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Why Bother With DRM? 376

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-way-to-make-internet-people-hate-you dept.
Brad Wardell of Stardock and Ron Carmel of 2D Boy recently spoke with Gamasutra about their efforts to move the games industry away from restrictive DRM. Despite the fact that both have had their own troubles with piracy, they contend that overall piracy rates aren't significantly affected by DRM — and that most companies know it. Instead, the two suggest that most DRM solutions are still around to hamper a few more specific situations. Quoting: "'Publishers aren't stupid. They know that DRM doesn't work against piracy,' Carmel explains. 'What they're trying to do is stop people from going to GameStop to buy $50 games for $35, none of which goes into the publishers' pockets. If DRM permits only a few installs, that minimizes the number of times a game can be resold.' ... 'I believe their argument is that while DRM doesn't work perfectly,' says Wardell, 'it does make it more difficult for someone to get the game for free in the first five or six days of its release. That's when a lot of the sales take place and that's when the royalties from the retailers are determined. Publishers would be very happy for a first week without "warez" copies circulating on the Web.'"
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Why Bother With DRM?

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  • Hmmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dishevel (1105119) *
    Sounds like Game Stop should sue.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How does this even make sense? GameStop doesn't sell used -PC- games, which is what this "limited install" DRM is made for. Hard to resell a game with a serial code.

      • Re:Hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

        by snl2587 (1177409) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:24PM (#27940281)

        Hard to resell a game with a serial code.

        Yes, yes it is. Especially if the game has an online multi-player component. But what about for single-player games? That's where limited-install makes sense for the developers and why Gamestop has a hard time with used PC software.

        • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Dyinobal (1427207) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:32PM (#27940395)
          I've been into gamestop before and opened their 'empty' cases to find serial numbers inside. Once I've something like that there is almost nothing keeping me from going to say 'battlenet' and registering that copy of warcraft as my own. They even let me download the game from their site as well. I never buy PC games from gamestop simply because you can't be sure someone hasn't already nipped the serial number from it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by iksbob (947407)

        GameStop doesn't sell used PC games because they have install restrictions. PC game producers admit to using said restrictions to limit or eliminate the resale value that businesses such as GameStop capitalize on. If these restrictions weren't in place, used PC games would have resale value, so GameStop would (in theory anyway) be interested in selling them.
        I agree that a case filed by GameStop doesn't make much sense... PC game producers aren't legally obligated to follow GameStop's business model. On the

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by geekoid (135745)

        The one right up the street from here sells used PC games.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      No, the game companies ought to give the games away for free, and charge people to connect to their servers.

      UsernameID should be enough to satisfy DRM, since it is tied directly to a user. People buying a RETAIL copy of a game should get a certain number of USER registrations (suggested value = 5) for people in a house.

      If they did this, then they would have their cake, and eat it too. Single people could share their Install Code 4 times and spread the popularity and such.

      The solution is EASY if one can just

      • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

        by socrplayr813 (1372733) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:06PM (#27940967)

        I can't speak for everyone, but I don't want to connect to a server if I don't have to. Most of my favorite games are primarily single player (ie. Civilization). A lot of them have a multiplayer component, but there are tons of people that never touch that.

        For games that are primarily multiplayer, I agree that a small fee for the initial install along with a monthly fee is reasonable, but not for single player games. I think this is dangerous territory too. It could lead to separate single/multiplayer editions where they get to charge you extra for small additions to a game.

        • Re:Hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:26PM (#27941267) Journal

          The solution for single player games is just as easy. Make it easier to get the game than to pirate it. The assumption here is that you're not connected to the network, now you have to go to a store (game stop) or whatever to buy the game. Make it easy (less expensive).

          If they have a connection to the internet, but the game is single player (eg Civ), then make it available online even cheaper than retail.

          Who cares about finding a Torrent or cracked version that isn't spyware/virus plagued when it is just as easy to go get it from the source?

          Pirates only operate where it pays to pirate, and the commodity is scarce. If you offer a good product and service at a fair price, you'll have customers. Yes, there will be people who STEAL (yes I said steal) the game to play, but that is not the software company's problem. They are going to do it anyways.

          The point is get to a point of "why would I need to Crack and Torrent something that is so easy to get from SOFTGAMECO?"

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by socrplayr813 (1372733)

            For the record, I don't pirate games anymore (and really only ever downloaded a couple that I played for any length of time). Now that I'm out of school and have a decent income, I buy all my games if/when I want them.

            For me, it's not about the game being easy or difficult to get (either price or effort). I don't want to keep track of a dozen accounts with different game developers just to get their content. There's a limit to how much of that I'm willing to deal with. It's a matter of practicality.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Samah (729132)

            Make it easier to get the game than to pirate it.

            People who don't want to pay for the game won't care about which is easier.

            Who cares about finding a Torrent or cracked version that isn't spyware/virus plagued when it is just as easy to go get it from the source?

            People who don't want to pay.

            The point is get to a point of "why would I need to Crack and Torrent something that is so easy to get from SOFTGAMECO?"

