The DRM Dilemma: An Introduction

By Mike on 10:00 pm

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Is DRM killing PC gaming? UBIsoft is currently rolling out a new DRM system which other game publishers are looking to copy. It takes advantage of cloud computing. While it supports unlimited installs and off site storage of games, it requires a rock solid internet connection. If your internet goes down (which it often does), you're booted out of the game. It applies to single player and multi-player titles. Assassin's Creed II will be the first PC game to use this system.

Of course the gaming boards are buzzing about it. Not in a good way, naturally. It's the latest salvo fired in an ongoing war between publishers and pirates. A war with legitimate gamers caught in the middle. They take the brunt of the damage as each side struggles to get the upper hand.

Penny Arcade
's Jerry "Tycho" Holkins discussed what's been going on.
"The trouble is that this dialogue between pirates and publishers, one which was always characterized by falsehood and ill-will, has ceased to exist in this case. A maneuver this extreme means that they're finished talking altogether: this mechanism is their response, the final word. Only it's impossible to get the final word here in The Cloud. Ever." He summed it up best in two words. "Nobody wins"

Unfortunately, this is moving the PC gaming industry towards self destruction. In recent years, the PC gaming market has collapsed. A large number of PC gamers have fled to consoles. Sales have plummeted and studios have closed up. There are vary few PC exclusive game studios still in existence.

There has been no serious discussion on the issue. Both sides have taken a reactionary stance. The industry has made its reasoning quite clear. The pirates though are just as vocal and unashamed of what they do. There are plenty of reasons why people pirate. Some do it because they can't afford games. Others see it are a challenge. The rest just refuse to pay for games period. They are thieves regardless of their motives. We can admit right now that it is a problem.

The people who get left out of the discussion entirely are legitimate gamers. Those who actually pay for the game and always will. The silent majority of PC gamers.

Some argue that DRM is no different from locking a door to keep criminals out. But imagine having a security guard pat you down each time you leave a store. Just to make sure you're not shoplifting. Well, some people stole some socks so the store would have legitimate reason for protecting their stock. However, it is an extreme response. It will catch a few thieves but it violates the rights of the consumer. In the end, the paying customer won't put up with the harassment. They'll refuse to shop at that store, or worse, sue them. That's what happened to EA back in 2008 over Spore's DRM.

Obviously nobody can expect publishers to abandon copy protection. They're not no matter how much gamers complain. The question is how we can create a system that's fair to the legitimate gamers. First of all, publishers have to open a dialogue with that silent majority. Some inroads have been made but UBI's move is a huge step back. Perhaps it's time to look beyond SecuROM et al and look at some alternative systems. We'll do that in part 2.

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