By Shamus Posted Wednesday May 11, 2011

Filed under: Rants 127 comments


So Capcom senior VP Christian “Sven” Svensson mentioned that Capcom is losing money because the Playstation Network is down. This is especially hard on Capcom, because the phone-home DRM Capcom uses has locked all of their Playstation customers out of their games.

Svensson went on to lament:

In short, the hackers appear to be trying to ‘punish’ Sony for some perceived injustice, and they’ve been effective in that I suppose. […] But they’re also punishing millions of other consumers and businesses which makes it impossible to be sympathetic to their ’cause.’

Mass Effect, Electronic Arts, EA, Contact Poison, SecuROM
(Long pause.)

So Sven… the hackers have hurt everyone in their fight against Sony. And that seems unfair to you? How does that compare to all of the people YOU hurt in your fight against the pirates? Do you think locking people out of their games has made them sympathetic to your ’cause’? They paid you money for a game they can’t play because of your DRM. I’ll give the Sony hackers this much: At least when they aim at a target, they manage to hit it. Your fumbling has hurt every single paying customer and not one pirate, anywhere. The Sony hackers are criminals who, if caught, would face prison. But where will your customers go for justice? Your DRM hurt them, and only them, and they have no recourse whatsoever. You made sure of that.

I’m not mad that Sven saddled his games with phone-home DRM. We’ve been through that fight. That ship has sailed. What I am mad about is that four years into the great phone-home DRM experiment, Sven has yet to internalize the basic principles of the system that his company advanced. It’s as if he never actually considered the ramifications of what his company was doing, despite the fact that people in my corner of the industry have been screaming ourselves hoarse. Even now, when the damage is manifest and everyone is partaking of the ruinous fruit of this system, he still doesn’t seem to have a handle on what this must mean to people.

PSN is down. No online games. This is exactly the moment when people are likely to turn to their single-player titles for solace, only to find those locked away as well.

Yes Sven, the hackers hurt people. They’re criminals. What’s your excuse?


From The Archives:


  1. Zak McKracken says:

    You’re right.
    That’s all I have to say.

    Oh, and “hoarse”, not “horse”

    1. lazlo says:

      No no, you see, he actually *has* been screaming himself horse. It’s the dead horse that we’ve all been beating for so long. Or perhaps the metaphorical games horse whose teeth we collectively neglected to count. Or the Trojan horse that these games seem to have turned out to be. Or maybe even the high horse that Capcom & co need to get down off of.

  2. Old_Geek says:

    Capcom is using typical corporate reverse psychology. They know their DRM is at least partially to blame, and they are afraid of angry customers forsaking their products, but if they loudly blame the hackers first, maybe most of the hate will fall on their shoulders. After all, hackers are too stupid to even hire a good PR firm.

    1. Zukhramm says:

      I wonder how these game companies would survive without all the hackers and pirates. How would they justify their DRM without them?

      1. WickedArtist says:

        Used game sales. Corporate espionage. Governmental espionage. Aliens.

        I’m sure they’ll find SOME sort of excuse for their paranoia. God forbid they actually offer a good service for their customers’ money. What would the aliens think?

        1. Nathon says:

          They can’t say “used game sales.” That’s the ACTUAL reason for all this insane DRM. If they tell the truth, where will we get our sweet, sweet lies?

          1. Eric says:

            Eh, not really. Used game sales are a pretty tiny percentage of legitimate game sales. It’s all about controlling the market as a whole and determining how end users can use your products, piracy prevention included. Still, relatively, piracy is a far, far more pressing concern. Of course, there is no good argument for intrusive software of any kind whatsoever, but the people who make decisions on this sort of thing tend to not have much grasp of why they’re wrong, and are paid far too much money to care to learn.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              Really? Piracy is really the big of a deal with PS3 games, compared to used games?

              You have to dig into your system and make changes to both the hardware and software to be able to pirate PS3 games. To buy a used game, all you need to do is drive to your local Gamestop and pay them for it.

              While piracy is definately a dominating issue in the computer world, when a company shoves DRM on a console game, the vast majority of the punishment they are trying to mete out is to people who want to be able to trade in a game when they are done with it.

              Just because that isn’t a large percentage, doen’t mean they aren’t going to be asses and start tilting at windmills. I’m pretty sure all publishers in existence ever have always bitched about the used market, since before the invention of the printing press.

            2. Daemian Lucifer says:

              If used games are such a small percentage,why was ea making such a big deal about project $10?

              1. Zak McKracken says:

                As Eric said, it’s about Control.
                If you need to be fair to your customers and so on, there are limits to what you can harass them with before they just go and get the stuff you want to sell them elsewhere for less or even no money.
                But if game makers (same goes for music/film industry) had complete control over the games and who plays them when for how long, there’s an infinite amount of new business models and a completely new price range that people will pay to play their games. Remember, selling twice as expensive to 50% of the current customer base is a big gain! If you can charge them per hour or per day or whatnot, it’s even more gain. WoW managed to pull that off, now everyone wants to do it. Apperantly people won’t pay $180 for a game they can keep, but a Dollar a day will be accepted. But for that, you need control. Ideally, customers need to come to your place and play the game there, with you watching.
                Of course there’s no conspiracy there. This is where you’ll get if you always simply follow the steepest ascent of profits. More control over content equals more profit. Also equals more angry non-customers, but they’re not paying, so what does it matter? The only point where this stops is the law, but seeing that problem, they have lots and lots of lawyers and lobbyists trying very very hard to move that obstacle out of the way.

                1. Eric says:

                  This is what I was getting at; thanks for the clarification.

                  Let me give another example. If you buy games from certain digital distribution platforms (THQ’s is one), you are only able to download the game for about a year before they cut off access. In order to get the right to download the game you already paid for, you have to subscribe to an “extended download service plan” or something of that nature. Although this is obviously a situation where your right to use a product has additional limitations placed on it that you don’t get elsewhere, the publishers try to frame this as a “premium service” and that you’re getting “exclusive access” or some bullshit, to, I remind you, the game you already paid for. Also note that in many cases, these distribution platforms might have more restrictive DRM than others, and/or will try to offer better prices than the competition, in order to goad people into buying game X, only to pay more money down the line because it’d still be cheaper than re-buying the game.

