DRM, a great way to ruin a game?

DRM (Digital Rights Management) has always been hated by a lot of people, it restricts what you can do with content you have paid your hard earned money for, and usually end’s up causing people who purchase the content problems. Where as people who simply pirate the content will never have any issues with it.

It’s hardly an incentive to purchase something when you can download it and get a better experience. Now i understand why content producers like DRM, it is supposed to protect content they produce from been freely shared.It also allows restrictions to be placed on the content you have purchased, for example you can only play this music on 2x devices. To complicate things more a device has to be able to handle the DRM embedded in a file, so if you purchase a TV Show on iTunes, that TV show is not going to play on your Android Tablet, Windows Phone, Linux powered media centre and so on… whats more that content has to be authorized for use by a remote server.

So here is where the big problem starts, what happens if that authorisation / activation server is down, taken offline, or if the company you purchased the content ceases to exist in a few years time, what happens to your content then? It will be like you don’t own it anymore as your essentially renting it. If you got a new PC for example, or re installed Windows that PC would want to download a licence for it, which it couldn’t do if the remote licencing server was offline. So the content you paid good money for is essentially useless.

Now compare that to somebody who just illegally downloaded it, the copy they have has no DRM and they have the freedom to use it on what ever device they wish. Sounds like the better deal to me does it?

Now you might say iTunes, Steam, Origin and other such services are so big they will be around forever. Well you would be wrong, take MSN Music for example. That service was pushed significantly by Microsoft back in the day, as an alternative to iTunes. MSN Music ended up not doing well and got closed down, with the activation servers eventually been taken offline too. So anyone who purchased content essentially wasted there money, I would imagine by now most people have since got a new PC, reformatted, or some how lost the licence to the content they own.

Yet again an MP3 downloaded from a torrent site back in 2004 will still work fine almost 10 years later, on ANY device capable of playing MP3’s.

Moving on to games, DRM is even more outrageous. Gamers have seen everything from DRM which will only let you install a game three times, to DRM that makes it mandatory for you to be connected to the internet when playing a game. This DRM goes as far as pausing your game if your connection is to drop when playing the game!

Including such outrageous DRM with a game has often caused a huge internet wide backlash, take Spore for example. Back in 2008 Spore was one of the most anticipated games of the year, the game had blown away the people who have played it. However the game included DRM which only allowed it to be installed three times… so why would anyone purchase a game know that? well that’s exactly the majority of gamers thought too. Spore became the most pirated game in history and one of the worst rated games on Amazon, the game currently has 2,614 1 star ratings on amazon, compared to 278 5 star ratings, mostly thanks to the DRM included with the game. So again the question is why would anyone knowingly purchase a game which would become useless after 2x re installs? especially if you download the game you can re install it as many times as you like?

DRM doesn’t stop people from pirating a game, It only hurts legitimate customers since the DRM is removed from the pirate version, yet the major players, EA Games in particular don’t appear to understand this. I could give more examples, however we will move on to the present where once again EA Games have another disaster on there hands, due to DRM.

This time we have always on-line DRM, which as you can probably guess means you have to be online and have an active connection to EA’s server if you are to play the game.

Sim City is the latest victim of DRM, the game requires a consent connection to EA’s servers to be played. Sim City has had problems from day one, the servers couldn’t cope with people playing the game rendering the game unplayable for days as EA attempted to add more servers. Now you would think that EA would be aware of how many pre-orders of Sim City were made through Origin, EA’s own digital distribution platform along with other major retailers such as Amazon, allowing them to have the infrastructure in place to support the DRM from day one?

Well nope EA don’t appear to care once the money has changed hands, an unhappy customer who was asking for a refund was threatened with a ban on his Origin account when asking for a refund.

but I must inform you that if you choose to dispute it, your account will be banned.

Great way to treat your customers, especially when EA have already received so much criticism for making it mandatory for the player to always be on-line.

