Experienced Points #55:
DRM Systems and the Publishers Who Love Them

By Shamus Posted Friday Feb 19, 2010

Filed under: Column 217 comments

This week’s article is a run-down of some publishers and the DRM systems they’re using.

Blizzard (Activision, technically) is conspicuously missing from my list. I’ve noticed that being critical of Battle.Net2 is a flame-inciting topic. There’s this whole subset of the StarCraft fanbase that employs the following reasoning:

1) I never played single-player or LAN, therefore nobody did.
2) I have ubiquitous always-on internet, therefore everyone does.

Anytime the topic of Starcraft 2 LAN or single-player is introduced, and whenever someone complains about having to connect to Battle.Net to do these things, these fans show up and try to convince everyone else that their differing priorities and preferences make them stupid. “That’s the way it is now so stop bitching about it.” The time will come when we will have to attempt the fruitless task of explaining the civilized world to these people, and how sometimes people like different things and that’s okay. But we should probably wait until the game is out.

We don’t know exactly how the new Battle.Net will work. (Unless you ask a Blizzard employee, in which case it will give you free candy and cure cancer.) But the upcoming launch is going to answer a lot of questions about what this service offers in return for its price. We’ll finally get to see if it’s more like Steam (a set of golden handcuffs) or like UbiSoft’s current system, which is an attempt to make single-player games work like an MMO.

For further thought, it might be useful to compare the community reactions to the UbiSoft announcement. Check out the comment threads of the following posts, all covering the same news story on UbiSoft’s new DRM:

* Rock Paper Shotgun
* The Escapist
* Gamespot

The first two articles are followed by comment threads that are white-hot with fury and indignation. The latter contains a lot of people defending the new system, or blaming the harshness of the new system on the pirates. They’re basically people who haven’t been a part of the DRM discussion during the last five years, and haven’t grasped the crucial principles that drive the debate. As long as the game runs for them when they insert the disc on launch day, they’re happy.

I read those two comment threads before I wrote the article, and left feeling invigorated. I was so happy that other gamers were coming around. Then I read the third article and I remembered:

Graph courtesy of <a href="http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/gamespot.com?p=tgraph&r=home_home">Alexa</a>.
Graph courtesy of Alexa.

When we say “gaming community”, we mean the other people on this site or The Escapist or wherever else our friends are. When UbiSoft says “customers”, they mean those people at Gamespot. PC is a tiny slice of the market, and those of us informed and concerned about DRM are a subset of that. In the article I predicted UbiSoft would cave or comprimise, but it looks like I was proven wrong before the article even went live. Earlier today they issued a clarification of their policy. Their statement demonstrates that the people in charge actually have no idea in the world what we’re upset about. The two sides are so far apart that discussion isn’t even possible. Gamers are going to shout at the wall and UbiSoft will plow forward, heedless of the damage they’re doing to their own name and the mess they’re making of the hobby.


From The Archives:

217 thoughts on “Experienced Points #55:
DRM Systems and the Publishers Who Love Them

  1. Mike Has Answers says:

    Is Assassin’s Creed 2 even out yet?

    1. Shamus says:

      No. The only people who have tried the new system are reviewers.

      (Which means there could be another story when everyone tries to log in on launch day. I wonder if Ubi is thinking ahead?)

      1. Nathon says:

        Here comes typical internet post: totally unresearched.

        Is it possible that ubisoft is only hampering review copies with the super-draconian DRM, and that the official launch copies will only be hampered with extra-draconian DRM in the form of online activation?

        1. guy says:

          No, it’s always the other was around.

        2. Scott says:

          Absolutely not. It’s been confirmed, and boggled at, and re-confirmed, and re-boggled at. There isn’t the slightest possibility that the final product won’t be crippled in this way.

      2. I wonder if we’re going to see a lot of reviews commenting on how “buggy” the game is because it crashed to the loading screen every couple of hours…

        1. Luke Maciak says:

          LOL! Good point. I suspect that one of the top searches on Google for AC2 will be:

          “My Assassin’s Creed 2 game crashes every time my mom turns on the microwave oven. What is going on?

          The canonical answer will usually be:

          idk it work fine on xbox

  2. krellen says:

    “The two sides are so far apart that discussion isn't even possible.”

    Sounds like the rest of politics and human conversation these days. There’s so much more talking going on these days thanks to all our new technology and inter-connectedness, but I think there’s a lot less communicating going on than at any point in our history since the invention of speech.

    1. Volatar says:

      This is the most true statement I have heard today.

      1. Nawyria says:

        I’d consider it one of the most (non-mathematically) true statements I’ve heard in a while.

    2. mockware says:

      It’s simple enough. People are not multiplexed. More talking = less listening.

  3. guy says:

    Ubisoft has set a record for blind stupidity. As has everyone who doesn’t think that the connection will be a problem. My cable intermittently malfunctions for a minute or so every now and then, and it is good cable. Maybe if they actually try to pull this, they’ll have a server crash and people will actually listen in the future.

    I wonder how many of the “DRM is good! It only hurts pirates!” crowd actually are pirates themselves who don’t like other people.

    I hope that Blizzard’s new DRM isn’t too bad, because I’m going to be buying SC2 anyway. Also hope that EA has seen the light and the C&C4 DRM is not that bad.

    Also hope for some console DRM to beat the smug out of those console gamers.

    1. Ramsus says:

      That’s not a nice thing to say. Console gamers already have to buy an object that does nothing (well) but plays games and can only pirate if they feel it’s worth the risk of accidentally exploding their console. And even then it’s still a lot more hassle to pirate for consoles. That is already their version of DRM.

      1. Vipermagi says:

        Difference is, when a console player buys a game, they can play. When a PC player pirates the game, they can simply play. If they go the legal way and buy it, they’re loaded with anti-piracy measures.

        Rather than having to jump through hoops to pirate a game, a PC player has to be a circus clown to play a game legitimatly. That makes no sense.

      2. guy says:

        I’m just kind of irritated by the people who enter every single one of these debates and gloat about not having DRM on consoles.

    2. DaveMc says:

      It may not strictly be a nice thing to say, but I have to laugh at the phrase “beat the smug out of”, thus: Ha!

    3. ccesarano says:

      We’re (console gamers) getting it in the constant efforts to reduce used game sales. Or, if you actually try to use something like ActionReplay on the Wii, especially if you had Japanese games from Japan, you get screwed every time a new Wii update comes out. That, or you forego Wii updates and never get some of the latest patches (and therefore content).

      Any console gamer that says “they don’t have to deal with that” is simply too narrow-sighted. No, we don’t have these DRM tactics, but we also don’t know how far developers are willing to go to fight used game sales. One of the arguments for digital distribution is that you should be able to sell games for less money, but all of the downloadable titles on Xbox Live cost as much as they would on store shelves.

      This is nothing to say of things like Microsoft requiring DLC to cost money if you’re going to throw achievements in (hence Crash Course costing $7 on Live, though I don’t see why they couldn’t have just charged $3 or $4 or something).

      Whenever PC gamers complain about a game not allowing user-dedicated servers, that’s a problem that 1) could have been caused due to the success and system of Xbox Live, and 2) presents new problems all its own. Console gamers are seeing it for the first time with the original Xbox servers being shut down and some EA game servers being shut down because there just isn’t enough activity to justify costs.

      Console gamers are not immune to these problems, they just take a different color and disguise themselves. However, the very fact that most console gamers are “mainstream” and lack the sort of insight (or even care) for these matters means developers will be able to make these moves with little backlash compared to continued sales. The more insightful of us don’t matter, just as PC gamers haven’t mattered for a long time now.

      And that may sound like an ignorant or harsh thing to say, but most PC gamers I know purchase very few titles. They generally say “I only buy games if they are worth it”, but for all their praise of titles like Dragon Age they never drop the cash for it. Granted anecdotal evidence isn’t evidence, but those PC gamers I know reflect most of the commentators online. Add to the fact that most people don’t want to spend the money on a bad ass PC, deal with the trouble of installation and THEN the potential trouble of driver issues, crashes or other problems that come with software trying to run fine on a system built from several pieces of hardware by different companies (and DRM) and it just sounds nicer to slide a disk into a tray.

      Until you realize when you get to the store that if you buy it used you won’t be getting access to that free DLC (and since all those codes have an expiration date, that may also mean that anyone who DOES buy it new, just waits until it’s $30, may STILL have to pay the extra $15…in which case, what was the point of waiting?).

      On topic: I actually liked Penny Arcade’s take on this, and their take several times before. The loudest complaints online against DRM sound so cyclical. Why does DRM exist? Because people pirated the software. Why do pirates argue their cause? Because DRM exists. But piracy existed before DRM, so how does piracy change anything?

  4. Not to toot my own horn on this one, but I wrote about this a couple weeks ago: http://www.indignantdesertbirds.com/2010/02/02/ubi-to-gamers-drop-dead/

    Short version: Ubisoft’s actions make sense coming from people who are having an emotional reaction to pirates are stealing their hard creative work. It makes no sense at all from a corporate entity with a legal responsibility to maximize shareholder value.

    1. Jarenth says:

      Considering pirates are the only people who will probably be able to bypass this system and laugh at Ubisoft, this system doesn’t really make sense from the anger-standpoint either.

      1. neothoron says:

        They’re convinced that such schemes reduce the number of pirates…

        1. krellen says:

          An article of faith, as are all things with no factual basis behind them.

          They believe they are thwarting piracy, despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary.

  5. SatansBestBuddy says:

    I have in my head an article on how sites (like The Escapsit) and blogs (like Twenty Sided) are making all these wonderful articles that could be used for real good should they be read by those in power; the question is, do those in power read these articles, and if they do, do they see where they can lead them?

    Unfortuanatly, my spelling sucks, I have a hard time getting ideas across to other people, plus I have nowhere to publish said article, if I ever get it out of my head…

  6. DamnedLies says:

    My biggest question is if the Gamestop “customers” are truly customers. One does not even have to have the intention to play AC2 on PC to comment on that thread. Is it possible that many defending it are ones who will never have to play using DRM?
    As many threads have noted, PC gaming appears to be shrinking. It has always tended to be an enthusiast market. Gamespot over time has moved from an enthusiast site to a consumer site. Are the Gamespot commenters even PC gamers? Much of Gamespot focuses on console games, so these could just be console gamers with opinions and no stake in the PC gaming market. In which case, should their opinion be weighted differently from actual PC gamers?

    1. Avilan the Grey says:

      PLay using DRM? I assume you mean the Ubisoft version, because I do it all the time, it does not impact my gaming experience in any shape, way or form. This particular DRM on the other hand, is over the top for me.

  7. Raygereio says:

    Treat people like customers and they’ll like you, treat them as criminals and they’ll kick you in the nutsack. This isn’t rocketscience Ubisoft, hell even EA seems to be at least trying to get it if Dragon Age, Mass Effect 2 and the unlimited activations for all secuROM 7 games are any indication.
    And what’s up with the progression from Prince of Persia (which had no DRM) to this monstrosity?

  8. Andy_Panthro says:

    Steam, Battlenet, EA and Ubisoft’s new thing… they all make me so depressed with the state of PC gaming.

    I find these systems horribly restrictive, because I never want the services they offer. I’m sure there are folks to whom these are the best things since sliced bread, but “cloud saving” and multiplayer facilities aren’t low on my list of priorities, they aren’t on my list at all.

    I’m glad that I enjoy retro gaming so much, and indie games. There are still places that have the right idea, and places like Good Old Games and GamersGate have been very good for me.

    I’m now quite nervous to hear what the situation with Civ5 will be, since it’s a series that’s close to my heart.

    [edit] I feel I should also make a point reflecting your problems criticising BattleNet2, which is that I run into similar problems if I say anything remotely against Steam or similar. There do seem to be many people who actively defend such measures for some reason.

    1. The Scarlet Mathematician says:

      People who love Steam can be a little, er, zealish. Let me see if I can offer a cogent defense of Steam for you.

      Recently, my hard drive caught fire. Honest to God orange flames on fire. Needless to say, I lost all the data on the drive. On my new drive, I was easily able to reinstall all of the Steam (and Battle.net) games I owned, because the information on my owning them was stored on my account, and not my computer. No fishing around for discs. No hunting for cd-keys. Steam earned a whole lot of brownie points with me, that day.

      Steam isn’t perfect, but in exchange for the control it takes away from you, it does provide something in return. That, in my opinion, is what makes it different from most other “online activation” rackets.

      1. Jabor says:

        Shamus had a good post about this a while back.

        Basically, yeah, Steam is online activation. In that sense, it’s worse than a game that comes on a disk that you physically own. On the other hand, it gives you benefits that the comes-on-a-disk version doesn’t have. Give and take.

        Other online activation is all take – you get none of the benefits that Steam has, but all of the drawbacks.

        This leads us on to Stardock’s stuff – they give you all of the benefits that Steam gives and none of the drawbacks.

  9. krellen says:

    Everytime I read a story about another bad DRM scheme, I’m compelled to go buy another DRM-free game from Stardock or GOG.com.

    You don’t suppose DRM could really be an evil plot by those companies to increase their sales?

  10. Moridin says:

    The Ubisoft thing…I don’t generally pirate games(I have pirated some games in the past, but not many). But I think that that’s enough to make me turn my back to the games industry in general. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I should buy the World of Goo.

  11. Karl says:

    I don’t really have a problem with the concept of DRM, I just hate DRM that’s broken in stupid ways. If a game was guaranteed to work when I insert the disk on launch day (and every day after that) I frankly wouldn’t care if there was DRM there or not.

    Like copy protection on DVD’s: regardless of whether or not it really does help anything, I’ve never once had a Disc not work in my player because of it, so it being there is a non-issue for me.

  12. Andy_Panthro says:


    The problem with much of these measures is they are the equivalent to the unskippable (and sometimes non-fast forward-able) “pirating DVDs funds terrorists!” bit at the beginning of some DVDs. They annoy the hell out of paying customers, but the pirates avoid them completely.

    1. Raygereio says:

      Those unskippable “Don’t steal this movie!” skits on DVD’s I bought infuriate me. I can allready barely contain my rage when they take up to 5 minutes; but a while ago I got a DVD that took from pressing play, to the actual start of the movie 20 minutes!
      I’m honestly proud to say to say I threw my copy of that movie away and pirated it.

    2. I have a simple solution: I buy a DVD, then rip it to my Hard drive, and convert it so it works on my iPod– which I can plug int my TV. I get great picture quality, audio commentaries, and closed captioning. Best of all– I’ve got a physical back up of my DVD collection. There may be all sorts of anti-piracy messages on modern DVDs– I’ve never seen one…

      1. Veylon says:

        I like that! I’d probably do it if I was the sort of person who watched DVDs. I do much the same with my Game CDs, burning them to ISO’s and mounting them as to avoid scratching the disc or changing it.

        Again with the pirates: they don’t have to watch these anti-pirate skits. They just watch the movie.

      2. ima420r says:

        This is almost what I do, but instead of putting the media on an ipod I put it on a network drive. Then I can access it from any device with a network connection while keeping the originals safe and unused. DVDs scratch quickly when you pop them in and out of a player ona regular basis, and it’s nice to have instant access to most of my library.