                  Obviously such a policy is total crap, but here’s the kicker: the publishers clearly don’t give a shit, and it’s also clear some people must fall for it, even if we’re optimistic and say it’s only 1/20. That’s right, publishers are still satisfied with insulting, patronising and pretty much treating the people who keep them in business like idiots, even if it only applies to a very small minority, because they figure it’s worth the money anyway. In the end, their attempt to control the way you use the software you have purchased, and to extort more money from you over time, completely overrules any respect they might have for you.

                  Used game sales are a part of the equation, but only a part, as is piracy (though admittedly this is reversed on consoles, but I’m a PC player and so unfortunately tend not to consider that perspective as often). The entire point of this trend isn’t just to crack down on some X factor, it’s to ultimately reduce gaming to a service – something which Valve holds up like it’s some sort of step forward, but in reality involves taking control away from the end user and putting it in the hands of the publisher, with the end result being that you have absolutely no ownership over your software, even if you bought it physically. You are utterly beholden to the publisher not just for your initial purchase, but for the continued use of any products you may enjoy.

                  Of course, this ties into trends in entertainment as a whole. See as well how the film industry has been so heavily pushing online video streaming over DVDs – even if the initial price might be a bit cheaper, since you own nothing, they figure they can get more money out of you in the long run if it means you have to pay $5 every time you watch a movie. Plus, for them, it’s largely pure profit – while there are costs associated, streaming that content through iTunes, Netflix, YouTube, etc. is ultimately cheaper than pressing discs and dealing with physical distribution channels and the ever so many middlemen involved.

                  What it really comes down to is users trading ownership and control for convenience – and outside of gaming, most customers have shown it is a sacrifice they are more than willing to make. I don’t think it at all bodes well for the future of entertainment and our rights in an ever-more media-centric society, especially when the people who are selling you your games by the hour are able to even more directly influence national copyright and communications law.

                  1. lionday says:

                    I think your right there but there’s a difference.

                    I use netflix because it has tons of movies and Shows that i can watch. I still have DvD’s but only of movies a love and want to watch over and over again. Netflix is used to sort through crap or to watch things that are off the market.

                    However Video games aren’t like this (Gamefly i guess) but it takes more than 2 hours to finish a game so it really is different. I’d want to buy a game and own it not buy a game and not be able to play it or have it go away after i install it 3 times. I rarely play computer games (My system is slow) and my only new console is the wii (Wii never does me wrong even if its online sucks).

                    1. Bubble181 says:

                      You tell me: paying €30 for a one-time (or three-time, or whatever) install for a game or €50 for the boxed version…How is that different than €10 for a one-time viewing of a mediocre movie off netflix, vs €25 for the boxed edition you can watch again and again?

                      …*I* see a difference, but game distributors don’t. I mean, a lot of people *will* only play a game once or twice. Do you still re-install Fifa 2008?

                    2. Vikeyev says:

                      *I* see a difference, but game distributors don't. I mean, a lot of people *will* only play a game once or twice. Do you still re-install Fifa 2008?

                      I still replay all my old school games, like zelda and mario and donkey kong. In fact I just recently re-clocked all 3 old school Dk’s and the 3 mario’s and super mario world. Plus I was actually playing ocarina for the past week (until I accidentally deleted my save x.x). Yes it is true most people will only play a game once or twice, but their are pearls out their people will replay over and over again, I can’t honestly tell you how many times I have played and clocked mario, DK and zelda. This is why I use Steam, Desura and GOG. I can install my games as many times as I like and play them as many times as I like. Plus in the unlikely event that Valve goes bankrupt they will (and they have said it repeatedly and tested it) remove the authentication system from steam so we can play our games.

            3. Jeff says:

              There’s an entire industry of brick and mortar buildings centered around used games. Piracy is an excuse, no more.

              1. Vikeyev says:

                There's an entire industry of brick and mortar buildings centered around used games. Piracy is an excuse, no more.

                Exactly, for decades the entertainment industry has been screaming bloody murder over piracy. They said it would be the death of the industry (even back with cassette tapes) and yet they are raking in record profits and pulling record sales. Studies show, piracy is not only an excellent form of advertisement, pirates spend more money on content then those who are against piracy.

      2. Zeta Kai says:

        They’d be doing great, assuming that they didn’t implement a DRM scheme at all. There is no single standard for DRMs, so most companies have developed proprietary systems to block piracy (or die trying). Each of those systems cost millions of dollars to research, design, & execute, which were all on the company dime (which ultimately costs the customers more, as prices have edged up to compensate). And the great irony is that none of them worked: every game gets hacked & posted as shareware, often within days of launch. So, to imagine a world without piracy, one would probably see the game companies doing fine, & games cheaper as a result of lower development costs. I wish to emigrate to this utopia.

        1. Jeff says:

          All they would need is to implement to simplest of copy protections, and it would be sufficient. The steps an end user of pirated software have to go through haven’t changed since the days of “CD in drive” protection. That’s the only hurdle between a customer and a freeloader – so the millions going into additional DRM systems are literally useless.

        2. decius says:

          Except “shareware” has a specific copyright definition, which isn’t met by cracked software. Try again, but know something about the topic first.

          1. Zeta Kai says:

            Yes, yes, you’re right. Rude & pompous, but right. Savor it. My point still stands. Try again, but don’t be an obnoxious taint.

        3. Zak McKracken says:

          “or die trying”:

          Why do people never do what I tell them?

          Dude, Shareware costs money. The concept consists of having a free demo version (with limited funcion or not) that will hopefully be distributed but requires payment to become legal.

          “a world without piracy”:
          Ok, economics: They work fine if there is competion (mostly, let’s glance over that), but with all things that are copyrighted, there’s this problem: If you are a fan of XY, then you want XY, not AB! You can only get XY from the copyright owner of XY, for the price that they decide to charge for it. That’s called a monopoly. To the degree that two games from different companies are not interchangeable, these companies have monopolies! They still need to be reasonable about prices, because at least to some degree, games _are_ interchangeable, and because otherwise people will just not buy them and/or cross the threshold to just copying them. If that alternative did not exist, expect prices to increase a lot. No company would not charge more money if they knew they could without reducing profits.
          If copyright owners want to sell more stuff, threy need to make it easier to get that stuff than to pirate it. In terms of money that’s not really possible but in terms of time spent and effort put into getting the thing and making it run, they’re currently trying hard to fail.

