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DRM Piracy The Internet Games

GOG: How an Indie Game Store Took On the Pirates and Won 397

Posted by Soulskill
from the arrr-me-hearties dept.
An anonymous reader writes "As if we needed further proof that DRM really is more trouble for publishers and consumers than it's worth, Good Old Games, the DRM-free download store that specializes in retro games, has yet more damning evidence. In an interview this week, the store's managing director says that its first venture into day one releases earlier this year with Witcher 2 was a storming success — and the version that hit the torrent sites was a cracked DRM version bought from a shop. The very definition of irony."
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GOG: How an Indie Game Store Took On the Pirates and Won

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @04:22PM (#42108731)

    Releasing the source code under a free GPLv3 license would however be much more preferred.

    • by zero.kalvin (1231372) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @04:29PM (#42108829)
      I disagree. While I am an open source advocate (and use it extensively). I do not see why everything "has" to be open source. Open source is a philosophy, DRM is pure idiocy disguised as philosophy!
      • by TheCarp (96830)

        Yes but, there is more than one philosophy at work. Remember that Open Source came after the Free Software movement. They both have very different aims, even if they look the same in overall direction and strategy.

        Free Software (which, as a term and philosophy, predates Open Source by decade), proponents of which drafted the GPL itself, does, indeed espouse that all software should be "Free Software" (which is the same as open source except this philosophical difference) and the GPL is seen as a viral way t

      • by rolfwind (528248)

        To be fair, your parent said it was simply preferred and not mandatory. It sounds like an idealist notion and was put in an idealist way. Nothing wrong with that.

      • by kthreadd (1558445)

        I disagree. While I am an open source advocate (and use it extensively). I do not see why everything "has" to be open source. Open source is a philosophy, DRM is pure idiocy disguised as philosophy!

        Everything doesn't have to be open source, and that's actually not even what the op is saying. I agree with him/her that it would be appreciated if the source code was released.

  • Love GoG (Score:4, Informative)

    by dywolf (2673597) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @04:24PM (#42108753)

    Found a lot of my lost collection and favorites there. Love em.

    • Agreed, I've spent a lot of money with GoG over the past year. And most of the stuff works just fine off a USB stick so I can take my games with me!

    • Re:Love GoG (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dissy (172727) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @04:53PM (#42109119)

      As did I, and have quite a few older favorite titles from my younger years sitting in my GoG shelf.

      Another thing I love is how they repackage older games to support newer OS/hardware setups.
      I have a 10k text file of directions I wrote up to remind myself all the convoluted steps to install Planescape Torment from the original CDs to my Windows XP/7 systems, all the settings to change just to get it to run, not to mention bypassing the disc changing handlers.

      I recently repurchased the game from GoG, which consists of clicking download, double-clicking the setup, hitting next twice, and that is is. A start menu entry ready to run without having to mutz about with ini files or messing with the games directory structure.

      The extras are a nice touch too, as it's packaged with the hint guide and walkthrough. All for ten bucks. Well worth the money to me, despite already owning the original release of the game.

      I also purchased Fallout 1 and 2 after the original release, and at some point lost my original media.
      GoG was running a special at the time selling both games together for $6, which I also picked up.
      I could have easily torrented the games and felt little guilt, as I've already bought them both, but would have had to deal with the same installation issues and problems. Buying them this way was a no brainer.

      • by gorzek (647352)

        Wow. I am going to have to buy Planescape: Torment from GoG, then. I have a two-disc version I bought for $10 years ago, and I could never get it to work to the extent of bypassing the disc checks--and I never like to carry CDs around. I want everything installed to the hard drive.

        It's a good enough game I'll happy buy it again just so I can play it the way I want.

      • by Applekid (993327)

        I wasn't aware they did that! After struggling and ultimately failing to get Thief installed on my current machine, the $10 it will cost to buy it again is cheap compared to the cost of reacquiring the parts to build a functional Windows 95 machine again.

        I know what I'm doing this weekend. :D

      • by omglolbah (731566)

        I've re-purchased games plenty on GoG out of pure laziness.

        I -could- get them running, but I dont want to fiddle with it myself. Paying someone 10 bucks to fix it for me is more than worth it..

        And some things I cant fix easily, like making Dungeon Keeper II run on win7.
        Oh DK2 how I have missed thee..

    • Wow. What a great game.

      • by vux984 (928602)

        The Urquan Masters remake is better than the original; in that its the same, but its been updated to run on modern PCs.

