Video game makers and their customers have always had a special relationship. The kind of relationship that makes you go all fuzzy inside after having a hot chocolate beside a fireplace in a cold winter night. Let me start this again, the first game I ever played was Aladdin for the Sega console, the interesting part is that I played it on my computer. For as long as I can remember, I have bought games for the PC with as little as $1 a disk. I lived in a third world country and was 10 years old, and therefore quite naive.
For a long time I excused my behavior by telling myself that the game developers had plenty of money, they would survive in their pools of cash. Just six months ago, I had over 100 PC games and 52 PS2 games. Not one of them original, and the total cost was less than $200.
Only recently have I learned about how piracy is hurting the market. Making developers like Crytek think about branching out to develop for console because their games are illegally downloaded more than a million times on torrents.
I understand that developers go through a lot of trouble to create an IP, they should be entitled to earn money off of it, and so they put in ridiculous amounts of DRM software to restrict people from pirating it. Problem is, the DRM only affects the people who legally paid money to buy the game, it doesn't do anything to stop piracy.
I remember when Half Life 2 was released, my friends were so excited to play the game, I wasn't so hyped because I wasn't familiar with the Half Life games. While the paid customers had to jump through some hoops, all they had to do was copy a crack file and play it without the CD. However, the crack itself wasn't properly done, after 24 hours of installation, all the AI characters would freeze. That was it, they would simply freeze, no moving, no shooting, no talking. Fortunately for my friends, all they had to do was change the date on their PCs to the day the game was installed, they had to do this every single time they wanted to play the game.
The second time I noticed a hitch in the crack files, was when I tried to play Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory on the PC. Prior to this game, we had to copy the entire image and a tiny software from the CD. The software "hid" the emulation software and let us play the game, this worked with games like Path of Neo and Advent Rising, two game I still remember being fun.
After Chaos Theory was released, all hell broke lose in our tiny little world. Starforce was a software which no emulation can "hide" from, our disks wouldn't run and we were pretty angry and sad that we couldn't play this game that we were waiting for. A couple of weeks later, the new Prince of Persia (The Two Thrones) was released, same copy protection, same problems. It took us only days to find out how to finally play the damn things.
We had to keep only one emulated disk drive on our PC, we had to keep the CD image on our hard disk, and in order to run the game, we would have to disconnect the cable which connected the CD ROM with the Motherboard. It was pretty risky to regularly connect and disconnect that cable, but I still did it, the games were worth it. We were willing to go to desperate lengths or wait months, to play this game.Now its simply a copy and paste of the crack file, we no longer need to connect and disconnect the CD ROM in order to play a game with Starforce.
If these experiences have taught me anything, it is that no matter how hard publishers and developers try, it is very hard to make any game "Uncrackable". Sooner or later, someone is going to find a way to get around your DRM software and release it in the torrents, its a shame but currently there is no solid way to combat that. Even the current generation of consoles aren't safe. Games like GTA 4 and Gears of War 2 were released on the torrents weeks before they were released on the store shelves.
I am not a software pirate, I don't know how to code and if I did, I would probably make "Puzzle! Puzzle! Puzzle!" instead of trying to screw over developers. I am just a consumer, and as much as I want developers to get the money that is due to them, I cant help but think how many people are forced to jump through some unnecessary hoops just to play the game that they paid for.
I am at a point in my life that I can pay full price for a game, whether its on the console or on the PC. Even though I could download Spore in less than a couple of hours, I would be glad to pay for a retail copy (if my damn computer could run it). Sure DRM isn't a big factor for me, worst comes to worst I could just buy the game and then download a cracked one, but many people are frustrated with DRM. Frustrated to the point where they would illegally download the game just to stick it to the publisher, and I somewhat sympathize with them. When I buy a game, I should be able to install it as many times as I want, not five times, not seven times, but as much as I want, I should be able to play the game without being logged on to the internet, its as simple as that.
THE RESULTS OF PIRACY
Publishers need to understand, that releasing a game with heavy DRM generates more outcry from the consumers than releasing a game with no DRM. Your rock solid mammoth DRM software may be able to keep pirates at bay for a couple of days, but with time, people will find a way to get around it, and all that negative goodwill, all the time spent on trying to justify your DRM would have been for nothing. Which is why I salute all those publishers and developers who release games with no DRM software, they have faith that the quality of their game would encourage people to buy the original, and I know that if I could, I would buy original copies of all the games I had enjoyed before. I know the good one are worth every penny I spend on them.
Still there are some "heroes" among the gaming community, who have been able to piss off the software pirates with their weird solution for DRM. Assassins Creed was on sale for the PC in my country before it was legally released, problem was at a crucial point in the game, the game would just simple freeze and return to the desktop. It pissed off several of my friends who thought the problem was their PCs instead of the buggy version of the game. It was wonderful to laugh at all of them, because I knew Ubisoft was laughing as well. I could get behind these weird solutions to battle piracy, just don't punish your customer for following all the rules.
**The author has been piracy free since July 2008, he currently lives in one of the Best Cities in the world and has a healthy collection of PS3 games. He bought Warhammer Online legitimately and was proud of his purchase. The rest he gets from Gamefly.