          1. Jonn says:

            See also: regional price exploitation.

            Partly amusing, mostly frustrating, is The Witcher 2 was hit with the Australia tax and GOG said “It is completely unfair to charge this much, but we have to in order to sell any copies for legal reasons.”

            So, on GOG they give vouchers to make up the difference, not just for price fixing but also for exchange rates.

            If only that was normal…

            1. Nick says:

              Wow, so they actually got instructions from the publisher to increase the price in Australia, incredible.

              You could also use a free proxy to buy it for the US price.

              It looks like the Australian version has been censored too (, i wonder which version we get if we buy from GOG without a proxy?

              Edit: It looks like it will be: “The Witcher 2 will be uncensored, however the Australian version has been edited slightly.”

              Edit 2: Actually, getting the non-Australian version and price is easy, GOG no longer uses Geo-IP so you can just change you country in your account settings.

            2. Vikeyev says:

              See also: regional price exploitation.

              Sadly that is not limited to just games *cries*. Look at any normal computer manufacturer, they mark up exponentially for Aus and NZ.

          2. Sem says:

            Re : economics. That’s why that copyright in general doesn’t sit entirely well with me. As you said, if you’re very popular artist, you have a quasi monopoly (see here (warning : TVTropes link) for some examples). If piracy wasn’t there, you could just jack up the prices to the maximum consumers would bear where your art-as-service & pay for each use is probably the ultimate goal.

            OTOH, removing copyright will also not work (well, probably, I read about some artists who try to use their art as a promotional product and make a living off concerts, merchandising, etc but it’s entirely to be seen if this is viable. Maybe if you are already popular but as a starting artist ?)

            I don’t really see a good way to fairly compensate artists (based on the popularity of their works) except maybe through a government enforced system but that comes with it’s own set of problems.

            1. Zak McKracken says:

              Bands living off music: I’ve heard several times in interviews from different artists that these days they don’t really make a lot of money via record sales but most money is made playing live.
              Most “small” and unkown bands can’t even sell any records because noone knows them or they don’t even have a record deal. So most of those record some demos, distribute them as they can and play live a lot. Small festivals, pubs, your favourite local venue. That’s how you start building a fanbase. INXS were very famous for that, or the Libertines. Both were doing gigs for a living for years and hat a lot of devout fans before they even got a record deal.

              Compensating artists without copyright: Ok, with no copyright that’d be difficult. But ever since the advent of tape recorders, at least in Germany, there’s a fee you pay on blank tapes, recorders, CD and DVD blanks, CD and DVD writers and anything related. You also pay fees if you run a disco, a radio station or or any kind of commercial party where you play copyrighted music. This money goes to an organisation that gives it to the artists, according to some arcane distribution key which I know nothing about. I can’t say how well that works, but it does seem to work, and according to what I know, there are artists who can live on this income.
              There are problems with this system (and recent copyright law changes seem to contradict it starkly — why pay fees if even private copies are supposed to be crimes?), but it does work, and it would seem that something similar could work even if music was free to distribute. One would have to pay some attention to details, of course. This is not easily done but I think it could be.

  3. Shirlyn says:

    Hackers should be punished in some way. anyone who does it, i would appreciate.

  4. Zanfib says:

    I love that smile. It’s so very… corporate.

    1. Eric says:

      That’s what it looks like when you suck the soul out of a human being.

  5. CalDazar says:

    “What's your excuse?”

    My god that had some punch to it.
    I tip my hat. I’m not just saying that, I found and put on a hat, then tipped it.

    That is how amazing that bit of writing is.

  6. Bubble181 says:

    Compare to those poor, poor pirates who are still happily playing away, and you, the paying customer, sure know what you paid for!

    …Getting shafted both ways, that is.

  7. perry says:

    the psn has been down for ~3 weeks now. i can’t believe that a humongous multinational company like sony can fuck up SO bad. meanwhile i continue my gaming on my ps2. its old, graphics are worse than the newest android phone, but i have a huge library of enjoyable games. no multiplayer though. very few ps2 players going online now :(

    1. Kdansky says:

      It’s actually expected. Take a look at what companies were gigantic just 50 or 70 years ago. Then check if they still exist. Most of them are completely gone. Age doesn’t stop you from being stupid, and neither does size.

    2. Ringwraith says:

      You do have to remember that Sony are a hardware company at their core, rather than a software one.
      The whole incident shows how inexperienced they are with software security, at least now they’ve employed properly qualified people for that purpose now.

  8. Hal says:

    . . . Is it better or worse to buy a used copy of Mass Effect, then?

    1. daveNYC says:

      As long as it isn’t from an estate sale you’ll be fine.

  9. UtopiaV1 says:

    Is this why I can’t install Alpha Protocol on my PC? I keep typing in the product key exactly as-is, but it says I’m not connected to the internet!

    I bet it is, I can imagine them using the same activation server for the PC as well as PS3, definitely wouldn’t put it pass them. Christ almighty, I don’t know why I bother with buying new games. It’s just not worth it anymore.

    If I had the inclination I’d get all my games from indieDB, at least PROPER games developers spend more time making a game than protecting it!

    1. Matt K says:

      No, since AP doesn’t involve Sony in any way. SEGA has apparently released a patch to remove the DRM so I would recomend grabbing it from their site and using it (there may have been an install file released but when I played it was just replacing the .exe).

      1. Irridium says:

        But how will people without an internet connection download a patch from the internet?

        1. acronix says:

          The same way they post on the internet without being connected to the internet!

        2. Matt K says:

          Well in this case the box at least lets you know you need internet access for the DRM. Changing it from entering the serial number to downloading a patch seems resonable enough (plus you only have to dl it once instead of everytime you install).

          I’m sure your just kidding but this is a problem and one of the reasons I didn’t get Alpha Protocol until it was $6.

          1. Jeff says:

            Judging from Shamus’ review, playing AP without a patch isn’t the greatest idea anyway.
            I personally ran into zero problems with my patched copy – which didn’t have DRM, since it was patched. I never had to put in a CD-Key or anything.