        I've picked up several titles on GoG, my -only- complaint at all is the lack of xpacs with a number of titles. (Wing Commander / WC II), Dungeon Keeper, Wing Commander Privateer, Syndicate...

        In some cases I have the original with xpacs, so their lack is annoying -- and the incentive to re-buy the game as a drm free download is diminished.

        In other cases, i never had the xpac, and if they of

    • by Cinder6 (894572)

      My only complaint with GOG is that I wish their distribution system was more like Steam's. It's minor, I'll admit, and probably frivolous, but there's a certain convenience about Steam that GOG just doesn't have. With that said, I have about 40 games in my GOG library, so I'm not too bothered by it.

    • Re:Love GoG (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @05:33PM (#42109601) Journal

      What I love is there is no jumping through hoops or messing with cracks. i want a game on my netbook which doesn't have a DVD drive? no problem, just drag the .exe over and run it.

      But I'm about to get serious hate for pointing this out but fuck it, it needs to be said...they really really REALLY need to more testing on their games! Case in point i76, that game uses the CPU clock as a timer for several in game events so this game does NOT like modern multicores, yet there is zero warning that this game is gonna require hacks and tinkering to get to run. I went through every trick on the forums before giving up and while its only $10 its still not looking good on GOG when they are selling a game with serious issues. you go to their forum page for i76 and you'll see the thing is full of people having similar issues with not being able to progress in the game. And this is far from the only one, there are several games on their forums where people are having to use my hacks because I'd run into a game and just have to keep trying different things until I found a way around the problem which i would promptly post.

      So while i love and will keep buying from GOG I really wish they'd do a little more testing or at least give you a heads up if there are serious issues. But this is something I've been pointing out for awhile now folks, its not the DOS games that are gonna end up lost, DOSBox has that down pat, its the Win9X era games because so many of them used hacks to squeeze more performance out, what we need is a "Win9X Box" that will simulate say a 733MHz P3 with 384Mb of RAM and a Geforce 4 that will fake all the quirks that devs would use back then.

      Oh and one final nit to pick....why is the GOG guys getting screwed on prices? When you see a game like Grimloack that both GOG and Steam has Steam nearly always has it cheaper, and of course on the sales its not even close, the last sale where i saw they both had it GOG was selling the game for $7, steam for $3. WTH devs, you punishing GOG for not having DRM? Because i find it hard to believe Valve is gonna be taking a loss on a game, sale or not. So if valve is getting the same cut all I can figure is either the GOG guys are taking a bigger slice (thus making the devs charge more to come out with the same profit on their end) or you are giving Valve better prices than you are giving GOG.

  • DRM may not stop piracy, but there are many people out there who aren't outright looking to pirate things. These are casual users like my mother who has tons of silly little puzzle and mind type games that she buys for a few bucks. Her friend comes over and wants a copy and she gives it to them thinking nothing of it. Low and behind it doesn't work. It's a $5 game so nobody really cares. DRM isn't about the hard core pirating community in a fully electronic world. It's about discouraging the casual user who
    • by metrometro (1092237) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @04:37PM (#42108929)

      > Her friend comes over and wants a copy and she gives it to them thinking nothing of it.

      In our company, we call that "lead gen" and seek to encourage it. In the attention economy, trading marginal costs (literally zero, in your example) in exchange for a referral is good business. Many of those referrals won't become customers. But for the ones who do, the cost-to-acquire-customer is again literally zero. It helps to have good branding and more than one product. But this isn't rocket science.

    • by Darinbob (1142669) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @04:41PM (#42108981)

      DRM is not intended to stop piracy. It's intended to stop legal resales and gifting of products.

      • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @04:54PM (#42109123)

        DRM is not intended to stop piracy. It's intended to stop legal resales and gifting of products.

        Its also a FUD product for sellers of DRM software and licensors of DRM tech (patents etc).

        "If you don't pay us $250K for magicdrm(tm) then pirates will steal your stuff, so pay up, dweeb"

        The correct response is:

        "They'll steal it anyway, and we'll be out a quarter mil, and our legit customers will be angry"
        "grrr.... well on to the sales meeting with the next batch of suckers"

        The wrong/popular response is:

        "OK here's the money and I'll check this off on my performance review"
        "Thanks and heres some baseball season tickets"

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      It a mostly wrong headed attempt to solve a serious problem, which is that a huge number of users aren't paying for your product, and could be setting themselves up for a lifetime of going to thepiratebay rather than the local retail shop.

      Take the Hulu example, (or CD's), Hulu seemed great, until people realized the piratebay was still better. It was too late for Hulu, and a lot of potential customers permanently lost.