  13. Becca says:

    This whole DRM thing kinda reminds me of the Story of the Reason, from ‘Life, the Universe, and Everything’, by Douglas Adams. I can’t be bothered to quote the whole thing, but paraphrased:

    On a certain planet, every time a comet lit the sky, or or the rains came, or anything at all really, it was a Sign.

    The Tribesmen of the Hills saw it as a sign that it was at last time to rise up and destroy the accursed Princes of the plains, and the Princes of the Plains saw it as a sign that it was at last time to crush the evil Tribesmen of the Hills.

    The Dwellers of the Forest saw every sign with sad apprehension, for they knew that all Signs portended a war between the Princes and the Tribesmen.
    This wouldn’t be so bad, if not for the fact that every time, the Princes and the Tribesmen would always choose to have their wars in the Forest.
    Regardless of which of them won, and which lost, the Dweller of the Forest always anded up worst off.

    Sometimes after the bloodies wars, the worst atrocities committed against the Dweller by the Princes and the Tribesmen in their attempts to put an end to one another, the Dwellers would send an emissary.

    Visiting either the leader of the Princes, or the leader of the Tribesmen, this messenger would ask what the Reason for their dreadfull acts was.
    The chosen leader would take the messenger carefully aside and explain to him.
    And the messenger would be shocked and ashamed, as the reason was a good one, well argued, and for the best result for everyone involved.

    Understanding now what a complicated place the world was, he would return to his people. But, as he passed under the branches of his home, he would recall only that the reason had been a very good one, and completely valid, and so clearly explained, but not at all what it actually was.

    And this was a great comfort to them, when next the Princes and the Tribesmen passed by, slaughtering as they went.

    I mean, it’s hardly a suited analogy, but seems somewhat appropriate all the same.

  14. Zerai says:

    Shamus, in the RPS comments you may have read one about a netbot (I don’t remember exactly) this made me think, that pirates actually have a chance to go and stop legal copies from working, while only pirated copies work.

    Thinking about it, it seems that any online-check-at-start would be stoppable, but one with connection all the time like this would be even more vulnerable.

    1. guy says:

      It did strike me that someone will probably launch a DDOS on the server sometime.

      1. Nathan says:

        Heck, I have my doubts as to whether or not the hypothetical increase in sales is going to be worth the concrete costs in operating the authentication infrastructure to begin with.

      2. Jarenth says:

        It strikes me that all the paying customers trying to log in on launch day might constitute a DDOS all by itself.

  15. B.J. says:

    I’m convinced the Gamespot boards and comments are filled with viral marketers. How else could you explain so many people defending something so anti-consumer?

  16. walrus says:

    That graph is pretty frightening. I hate Gamespot and IGN.

    I’ve noticed what is described in this post as well. It’s annoying. In the forums I look at people will give reasons about how the DRM is fine but the previous posts will have already refuted all those reasons. I wish people read at least a little of what has already been posted, and perhaps learn something, before leaving a comment.

  17. Joshua says:

    Hmm, maybe I didn’t go far enough, but the first couple of pages on the Gamespot boards had a lot of people complaining about the measure. Only one or two idiots were defending it.

    1. Fenix says:

      The ign story had a similar look. A few people saying it’s great with the majority saying wtf.
      Of course I only read the first page of comments.

  18. Nathan says:

    There’s something about gaming fans in general compared to other media… Gaming fans seem a lot more willing to stick up for their corporate overlords than other forms of entertainment. The record labels and movie studios out there would kill to have their fans be so willing to stick up for DVD nags or lawsuits against Napster.

    This penchant to stick up FOR “The Man” is pretty obvious when it comes to DRM stuff, and I’m glad someone else has noticed this. But it is a bit more pervasive than that, I think. Think about how much of a fuss people make over sales data, over whether such and such a game sells more, which platform sells more, is PC Gaming d0med or not, and so on.

    And think of how often in reviews a game is praised for its “accessibility”, or condemned because it is “inaccessible”. I mean, game companies will come out and openly admit to changing, streamlining, or dropping features from a game or a sequel in order to reach a wider audience, and then they will be generally praised for it by the community and critics. Whereas that’s pretty much the definition of “selling out” in any other medium.

    And don’t get me started on how ridiculous it is that the whole “used game market” thing is even a controversy on most communities… Ugh.

  19. Meredith says:

    I was waiting for your take on this after reading PA this morning. Off to read the article now, though I really don’t need to: I don’t really understand why all gamers don’t get the problem with DRM. I was considering buying AC2, but not now. I have great internet, but the thought of having to repeatedly replay sections of the game if it craps out for a second put me right off. Guess I’ll just keep playing Wii and my old PC games and waiting for Episode 3 (yeah, I use Steam, I don’t see the problem with it really).

    Edit: I nearly forgot — In the article linked from Tycho’s post (too lazy to pull it now), they link to an interview with Ubisoft in which they make your favourite argument about putting out a patch if they ever pull the servers. The level of evasion and refusal to commit is truly amazing.

      1. Raygereio says:

        ” I don't really understand why all gamers don't get the problem with DRM.”

        I think most people are apathetic to it because they haven’t had any problems with it: Starforce never did noticeble harm to my computer. Out of the 4 computers I’ve used games with secuROM on, three of them had no problems with it (the last one forget it had a disc drive and somehow secuROM managed to completely frell windows explorer over).

        Say what you want about SecuROM 7; but besides Bioshock’s launch day with the overloaded servers, the large majority of the users could start up their game and play (just don’t ask if they could still do so once they’ve swapped their graphic card).

        Unless Ubisoft has some kind of magic technology so that the majority of the users can play the game without problem, I think those apathetic people are going to get on our side. Server hiccup or have a slow internet connection and you loose connection for a moment? Boom! You can’t play anymore.

  20. Heron says:

    I’ve been trying to explain to people on slashdot why I value LAN capabilities in my RTS games (and why as a result I won’t be buying Starcraft 2). By far the most common response is “shut up, who cares, LAN is dead, everyone has Internet” etc. One guy went so far as to tell me to stop complaining because (he claimed) I’d just buy it anyway the moment it comes out.

    I’m thinking of Shamus’ post regarding the MW2 boycott group’s active player list on Steam.

    Basically I’m giving up.

  21. Eltanin says:

    In the fantasy world in my head, someone launches a massive DoS attack on the Ubisoft servers just after they get back online after being crippled from the launch day rush. Thus no one legitimate gets to play the game for the first, oh, two weeks or so. And then the heavens open up and wisdom strikes the corporate heads of Ubisoft like a bolt of lightning and lo! they realize that DRM is a Bad Thing. And thus a new era begins…

    Of course, a)it would be very wrong (the DoS attack), b)it won’t happen (the wisdom), but c)it sure would be funny and then nice. Ah well. A guy can dream.

    1. Fenix says:

      If that happened it would be really ironic seeing as only pirated versions would work lol.
      Maybe someone can rouse 4chan.

      1. MelTorefas says:

        4chan is like nuclear weapons: sure they might win you the war, but at the cost of poisoning everything they touch.

        1. acronix says:

          Desperate times require desperate actions!

  22. Irridium says:

    This is why I hate Gamespot and IGN.

    But what really makes me sad is that eventually, people will accept this crap.

    I remember when Dragon Age came out, and you needed to use Bioware’s Social site to get your DLC. That thing was overloaded and down for like 2 damn days.

    It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

    It makes me sad to, because AC2 is a really good game, and I really want to see it do well. But if it has this horrid DRM scheme, I hope it fails.

    I do use Steam, and I do die a little inside everytime I have to use online activation, but at least I don’t have to stay connected to the internet to be able to play.

  23. DonTsetsi says:

    There are two extremes of stupidity in DRM, One is forcing a MMO copy protection system for a single player game, the other is not protecting a multiplayer game… (think gamespy). Still, deterring paying customers is much worse than giving pirates a free ride on the official servers (borderlands anyone?).

  24. Kdansky says:

    I’ve been preaching it for years: Most humans are utterly stupid. This includes gamers on Gamespot and CEOs of Ubisoft. They are utterly ignorant and way too insecure to admit a mistake, or to do some proper research.

  25. *still sitting on the cynicism couch.* What? You expect I got up at some point? We saved your seat.

    At some point, it became simpler to run a pirated copy of a game than it is to run a legal copy of the game. The PC gaming market has truly gone mad.

    I would not be surprised if we see a dirty hack for SC2 that will allow LAN games at some point.

    1. Zerai says:

      No, that is actually one of the few things that might be easier legally

      Unless… someone made a program that emulated the server in your computer, but that’s too difficult, it’s not like anyone has copied the WoW servers, right?

      1. Moriarty says:

        I can’t decide whether this is supposed to be a sarcastic remark or you are actually unaware of the thousands of private wow servers populating the internet since beta

        1. The Scarlet Mathematician says:

          To be fair, the private WoW servers are lands of Lovecraftian madness and nightmare.

          1. Jabor says:

            Aye, but that’s the community on them, not any technical issues.

            The problem is that WoW isn’t suited for a small-community LAN-type thing.

            Starcraft is, and so there is absolutely no barrier to running a “private server” for LAN games.

  26. Neil Polenske says:

    “Gamers are going to shout at the wall and UbiSoft will plow forward, heedless of the damage they're doing to their own name and the mess they're making of the hobby.”

    Damage how? You just finished telling us how the largest demographic they’re going after really doesn’t give a shit about DRM. They’re not pissing off anyone they didn’t want to deal with in the first place. I’m with Tycho on this. This is Ubisoft basically saying ‘fuck it, we’re done’. I must admit, I’d agree to the sentiment.

    1. Shamus says:

      I can either not get their games, or I can put up with this stuff. In either case, my enjoyment of the hobby is diminished.

      Hence, damage.

      And the people who don’t care about DRM will still bear the hassle a few years down the road. Just because they don’t understand doesn’t mean they will be immune to the consequences.

      1. Legal Tender says:


        How difficult do you think it would it be for you to officially approach some of the big shots in the industry that may have a say in how DRM (or lack thereof) is used in the immediate future?

        I’m being 100% sincere here. You obviously have knowledge of the issue and the medium and I’ve read and re-read your posts trying to (constructively) shred them to pieces but they are preeetty solid.

        Is your audience here and elsewhere too small? Would you even be interested? I can definetely see you giving a TED lecture about this topic, for example. Seeing as how this topic goes beyond a bunch of gamers (which today number in the hundreds of millions)and touches on human interactions with technology, motivation, communication, privacy and what have you.

        You know, something packing a bit more punch so that more people are engaged in this discussion.

        1. SatansBestBuddy says:

          The problem with that is that most people won’t understand what the big deal is.

          “So you’re a little more hassled, we’re trying to stop piracy and help people get paid for their work!”

          DRM isn’t an idle soultion by any stretch of the word, but it’s a hell of a lot better for publishers to say, “This is what we’re doing about this problem” instead of, “Yeah, piracy is a problem, but if we did what we want to do we’d be hurting ourselves, too.”

          Till we come up with a better solution to the problem, all we’re really doing is complaining, and while complaining about stuff does help some of the time, it’s not an answer so much as a request for an answer.

          1. krellen says:

            I seem to recall a post about a year or so ago where Shamus linked to a developer that removed DRM altogether and showed, conclusively, that DRM had no affect on piracy rate whatsoever.

            So, you know, there is empirical evidence out there that DRM is a waste of time and money.

            1. It’s a good argument krellen, but you’re not going to be able to get the suits to simply accept the losses from piracy (and if you count a single download as a lost sale – which they do 0 then that’s a lot). Not until today’s digital generation are running the companies will we see some change.

              Besides, they may think that the chance of it preventing zero-day piracy outweighs the costs of paying the goddamn protection companies.

              1. guy says:

                Except that they put on these draconian DRM systems and then get -5 day piracy. Seriously, that happened with Spore.

            2. ehlijen says:

              Are you going to cease locking up your bike just because you know there’s a dozen people in your block handing out free bolt cutters to anyone who asks?

              The fact is that piracy is loosing the industry money. How much is up for debate, but people are using services they don’t pay for, so some loss occurs to the creators.

              CEOs and stockholders don’t like loosing money and will want something done about that. And the number one rule of leadership is:

              If you don’t know what to do, do something and claim it’ll help. That way, you don’t look like a bumbling fool to absolutely everyone, just those who didn’t need your leadership anyway.

              As for pre launchday piracy: no DRM can stop that, even if it were somehow 100%. That is clearly the fault of either disloyal personnel or insecure servers. If the game can be compromised that way, so can any DRM on it.

              1. Probably not.

                But if I sold the bike, I wouldn’t hold onto the lock combination on the reasoning that the guy who bought it might be a thief.

              2. Stop locking it up? No.

                But, there’s a fine line between locking up a bike and wiring it with a lethal dose of electricity that shoots out and kills anybody who looks at it.

                Actually, it’s a pretty big line – and Ubisoft crossed it.

                This isn’t authenticating a game, or a CD check – this is requiring the player to be connected to the server at all times, or they don’t get to play. It’s not an anti-piracy measure.

                I’ll repeat that. It is NOT an anti-piracy measure. It has no impact on piracy whatsoever. The pirates will just get around it.

                What is it? It’s a control mechanism. It’s keeping customers in line, and only letting them play by Ubisoft’s rules.

                I honestly wonder if “fascism” isn’t the right word here.

                1. ehlijen says:

                  I agree that Ubisoft’s behaviour is wrong and bad and evil and all sorts of similar things.

                  I’m just saying that I think they’re doing it because they don’t know what else to do and doing nothing will sound like a surrender, which they don’t think they can afford.

                2. Ehlijen:

                  On further thought, I agree with you as to the reason. It is an anti-piracy measure, and one born out of desperation (both Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed, which had the DRM lightened or removed, were pirated like there was no tomorrow).

                  But, it’s also an anti-piracy measure taken to an extreme, and if you think about it, a check-in with a server at the beginning of playing the game is just as effective, and much less difficult for any party involved.

      2. Neil Polenske says:

        Shamus: You ALSO have a third option…

        Let’s get one thing absolutely 100% clear regarding piracy: it’s free, it’s easy and it’s actually significantly less of a hassle than a legit purchase. But that’s not what matters about it. This is:

        It carries with it NO PHYSICAL CONSEQUENCES of ANY KIND.

        If you pirate a game through the internet, you will never be contacted by legal authorities. You will never be contacted by the company you stole from. NOTHING would happen to you. The ONLY thing keeping you from stealing a PC game is your own morality. How do you combat a situation like this?

        DRM clearly doesn’t work at what it’s supposed to do, but that’s not really the point from the perspective of a game company…or ANY business really. It’s about pretending to solve the problem to keep investors happy. So far as I know of the issue, there simply isn’t a way to solve it.

        This Ubisoft matter is bullshit, yes. But at this point, I almost appreciate the honesty of it. They have simply given up trying to work around the issue.