            1. Matt K says:

              Same here, no problems and no DRM. Honestly AP was my favorite game I played in years until Portal 2.

              1. Kdansky says:

                I’ll have to chime in: AP had quite a few very noticeable bugs, but none of which made the game unplayable. I had to restart a mission once, after having loaded a botched save, but it wasn’t much of an issue. Oh, and my mouse didn’t work.

                It’s a decent game. And you seriously need to patch and tweak it quite a bit.

      2. Wolfwood says:

        wait wtf, they actually cared to patch the DRM out of existence when they took the servers down in support of that game?!?! what is this madness?! Shamus had said this was a ludicrous proposition in one of his all knowing rants about DRM!

        1. Bubble181 says:

          Not at all. He’s said – repeatedly – that it’s a, very real, danger of some games; especially as they get older and/or the IPs change hands a few times.
          There are plenty of other games with phone-home DRM or online registration which have, in one way or another, taken the DRM out. Same for CD checks – Diablo II, for example, needed the disc to be in the drive at all times, until a patch some 7 or 8 years after release.

          There’s a difference between “Phone-home DRM means your game will only work ’till the servers go off line” and “Phone home DRM means your game MIGHT only work ’till the servers go off line”.

          That you failed to grasp this distinction is another matter.

        2. Zak McKracken says:

          EA has already disabled DRM servers for several games last year or so, without freeing the games first. It was just economically not feasible to either keep the servers running or patch the games.
          But remember that that does not mean that everyone will always do the same. It’s just a very real danger. Sometimes people behave differently from other people at other times in different situations. Wow, am I wise!

      3. UtopiaV1 says:

        Nice 1, thanks, the patch worked a treat! The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have an internet connection, the problem was that the bloody stupid game couldn’t detect it.

        At least Sega and Obsidian were smart enough to know when to fold, and release a DRM removal patch. Proves they care more about your enjoyment of their game than their questionable security measures.

        Not like ol’ Sony up there, of course. How they gonna patch the entire PSN?

  10. Well, I would be happily enjoying a nice DRM free copy of The Witcher from GoG right now … but my Windows PC decided to die a horrible death at the weekend. At least I know when that problem will be resolved (Note to hardware vendor: Hurry up with my order. I wanna play games that need a mouse!)

    1. Irridium says:

      Speaking of GoG, they recently stopped using IP’s to track location, and instead are trusting customers to put in their correct location at checkout. They’re doing it because they don’t want to needlessly track data they don’t need, and totally not because Witcher 2 both got a price hike and got censored in Australia, and this will be a way for Australians and others to get fair deals on games.

      Totally not that.


  11. SolkaTruesilver says:

    On the other hand, that Tech Support servicewoman is cute

    1. Grag says:

      Hard to see from this angle, but she’s tentacle from the waist down.

      1. Von Krieger says:

        To some people that just makes her cuter.

        1. Wolfwood says:

          ROFLMAO best lines of random i’ve ever read! XD

  12. CTrees says:

    I’m just curious… If I went out to Target, bought a new copy of game X, which uses that DRM, and had no foreknowledge of the DRM scheme, and was then blocked from playing? I couldn’t return the game (“it’s opened!”), I couldn’t play it… I payed money for a product that does not function as advertised. That seems to be fraud. Wonder how a small claims suit would go, against Capcom?


    1. I know over here you’d probably be able to seek remedies from the shop you bought it from, or from Capcom for selling a defective product, but only if you were able to make the case you couldn’t have known about the DRM beforehand. If it said “requires an internet connection” or something as many games over here so tactfully put it, then no, you couldn’t do anything about it.

      I imagine it’s similar overseas.

      1. GTRichey says:

        Requires an internet connection… arguably you’d still have a case if that’s all that the box says. Since it’s an issue with their servers I’d imagine people could see that and think ‘Yeah of course I’ve got an internet connection. Who doesn’t anymore?’ If the game doesn’t state that it must connect to PSN or anything more specific than ‘an internet connection’ the wording leaves them open to a certain amount of liability… of course not really being all that well versed in matters of law this is all just common sense speculation.

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          I imagine scenarios where your country’s laws prevent you from accessing PSN (Much like with Google Checkout’s limitations, while Android phones are still sold there), that could potentially be liable as well.

        2. Mari says:

          And there’s the problem – common sense has no place in the modern judiciary.

          1. Rayen says:

            Thus buying a game that requires the PSN when the PSN is very openly down would seem completely reasonable.

          2. GTRichey says:

            Common sense only in applying it to lawsuits. I’m not saying it’s reasonable to sue, but that the wording leaves it open… true common sense says this PS3 game requires and internet connection but PSN is down so the game will be unplayable.

            1. Atarlost says:

              True common sense would dictate that running activation servers is expensive and doesn’t prevent hacked copies of the game from being created and distributed anyways and therefore a complete waste of Sony’s money that Sony, as a profit focused corporation, should not tolerate.

    2. Ingvar says:

      I’ve had a look at a couple of recent games I know use on-line activation in the stores and they tend to say things like “requires an internet connection to play, even in single-player”. But, as my games-machine only has proxied access (rather than NAT access) to the Internet, I expect every single DRM scheme to fail, so haven’t really bought any PC games at all, the last 6 years. Prior to that, I’d buy a game every few months, at least.

    3. SteveDJ says:

      You MIGHT also be able to challenge the charge on your credit card (so use that to make the purchase). You say you were not given the product for which you paid for, so ask that the charges be reversed.

      No guarantees here, but just one other angle that one might take to get their money back.

    4. Nidokoenig says:

      A few months ago, I bought the European edition of Chantelise from Amazon UK. The TAGES DRM refused to accept the CD Key, so I returned it to Amazon as faulty. Sorted. Dunno if that’s what the particular bloke who made the call that day decided, whether UK law is different, or Amazon are nice that way, but it is possible. But if anyone else gives me trouble returning faulty computer software, I have a story to tell them about where I’m taking my business.

      1. Soylent Dave says:

        UK (and European) statutory rights are a lot more customer-friendly than American ones – but Amazon are also a lot better than some at living up to them without having to be reminded!

  13. LB says:

    Well, I think that all forms of DRM are really well thought out and brilliant.

