Dee Are Em

February 19, 2010 by Tim

Allow me to preface this by saying I support the right of game developers to try and protect their software from piracy. I also disagree with pirates who think they’re entitled to these games for free, especially pirates who act like they’re justified in stealing just because a company implements measures to try and prevent it.

I’m willing to imagine that these days, most of us have a stable, constant internet connection, and requiring your game to check-in with a remote server for authentication would be, 99.9% of the time, completely painless and unnoticed. And that (hopefully) rare occasion where either your connection or the Ubisoft servers dropped out, and you were booted out of the game would, ultimately, be along the same level of annoyance of say your computer locking up. It sucks, you lose a bit of saved progress, but it doesn’t happen so often that it becomes the fuel for super nerdrage.

That said, I sort of feel like Ubisoft’s new DRM may be a step in the wrong direction, for a couple of reasons. While it will likely work flawlessly for the majority of people involved, it’s really delivering a crippling blow for those without a steady internet connection, or no internet at all where they play their games.

They’re telling customers with no internet that they’re basically out of luck for these games, and at the same time… are the people without internet really troublesome pirates? Are these people sticking their finger into a phone line and mentally digesting torrents?

Additionally, I understand that software thieves are a crafty bunch, and they are regularly circumventing DRM methods, which basically escalates the “war” to the point where developers need to take drastic measures to prevent piracy. However, when you start implementing huge measures like this, I sort of feel like you’d need to be pretty damn sure that it’s going to work. I mean, how ridiculous will it look to suffer through the bad publicity only to turn around a week after release and see pirates saying “derp, we cracked it!”

What’s next? You can only play your game during the hours of nine to five, and while on the phone with an Ubisoft representative monitoring the authenticity of your product via randomly transmitted codes in the game that you need to read back to him?

It’s a gamble, without a doubt.

Now, on the flip side of things… let’s imagine for a moment that by some miracle, this DRM holds. Thieves can’t successfully duplicate the server authentication requirement, at least in any sort of relevant time frame where the game’s sales will be seriously damaged. I’d almost be willing to bet that the number of sales lost due to “I don’t want to deal with the DRM” will be dwarfed by the number of sales lost due to easily obtainable pirated copies. Maybe not immediately, but over time.

Obviously there are a large chunk of pirates who, unable to obtain a game for free, still won’t go out and purchase it. At least at first. Over time, however, if we saw some actual solid roadblocks being put up in the face of these pirates, I think companies would see sales rise again. Let’s face it, we’re gamers. We want our games, even the thieves. Are they going to give up gaming entirely just because they can’t steal them? I doubt it. They may not be playing as many games as before due to short finances that pushed them into stealing in the first place, but I think eventually they’d be forced to purchase some titles.

That’s all wishful thinking, of course. At the moment we all expect Ubisoft’s new DRM to crash and burn when it’s cracked right out of the gate (or even before the gate opens), and it’s scrapped from future games and companies have to go back to the drawing board.

I may not think this particular method is “it”, but I still give Ubisoft an A for effort. The developers have the right to try and protect their software from theft, and we as the consumer have the right to vote with our wallets as to whether or not we think said DRM is too inconvenient.

But I think that the crucifying of these companies for even trying to combat pirates needs to stop. Just my $0.02.

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