            So that you don't have to pay.

            If you offer a good product and service at a fair price, you'll have customers. Yes, there will be people who STEAL (yes I said steal) the game to play, but that is not the software company's problem. They are going to do it anyways.

            True words. There's a difference between "customers" and "users". Customers will pay for your product because they believe it's worth the money. Those who don't pay for the product were most likely not going to buy it in the first place. They are not "lost sales".

            I'll admit, I used to download games when I was flat broke (Uni student) but now that I have a job there's not

      • by shmlco (594907)

        Right... except for single-player games that don't want or need a network connection.

        Require it anyway? Of course, you then have the asshats who will remove or disable the code requiring the login and post that to the torrents. Or the other asshats who'll put a proxy in place to mimic the server, or...

        The solution is only EASY to those who're half asleep.

  • Brad Wardell of Stardock and Ron Carmel of 2D Boy

    I don't know who that is but a few days ago I submitted a story on an interview with Sony's CEO [slashdot.org]:

    In an interview with Nikkei Electronics Asia this month [nikkeibp.co.jp], Sony CEO and chairman Howard Stringer revealed an interesting point about open technologies: 'Customers will refuse to accept it unless the technology is open. Youth in particular really dislikes closed technologies, closed systems and the like. I think the failure of AOL LLC of the US is good evidence of this. When the Internet was just beginning to spread, AOL boosted its subscriber base by providing special services only to its customers. After a while, though, customers began rebelling, complaining that they weren't children. Because AOL wanted to keep them locked up in a narrow portion of the immense Internet cosmos, open technology was created. Sony hasn't taken open technology very seriously in the past. Its CONNECT music download service was a failure. It was based on OpenMG, a proprietary digital rights management (DRM) technology. At the time, we thought we would make more money that way than with open technology, because we could manage the customers and their downloads. This approach, however, created a problem: customers couldn't download music from any Websites except those that contracted with Sony. If we had gone with open technology from the start, I think we probably would have beaten Apple Inc of the US.' He then mentions that Sony has a chance to provide something that Apple can't. Sounds like somebody should inform him of DRM-free iTunes [slashdot.org]. However when asked about customer confusion over too many open technologies, he claims that the customer will always like choice so the more the better.

    Didn't get published so I thought I'd post it here as evidence that even the music distribution companies are saying, "Why bother with DRM?" Not surprising now that Amazon and iTunes are doing it though. I predict everyone will eventually pull their heads out of their asses, it just will take some longer than others.

    • by maz2331 (1104901) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:20PM (#27940209)

      Really, if we distill the arguments for DRM down far enough, it becomes clear that the idea is to try to work around the First Sale Doctrine and kill the second-hand market.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nine-times (778537)

        That, and to encourage people to re-buy the same content for different devices. Years ago, there were statements by record companies (sorry, I have no citation, but I remember it) that you should have to buy a copy of the song for your MP3 player, for your home stereo, for your mobile phone, and for your car stereo. 4 different copies. If a new device came out, you should have to buy a copy for that device too.

    • Brad Wardell of Stardock and Ron Carmel of 2D Boy

      I don't know who that is but a few days ago I...

      Stardock develops non-DRM'd games like Sins of a Solar Empire and now Demigod. They always make a big todo about how there's no DRM and then SecuROM (the DRM guys) get upset that they didn't use their DRM and say they'll download their torrents. Stardock has a Steam-like product called Impulse that many have said is akin to a light form of DRM, but still DRM.

      2D-Boy are the developers of World of Goo, a popular indie game that was once reported to have something like a 90% piracy rate, which was argued by many to be unbelievable, etc. World of Goo has no DRM.

    • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:47PM (#27941649) Journal

      It's not even that he's unaware of DRM-free iTunes. If that were the only problem, I'd be quite happy to inform him of an opportunity that I simply don't see being exploited right now:

      Purely web-based purchasing, with an open API.

      Amazon MP3 is pretty cool. Better than iTunes, because I can use any program I want to play the music, and because there's a Linux client, I've now set my mother up to purchase music that way, and have it automatically imported into Amarok.

      But it could be so much better.

      Purely web-based would mean no client I have to download and figure out. An open API, or even a decent enough web interface, would mean I could write an Amarok plugin -- be able to listen to a preview, and buy it right there, just like (I assume) iTunes does. Others could write Songbird plugins. It's possible they could even make a deal to incorporate it into iTunes.

      Protection would be relatively easy: Just a temporary URL, and it'd be about as good as Amazon MP3 is right now.

      The problem is, of course, that he doesn't get it at all.

      A lot of people thought Sony's content download service was doomed, but it's in a pretty good place right now in the form of the PlayStation Network, available to PS3 users for network gaming, video, etc. The DRM is based on Marlin, an open scheme developed by consumer electronics companies and other companies.

      So close, and yet so far...

      So, I'm guessing to this guy, "open" is just a buzzword. He seemed to have a basic grasp of what it means, and then he went and claimed a DRM scheme could be "open".