    What? Someone has to pretend there’s a legitimate side to this.

    1. Kdansky says:

      Your line works even better if spoken in a strong British accent for some reason.

  14. Nathon says:

    Enjoy your schadenfreude, Shamus. You’ve earned it.

  15. Meredith says:

    The answer to your question is that it’s just so much easier to blame the hackers than take any kind of responsibility for their own company’s practices. I mean, gods forbid they actually learn anything from this and change their DRM (I’m too cynical to hope they go with none).

  16. Hitch says:

    I believe there are some (mostly indie) developers who don’t use any DRM at all, hoping a slightly cheaper price and a bit of goodwill will do as much for sales as a DRM scheme to fight pirates. They should indulge in a bit of snarky advertising at this point. Add badges to their ads that say, “No online DRM. This game is 100% Anonymous-proof.”

    1. decius says:

      Oh, like Impulse?

      They care so little about piracy, that if you order a product as a digital download AND pay the S+H for a physical copy, you get the digital download, with its key, and they mail you the retail box, which has its own key. The two are not the same. Also, no internet access is required to install or run the boxed copy.

      I see 6 people leeching hits for Sins of a Solar Empire, and 28 for AC:B. Given that AC:B is about 4.65 times larger, the total amount of pirating that I see evidence of is about the same. I’m disposed against companies that have crappy DRM, so they lose legit sales. How’s the return-on-investment on that multimillion dollar DRM treating you?

      1. Irridium says:

        Impulse got bought by Gamestop last month(or was it 2 months ago?).

        So yeah, we’ll see if Impulse still stays great.

        1. Sumanai says:

          Early this month, apparently. Also thank you for bringing that up.

  17. ehlijen says:

    The problem is that if they don’t see their DRM as wrong (which does indeed require willful ignorance) then seeing this consequence as not their fault is actually quite easy.

    They fully intended to provide the activation servers. They are prevented from doing so by criminals. In their mind it’s the ciminals’ fault for stopping them, not themselves for making the servers necessary in the first place.

    They are wrong of course, but if they’ve managed to be oblivious to that fact till now, this won’t change their minds, sadly :(

  18. Knight of Fools says:

    I think we’re missing a greater point here, far beyond DRM and such. Here’s a better question:

    …does this settle the PlayStation versus X-Box debate?

    1. Raygereio says:

      Considering how much of their game-libraries are shared between the two and how alike they are in capabilites, was there really ever an actual debate other then which console’s exterior looks prettier?

      1. Mediocre Man says:

        No U!!!!!!

      1. Ian says:

        My Xbox 360 didn’t leak my private information when it red ringed. I just had to live without it for a few days.

        I do like the PS3, but that debacle — especially coupled with the SOE breach — took away whatever faith I had in Sony.

        I don’t excuse Microsoft for shipping a faulty product, either. At least that was just faulty hardware and they did, after some kicking and screaming, make up for it (at a great expense to them). Now that all of the information from PSN/SOE is out there, there’s nothing that Sony can do to make it up for it.

        So, to make a long story short: apples and oranges.

        1. Stellar Duck says:

          I’d argue that there is a difference between shipping cheapo faulty hardware and being hacked through no intention of your own. Both are bad, but shipping bad hardware takes intent.

          But why on Earth did you ever have faith in a company in the first place? And a multinational one at that?

          You said that MS are making up for being cheapskates. Sure. But as far as I’ve read, Sony are doing a bit to make amends as well. So I’d call a draw on that.

          I have no interest in any case. I have an old 360 I bought used that will perhaps red ring some day. I have a PS3 with credit card info for a card I closed 2 years ago. And I have my glorious PC. :D

          1. Ben says:

            The problem with that line of argument is that it assumes that Sony was doing nothing wrong handling CC numbers, the fact that CC numbers and CCVs were leaked suggests that assumption is false.

            The general approach to CC numbers is the data is encrypted on user entry then it is passed still encrypted to the payment processor (not the merchant) and then it is decrypted there. You know how if merchants will only show you the last 4 digits on your CC number, thats because thats all they store, they use that plus your name to send encrypted data to the payment processor. The important thing to understand it that at no point should the merchant have access to the CC numbers.

            This means that if the CC numbers were leaked it is because Sony did not follow security best practices.

            Is that worse then RROD? I don’t know but portraying Sony as innocent in this case is wrong.

            1. Alexander The 1st says:

              Alternatively, someone who works AT the bank could hack the PS3, take the encrypted Credit card information, and then know how to decrypt it.

              Since they don’t know who stole it, they’re being cautious about it.

          2. Ian says:

            But why on Earth did you ever have faith in a company in the first place? And a multinational one at that?

            If you’re giving a company your personal information in exchange for a service, it’s implied that you’re putting faith in them to follow their own privacy policy and to keep the data secure from prying eyes.

            Sony did not do a good job protecting their customers’ personal information by any means. Sony is far from blameless in this case.

            You said that MS are making up for being cheapskates. Sure. But as far as I've read, Sony are doing a bit to make amends as well. So I'd call a draw on that.

            You’re joking, right?

            Microsoft replaced my dead hardware with working hardware at no cost to me other than about fifteen minutes to put the ticket in and box up the system, then another five on the other side to unbox it and hook the replacement unit back up. I just had to find some way to make due for a few days without a gaming console. Microsoft even gave me a few days of free Gold service to make up for the time that I was without it. Zero monetary cost. Slight annoyance. I’d still buy a 360.

            The only way that Sony can truly make amends is by hunting down everyone who has access to my personal information and delete it from their systems. And, as was said several times before, it’s very likely that credit card information was leaked. Your credit card information on PSN might have expired, but what about the millions of valid cards that are registered on the network? Dealing with getting a new card was a greater time cost for me than the entire RRoD replacement process, so you could argue (and I will) that dealing with the PSN outage was of a much greater cost to me than dealing with the RRoD. Luckily, the only thing that shared a password with my PSN account was my Xbox Live account, which was easy to deal with.

            All the free swag in the world isn’t going to get me to change my mind. If your security is that poor, you’re just as responsible for information leaks as the person who broke into your walled garden.

    2. Rayen says:

      No. No it does not. And that is why i bought a Wii for my family and became a dedicated PC gamer.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Of course it does.And pc wins again.

