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DRM: Is It Really About Piracy?


DRM, the newfound devil of PC gaming. It’s been argued against to death, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bitching and whining is what got music mostly DRM free so I would never discourage anyone saying a bad word about DRM. But what I find odd is the argument itself.

“DRM is to stop piracy!” is what publishers usually tout, and general gamers and even a few developers respond “No it doesn’t!”. I am of course part of the “doesn’t stop piracy” group as pretty much every PC gamer is. The staple of DRM is authentication; it’s practically synonymous with DRM in games nowadays.

You buy a game and when you go to install and it authenticates the code (even if you buy digital there’s something to authenticate against, usually still a code). A lot of times there’s a limited number of times it will allow you to authenticate (3 being a popular number) and sometimes it authenticates at every launch or continuously while the game is running.

Now any gamer that speaks about DRM likely knows this (so anyone reading this blog is likely to know it already). And again the big puzzle to gamers “Why does this stop piracy?”. It’s not really a great anti-piracy measure nowadays. Back in the day when burning games and passing/selling/returning them was the popular form of piracy it would have worked well, but with the advent of broadband internet and the rise of torrenting/ftp/and plain direct dl of games and just using a crack or a db to fool it into thinking it’s getting authenticated or stripping the authentication requirement altogether it becomes useless.

Sure it includes protection against cracks but as a whole money and effort is being put into what is peddled as a security system but is ultimately useless in that regard, worse than useless actually as in some cases it makes piracy even easier.

So I wonder why is something that is so obviously unhelpful in stop piracy continually being integrated when it is obvious that it does not deter anyone. Many others have wondered the same thing, and I fail to come up with a serious answer as to why they would continue to use DRM to battle piracy.

But what if it isn’t about piracy? Piracy is as great a reason to pin it on, it actually generates some sympathy or at least understanding. And sure when publishers chime in against the rage they always say “It’s because of piracy!”, but why take their word for it? It’s not as if the same people haven’t lied before, and about the same topic. They’re not there to fulfill their dreams of making good games like some developers; they’re there to make money, and preferably from the ignorant masses.

And what many oft forget (at least what it seems so to me) is that authentication is just a result of what DRM is/does and not the main problem. DRM is basically a way to limit your rights: and in terms of videogames not only usage but ownership as well.

You bought From Dust? Well you don’t own it; you bought Spore or whatever other DRM filled game in a store? Well then you own the box, the paper, and the disc the data was pressed on but you do not own a license to the game, you are renting it. It limits your rights as a consumer, and it lowers the publisher’s responsibility. A couple years down the line when they take down their servers, or when you’ve used up your number of installs what are you going to do? Well buy their new games :/. And a some people like saying “well I don’t need to play it later I’ll just play what’s new”. Well lemme tell ya, people like doing things of their generation so if you still plan on playing games when you’re older you will likely want to play your old games. But you won’t be able to, at least not with rebuying them through a service like or going hunting for some cracks.

Sure it may all be a crazy conspiracy theory that my paranoid mind came up with, but it’s what makes sense to me. If they really wanted to help stop piracy they’d invest in real PROTECTION instead of some sort of right-limiting license management.

For example StarForce, and I want to be clear about this from the beginning. I’m not advocating StarForce because it was a huge dick of a copyright protection and was a mess of CP specific software/drivers, system degradation, memory use and the other terrible things. But as a form of protection against piracy it was a raging success in it’s hayday. Splinter Cell was uncracked for over a year, yes a year. And other games that did get cracked within a semi-reasonable time frame (although still far longer than today’s DRM protected games) still were a dick to play when they used StarForce. Like X3, where you had to physically disconnect your CD drives (not just disable) to get it to run.

Sure Securom and whatever else they include still has protection to help stop being cracked so easy, but it’s obvious that it doesn’t work very well, and even if it did, having a limited number of installations or having to go online to authenticate isn’t of any help at all.

What is really worrying to me is (mostly console) gamers that just attribute DRM to stopping piracy when most PC gamers that are familiar with it realize that it really does not. And it’s all kinds of people like a reasonably good poster like Elsa:

“I do think that DRM is simply a necessity... like having doors on your store. However, I also think that they need to come up with a non-intrusive DRM system. PC gamers also have to get their heads out of their asses and realize that it's not a big deal if they need to have an online connection to do an authorization handshake with the game... but the handshake should last 48 hours or something... so people can still play their game on a plane. Again, new DRM is needed.. and gamers have to get over the whole DRM issue and realize that they are protecting their own future by using it.”

Or crazy people like DrButler:

“The problem is that PC gamers are piracy prone self-entitled hand-biters. Game publishers are businesses who need to make a profit (obviously) and are either loading the games up with drm, or cutting their losses and dropping support altogether. PC gaming is becoming a less viable revenue stream, and is thus on it's way out.”
So that last bit is tacked on because I typed up most of this around a week ago and I stole those comments from flints blog

*last bit tacked on from this blog Here


Some notes:

* I apologize if parts of it seem scatterbrained, I on/off typed it up over a week or so and it's been a few weeks since then :P I have been getting increasingly lazy.... :<

* I tried to add as many pictures to make it easier on the eyes :P

* I originally started typing this up when I was in a anti-corporate or something mood and was going to say "but now I disagree with it kinda" but when I read over it again I still agree with it :/

* The inevitable "You're just justifying your piracy!!!". Here's the solid truth: I do pirate on rare occassion, say maybe 3-4 games in as many years and it's pretty much just DRM games that I REALLY wanted to play and felt playing on a console was a huge loss for that particular genre. I own somewhere around 400 PC games and continually buy more, currently enjoying Dead Island (yes I know Steam is DRM and I could go on for a while about it but v0v).

* Some people keep saying "If only they could have drm that is not intrusive!" Well they do, and my favorite example is Company of Heroes. It is so subtle infact that most people who own the game don't even realize it's there. You can either play off-line with just the disc or you can make an account online and while you are at the menu screens/lobby it requires you to be online (it will prompt you to put in the disc if it loses connection to the server to often). Once ingame even if you drop/servers go down nothing happens, you play as normal. The account you make does not expire and there is no limit to the number of installations. How does limiting installations make a difference anyway?

* I see a fair few other people saying (though I haven't yet on DTOID) "Oh just live with it now eventually the next court will declare it in violation of fair-use and unconstitutional and stuff!" I have no idea where this hope comes from as corporations getting their way over any sort of consumer rights have only gotten worse and worse (good old days when TOS didn't hold water anywhere I miss you :/) and it's more likely to get worse not better....

I don't really have anything else to say I guess, sorry again for mistakes I'll go over it tomorrow maybe :< :P I'll reply to comments and all that I suppose and thanks for reading!
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pedrovay2003   1



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About Dao2-SKPone of us since 1:51 AM on 06.29.2008