Minutes after the rumors of Microsoft's heavy-handed DRM materialized this week, a mushroom cloud appeared just above the Internet. Gamers are understandably unhappy with the prospect of their beloved used game market slipping away, but people's comments are becoming irrational.
So, it's about time that we all discussed this like adults.
First of all, we don't know how this type of DRM is going to affect the market, so stop trying to convince everyone that it's going to kill gaming. It's not.
This morning, Will Greenwald over at PCMag penned a little piece entitled "Always-On DRM, Used Game Restrictions Will Destroy Next Xbox, PlayStation. In it, he makes a few very good points about the types of alternatives that Microsoft and Sony could use in favor of their DRM, but the idea that this is going to "destroy" anything is a bit ridiculous.
When the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 (or whatever we're going to call them) eventually hit the market, gamers might be apprehensive about shelling out the cash. But it's certainly not going to be due to some self-satisfied notion that their rejection of DRM implementation is a message to the developers. The fact is, when Halo 5 and Uncharted 4 are announced, consoles are going to fly off the shelves.
That's the nature of gaming. As long as publishers are making good games, gamers will keep buying them. This is a good thing. DRM protection isn't going to stop gamers from gaming.
Plus, we all need to admit that piracy is a huge problem for publishers. Sure, most of us might be legally purchasing our favorite games, but that doesn't mean publishers don't have to deal with it. Between 2004 and 2009, the handheld gaming industry lost about 41.5 billion dollars due to piracy. And those numbers only cover losses to Sony's PlayStation Portable and Nintendo's DS handheld.
And PC piracy is far worse.
Last September, Sony DADC's Reinhard Blaukovitsch sat down with Eurogamer to discuss the topic. "Piracy levels, depending on country, range between 40 percent and 80 percent," Blaukovitsch said, and "the commercial value of global software piracy is growing by 14 percent annually."
Obviously, piracy is less problematic for console developers, but that doesn't mean it's not a problem. And with the massive surge in piracy over the last few years, I can understand why Sony and Microsoft are nervous.
On the other hand, if the purpose behind these sorts of DRM is to quash the used game market, the issue becomes even more complicated. Retailers that thrive on used games, like GameStop, would be forced to revamp their business plan or close their doors altogether.
And, I think we can all agree that this is a bad thing.
However, the fact that publishers don't receive a dime for their games on the used market means that they're missing out on a hefty chunk of revenue. And, regardless of your opinions about property ownership, any loss of revenue makes it more difficult for publishers and developers to survive in an increasingly volatile market.
Whatever happens, there's no need to panic. If the used game market shrinks, we'll probably start seeing more subscription services and discount programs. PlayStation Plus proves that Sony is already willing to give gamers insane discounts if they're willing to play by the rules. And I'm sure you're already addicted to Steam's sales.
So, the future isn't as bleak as many people seem to think. In fact, for those of us who steer clear of piracy, gaming might become a more affordable hobby.
Date: February 8, 2013