  19. HeroOfHyla says:

    Well, this is just the final nail in the coffin for them for me. Along with deciding not to localize Ace Attorney Investigations 2 and deciding to start doing DLC for every game they make ( ), there’s just a bad taste in my mouth. Definitely not a company I want to do business with anymore.

    1. Kdansky says:


      Seriously, how could they? It’s their best series by far, but playing it in Japanese is just damn hard. So much legalese!

  20. chabuhi says:

    I think you can tell that you’re unquestionably right about something when the other side has no raging fanboys. DRM doesn’t have any fanboys does it? I mean, outside the executive suite, that is?

    1. Hitch says:

      It’s rare, but you do get the occasional gamer who says things like, “Big companies wouldn’t need DRM if it wasn’t for the damn dirty pirates.” That’s about as close as you get.

    2. Rob Maguire says:

      They are called DRM apologists, and there are a few common types:

      1.) Normal fanboys blindly defending the DRM because they believe that their favorite game studio can do no wrong (never mind that it’s actually the publisher who chooses whether a game has DRM). Easily identified by phrases like “everyone has constant internet access these days”, “activation only takes a minute or two”, and “I’ve never had a problem.” It’s important to note that very few of these last once they’ve run into a glitch with the DRM themselves.

      2.) People who repeat whatever corporate anti-piracy spiel came out last, and call anyone who disagrees with them ‘filthy pirates’. Usually believe one pirate = one lost sale. Immune to logic.

      3.) Developers, for a wide variety of reasons (some because they have to follow the company line, others because spending years of your life on a project only for it to have a 95% piracy rate kind of sucks)

      1. Even says:

        I think the most vocal I’ve ever seen are Steam fanboys and they mostly fit into the first category. Last time I got called “technologically retarded” for criticizing the requirement for a login to be able to play offline, while simply stating that the dependency is provenly not as optimal and foolproof as it should be. The big irony of it was they didn’t seem to have any idea how the system actually works.

  21. utzelgrutzel says:

    So, will somebody with a Twitter/Capcom account direct the question to Mr. Svensson?

    1. Done says:

      Alright I shot him a twitter message. And I’m pretty sure If he does respond it will be a canned answer heres hoping. “@chrissvensson Has the recent PSN outage changed your mind on DRM?-Jay from NY.”

  22. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Sigh, I wish this whole PSN thing actually made more people realise the obvious stuff about the “call home” DRM. The servers won’t be around forever. If you’re buying a game with this type of protection nowadays you’re more like renting it for a couple of years. Sure, if you’re lucky they may release a patch that will remove the thing but what if the dev/plublisher goes out of business? What if all rights to the franchise are transferred to another company that is not interested in making such a patch? What if they simply don’t care about a game that came out 10 years earlier and that no longer gets any first hand sales at all? I guess if you’re feeling nostalgic 10 years from now on and want to play a (by then) “oldie” you may be out of luck.

    To put it bluntly, the call home DRM is not economically feasible. Even if you do charge extra for the DRM (as many companies do) the extra money can only support the servers for so long, which means that eventually, no matter how little traffic it gets in a couple years from the release date, it will chew through that financial reserve. I don’t want to sound too conspiracy but I would imagine if publishers are concerned with something that thing would be, first and foremost, making money. As such initiating a scheme that gives a finite profit with potentially infinite cost does not sound like a reasonable thing to do. That is unless from the start the plan is to make the costs finite, one way to do that is to release patches, the other… well, I think we can all figure this bit out ourselves…

    1. Jabrwock says:

      Definitely agree here. But then they don’t care about legacy support. Look at companies that used to use manuals to control piracy (what’s the 3rd word on the 4th page). You don’t see most posting their old game manuals now that the revenue stream has long since dried up.

      Some have re-released them with the manual DRM removed, but now they’re tied into systems like Steam, which make them unplayable if Steam is down (you have to manually set your games to “offline play” in anticipation of the server being down…)

    2. Bubble181 says:

      To be fair, “infinite” isn’t entirely true. Buying a book or a car, you expect it to work for as long as you own it and treat it well enough that it doesn’t fall apart or something. If your book’s letters are faded after 20 years due to low-quality ink, no judge will ever rule that they’re cheating you. If the CD’s become too worn to read, tough.
      Diablo II is an example of a game with still-running free servers and so on, for a one-time fee. Will it continue indefinitely? Probably not. On the other hand, on a server, I can’t imagine the added cost of the few DII players to really matter compared to the amount of bandwidth and whatever of Starcraft II users.

      I’m tired and meandering…damnit. Anyway, my points are: a) “infinity” is a strange expectation – by the time you use quantum computers with full-3D-holographic projections, they won’t run Diablo. Sorry. and b) up to a point, hosting a server becomes gradually cheaper, to a point where it doesn’t matter anymore compared to the bandwidth/storage/CPU cost of modern titles.

      1. Lanthanide says:

        “a) “infinity” is a strange expectation ““ by the time you use quantum computers with full-3D-holographic projections, they won't run Diablo. Sorry.”

        Why not? Have you seen the number of emulators for defunct platforms that are available? The recent upsurge in virtualisation technology for entire operating systems? For these amazing future computers, virtualising a windows box from 2000 will be trivial. It’s already trivial now.

        1. Bubble181 says:

          Sure. And I full hope and expect there to stil lbe *some* way to play it, honestly.
          Of course, you don’t mind me pointing out that almost all console emulators are illegal, right?

          That aside, good luck playing Diablo on a computer that doesn’t have a mouse or keyboard anymore (what? It could happen :-P)

      2. Shamus says:

        True, but the confusion is on the part of the publisher, not the customer. They don’t say how long they plan to keep the server running. They have no plan. As far as we can tell, they imagine they will run it forever. We’re just pointing out that we know better.

        If they REALLY thought about it, they would release a patch once the game is no longer in stores. (Of course, if they really REALLY thought about it, they wouldn’t bother with the DRM in the firstplace.)

        1. Nidokoenig says:

          If they thought about it and decided to still be evil, they’d sell the DRM removal patch after all the other DLC.

