The Vicious Cycle of Gaming DRM

Discussion in 'Reviews and Articles (Archived)' started by Rob Williams, Apr 23, 2010.

  1. Rob Williams

    Rob Williams Editor-in-Chief Staff Member Moderator

    12,080
    1
    Jan 12, 2005
    Atlantic Canada
    From music to movies to software and games, we can't seem to use a computer today without encountering some form of DRM. That's not even the worst of it, as the situation continues to decline over time. Taking a look at things from a gaming perspective, what can we do as gamers to help put DRM back on the right path?

    You can read Brett's thought-provoking look at gaming and DRM here and discuss it here!
     
  2. Doomsday

    Doomsday Tech Junkie

    1,477
    0
    Nov 24, 2008
    KHI, PAK
    SKIDROW cracked Ubi's stupid DRM! and now people who r legits r downloading it to get away from the crapp Ubi came up with! SKIDROW's readme file has a message for Ubisoft:

    "Thank you Ubisoft, this was quiet a challenge for us, but nothing stops the leading force from doing what we do. Next time focus on the game and not on the DRM. It was probably horrible for all legit users. We just make their lives easier."
     
  3. TWLOHA

    TWLOHA Obliviot

    10
    0
    Feb 15, 2010
    PEI, Canada
    Did anyone else catch the spelling mistake in SKIDROW's readme?
     
  4. Doomsday

    Doomsday Tech Junkie

    1,477
    0
    Nov 24, 2008
    KHI, PAK
    does it matter!:rolleyes:
     
  5. Rob Williams

    Rob Williams Editor-in-Chief Staff Member Moderator

    12,080
    1
    Jan 12, 2005
    Atlantic Canada
    Brett, thanks a ton for this editorial, as you essentially took many words straight out of my mouth. And here I thought we <em>didn't</em> exactly see eye-to-eye on this subject :)

    "Vicious circle" is a great way to put it, because while most gamers are craving the end of DRM, companies are amping their respective schemes up to combat it. You might pirate a game instead of paying for it, but it's simple... that's the reason these companies are conjuring up some of the worst DRM schemes we've ever seen (especially Ubisoft's and EA's Internet-required schemes... ouch).

    Not playing the game, and not buying it, are the two best ways to combat DRM. Companies aren't going to continue with harsh DRM schemes if people simply aren't playing the games because of it, but as far as I can tell, things are only going to continue getting worse.

    I am almost wondering if we're bound to hit a wall for the severity of DRM, because it continues to get worse and worse, and SURELY at some point, the scheme that's in place is truly going to bother far too many gamers, and <em>then</em> we'll possibly see a revolt and companies will be forced to change things.

    I've said it before, but it's the pirates that are having the easiest times with these games. They download, crack it, and enjoy. All the while legal customers have to literally jump through hoops, and in some cases, feel virtually forced into downloading a crack. That's NOT how things should be. These developers need to focus less on piracy, because it's NOT getting them anywhere, and start creating DRM schemes that are fair to the consumer.

    The fact that you can't trade or sell games on services like Steam is bothersome, but that's for the most part the only issue I have with the platform. If I buy a game, I can play it on ANY computer (barring that the game includes additional DRM, like some of them do). That to me is fairly good DRM, because it means in order to play, I need to log into my Steam account, and that likewise means that MY copy is not going to be pirated.

    I'll never be a fan of any form of DRM I'm sure, but Steam is doing quite a bit right. Being offline and wanting to play a Steam game is troublesome, but being kicked offline for a minute and losing all gameplay is even worse (like Assassin's Creed 2, C&C 4).

    I'm really interested to see where DRM is heading, but I have a good feeling none of us have anything good to look forward to, unless the industry finally clues in (it won't).
     
  6. b1lk1

    b1lk1 Tech Monkey

    801
    0
    Mar 1, 2006
    Ontario
    As far as I am concerned the end user has nothing to complain about with DRM. I have yet to have a problem with any game I own that was not solved. I had a real problem with EA Games digital download not activating my game (Need For Speed Pro Street) due to to many installs, but they eventually fixed the issue. I use Valve extensively and it is pretty much the only platform I even buy my games from. Nothing like buying yesterday's game for 50% off or even more.