  • unfortuantely, they often have -1 weeks of sales when there arent illegal copies circulating. I do sometimes pirate games, but i try to restrain from doing it when the game is young, e.g when a sequal has come out, i consider the original fair game. I know it doesnt really make a difference if i pirate it now or a year down the line, but it sits a bit better with me...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by T Murphy (1054674)
      Pirating the game later has the same effect as buying the game second hand as far as the publisher is concerned, but by pirating it you don't support the second hand market, which benefits the publisher. I might see such practices justified for games that break the second hand market, but if they have no/reasonable DRM, I can't say I entirely agree with you.
      • Actually, software that has resale value has a greater initial value (you can sell it for more). Just like with your college books, if you know you are guaranteed a 50% buy back for the new version you won't be so quick to buy the used version for only a small discount. While not as obvious with software, its more obvious with consoles which retain a decent resale value.

      • by gnasher719 (869701) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:35PM (#27940453)

        Pirating the game later has the same effect as buying the game second hand as far as the publisher is concerned, but by pirating it you don't support the second hand market, which benefits the publisher. I might see such practices justified for games that break the second hand market, but if they have no/reasonable DRM, I can't say I entirely agree with you.

        I think you've got that backwards. By buying used games (instead of pirating), you give money to people who bought the new game, reducing the effective cost for them, and making it possible for them to buy more new games. Say I have $50 to spend, and used games sell for $25. So I can buy one game for $50, you pirate the same game, that's it. Or I buy a game for $50, three months later you buy it used for $25, I buy another game for $50, three months later you buy it used for $25, so it cost me the same $50, but the manufacturer got $100. So buying used games _does_ support the manufacturer by making new games less costly.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by twidarkling (1537077)

          I wanna know how you're getting 50% back on your used games. Around here, you're getting maybe 10-20 PERCENT back, and they're selling it for maybe 5-10 DOLLARS less than new. Unless you do one of the special deals, where you trade in 4 games, and get the game on special free. Or if it's a big-name game they're really trying to push, they might even make it trade 3 get it free. That's still only a 33% return on your investment, assuming all the games are the same price. And then they turn around and sell it

      • by lordofthechia (598872) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:41PM (#27940545)

        "same effect as buying the game second hand as far as the publisher is concerned"

        The publishers need to focus on games that have replay value (so more people will want to keep them) and being competitive (adaptive pricing). The reason used video game stores exist is that many people aren't willing to pay $50 to $60 for a new game.

        Now if PC game companies were more aggressive with their pricing then they could compete with the used market. Just look at console games "Greatest Hits", "Players Choice", and "Platinum" titles. If a game has a 2nd hand market, many publishers will re-release the game at $20 to $30, taking the wind out of the 2nd hand market (why pay $17.49 for a used copy of game X when you can get it new for $20!).

  • Encourage piracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Leviance (1001065) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:12PM (#27940061)
    So, the purpose is not to prevent piracy, but to prevent multiple legal resales of games ... which would only result in further illegal piracy. Sounds like a winning argument to me...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TinBromide (921574)
      Sort of, if I download a game via bittorrent, the publisher gets nothing. If I buy a used game via gamestop, the publisher gets the exact same amount, only gamestop gets more money to operate and sell used console games.

      Used console games are where the real heartache is. I'm not aware of a way to play pirated xbox360 games or ps3 games in a way that doesn't void the warranty (very important with the RROD floating around) or online play. That being said, if I have the choice between paying 35 for a new cop
    • If I understood correctly, drm is to prevent everyone from copying the game and then immediately selling it back to the game store. If everyone did this then each store would only buy a handfull of copies of the game from the publisher and repeatedly resell the few copies they bought. For example, a store might buy 20 copies from the distributer and then buy them back and resell each copy 10 times each in the first week. While this is legitimate if the game is unplayable, it isn't legitimate if all 200 cus

    • Ya well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:43PM (#27940573)

      I think 2D Boy gives publishers more credit then they are due. I think publishers ARE stupid over all. I think they really do think they can win this war. They think "Well if we just keep getting better DRM, we'll find something they can't crack." I think they also believe that DRM does give good ROI, which is to say that the increase in profits is greater than the cost of the DRM. I really believe that most publishers are stupid about this, just like the music publishers.

      The problem is they see these big numbers of copies out there and get dollar signs in their eyes. They think "Man, if we had been paid for each of those copies we'd be RICH!" They are right too. Games are heavily copied. If every person who ever downloaded a copy instead paid for the game, they'd probably make 5-10x the money. What they don't consider, of course, is that not everyone would. There's a lot that people will take for free that they won't take at any price, much less a $50 price. You offer it for free, they say "Yes I'd like that." You want any money for it, they'll pass.

      However, greed is able to short-circuit logic for many people I don't think the people at publishers are any different. They see the money they could be theoretically making and stop thinking logically about it.

