One in the hand is worth more than two in the digital bush…
People steal. Since the dawn of time, people who want what you have will seek to take it away. It will be like this till the end of mankind. We live in a digital age, with many of our goods and services existing not in the real world, but rather as ones and zeros in the ether. This has allowed for a new age of so-called digital theft. It’s permeated industries such as music and film, and now, for years, it’s reared its ugly head in gaming as well. However, now things are a little more serious than the days of “Don’t copy that floppy!” In an attempt to stop what they consider a huge loss in revenue, developers have put in place advanced DRM systems to protect themselves from pirates.
The problem is, not only do these new tactics fail to stop people from pirating software; they hurt the legitimate customer in the process.
One of the most outspoken critics of the DRM system as of late has been The Witcher developer (and CEO of CD Projekt Red) Marcin Iwinski. So much so, that the latest release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will ship with absolutely no DRM features whatsoever. So how can Iwinski be comfortable launching a game into the wild without the coveted protection that DRM provides against the pirates of the world? Simple, he says that it’s all a ruse! Iwinski says that many in the gaming industry know that DRM (as a deterrent) offers zero projection against piracy. He claims most games with DRM are already cracked the day they launch, providing little too no assurance that people will be unable to illegally access copies of their games. The biggest draw to having DRM packed in (even if it doesn’t work) is more of a CYA measure by those in the industry. When the time comes to explain to stockholders or Board of Directors why they are not receiving this piece of “lost” profit share, it helps to have a scapegoat. Consider this: If you’re walking into a room full of revenue-minded individuals (I picture 12 Scrooge McDucks with the cartoon dollars signs over their eyes), you have to have SOME explanation as to why this chunk of the pie isn’t lining their pockets. So, by having what Iwinski calls the “smokescreen” of DRM, they have an alibi. They can point to the DRM and say, “Look, we tried to stop them.”
The issue here is, their get out of jail free card is making legit gamers’ lives miserable.
You’re just never going to stop piracy. I’m sorry game developers, but that’s just a fact of life. There are those out there who thrive on the challenge of cracking your systems, no matter how high you build the digital wall. You also have to stop seeing people who pirate games as a loss of revenue. This is a completely ass-backward approach. By focusing on people who never had any intent on purchasing your product in the first place, you screw with people who do. There have been issues in the past thanks to misguided attempts at protecting software from pirates. Due to an Internet connection being required to “verify” legal copies of games, players who actually paid money were rejected access (due to server problems). Also, DRM restricts how and where you can enjoy your own game. God forbid you might want to take your favorite DRM-based game on vacation. Just try installing and transferring this licensing info from your desktop to your laptop (which isn’t even possible in some cases). I’ll bet your vacation will have come and gone before you get it to work. This is all due to the fact that developers won’t admit the inevitable: People who want to do illegal things will do them with or without your permission. Cracking down on your paying customers with advanced security features (that we already know are completely ineffective) just alienates your base.
I can tell you that I’ve searched the interwebs for a hack or two in my day. Not exactly illegal stuff, but simple things like patches that allow you to play the game you installed without having to run the disc in the tray all the time. A fine line maybe, but convenient nonetheless. I know for a fact that some people will actually forgo purchasing the legal copy of a game (who normally would have) in favor of downloading it illegally, just so they have the freedom of the DRM being removed. In this instance, game developers are actually taking money out of their own pockets. Of course, I’m not advocating stealing, nor should we deny developers their hard-earned revenue. I’m simply saying that developers need to stop chasing ghosts they’ll never catch, which just crushes the morale of their loyal consumer base in the process.
Until DRM goes away, game companies just seem like the mob, shaking you down and then telling you, “You should appreciate this. It’s for your own protection.”