    Piracy needs to end. I, for one, have no problem publicly stating that pirates need to be legally punished. This "right to have it free" attitude makes me want to puke. Every time I see this I lash out with the predictable response towards me that I am a facist or a company lover. These companies DO deserve to make money off the products they sell. I equate piracy to stealing groceries, yet most people call that analogy false.

    Anyhow, sadly piracy will most likely never go away so I expect to see more draconian DRM measures in the future like Sony's recent removal of "Other OS" to prevent piracy there. Until the world smartens up, which is just not gonna happen in our lifetime, this will continue to grow.
     
  7. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    It's NOT like stealing groceries. That analogy is false by definition. It's stealing information. When you steal groceries, you are stealing from many parties. You are stealing from the store - that item no longer belongs to them. You are also stealing from other customers, who are no longer able to have the item. Even worse, you are preventing the store from recouping the loss of their original purchase of the item. If it is expensive enough, the store might involve insurance, and then you are stealing from the insurance company as well.

    Piracy is completely different. You are copying some bits of information, with no one the wiser. Other customers may still purchase the item (as many copies as they want or could do before). The company may still potentially be able to sell the same amount as they would have before. There is no piracy insurance to get involved, although you could say that the money the company spent on their drm scheme is a bit of a loss.

    I guess the issue is that each individual pirating really doesn't cause anyone problems. It is only a problem because it is so widespread and so many people do it. It's impossible to measure how much money is being lost from piracy. It is potentially zero, of course that's ridiculously unlikely. It's also potentially the amount of money if you take every pirated copy of a game and multiply that by 50, although that's equally unlikely. There is some percentage of pirated copies which may have been a sale if there were absolutely no way to pirate.

    If the most advanced drm is costing ubisoft x dollars, and everything is eventually pirated anyway resulting in x dollars lost, and there are x lost sales from people who don't like the drm... It's not becoming clear to me why companies are interested in x dollars lost with no dollars gained. Seems idiotic. Valve has the right idea. Provide some value, you have to put some x dollars gained into the equation!

    For the record I mostly agree with the article, and try not to pirate games. I'm an addict, so I cannot only play what games I can afford, even though I buy a lot of games. I even tend to eventually buy a game I pirated if i played it a lot. Not that the piracy is OK. But you can't analyze an issue without understanding it, and looking at it in terms of theft is the wrong way.

    computer games are non-rivalrous and non-excludable:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rivalry_(economics)
     
  8. Brett Thomas

    Brett Thomas Senior Editor

    149
    0
    Apr 10, 2009
    I actually agree quite a bit with what our dear friend "Unregistered" has added here. It's hard to quantify the damage of piracy, and I think both sides really do a great job of abusing that fact for their personal gains. Pirates say "I wouldn't have bought it anyhow," and companies say "everyone who played it obviously was interested enough to buy it." Neither one is at all accurate. And it IS harder because piracy is non-injurious to anyone but the publisher, who paid money for a game that does not sell as many copies as float out in the real world.

    The thing s/he said that I really wanted to reply to though, is the lack of understanding in regard to the continued expense of DRM. Make no mistake, companies do not enter into DRM with the intention of stopping piracy. Certainly, sane ones do not (I've had this discussion with both Bethesda and Valve before). It's the DELAY, the effort to stall people out for that precious first couple weeks where the buzz saturates the market and the anxious consumer will actually get out and buy it. It used to be over a month, but big releases are so popular now and crackers so dedicated that the window continues to shrink. Most, if not all, of a game's long-term profitability is determined by its first week to two weeks, because that will determine whether retailers buy another block of units.

    This is, by the way, the same reason game companies now do their best to saturate with advertising (and are sticking so tightly to sequels, which carry brand recognition) on a run-up to release day: Because once it goes out into the wild, the clock is ticking faster and faster between release and success, or release and flop. The longer the DRM holds, the better the chances.

    Not defending the tactic, but it's food for thought. :)
     
  9. b1lk1

    b1lk1 Tech Monkey

    801
    0
    Mar 1, 2006
    Ontario
    Sorry, piracy = theft.

    People that pirate software = criminals.

    You can spin it any way you like, but it is theft and a crime. I love how people manage to convince themselves it is somehow OK to steal software. I love the way they rationalize it and make it seem like they are not doing any harm.

