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Valve's Gabe Newell On DRM 241

Posted by Soulskill
from the he's-pretty-steamed dept.
Ars Technica is running a story about recent comments by Valve's Gabe Newell in which he bluntly stated, "As far as DRM goes, most DRM strategies are just dumb. The goal should be to create greater value for customers through service value (make it easy for me to play my games whenever and wherever I want to), not by decreasing the value of a product (maybe I'll be able to play my game and maybe I won't)." Ars then points out a response by Microsoft's Games for Windows Community Manager Ryan Miller suggesting Rockstar Games' recent decision not to have install limits for the PC version of GTA IV made the use of SecuROM acceptable. GameSetWatch has a related piece discussing the difficulty in measuring piracy and enforcing infringement laws.
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Valve's Gabe Newell On DRM

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  • I like Steam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iamwhoiamtoday (1177507) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @04:44AM (#25986281)

    I really like how Steam currently works. Only one computer can be logged into the same account at a time, I can download / install all games on any computer, it works (mostly) in Wine. I also don't have to mess around with disks.

    Steam seems to me to be a rather effective method of DRM. I can only be logged into the account from ONE computer at a time, and I can play my games. what's the problem?

  • Priceless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @04:47AM (#25986301) Journal

    Gabe comes out and says this the day after GTA IV has released on Steam complete with Securom.

    Dear Mr Miller: No, it is NOT acceptable, and I will no longer be buying any games that follow what you consider acceptable. So many of the issues people have with running new titles is down to the copy protection.

    I really want the PC to die as a mainstream gaming platform to be honest. (And I say that as a hardcore PC gamer for the last 12 years.) Despite all the mounting evidence that shows it's ineffectual and pointless, copy protection is getting worse and worse. Kill the platform entirely, EA and the like can fuck off to the consoles and stay there in their happy little pirate free zone (yeah right), and the PC can go back to serving niche genres for a smaller customer base that are actually treated like customers and not thieves.

  • by subreality (157447) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:10AM (#25986447)

    The goal should be to create greater value for customers through service value (make it easy for me to play my games whenever and wherever I want to)

    No, the goal is to increase revenues by decreasing piracy and preventing sale of used games. What is said above is their method of making it palatable to the consumer.

    If the goal was *really* to "create greater value" and "make it easy to play games whenever and wherever" the solution would be simple: DON'T USE DRM.

    I understand the need to fight piracy, but quit trying to spin it like it's being done for me, or that there's some silver lining.

  • Re:I like Steam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drinking Bleach (975757) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:19AM (#25986505)

    Steam is basically the sanest solution to keep things clean for legitimate users. You just buy a game and download it, however many times you like or need. Pirates are always going to crack DRM, there's little reason to battle them only to punish legitimate users. See any torrent site and look for cracked versions of Valve games that no longer require Steam -- they're not hard to find, and it just furthers the point that pirates will do whatever to get a free lunch.

    Steam is non-intrusive and allows all legitimate users to get and use games easily.

  • Re:I like Steam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GFree678 (1363845) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:36AM (#25986571)

    what's the problem?

    Let's hope you don't want to resell a game you purchased from Steam.

    Let's hope that VAC works perfectly and won't ban you from VAC servers by accident because you were running something perfectly legit which happened to trip its detection mechanism.

    Let's hope that when Gabe says Valve will release an unlock tool so you can play your games when/if Valve ever collapses, he actually follows through.

    Disclaimer: I've used Steam for years and continue to do so. I think it's great... as long as nothing goes wrong.

  • Re:I like Steam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:54AM (#25986701)

    Unless Steam decides you're not the owner, you lose the password, they think you're a cheater, etc. Then they take away all your games. I'll ignore DRM in bought games because it can be disabled, I will never buy a steam game.

  • by Loibisch (964797) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @06:03AM (#25986745)

    The thing is that some forms of DRM allow for distribution schemes previously not possible. I can see your point when talking about hard copies you buy at a store. DRM in those copies is definitely not helping the consumer.

    Now take Steam on the other hand. Sure, all of this would also be possible withOUT DRM, but it wouldn't be much of a business model if everyone could just download everything to any computer and just leave it there for someone else to play. This would be equivalent to being able to copy a game you bought at the store for all of your friends.

    So in this case, DRM actually makes a new distribution channel possible, which in the case of Steam is indeed a greater value to the consumer.

  • by Dunbal (464142) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @06:10AM (#25986791)

    No, the goal is to increase revenues by decreasing piracy and preventing sale of used games.

          No, the goal (for the DRM peddler) is to PRETEND to offer increased revenues by PRETENDING to decrease piracy and prevent sale of used games. However the only revenue that is actually increased is the "security" company's.

          No one wants to buy shitty games. The good games are cracked usually within hours of release with few exceptions. However good games still make money. If Electronic Arts could build a multi-billion dollar company by releasing endless versions of the same steaming piles of shit, there's money to be made despite piracy.

