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PC Games (Games) Piracy Games Your Rights Online

Blizzard Boss Says Restrictive DRM Is a Waste of Time 563

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-about-lan-play dept.
Stoobalou writes "Blizzard co-founder Frank Pearce reckons that fighting piracy with DRM is a losing battle. His company — which is responsible for one of the biggest video games of all time, the addictive online fantasy role player World of Warcraft — is to release StarCraft 2 on July 27, and Pearce has told Videogamer that the title won't be hobbled with the kind of crazy copy protection schemes that have made Ubisoft very unpopular in gaming circles of late. StarCraft 2 will require a single online activation using the company's Battle.net servers, after which players will be allowed to play the single-player game to their hearts' content, without being forced to have a persistent Internet connection."
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Blizzard Boss Says Restrictive DRM Is a Waste of Time

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  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Friday May 28, 2010 @03:29AM (#32372794) Homepage
    ...are destined to repeat it. I can remember, back in the early '80s, when computer games on floppies (remember them?) were "protected" by weird copy protection schemes, including scrambling the directory so that if you tried to copy the files you'd just get garbage. There were even games that blanked the directory as part of their startup, only re-writing it at the end, so that if you removed the disk before the game was over, you lost everything. It didn't last, because, among other things, people always found ways around it. Now, Blizzard is learning that old lesson Yet Again: copy protection is, and always will be a lost cause.
  • by zooblethorpe (686757) on Friday May 28, 2010 @03:33AM (#32372808)

    Yep -- proving once again that history goes in cycles even as it progresses, in line with the overarching wavicle nature of the universe. Next up: Bell bottoms, and leg warmers -- this time, together!

    Whee!

    Cheers,

  • by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Friday May 28, 2010 @03:33AM (#32372810)

    but won't this "activation" business complicate reinstallation onto new OS/computer? And what about the lack of LAN play?

    Don't get me wrong, less intrusive DRM is better than more intrusive DRM and I laud both Blizzard's actions and words here, but don't the standard criticisms still apply: that it only hurts paying customers (though it hurts fewer of them than worse DRM) and is ineffective against pirates?

  • by TheMiddleRoad (1153113) on Friday May 28, 2010 @03:34AM (#32372818)

    Their games are mostly played online, and they've left out home network play. Their DRM is not the usual crippleware, it's the new kind of crippleware that puts necessary software on the server while taking away features gamers have loved for over a decade.

  • by ComaVN (325750) on Friday May 28, 2010 @03:35AM (#32372824)

    It didn't last, because, among other things, people always found ways around it

    The real reason it can't last is that it annoys paying customers more than freeloading pirates.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 28, 2010 @03:36AM (#32372830)

    Starcraft 2 requires an internet connection to Battle.net in order to play multiplayer. LAN support was stripped out during development.

    They've removed features from the original game in order to "prevent" piracy in the sequel. That's pretty much the goddamned definition of onerous DRM.

  • by chilvence (1210312) on Friday May 28, 2010 @03:43AM (#32372854)

    I actually stopped being a gaming customer specificaly because of being treated with no respect (by DRM, bugs and lies on system requirements), so I'll vouch for this. I wen't from being obsessed with buying new games to being deeply cynical and spiteful overnight, and I don't feel a smidgen of guilt about it. My philosophy, "you are getting paid by me, you don't get to dick me around" and if more people had the balls to use that philosophy, we wouldn't be in this mess.

  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Friday May 28, 2010 @03:48AM (#32372874)

    Why the love? They are still shoving restrictive DRM at you, just not as restrictive as another company's DRM. That's like saying that the guy who broke both your legs was really nice because he didn't murder you. (Convert that to a car analogy if it makes you more comfortable)

    When Microsoft implemented activation for Windows and Office I complained like mad and stopped upgrading. When games started doing it, I stopped buying games for a long time and just replayed my old ones as I didn't trust game writers enough to connect my game system to the Internet. Even now I try to avoid it by buying games on GOG.com.

    You say you still play Diablo 2? How would you feel if you suddenly couldn't play it anymore because a 10 year old game had reached its end of life?

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Friday May 28, 2010 @04:07AM (#32372932)

    Thats what they now call DRM.

  • by dintech (998802) on Friday May 28, 2010 @04:13AM (#32372942)

    That's like saying that the guy who broke both your legs was really nice because he didn't murder you.

    It's the DRM equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome.

  • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Friday May 28, 2010 @04:18AM (#32372966)
    Yes, but only slightly so. See, games with constant internet connection required and other such bullshit aren't worth buying because it's LIKELY that they won't work. With this activate once and you're done thing it's highly unlikely that it will fail. If the company goes out of business then you can always pirate it then.