DRM only hurts the consumer

The consumers relationship with DRM

The reasoning for Sim City requiring an always on connections was because the game has some dynamic content that updates in real time, and allows you to visit your friends city. With that in mind I understand why this game would need to be on-line  however surely it wouldn’t hurt to allow the game to have an offline mode without the social features?

Days after the games launch it was proved that the game could function perfectly fine with no internet connection. An anonymous developer who worked on the Sim City has even stated it wouldn’t take much work to make Sim City totally playable offline. So why make it mandatory to always be on-line? it hardly seems worth the effort given so many people don’t like the idea, along with the sheer bad reputation the game has gained.

Sim City is currently rated 1.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon, hardly great for a game that could have gained amazing ratings with ease, considering how much a new game in the series has been anticipated by gamers.

So with the above in mind always on-line DRM cant really be a good thing can it? I guess from the developer / publishers point of view its all about maximising the first few weeks of sales without loosing the game to piracy, as that’s when any new major game is going to sell the most. However almost all games are uploaded to the internet on the day of release, if not weeks before. Take Black Ops 2 for example, that was all over the internet 3 weeks before it went on sale, yet despite that Activevision announced:

Black Ops 2 has generated $500 million in 24 hours, making it the highest-earning day-one Call of Duty title to date.

So despite been available on the internet three weeks before release, Black Ops 2 made half a billion $ in under 24 hours… so my point again, why make life more difficult for people who are passionate about the game and purchase it, with such intrusive DRM?

My personal opinion is that DRM only makes life difficult for people who actually purchase the product, pirates end up with the easier, and better product a lot of the time.

Matt Hill

Matt Hill is in his mid 20′s and has a passion for technology. Matt studied Computer and Network Administration at University and currently works as an IT Administrator for a company based in his home town.

2 Comments

  1. Eddy F Watts   •  

    I absolutely agree I hate drm: I have been playing computer games since the 80’s and have amassed a large collection (I have all the tomb raider series) and still, maintain some win95, 98 & xp! machines to play them, This was great originally with serial protection, which I have no problems with. But now my latest games which I have paid and bought for since the onset of drm are basically junk. Having changed my email adress and stream account, and suffering a drive crash in which I lost all my passwords I find these games which I thought I owned (after all money did change hands), can no longer be reinstalled as they were installed previously to different email and passwords. No problem I thought I will contact the manufacturer to get them released – what a Joke that was. Most have not answered my emails (as that is how they want to be contated) and the one who has wants so much information of a game i bought a year ago (ie copy of receiept – which i dont have any more) its virtually impossible to sort out. There is no doubt that the modern games graphics and ai are fantatsic – who remebers early doom & quake, so I will continue to purchas games even with drm, as I seem to have no choice in the matter, if I want to carry on playing games. It just means that i make a copy in a large notebook of all passwords, receipts etc. And yes I do feel like getting hold of pirated copies, as usual its the law abiding citizen who suffers most,as I really can’t see how drm is supposed to stop pirating. Finally I would like to draw your attention to Gog .com who are releasing games legitamallly stripped of drm, and are doing some really good deals price wise, I have just purchase Witcher, with loads of add ons for a very small cost. Fair play to them lest hope thay manage to carry on .

    • Matt Hill   •     Author

      Very sorry to here you have lost so many games, i can only imagine how gutting that was. Your right though once money has changed hands that’s it, your usually on your own with any problems like that.

      I do agree i really like what GoG are doing, some of the classic games on Good Old Games are so much better than modern games.

      What i do for all my online accounts now is use an application called OnePassword: https://agilebits.com/onepassword. It basically stores all your passwords, locally on your PC in an encrypted vault and has a nice web browser plugin which allows you to enter your main password, then the application unlocks and automatically logs you in to the website.

      You can sync your OnePassword data between computers using Dropbox, or even just as a network share. I’ve found that i have 200 logins for many websites and services so this has really helped me with the problem of having so many different passwords and accounts to remember.

      I realise One Password is around £30-40 however for the cost one one game i think its more than worth it to keep your digital life securely in order. Just remember to backup your data for it, i do it to both Dropbox and a USB drive every so often.

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