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Can You Fight DRM With Patience? 309

As modern DRM schemes get more annoying and invasive, the common wisdom is to vote with your wallet and avoid supporting developers and publishers who include such schemes with their games. Or, if you simply must play it, wait a while until outcry and complaints have caused the DRM restrictions to be loosened. But will any of that make game creators rethink their stance? An article at CNet argues that gamers are, in general, an impatient bunch, and that trait combined with the nature of the games industry means that progress fighting DRM will be slow or nonexistent. Quoting: "Increasingly so, the joke seems to be on the customers who end up buying this software when it first comes out. A simple look back at some controversial titles has shown us that after the initial sales come, the publisher later removes the vast majority of the DRM, leaving gamers to enjoy the software with fewer restrictions. ... Still, [waiting until later to purchase the game] isn't a good long-term solution. Early sales are often one of the big quantifiers in whether a studio will start working on a sequel, and if everyone were to wait to buy games once they hit the bargain price, publishers would simply stop making PC versions. There's also no promise that the really heavy bits of DRM will be stripped out at a later date, except for the fact that most publishers are unlikely to want to maintain the cost of running the activation, and/or online verification servers for older software."
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Can You Fight DRM With Patience?

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @05:55AM (#31520374)

    How does waiting for a publisher to loosen DRM equate to fighting DRM?

    Gandhi and King taught non-violent resistance, but you can win against human beings. You can't win against a profit motive.

  • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @05:57AM (#31520388)

    Games have become such huge business surrounded by such huge marketing hype that the games companies can now basically do what they like.

    They don't care about the "intelligent gamers" who sit on the fence for a while after a game is released, read reviews & see what problems there are before they think about buying it - they're interested in the fanbois and the screaming kids who force their parents to queue up at midnight on release day, ultimately it's about how many copies are sold in the first couple of weeks.

    Screaming kids don't care about DRM and fanbois will find a way of rationalising the inconvenience of DRM into something that is good.

    I'm still disgusted with myself that even though Fallout 3 is one of the best and most absorbing games I have ever played, I still put up with having to insert my game DVD into the drive every time I play it, even though I log into Windows Live each time and have already purchased some of the DLC.

    With that said, I waited about a year after release before I bought it and even then the game was suffering from some fairly bad crashes due to bugs in it.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:03AM (#31520404)

    Hold on a second: Is that summary supposed to tell me "go buy the DRM infested crap or else publishers will stop making PC games"? How about NOT infesting it with "you are a criminal and if not, prove it" DRM that makes me NOT want to buy the game? I want the game at release. Hell, who doesn't? I also do not mind paying 50 bucks for it. Or 60, now that the Euro is getting weaker too. But I DO mind the infection of my machine with something of dubious quality that gives me no net benefit whatsoever. I'm not gonna bend over and pray they use a little lube this time.

    And now I get told "if you don't bend over, they'll stop making games for you". Are you fuckin' kiddin' me? Make games that I want to buy and I'll buy them! Stardock is a good example. I don't care if they cost 20 bucks or 60 (ok, a bit, but it's certainly no showstopper for me), I'm not waiting for games to get to the bargain bin. I'm waiting for a game that doesn't ram stuff up my ass that I dunno where it's been before.

    Prime example, R.U.S.E. It sure looked like a good candidate for my next RTS. I liked the beta. But, Ubi, sorry, no deal. Take out your "stay online to play single player" copy protection, I'll buy. Leave it in, I will not.

    It is that easy.

    So please don't try to guilt-trip me with the notion that if we don't swallow that crap they'll stop making games for PC gamers. If anyone is to blame for that, it's the idea that gamers are criminals. Unless they can prove themselves innocent.

  • by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:04AM (#31520414) Journal

    Isn't that the point of the article? If you want to have a game but not with DRM, wait until it's released or patched DRM-free. However the article implies that it's some obscenely long time, while in BC2 case it was just a couple of weeks. Personally I don't care - I buy the games I want from Steam and I can't really recall having any problems with them. Sure I don't like the idea of DRM and it would be cool to have the time to fight against every thing in the world, but sometimes it's nice to just enjoy the game.

  • by JackDW ( 904211 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:06AM (#31520422) Homepage

    If a game comes with DRM that you don't like, you really mustn't buy it. If you do, it rewards Ubisoft or EA or whoever, and the DRM scheme will either be used again or made worse!

    Pirating the game sends the same message. The publishers do have some idea of the numbers of peopls who are copying their games, and if there are many more than expected, then the DRM scheme will be made worse!

    Therefore, it's very important to check the "Requirements" for a game before you buy, even if your PC will clearly be capable of running it. Respectable stores like Steam will warn you about the types of DRM used by the game in clear terms, and you can decide whether it's too much. This information isn't in large text in the centre of the screen as it should be ("Warning: SecuROM", "Danger - Game Published By Ubisoft") but it's there, and these days you must always check for it.