    It's actually more of a pain in the ass to pirate the game and have to deal with half-assed cracks and things that don't unlock multiplayer options than it is to buy it. That's really the issue here. There's never going to be enough people that will forgo having the latest game due to restrictive DRM to make a difference. Why? Because people want what they want and they're willing to put up with a lot of shit to get it and they're too lazy to do anything other than complain a little bit. Of course, the laziness also means that if it is easier to pirate your game than to buy it then people won't buy it.

    Any sales lost to piracy (I'm not accounting for people that wouldn't buy it under ANY circumstance) for assassin's creed 2 came from, I suspect, 50% of people not buying the game on principal due to the DRM and 50% not buying it because it was easier to get a working game if you pirated it.

    For once in my life I can say that I actually like laziness. Make something too hard to do legally and people will start doing it illegally.
  • by Jorth (1074589) on Friday May 28, 2010 @04:21AM (#32372972)

    How is a single online account signup, your key is then bound to this account, any real form of DRM?

    I paid for the game, I bind it to my battle.net account which has 4-5 other games on. I can log in and play whenever I want with no restrictions. No install limits, nothing. I can sell my account with all the games bound to it. Or create multiple battle.net accounts one per game and sell them seperately. There's no DRM/DLC or crap like that being pushed by other companies.

    If you count a simple restriction of a login to prove the account you logged in with at some point legally bought the game (note the person using the account didn't have to buy it, you could lend it to a friend, or whatever). Then you've missed the point. I download stuff as much as the next guy, but when a company lets me use my purchase of the game the way I want. Then thats a good thing and should be applauded.

    I fail to see anything restrictive about what they are doing.

  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Friday May 28, 2010 @04:27AM (#32372998)
    I agree! Getting punched in the jaw is definitely better than being stabbed in the neck, but they both suck.

    I might prefer less restrictive DRM than more restrictive DRM, but ultimately (as your last paragraph states!) it only hurts paying customers. I can't see how you "laud ... Blizzard's actions" here.

    It's almost as though you like being punched in the face, because hey, at least you're not getting stabbed. Why not neither?
  • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Friday May 28, 2010 @04:38AM (#32373060) Homepage Journal

    Unless of course they DON'T release a patch.
    Maybe because they at that point don't want to.
    Or maybe they are bought out by someone else who doesn't want to.
    Or maybe because they go bankrupt and there are simply no funds or willingness on the part of the company sweeping up the pieces to do so.

    Copyright is NOT intended to protect media creators. It is intended to create public domain works by temporarily incentivising creators.

    The deal is they get short term profits, humanity gets the product forever after. In addition there are fair use rights in the interim.

    DRM breaks fair use, but not only that it breaks copyright itself.

    Activation is DRM. DRM breaks copyright. By breaking their end of copyright yet taking advantage of OUR end of the bargain, they are stealing what does not belong to them. They are breaching a social contract.

    What if they collect royalties for the many decades they're allowed to, and then just stiff us? What was supposed to be public domain is lost forever.

    Please post your address, I'd like to come take all your stuff. You'll clearly be OK with that if I give you the vague impression that I'm "likely" to give it back to you someday.

  • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Friday May 28, 2010 @04:46AM (#32373094) Homepage Journal

    Uh, no. You don't own it, because your "property," the key essentially the "right to play", the account, is on their server. Their server goes bye-bye? Your "property" goes bye-bye.

    Like buying a Ford which can only be remote activated... from the Ford headquarters. Ford goes under or changes its business plan, you now have a nice driveway ornament.

    Blizzard is selling you a very expensive coaster with a hole in the middle, and giving you the privilege (which they can rescind) of using that coaster to play a game.

  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Friday May 28, 2010 @04:51AM (#32373118)

    What exactly are you talking about? It's a single online activation.

    You just answered your question. Online activation seems so simple, until it all goes wrong. You might install it on a notebook without net access (admittedly less of an issue these days). The servers might crash. A pirate might have already used your ID and you can't install. There may be limits to how many times you can install, so reinstalling after a system crash will cause problems. I don't know if it may happen in this case, but upgrading your computer may cause the software to think it has been copied onto another system and demand reactivation (or just stop working). The company might go bankrupt or just decide the software is at end of life.

    But all that wasn't my point of my original post. The point was that you can't go around saying you don't have restrictive DRM and then implement restrictive DRM, but just less so than someone else.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 28, 2010 @04:52AM (#32373122)

    "I can sell my account with all the games bound to it. "
    No you can't. Whoever you sell it to, there is nothing stopping you from reclaiming it later, and the sucker claming fraud, hence it violates the terms of service.