      Also the DRM companies push their products heavily, of course. They reassure the publishers "Oh ya, our DRM is really effective it'll get you a bunch more sales but if you DON'T use it, we'll you'll go to the poor house because nobody will buy your game!"

      Personally, I think the numbers on the Bittorrent sites tell the real story. Demigod sure as hell got downloaded a lot, because people were very interested in it. However, Spore got downloaded even more, because even more people were interested in it. The difference DRM had on downloading in that case? Zero. People downloaded if they wanted to.

  • I don't think I have ever seen used PC games at a Gamestop; they have only sold new versions since I have been shopping there anyway (since around 2000 or so).

  • by Gizzmonic (412910) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:17PM (#27940139) Homepage Journal

    DRM doesn't bother me nearly as much as stuff like Steam and the death of the second hand market. Can you imagine how difficult it will be to bring a game to your friends' house to play?

    "Hey, Ron, it's Steve. Since we're going to hang out tomorrow, I suggest you start downloading Butt Zappers 2 now. It should take up about 20 GB of your hard drive space."

    "OK, what's your Live username and password?"

    "It's XXXXXX and XXXXX. My credit card's on that account, don't use it to download a bunch of games like you did last time, okay bro?"

    "Sure dude, but what if this puts me up over my bandwidth cap, you'll pay me back, right?"

    "I guess."

    "Wait a minute, I don't have any room on my hard drive left."

    "So, just delete some of your old stuff. You can always download it later."

    "Are you gonna pay for me to download all that stuff too?"

    "Dude, I knew we should have gotten Playstation, Sony made a deal with Comcast and PSN downloads don't count against the cap."

    "Yeah, and maybe we'd actually be able to download it. Looks like the Butt Zappers server is slammed right now."

    Honestly, if they try to foist that stuff on us, I'll just stick with the old, disc-based systems.

    • by bughunter (10093) <(bughunter) (at) (earthlink.net)> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:27PM (#27940327) Journal
      (...I'd like to know more about this Butt Zappers game.)
    • by Tridus (79566)

      I know with Impulse (and it wouldn't surprise me if Steam does it too, haven't tried though), you can archive a game. You could then put said archive on a DVD or a USB key, and you have a physical thing you can carry around to install from. So your steps would be:
      1. Archive game.
      2. Go to Friend's house.
      3. Unarchive game.
      4. Play game.

      But yes, if you want physical media, buying that is better then buying an online copy. That seems to be common sense.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Steam only allows the creation of "backups". These are NOT BACKUPS. When you reinstall one you must connect to Steam to have both Steam and your backup "blessed" before you can use them. This is not a problem in your chosen example, but when Steam goes away (nothing lasts forever) then all those steam backups will be worthless. Valve has pledged to release patches to make them not worthless, but odds are that when Valve goes out of business they won't have the ability to make such a decision.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fallingcow (213461)

      At least with Steam you can download it as much as you want, so there's that.

      I get your point, though, and now that you just about have to have multiple copies of a game to fire it up at a LAN party I imagine we'll just stick with UT2K4 and earlier, plus L4D (a special case, and something that we'd all been dreaming of for years, so of course we all bought it). Certainly, the bar for buying a multiplayer game has risen since it became impossible or complicated to install one copy on several machines for a

    • by vertinox (846076)

      DRM doesn't bother me nearly as much as stuff like Steam and the death of the second hand market. Can you imagine how difficult it will be to bring a game to your friends' house to play?

      Friends? What are those?

      But seriously, when I play with my friends online I don't bother going over to their house but rather meet them online (unless alcohol is involved). Seems more efficient that way.

      Otherwise it really doesn't bother me about the second hand factor of steam.

      I realized I have boxes of games that I'm too l

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Your post rubs me as starkly disingenuous.

      The Steam hate might have held some ground in 2002/03 while angry Counter-Strike players still clung to WON.net, but times have changed. Unless you're regularly blowing all of your monthly bandwidth on torrenting "linux isos", you can stomach a Steam game download or two with even the most draconian ISP.

      "It's XXXXXX and XXXXX. My credit card's on that account, don't use it to download a bunch of games like you did last time, okay bro?"

      Steam doesn't persistently store your credit card information. I'd be weary of any digital delivery service that did.

      "Can you imagine how difficult it will be to bring a game to your friends' house to play?"

      Okay, okay, let's just say your pal doesn't

  • Property or not? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:18PM (#27940159)

    Publishers aren't stupid. They know that DRM doesn't work against piracy,' Carmel explains. 'What they're trying to do is stop people from going to GameStop to buy $50 games for $35, none of which goes into the publishers' pockets. If DRM permits only a few installs, that minimizes the number of times a game can be resold.

    This struck me as a hypocritical position on the part of those game publishers. Either IP is property or it is not. If it is property, then there should be no restrictions allowed on whether or how frequently it can be resold (i.e. no one tries to stop you from reselling your car or your house). If it is not property, then there should be no artificial scarcity surrounding it which would also make this or any other DRM an inappropriate practice.