    You have taken someone's property illegally. Period. Rationalize away....
     
  10. No offense, but this is called anecdotal evidence. Not to say you are lying, but a sample size of one is useless. To claim end users should just grin and accept any DRM scheme is laughable at best.

    In addition, the fact that you admit to having problems with DRM, as a legitimate user, that require ANY sort of action by the publisher to solve, would indicate that for you DRM has caused more harm than good. By your own admission you are not a pirate(inferred) and so DRM has no possible benefit to you, only possible problems.

    By all other evidence, DRM does NOT prevent piracy, only at best delays it, so what exactly is your reason for supporting DRM?

    For the record, I don't pirate, and I only buy games that don't have insane DRM schemes, but that selection of games seems like it will only shrink in the future. I agree with the end of the original article, that yes, voting with your wallet is the way to go, even though it will be a miracle if a significant number of people boycott big name games because of DRM, such as the upcoming Starcraft 2.
     
  11. Rob Williams

    Rob Williams Editor-in-Chief Staff Member Moderator

    12,080
    1
    Jan 12, 2005
    Atlantic Canada
    I agree with b1lk1 that piracy equals theft, because that's a fact. But I don't at all agree that people should just put up with DRM, because as I said earlier, DRM hurts legal users, not pirates. See what I did there? Triple emphasis for the win.

    I haven't been bit by DRM too hard in the past, but the last time it happened, I was truly annoyed and vowed to stay away from any game with ridiculous DRM. The last game was S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, which I paid $40 for on Steam (that was the release price). I was using it for benchmarking, and because I was using it across a couple of graphics cards, I had to reactivate each time I installed a new GPU. Five GPU's later, and the game was effectively a virtual paperweight.

    Am I supposed to just put up with DRM like this? I don't think so. I likely COULD have called the company, and explained the situation, and had the game reactivated, but what good would that do? It would have wasted my time, and the game would have wound up in the same state mere days later as I tested even more GPU's. The solution? I had to download a crack, and after it stopped working due to a game update, I just gave up on it entirely.

    It must not have been only me that the DRM bothered, because the follow-up title, Call of Pripyat, doesn't have any DRM at all according to its Steam page.
     
  12. b1lk1

    b1lk1 Tech Monkey

    801
    0
    Mar 1, 2006
    Ontario
    I never said I overwhelmingly support DRM. I just know that I have never had an issue with the concept it. I don't care that they put it in software and I never will. If I had issues with one specific DRM scheme I would not use the software it was protecting.

    And the specific issue I listed ALSO got corrected might I add....
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2010
  13. Kougar

    Kougar Techgage Staff Staff Member

    2,588
    0
    Mar 6, 2008
    Texas
    Great editorial, Brett! I agree with all points you've made.

    Something not directly touched on is the gamers that attempt to take the high road by claiming they would never have bought the game, but they do hurt the actual publisher. Sure, digital downloads mean no physical copy was ever stolen from the publisher's shelves, and if a torrent site was used then they didn't even incur bandwidth costs from the publisher.

    But what they fail to realize is it costs serious money to host online games servers, or online environments and worlds that the pirates then use. And it costs money to host bandwidth for all those game patches and extra game content, that the pirates then download and use themselves, and each time there is another patch or update.

    Events like this kill publishers. http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2009/04/demigod-hit-by-massive-piracy-review-scores-take-beating.ars There was no DRM at all in that game, yet pirates not only hurt the publisher by creating a bad game experience for legitimate buyers, but the issues created led many review sites to publish reviews claiming the online service was poor and had serious problems. Which in turn only further hurt Demigod's sales and the game's reputation. And it was the fault of the pirates alone to blame, when the game itself had zero DRM protection whatsoever.

    If a game developer saw that, what would they deduce? That they need to incorporate DRM just to protect themselves and the legitimate customers. Demigod had to spend thousands to rent emergency servers and bandwidth to try and negate the server loads on launch day, and then spend the next few days figuring out what to do about it. But the early online reviews critiquing the online game experience remain, and the damage is still done.

    Demigod is just the easy example. For years there have been many game launches where pirates far outnumber legitimate users on these online matchmaking services or onlne worlds that require anywhere from a few servers, to entire server farms to host. The arguement that stealing an electronic "copy" of a game doesn't hurt the publisher is a fallacy, unless the pirate NEVER plays it online, never downloads patches for it, and never links it to their friends to also download it instead of buying it.