        1. Except they don’t do this in retail. Their investors know that there is nothing that can be done to stop shrinkage. Why do investors keep buying impossible promises from ignorant people?

          1. LK says:

            Because those ignorant people have powerful, competent marketing tools at their disposal to make their magic beans sound legitimate.

            Also because investors are often not necessarily versed in the business models they invest in. If someone who sounds competent pitches something like this at investors, it’s going to sound credible to anyone among them who doesn’t already know better.

            “You can fool some of the people all of the time”, and some is good enough for Ubisoft I guess.

          2. tfernando says:

            Although retailers accept shrinkage as a cost of doing business, the directors of major retailers would probably be in breach of their fiduciary duty to their shareholders if they didn’t take reasonable measures to minimize that shrinkage.

  27. Klay F. says:

    I could hardly read any of the comments on that Gamespot article before I felt the need to vomit. Seriously, how can such idiocy win out?

  28. After my huge comment post in the TAGEs article, I ended up writing a hugeass article on my own site, of course in between those two events Shamus here that ol’ sneaky fart, manages to post here on his blog and on The Escapist about DRM.

    But by a quick glance he does not seem to talk about the same as me in my article. *phew* Then again I only glanced at the first paragraph so who knows.

    The Ideal Copy Protection or The DRM That Works

    I’m interested in what the ideal system would be in your eyes? (sorry, my site doesn’t have comments, nor is it a “blog”, then again I’m sure Shamus don’t mind if people speak up here what their ideal Copy Protection/DRM system should be…?!)

    I can tell ya one thing, what I describe in my article, I’m working on some software, and when that is released (commercial) I’ll be following my own advise definitely.

    1. Steve C says:

      I read your article. I like the general premise of “provide more value to your customers than compared to a pirated copy”.
      I did have some issues with it though. It might be me, but I found it an incredibly difficult read. You talk a lot about the install. Have you ever considered having NO install?

      World of Warcraft has no installation. It unpacks itself, but it does not install. Once “installed” you can copy that directory to a portable drive take it to a different computer with different specs and run it without a hitch. I love that and it has saved me when my copy became corrupted.

      Many of the value-added features you mention add value but only in a vacuum. Game hints, walk-throughs and forums are nice but Gamefaqs and similar sites do that already. Those sites are better than any developer can do for a single or handful of games because they have scale. They cover all games.


      one is to hardcode the start date and compare with current time, and the other is to hardcode the end date and check if passed

      This was one of the common early anti-pirate codes. It doesn’t work because you simply change your computer’s date.

      Your general approach is correct… ask what customers can get for free without purchasing your product and then compete with that.

      1. Fair enough, but remember WoW has it’s own inherent invisible DRM-like measures in the form of a subscription fee and inability to play it offline. I mean, you’d have to be a complete idiot to put actual DRM to an MMO, so they don’t.

      2. Well Steve, how else do you get a software from a disc to the harddrive? Not magic. You actually Install it.

        Installation can be many things (which is why I advised using wikipedia too look up things people did not understand).
        Like basic manual copying, automatic copying, automatic copying with with elevation support for all users install. And so on.

        You are saying why not do like WoW. I’m sure WoW has a install, I’m sure WoW has a registration, and that registration is mandatory as it’s a multiplayer game.

        You say you love being able to copy the game to a disc, did you miss the part about reminding the user to make a copy of the disc, that implicitly indicate no cd check at all, the game is just on your good old regular standards meeting data cd/dvd.

        You also praise GameFAQ’s, thing is the majority there are morons, the Mass effect forums at BioWare for example is pretty damn good, and although BioWare do not have a lot of extras on their site for registered owners they do have some. (besides the DLC freebies)
        At least they are making an effort. (still annoying DRM though)

        As to the date check, I reworded and expanded on it a bit but the same stands. Sure it can be circumvented, but that means the user is actively doing so, at that very point they are becoming a pirate.

        You are basically falling into the exact trap that the publishers do.
        You are thinking the date is there to prevent starting the software without a serial.
        That’s wrong, the date check is to ensure that a legitimate owner is able to run the software regardless a year or so later even if they lost the serial. Getting it online from their registered account may not be an option if the company shut down or similar, or you can’t find the “final patch” the company promised you.

        The serial check is only there to remind a pirate they are pirating (as opposed to using a freeware software), and just nag/annoy them a little. The main purpose though is to tie the serial to a user, thus making them a registered owner, so that they can get benefits for being loyal.

        I can understand if your confused, publishers have been doing the DRM thing since as far back as I can remember, and nothing has really worked, and customers are always annoyed. So if they fail to understand then I’m not surprised if you do too. *laughs*

        The whole point of the article was a example install and trying to hammer in that simplicity is they key and that piracy is a competitor and that as a dev/publisher you have to win in the Free Market against them.

        I don’t plan on re-writing the article, I just went over it fixing a few late night mistakes a few moments ago. If you want it explained in a more layman way maybe Shamus could write something, he’s got way more writing experience than me after all. *grin*

        PS! Why do you think things like a catch-all GameFAQ is so popular?
        Because the developers or the publisher had nothing like it, or they no longer exist, or because they stopped support.
        if you from day 1 could rely on the official game site or publisher for everything people would have no need for GameFAQ, except pirates, and legal folks who would suddenly look closer at those people and advertisers would stay the heck away and work with the game developers directly instead.
        It’s a Free Market after all, right?

        1. Steve C says:

          I do understand what installing means and I don’t want a lesson in semantics. I’m making a distinction between copying files from point A to B vs making registry changes or impacting system drivers.

          I have no idea if you like WoW or not, and if you do or not is irrelevant. I’m using it as an example success through value added. It has no DRM, no registry entries, and no impact to the system at all other than hard drive space. It has value added compared to many games’ tendrils that stick their way into the guts of a system and aren’t removed after an uninstall. Your article spent a lot of effort on an example install that I couldn’t see any value added compared to copy.exe.

          The monthly subscription is to access the data feed of other players and the fairly regular content patches every couple of months. Contrast this to a private server that just runs the game as shipped in the box. (Private servers do exist.) If WoW never added new content (or just expansions) then I would consider accessing a private server instead of registration and paying the monthly subscription. But a private server just can’t compete with the experience of the official servers. This is an example of more value added over what’s just in the box.

          I’m attempting to point out value that has nothing to do with the technical aspects of an install. I believe it’s a flawed approach to attempt to provide value with a complicated install.

        2. Steve C says:

          I do understand why you were putting in the date check. I’m not confused nor falling into a common trap, nor do I fail to understand. I’m saying that you can accomplish the exact same thing by not including it at all. It doesn’t impact legit owners, it doesn’t impact non-legit owners, so why include it at all? There’s no value to the company, there’s no value to the consumer so it’s better not to spend resources coding it in the first place.

          If the serial is to provide extra value through a members only registration, then the registration can be included in the box and doesn’t have to be entered in locally at any point to play the game.

          If you don’t like GameFaqs, then I guess something that you do like would provide value. I’m not praising GameFaqs, I’m pointing out the value of scale in aggregate sites that a single publisher cannot reproduce. It’s a competitive advantage over a single purpose site that differentiates between legit and no-legit owners. That’s the hurdle any single purpose site has to get over in order to provide a better product, compete and provide value. And it’s significant. The difference between legit and non-legit is where the value has to be created.

          Let’s say you buy 2 games a month for 2 years. Fifty games made by fifty different companies that all offer “better than GameFaqs” support (however you wish to define it). The issue is to find those sites, learn a new interface, set up 50 accounts etc vs one interface. And has already been pointed out, a significant % of those companies will be effectively gone. Collectively it’s a barrier that an aggregate site does not have to overcome.

          1. Steve: WoW is an interesting example because their forums and online materials like the Armory are things GameFAQS either doesn’t or can’t meaningfully provide. Now, with WoW, there’s WoWWiki, Thottbot, Allakhazam, Gamefaqs, plenty of fan sites AND the official forums, but the official forums are definitely part of the calculation.

            AC2, of course, has none of this. People want to replicate Blizzard’s 900-pound gorilla success, but they don’t want to do any of that WORK.

  29. Nalano says:

    These publishers are so invested in making sure pirates don’t win that they’ve lost all sight of making sure customers do. This scorched-earth policy underlies how much they miss the point: They’re exploiting the customers and the customers react by exploiting them back.

    The message was heard loud and clear for years: Console gamers are more gullible a market than you. You will accept our crappy console ports and you will buy them six months late and you will pay full price for inefficient code. We do this because you have supported us and made us the big companies we are.

    How RIAA of them. Sounds like Metallica’s infamous argument.

    The fanboys that accept the official word and blame this sort of action on pirates are not working in their own self-interest – they’re practically unwitting collaborators.

    The “principled” customers who say that we should all shoot ourselves in the foot by simply not partaking at all are fooling nobody, least of all themselves, that such will make a difference in the publishers’ eyes.

    It’s not a moral issue. It’s an economic one. Ubisoft is poisoning the well it drinks from. Just because they as a business wrap themselves in the flag of moral righteousness does not mean they’re not really bad at business.

  30. Merle says:

    Haven’t yet read the article, but I wanted to note based on the post here:

    When I found out that Starcraft 2 wouldn’t support LAN, I cancelled my preorder. As of now, I do not plan to buy the game, based entirely on the fact that it will not support LAN. So…yeah. That’s one sale lost.

    (And no, I don’t plan to PLAY it either. Except maybe on a friend’s computer or something, if THEY buy it. Sheesh.)

  31. David Armstrong says:

    This DRM issue is nonsense. It is a non-issue, and many commenter's are nervous like a hemophiliac with a knife.

    Ubi wants to bring the utility of the internet into single player gaming and resistance to this move is being fabricated from nothing. Consider this: Ubi's servers go down. Damn. Well, you're no worse off than if you wanted to raid ICC and Blizzard's servers went down. Basically, Ubi is making their single-player games into multi-player games.

    You can wax nostalgia or wrap a second (or third) layer of duct tape around your wires to protect them from cat attacks. And about all the other impossible technological obstacles people are quoting ““ give me a break. Your microwave disrupts your Wi Fi? Then move the router or resolve not to make Ramen noodles mid-game. You guys are INVENTING these make-believe scenarios to use as ammunition against Ubi. They're not responsible for your crappy internet connections, especially when many quoted examples (I don't get 3G on the bus!) are ridiculous anyway.

    I understand single player games. Don't mistake me for a cheerleader for the company ““ I read every link Shamus put up and came to the above conclusions. I understand that we gamers have expectations for single player games. However, every argument against DRM can be used against MMO's and online multi-players, and yet those have survived. Let me break it down, here's what will happen:

    Ubi customers will gain all the utility and complications of online gaming. Ubi is offering to save your game on their servers, playable on any platform with the game installed. But if they go down, no one plays. It's the same deal every WoW player has with Blizzard. And Ubi's games will be automatically patched, cheaters and hackers will now be vulnerable outside of multi-player, and you can know if your friends are online to boot.

    Basically, Ubi is signaling that single player is dead. Everything will be done online, with all the pros and cons that implies. As far as worse case scenarios, it will be no worse than any other MMO or online multi-player game.

    Oh, and the inconvenience of logging into a website to play a game? If you play anything online currently, you login to the game to play the game. This is not an issue.

    1) I never played single-player or LAN, therefore nobody did.
    2) I have ubiquitous always-on internet, therefore everyone does.

    1) I did play Starcraft offline and I had a great time. But it would not have been a burden to be online to do it.
    2) Ubi is signaling that they will not be making conventional single player games anymore. This is the way it is going to be. So you’re right – those players that can’t maintain the connection will be excluded. Or, this will be the incentive to finally upgrade.

    Sometimes, the wagon pulls the horse. The horse is surprised, and justifiably indignant, but it isn’t an issue to boycott a company over.

    1. Duffy says:

      There is absolutely nothing in Assassin’s Creed 2 (based on the PS3/360 version) that requires a constant internet connection aside from trying to stop pirates. The entire effort is not to bring single player games online, it’s to stop pirates.

      Which it will probably not accomplish if history has taught us anything about DRM.

      Therefore, the exercise only has the potential to mess with the legit customer base.

      That is Shamus’ point that your are blatantly ignoring in your attempt to link MMOs to single player games. MMOs do not exist in the same scope as your single player game. They require dedicated server farms to even run the game properly, thus by definition of design they are services outside the scope of a single player game that can run in it’s entirety on your home PC.

      The apple is not an orange.

    2. Emm Enn Eff says:

      With a MMO, you pay for a service.

      With a single-player game… There is no service.

    3. Seriously? I started reading your post with the hopes this was a clever satire that would be revealed at the end. Sadly, it appears you were being serious.

      From what we know, you play single player online, but without seeing any other players, or being able to save continuously, or indeed with ANY BENEFIT AT ALL from doing so except for clogging up your internet.

      There’s already an issue with internet suppliers not being able to keep up with the increasing demand for bandwidth to stream video. If everyone copies Ubisoft here, it will become a thousand times worse for no reward. Screw them.

      1. David Armstrong says:

        No, you do save continuously, on Ubi’s servers. You can play your saved games on any other system with the game installed. It says so in Shamus’s third think, right before he links the graph.

        Funnily enough, only Gamespot published anything positive about the scheme. You do get support. But you guys are against the idea, so you ignore that.

        1. ehlijen says:

          What support?
          They choose to save my games for me? I don’t want that. I have a harddisk for that. Give me full control over when and where my save games go I say.

          Auto patching? No thanks. If I think I need a patch I’ll look for one.

          Being able to use your saves on other systems? That only became a problem when game developers stopped putting savegames into easy to find and copyable folders.

          None of these features are needed, yet they are not optional. And there’s still no need for a constant internet connection yet they want that to be required?

          Single player is not dead, and requiring online activation at a lan party is asking for trouble (10+ computers trying to maintain an open conncetion over the same router?).

          Bottom line:
          This adds nothing most people want, still does not justify the connection useage, takes away peoples control over their property and still does not impede piracy.

          It’s just a bad idea. Optionally, it may have worked, but forced it’s just offensive.

    4. Anaphyis says:

      You play and pay for a MMO because of the two Ms. Not because of the O. The O part is a necessary evil and not a reward in itself. Comparing a single player game with a MMO is so far beyond pointless it’s not even funny anymore.

      We are talking about single-player games. Constant Internet connectivity does not a multi-player game make. The ability to play with multiple players does.

      “Or, this will be the incentive to finally upgrade.”

      Sorry but arrogance and stupidity always come in the same package, don’t they. Broadband flatrates are not ubiquitously available. Not in the US, not in Europe and especially not anywhere else. Yet you make it the consumers fault if they have to use dial-in and pay additionally in return for not a single benefit. Just to play their legally purchased game. The one they paid for. While the pirate next door is laughing his ass off.

      1. David Armstrong says:

        But now you’re laying down the way every gamer plays MMO’s.

        I hate the MM part of it. I solo most of the time. I try and solo group quests when I can. The MM part is, in my experience, the most disappointing part of the game.

        So, in my mind, I’ve been playing DRM for a long time now. I didn’t get started with WoW or STO with the idea of being part of a big group. I just accepted that these are great games, rpgs, that require the player to be online.