    It should be obvious that what they seem to want is a level of control that is unavailable to the manufacturers of any other sort of good or service. It's surprising that anyone takes them seriously. Much lively debate occurs on the fine nuances of copyright law while missing the point that what they want is to be singularly special, to wield powers unavailable to other industries. That's known as the inability to see the forest for all the trees. That's why I think it's a phony debate, just like most media discourse surrounding what should be regarded as power grabs. They are aiming at an unreasonable amount of control over the marketplace in the name of copyright.

  • SaaS is the Answer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Used games don't make Publishers any money.

    Pirated games don't make Publishers any money.

    Solution: Games should use the Software-As-A-Service Model.

    Imagine paying a "small monthly fee" for say GTA-IV, or a library of GTA games.

    Your "small monthly fee" would cover :
    - Saved game storage
    - Game updates
    - Technical Support

    Imagine paying to receive a brand new PS3, and a full library of games.

    When you are bored with one game, simply pay to play anot

    • by internerdj (1319281) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:46PM (#27940595)
      Yeah, so every time some idiot hits the telephone pole the next block down or an idiot builder augers through the neighborhood cable line or my cable company has a hardware problem I can't watch TV, I can't surf the internet, and I also can't play any game that I've paid for? I don't use Comcast any more for this and other reasons but they charged me for a full month of service despite my cable being out for over a week. Do I get a discount on my service if I can't access this software service for a week through no fault of my own? Probably not, especially if it is some other company's fault.

      Also the moment I have to pay every time I open up a text document is the moment I stop using computers at home period and I'm a developer. There is no reason for every company in the world to nickle and dime me. I won't pay a monthly subscription to play a game I already paid $50 for and I won't pay a monthly subscription to do basic things with my computer. I also wouldn't pay for a single listening instance of a song.
    • I've thought about this a bit and I don't necessarily have a problem with paying every month. Assuming I can only make use of a certain amount of digital content, my costs should remain relatively constant. Priced accordingly, I suppose I could live with that, but my problem then is that I don't feel that I should have to connect to a third party to authorize my use of a game EVERY TIME I PLAY. I live with it for some multiplayer games because it can improve the experience, but I generally don't feel it'

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fallingcow (213461)

      That model would mean the death of so much of what I love about games, that I'm not sure I'd bother to keep playing new ones. Certainly I've got a long enough backlog of older games to play that it'd take me a few years to get through, and that's not counting any re-plays.

      I like being able to re-visit older games, like a book. I like mods, and very often they make the game so much better that it's hard to imagine playing it without them (Morrowind, Oblivion, Rome:Total War). I only play console games on

    • by torkus (1133985)

      And this is thrown around as the holy grail of SAAS.

      Except publishers get greedy. Look at iTMS with their multi-tier pricing now. Publishers are always looking for a way to jack up pricing/revenue on new titles because they know 1) people will rush to buy it immediately 2) it won't matter how much it sucks for the first big burst of buying 3) there are no returns or quality guarantees.

    • by PhxBlue (562201)

      Used games don't make Publishers any money. Pirated games don't make Publishers any money. Solution: Games should use the Software-As-A-Service Model.

      I have a better solution: Publishers should make games that are good enough that people want to buy them, in order to support further development of good games.

      Computing is a commodity, like electricity. People should get used to paying as they use it.

      You can have my gaming box when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

    • by Dan667 (564390)
      People like to own stuff. Deal with it.

      Recently, I heard from a friend about a car they leased for several years and then turned it in to the dealer. They were charged all kinds of nickel and dime things to a big bill. Now they will never lease another car ... ever. It is a business model most Customers will avoid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Here is the problem with SaaS: what happens when the internet connection goes down? Not Possible? Well it just happened to us due to mother nature.

      We had 100MPH straight line winds here last Friday. I have an iPhone and was able to keep on top of Email, but we just got power restored today. We won't have internet until next week sometime and maybe even the week after. It's a problem. So much so that I had to leave town and stay at my Dad's house because we run a SaaS platform.

      Fortunately, we don't ho

  • Was there any follow up to Ubisofts release [slashdot.org] of a DRM free Prince of Persia
  • Lost Sale Fallacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bughunter (10093) <(bughunter) (at) (earthlink.net)> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:19PM (#27940179) Journal
    These specific situations still suffer from the false assumption that a pirated copy is a lost sale. I would wager that very few pirated copies represent a copy that would have been sold at retail, either:
    • The person has no interest in the game, but will download a "free" copy because it's "free,"
    • The person cannot afford the full retail price of the game, or
    • The person wants to evaluate the full version, not some crippled demo,

    When I was a starving student (and associate engineer struggling to pay rent), I had a very slim budget, and would play "warez" until I could save/beg/borrow enough to buy the full versions, and I would *unless* the game sucked anyway. Now that I can afford software and music, I make it a point not to pirate copyrighted info, but I will still "evaluate" music before I buy it from MPAA publishers. And most people I know feel the same way.