    So very true! I hear this all the time from friends on my list or people I'm in game with. Even those people that do pirate most games seem to actually buy them because of Steam's huge sales discounts. For $5-15 for a game is it really worth the hassle, risk, and time spent finding a working cracked copy versus just buying the game? For them the answer is often no, they wait for a sale and then buy it cheaply. Everyone is then happy.

    It's a valid question, but I am one of them. Every time I buy a game that disappointed me or frankly sucks I would sell it to recoup the money I had wasted. When games cost $40-60 a pop is an expensive thing to buy and then not use, or not like and never play again, leaving it on the shelf to collect dust.

    I started to buy Supreme Commander 2 on disc for exactly this reason, but after a shipping delay I took the risk and bought it on Steam for a slight discount. The game is indeed not really worthwhile and simply repackaged the SC name on a very basic imitation of the original. Every friend I played SC Forged Alliance with bought it, and now no longer plays it, some would gladly sell it if they could. I'd rather have that money back to put into a different game.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2010
  14. b1lk1

    b1lk1 Tech Monkey

    801
    0
    Mar 1, 2006
    Ontario
    A simple solution to thwart pirates is to just charge a monthly fee for server use to play online games. Even something as simple as $1 a month would be enough since it would cause a person to physically connect their name and identity to the connection on the server. I would doubt few pirates would have the balls to actually do this since they are mostly cowards anyways. Game devs could just drop the price or even offer longtime customers free time to make up for it. Either way the idiots that won't pay to buy the game certainly won't be the first in line to pay anything for online play.
     
  15. Rob Williams

    Rob Williams Editor-in-Chief Staff Member Moderator

    12,080
    1
    Jan 12, 2005
    Atlantic Canada
    I don't think it's the concept that most people have an issue with, but rather the implementation. In addition to that game issue I mentioned above, a couple of months after Windows Vista launched, I experienced another sort of show-stopper. Once again, I swapped out some hardware, and after the reboot, I had a deactivated version of Windows, replete with black desktop.

    As I'm a nighthawk, this issue crept up at around 2:30AM. Microsoft's customer service lines were closed, so I was out of luck until the morning. The better solution? I could download a crack, and get back to action right away.

    Isn't it a bit silly when you so strongly feel the need to crack your LEGAL software? After all, pirates don't ever have such issues. It seems that in addition to actually PAYING for the product, you risk issues like these that make a legal purchase look even less desirable.

    Microsoft to me is just a perfect example of how DRM can be so horrible. An improved example is Autodesk. We use a couple of that company's products in our testing, and despite each piece of software being valued at well over $3,000, I have reactivated them time and time again without issue. Adobe is another decent example. While it still requires you call to reactivate, it at least allows you to deactivate before moving an installation over to another machine (Autodesk allows this too, but I always forget). If only you could do that with Windows...

    Or, more important, the companies need money to continue developing future games, to pay developers, et cetera. It blows my mind that some people just have such disregard for these facts. I bet you anything that if they went to work for a week and didn't get paid for it, they wouldn't sit by idly.

    As for that Ars Technica link, that's a good one. I actually somehow completely missed that story when it first broke, but it's a model example of how damaging piracy can be in less-than-obvious ways. And some people wonder why some companies actually fly reviewers in to review the game rather than sending out samples. I never thought of leaks hurting game developers in such ways before, quite the eye-opener.

    That's a solution, but it has two issues. Legal customers would be upset at having to pay additional amounts of money for what should be included in the game, and pirates would just hack the game in order to run private servers. The latter happens all the time, unfortunately.
     
  16. b1lk1

    b1lk1 Tech Monkey

    801
    0
    Mar 1, 2006
    Ontario
    I can't say I have had an activation issue with Windows since Vista. I have killed my install and needed to reinstall or reactivate atleast 100 times for various reasons over the years and have always been able to make a quick call to the auto pilot at Microsoft Activation and had a new install ID within 5 minutes. The only time I have had utter failure and no new install ID was with an OEM copy I tried to move to another machine and that is obviously a well known no no.