    Now "Activation" from a marketing point of view is a good thing, because they can track legitimate sales, and device what to put more development into. If everyone pirates the game and they only make a few hundred sales, then obviously the game is a bomb and they'll shut it down and cease further development.

    From the players point of view, "Activation" is still intrusive DRM, albeit the least intrusive next to "serial only"

    LAN play was likely removed because it's impossible to keep players from not cheating in a 'netcafe' environment, the very environment that is popular in asia where the highest piracy is. Kill two birds with one stone.

    Starcraft and Warcraft II had a very useful installation feature called "spawning", which let you do this kind of net play, but this was early on before everyone had the internet, and often involved dialup, or taking your PC to your friends place, very inconvenient. Now today everyone has internet, wether it's on the mobile phone, dsl, cable, or whatever, and social networks. It's a lot easier to simply load up a friends list, see who is online and play, than it is to phone all your friends to see who wants to play and by taking your PC to their place.

    LAN play is dead.

  • by simoncpu was here (1601629) on Friday May 28, 2010 @04:53AM (#32373124)
    My friends and I used to play cracked Warcraft and Starcraft copies on our PCs. After we graduated and eventually had jobs, some of my friends bought authentic CDs because they felt that it was the right thing to do. They said that they've always wanted to buy the real thing but they didn't have money to do so. It was then that I realized that the figures that some companies claim to have lost to piracy are just a bunch of BS. I also realized that in order for a software company to be profitable, they need to make quality software that people actually use. Attempting to control how people copy their software is a waste of time.
  • by Trolan (42526) on Friday May 28, 2010 @04:59AM (#32373158) Homepage

    Why do all recent games feel that a list/lobby based multiplayer environment is a bad thing?

    Because the average Internet using gamer has proven to be a douchebag and not suitable to be out in public.

    That and it doesn't scale well at the numbers Blizzard is looking at for SC2. What's the benefit of a list, when you have 21,000 games in it? What's the benefit of a lobby when you have 2,000 lobbies? You can't realistically find something by looking manually and produce a good user experience, so you let matchmaking take over for you.

  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Friday May 28, 2010 @05:07AM (#32373174) Journal

    Actually, quite a few people have been known to enjoy that.

  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Friday May 28, 2010 @05:11AM (#32373198)

    Online activation for singleplayer mode is still leagues more restrictive than what we had just 5 years ago.

  • Second sale (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aepervius (535155) on Friday May 28, 2010 @05:23AM (#32373248)
    "your key is then bound to this account" because this put an extra burden to the second sale market. IMHO company like blizzard saw that DRM is useless for piracy, but that they could easily pretend to be only checking the validity of your copy without being intruding, when the goal all along is to kill the second hand market and bypass the first sale doctrine.
  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Friday May 28, 2010 @06:16AM (#32373510)

    How is a single online account signup, your key is then bound to this account, any real form of DRM?

    Here's the test: try to run the game without signing up. If you can't do that then it is a restrictive DRM. That's fine if you have no problems with that, just don't try to claim that it isn't restrictive DRM.

    I paid for the game, I bind it to my battle.net account which has 4-5 other games on. I can log in and play whenever I want with no restrictions. No install limits, nothing. I can sell my account with all the games bound to it. Or create multiple battle.net accounts one per game and sell them seperately.

    How many people really create separate accounts with a view to reselling their games? I would find that a total pain. What do you do, keep logging out and back in again to play another game online?

  • I've seen exactly this happen. Two years ago my coworker and I were dragged to Spain and tossed into an apartment that didn't have internet.

    First thing he did was put together a solid gaming machine that weighed a ton. But it was still another month before we would have internet so he was stuck hunting for a crack online just so he could play the game he payed for.

  • by RichiH (749257) on Friday May 28, 2010 @06:57AM (#32373728) Homepage

    I can sell my account with all the games bound to it. Or create multiple battle.net accounts one per game and sell them seperately. There's no DRM/DLC or crap like that being pushed by other companies.

    Exactly. What you can not do is to sell a single game out of your account. Or if you can, they might disable it tomorrow. If Blizzard goes out of business or stops caring, how will you activate your copy on a new system?