    So, the real product that DRM protects is the "Turd in a Can," a product that the consumer would not pay for if they knew beforehand that they were buying crap.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tridus (79566)

      The great flaw in this argument is that you miss one case: People who will pirate because it's cheap, but do have the money and would buy it if the free option didn't exist.

      Yes, those people exist. Yes, most people will choose "free" over "not free" any day of the week, especially those who don't consider copyright law to be worth the paper it's printed on.

      I mean yes, the numbers thrown around by the BSA are complete nonsense. But the number in most cases for lost sales is > $0. If actually effective DRM

      • Re:Lost Sale Fallacy (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bughunter (10093) <(bughunter) (at) (earthlink.net)> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:07PM (#27940983) Journal
        You miss my thesis: I'm claiming that the class of "people who will pirate because it's cheap" are outnumbered by the other classes. The ??AA and SPA are assuming that the "people who will pirate because it's cheap" is the only class.
      • by clodney (778910)

        The great flaw in this argument is that you miss one case: People who will pirate because it's cheap, but do have the money and would buy it if the free option didn't exist.

        There is another case being missed here. Suppose that piracy didn't exist, and everyone had to pay the retail price of the game or skip it. Now the people who can't afford $60 for a game would represent a great market for someone to come out with a good $30 game and make money from people priced out of the more expensive games.

        People rationalizing that piracy is OK because they wouldn't pay X for a game is one reason that cheaper games aren't getting produced.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      When I didn't have much money, I didn't buy or play games often. The games that I would buy were usually a few years old costing a fraction of what new ones would. And I'd be able to play them on an inexpensive computer. I saved a huge amount of money over all on gaming. Plus most of the classics are just as good now as they were back then.

      In most cases there were reliable reviews out there and communities surrounding the ones that are worthwhile. It doesn't particularly bother me to pay for old games. Best

    • I had a very slim budget, and would play "warez" until I could save/beg/borrow enough to buy the full versions
      I hear a lot of people say that... However never is private. In private I get I "warez" the program because I wanted it and only suckers pay for software.

      Your excuse that I didn't have the money until I could save up. Well as a starving student how often did that really happen?

    • When I was a starving student (and associate engineer struggling to pay rent), I had a very slim budget, and would play "warez" until I could save/beg/borrow enough to buy the full versions, and I would *unless* the game sucked anyway. Now that I can afford software and music, I make it a point not to pirate copyrighted info, but I will still "evaluate" music before I buy it from MPAA publishers. And most people I know feel the same way.

      While I'm sure everyone on Slashdot is an honest consumer who tries out the pirated version and then purchases a shelf copy, I would venture to guess that most people, in possession of a full unlocked copy of a game, movie, or album, do not then purchase another copy.

    • This study found that preventing 1000 pirated copies results in an additional 1 sale.
      http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=17350 [gamasutra.com]

      Clearly one has to balance lost sales from piracy vs. lost sales due to people unhappy with either the concept or inconvenience of DRM. If the 1:1000 ratio is accurate, it does make me think developers should be pushing much further along the spectrum in the direction of DRM-free or DRM-light.

  • Most game makers sell the lionshare of games the first 5 days of release. Once that time has passed it's usually a trickle.

    The question is, why bother with DRM at that point. How many people that are stealing games now would actually buy the game?

  • by GTarrant (726871) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:24PM (#27940267)
    'I believe their argument is that while DRM doesn't work perfectly,' says Wardell, 'it does make it more difficult for someone to get the game for free in the first five or six days of its release. That's when a lot of the sales take place and that's when the royalties from the retailers are determined. Publishers would be very happy for a first week without "warez" copies circulating on the Web.'"

    Let us consider, for a moment, a DRM-loaded game from the past year.

    Spore.

    Its DRM was considered by some to be so limiting that some people simply never played the game. People were exasperated that, at release, it allowed only one user account per copy. That installs couldn't be "restored" by uninstalling the game (many of these things have been added since).

    OK, so all that said, copies of Spore were still readily available for download a week prior to release on torrent sites all over the world. Despite cumbersome DRM, that in some cases prevented actual customers from being able to extract full enjoyment from the product they purchased, anyone that wanted a DRM-free copy could still have gotten one prior to the release of the game.

    Lesson: It. Doesn't. Work.

    Maybe...maybe it prevents someone from taking the game to a friend's house and installing it, or the like. But it isn't preventing wide-scale piracy, even during that "critical first week".