        So this DRM scheme is nothing new to me, because in my playstyle, I’ve already been doing it for years.

        1. Roy says:

          Apples to oranges. That you choose not to or dislike the MM features of an MMO does not change that the MM aspect of an MMO is, you know, the whole point. MMOs need to be online, because that’s the way you get the MM part. If a game isn’t providing the MM part, then why in the bloody hell should I be required to have a constant connection as though it did? That’s absurd.

          You never had to play an MMO to get your play experience–there are tons of RPGs that are single player, and don’t require any MM aspect to play. That you chose to go the MMO route instead was a personal decision, but it’s making your argument sound like:
          Well, I had to put up with this crap for years to play games that I wanted to play, so why shouldn’t the rest of you?

          That’s not a solid justification for unreasonable behavior.

    5. Amun says:

      “1) I never played single-player or LAN, therefore nobody did.
      2) I have ubiquitous always-on internet, therefore everyone does.

      1) I did play Starcraft offline and I had a great time. But it would not have been a burden to be online to do it.
      2) Ubi is signaling that they will not be making conventional single player games anymore. This is the way it is going to be. So you're right ““ those players that can't maintain the connection will be excluded. Or, this will be the incentive to finally upgrade.”

      1. Unless you’re at a LAN party with no internet/connection troubles.
      2. Unless you live in the 40% of the country that has no access to broadband, or you’re poor.

      1. David Armstrong says:

        I already conceded that point in my original post.

        You are right. This is a financial/technological hurdle to overcome for some players.

        And I think, if every company did this, and gamers did upgrade their systems, overall the gaming market would be better off for it. The consumers usually do dictate the terms of the product, but I guess this time, Ubi is telling us the way it’s going to be. To play AC2, you’ll need to be able to get online and stay online. Figure it out.

        1. ehlijen says:

          And if general motors said their cars will shut down if you don’t have a dog onboard, is that just the way things are going to be as well?

          People want to play a single player game. This does not require any internet conncetion at all to function. DRM adds that requirement, but even DRM does not benefit from an always on connection. The connection only has to exist because UB want it to. Whether that’s because they’re mean, incompetent or want to spy on us I don’t know, but there’s no justifiable reason for why a game should crash the second my modem has a hickup.

    6. Daimbert says:


      If Ubisoft is saying “No more single player games; everything is now on-line” then if I want single player games, boycotting is quite appropriate and the most reasonable response. Basically, if everything is an MMO then I’ll go play MMOs; if I don’t want to play an MMO or an on-line multiplayer game why should I put up with the nonsense of the constant connection and logging in?

      Yes, MMOs and multiplayer games require these things and survive. But as others have said we put up with that BECAUSE we want to play those games in that manner, and that’s just part and parcel of it. This is not part and parcel of single player games, and if Ubisoft wants to make it such then they should be prepared for customers to say “Screw you, buddy!”

      Now, here’s an example of a real issue: I have a laptop. I don’t have Internet connectivity on it because I don’t need it. If this becomes the model for single player games, I couldn’t play any of them on my laptop. That annoys me, and annoys me enough that if I was buying something to play on my laptop, well, I couldn’t do it. So I wouldn’t buy a game that had that model. So, they potentially lose a legitimate, non-pirating customer. Tell me how that improves profitability?

      And any concern that someone has is potentially the same sort of thing, even if you don’t think it’s a big problem or that it’s easy to work around. You don’t get to decide what’s too annoying for other people. They get to decide what’s too annoying for them.

      Now, the claim may be that it will stop enough piracy that the loss of actual customers will be made up. But this is flawed for two reasons: 1) You may hit a critical mass of annoyance and if you don’t watch out for that you’ll end up losing money and 2) Pirates WILL break this DRM … and when they do, all benefits to stopping piracy will vanish, but those customers that are lost may not return.

      Annoying your customers to the point where they either can’t or won’t buy your product is not the way to make money.

      1. Exactly.

        To use a pant analogy, imagine if we purchased pants. (there are cameras and detectors in stores these days), imagine if that was taken further, the DRM way.
        People would show up at your home periodically to check that the pants you are wearing are the pants you baught and not used by somebody else.

        When you walk outside they stalk you, when you undress, shower and get dressed they monitor you in case you are not wearing the pants you should be wearing.

        I doubt anyone would out up with that, I certainly would not. Yet DRM is exactly that. MMO and Multiplayer players do not notice this as they (and myself as well) expect and accept that only legit owners are supposed to play together, and as it happens in the background when playing online it’s not an inconvenience.

        Console gamers have as much if not more DRM than PC gamers but do not notice this. (yet)

        People with views like David up there worry me, it’s the same type of people that newer questions what the government do, that always trust Wall Street or big corporations.

        I wonder how many of those who “believe” in DRM also fall for those viagra/drugs online scams, or commercially pirated products, buy knock off brands, fall for internet money scams and so on.

        1. GiantRaven says:

          ‘Console gamers have as much if not more DRM than PC gamers but do not notice this. (yet)’

          I was just wondering if you could elaborate on this a little more because i’m not sure I understand. When comparing examples of ridiculous DRM on PCs to console based games I can’t see where the stupid restrictions come in…

          – I can play a game on a multitude of different consoles as much as I want
          – I’m not required to be connected to the internet to start playing/continue playing at any point

          Apologies if this sounds somewhat argumentative or rude (if it does, it really isn’t intended) but I can’t follow what you’re saying here.

          1. Ah ok! The reason it (DRM) works so well on consoles is that it’s hardware is tailor made for this.

            But isn’t some console games requiring you to have a XBox live id or something? Have not people been banned from playing in the past on legit consoles with legit games?

            The issue however is that publishers are trying to apply console DRM to PC’s. Which is silly if you ask me as that is impossible.
            Only consoles can provide console DRM, as by definition those systems are proprietary. PC’s are open platforms.

      2. David Armstrong says:

        That’s ridiculous, thinking there even exists such a thing as an “annoyance” quotient. People will put up with an extraordinary amount of annoying things if they think the cause is worthwhile.

        Ever seen someone separate their garbage to make sure the plastics are in the plastics, paper in the paper, glass in the glass, etc? Those people are separating garbage into separate, smaller piles of garbage. But, recycling is like a religion, so off they go.

        Pirates will break everything. I remember the story where hackers emailed Microsoft their own Windows Vista a month before Vista was supposed to launch. So does that mean the companies give up the fight for fair play? I think Punkbuster has been a fantastic service, and when I see it on games it’s a selling point.

        People will die in car accidents, I guess we should save ourselves the frustration and remove seat belts…

        Ubi is changing the way we’re going to be playing games. Does anyone entertain any illusions that the internet won’t be involved in ALL games ten years from now?

        1. Daimbert says:


          You miss the point. Yes, sometimes some people will put up with great annoyances IF THEY FEEL IT WORTH IT. However, everyone for pretty much every action has a threshold where if enough effort is required or annoyance accrued they won’t do it. Even your recycling example is a bad one because a lot of people DON’T recycle BECAUSE the sorting is too annoying, or they feel it’s too much effort.

          The bottom line is that if a product is too annoying for them, they won’t buy or may even try to get it for free. Few consider the “cause” that the DRM is fixing worthy enough to put up with significant annoyance over. And rightfully so; people who buy legitimate copies really have no reason to worry about what people who aren’t that honest do. They’ve already done their part, and need do no more.

          You also miss the point of my comment about pirates breaking the system. For any system that you intend to use more than once, once pirates break it they will have pirated copies out day one. So it won’t even stop those pirated copies from hurting sales. So, if a company is willing to trade legitimate customers to stop some pirated copies, they have to be very careful that in later releases they don’t have those that the initial introduction of the DRM stopped from pirating now being able to get pirated copies while those customers that they lost because of the annoyance DON’T RETURN. Thus, net loss. Not a good business plan.

          Again, it is a very bad idea to deliberately say “If you don’t like what we do, don’t buy our product” when some of those people are, in fact, your actual intended audience for the product. DRM is not and never will be a part of the game itself, and so someone rejecting a game based on annoying DRM is not rejecting the GAME, but this add-on to stop “pirating”.

          Will the Internet be involved in all games ten years from now? I don’t know. If this DRM scheme goes through, probably. But should it? And is it gameplay that’s driving it? The latter question is clearly “No”, which sort of suggests an answer to the former question.

    7. B.J. says:

      Bah, David you have completely missed the point. It doesn’t matter what Ubi says about their DRM scheme. It doesn’t matter how smooth and easy it works. It doesn’t matter that many people will probably not have troubles with it. Do you hear me? None. of. that. matters.

      Consider this: You go to buy a new car and you see it has everything you want. It’s the right price, has all the features, it’s loaded with luxury extras, and its the right color to boot. Except there’s this retarded bright yellow racing stripe on both sides. You ask the dealer about removing it and he tells you if you paint over the racing stripe the car won’t work.

      Does the racing stripe impact the performance of the car? No. Does it take away from all the other features of the vehicle? No. Will it stop the car from doing the job you need it to do? Probably not. But none of that matters! It’s *your* car that you’re paying for with *your* money and so it should damn well look how *you* want it to!

      I swear to god, no other business could survive treating its customers how the game industry does.

      (Edit: I had to type this twice because my broadband cable internet connection crapped out on me)

      1. David Armstrong says:

        Well, that’s a false comparison, because Ubi IS promising features with their DRM. It said so in the Gamespot article Shamus linked.

        Ubi is offering to hold all your saved games for you on their servers. That way you can play your saved games on any computer with the game installed. The game will be auto-updated with patches and such.

        So basically, you buy a car, and the car has this garish racing stripe you hate. BUT, you get free maintenance (oil changes, tire pressure, etc) and any car you step into magically becomes YOUR car.

        Or you could, just, buy a different game. I dunno, your car comparison was a hard one to work with.

        1. Roy says:

          Except that having them save my files to their computers *isn’t a feature for me*.

          I don’t *want* my save games stored off-site. I want them saved on my computer. Where I play my games. I don’t want or need the ability to play my games on anyone else’s computer, because I don’t do that.

          And what they’re calling “features” are really just the means to the end–they’re the way that they’re going to enforce their DRM.

          You might as well try to convince me that it’s a good idea to slap a tracking device on my leg because it provides the “feature” of letting people find me if I get lost–you’d still be blowing smoke up my skirt. The means of enforcing a DRM scheme does not constitute a feature to the user.

          1. Jarenth says:

            This is essentially what it is: Ubisoft is promising new features with their DRM system, but they are useless non-features that have no place in this particular game. But people who don’t want these features, or who would even be hindered by them, are screwed. This is why no-one is looking at the ‘positive sides’ of this thing: they’re shallow, hollow and easily pierced, and serve as nothing more than sugar coating for a very bitter pill.

            I’m one of the thousands of people who don’t like this system, yeah. Can you tell?

        2. B.J. says:

          The point wasn’t that buying a piece of software is like buying a car, it’s that when you buy a product you should get what *you* want, not what the seller wants and not what the manufacturer wants. That’s how most businesses work, but the game industry seems to think otherwise.

          OF COURSE I WON’T BUY IT. That wasn’t your argument before, and isn’t the typical dialogue we hear from industry apologists. It’s never, “Well if you don’t like it don’t buy it,” instead it’s intimidation and whining and entitlements:

          “Games cost so much, companies need to make money, so just shut up and buy it.” (Not my problem, if you can’t sell a product in this business, your product stinks.)

          “If u don’t give them money u don’t get moar games.” (As long as people want games they will be made. Only the bad ones will fail.)

          “durr piracy is stealing dur dur dur” (not worth even responding to.)

    8. LK says:

      Something beyond your own experience may sound absurd, that does not mean it is absurd. It is absurd to you, because you are unfamiliar with it.

      Wireless connections for example occupy a fairly poor part of the radio spectrum which is crowded and plagued by problems with destructive interference.

      Okay, so, I can’t make popcorn while playing my game. That is perfectly sensible. But also, I can’t play while my neighbor uses their wireless phone. Hm, suddenly this is less insubstantial.

      Yes, I could use a wired connection, but… again, should I have to go to that much trouble to get a game to work right? Wired connections are equally as problematic. I’ve knever known someone whose connection to the internet doesn’t periodically have brief interruptions at inopportune times. Obviously nobody in this sort of situation wants a game to give them that much grief just to allow the game’s publisher to control when they’re allowed to access it. That doesn’t make them stupid, it makes them different from you. The two states are not synonymous.

  32. Raygereio says:

    David Armstrong : “I did play Starcraft offline and I had a great time. But it would not have been a burden to be online to do it.”

    It will easily become a burden if you want to play the game again say 10 years from now and you discover that Blizzard has shut down the servers and there’s no ‘dial home removal’-patch.

    If you’re the type of person that doesn’t replay games, ever. Okay, then that argument falls flat.

    1. pkt-zer0 says:

      Ten years down the line, there’s a good chance Blizzard will officially remove the copy protection as they did with their older games.
      There’s an even better chance of it being removed unofficially ten days after release. This is SC2 we’re talking about – it’ll be cracked faster than you can say “Must construct additional pylons.”

      1. Yep! And a whole new crowd of people will discover they can “get the game for free”. *sigh*

      2. Jabor says:

        Ten days?

        With the demand for this, it’ll probably be a Day-1 crack (or sooner). You’re forgetting that there are people around the world who will do nothing but try and crack this from the moment they get their hands on it.

    2. David Armstrong says:

      Oblivion was patched by its player base. I have no doubt that after 10 years, any game of any popularity, the player base will have come up with a work-around.

      And besides, who is to say that Ubi isn’t just doing this for the first 6 months so they capture 90% of legitimate buyers?

      I have a request (moot because I’m commenting on comments): stop inventing theoretical problems that haven’t happened yet and think practically. Why do you care if in this one extremist example that happened to this other game six years ago if it won’t happen this time to this game?

      1. Jarenth says:

        “The player base creating a patch that allows you to bypass the DRM” is essentially pirating.

        Just sayin’.

      2. Daimbert says:


        Which would mean that you are relying on people breaking the copyright of a game to provide a fix to the problem of no longer functioning DRM. In short, someone effectively “cracking” a game. How can you consider that good?

        As for your request, let me reply with: Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Essentially, why in the world should ANYONE believe that this time it’ll be different? Especially when no one is saying that it’ll be different?

      3. Raygereio says:

        I have no doubt that after 10 years, any game of any popularity, the player base will have come up with a work-around.”

        Yes, it will most likely be cracked sooner or later. But why should I have crack my legally bought game in order to play it!

        stop inventing theoretical problems that haven't happened yet and think practically.

        It’s called thinking ahead, anticipatin problems before they’re a problem, stuff like that.
        So far it’s only theory, that’s because the stupid level DRM is relativly new. Yes, Ubisoft – EA, 2K, whoever – shutting down their activation servers hasn’t happened yet. But the moment they do it’s to late and you can’t play the game anymore without a crack.

      4. Jabor says:

        Case in point: Any such “patch” is in fact illegal in the US.

