, but Ubisoft really need to learn that punishing people for paying is not on.

  31. HeavyStorm says:

    Thanks, that was my exact point at the other article.

  32. phoeniciansailor says:

    Great article, John. I’ve shared it with friends.

    Any chance there could be a follow-up article that specifically singles out GOOD companies — especially the larger ones — which must have considered DRM but decided not to use? I’d find that article encouraging, and it would give me something I could actively do to make a difference : go out of my way to purchase their games.

  33. Ravenger says:

    One of the biggest problems with many of the DRM schemes is the customer support when a customer has problems with the DRM.

    Microsoft has a 24/7 toll-free activation help line for when you activate Windows or their other software. If publishers are going to use DRM they need to up their support so you can contact them free by phone if your internet is down. Their response times by web and email need to be quicker. Even Steam needs to improve here, having no telephone support, and their email support can be very slow. Ironically Microsoft’s support for GFWL is relatively poor, as it’s actually run by the Xbox Live department who seem remarkably un-informed about GFWL.

    EA have improved in this regard, and seem fairly cool about adding extra activations for their DRM’d games via phone or live chat support. A massive improvement from the Spore fiasco where it was very difficult to get in touch with them (often via a premium rate number) and then they were reluctant to add activations even if you had all the proof that you owned (or is that rented?) the game.

  34. Iskariot says:

    Is Ubisoft releasing a patch after a few years to remove the DRM of Assassin’s Cree 2 and Brotherhood? What if I want to play the game again in, let’s say. 6 years? Will I be able to?
    I really want to own AC 2 & AC Brotherhood (like I own AC 1), but I want to be sure I can use my games after a few years. If that is not clear I will not buy.
    Perhaps Ubisoft should pay the pirates for providing the Ubisoft customers with such a good gaming experience. :)

    • StingingVelvet says:

      They actually did say way back when AC2 was released that if they ever are going to close the servers that they would patch out the need for them. Bioware has said the same about their games with DRM on them. Sega said the same about Alpha Protocol, and then did remove it in just six months.

      In my opinion DRM would be a-okay if companies would all universally agree to remove it after 6-12 months or so. I would seriously never complain about DRM again.

    • Wilson says:

      @StingingVelvet – Yeah, I would be pretty much fine with DRM for 6-12 months or so. I think this is how Bohemia Interactive do it. They removed the CD check from Operation Flashpoint with a patch after it had been out for a while, and Arma II doesn’t need a CD check anymore either, and hasn’t for a while. Putting aside the issues with internet access for some people, I’m happy with Day One DRM, so long as it isn’t stupidly OTT. As you say, if there was some agreement to remove DRM from games after 6-12 months it would be nice.

  35. Daniel Klein says:

    Don’t be fooled by the press that they’ve got
    They’re still, they’re still Ubi from the soft.

  36. StingingVelvet says:

    Thanks for more gaming journalism. It’s like a fountain of it around here lately.

  37. Jumwa says:

    Very nice. Their draconian DRM schemes have, on several occasions, kept me from purchasing one or more of their games. Including Steam sales in which I likely would’ve bought multiple copies for my partner and myself. In one case I even opted not to buy an older game without their excessive DRM just because I don’t wish to support such a company.

    On the other hand, I’ve never played an Ubisoft game that I’ve actually liked, so perhaps they’ve saved me from wasting my time and money.

  38. CrazyBaldhead says:

    John, I love thee.

  39. oatish says:

    Thanks for writin good words for us and shit

  40. abhishek says:

    Steam authenticates every game every time you launch it in online mode. Sure, there’s an offline mode which you can use if you need to, but how much time do you spend with Steam in online mode? Because every time you are online and you start a Steam game, you are submitting to the same startup activation that seems to be a problem if it’s a Ubisoft game.

    I should also add that EA also has this very same authentication without actually telling you about it upfront. A game like Dragon Age for example… it doesn’t require authenticating to start playing the game. But if you were online and you started a game which had any sort of DLC attached to it (paid, free, promotional or whatever), then you will not be able to load that save later on without once again authenticating. Imagine you’re 30 hours in to a game of Dragon Age and your internet goes down. Yes, you can technically still play the game if you start a new game without any DLC. But you will not be able to access your 30 hour save which has DLC in it. And let’s face it, All of Bioware games nowadays have DLC from the moment you install them. So where is the outrage against EA?

