The DRM Debate

May 6th, 2010 in .Blogs
Mrs Mario
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Abandon all hope all ye gamers that enter here…

DRM (Digital Rights Management) has evolved into something akin to a nightmare for the legitimate gamer. While not exclusively used for videogames this article (or rant) is all about how it has affected the gaming market.

It’s all about piracy. Yes. Gamers know that this is all about publishers protecting their assets and trying to stop pirates from having free fun with all their hard work. We have statistics thrown at us every five minutes – “Billions lost to piracy!” headlines scream, “Modern Warfare 2 most pirated game!” they roar.

The thing is, these amounts don’t actually offer any insight into the big picture at all. What you are reading is an estimate or a snapshot that doesn’t factor in things like sales, actual piracy figures, country-based statistics and so forth. If MW2 had X number of downloads in December then what were the sales for the other months?

Most intelligent gamers that respect the industry’s situation still ask that they are given the full facts and not just the full fat. Transparency is lacking in this industry and that lack of communication is showing. With organisations like ELSPA stating that game piracy funds terrorists, how can you not expect people to laugh and stop taking the situation seriously?

Yes, I am sure that when it comes to console hacks and devices there are organised crime units that are making a whack of cash and capitalising on an unethical market. And I am also sure that pirates will continue to churn out pathetic excuses as to why they do it in the first place.

Common whines include: DRM, games are too expensive, publishers take us for a ride, it’s all about the challenge of cracking your so-called super protection. Frankly most of these are rubbish – if you can afford a rig that can play the latest games without wheezing or dying then you can afford to buy the games – except for the challenge one. In the technology world, the challenge of breaking a code, hacking a system or being the first to crack the toughest DRM measure ever, is all consuming and it’s unlikely to change.

However, if you look at the piracy figures per country (check out the BSA) you’ll see that while the UK and the USA and Australia have got some piracy, they are not the big culprits. Instead the Far East, Africa and South America boast the highest levels of game piracy. So why are paying customers in the UK being forced to endure gruelling DRM measures because of issues in emerging markets?

The question that has most been on my mind is – can’t publishers tailor the DRM measures to match the consumers. I know that this has all sorts of ramifications and there will be those who take the DRM free games off to these other bad people but this is happening anyway so why not?

This topic is guaranteed to get most gamers frothing at the mouth and there are a million different points of view, but my biggest issues have to be lack of transparency and increasingly ridiculous DRM implementations. Take Ubisoft’s latest strategy – you can’t save your game unless you’re connected to the internet. If anything is guaranteed to increase piracy in developing countries then that’s it.

Who came up with that idea? In Africa network connectivity is so bad that people would be constantly redoing parts of the game because of outages. Is that a fair thing to do to someone who’s just forked out a wad of cash for their game? If I was based over there I may well go for the hacked version (if I even bother with the game at all after this) just so I can actually play it to completion. However, there are two sides to every story.

In conclusion, I thought it was worth taking a look at this delightfully nostalgic look at the old days of DRM by Richard Cobbett. Back in the day when this acronym didn’t cause frothing, seizures and violence.

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