        When you’re forcing your customers to become criminals on order to play the game, it seems silly to say that criminals are the reason you’re implementing these things.

        1. LK says:

          Well, they’re battling one set of criminals while selling crappy wares to another group of different people, later giving them reason to become criminals.

          But, really, we probably shouldn’t use the word “criminal” like we use the word “virgin”, if after one crime you’re suddenly a criminal ever-after, then I’ve never met someone who wasn’t, as long as you don’t count small children.

  33. Der Niabs says:

    Hmm… One of the reasons I haven’t been a big fan of Stardock’s Impulse system is because they used to have a rather small quantity of the titles from the larger publishers. Since this seems to be fixed now, I probably expect to be buying a lot more games from there, but I have a question…

    Will the Assassin’s Creed 2 from Impulse have the same DRM as the boxed copy? Or any other Ubisoft, EA, or Activision game on Impulse for that matter, since the only reason I would buy a game from Impulse, rather than a boxed copy, is to circumvent any DRM in a legal manner that both gets me a game free from needless restrictions and gives developers their due for entertaining me for 8 to 50 hours.

    Heck, an unrelated but similar question, in cases of EA’s latest DRM/Anti-secondhand-market tactic of free first day DLC, does anyone know if downloaded copies in general come with the first day DLC?

    1. The answer to that is simple, contact Impulse and ask. They’ll be happy to answer unlike other publishers.

      1. Jabor says:

        Sadly, the reason Impulse seems to be picking up third-party titles now is that Stardock is allowing some third-party DRM.

  34. Mephane says:

    I just a thought for the first time:

    Remember the days when you would double-check whether your PC is up to the system requirements of the game every single time before buying? It looks like instead (or for some people on top) of that we now have to double-check whether it has DRM and what kind of scheme…

  35. pkt-zer0 says:

    Why would Blizzard change its mind and remove the guest account (i.e. offline mode) from B.Net? They would’ve done so already if they weren’t planning on having it in, no?

    1. Jabor says:

      Because that means they can make sure it’s you playing the game and that you never give the disk to anyone else ever (because if you do, they won’t be able to play it). They also think that it will stop pirates from playing the game, somehow.

      In a sad attempt to get more sales, they are inconveniencing their own customers and turning more people towards piracy (which they are not inconveniencing).

  36. In all faith, I was one of the people who were “defending the system” on RockPaperShotgun. The reason that I did so is because most computer gamers have absolutely ridiculous expectations of their publishers.

    The developers and publishers have to earn money, and like it or not they see every download as a lost sale. I refute the argument that not everyone who downloaded it would have bought it, clearly because they have enough interest in the game to download several gigabytes of data. I imagine that most of them would have bought it later, or second-hand.

    Most complaints against DRM amazingly happen when they suddenly become effective. Starforce protected Splinter Cell for around a year, and at about that time a public hate campaign against Starforce began. Actually, I found this part funny as piracy endangers your computer to malware far more than Starforce ever could.

    That’s not to say that the publishers have it in the right though. They’re probably right when they say that they hate DRM too (given that they have to pay those companies…) but at the moment we’ve got an ideological problem:
    – On one hand we have a lot of pro-pirate gamers, who have somehow got it into their heads that they’re part of a counter-culture sticking it to the man. If you look at things like “Steal This Film” and so on… I’d much prefer if they were just honest enough to admit that they were pirating it because it’s free and they’re unlikely to get caught.
    – On the other hand, we have the publishers who absolutely hate the pirates. Whenever someone pirates a game that has a nasty DRM system, they don’t connect increased piracy with the DRM system: they think that the game needs an even nastier system.
    Nasty DRM -> Loss of sales (paying customer dissatsifaction) -> Nastier DRM

    All that’s happening is forcing a lot of AAA titles to prioritize console development. I mean, look at the difference in sales on PC and 360 for any recent AAA title. As well as other advantages such as hardware standardisation, when they can sell several multiples of the amount they do on PC AND have less fear of piracy (piracy on PC involves downloading a file, console piracy needs mod chips that void your warranty / ability to play online) it’s no wonder that PC-only devs like Crytek move to the console market.

    There’s a very persuasive argument from the guy who writes Tweakguides in the “website” link of my comment and I beg that the readers of this lovely blog read it :)


    1. acronix says:

      You talk of “downloading several gigabytes of data” as if it were the same deal as in unpacking 60$ from your pocket. Most people (who pirate) are willing to download them because, as you said, they are free. They may want to play the game, but they don´t want to spend money neither. It´s more likely that they´ll end ignoring it if they can´t pirate it. Or get it at 5$.

      I guess you have more examples in mind, but I could basically debunk your argument of “Most complaints against DRM amazingly happen when they suddenly become effective.” with a counter example. Or several:
      -Spore´s DRM tactic was complained about before the game came out (and it got pirated then too)
      -Mass Effect

      I agree with you in the rest of your points.

      1. Raygereio says:

        “Actually, I found this part funny as piracy endangers your computer to malware far more than Starforce ever could.”

        Even if that statement is true (I really doubt a torrent that contains malware would be up long and I’ve never seen crack on gamecopyworld – which is where I go to if I want to play without the disc – that contains a virus); pirates chose willingly to download something potentially malicious. People that bought the game didn’t.

        Edit: this was in reply to stormbringer951, not acronix. My Internet-fu is weak today.

        1. That’s a good point about the choice to install malware when pirating games. I concede that point, touche. But I still think that the amount of fuss kicked up around the Starforce debacle was totally out of proportion.

          A ring 0 driver, such as the one in the Starforce DRM, isn’t actually as uncommon as most people believe. For example, DaemonTools does something very similar and no-one that I know of complains about DaemonTools not telling you.

          Yes, I’m against drive-by installs of hidden drivers but the internet outrage was kind of hypocritical, considering that
          a) most people didn’t have the faintest clue what the driver was, or did.
          b) most people had voluntarily installed worse on their computer.

          1. Raygereio says:

            No offence meant, but your Daemontools example is just as bad as the pirate one; I again choose to install Daemontools (and all info on how it works is freely available on their forums), not so with Starforce.

            Also, Daemontools doesn’t try it’s best to wreck your discdrive like Starforce does with it’s constant spinning up of the disc in the drive.

            Lastly, the biggest fuss about Starforce wasn’t that it was malware, I think; but that someone from Protection Technology (the company that made it) posted a link to a torrent with Galactic Civ 2 saying ‘Here’s what happens when you don’t include DRM!’ (the man naturally ignored the far larger quantity of torrents with starforce protected games).

          2. Lar says:

            “most people didn't have the faintest clue what the driver was, or did.”

            “Most people, I think, don’t even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?”
            –Thomas Hesse, Sony Global Digital Business President, 2005


    2. Anaphyis says:

      If you can download a game in way under a hour with today’s broadband, you do it, you’ll play it and then if you like it you either purchase it or not. That depends on your own moral integrity. Without piracy and if you are on a tight budget – and who isn’t – you’ll carefully pick the game you buy, which will leave “risky” titles that fly under the radar in the dust.

      So yes, people download games they never intended to buy in the first place. And they also download games they never intended to buy but do so after they downloaded and played it. Of course there are always cheap jerks who simply download a game they would’ve bought otherwise but those guys also download console games.

      You can go on with the whole console argument or you can look at it another way: It’s circular. People are not hassled by draconian DRM when playing a console game and you can usually rent console games much more easily then PC games. So of course people prefer the console version. This has less to do with piracy – because pirates who really make a dent in the sales because they don’t buy games they would’ve otherwise also download, as mentioned above, console games – and more with the burned soil tactic how publishers fight piracy.

      As for Starforce – no. The public outcry began with Starforce 3, which was a really nasty piece of malware compared to it’s predecessors and competitors. On the other hand there is a ton of counter examples for games with DRM that were publicly denounced long before they were released and usually cracked within a week before or after the release date.

      1. The problem is that most people aren’t as moral as we’d like to think. Granted, the problem is partly caused by fewer and fewer publishers releasing representative demos. Case in point: I downloaded Mass Effect because I wanted to try before I hazarded money on it.

        The “console” argument that I am making is that economically, the PC is a smaller market. Piracy might be a reason, it might not. From Valve’s surveys a significant number of people have high-end PCs that can play modern games (so you can’t argue there aren’t as many gaming PCs as consoles, given that not everyone uses Valve in the first place) and yet more people buy video games for consoles rather than computers.

        The gap in sales may be merely because of the network effect externality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_effect if you don’t know what that is) but the higher piracy rates for PC versions of games as compared to console versions of games suggest that less people buy them for PC because it’s easier to pirate them.

        It’s true that piracy has a smaller perceived impact on games than the publishers make out (and a larger impact than the pirates make out) but this psychological effect may be part of the reason that developers are moving to the consoles.

        1. LK says:

          but the higher piracy rates for PC versions of games as compared to console versions of games suggest that less people buy them for PC because it's easier to pirate them.

          This may be a small nit to pick, or it may not be… but you may be conflating “more people pirate” with “less people buy” when it may not be a harmless conflation.

          More people pirate on the PC because it is easier to perform circumvention in an open platform than in the consoles’ walled garden. This is certainly a very likely truth. However piracy is still readily available on the console. The drawbacks of console piracy are actually about the same as they are on PCs: you cannot be a pirate and play games online or take advantage of their online services.

          Sales on the PC are lower because of sundry reasons. Most of them are unrelated to piracy. Console gaming is becoming a more popular market. Consoles are featuring many excellent games that are not available for the PC. Consoles offer a version of localized multiplayer (sitting in your living room playing with friends) that the PC cannot easily provide. To equate bad sales on the PC entirely and directly with piracy is ignoring a lot of more obvious, easily provable factors on why people might just prefer consoles right now.

          Piracy very well may be an actually small part of the equation. It’s very easy, after all, for people trying to succeed on the PC to blame piracy when failures of the PC market as a whole (scary, hard to come to grips with) or failures on their own part may be large parts of the situation.

          Piracy doesn’t help, but it’s also a very savory scapegoat for a cornucopia of other factors that are harder to swallow and harder to put a face on. Those factors are, however, observable, quantifiable, and assuredly real.

          1. LK says:

            I forgot one of the most obvious reasons, too:

            People who actually do consume games as opposed to collecting them are bound to prefer consoles. Why? Because they can take their games back to Gamestop et al. when they’re done and trade them in towards the next game they want to play.

            If that isn’t a huge incentive towards choosing console for that style of enjoying the hobby I don’t know what is.

            The author of the (very stimulating) article does attempt to account for reasons why console may be doing better other than piracy but has glossed over all the reasons I’ve listed so far… and some of them are very good reasons.

            It will be interesting to see if publishers eventually manage to strangle the game resale market (and not get the First Sale Doctrine shoved down their throats to make them stop) and as a result see a sharp downtick in their console sales. I’d sort of delight in seeing that, until I realized it’d cost innocent workers their jobs because of their employers’ hubris.

    3. Stellar Duck says:

      Most complaints against DRM amazingly happen when they suddenly become effective. Starforce protected Splinter Cell for around a year, and at about that time a public hate campaign against Starforce began. Actually, I found this part funny as piracy endangers your computer to malware far more than Starforce ever could.

      And yet, years later, my copy of SCCT still does not work. Back when I bought it I had to get a new key from StarForce to even install it. That took 2 days. Now that doesn’t work anymore.
      And oh, yea, it StarForce does not work in 64 bit. Did you know that? So cracking is the only way I can play it.

      I think the hate on StarForce is completely justified and has nothing to do with however long it protected the game. When the legitimate buyer can’t play the game he bought you have, as a company, failed. There is simply no excuse for that.

      1. Firstly, I’m not defending Starforce. As Shamus has often pointed out, the digital rights management systems, even Steam, are incredibly short sighted. Starforce not working with 64-bit is an example of that. Anyway, no I wasn’t aware that Starforce didn’t work with 64-bit systems. In this case, I think you’re completely justified in cracking the game if you’ve legally bought and paid for it. I install use mini-images of the DVDs and I burn backup discs for all of mine. I don’t have a problem with cracking it if you’ve got the game. It’s for the “let’s pirate it as a political statement against DRM” crowd that I have a axe to grind, because their efforts so obviously

        On the subject of Starforce, I was leery of the whole internet drama. The anti-Starforce camp smacked of hysteria, where any dissenting voices were accused of being connected to Starforce and they only made vague allegations about malicious ring 0 drivers (lots of things install ring 0 drivers or similar, including some of the DVD emulators which Starforce had to defend against). On the other hand, Starforce obfuscated, (randomly) linked to games that didn’t have Starforce which were pirated and did nothing to offer tech support to users (like you) who had problems with a legitimate copy.

        At the end of the day I think that both sides lot. The publishers thought that the PR hit from using Starforce was too big to justify so Starforce was dropped, but gamers haven’t seen the death of DRM. If anything, the other companies took notes and improved on Starforce’s work (e.g. Ubisoft’s insane new AC2 scheme).

        1. Emm Enn Eff says:

          Justified or not, cracking his game is illegal, thanks to the beautiful piece of legislature called the DMCA.

          Which goes back to the point 90% of the comments have been making – DRM turns honest customers into thieves.

          1. krellen says:

            As a rule, it’s generally a good idea to hold off on calling new legislation law and the actions it prohibits illegal until that legislation has actually been viewed by the SCOTUS.

            Especially on contentious issues, such as IP and DRM.

  37. The author of Tweakguides mentions in particular that PC gaming is changing due to the effect of piracy, and not for the better. For example, there’s a growing prevalence in the market for the free-to-play MMO, supported by ads or micro-purchases. A lot of people say “adapt or die” and that the publishers should change their business models. I think they agree, and they’ve decided on World of Warcraft’s model. This appears to be the case, given Ubi’s singeplayer-online baffling DRM system for Assassin’s Creed. David Armstrong who posted above seems to be right in that the big companies are looking to move singleplayer games online. Unfortunately.
    Of course, the PC market isn’t going to die, but the recent trends in video games don’t exactly induce confidence in the PC crowd. Since the start of the millennium, gaming has been moving increasingly towards the consoles and computer games that remain have got steadily simpler in an attempt to cater to the pick-up-and-play round. The ultimate expression of this is Battlefield Heroes, which is a contemptibly shallow version of the Battlefield games. I’m a fan of the series, but I find that Heroes is skill-less, soulless and not fun. I just hope more devs don’t find it in their heads to emulate EA’s experiment there.

    I play predominantly single-player games, and looking at my game shelf there’s nothing that I’ve bought in the last year apart from Stalker Clear Sky (which turned out to be terrible) and The Orange Box. I honestly don’t believe that most modern-day PC games are worth the effort anymore, and obviously the big developers agree. I’ve seen articles written about piss-poor ports of console games and I believe that should tell us something. If the developers don’t respect us enough, or believe that it would be an appropriate use of a few man hours, to even tweak the UI to work well with the PC then we’re seeing the reaction to what they view as an unprofitable market. It’s no coincidence that most AAA titles release a PC version months after the 360 and PS3 versions are ready.