    • Wilson says:

      I think the thing about Steam is that it mostly works fine, and allows you to download any of the games in your library from anywhere. If you use the community things and friends features (as I do from time to time) they work nicely within games. I have been very frustrated with it at times, but if you’re lucky enough to have a reasonably stable internet connection it does provide some useful services and usually doesn’t provide a problem. If Steam was like the Ubi-DRM that dropped you every time you lost your connection (and/or gave you nothing at all in return), I wouldn’t use it. Of course there is the risk that something terrible happens and Steam becomes broken/unusable in the future, but you can bear that in mind and weigh it against the advantages.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Well yeah, and 99% of the time Ubisoft’s DRM won’t hurt anyone either. The problem is in that 1% of the time where you have a free night, really fancied playing some AC, and your net connection is down. Steam you can just switch to offline mode. AC you just can’t play.

      There’s a huge gulf between voluntarily submitting to something, and having it forced on you. Just because two married people have sex nearly every night, doesn’t give one partner the right to demand it on the odd occasion the other doesn’t want to.

    • suibhne says:

      The other side of the Steam issue, tho, is that it adds significant value for a lot of gamers. Forget the stupid Achievements (er, “achievements”) — Steam’s friends list and matchmaking are pretty decent at this point, even for non-Steam games. And Steam is the best thing that ever happened to backups/reinstalls for any gamer with a sizable library. I accept Steam’s limitations in part because it provides other services I find valuable; Ubi’s DRM, in contrast, does nothing except get in my way and make a mess on my front lawn.

  41. The Army of None says:

    Hip hip hoorah for John! I’m one of the unwashed mass that doesn’t have access to internet for a reasonable amount of time. When I go back home from college for summer, we can’t afford internet, so I’m stuck with quite a lot of singleplayer games. Seemingly quite a few games are terribly hard to get going with no current access to net, so I do end up downloading cracks from seedier districts of the web. It’s just much easier. I even have quite a few games downloaded and pirated that I own on steam (and have owned for quite some time) rather than deal with the hit or miss offline mode :/

    • Dozer says:

      Exactly. I don’t understand why DRM is such a huge issue.

      1) Buy the game. Don’t bother trying to install it.
      2) Torrent the cracked game, and use that.
      3) ????
      4) Prophet.

      I’ve done this twice with CD albums purchased via Play.com’s download service, and at least once with DRM-free CD-based games that require tedious shipping. (By the time the disk arrived, I’d decided the game wasn’t that good, and had stopped playing it!)

    • Zhou says:

      I’ve done this a few times, often when games are delayed in the post and/or when I don’t want to wait for them to get here, even pre-release. Is this piracy? When I’m merely grabbing an alternative (and often, as John cogently argues, less broken) version of the game?

      I’ve a friend who I bought assassin’s creed 2 for last christmas in the steam sale. I loved the game, and I love the series but he never played it. He installed it and booted it up, but never actually played it. Why? Because in order to play he had to faff around registering it with ubisoft and he couldn’t be bothered. Furthermore he has an inconstant net connection, and couldn’t always guarantee he would be able to play it. I realise that the drm may have been removed by december last year, but neither of us knew that, and even the phantom was enough to stop him wanting to invest time in it.

      It’s anecdotal evidence of course (though I challenge you to find any other kind, from either side), but my relatively un-tech-savvy friend, certainly not a “core” gamer or “hardcore” pirate, wasn’t turned off by the price of the game, or by a moral/ethical objection to its drm. He had the game given to him gratis and entirely legally, but the drm was still inconvenient enough to stop him enjoying the gift I’d given him. Its stupid, its inconvenient, and its mostly a damn shame, because Assassin’s creed 2 is a fudging excellent game, and its sequel looks to be as good if not better.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Because if you’re regularly doing 2, 3 and 4, no matter how wonderfully moral and good a person you are, at some point you’re going to have a month where you’re a little low on cash, and think “hey, maybe I could skip step 1, just this once”…

    • Dozer says:

      @Deano2099 – but that’s always true of any month.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Exactly!

  42. Mac says:

    100% agree – DRM isn’t about stopping piracy (it doesn’t), it is all about stopping second hand sales, therefore devaluing the original product.

    • MadMatty says:

      +1 Wolfire
      Thats what i´ve been saying all along.

    • Zhou says:

      While I support the main thrust, and much of the logical thinking of that blog-post, I would say his conclusion is a bit iffy.