    While this form of DRM may be better than some, it's still DRM.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:03AM (#32373780) Journal
    It looks like a benefit to some customers. I owned a boxed copy of Half Life, and I remember being unable to play online for most of the weekend that Steam came out, because it decided to download a new copy of the game (which took several hours), and then the servers were too loaded for the authentication to work. If I do a fresh install from the CD, then I can play right up until the last pre-Steam patch, on dedicated servers or in-game servers on a LAN or the Internet without needing Valve to exist. I won't buy any games from Steam, or any related service. I like knowing that I can dig out my old games and play them whenever I want. I still occasionally play some C-64 games from the '80s for the nostalgia value (and because some remain fun). I have no assurance that any DRM'd product will last that long. A lot of the games for the C-64 were made by companies that no longer exist, and the company that made the hardware doesn't exist either. They games outlived both. If a company that made a DRM'd game goes bust, what do you think happens?
  • by Antity-H (535635) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:34AM (#32374022) Homepage

    The unofficial patch will be out within a few days after the game hits the shelves, I think it's safe for you to buy it ....

  • by Zironic (1112127) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:37AM (#32374042)

    You don't need an internet connection to play Singleplayer, however they hope they made their service good enough that you WANT to be connected and the service does look pretty decent so far.

    How you can find it an optional online service offensive is a fucking mystery to me.

  • by Xest (935314) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:51AM (#32374202)

    I'd rather just call you ignorant.

    Blizzard is the same company that removed LAN play forcing an internet connection to play with friends from Starcraft II.

    The same company that sued a producer of a cheat application on the basis that it hooks on their application, all the while including an application with World of Warcraft that does exactly that to all the other processes on your computer.

    The same company that sued a group of people who produced a 3rd party solution for playing their games online so that you weren't restricted from playing when Blizzard had problems or deemed a game end of life, or otherwise restricted you playing the game you bought.

    If you think Blizzard is a good company then it's a rather fucking sad reflection of how much a company can get away with nowadays without being chastised.

    I remember a time when a good company was a company like id Software that released it's game to you, handed you a fuck load of mod tools, included no copy protection whatsoever, let you play it wherever and however you want, and eventually even released the full source code too.

    It's like when Gabe Newell at Valve goes on about how he hates DRM and thinks it's useless, all the time whilst peddling the most restrictive gaming DRM on the planet via Steam until Ubisoft managed to outdo them for that title.

    Just because someone at a company says they don't like DRM, doesn't unfortunately mean that their corporate strategy is to not use DRM, or to generally just not treat their customers like shit I'm afraid.

  • by Jarik C-Bol (894741) on Friday May 28, 2010 @08:38AM (#32374624)
    wow. whoever designed that license setup should be drawn and quartered.
  • by mdarksbane (587589) on Friday May 28, 2010 @08:55AM (#32374812)

    Yes, it isn't an inconvenience at *all* to have to haul my giant gaming PC to someone else's house just to install my new game.

    What about people who just moved? What about people on a vacation? What if you installed it at a lan party that doesn't have general internet access?

    I've been stuck for over a month waiting for the damn ISP to get my account set up and working again. I had planned to use that time to play Half Life 2, but hey, offline mode requires that you've activated online first.

    It doesn't affect the majority of users in the majority of situations, I get that. But a significant minority get screwed by it, and get their enjoyment of their purchase *significantly* delayed. For those of us who have to ration their video game time carefully to fit into real life, having the nice block of free time you set aside to enjoy a game get blown to pieces can really sour you on a game. I still hate steam for that month of not being able to play Half life 2 *single player*.

  • by ndavis (1499237) on Friday May 28, 2010 @09:04AM (#32374902)

    My friends and I used to play cracked Warcraft and Starcraft copies on our PCs. After we graduated and eventually had jobs, some of my friends bought authentic CDs because they felt that it was the right thing to do. They said that they've always wanted to buy the real thing but they didn't have money to do so. It was then that I realized that the figures that some companies claim to have lost to piracy are just a bunch of BS. I also realized that in order for a software company to be profitable, they need to make quality software that people actually use. Attempting to control how people copy their software is a waste of time.

    So instead of purchasing a game new for say $50 then the expansion for another $30 they waited till the set was $20 then purchased them all the while getting full use of a game that others paid full price for. That is stealing and is wrong in my book as they took something they liked then continued to play the game(although I know many people that did the same thing).

    This is why Blizzard is adding DRM and removing LAN play because people can easily pirate the game with friends and play locally with one copy. Battle.net eliminates this which is why I think they did it.

    As far as lost sales I think Blizzard is the only company that has a foot to stand on as there games have a lot of replay value in multiplayer. I still break out Starcraft and Diablo II every once in a while and don't feel guilty at all spending $55 dollars on them the day they came out as they are terrific games worth the price compared to most other games I've played a few times then left on the side wishing I had saved my money.

  • by Antiocheian (859870) on Friday May 28, 2010 @09:06AM (#32374920) Journal

    Some people choose principles and self-respect over satisfaction, Dog-Cow. That doesn't make them retarded shits, Dog-Cow.