    I’d like a return to the old system, where singleplayer games were made with care and didn’t need any DRM more aggressive than a CD check at startup. However, I get the feeling that that’s exactly as likely as most people spontaneously deciding to give up piracy. This whole business with DRM and piracy is an escalating arms race, where neither the angry fans or the angry publishers are willing to compromise in anything. It’s a baaaad vicious circle.

    acronix: The complaints against Starforce and SecuROM happened when they were effective. They were dropped eventually when the PR hit of using them exceeded the publisher or developer’s expectations of how much/little piracy it would discourage.

    Spore is the most stupid expression of DRM that I’ve seen. They decided that they could salvage more sales from including a new and aggressive DRM system than they’d lose from the game’s popularity. That didn’t happen. Interestingly, Bioshock’s developers announced that they were very happy with the DRM that they wrapped with the game, given that it stopped any zero-day piracy, even though it was cracked a few days afterwards. The source is in the Tweakguides article I linked in my comment above by the way.

    I didn’t make my point clear however. My point was that both sides are engaged in complete hysteria, with the gamers demanding DRM-free games (which crash like World of Goo did – indie, DRM-free, a great game – which got pirated lots) while the publishers are impossibly attempting to stamp out piracy.

    I just wish that both sides had a dictionary with the word “compromise” in it. The marketing execs are a little behind the times, and a lot of computer gamers act like petulant manchildren (“give us the gaemz with no DRM or we’ll piratez it lololol”) in this case.

    PS: And I compare downloading the gigabytes of data with spending £30 or $60 or whatever sum, because there is an economic oppurtunity cost involved. They COULD download something else in that time, but obviously the game holds enough interest for them to download that instead.

    1. I’m curious how many console owners end up pirating the PC version instead of getting the console version. What does that say about the dirty PC pirates? Aren’t these folks console pirates except the technicality being they are not playing it on their console?

      As to buying games. I rarely do.
      Last few I can recall are X3: Terran Conflict, GTA IV, Mass Effect, and Mass Effect 2.
      luckily those where pretty good, and I’m very selective as I have been burned in the past. If I read a review or see lots of comments about a DRM, or bad PC port, or half assed story or incomplete gameplay or levels etc, or bad voice acting then I simply will not buy that game.

      1. I’m not playing the console / computer wars argument, that’s a childish point of view. A person can be a console gamer and a computer gamer. A person who has a console and downloads a pirate copy for the PC still pirated it for the PC, not the console.

        That’s the distinction.

        I’m pointing out that developers and publishers may prefer the PS3 and Xbox360 because they’re closed platforms which need mod chips or other trickery before you can play. It’s more complex, it may void the warranty on their box etc. so most people don’t do it.

        1. Your not getting my point. I’m saying that console gamers pirate as much as PC gamers (ignoring any overlap on what they play), they just end up pirating on the PC because it’s easier.

          I wish we’d see some proper stats. Not stats stating a game was downloaded X times on the PC vs the console but stats like: 2% market penetration on the PC and 2% on the consoles for example.
          Currently the PC market is way smaller than the console market. Mainly due to console exclusives, or that a PC port made by a 3rd party is available half a year to a year to a year plus after the the console release. Obviously the PC version will sell less. Heck, then there are exclusives, a game like Fable II or upcoming Fable III in particular I’d really want to buy. But I can’t has I have no consoles at all. There are a lot of console games I’d want but since I have no console it’s physically impossible for me to buy it. (unless I love burning money on things I can’t use that is)

          I can’t believe any current stats I see, for or against DRM or Piracy. And online sales are incomplete or not reported and so on.
          Things that can not be scientifically or statistically backed up are presented as if they are facts.
          although people like me or Shamus may be biased against DRM, at the very least we try to honestly state to facts or theories and do not try to pretend that they are otherwise.

          Also, if you have no issues with DRM, then you certainly have no issues with no DRM either, no DRM does not make your experience as a consumer any worse. Now when it comes to sales/publishers and so on, who knows, there are no unbiased facts and numbers made available by the industry yet.

          1. That’s my point.

            There is no difference between console and PC gamers. There is no divide. They are “gamers” on different platforms, not different species.

            It’s just that it is easier to download games on the PC, so they do that. The corporations don’t care if you label yourself as a PC gamer or a console gamer, they just see one more download for that torrent for the PC version of ReallyAwesomeModernGame.

            The stats were mentioned on the TweakGuides website, which I don’t believe has a hidden agenda. The stats are on this page (http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_4.html). It’s not my business if you believe them or not, but those are the stats that I’m basing my argument on.

            A couple of things I’d like to point out
            a) I don’t have a console. I never plan to. Therefore, I have as much stake as any other PC user who doesn’t want to see good AAA titles tie themselves to obsolete hardware and unmoddable engines. Unfortunately, it is happening and I believe that this is being driven by the vicious circle caused by DRM and piracy.

            Piracy -> DRM -> More piracy (protest pirates + consumers who can’t get the retail version to work) -> Corporate suits decide that piracy is going up -> More effective (read: worse) DRM -> More piracy -> VICIOUS CIRCLE.

            The only ways to break it that I can see would be for the consumer to pirate less (impossible, as piracy gives you FREE STUFFZ!!1 with almost no chance of getting caught) or the publishers deciding to drop DRM. That’s highly unlikely. Even with the negative externality of DRM removed for the publishers, they still won’t see an appreciable decrease in the amount of pirates in my opinion.

            I think that if that happened, more people would pirate the games because it would be even easier (don’t even need cracks…), as well as the negative effect of a zero-day copy more easily becoming available (which is identical to the real one, available early and free? What’s not to like?) while the decent people (i.e. TwentySided readers) who would buy it would be outnumbered by the fans impatient enough to get the 0-day or the free riders who would pirate it anyway. But then again, I’m a cynic.

            b) I haven’t bought any games in the last year, partly because of the digital rights management schemes in them.
            I am as against intrusive digital rights management as everyone else, but I don’t think that DRM-free is a realistic compromise anymore. Sure, I’d love to have games that are DRM-free (I loved Company of Heroes before it introduced the stupid online-account + occasional CD check) but I don’t think that it’s going to happen very often in the future, apart from the indie market.

            Depressingly, I think that I’ll go back to playing good old games (by the way, I have to shamelessly plug GOG.com for providing amazing old games with Vista/XP compatibility and no DRM).

  38. Riksa says:

    I’m dismayed at this. Not because AC2; I already have it on the 360. I’m dismayed because of Silent Hunter 5, which I was certainly going to buy. If this new DRM scheme hinders the sales of SH5 badly, it’s another nail in the coffin of serious simulators.

  39. Kevin says:

    It’s about movies instead of games, but I thought you might appreciate this:


    1. acronix says:

      It´s a bit exagerated, but it takes the point.

      Anyway, didn´t someone else link this very same image in another thread a couple of days ago…?

      1. neolith says:

        I don’t think this is exaggerated. I’ve got that shit on most of my DVDs. And to add insult to injury most of those also have a one minute trailer about how pirates are evil and that they’ll end up in jail. A trailer that – as well as the other stuff – pirates don’t get to see.

        1. Yeah, I always thought that those trailers were weird. Considering that pirates only rip the actual film off the DVD. Still, that’s how PR department’s minds work.

          PS: It’s not a convincing argument if you’re a car thief either. =P (not implying anything, just a pithy observation)

  40. The real thing is that if you cut out everyone who doesn’t have an internet connection good enough to play World of Warcraft on — but a computer system good enough to play a cutting edge game on — you are losing less than 1% of the buyers. If, by stopping piracy, you create 5% more sales, you have a huge improvement. The dollars and cents argument massively favors this sort of DRM.

    Lets assume you bear the 95% of the people playing your game without paying for it no ill-will. You’ve just vaporized all of them. Given the amount people are paying any way to be able to play your game (with a better/more expensive computer system), the cost of the game is the least of the costs involved.

    And you don’t get into an arms race with various software over-lays and anti-piracy messes. Just a server to log into. I’m amazed it hasn’t gone further, faster than it it appears to be moving now.

    As an aside, the most important DRM steps ever taken by the Age of Empires/Kings/ Mythology group before Microsoft killed them, were all related to stopping cheating.

    For games like Diablo III, I expect that to become important as well.

    Anyway, I can see the annoyance from the buyer’s side, but I sure understand it.

    I’m surprised it did not happen sooner.

    1. Anaphyis says:

      This assumption depends on many variables

      – You’re assuming that good hardware equals good connectivity. That isn’t even true for regions with broadband flatrates and it certainly isn’t true in general to believe a number like 1%. Or to quote Homer Simpson: “Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 14% of people know that.”

      – The main assumption is that the game remains uncracked. Considering the save games are still saved locally in addition to the cloud, that is highly unlikely. We are still talking about a single-player game here, not a MMO where the majority of the game except for graphics is running on the server.

      – Furthermore it assumes a large number of pirates who are unwilling to buy the game even if they like it would be enticed to buy it when they cannot pirate it anymore.

      – Also it doesn’t factor in legitimate customers who won’t buy this game *because* of the ridiculous DRM measures. I’ve bought Assassins Creed for PC close to launch day and I’m definitely not going to do that for AC2. Not even as a budget title.

      This is a simple case of salami tactics if I ever saw one. See Shamus’ example of 2K’s approach.

      1. Jabor says:

        Considering the save games are still saved locally in addition to the cloud, that is highly unlikely.

        Even then, you’ll notice the prevalence of World of Warcraft private servers. If it’s the only way to crack it, a group would release a “virtual server” that handles the cloud saving for one person. Pirates would have their saved game backed up that they could play anywhere, even with no connectivity, even if the servers are offline.

  41. About playing games “ten years later.”

    You know, I really enjoyed Wing Commander. At one time I even had Kilrathi Saga? Why did I buy it (and miss it when it was stolen when my house was burglarized?)? Because the previous version would not run on my computer. Changes in operating systems and such had rendered what had been my favorite game unplayable. DRM had nothing to do with it.

    I’ve started to realize that about a number of games I kept. They are no longer playable.

    And. Honestly. I’m not as excited about playing them, now that I’ve been exposed to newer games. Who has gone back and played Starcraft? I mean, it was an incredible experience. But now?

    I used to worry a lot about going back to play games. I had the code printed out for some of them. Now. I don’t worry so much.

    1. Vipermagi says:

      I regularly play Starcraft on a local LAN (tautology much?). Sure, it looks pretty crappy on a 1600*1050 screen, but it’s still interesting, and fun to play.

    2. Shamus says:

      In my case, I just played Starcraft a few months ago. X-com last year. Also Deus Ex, Master of Orion 2, Descent, and Thief 2. All in the past 18 months or so.

      I also draw a distinction between “game which doesn’t run because of unforeseen changes in hardware” and “game which doesn’t run because the DRM broke it”.

      Sort of like, “cars wear out” versus “this car is designed to kill itself ten years after the construction date”.

      This is another divide in the gaming community: People who collect games vs. people who consume them.

      1. Oops, I meant Starflight, the PC game for DOS, not Starcraft, the game by Blizzard. My bad.

        I still collect games. I’ve got Sandy Petersen’s Lightspeed sitting on the shelf. Need to get a 5″ fWoWloppy disk driver again for it.

        But I look at the success of the WoW, etc. games and I can see game designers thinking that if they can just sell to that group and net only a small fraction of the sales they are losing to pirates, they will be ahead.

        The real problem is just how large a percentage of the people playing a game steadily are pirates. Not the download and play for a day or so and move on, or the collect everything pirates (like the guy I knew with 100 gig of downloaded music) but the mainstream player pirates.

        With expensive top end machines who are picking up top-end machine only games.

        But I see Ensemble. Dead. FASA. Dead. Wing Commander. Dead and the plot lines and coding for the next title scrapped (Origin didn’t save it, the designer I met who had, lost the files in an upgrade; they weren’t important enough to him to back-up).

        I would have liked to have been able to play the next title in the Wing Commander series. Would have liked an Age of Nations to follow an Age of Mythology (Napoleonics, etc. — who wouldn’t love that game from Ensemble).

        Never going to happen now. The pirates killed them all.

    3. Daimbert says:

      I recently started a new game of Star Trek TNG: Birth of the Federation. Published in 1999.

      Still play Master of Orion 2.

      Still play Star Wars: Rebellion. Published in 1998.

      Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is one of my favourite games. It’s on my list to replay soon. Published in 2003.

      And this doesn’t even list the console and Amiga games that either I do or would play again (Gold Box, anyone?).

      And if I’d ever played Starcraft, I would play it again. It’s on my list to actually get into playing at some point.

      I’ve never finished Planescape: Torment or the Fallouts, but they’re on my list to play. As are Icewind Dale and Icewind Dale 2 and even Baldur’s Gate.

      For any of these, I’d be really, really upset if I had hardware and an OS that would run them but the servers were shut off so I couldn’t …

      1. Duffy says:

        If they could just combine Rebellion and Empire at War we would have the perfect Star Wars RTS.

    4. Falling says:

      Who has gone back to play Starcraft? Where have you been man? The Starcraft scene is alive and well in Korea- tournaments (OSL, MSL, Starleagues), commentators, corporate sponsors, teams, coaches, the whole shebang. For 3 seasons we had English casters Tasteless and SDM on GOMTV until Blizzard and Kespa got into a fight. If the names Boxer, Yellow, Jaedong, Bisu, or Flash mean nothing, then you don’t know the Starcraft scene.

      I’m going down to a LAN party tomorrow to play some Starcraft- check out Team Liquid if you want to see one of the online English communities on Starcraft. Competition on ICCUP is nuts. Make that 12 years and the meta-game continues to change. And I’ve only started playing 3 years ago, played on some hacked copies and decided to buy the actual game. (Still in the stores after all these years.)

      The notion that old makes it no longer fun drives me crazy- I don’t throw out music because it’s old- only if my tastes change. Starcraft runs on a lot of older computers which makes it easier to throw together 6 player LAN.

      1. My apology, I typed Starcraft when I meant Starflight.

        Though, when is the last time you played Lightspeed or Hyperspeed?

        1. Falling says:

          Well as I’ve never played Starflight once so…

          But even if SC BW was a mistype, it is precisely why games shouldn’t have a best-before date imposed by the company. Older, well-built multi-player games have a good shelf-life because it’s easier for everyone to get a copy and for everyone to have a machine that runs it.

          (I still pull out the turn-based Imperial Conquest with some of my friends. Terrible graphics, but still fun after all these years.)

    5. ehlijen says:

      *Raises Hand*

      MoO2, JA2, XCOM 1 and 2, BG2, TIE fighter etc
      There’s plenty of old games I still play every now and then. I’d even play XCOM3 and Chaos Gate if XP could handle them.

      In fact I find many of the older games to be far superior to the current crop. TIE Fighter had more content than any space fighter game that came after it as far as I can tell. BG and fallout still beat the snot out of even the latest bioware stuff quantity and probably even quality of content. XCOM was worlds more challenging then DOW2…

      I’ll gladly put up with VGA if that means we get good game writing back.