      Statistics on piracy over the internet are horrendously problematic because a) crime statistics generally are inherently problematic and b) its the internet (don’t know that I have to explain that much further). Considering this, trying to imply a correlation between port quality and pirating is problematic at best, disingenuous at worst.

      I would certainly agree that it appears that publishers simultaneously under-value the customer and over-estimate the issue of piracy (see his rather excellent calculations, and the importance of relative wealth to piracy), but the link between quality and piracy is incredibly tenuous. Do “good” games get pirated more than “bad” games? Do more pc friendly games get pirated less than console ports? These are questions that are, as far as I know, very difficult to answer satisfyingly. To conclude an otherwise strong argument, built on solid logic, with implying a tenuous correlation is a shame. If anything it smacks of the sorts of generalised mania that John is chastising in his article.

  43. Deano2099 says:

    John’s actually wrong about one thing. This DRM is actually worse than what they used on AC2. Stick with me a minute.

    Most people reading this aren’t going to be moral absolutists. They’re also not going to be soldier’s in Afghanistan. Most of us don’t think piracy is utterly evil and all pirates should be hung, nor do most of us think piracy is great and brilliant and all games should be free.

    Most of us are somewhere in the middle. Most of us also have a reasonably stable internet connection, or could have without a huge amount of effort.

    That’s not to belittle the people it does inconvenience, there is going to be a group that found AC2′s DRM made their game utterly unplayable, while this DRM means they can play it fine. Those people exist. There’s not many of them. For most of us, it’s not going to change much.

    The downside is, it’s not going to work. There’s a horrible factual error in John’s article, and that’s that AC2′s DRM didn’t work. It did. For about a month. And we all know how the sales curve of a game works, and how many more copies are sold in the first month. AC2′s DRM worked, it stopped piracy, and most of us here would agree stopping piracy is A GOOD THING.

    I’ll be totally shocked if AC:B’s DRM isn’t cracked within a day. Which means it will be pirated more. We get a tiny little piece of convenience back (a net connection needed on start-up, not constantly) in exchange for whatever sales are lost to piracy. Or if no sales are actually lost to piracy, the chance to say “hey look! no sales are lost to piracy!”

    Ubisoft aren’t being nice to us. It’s just running those servers for the always on DRM costs money. Then there’s additional money to employ support staff to deal with all the extra queries when they go down. Ubisoft simply looked at how many extra sales the (working) DRM got them, realised it wasn’t worth the expenditure, and so junked it. But of course, they’ll never admit that.

    • ezekiel2517 says:

      This made sense (You hit the duck?)

    • ChiefOfBeef says:

      Except that the bar by which AC2 should be measured against is the first game, which had considerably higher staying power in the charts when it was released.

      Ubisoft continue to not release the PC-specific figures for AC2 sales, so we can’t compare them. My guess is that they’re embarrassing.

  44. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    Great work, John!

  45. Jimbo says:

    I took “an initial login” to mean once when you install the game, not every time you play the game. Are you sure about this, John?

  46. dogsolitude_uk says:

    It’s the ‘Door In Face Technique’, used by Politicians and Companies:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Door-in-the-face_technique

    Labour in the UK tried it with ID cards/biometrics/National Identity Register, the Conservatives used the Forest sell-off in a similar way to help ease feelings about other, less tree-y cuts.

    Basically, the idea is to propose something monumentally sh1tty, something truly awful that raises the bar of awfulness, so then people will more easily accept a less-awful situation that they’d never otherwise go along with.

    I mean, if Ubi had started with the ‘login every time you load’ thing, we’d still have kicked up a righteous fury, and they’d've been forced to drop that. We didn’t want it with Mass Effect. By starting with ‘always on’ DRM, they can backpedal to a place with arguably equally crappy ‘login every time you load’ DRM, which suits UBI fine.

    PLUS, they get to say ‘we listened to our customers’ to boot, and no doubt Ubi fanbois will be singing their praises on the forumz.

    I’m still not buying an Ubi release (not even Silent Hunter 5 – I doubt they’re bothering with any more Chessmaster games). I’ve no desire to ‘buy’ something and then have to damned well ask permission every time I run the thing. That ruined the original NWN for me thanks to Bioware servers being unavailable or my connection going down when I wanted to run the game, and prevented me installing it on a laptop for playing on holiday.