    As for the pay-per-use scheme, I mean the game devs would be forced to run dedicated servers as to be able to implement my scheme. The price of the game would have to be lowered quite a bit as well to make sure the legit users would not care. I realize it is nowhere near a perfect scheme, but it could be a start.
     
  17. Brett Thomas

    Brett Thomas Senior Editor

    149
    0
    Apr 10, 2009
    I haven't been cursed with the activation issues of Windows either...but that's because I cracked my perfectly legal copy of Vista, and then I never installed another MS operating system.

    The monthly-pay for online services is an unfortunate implementation that I would consider far more onerous than just about any other DRM. It would certainly prevent me from buying a game. In fact, the monthly charge is actually what has always prevented me from even getting far enough into an MMO to enjoy it. If I buy a game, I shouldn't have to pay you to fix it. And I shouldn't have to pay you to access it. That's why I bought it! Now, if you want to release the client for free and charge for the service, I could get next to that. Or, like Guild Wars did, where you bought the game but didn't pay monthly. But both? No chance.

    Even a dollar, having to cancel a subscription when I wasn't playing and re-up when I was, or worse, paying for something I wasn't using at the time. I'm the kind of guy who goes away from a game for MONTHS and then meanders back for another play-through.

    It's a shame that it really IS one of the most sensible solutions I've seen on the subject, and yet it is one that would turn me away from any game...I prefer to think that Steam is a better example of a middle ground. But, I'm also a unique animal because I very rarely use the online component of a game, and the first one that introduced a lot of online content that I thought was GOOD was Demon Souls (because it was still a single player game).
     
  18. Rob Williams

    Rob Williams Editor-in-Chief Staff Member Moderator

    12,080
    1
    Jan 12, 2005
    Atlantic Canada
    3 Minutes * 100 Calls

    ...

    Yeah, DRM sure doesn't waste your time. ;)
     
  19. Kougar

    Kougar Techgage Staff Staff Member

    2,588
    0
    Mar 6, 2008
    Texas
    Heh, I'm up to my 4th call to Microsoft's automated phone system to reactivate Windows 7 64bit. Only one time was it a legitimate reason (switching out the motherboard), all the others were reinstalls on the same system or reboots where it suddenly acted as if the hardware changed.
     
  20. TheFocusElf

    TheFocusElf Obliviot

    48
    0
    Mar 1, 2005
    I don't pirate software of any kind anymore for three reasons :

    1) Spyware and Viruses - While I was always pretty savvy and it is true that most keygens simply generated false positives - every once in a while, I would find a system-ending piece of malware that'd cause me to write zeros and do a fresh reinstall of EVERYTHING!

    2) I can afford to support the people who make the stuff now! Quite simply I never pirated to be some bad-ass warez hound - I just could not afford XY or Z and had the skill to obtain it through other means. I would expect only people who never once downloaded an MP3 illegally or piece of software to flame at me on this.

    3) Because of 2, I seem to be going out of my way to buy up old crap on Steam and D2D just ... to put on my external hard drive on the off chance I want to play any of the old classics.

    DRM, though has become effing annoying. It'd be like listening to a disclaimer before a tune I purchased on iTunes would play.

    Recently bought Splinter Cell : Conviction - a pretty fun game - and I couldn't redeem any of the codes on launch day and several times it simply couldn't establish a connection to the authentication server so I just could not play (the servers were down as verified by the SplinterCell Forums.

    I just don't like it and I don't really see the point. Clearly as evidenced by Skidrow - groups exist out there to purvey 'warez' and will hack crack and destroy anything. I just made the $1000+ upgrade from CS3 to CS5 (CS4 wasn't worth it in my opinion, no support for AVCHD files or really competent support of x64 OSes - but CS5 is ... heavenly) and asked a colleague about the same age as me if he was upgrading. He told me he had cracked the CS5 Master Suite Trial. That's a $2500 piece of software ... wow. He can afford it too, at least his job provides him the petty coin to make such purchases. He always builds a new office/gaming PC every year.

    DRM really doesn't stop anything, much like the existence of the SEC doesn't really stop fraud, and speed limits don't prevent speeding or encourage safe driving. It just makes things a bit more tough on the rest of us, and I would argue necessarily.

    I like SKidrows comment about making things better and less annoying for 'the legits.' I might have to go snag a crack or two to remove the chastity belt from these games. Grrr.
     

Share This Page