    Can you fight DRM with patience? Well, yes or no, it's your only option. Voting with your wallet is your only way to discourage this sort of thing. Eventually the price will be lowered and (maybe) the DRM will be removed to pick up extra sales. Then you win.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:08AM (#31520436)

    I will not even buy games with DRM schemes I refuse to be part of off Steam. Simply to do my share of showing that this sort of DRM is not acceptable.

    Besides, who really keeps checking game pages for the patch that removes certain aspects of DRM? Do you really go back every week to see if a year-old game finally got stripped?

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:13AM (#31520464)

    Any kind of DRM affects you negatively. There have been a lot of protection schemes over the years, from doc checks to "original DVD required" to serial numbers to the now popular online registration and perpetual connection scheme. All of them have some impact on you and may or may not limit your chance to play the game if you lost the manual, DVD or serial or cannot go online for some reason.

    The question is just what degree is still acceptable to you.

    What's worst about DRM is that it does affect you, the honest, paying customer, but it does not affect those that copy the content. They don't need the original CD (duh, they don't have one), they needn't go online, they need no serial number (or get one generated with a handy program), they need no online connection to register. THAT is the main problem with every single DRM scheme that ever existed.

  • by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:14AM (#31520466) Journal

    No one, as most people don't really care if their game has DRM. If they want a certain game, they just buy it.

    Ubisoft like always-online DRM does worry me, but I mostly play online games so I would have to be online anyway and their master serverlist servers would need to work too.

    However, most people seem to suggest that fighting DRM with piracy is a good option. It isn't. If you're refusing to buy a game because of DRM, then you shouldn't pirate it either but spend your money on some of their competitor who is doing it correctly. Otherwise you get your gaming fix from the bad behaving company and don't support the good companies.

  • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:27AM (#31520536)

    I agree. I refuse to continue polluting my computer with all their DRM crap. Long ago, I didn't mind... But then some DRM was released that accidentally destroyed some hardware and the company refused to admit it. There's no way in hell I'm going to install software that can potentially destroy my hardware.

    So my solution? PS3 and XBox 360. Yes, they technically still have DRM, but at least the DRM on them doesn't have a chance to destroy anything, and it never gets in the way of me playing the games.

    I still occasionally buy a PC game, but it's more like 1 a year, instead of the 10-15 a year that I used to. And on top of that, I can -rent- console games... So I don't buy them now, either.

    DRM is killing the gaming industry moreso than any pirates ever did.

  • by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:34AM (#31520568) Journal

    Games have become such huge business surrounded by such huge marketing hype that the games companies can now basically do what they like.

    You are so wrong.

    When you're a company, it doesn't matter how much money you're making, so long as you can make more, you are never happy. There's no "financial freedom" in the world of business, only a mathematically optimal point at which you strive to reach, and once you've reached it, you follow that point as it changes over the ever-changing market.

    So yeah, DRM will stay, but not because the companies "want" it. It will stay because the companies compulsively must have it.

  • Mixed feelings... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cbope ( 130292 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:37AM (#31520590)

    Not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, removing a bad DRM from a game X weeks after release is at least an improvement over not removing it at all. Maybe it gives the publisher a warm fuzzy feeling that they are fighting piracy at release. Although we all know the reality that the game is often cracked within hours of release and in some cases it's cracked before release.

    But from a customer perspective, I still feel like I'm getting screwed by the publisher if I go out and buy a new game shortly after release. Consider the following questions:

    1. If I wait X weeks until they remove the DRM, why should I _need_ to patch my game to remove the DRM.
    2. Why is the DRM even there to begin with? Does it really do any good?
    3. Referring to question 1, how many Joe Sixpack's patch their games at all, unless the game goes online and checks routinely?
    4. Why am I buying intentionally defective goods?
    5. How much extra cost goes into implementing, testing and supporting the DRM? This number has got to be huge for the publishers. Not to mention the licensing cost the publisher has to pay to the DRM licensor.

    On principle, I am still strongly against invasive DRM. Assassin's Creed 2 and future Ubisoft titles are on my do-not-buy list thanks to their draconian, invasive DRM. I will not download cracked versions of these games either, I will just not play them. Until the publishers wise up and realize they are only shooting themselves in the foot, I will not buy their games. Here is my list of unacceptable practices:

    - game requires activation over the internet
    - single-player and non-online games that require an internet connection to run
    - games that can only save to online game servers operated by the publisher
    - games that cannot be played in 5 years because they depend on some online service/server that has been taken offline by the publisher
    - games that limit the number of installations
    - games that check their activation status periodically
    - games that cannot be installed to more than one PC (not equal to running them at the same time)
    - games that are locked-down to the hardware signature on which they were originally installed
    - installs any hidden services, software or devices in my system with or without my explicit authorization (this includes Starforce and SecuROM)

    My list of acceptable practices:

    - basic disc checks, or
    - Steam-like content delivery services, which can be used in offline mode, do not limit number of installs and do not require an internet connection except during installation, etc.