      With games we have an entire generation of gamers coming up who will probably expect to b

      • by HaZardman27 (1521119) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @05:05PM (#42109245)

        the 15-25 year old crowd is a lost decade of potential customers

        Thanks for the blanket statement, but I'm 24 and pay for all of my media (games, music, books, movies, etc.), at least that which is not freely distributed by the creators. With only maybe one or two exceptions, all of my friends and associates do the same. Crappy people are crappy people; age makes no difference except that in previous generations, one had to be technically inclined to even know how to pirate media, whereas now it's common knowledge.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          This is also not new. Back in the 80's I knew some people who genuinely didn't know it was illegal or even immoral to copy games. There would be companies that would buy one copy of a software product and then just share it around the department with everyone. Churches would buy one copy of a songbook and the photocopy it many times.

          There are really two sets of people who break copyright, those who are genuinely ignorant of the laws and those who know the laws but don't care.

          • by HaZardman27 (1521119) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @06:26PM (#42110249)
            That reminds me of an interview I read a while back with the CEO of the Ernie Ball guitar string company. Someone in his IT department, unbeknownst to the owner, had been installing Microsoft software on more computers than they had licenses for. Rather than giving them the opportunity to fix the situation, Microsoft immediately jumped into legal action. The result is that the owner had his IT department move all of their workstations to Linux and only use open source software so that it could never happen again.

            Found the link. [cnet.com]
      • by TheCarp (96830)

        > It a mostly wrong headed attempt to solve a serious problem, which is that a huge number of users
        > aren't paying for your product, and could be setting themselves up for a lifetime of going to
        > thepiratebay rather than the local retail shop.

        Even the problem is wrongheaded, because its based on the assumption that the choice is between pirating game X and buying game X in the store.

        While this may be true for some subset of what pirates pirate, its demonstrably not true for the majority. Both studi

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @05:44PM (#42109761) Journal

        It a mostly wrong headed attempt to solve a serious problem, which is that a huge number of users aren't paying for your product, and could be setting themselves up for a lifetime of going to thepiratebay rather than the local retail shop.

        The real problem is that this mischaracterisation is so ingrained that you can be modded up for saying it even on Slashdot where people should know better.

        Users not paying for your product is not the problem. Or, rather, the fact that they are using it is not the problem. The goal is to maximise profit, which means making sure as many people who might pay for your product actually do. A person who pirates it but would never have bought it is not a problem. A person who might have bought it but doesn't is, whether they pirate it or not. A person who doesn't buy your game because you've priced it too high or because they don't like the distribution system is a problem, but one that's relatively easy to fix.

        The problem is an industry that is devoting its attention to eliminating piracy, not to maximising sales. They'd rather have 100 sales and 100 pirates than 10,000 sales and 100,000 pirates. Yes, pirates suck, but it's a stupid business model to chase them at the expense of your customers.

    • Right because the company makes so much money off of the person who does not get to try the game for free and therefore not only does not buy that game, but does not buy any other games from the company.
    • by N0Man74 (1620447) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @04:48PM (#42109067)

      DRM doesn't only fail to stop piracy, it can encourage it...

      Last weekend my girlfriend rented a blu-ray from Redbox. The largest TV in my house happens to be my monitor, and the only blu-ray player I own is a drive on my PC. I attempted to start it, but instead got a message from my player software that I needed to update my software to play the movie. I checked for an update to my player software, and it said it was up to date.

      Then, I looked on the drive manufacturer site looking for a firmware update for the drive, thinking that might help. My drive model was not listed on the manufacturer site. I found another support site, but they also did not list my drive. I searched for a while and eventually found out that it was only available on a support site for a European division. I updated the firmware and tried again... no luck.

      By this point, I had spent 30 or 45 minutes trying to get this to work. I got fed up, and said, "Screw it, I'll just pirate it."

      It took me less than a minute to find a pirated source. It took maybe 15 minutes to download it. I spent much more time than that trying to get it working legitimately, without even counting the time to drive and get the movie.

      I don't pirate stuff because I'm not willing to pay it, it's because they make it a pain in the ass to be legit.

      If I know ahead of time I'll have problems with DRM for either games or movie, I usually skip them entirely.

      • by dywolf (2673597) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @05:05PM (#42109243)

        Probably detected a break in the HDCP chain. The Anydvd driver is essential for HTPCs even when you own the bluray disc.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Probably detected a break in the HDCP chain. The Anydvd driver is essential for HTPCs even when you own the bluray disc.

          Ah yes, the end to end authentication and encryption of all devices involved in the video signal.