  • by AltairDusk (1757788) on Friday May 28, 2010 @09:12AM (#32375016)

    Rather than unable to connect, let's try unwilling to connect. I have always kept my games separate from my real computer network because I deem game programmers and DRM programmers to be suspect. Because I am installing things more often on a games system, there is more chance of things going wrong and viruses being introduced. For this reason, I always keep this away from my real data. The easiest way to do this is physical separation. This then limits access to the Internet.

    So you are paranoid enough that you don't want your gaming machines connected to your network of machines with personal data on them for fear of sneaky game and DRM programmers. You then go on to say the necessity of physical separation from your real network prevents you from hooking these machines up to the internet implying that your network with "real data" on it you care about is connected to the internet.

    Am I the only one surprised that someone would view games as a larger incursion threat than being connected to the net?

    On a side note, complete physical separation is not necessary, what you need is a good switch hooked up to your cable modem (or whatever your point of access for the internet is) set up with your gaming machines and "real" machines on separate VLANs.

  • by isilrion (814117) on Friday May 28, 2010 @09:16AM (#32375058)

    Yes, you will have trouble installing this on the non-existent computers that have no way to connect to the Internet, even temporarily, but still are modern enough to meet the other system requirements.

    I come from a country where connecting to the internet is a luxury. Luxury, as in "no ISP will ever consider offering you the service without explicit authorization from the government (or without a bribe)". Connecting, and having something else than HTTP access, was unheard of (unless, like me, you happened to work at one ISP, in which case, maybe you could be NATted from work).

    Now, I realize, or at least hope, that Cuba is the exception (but don't fool yourself thinking about all the poverty - I know plenty of people who have brought games abroad). But internet access is not a guaranteed everywhere, even if you can afford a to buy a game.

  • by N0Man74 (1620447) on Friday May 28, 2010 @10:41AM (#32376116)

    Who said anything about being entitled to it for free?

    His point (which is very true) is that a pirated download doesn't necessarily mean a lost sale. I don't think it even means a lost sale the majority of the time. People who pirate games are:

    1) People who are cheap asses and don't buy games because they can pirate for free. If piracy wasn't an option, they still probably would still buy some games, but they wouldn't buy nearly as many as they'd be willing to pirate.

    2) People who can't afford the games. If piracy wasn't an option, they still couldn't afford them.

    3) People who are unsure of a game and want to try it out. Some of these people will still end up buying a game if they like it (or like it enough).

    4) People who only pirate a game because they could get it for free, and wouldn't bother with the game if they actually had to pay for it.

    These are the most common 4 scenarios, and in EVERY scenario, the number of pirated copies is greater than the number of "lost sales". In half of these scenarios, the number of "lost sales" is actually 0% of the number of copies pirated.

  • by isilrion (814117) on Friday May 28, 2010 @10:43AM (#32376136)

    If you don't have Internet access, you really have no need to play StarCraft 1 or 2. The whole point is the online play. I can see why people would get angry at online-activation for other games, but for competitive RTS games whose main purpose is online play, it really isn't an issue.

    What? That may be your whole point to the game. Mine, I loved the campaigns, but I couldn't stand multiplayer games. Even if you are into multiplaying, with SC1, you could play over a LAN, no need for internet access. Don't be selfish and assume that because you (and a lot of other people) only enjoy the multiplayer games over the internet, no one else can enjoy any other form of play. We do - specially when online playing is not an option.

    Of course, in Cuba, that point is moot. You have to be out of your mind pay for the game abroad, then violate the license by importing it to Cuba, then possibly violate some obscure Cuban law or directive by bringing it, then cracking it anyway to bypass the activation. But there are many people out of their minds... and while I can't be certain of it, if most Cuban gamers enjoyed SC1 without BattleNet, I can assume that many people who may have access to the game but not to the online services would also enjoy it.

  • by genner (694963) on Friday May 28, 2010 @12:07PM (#32377240)

    Yes, you will have trouble installing this on the non-existent computers that have no way to connect to the Internet

    My girlfriend has no internet access at home. She owns a modern PC.

    Blizzard wont be selling a game designed for single-player offline gaming to her, because of an arbitrary and irrelevant constraint mandated by people that quite clearly hate their (potential) customers.

    Yet again, the cracked copy (which will become available) will be easier to install and use.

    No, getting hold of it with no internet access wouldn't be straightforward, but cracking/sharing games predates the world wide web..

    Oh well, I'll loan her my copy of Total Annihilation - it was a better game that Starcraft anyway.

    If she has a modern PC and no internet she's in a such a small minority that Blizzard simply doesn't care. Sad but true.

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