    However, combining the above 2 practices is unacceptable. There are probably few if any new commercial games anymore that meet my requirements. Have I bought games which violate some of my unacceptable practices; Yes, unfortunately. I'm afraid there is no easy answer or solution to the problem.

  • by CiderJack ( 961987 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:50AM (#31520660) Journal

    I do not buy games. Period. I don't pirate them either.

    Plenty of free games out there! Sometimes free demos are enough for games like halo, half-life 2, (sorry if I'm talking about old demos, I don't even bother with most new games anymore because even the demos are DRM'd up the wazoo). Freeplay MMOs like Runes of Magic and Allods keep me pretty well entertained after serious pointless grinding on an MMO like Anarchy Online. However! The point being is they are not only free of DRM they are free of cash outlay! No way am I about to risk my system with some DRM'd game that I may or may not like and risk my whole system on it. And pay cash for it beforehand.

    The whole commercial game industry (well most of it anyway) is snake oil sales. They have quickly reached a point just slightly better than used car salesmen or the riaa. Feck it, stick to (real) indy games and/or play only the free games. If they lower the DRM bar later have we won? No, the game is still full of DRM bullshyte.

    Anyway, apologies for the ramble. I hope you get what I'm after here (and no I'm not new here, but damn I bet any replies will make me feel like it)...

    Soooo many free games to explore out there, I don't get why people bother with DRM shyte. Keep up with the Joneses? Not if it means compromising my system :P

  • anachronism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CiderJack ( 961987 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:04AM (#31520724) Journal

    Anyone remember Chess? Go? Cribbage? Bridge? Risk? Tabletop D&D? Monopoly for chrissakes? How about Mancala? Reversi? Pente? Dominoes? Darts? How about a friggin game of billiards/pool? Gin-Rummy anyone?

    Oh right, the lack of DRM is what killed those games :P

  • by mbyte ( 65875 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:07AM (#31520742) Homepage
    Oblig. xkcd comic : []
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:57AM (#31520952) Journal

    I agree with Opportunist. DRM keeps me from buying games, too. And I doubt very much that he and I are so unique that we're the only ones.

    Remember, we killed DRM in music. It looked for a while like we were going to have to accept DRM when buying music, and today you can buy any music you want without it.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:59AM (#31520978) Journal

    naaaa, there is enough stupid rich people to justify every business plan in the world.

    Well, then we have a choice. We can either dispose of the stupid rich, or take away their money.

  • by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @08:06AM (#31521036) Homepage Journal

    However, most people seem to suggest that fighting DRM with piracy is a good option.

    I don't think "most" people suggest that. In fact I can't recall seeing anyone suggest resorting to piracy as a strategy for changing the behaviour of games publishers. What I have seen is an awful lot of people declare their intention to download rather than put up with various DRM schemes. I think that's a difference worth noticing.

    The important thing isn't that it's a good idea or a bad idea. The key point here is that the games comnpanies are teaching the wrong lesson here. DRM is teaching a generation of game players that buying games == "problems" while priating games == "it just works".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @08:17AM (#31521140)

    prag-mat-ic adjective
    2 : relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters : practical as opposed to idealistic

    see also: apathetic

  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @08:34AM (#31521266)
    Why would I do that? I'm not trying to convince him for my sake! I gave him the information, and he rejected it. His short term benefit of *Oooooh shiney shiney new game!* was more important than his (and our) long term benefit of *No more draconian restrictions on games!*

    That's the beauty of our current state of cultural development; People are allowed to make stupid decisions for rubbish reasons. It's their money, after all.

    FWIW, I hope BT do some major exchange work in his area and he's stuck with a £35 coaster for a couple of days.
  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @09:10AM (#31521636)
    Except that if he can't play this game the next time he can't get online and he needs something to do in the meantime, he will remember what you said (even if he doesn't remember when or where he heard it) and realize that Ubisoft did it to him on purpose. The thing is, the next time after that he goes to buy a game he will remember that he can't play Ubisoft games if he loses his Internet connection (even if they have abandoned said DRM by then) and will likely choose not to buy their next game. Of course, he may never have that problem so he will go on buying Ubisoft games, but a significant fraction of game buyers will and Ubisoft will lose customers that it will have trouble getting back.
    I do know that I tell my friends that Ubisoft games have "technical" problems (really obtrusive DRM). Those that are tech savvy ask what I mean and decide if that is a show stopper for themselves. Those that aren't keep that in the back of their minds and it influences whether or not they buy Ubisoft games (those that have known me the longest only very rarely buy a computer related product against my advice, they've been burned too often).
  • Re:anachronism (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jer ( 18391 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @09:53AM (#31522164) Homepage

    Hm. While I'm no fan of DRM, that's not a great comparison. To start with, most of those games are old enough that the developers are dead, so there aren't any development costs to be repaid (or royalties for that matter).