          But it's so easy to blame lack of sales on copyright infringement. Piracy and sales are DIRECTLY, not inversely, proportional. If a game sucks NO ONE WILL PIRATE IT. So if your game didn't sell it's because IT SUCKS, not because everyone managed to download it before going to the store.

  • by Stormwatch (703920) <<rodrigogirao> <at> <hotmail.com>> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @06:40AM (#25986929) Homepage

    Sure, all of this would also be possible withOUT DRM, but it wouldn't be much of a business model if everyone could just download everything to any computer and just leave it there for someone else to play.

    But that is what already happens anyway! Take a look at The Pirate Bay, Mininova, Black Cats, whatever... name any game, it's probably there. DRM is a serious nuisance to legit clients, but merely a quick and fun challenge to crackers. All this DRM-mania does nothing but make piracy look more attractive!

    Gotta admire the GOG [gog.com] people... they sell some nice stuff at decent prices, and don't give you any of that DRM bullshit.

  • by Vitani (1219376) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @07:59AM (#25987271) Homepage
    "Until publishers do more to welcome their legitimate customers as friends instead of treating them as potential pirates, piracy will continue to eat at profits and morale."
  • Re:I like Steam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <elmuerte.drunksnipers@com> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @08:06AM (#25987311) Homepage

    So what that he posted AC, it doesn't change the fact that Valve has a kill switch for your steam account and therefore all games associated with that. That's a form of DRM I also don't like. And for that reason I don't play steam games.

  • Re:I like Steam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Burnhard (1031106) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @08:24AM (#25987409)
    IANAL, but you should have legal redress if you haven't broken the TOS. My nephew got a VAC ban for using a "wall hack". In effect he had to start a brand new steam account because he only played VAC based multi-player games. In fact the only people I've heard about who have had their accounts disabled or VAC bans are almost always cheating/hacking in some way or engaged in some other nefarious activity.

    So the trade-off with Steam is as follows: you have the convenience of having a delivery platform you can take anywhere, it's easy to purchase/patch new games, you don't have to faff about with CD's. The downside is you share ownership with Steam - which means you can't hack/crack/etc. without the possibility of losing your purchases. In my view the benefits to me as a gamer outweigh the costs, because I don't hack to run cracked/downloaded games.
  • by Ash-Fox (726320) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @08:40AM (#25987499)

    StarDock is offering something like Steam but completely without DRM.

    When is StarDock going to release a game I might want. Like a freeform space like X3: Terran conflict or FPS like the Unreal series?

    Right now they have no games that interest me, or many other gamers I know. Of course there is no piracy on mass.

    But unlike Steam it doesn't force you do download patches

    Uncheck the "keep my game up to date" box in the game's properties?

  • Re:I like Steam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @09:00AM (#25987619) Journal

    I used to play a lot of Half Life mods, particularly CounterStrike. When Steam came out, I installed it and used it a bit, but it had numerous issues and when I had to reinstall Windows I didn't put it back. Since I bought Half Life, I still have the option of playing the last pre-Steam version (although I don't know if anyone still runs servers for it). I wrote to Gabe at the time to explain my decision when I got the 'you haven't logged in to your Steam account for 30 days' email, and explained that I would not be buying any future games that required Steam.

    Given the number of people who defend Steam on /. I think he's probably right about people not caring about the DRM. For me, it's a simple question of value. Anything I buy from Steam, or any other DRM source, only works as long as the seller wants it to work. It's the equivalent of something bought 'sold as seen' from a dodgy guy at a car boot sale. It may or may not ever work, but if it's cheap enough then I might consider it. Steam games are not cheap enough to warrant this risk.

  • Re:I like Steam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moryath (553296) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @09:43AM (#25987995)

    I won't touch Steam.

    It's not that the games don't interest me, it's (a) the fact that I'm exposing my machine to their kill-switch and (b) the fact that I should never, EVER have to go through "activation" bullshit to play a single-player game.

    Steam carries DRM. I do everything in my power to (a) remove DRM from the things I purchase where it cannot be avoided and (b) avoid it the rest of the time.

    Sorry, Valve. You get in bed with DRM, you lose business. THAT is how DRM really works.

  • Re:I like Steam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by robot_love (1089921) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @10:29AM (#25988447)

    Sorry, Valve. You get in bed with DRM, you lose business. THAT is how DRM really works.

    ...except Valve is doing quite well and selling a lot of games. Something about your logic isn't right.

  • Re:I like Steam (Score:2, Insightful)

    by travbrad (622986) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @11:05AM (#25988879)

    So to activate off-line mode you have to be on-line? *head explodes*

    The only games I play on steam are online/multi-player anyway, so not a big deal for me. For people wanting to play single-player or against bots though, that's completely retarded. Better off pirating if you are playing single-player games I guess..

  • Re:Priceless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sj0 (472011) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @11:58AM (#25989583) Homepage Journal

    I think you're way off-base.

    The games I buy off of xbox live have exactly ONE install, and god help you if you delete the game.

    This is better than a PC?

  • Re:Priceless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday December 04, 2008 @12:14PM (#25989829)

    I really want the PC to die as a mainstream gaming platform to be honest.