    I don’t have to do that for Adobe CS3 (really must upgrade), Reaktor, Ableton, MS Visual Studio, MS Expression Studio or any of the more expensive software I use, so I’m not going to do it for a damned game. Steam’s dead easy to switch to offline mode, and I can install on all my PCs/laptops (though due to the ephemeral, download-only nature of Steam I only use it for cheapy games)

    As it is we’re still in a situation where the pirated version’s gonna be a better experience than the paid-for one.

    In closing: thanks for this informative article John!

  47. Chufty says:

    I don’t fully agree, Mr Walker.

    Have you ever completed a big budget AAA game and actually sat through the credits? How long did it take? Far longer than a big budget AAA film, I’d wager. Those credits aren’t just a list of meaningless words. They’re real people. People with livelihoods, families, mortgages and bills.

    It takes hundreds of employees several years to make a game. And there is ZERO income from that game until it hits the shelves. From where, exactly, do you think the money to pay all these salaries comes?

    Shareholders and investors, and more accurately the capital that they provide up-front at their own risk, are utterly critical to the development of a big budget game. If the developers don’t get that investment, then you, the player, do not get to play that game.

    Single-player PC games do not make enough money to encourage investors to pump in the millions of pounds that these games require. And the single most significant reason for that, is piracy.

    If I had a few million pounds to spare and someone came to me asking to help them fund a product that 5 times as many people will steal as will purchase legally, I’d laugh in their face.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Why? The 5 million people pirating it are utterly irrelevant, the only question is if the 1 million people that do buy it is enough to turn a profit. And guess what? It is! You think publishers are still releasing PC games for reasons of charity?

      No, they turn a profit.

      Now, that profit isn’t big enough for some companies, so they decide it’s not worth the time and effort to make PC games, and that’s fair enough. But I’m not sure what cloud cuckoo land you’re living in where publishers are constantly losing money on PC games and yet still keep releasing them.

    • Zephro says:

      I’d say it’s more cost of porting to PC vs sales from PC games in many cases. PC only is becoming more difficult.

    • John Walker says:

      Oh, this hurts my soul. DRM DOESN’T AFFECT PIRATES. It doesn’t make any difference how hard the poor widdle people worked – making their game cumbersome or unplayable for their legitimate customers isn’t changing their sales! If anything, it makes them worse, because people don’t want to have to fight through such idiotic restrictions.

      Plenty of single player games are making a fortune on PC. Fortunes. With piracy rates not five times legitimate sales, but 20 times. And yet the money keeps on pouring in. Ask 2D BOY how they manage to pay their bills despite an 85%+ piracy rate. It might be with the millions of dollars they’ve made.

      But even if they weren’t, even if everyone involved was starving to death, adding DRM to their game wouldn’t make any difference!

      And yes, I’ve sat through many credit rolls on games. They’re no shorter than film credits, but they run a hell of a lot more slowly, and they contain the marketing departments for every region the publisher exists in and their mums.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Don’t be ridiculous John, DRM has a huge affect on some pirates – a new DRM scheme is like a new fun puzzle toy for the curious cracker, something new to pick apart and rebuild. They bloody love DRM, and the kudos and publicity they get from cracking that new DRM means more people download it, and since piracy actually helps increase sales by spreading word of mouth, publishers have to use DRM or they won’t get any publicity on the piracy sites.

      There you go, nailed you, Colbert style.

      It’s no more ridiculous than half the arguments on here anyway.

    • caliwyrm says:

      “It takes hundreds of employees several years to make a game.”

      Uhm, no, no it doesn’t. See: Minecraft. No real DRM, started as a 1 man operation–over 1 million in sales

      Honestly, I’ve found that the bigger the budget spent on making the game, the more it has sucked (I’m looking at you WarHammer online!)

    • jalf says:

      If I had a few million pounds to spare and someone came to me asking to help them fund a product that 5 times as many people will steal as will purchase legally, I’d laugh in their face.

      Even though enough people would still buy it to allow you to turn a profit?

      Anyway, the real problem with your argument is this:

      say the same people came to you and said “because 5 times as many people will steal it as will purchase it legally, we are going to stomp on the foot of every one of our legal customers. 5 times as many people will *still* steal it, but now we’re inconveniencing our paying customers to compensate. Will you invest if we do that?”

      That’s DRM. The pirates are not affected by it, but the legal users are. And yet this is supposed make it a better proposition?