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by The Moof (859402)
      Fallout 3 suffered some pretty bad DRM faults as well:
      SecuROM found process explorer, refused to launch
      SecuROM didn't like certain brands of DVD-R/RW drives, refused to launch
      SecuROM found debugging applications, refused to launch
      SecuROM found burning software, refused to launch
      SecuROM installed shell extensions and hooks

      All this from a supposed "disk check." Luckily, they packaged SecuROM in the launcher, not the executable itself, so you can bypass the DRM by simply running Fallout3.exe instead.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CodeBuster (516420)
        This is a case of the developer jumping through hoops to satisfy the publisher. The Fallout 3 devs didn't want SecuROM (although they have been coy about saying anything publicly), but the publisher contract stipulated that SecuROM DRM must be used so the devs found a way to adhere to the letter of the agreement while effectively subverting the SecuROM DRM requirement (the contract was probably written by marketers and lawyers and not techies so it was probably pretty easy to technically subvert or sabotage
    • by Zakabog (603757)

      'I believe their argument is that while DRM doesn't work perfectly,' says Wardell, 'it does make it more difficult for someone to get the game for free in the first five or six days of its release. That's when a lot of the sales take place and that's when the royalties from the retailers are determined. Publishers would be very happy for a first week without "warez" copies circulating on the Web.'"

      Let us consider, for a moment, a DRM-loaded game from the past year.

      Spore.

      Its DRM was considered by some to be so limiting that some people simply never played the game. People were exasperated that, at release, it allowed only one user account per copy. That installs couldn't be "restored" by uninstalling the game (many of these things have been added since).

      Thank you.

      I was about to post exactly the same comment. I purchase Spore legally when it came out, using EA's downloader. It was a few days before the U.S. release (the game had been released in Australia already) and I thought "Oh I guess if you get it online you get it early." I guessed wrong, it downloaded 99% of the game and stopped.

      That really bothered me, I just wanted to play the game that I legally purchased. If I knew that I was only going to get 99% and the release date would still be the same I w

  • I usually pay for a game if I know I will like it (i.e. tried the demo, played it at a friend's house, etc.) but I am hesitant to pay for anything I can't return if I don't like it. The last game I bought was "Jeopardy!", which, as anyone here who has played it will know, sucks royal ass. Granted, I paid $10 for it at Target but I didn't have the choice of returning it if I didn't like it. So I sucked it up.

    On a game more than $10 I wouldn't pay full price unless I had the ability to take the game, play it

  • 'What they're trying to do is stop people from going to GameStop to buy $50 games for $35, none of which goes into the publishers' pockets.

    Somebody please correct me, but does GameStop even accept PC-games? Their policy is (at least where I live) to only buy console games used. And can those even have additional DRM (on top of the normal "must have CD to play" one)?

  • Annoying your users with DRM so that they cannot sell their games when they don't want them anymore does not make things better. In fact, it makes things worse.

    I bought it, it's mine.

    As for you: make up your mind what you're selling. If it is the media, then the moment I sell it, it belongs to somebody else. If it's the right to play the game (i.e. the "license"), then you already sold "one right" -- if I make use of it or somebody else should be none of your freakin business.

    Don't try to eat both the egg a

  • "What they're trying to do is stop people from going to GameStop to buy $50 games for $35, none of which goes into the publishers' pockets."

    Actually, when a retail buyer can afford only less than full price and bought it at $50 KNOWING ABOUT THE RE-SALE MARKET, then the resale market DOES put money in publisher's pockets, by increasing retail sales. I often bought new $40-50 PC games ONLY because I knew I could sell them a couple weeks later for a $10 loss. I actually MADE money ($30 profit) with San Andrea

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      That's exactly why an AAC-protected song from iTunes isn't worth $0.99. There's no resale. An mp3 you could still resell, although Apple might not approve it is physically possible. Saving $10 buying a game you don't know for sure that you want from Steam is a pretty terrible deal, too, no matter how you slice it.

  • by GMFTatsujin (239569) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:48PM (#27940637) Homepage

    I never buy a game in the first month, let along the first week of a release. Mostly, I'm waiting for the quality of the game to become apparent after some play in the real world, and also I don't like the bleeding-edge prices of new releases.

    Avoiding weird DRM is another benefit.

    After a few days or weeks, the real effects of whatever cockamamie DRM scheme the publishers crowbarred onto the game become apparent.

    After a few weeks or months, applications like Alcohol 120 will adapt so that I can be assured of making backups.

    After a few months to a year, the price starts to dip into my admittedly modest range. By then, I know whether I can keep the game for myself if the company goes out of business, whether I'm facing potential hassle in making my own backups, and whether the game is worth it in the first place.

    After a few years, the game may re-release with digital distributors under no-DRM agreements geared toward truly enthusiastic gaming communities. Witness GOG.com [gog.com].

    Gaming on the long tail rules -- provided you're not desperate to get hopped up on the Newest, Shiniest Thing.

  • One Week? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by torkus (1133985) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:48PM (#27940641)

    Get real. When was the last time a popular game* was released and it wasn't available that day via P2P? In fact you often see them days BEFORE release on P2P already cracked and ready to go.

    I remember when Spore came out the first day or two had something like 30,000 seeders on TPB. Even right now there's about 15k people seeding both the star trek movie and the latest episode of fringe ... and as many people downloading. And this is just ONE tracker. It's actually faster to download the game/movie than drive to the store and buy it half of the time.

    Any software company that deludes themselves into believing DRM stops piracy by any significant amount delusional. It's all about preventing resale...which is still detrimental to the customer. Stupid how a library can rend DVDs, CDs and books but somehow software managed to squeak in such an exception.

