Three little letters which have far outstayed their welcome.
Software piracy is just about as old as the internet itself. Since the earlier days when the “copy / paste” functionality was invented, there have been those who would seek to exploit it for their own benefit. While piracy of today is obviously much more complex (taking entire teams of devoted individuals to breakdown the complex codes in some cases) it’s still being done on a regular basis. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a single PC title on store shelves that doesn’t have a pirated doppelganger housed on a torrent site somewhere. At this point, it’s done for sheer sport more than anything else.
And as a result, the evil monster that is DRM was born.
Much like the Sentinels we recently saw in X-Men: Days of Future Past, DRM started out as a way to protect us. However, not only did it have zero effect as a deterrent (as pirates easily dance around it) but it has now become the bane of many PC gamers. One simple Google search will turn up hundreds (if not thousands) of horror stories where honest customers are being tormented by the very product they so eagerly paid good money for. All because of DRM.
Thankfully, there are those in the industry that recognize this flawed system is doing more harm than good, and have ultimately said NO MAS. The anti-DRM movement has seemingly picked up steam among game developers, as the outcry from mouse and keyboard gamers continues to grow louder. To their credit, CD Projekt Red was the first to draw a line in the sand and denounce the use of DRM (garnering some serious good will among their consumer base). Now it would appear a new wind is blowing, as one of the biggest names in the industry is also speaking out! Ubisoft’s VP of digital publishing Chris Early stated developers must stop “…punishing a paying player for what a pirate can get around. Anything is going to be able to be pirated given enough time and enough effort to get in there. So the question becomes, what do we create as services, or as benefits, and the quality of the game, that will just have people want to pay for it?"
But if the rug was somehow yanked out from under DRM, where would we go from here?
Don’t get me wrong. I can sympathize with those who pour countless man-hours as well as other financial resources into a game project, just to see it snatched up by the piracy community and distributed illegally around the net. But as I’ve said in the past, even a child can see that punishing legitimate customers with asinine restrictions (while the pirates LOL behind their ski masks) has never been a good strategy. Granted, DRM may have seemed like an acceptable safeguard at first, but it’s been allowed to limp on for far too long. Frankly, I see it as a reflection of the misguided mentality of those in high places within the industry.
But again, this brings us back to the point: if not DRM…then what? Early feels the problem can be solved from the inside out. By focusing on content and a killer experience, the Ubisoft rep believes we can overcome piracy by simply giving people what they truly want: must-have gaming. “I think it's much more important for us to focus on making a great game and delivering good services.” He explains. “The reality is, the more service there is in a game… you're incentivized to not pirate the game to get the full experience."
As I sit here racking my brain, I find the magic bullet (which will solve both the DRM and piracy issues simultaneously) is lost on me. I must admit, I don’t have a “one size fits all” solution. However, I do have enough common sense to know when something works and when something doesn’t. Not only does DRM as a security measure NOT work, it’s also harmful. Scratch that, it’s much more than harmful…it’s toxic!
Think of it this way, you wouldn’t burn your house down just to prevent burglars from robbing you, as I imagine you’d see that as a fairly stupid idea. DRM is a stupid idea as well. Why has it been allowed to continue on this long?