          1. Sean Riley says:

            The weird thing is, that’s actually a strategy that might work. The whole reason why, as Shamus has pointed out, that DRM removal is unlikely to work is that if the whole company is going belly up, they’re looking to cut costs at every turn — so working on and releasing a DRM removal kit isn’t on the cards.

            But if you made it in advance, and then put it up for sale if the company dies, hey, there’s some extra money!

            It’s evil, but workable!

            1. Irridium says:

              And that removal kit would then be pirated.

              1. JPH says:

                I doubt that people who chose not to pirate the game would then pirate the removal kit.

                1. krellen says:

                  They might if they didn’t think about trying to play the game again until long after the company was already defunct and it was virtually impossible to buy the removal kit legitimately.

        2. ehlijen says:

          As long as the publishers aren’t stuck in a ‘if they want to keep playing they can just buy the latest sequel’ runt of logic for their thoughts. Which I guess might even sort of work in the EA sports games corner of the market, but that’s another sad story… :(

      3. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I hear you and I know that the “infinite cost” was a bit of an exaggeration and/or oversimplification, I mean, an actual infinite cost would be impossible. Also, yes, I agree that after the initial rush they can assign a low grade server to handle the DRM and limit the cost. The point, however, is that the cost is there. However, this DRM needs to be incorporated in every case of server move, maintenance, upgrade for new technology etc. And no matter how insignificant the cost it will add up over time. What’s more the cost doesn’t have to be “infinite”. It only needs to exceed the profit.

        There is more. For the scheme to fail the cost of DRM maintenance doesn’t even have to exceed the entire profit from game sales. Only the profit gained from adding the DRM over the money the game would earn without a DRM. Which, I admit, probably can’t really be measured and at best wildly projected. I imagine the companies calculate this along the lines of “each pirated copy=one sale on day 1 with all bells and whistles” and “new DRM will magically turn all pirated copies into sales”. Don’t even get me started on sales a company may loose because of a nasty DRM, now and in the future (I imagine Capcom will take a serious blow to their reputation after this, and I know a few people who still stay away from Spore because they “heard it installs something nasty on your PC”). However, even if you have the thin profit margin from extra sales and increased price you also have to subtract from it the actual cost of developing and adding the DRM. Basically I imagine the actual monetary gain from adding the DRM is a pittance, consequently the cost of maintaining the servers quickly becomes significant.

        As for the tech progress, as Lanthanide already mentioned above, there will always be people interested in the retro games. I know I am one of them as I still sometimes come back to stuff like Doom, X-wing or Xcom. Google how many people are asking how to run old stuff on Vista/7. The NES/SNES emulation scene was also fairly lively the last time I checked…

  23. Kdansky says:

    The small company I work for also uses DRM, and not of the kind sort (USB dongles and time-locked demos by sending us an e-mail request). But then again, we sell CAD-software in the price range of 9’000 € per license, and offer remote patching or support for a (comparatively) cheap service fee (though if a dongle just dies, I suppose we’d fix it even if you don’t pay support fees, but I have not seen that happen yet). We have decided against online-DRM, because if our server would fail our customers would probably murder us, and because some of the machines our customers use do not have (or need) 24/7 internet.

    Any takers on the subject of this being good or bad?

    1. Falcon says:

      I’m someone who uses a system just like that (you don’t happen to work for Esko do you?) and the system is the kind of ‘least bad’ thing that is used. It does have problems, I can personally attest to dozens of times where the USB key gas flaked out, requiring a computer restart. Such a system has broken down many times. The thing is a) I’ve been able to fix it and b) if things were to really get forked I have someone I can call to fix it. For the liscense price (and small niche user base) there is the reasonable expectation of customer service to fix what you broke. As a user, no I don’t like it, but I understand the necessity. Besides corporate legal departments and such could be used in extreme cases.

      For consumer level products though? Big difference. Economies of scale and such. I am one voice among many. If it breaks I’m SOL. If it never works, again what recourse do I posess? If my $12000 software were to arrive non-functional many options exist for financial compensation, ie if you don’t fix it it’s worth bringing the legal system into the equation. For a $50 game, not so much.

      Basically I don’t like it, but can deal with it on a corporate scale, due to available resources. Consumer level, I just get screwed with no recompense.

      1. Kdansky says:

        Nope, not Esko. :) Hardware Dongles have a few more annoying issues: If the customers uses multiples, he runs out of USB-slots fast, if they get “lost in the mail”, someone could easily pirate a copy, and technically the software is still crackable. It’s a least bad solution. :(

  24. Frank says:

    I hate this DRM in psn games as well. Capcom is stealing from us everyday we can’t use the playstation network. Maybe the hackers should do something about DRM too!
    CAPCOMS -“Sven<–(dumb ass)", Is being a dick about it.

    Its not fair to the end user for this to happen.

    Its like this for example: I buy my PS3 and I let my friend use it instead of him buying one he just uses my system. Then Sony finds out and comes to my house and takes my System away from me because I let a friend use it.

    Anyways Drm isn't helping us at all, its just making companies like CAPCOM look stupid.

    Why would they want such hate upon their name?

    Whenever a person (Customer) buys a game that has DRM, they're not really buying the game but forever renting it. Once you have lost YOUR connection to the Internet /Offline these games (You Paid for are no longer yours) – They're practically stealing from us. Forcing a user to be online while playing a game they /we /you – paid for is a injustice that isn't fair to the gaming community. Everybody in the world isn't going to have the Internet forever and companies are hitting us all with a low blow. So I think these game companies should either remove the DRM with an update or stop the sells of these games, because they're stealing from us, because these DRM games!! DRM PSN GAMES ARE NOT really your games that you paid for. You're just renting them more or less.

  25. Stellar Duck says:

    Mr. Young. Shamus, if I may.

    Thank you. Thank you for writing this. It was quite the poignant counterpoint to the the everlasting drivel that DRM is to prevent piracy.

    Thank you.

    And in case no one else has done it (and if you haven’t that you ought have you lazy gits! :D )

    *slow clap*

  26. Veloxyll says:

    I am just so glad for all those people who told me, when I complained about DRM on my PC games, that I should just buy the console version. Thanks for your great suggestions guys, I’m so glad they’ve worked out so well for every user of the PS3.