    * Excluding exclusively online games (aka WoW, etc.)

  • Why can't game developers just accept the fact that their software will be copied, and instead adopt a business model that is unaffected by unauthorized distribution of their software? For example, distribute the software for free via bittorrent etc., but charge monthly fees for connection to the servers? The shrink-wrapped software business is dead -- time to bury it. People need online access for patches and updates anyway; it is a safe assumption that 99% of your customer base has at least occasional con
    • by Tridus (79566)

      Probably because for a single player focused game, this doesn't work. What do you need to be connected to a subscription server for? Hell, in a single player game, one of the great benefits is that you can play it *while offline*.

      The model works great for a game like WoW, because the client side of the game by itself is basically worthless. It doesn't apply to something like Mass Effect.

      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        Except that game DRM usually requires you to have the disk physically inserted to play. So if you are playing on a netbook (they don't come with internal CD/DVD drives) or your 5-year old decided to use your disk as a frisbee, then you are screwed. All DRM that doesn't require a physical token to be connected to your machine is defeatable -- you can simply save the entire state of your machine and copy it to another similar machine. The DRM that does require a physical token sucks because, well, because it
  • by sexconker (1179573) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:52PM (#27940729)

    "What they're trying to do is stop people from going to GameStop to buy $50 games for $35, none of which goes into the publishers' pockets."

    Really?
    Last time I checked, Gamestop sells used games a day or two after they come out (at $60) for $55.

    And I haven't seen a PC game or peripheral (new or used) in a Gamestop in ages.

  • by The Cisco Kid (31490) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:53PM (#27940759)

    I mean, carmakers worry about it enough to *advertise* their car's historical resale value (well, if its good, eg Honda).

    Granted, I suppose 'gamerz' probably dont worry *quite* as much about resale value when deciding to buy a game as someone buying a new car, but with the way the economy is going, they might start doing so more and more.

    Just like companies that don't offer support (even documentation) on older products becuase they don't sell them anymore - no concept whatsoever that resale value might affect the price the market is willing to pay for new products.

  • Shareholders. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by asdf7890 (1518587)

    Yes, trying to kill the second hand market (both the friend handing over a game they no longer play and the selling-on-to-recoup-some-cash parts of that market) is the publisher's primary reason for DRM, there is another factor that many seem to forget about when it comes to piracy/DRM.

    That factor is shareholders and other investors. The developers and publishers know that DRM essentially does nothing most of the time and is in fact sometimes a cost (if the time cost of wiring the DRM deep into the game, as

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:02PM (#27940897) Homepage Journal
    With the resurgence of actual piracy off the Horn of Africa, people who copy games off the internet will be demoted to their old classification: Thieves.

    Case in point:
    Fire hoses do not work against pirates equipped with rocket propelled grenades.
    Fire hoses have not be tested on thieves. EA may be working on the technology.

    DRM has not been tested on pirates. The Coast Guard may be working on the technology (You pirate, you can no longer listen to your ipod! Bwahahaha!)
    DRM does not work on thieves.

    Shooting them in the head works on pirates.
    Shooting them in the head is against the rules of engagement for thieves in this class. EA may be working to change that.

  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:59PM (#27941863)

    ... more should be expected more from game companies. Many classic games no longer work and people have to use emulators like DOSBOX, etc. Not to mention a lot of defunct 3D accelerated games that no longer work properly (older 3D accelerated versions of mechwarrior 2 comes to mind).

    There is no good reason for software to break down at all given all the talent and interest in saving many classic games. I'd really like it if the industry extended a branch to some of their fanbase of whom many also work in the industry or related industries and if not, are heading in a similar direction via hobby, or looking at it in the future as a professional career.

    There should be very little reason why people have to go to www.gog.com to rebuy games they've already long since purchased. I wouldn't mind paying a small fee monthly for maintenance of a catalogue of old games personally that kept them updated and working as hardware evolves and changes.

    That might be asking too much, but the quality we get out of the software entertainment industry is pretty crappy these days if one looks past the flashy graphics. Broken AI and unfinished product is the norm rather then the exception.

  • Idiots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anenome (1250374) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @02:31PM (#27942351)

    Here's the problem: That $50 price includes the game's value at resale. If the resale value is $35, then you're diminishing the value of the original purchase price by making it impossible for a 2nd buyer to use. Simple, basic economics. So, if you remove that functionality, some of which justifies the $50 price, the game is no longer worth $50, because the value of its resale is now gone.

    So, the result of adding DRM to your game and not lowering your price to reflect the diminished value is that your game now appears overpriced. Good job, you've now guaranteed yourself flagging sales because of greed.

    Imagine if car companies programmed their cars to self-destruct if sold to a second buyer. It's ridiculous. The argument that second hand sales take money out of the pocket's of the producers? Ridiculous also. Just stop it, you idiotic, economically ignorant publishers. Focus on making a damn good game, one that's good enough to purchase in the first place.

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