    Why? DRM on the PC may be bad, but consoles are completely locked!

    I want console gaming to die!

  • Re:I like Steam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MunchMunch (670504) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @12:15PM (#25989843) Homepage

    "You can have discs if you want them. Steam includes a tool to backup your games." Plus you can buy the games in retail which comes with the discs of course if you prefer."

    Thanks, I did not know that you could back them up after downloading them.

    However, the disc is still basically just a big authorization key, since what really allows you to play or not is the server. So having a disc is really just misleading you into believing you 'own' something.

    Though kind of moot since apparently most of Slashdot (though not you, thankfully) would rather just mod me troll than respond to my arguments. :)

  • by danieltdp (1287734) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @12:59PM (#25990611)
    Note that the account kill switch is a multiple-game license kill switch. If someone at Valve's decides that you are a fucking bastard, he can take away from you a bunch of licenses that are worth hundreds of dollars. This is the worst type of DRM I've ever seen. It combines all your stuff in one package that is all or nothing.
  • Re:I like Steam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Omestes (471991) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (setsemo)> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:14PM (#25990875) Homepage Journal

    The iTunes thing is just odd, I've never had a problem with offline play. Right now I'm using a MacMini as my jukebox, and it hardly ever is online, yet it hasn't given me any problems with iTMS purchases. As far as DRM goes, iTunes is the best, its rather convenient, and non intrusive (which doesn't go so far, its like saying "as far as dictators go, Castro is the best"). You probably found a bug, or accidentally clicked "unauthorize", or such.

    My problem with DRM such as Steam, is that it is only trustworthy in the short term. I have a CD wallet of hundreds of games, most of them old, and a large amount of them from defunct publishers. I enjoy reinstalling them, from time to time, and replaying them. With Steam this activity is dependent on whether or not Valve is in business 10 years from now, and whether or not they feel like keeping their Steam/authentication servers active all that time. Neither of these propositions I trust.

    Imagine if the original Fallout games (Interplay = dead) required online authorization? Or Total Annihilation (Cave Dog = REALLY dead)? Both of these games I recently installed on my computer, which I couldn't do with current Valve products. Its like buying a book you can only read if the author is still alive, which makes very little sense.

    I don't trust other people to keep my keys, fully realizing that times do change, and companies (no matter how strong they seem) die. It's my $50, and I might want to reclaim my value 10 years down the road.

    The only ethical solution I've found so far is buying it, then downloading a cracked ISO and burning it (replacing the original disk). Yes, its still illegal, but I take upholding my ethics (I own what I purchase) over legal technicalities.

  • Re:I like Steam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Omestes (471991) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (setsemo)> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:19PM (#25990941) Homepage Journal

    PROTIP: VAC is triggered by the detection of entire known binaries. You can't trip it accidentally without having the cheating mechanism on-disk, and if you do have it on-disk... well that's your fault.

    As if software can never go wrong. False positives will always exist.

    Yes, there is a very slim chance of it happening, but it still is possible.

    There are other ways it can happen, like hacked accounts, or such.

    Also... Having a cheating program on your HDD, is not the same thing as cheating. Isn't that somewhat a "thoughcrime"? It should only ban for ACTUALLY cheating, and not just having some software sitting about.

  • Re:I like Steam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fotbr (855184) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:35PM (#25991213) Journal

    Yet I've bought many more games via Steam than I would have if I had to go to the store to get them. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has done so.

    If sales caused by Steam > sales lost because of Steam, how exactly is Steam bad for business?

    In other words, if I run a business (say, a restaurant) and institute a no-children policy, thereby "losing" some business (parents bringing their children), but in the process I gain more business (people who want to eat without kids being around), why are the "lost" sales a negative?

    Sorry, I couldn't think of a car analogy that would work.

  • by Amphetam1ne (1042020) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:47PM (#25991409)

    ... 3 of them can't play for more than 5-10 minutes without securom bombing and forcing the game to close instantly. The other 2 can't even get it to start up.

    Aparently it only cost Rockstar $200k to cause this much inconvenience to their legitimate users.

    Am waiting to see how long it takes for a fully functional crack to come out. Been just over 48 hours so far and it appears to be harder to crack cleanly than your average copy protection. Rockstar are claiming that it's "Uncrackable", which may not have been their best choice of words when the scene crackers are motivated primarily by having the bragging rights of being the 1st to bypass the most difficult DRM.

  • by Asmor (775910) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @04:20PM (#25993735) Homepage

    0-day? Pfft.

    It's been a while since I did much with warez, but I distinctly remember many things (including the game Rune) being available for download much sooner than it was available to buy.

  • Re:I like Steam (Score:2, Insightful)

    by knails (915340) <knailstheman@gmail.com> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @07:16PM (#25996107)
    You know, you can always rip an disk image instead, and if the game needs a key, store it as text with the image. Simple as that.
  • Re:I like Steam (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 04, 2008 @11:40PM (#25998665)

    It's really arrogant and kind of narrow-minded to assume that just because you like DRM, that it should be allowed.

    Fixed that for you.

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