  27. Amarsir says:

    Let me turn this into a question: At what point does “server connection required” become a reasonable condition for a game to have?

    If Blizzard was hacked and the WoW servers were down, people would be frustrated but I don’t think we’d hear much “why can’t I just solo without connecting?” It’s accepted that the game is built to require a permanent connection, even though I’m sure “hard to pirate” is among the things Blizzard is happy about (note I didn’t say “impossible”). On the other hand if Bejeweled was unplayable with servers down, that would seem absurd.

    So where’s that line? How should we determine where Guild Wars falls, or Modern Warfare? I suspect people would say “if it’s only for DRM”, but are they willing to stand by that “only”? Displaying your Achievements is a network bonus, and a lot of games connect every time you earn one. That means the connection’s not “just” DRM, is it fair? How about auto-patching, must it run if there’s no connection to check the patch? What about games with both multiplayer and solo modes, are they obligated to only connect after selecting the mode?

    I understand the “DRM hurts customers” position, and it’s a good point. But you wonder why companies like Sony make this statement, and it’s because they view server requirements as reasonable; no less so than the fact that your game requires electricity. As far as Svensson’s concerned, you could have been saying “I could play in a power failure if they’d made a board game component” because changing the requirements would change the game. As ridiculous as the comparison seems, it’s a lot harder to put the distinction in words.

    So help me draw this thick black line that states “when you do X a server requirement is fair. When you do Y it isn’t.” I don’t think the distinction is as clear as we pretend and I guarantee it isn’t for publishers.

    1. Shamus says:

      Multiplayer. At that point, the game needs the server to mediate the game rules, handle interactions between players, perform matchmaking, etc. To put it another way: The server must provide something which your computer could not provide for itself, and it must be something more valuable than “permission”.

      I think this is a big part of the drive to tack multiplayer on to every game, whether it makes any sense or not.

      Assassin’s Creed 2 tried a new form of DRM where the server was required not just for permission, but to make the game operate. People hated it, because they could see the system was purely artificial. Yes, I need the server by design. But it’s not actually doing anything my computer couldn’t do for itself if the software had been engineered properly.

      The next game came out, and it was multiplayer-focused. I strongly suspect this was a business decision, not a game design decision.

      (Disclosure: I got bored and quit AC2. Didn’t try Brotherhood.)

      1. Veloxyll says:

        This: Part of WoW’s core content is online. When you buy the game you know that the game is based entirely upon interactions with other players. WoW is designed exclusively to be played with other people present in the game world. The servers are providing a key element of the experience.

        Single player games otoh can (and have for years) functioned without any sort of online connection necessary. Heck, there was a time where multiplayer in a single building was allowed to take place without access to the internet, because the benefits of any sort of internet connection were negligible to non-existent. And they still are.

        I mean, really, I can’t play my game because I might get achievements and they not count if I’m not online. I might cheat in a LAN game with people i am IN THE SAME ROOM AS? Given the choice to play my game and not get achievements vs not being able to play at all, I’ll pick playing and not achieving pretty much every time, unless I’m specifically doing a re-play for an achievement, but even then, the game has served its primary purpose; I’ve enjoyed it once through and am playing it again so I’m likely to say good things about it and buy the sequel/expansion ANYHOW. Not having my achieves count and having me do something else isn’t risking the current or future revenues of the company.

        The very nature of single player gaming demands that playing the game be the predominant benefit – if you, as a company, can provide a value added service to a single player experience of MORE VALUE than the single player experience itself, then why would you make games and not just sell the value added service to people?

        1. Kdansky says:

          >I might cheat in a LAN game with people i am IN THE SAME ROOM AS.

          That was a frequently employed tactic at our LANs, always with hilarious results.

          1. Ringwraith says:

            The best part is, it’s usually hilariously obvious, which tends to balance out any advantage it brings.

          2. Bubble181 says:

            Good old times, storming an enemy’s city with tanks, 5 turns into the Classical Age in Civ II.

            “Where’d you get THOSE?!”
            “Oh, very lucky break *whistles innocently*”
            “You dirty cheater!”
            “Well DUH”

      2. Amarsir says:

        Now I feel trollish because I raised the question and couldn’t get back to it for 2 days. :(

        I think “multiplayer” is a good place to draw a line in the sand though I also think I could show you games (and ideas) that blur the line for what level of interactivity constitutes multiplayer. But that aside, this contextualizes Valve’s recent statement that everything is multiplayer from now on. Steam has already been playing the “add value via cental backups” card which justifies controlling installation, patching, and startup. Now if Valve always has multiplayer, they’re justifying more internal connecting too. I don’t think they’re far from just being persistent.

        If I was leading a major studio release of a new game, I would try my best to weave in enough multiplayer and other value to justify central data control. Shareholders get pirate protection and players get XY and Z, but the rules on the box are “internet connection required to play.” Maybe it’s conniving on my part but I think it’s the inevitable direction and a lot more honest than “DRM for your protection” BS.

  28. Daimbert says:

    Two points, one serious and one more humourous:

    First, the serious one: What Capcom games can’t be played single player without a connection? I just bought a PS3 a month or so ago, and bought Marvel vs Capcom 3. I don’t have any Internet hooked up to my PS3, and was able to play it fine. I think it complained when I started it about not having a connection, but that just locked me out of multiplayer. Are there any other games I should watch out for?

    Second, I couldn’t help but be reminded in that comic of the situation I had with Tropico 3 for the PC. There’s a known issue where if you buy the game from a Best Buy in Canada the licence key is supposed to be on a sticker inside the DVD case, but that sometimes it was missing. So I had to E-mail their support and get them to give me a key. So, expanding that, you could add “Oh, unless you bought it from Best Buy, which in some cases accidentally didn’t include the antidote. We’ll ship one to your next-of-kin. Have a nice day.”

  29. Zaghadka says:

    Amen, Shamus. I’d ask you to run for office, if I thought it’d do any good to get you elected. Unfortunately, I get the sense your term would run like an episode of 1 vs. 100.

    We just have to stop buying this crap. Witcher 2 is a nice start. First game in years I’ve felt good about paying full price for.

  30. Blackbird71 says:

    A thought crossed my mind, and I thought I’d share the question here for consideration: what do you think will happen when Steam is eventually hit by something similar?

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