    6. Bryan says:

      That’s why I maintain 5 different computers, all the way back to my C64.
      I play a lot of old games :-)

  42. PowerofGeorge says:

    Haven’t grasped? Nope. They have grasped it well enough. They are not idiots. They are… viral messengers (you could say that viral messengers are actually idiots but whatever) and their purpose is to defend the “awesomeness” of this new Draconian Restriction Mess System. They are doing it deliberately. And I think that not even the Escapist is free from those bastards.

    1. B.J. says:

      Yes, exactly. Viral marketers are everywhere, and it seems like I’m the only one who can see them; everyone says I’m paranoid, but that just makes them one of them!

      1. PowerofGeorge says:

        Don’t worry. You are not the only one who “supposedly” sees viral messengers. It can be easy to spot them. If you see them being orgasmic or busy hyping a product that hasn’t shown what it is capable of at the very least, you are usually right on target. (Hype is different than excitement people)

        Since it seems that a lot of companies are heavily bleeding thanks to the astronomical games’ budget, not very satisfying sales and the inability to grasp that customer satisfaction is the most important factor to remain a healthy company, they are resorting to this underhanded scheme and they are also responding rudely to those that oppose it. (Another proof that some places are crawling with viral messengers)

        As for people wondering what Ubisoft is smoking, it’s the same weed that all those other DRM companies are smoking; full control over a product that has been already sold to a customer. Piracy and second-hand games are nothing more than an excuse. They dream of having you pay 60 bucks and then paying even more bucks for the DLCs and crap. They dream of having you say “Yes master”, paying all those bucks and wagging your tail like an excited little puppy. Yup, that’s how most companies would dream to see their customers.

  43. Maldeus says:

    Fifty-five? Man, I think I started following this blog at Experienced Points #2. Has it really been a year?

  44. Zaghadka says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if people know about the DRM scheme, the DRM scheme is a failure.

    Me? A friend is trying to get games, for loaning, to my town’s library, and somebody’s going to need to hire a copyright lawyer to see their way through that mess because of DRM. Especially in the case of the PC.

    I don’t care how convenient it is. If DRM isn’t convenient enough to allow it to function in a lending library situation, it’s a failure.

    1. I knew a lady who ran a lending library for software. The only software she sold was for cracking DRM. To be the first to “borrow” a software item you had to pay 150% of the list price. But you could sell a lot of copies to your friends and make it back.

      That was before good internet connections. PoPs for many providers were only available long distance dial up back then.

      Lending library situations, well, that is why there are platform games and cartridges.

  45. Laser says:

    In your article on The Escapist you refer to Far Cry 2 but you apparently are unaware that online activation was removed in the last patch. You can now install FC2, update with the latest patch and away you go.
    See here:

  46. Joshua says:

    And in related news….

    “Kevin Mansell, Chairman, President, and CEO of Kohls recently announced a new anti-theft measure designed to stop “shrinkage” in the more than 1000 Kohls stores worldwide. This anti-theft measure, called “The Wrap”, consists of a central tracking device accompanied by restraints to keep the clothing from being worn until the device can verify that it has been properly purchased.

    Since the device would limit sales of garments upon display, it is implemented when the consumer purchases the item at the cashier. After running the clothing items across the scanner, the sales clerks install the Wrap across the clothing. When the consumer arrives home, they can call the Kohls 1-800 number, verify that the purchase was legitimate and disable the protective restraints around the garment.

    The tracking device itself will still remain to ensure the piece of clothing is being worn by the same consumer. Attempts to tinker with the Wrap will likely result in a contaminating dye being sprayed upon the clothing, rendering it useless or stained.

    This news was met by a level of ambivalence. Some loyal customers, such as Mary Smith of Decatur, Alabama, said “Stores have been hit hard by shoplifters in the past years, and it’s a good step so that they can reduce theft and keep the prices down for us folk. I think that’s worth a little inconvenience.”

    Other previously loyal customers disagreed. John Johnson, of Arvada, Colorado noted, “This does nothing but affect the paying customers! In the future, I’ll simply shoplift the items I want, go back and pay for duplicates at the register, and then put ones with the Wrap back on the shelf, since they’re worth less to me than the ones I simply took without paying for.”

    Other shoplifters, less honest than the John Johnsons of the world, noted that the new measure won’t affect them in the slightest as they don’t intend to bring the clothing up to the register to receive the new anti-theft device anyways.”

    *A little satirical snarkiness inspired by all of those people who try to point to cameras or anti-theft devices in stores as a benchmark for DRM. In other retail establishments, anti-theft devices, monitoring and similar annoyances END when you purchase the merchandise. Apparently, with PC games, these devices BEGIN once you purchase the item.

    1. A great analogy, assuming you add in the small caveat that Kohl’s is unable to stop a single shoplifter in the history of the world so John Johnson’s plan has effectively no risk :D

  47. LK says:

    In 10 years Ubisoft games will come with a bundled dongle with a small thumbpad containing a needle (picture the turnstiles in GATTACA), the material cost of which is added onto the retail price of the game. Gamers must submit a DNA sample every hour to verify the same person who bought the game is the one playing, or it closes the game and encrypts the executable until a matching DNA sample is provided again.

    Then they will later abandon this system for the one they are currently planning for Assassin’s Creed 2 and it will be hailed as a triumph for consumer rights… because consumers can be ****ing idiots sometimes.

    1. LK says:

      Holy bloody hell! Have you seen ubisoft’s reply to PC Gamer?!

      They sent someone who has to be the least charming person in the company out with a truly half-assed list of replies, some of which boil simply down to “we have noticed gamers find (point raised by interviewer) problematic and would like to say ‘tough shit’ to those gamers and will not accommodate them.”


      The simple answer: yes, Ubisoft is run by people with absolutely no grasp of:
      1.) PC Gaming
      2.) Piracy
      3.) Computer software

      Ubisoft has a couple years to live at this pace. Ubisoft has a very long reputation for being clueless and incompetent and this vastly eclipses even that reputation.

      1. Jabor says:

        “If for some reason, and this is not in the plan, but if for some reason all of the servers someday go away, then we can release a patch so that the game can be played in single-player without an online connection.”

        In other words…

        “Yes this system can definitely be hacked so that pirates can play single-player without ever having to connect to the servers.”

    2. Have you seen the digipass security devices that Blizzard is pushing? I would not be surprised to see them packaged with games. Heck, I deal with court reporters, they all have dongles that are required for the software they use to work. Extensive anti-piracy DRM in that industry.

      So far it is working. How long that will keep up? I’m not sure. Will there be a legit and working USB dongle system that is reliable? Would be interesting if the answer ever is yes.

  48. Raygereio says:

    LK: http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=235596
    “Do Ubisoft understand that we don’t want to be permanently online?
    They’ve spotted the outcry, yes. “We know that requiring a permanent online connection is not a happy point for a lot of PC gamers, but it is necessary for the system to work.

    Emphasis mine, I just love that line.

    Now I’m confused about one thing though, Ubisoft lists the following as the advantages for the customer:
    -You don’t need a disc: Erm, okay. I was never that annoyed with having to put a disc in my computer (assuming the DRM doesn’t cause the disc to continually spin).
    -We can install the game on as many computers as we like: Well golly gee whiz, I could never that before!
    -Automatic uploading of savefiles: I honestly can’t see what the advantage would be here. Does Ubisoft asume we have a dozen computers and want to play the same campaign on each computer without having to carry a USB stick with the saves around, or something?

    1. Jarenth says:

      I find it “amusing” that the ability to install the game as often as you like is considered a benefit.

      Where “amusing” means “really, really sad, and indicative of the poisoned culture surrounding PC gaming”.

    2. LK says:

      That was my favorite line as well. It’s the point at which it becomes obvious to the reader that Ubisoft has no clue the severity of what they are doing and no desire to listen.

      This whole thing to me is less about piracy and DRM and more about bad customer service and insular, ignorant management practices.

      2k is sort of the same way. The people who actually work for a living knew what was wrong, knew what customers wanted… but the people in charge of setting policy insulated themselves from the players and even from their lower level employees and effectively prevented themselves from making competent decisions to please their customers.

      Compare this to Valve, for example, where the developers read the forums, play online with customers, and even read emails from customers. They’re subject to the same occasionally slow responses as any software company but you tend to see intelligent decisions made that result in a lot of satisfied customers feeling like their opinion matters… compared to businesses like EA, 2k, Ubisoft… where the best outcome I have ever seen, personally, is customers walking away feeling like some arrogant executive tossed them a token concession just to try and shut them up.

    3. guy says:

      Well, personally that would be kinda neat, but not worth that hassle. It’d be nice to have an offsite autobackup for when my computer catches Vundo or computer AIDS. One that I could trust to not be contaminated.

    4. Wow.

      Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The PC version had a staggering 4.1 million downloads via torrents alone compared with an estimated 200,000 – 300,000 actual sales via retail and Steam, demonstrating that the most popular game of 2009 was also the most pirated, and more importantly, that the actual number of downloads for the most popular game is now almost three times as high as in 2008, signaling the rampant growth of piracy. It is also interesting to note that while COD:MW2 sold around 300,000 copies on PC and had 4.1 million pirated downloads, the console version sold in excess of 6 million copies during the same period.

      It wasn’t that long ago when a PC game that was a significant success was expected to sell over a million copies. The last Wing Commander game, at only 700,000 copies was considered such a failure that they did not do the normal expansion sets they were considering.

      But, 200k sales, 4.1kk pirates, puts the pirates at about 95% of the market. If they could turn only 10% of those pirates into buyers, they would have had 400k more sales. Given the way console sales look, I think PC games are doomed.

      1. Shamus says:

        Hey, can you post the link to this if you still have it handy? I’d really appreciate it. (Writing about this subject now.)


        1. It was from tweakguides, http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_4.html and the rest of that article.

          But I’m now paying attention to the relationship between the death of all the indie distributors and broadband cable downloads of movies.

  49. SatansBestBuddy says:

    You know what would really get them to snap out of it and realize what they’re doing is wrong on a basic level of morality?

    If retailers refused to carry the game based on the DRM.

    … yeah, I know, not gonna happen, but still, if retailers didn’t stock the game, well, that would get the message across that maybe what they’re doing isn’t all that great an idea…

  50. The best analogy for DRM is US airport security.

    You have to remove shoes, belt, wallet, keys, get scanned, get your luggage scanned, you can not bring liquids, a gift lighter or anything on the “bad” list (which is huge) if you do have such items they take them and throw them away, no reimbursement.

    On the plane you are not allowed to use a phone, laptop, game, you are not allowed to have a pillow or anything else in your lap during takeoff or landing, you are not allowed to use the toilet an hour after takeoff or and hour before landing.

    (or did they change the rules again? never been to the US so this is all just hearsay)

    Has any of those measures actually prevented or caught a terrorist?
    Nope! The crotch bomber got past fine with a ton of warning signs long before he boarded the plane. And after passengers caught the guy, passengers now are not allowed to have a pillow in their lap, yeah that makes sense, sure…

    DRM is almost just like that in cause and effect.

    1. Nalano says:


      I can’t name a piece of software that’s never been cracked. This should be enough of a clue.

    2. David Armstrong says:

      You say US Airport Security…


      The Fruit of Kaboom guy boarded a plane from Europe heading to America. I'm not going to cheerlead for the TSA or even say you're wrong, but the man did not pass through US Airport Security.

      And you're right, every bit of software will eventually be cracked, if it hasn't been already. However, for the same reason you lock the doors on your car, these companies feel a responsibility to secure their products as well.

  51. Laser says:

    I hate Ubi’s new DRM as much as anyone but with all the Ubi bashing going on let’s remember that Ubi released a patch to remove the need for online activation for Far Cry 2. That’s more than 2K did for BioShock which was released earlier.

    1. Nalano says:

      …so their claim to decency is undoing a monumental wrong they previously perpetrated?

    2. Raygereio says:

      Yes, and the last Prince of Persia game was completely devoid of DRM. If I save a puppy from drowning and then procede to kill a man; does that suddenly make me innocent of murder?

      Silly example, I know. But it is essentially what you’re saying.

  52. Unfortunately, for large title games, it is either DRM or no more PC games.

    People seriously believe that 95% of the people playing their games on a steady basis have a pirated copy. They seriously believe that if they had effective DRM, that they would pick up maybe 5-10% of the pirated copies as sales.

    They also believe that without some sort of DRM, the 5% who are paying would drop in half.

    They are especially annoyed at people who sell pirated versions for cheap or run pirated MMORPGs for cheap. People are paying, just at a discount, and just to a thief.

    They also see most of the complaints as driven by pirates who are really complaining that they can’t steal any more.

    Lets look at the numbers.

    Assume 50% of the people who buy your software don’t have the internet available (of course none of those are on-line complaining about DRM).

    That knocks your sales down to 2.5% of the 100% in the current model.

    Now, assume of the 95% who were pirating (either for free or discount) you pick up 10% of them.

    That is 9.5% +2.5% of the sales you would have had without the DRM, or 12% compared to the 5% of total.

    But that is more than doubling your net sales.

    There is an excellent chance this will work for Assassin’s Creed 2.

    Now what is really interesting is how well a similar system worked that wasn’t even seen as a similar system.

    Hellsgate London (which suffered terribly from bad writing past the first ten levels, not enough terrain types and some other issues, showing you what Diablo II could have been if done wrong, but that was kind of fun at the same time, showing it had some potential) offered an on-line version that many people played even for the solo game because it was superior in some ways.

    Of course you could only do that if you were registered.

    I’m not terribly excited about the latest round of DRM. But I’m starting to understand why they are doing what they are doing.

    1. Daimbert says:

      The problem is that while it might work out for the first game to implement a form of DRM, it won’t work for the second, third, etc, etc. Ubisoft even gripes about how easy it is to pirate Steam games now. Well, guess what? Your system is, sooner rather than later, going to tend up the same way.

      So imagine Assassin’s Creed 3. Pirates have cracked the system, and so you don’t get that 10% anymore; they pirate just like they did before. But that 2.5% is STILL gone, and not coming back. So you could have had 5% + 5% = 10%, but instead you have 12.5% + 2.5% = 15%. Still seem good? Okay, but it only takes two more releases for you to be LOSING on the deal, overall.

      Unless the company is constantly rolling out new DRM schemes — which costs money to either develop or buy — they’re going to lose money on the deal. And, worst yet, they’re losing the customers who would not have pirated the game and would have paid for it without a qualm. Aren’t THOSE the customers the companies really want? Why should they annoy those customers for the people who don’t really care about paying them for the games?

      If companies want to dent piracy, you do that by making the bought version superior to the pirated one. Insanely restrictive DRM systems are doing the opposite.

      See, that accidental example of Hellsgate: London should be a prime example of HOW to fight piracy: give the customer a benefit for buying a legitimate copy and registering it. Don’t FORCE people to register, but make it worth their while if they do. Install tight restrictions on registration if you’d like, to ensure that in general it’s only legitimate users who register. Give away physical things that are hard to pirate as bonuses (I’ve pre-ordered to get soundtrack CDs and art books, and for one game read the short novel that game with it and don’t think I ever really played the GAME). Make it so that I WANT to go into my store and buy a copy. Revive the game box as being something that people want to have, making downloading an acceptable but inferior way of doing it.