    Of the games on that list that are being sold for money (rather than just rules for an existing deck of cards), for most of them you're actually paying for the physical materials to play the game. You can download a copy of the rules for Go but unless you already own a Go board and stones you can't play it with just the rules. You can go ahead and make your own board, and some folks do, but that's more of a hobbyist decision. It's usually cheaper in time/money to just pay the $10 for the game at Target and move on. Same for most of the rest of those games.

    D&D - D&D is the odd one out. You need a set of dice to play D&D, but that's really the only physical material you need once you have the rules. There are all kinds of optional materials but it's the one on that list that is most like a software title. They're still actively paying people for development, and if you download a copy of it you effectively have the entire game - no additional money or time needs to exchange hands for you to sit down and start playing it. And not surprisingly, D&D is the only game on that list that has had "piracy" issues. A while back they stopped selling their books as PDF downloads specifically because the books were showing up on torrents before the physical copies hit the stores.

    One of the things that I hate about the DRM arguments is that I can actually understand the publisher's point of view - they've sunk money into developing this game and they want to reap that maximum profit possible from it. That's how the system is supposed to work after all - they take a measure of risk and in exchange, if their product is popular, they supposed to reap the rewards (and suffer the losses if it turns out that they bet on a dog). Piracy circumvents this process and it's illegal. So I can understand their anger at it. But they're doing it all wrong. They're doing it in a way that irritates and angers their legitimate customers while not really doing much of anything to stop the free-riders. Worse they're doing things now that break their own games to the point that their legit customers are turning into free-riders. It's stupid, and I thought that the game industry had figured this problem out about 15 years ago. Apparently this is one of those lessons that needs to be re-learned every few decades. (I have far, far less sympathy for game publishers who are using DRM as a means to break the secondary market for games. Right of first sale is important and even if you are losing money to the secondary market you need to deal with it. Book publishers have been dealing with it for centuries - suck it up.)

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @10:18AM (#31522452) Homepage Journal

    The "I'll just pirate it" option is becoming less and less an option as online play becomes more important and games are starting to block the option to use private servers.

    I don't buy online-only or no-dedicated-server-online games, so I don't have that problem. You have the same option...

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @10:19AM (#31522470) Journal

    And piracy advocates are teaching that same generation that "if you don't agree with it then it is fine to break the law, even for the flimsiest of excuses". Neither side is really helping civilisation in that case.

    The question is who is to be the master. Are individuals the servants of "civilisation", or does "civilisation" exist to serve the individuals? If it is the latter, it is the law which is the problem, not those breaking it.

    When your opponents control the law, a stance like "one shouldn't ever break the law" is completely disarming. It is very easy for them to manipulate things so that all opposition is ineffectual, illegal, or both. So unless you want to say that those with the best lobbyists automatically win, don't try and raise the law to the level of something sacred.

  • by Somebody Is Using My ( 985418 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @11:10AM (#31523132) Homepage

    Which is a completely bullshit argument to make.

    You aren't *fighting* DRM that way; you are completely justifying the need for it. The way to fight DRM is to a) not buy the game and b) let the publisher know why you are boycotting the product.

    You don't have a right to play the games just because you do not like the copy-protection.

    Simply stealing the product will only encourage publishers to either: a) add more DRM (either in some vain hope it will actually stymie the pirates or in an attempt to do prove to their shareholders that they are trying to do SOMETHING to protect their investment) or, b) convince them to drop the PC platform entirely.

    If you want to encouraging publishers to use no or consumer-friendly forms of DRM then only buy products that meet your requirements. Stop trying to justify piracy with the fallacious argument that it will somehow teach the publishers a lesson if you pirate the game.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @08:51PM (#31531416)

    Stimulate it? Ruin it!

    We're not far from the point where people (not just the /. geeks, but your everyday Joe Randomuser) will rather buy a game for his console than for his PC, not for the convenience of "slip DVD in and it starts" but for the uncertainty whether the PC will work altogether. Will my DVD drive be compatible with their protection? Will my online connection be stable enough?

    If anything, DRM ruins the PC as a game platform. It doesn't save it, or even stimulate it.

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (9) Dammit, little-endian systems *are* more consistent!