          Funny how I can't get end to end authentication and encryption for my god damned credit card to prevent skimming and such.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        I'm just avoiding bluray permanently. Blu-ray was explicitly designed to get around the "flaws" in DVD, that they were easy to copy and did not have DRM. The "DRM" being separate from mere copying because DRM is about making sure you do not play the media in the wrong region or at the wrong time. Blu-ray is locked down tight, it trusts nothing and no one.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by cbhacking (979169)

          DVD video actually has plenty of DRM (both content scrambling to prevent unlicensed playback and region coding to prevent geographic redistribution). The "problem" is that they're both trivial to bypass. DeCSS doesn't bother to pretend to be legit; it simply brute-forces the scramble. Region unlocking has existed for over a decade.

    • But when you have an inferior product when you pay for it, than when you pirate it, you will certainly pirate it. DRM makes a pain, and most times plainly impossible, to do simple things as for example transfer your media between devices. Many times I would have paid for something and ended downloading it because I couldn't find a non-DRM version to buy.

      GOG proves you can sell games (probably the most pirated media) and be successful without hostilities your clients by treating them as criminals, so eve
    • by rolfwind (528248)

      DRM may not stop piracy, but there are many people out there who aren't outright looking to pirate things. These are casual users like my mother who has tons of silly little puzzle and mind type games that she buys for a few bucks. Her friend comes over and wants a copy and she gives it to them thinking nothing of it. Low and behind it doesn't work. It's a $5 game so nobody really cares. DRM isn't about the hard core pirating community in a fully electronic world. It's about discouraging the casual user who

    • But that's also an easier problem to solve than what most DRM tries to do. A simple one-time activation that just saves a "yup, I'm activated" bit in a file or in the registry would solve this, then just make the program act as a demo if it doesn't detect that sort of like an Xbox Live Arcade title. Maybe for disc-based titles do a simple disc check if this activation bit is not set, allowing full offline installation and play if someone so desires. Add a quick way to purchase directly from the demo and

  • Someone clarify for me - if a game doesn't have DRM, does that mean you can copy the folder to another HD, and the game will still work?

    Is password protection a weak form of DRM, or not DRM at all?
    • Re:Simple Qs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alannon (54117) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @04:41PM (#42108975)

      Someone clarify for me - if a game doesn't have DRM, does that mean you can copy the folder to another HD, and the game will still work?

      Yes, or at least the installer can be copied and used without restrictions.

      Is password protection a weak form of DRM, or not DRM at all?

      Passwords are not DRM.

    • by Imagix (695350)
      Basically, yes. Password protection to get to the download page, no (unless you actually must download the program every time you want to install it). I could see an argument that a password on the ZIP file is a form of DRM (albiet probably a pretty weak form).
    • by bfandreas (603438)
      Nope. You will still need to use the installer. But that's a Windows problem.

      Snarkyness aside: here's what I use them for.
      Their DOS games run in DOSBox. Which comes with a very nice instaler that does the fiddly DOSBox bits for you. That is very nice.
      So now that you have that old DOS game living in it's shiny new NTFS folder happily unconfused about the past 20 years.

      GRAB THE BUGGER BY THE SHORT&CURLIES AND DROP IT ONTO YOUR TABLET OR SMARTPHONE.

      In some cases it's better to use a mouse for strat
    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      Someone clarify for me

      You're asking vague questions, so I can give only vague (but hopefully useful) answers.

      if a game doesn't have DRM, does that mean you can copy the folder to another HD, and the game will still work?

      By "copy the folder", I assume you mean copying the already-installed game folder. In theory, this should work fine. In practice, you're gambling. The game may have generated configuration files or registry entries that include absolute paths, so those will still point to the old location. If that old location is ever deleted, the game may simply stop working.

      If you're referring to copying the installer, it also depends o

      • by Twinbee (767046)
        Thanks, that's interesting.

        In short, in an ideal world with developers that care about writing clean and portable programs, you could copy and move the game in any form wherever you wanted, and everything would be fine. Is the real world, though, I can only wish you good luck.

        My very OpalCalc program is portable, and completely DRM/password/key free for the paid version, so a good start I guess ;)

        In short, a password is a weak attempt at DRM that doesn't really do the job.

        Yes, it would seem the product would at least have to "phone home" so that the company could cancel that installation, otherwise piracy sites could simply give out the password/key along with the installation exe. Since I'm against this 'phoning home' lark, I can see the dilemma for both the publisher and the end user. It's somewhat unfortunate.

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          My very OpalCalc program...