      If you do this, you’ll dent casual piracy far more than making it so that your customers find the pirated version a superior product …

      1. “If you do this, you'll dent casual piracy far more than making it so that your customers find the pirated version a superior product …”

        Which is good in theory, but here’s the problem with it in practice – unless you’ve got the online content only available to your paying customers, the pirated version is the same as the legitimate version.

        It really has become a no-win scenario for people making PC games. If you’re doing one with heavy reliance on online content that you control, you’re fine. Otherwise, the only smart business decision is to move to making console games, and leave the PC market behind.

    2. At the cost of paying for those servers either in perpetuity or for quite awhile, and associated customer service headaches. And at the cost of developing the DRM in the first place, which is often colossal.

      But the problem with their reasoning is that it won’t deter anyone. I would wager $20 that two weeks after AC2 is out, there will be a fully functioning crack on the torrents. Pirates don’t even need to pay attention to the DRM debacles because they don’t care. When I talk to people I know who pirate about the latest DRM crap that’s happened, they’re clueless.

      That’s how pitiful the publishers’ war against pirates is: Their billion-dollar salvos haven’t just done nothing, they haven’t even been noticed.

  53. Ciennas says:

    Of course, the security feature for Assassin’s Creed could be even more diabolical then we give them credit for.

    Mayhaps the PC version lacks essential something or the others.

    It’s not just an attempt to ‘MMO’ the first person game.

    The game’s essential bits are in the Ubisoft server somewhere, and they are in fact selling the biggest instance in current world history.

    You pay sixty bucks for a disc full of clip-art… er, Art Resources, and proceed to log into Ubisoft, who have the engine, the sounds, the AI thingums, etc.

    A single player MMO.

    Well, surely that’ll stop ’em.

    *Sigh* And here I just wanted to play the game I bought. Silly me.

    And shame on the self defeating cycle that is DRM. Shame on the real thieves; those who stole games for kicks and giggles, and those who make the razorwire lined tripmines that force good people to steal for the same rights any other property would get upon transition of ownership.

    1. You make an excellent point. That sort of system is also very hard to crack from a pirate’s perspective.

      Though I am all in favor of value added. Quests, gear, additional characters, etc. that you get only from registering and using the DRM system.

      I hate the root kits and other DRM methods enough that I won’t buy games with them. Means that there are an awful lot of games I have not bought that I would have liked to try.

      There, I said it. I’m one of those people who was lost as a consumer.

      But Ubisoft’s latest is a DRM I could live with.

      1. Ciennas says:

        Are they promising all that extra gear in exchange? I got the impression they were just stamping on PC gamer’s faces with spiky cleats.

        And even then, I don’t like this idea on the same principal i gnash my teeth with every other bull rush format of online checking. The same one that prevents me from buying mass effect and bioshock and God knows what else.

        When they inevitably close the server, I am inevitably out of sixty some-odd bucks. Even more annoying with this ‘expiration dated’ bonus DLC code bullshit.

        It’s like paying one hell of an admission price for a theme park ride (with a free dose of body cavity search), then they close it on you, and will want you to exchange more money for another ride that you didn’t actually want to go on, because this new one involves brain wave scans or something in addition to the body cavity search.

        My father doesn’t game, but he does understand competent use of the computer. I explained to him what Ubisoft wanted, and even he saw that it wasn’t a thing worth purchasing anymore.

        ‘Even if it gave us free blowjobs and pudding’ As Yahtzee so eloquently put it.

    2. Raygereio says:

      Well, there’s already the fact that savefiles are stored on Ubisoft’s server, not on your computer.
      That alone will probably present a big hurdle for crackers to overcome.

  54. What people keep forgetting, even though it gets brought up every time in these debates, is that every industry has to deal with theft. I liked Punning Pundit’s argument, but one has to bear in mind that I’m sure that the bigwigs at Wal-Mart, Target and BestBuy hate shrinkage as much as anyone else. It’s just as annoying to see your hard work at building your company shrink away, but that is what it will always do, because to increase security much more than they already have (and what they already have is already questionably legal at best) would infringe so much on consumer privacy, the law, good customer service and simple cost-benefit analysis that it would lose them more than they’ve gained. It seems that not a single company has bothered to take the cost-benefit analysis stance: “This DRM is minimally invasive but is pretty hard to crack, it’ll keep legitimate consumers ahead of pirates for three days”.

    My message to the software industry? Stop your whining. You and everyone else have to get used to shrinkage. It happens, it costs you profits, and there is nothing else you can do about it. The tighter your grasp, the more star systems will slip through your fingers. Put into place reasonable security (like, make sure that your own employees and partners aren’t compromising your games before release date), provide incentives to cooperate, and back off. It is your ONLY option, and every company that does otherwise is in dereliction of duty to their shareholders.

    1. David Armstrong says:

      Make you a deal Arek:

      I’ll contact Ubi. Assuming you’re right, and 100% of the reason for this DRM is to claim lost sales via pirating, I’ll find out the additional amount Ubi expects to get back.

      And then you can write Ubi a check for that amount. CoD:MW2 sold 7 million its first day. So figure that AC2 sells 7 million as well.

      Let’s be conservative and guesstimate that DRM will retain 5%. A game at $50 (probably costs more) at 5% of 7 million is $17,500,000.00.

      So if you promised Ubi to cut them a seventeen and a half million dollar check, I bet they would remove the DRM aspect of the game. Hell, it would save them the money needed to build and maintain that kind of infrastructure.

      1. David, this is a stupid attempt on your part.

        They were never going to get that money.

        Let’s say Fry’s security raped you when you were about to leave the building with a bag in your hand and receipt prominently shown. Their reasoning? “Well, we have to stop shrinkage SOMEHOW. If you don’t like it, give us a check for the full amount of the shrinkage we lose annually.”

        Now, obviously DRM isn’t rape, but DRM schemes can brick computers and require people to accept EULAs at home that limit the use of their product in ways they never would have accepted in the store. And it only harms paying customers, or did you miss that memo? Maybe you’re right that somehow this DRM scheme will survive a few days – of course it won’t, but let’s be hypothetical. Then pirates miss out on that game. The scheme still harms players and they have NO evidence, none, that this scheme will convert a single pirate. Harming your existing paying customers with no demonstrable hope of converting a single thief is a business model that would not survive in any other industry.

        Notice the DRM equivalents in the retail world. First: They all occur IN store. Second: None damage the final product. Alarms, security codes and tags… all of these are removed and the person is given their working product. And that’s ONLY for high end items: They don’t lock up Tylenol and milk. But in the DRM world, even the bargain bin items years later will still have intrusive DRM. It’d be like if every single item at target had a huge alarm on it.

        In short: They were never going to get that money. Piracy is not lost sales to a competitor or something, it’s shrinkage.

        Also, David, why in GOD’S NAME would they boot you from a server with no save if your Internet connection cut out for any reason BUT DRM? Not only have they admitted in public that it’s 100% about DRM, so you’re engaging in a level of apologia above and beyond the call like a real fanboy, but their claimed “benefits” don’t cut the mustard. You could get every benefit without their DRM. Let’s say I’m playing online in a world where UbiSoft is smart. They’ve given me some good reason to come online, like a special campaign I can unlock. (Notice: All of this is stick, no carrot). When I get booted, they create a save state, a trivial thing to do. It gets deleted when I reconnect, of course, just like similar quicksaves on the DS. Why won’t they do that? Why won’t they let you keep your save?

        Because they want to punish pirates. That is the only POSSIBLE reason they have aside from sheer stupidity. It is 100% DRM.

        But I don’t give a rat’s ass about UbiSoft or its insanity. But, hey, man, you seem to love them enough. Except remember that in their perspective, EVERY pirate is a lost sale. So you actually need to cut them a check for every download that is ever made, in perpetuity, if you want to satiate their greed.

        Me? I’m done playing with bullies.

        1. But it isn’t “every pirate is a lost sale” it is “perhaps 5% to 10% of the pirates are lost sales” and “the pirates spend a boat load of money anyway on computers, connections, etc.”

          The problem is that with an active player base that is 95% pirates, just converting five to ten percent is a huge increase in sales, even more in net revenue.

          And, ask yourself. Where is FASA? Where is Ensemble? Both were killed by Microsoft.

          Both lacked effect DRM efforts, and the people in charge appear to have given up on DRM.

          The same appears to be true of the Wing Commander series. Deader than a door nail. They gave up on DRM too.

          Myself, I believe it is 100% DRM driven, but I’m looking at successful companies, great games, solid sales, and complete death of games that were great games with lots left to go in them.

          Now dead. Completely and utterly dead. Designers scattered to the 4 winds, assets gone, development and code scrapped. Dead.

          Because those companies believed that DRM wouldn’t work.

          So they gave up.


          Show me Privateer III (I got called with a job offer to work on it — I’m certainly glad I did not end up converting on that), show me the next wing commander where Blair shows up in a Cantina returned by the latest threat, show me Age of Nations and Napoleonic Battles from Ensemble.

          Show me another title from FASA.

          The fact you can’t do it shows you exactly where the belief that DRM will fail gets you. Exactly.

          So swear at people. Claim that DRM is stupid and game publishers ought to just give it up.

          Agree with me that most DRM is so hideous that you won’t buy a game with it (I have a lot of games I have not bought, places I did not go with games because of DRM efforts).

          Then show me how that worked to bring out the latest and best games from FASA, from Ensemble, and how Privateer and Wing Commander kept going in a DRM free world.

          Do I sound a little bitter? Sure. I interviewed at Ensemble (did not get the job), had friends working there. I really liked Privateer (obviously). FASA. Meh on the giant robots, did like Shadowrun from a designer’s viewpoint.

          But I’ve a good friend who lived for FASA’s releases.

          You have to find a way to convince those people that giving up on DRM doesn’t mean bailing out on PC gaming.

          No one is talking about that issue. Sure, most of the DRM methods are stupid or evil or both, and dangerous too.

          But unless something changes, it means the death of PC gaming.

          1. Ciennas says:

            I’d point out that company that made sins of a solar empire, but I’m not sure if it counts anymore, what with them coming onto this DRM train.

            However, your examples… It sounds like they got canned for not following the company line, since Microsoft is one of the major players in the DRM world. And not just in games- every aspect of software has been touched by their onerous DRM.

            If your own subsidiaries are saying that it’s a waste of time, you can’t afford to let that get back to your shareholders.

            I will note however, that my interest in Company names is more in the line of a blacklist/whitelist relationship.

            Bethesda were okay back with morrowind, but finding out about SecuROM on Oblivion and fallout 3, the next game I purchased and my future purchase? Not okay. Not in the slightest.

            EA? Snerk! Bwahahaha oh you’re serious. Blacklist through and through.

            Stardock would have been on my whitelist… but I dunno.

            Shamus, have they recanted that DRM thing yet?

            And another question: Who’s Still DRM Free?

            1. What is interesting is that similar things are happening to movies.

              in South Korea, which, because of its online gaming culture, is ahead of America in broadband speed. In 2006, the studios had a rich $1.3 billion DVD market in South Korea. But after an increase in the bit-rate of its broadband in 2007 its DVD sales fell to $80 million with two years


              Of all things, this has pretty much killed indie movie production.

              By 2010, most of these indie distributors and mini-majors were effectively out of business including New Line Cinema, Fine Line Features, Picturehouse, Warner Independent, Fox Atomic, and Paramount Vantage. Miramax, the linchpin of indie distribution for nearly two decades, closed down its main office in New York, and its owner, Walt Disney, is currently trying to sell its name and library

              Not to mention MGM is only not in bankruptcy because it loses over 30% of its revenue from license reversions cued to a bankruptcy.

              Piracy is killing some things.

          2. Your sample is cherry-picked. Plenty of companies and products that have embraced DRM have also gone belly up.

    2. “It seems that not a single company has bothered to take the cost-benefit analysis stance: “This DRM is minimally invasive but is pretty hard to crack, it'll keep legitimate consumers ahead of pirates for three days”.”

      Here’s the problem with your argument – if you read the TweakGuides article, you’ll find that they have ALL taken that stance. The DRM isn’t about preventing piracy – it’s about holding it back just long enough to minimize damage, if possible.

      Frankly, when you actually read about what’s considered a success – one week of sales before the pirates can release the cracked version, with one month being better than one’s wildest dreams – you realize just how bad it has gotten.

      1. Garwulf: They didn’t take anything remotely RESEMBLING that stance.

        Yes, they conceded that the DRM will be cracked. That’s fair enough, and sadly, more than most companies are willing to do.

        But the FLIPSIDE is what’s missing: A discussion of how much inconvenience was the cost of this inevitably cracked DRM. In fact, this system is SO indefensible that it could ONLY be defended on the grounds of uncrackable DRM. It’s a crippled game. In an MMO, if my connection dies, my character is safe and sound right where they were and I lose nothing. If I had to come back to Orgrimmar to save, I’d be PISSED at the slightest server downtime or connection problems on either side.

        How galling is this system? We all know how frustrating it is to lose a save because your computer died, or the power got turned off. But now, you need to be afraid of losing your save if your computer dies, your power gets turned off, your broadband line goes down, Ubisoft loses power, Ubisoft’s servers fail… It puts a ton of failure conditions out of your hands.

        In short, they chose an INCREDIBLE inconvenience for maybe three days worth of security. (I doubt it. I bet there’ll be a negative day crack).

  55. randy says:

    Great article and great followup about SC2, Shamus.

    I swear to god that the stupid fucks that head the publishers want to stop us buying games, and they’re getting really really close. If they keep at this, the only PC games I’ll ever buy will be either Indies or games from Valve/Stardock/a VERY few others.

    And now, C&C4 is also coming without LAN support. Stupid fucking idiots.

  56. SolkaTruesilver says:

    I am really wondering if there is another incentive to put such DRM schemes than sale protection.

    I mean, you have to look at it from a corporate CEO’s perspective. A risk manager, a finance officer. Or an investor?

    Maybe new DRM schemes always looks good to their investors, so their credit stay good. Maybe their legal department force them to try to improve the intellectual property rights of their creators.

    I really don’t think Ubisoft’s leaders are idiots, so they probably know a little what’s going on, and I am sure more than one person made the argument that “only legit customers will be harmed”. So… there is still a reason why they do that.

    Figure out that reason, and you will know your target. Know your target, and you can strike at it. Simply ranting on the forums/blogs won’t make much of a difference, as it has been proven time and again.

    1. Emm Enn Eff says:

      You’d be surprised by just how clueless management can be about technological issues.

      And that doesn’t even touch social issues.

  57. Ger says:

    I’m trying to find a link to substantiate it. But there’s a blue post, somewhere, responding to a query about Battlenet 2.0 and singleplayer. You need to authenticate the game online and can then play it singleplayer offline as much as you want. So you only need a connection during installation. Making it steam-like in this regard.

    I’m +99% sure that I saw it, but I am having a time digging it up. Depths of the forums FTW.

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