    • Chufty says:

      I accept that DRM affects paying customers not pirates. But we’re gamers, investors aren’t. You need to allay their fears in order to get funding, and that’s why DRM exists.

      It’s not just about turning a profit either, it’s about turning enough of a profit to warrant tying away millions of pounds for several years.

      Most games are multiplatform now, which means you effectively sell the same product to 3 different groups of consumers . We as PC gamers know how lazy PC ports of console games are, so it’s not like they spend a lot of time and money making these ports. That’s why games come out on the PC; they already have the game coded anyway, why not spend a few thousand pounds porting it on the cheap?

      I also completely and utterly reject this broken-record argument that Deano so kindly played back to us, that piracy increases sales, generates interest, blah blah. Seriously, what a load of nonsense. If, tomorrow, some utter genius figured out a completely foolproof way of eradicating software piracy, then PC game sales would skyrocket.

      What else are the 85% of people who pirated World of Goo going to do with their time? Start collecting stamps?

  48. Damien Neil says:

    I’m going to defend some DRM, just a bit.

    The most acceptable form of DRM, to me, is the equivalent of the lock on a filing cabinet at work. Filing cabinets have terrible locks. Just about anyone can pick them with a few minutes of practice, and they’re easily broken. Locking your filing cabinet doesn’t do anything to keep out someone who wants to steal your stuff.

    The lock on a filing cabinet is an advisory lock. It says, “Hey, the stuff in here is private. You aren’t supposed to be poking around in it.” It’s there to keep out decent people. This is a good and useful thing, even if it isn’t much good against the determined thief.

    In the same way, needing to enter a registration code to unlock a game is advisory. (Yes, a registration code is a form of DRM.) The code a reminder that the game is purchased, and that I might not want to just distribute it among my friends willy-nilly. Pirates can crack off the code requirement easily enough, but the check isn’t there to stop them–it’s for the decent people.

    There’s a wide range of severity in DRM. You’ve got the once ubiquitous CD check. You’ve got fixed product keys. You’ve got product keys tied to a name–anyone can use my key, but their software will declare that it’s registered to me. You’ve got one-time online activation checks. You’ve got always-on-and-the-game-turns-off-if-your-network-bobbles checks. You’ve got eat-your-DVD-drive-just-because-we-can Starforce.

    The old CD check was a pain in the neck, because who wants to juggle discs just to play a game? It did have the nice effect, however, of making it clear who owned the game: If you’ve got the disc, the game is yours. Give the disc to a friend or sell it, and it isn’t yours any more and you can’t play it without cracking off the DRM.

    I certainly don’t lament the departure of the CD check. And I don’t hold any truck with UBI’s always-on DRM folderol–I still haven’t played Settlers 7, since I refuse to have anything to do with that nonsense. I think there’s a reasonable argument for the role of a simple, one-time activation, however.

    Yes, this means that in ten years when the publisher is dead and gone, my game may not work. My ten year old games mostly don’t work anyway, thanks to the march of technology and operating systems…not to mention the loss of discs. When I want to replay an old classic, I go visit Good Old Games. If they don’t have it…well, the Internet provides, and I feel no shame in pirating something that I own anyway.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Well said.

      Honestly, I don’t get why they don’t just use both. I think 99% of people would be perfectly fine with that. Either you log-in every time you want to play online, or if you can’t/won’t, you put the disc in. I guess maybe it lets two people play at once but it’s a hard one to argue against.

    • Dozer says:

      I like the PuppyGames DRM method (which I only know about from reading their ‘we have awesome DRM’ page – I haven’t used their games – yet!!) – you buy the game, and your real name and email appear when the game starts. You can share the full game without restriction, but the user will see your real name and email when the game starts. The information comes from your credit card when you purchase the game. If you trust someone with your name and email address, PuppyGames say it’s OK to lend them the game you bought.

      21st-century equivalent to ‘who holds the game disk’ perhaps?

    • caliwyrm says:

      “The lock on a filing cabinet is an advisory lock. It says, “Hey, the stuff in here is private. You aren’t supposed to be poking around in it.” It’s there to keep out decent people. This is a good and useful thing, even if it isn’t much good against the determined thief.”

      But would you trust someone that doesn’t work at your company to install and maintain the locks for YOUR files?

      “Sorry you can’t access your TPS reports today, but Ed is out of the office today and can’t get to your filing cabinet lock” is no different than any kind of online DRM during an outtage (either server or local internet)

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