          An obvious plug, but I did take a look at it when I saw your first post. An interesting concept I might just have to play with later...

          ...it would seem the product would at least have to "phone home"...

          That's the core of most modern DRM. Through some secret mechanism, the program computes a key, which is sent back to the vendor to see if it's allowed to run. If the computer doesn't have Internet access, either the program doesn't run, or the user has to pick up the phone and make the call himself. That means the vendor needs more servers, databases, security, and phone op

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      No, the game may have copy protection, which is not the same as DRM. Ie, it may require the CD or DVD to be in the drive.

      DRM is Digital Rights Management. It controls who has "rights" to use the product. DRM products are often tied to the person who purchased it, ie, you may need an account (itunes, steam, etc). If you buy a game with DRM you usually need permission to install it, you may even need permission to install it a second time on a new computer if the old one breaks. If it's music with DRM yo

      • by Twinbee (767046)
        Right. I have bought a few products which require keys/passwords to be entered. I'm not sure if those products "phone home", but otherwise in theory it would seem I could pass on the product to someone else and they could use the same password and username to activate the product again (not that I would actually do that of course).
      • by Hatta (162192)

        This is where GOG.com did well I think, they specialize in older games that no one really cares about pirating

        Old games are more popular than you think. I know of at least two torrent trackers that specialize in nothing but old games.

  • by JMonty42 (1961510) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @04:58PM (#42109161)
    The article gives the example of Witcher 2. It says it's ironic that the most leaked version of the game was the DRM version. But is that really ironic? Witcher 2 sold 1.1 M copies for the PC in its first 7 months [strategyinformer.com]. It only sold 40 k DRM-free copies through GOG, which would the crackers most likely find to crack?

    Besides, if there were no DRM for a big title like that, it stands to reason that there would be just as many if not more leaked copies available on torrent sites. What they really need to do to prove their case is get a publisher to release their AAA title on nothing but GOG, then they would be able to see the true effects of DRM-free games on piracy.
    • by vux984 (928602)

      But is that really ironic?

      Yes.

      Witcher 2 sold 1.1 M copies for the PC in its first 7 months. It only sold 40 k DRM-free copies through GOG, which would the crackers most likely find to crack?

      It REALLY underscores how ineffective the investment in DRM is. The game was released without it, and the DRM version was still cracked and widely pirated.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @05:38PM (#42109671) Journal

      The crackers would be more likely to crack the one with DRM, because there's nothing to crack on the DRM free copy. Cracking is a game to these people, with nothing to crack there's no fun.

  • You mean not pissing off the customer / making them jump through loopholes to do what they want can be profitable?

    But what about "the precious"? We wants it, we needs it!

  • Trying to pretend piracy isn't still rampant on the PC is laughable. Yeah someone got the DRM version first and made their pirated copy out of that. Removing the DRM just means he needs less effort to share it. DRM probably doesn't do a whole deal to protect companies but if everyone went with the GOG model, there'd be no improvement. The problem is there are too many self-entitled little kids who think paying for their ISP is payment enough for content. We should remove DRM and any other restrictions from
    • by DarkOx (621550)

      Perhaps but I think the content industry needs to get real about the value of their products. Quite honestly the difference between a 2003 title on Gog for $2-10 vs a 2012 title for $40-60 is in my opinion frequently nil in fun factor.

      Now its true that many of these titles could not be sold profitably at release for $2-10 if you assume their sales figures hold constant. I doubt they would though. As you say copyright infringement is rampant, so these things get installed on allot more systems than copies

  • by dmomo (256005) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @05:23PM (#42109461) Homepage

    "pirates went to the trouble of buying the game in a shop, taking it home and breaking the DRM instead"

    Who knows if the the downloaded version has some sort of hidden tracking mechanism? With a store bought copy, the pirate can more easily remain anonymous.

    It's a stretch perhaps, but that might bring light to why it worked out this way.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      You only need a friend with another copy and the ability to run md5sum to know if there's a hidden tracking mechanism.

  • GOG had an opportunity to support Linux, and failed to do so even when every other store has done so. The only irony here is GOG due to its size is more vulnerable than its better know competitors [Desura; Steam] and a whole host of smaller ones , even though by the nature of its store it has suitable software already available as source ports or sells them with DOSBox anyway.

    I'll personally not feel any sympathy when Microsoft kill then off. Although I'm sure those that bought from them will be able to der

  • and the version that hit the torrent sites was a cracked DRM version bought from a shop

    Isn't that the point of release groups to "crack" stuff as some kind of trophy ? There isn't a lot of pride in it otherwise.

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