PC fans forcing DRM into extinction

2D Boy, Stardock discuss the mob's power.

2D Boy co-founder Ron Carmel believes you, the consumer, are forcing PC publishers to rethink and perhaps abolish DRM altogether. The mob is Rome, after all.

Negative fan feedback has already forced BioWare to adapt and then disregard DRM from its games, and put titles like BioShock, Spore and Riddick into the hot-seat for their stringent anti-piracy measures.

"I definitely believe this is all the result of a change in the public perception of DRM, a sort of grass roots uprising," the World of Goo creator told Gamasutra. "Gamers are much more vocal about it than they used to be, perhaps because they are so accustomed to downloading music without too many restrictions."

Brad Wardell, boss of Demigod digital publisher Stardock, agrees: "Spore was the final straw that broke the camel's back. Someone who buys software does not want to be made to feel like a chump for buying it; much of the outcry came from legitimate customers who said that they shouldn't be restricted by DRM, especially since people with pirated versions weren't.

"Yep, Demigod is heavily pirated," he admits on the Stardock blog. "And make no mistake, piracy pisses me off.

"If youíre playing a pirated copy right now, if youíre one of those people on Hamachi or GameRanger playing a pirated copy and have been for more than a few days, then you should either buy it or accept that youíre a thief and quit rationalising it any other way," writes Wardell.

Ron Carmel has been vocal about DRM in the past, calling the protection software a "waste of time" when speaking at GDC recently.

"Publishers aren't stupid. They know that DRM doesn't work against piracy," he told Gamasutra. "What they're trying to do is stop people from going to GameStop to buy USD 50 games for USD 35 - none of which goes into the publishers' pockets. If DRM permits only a few installs, that minimises the number of times a game can be resold."

Carmel said not only does it take time to implement DRM protection, but the developer also has to share revenue with the company that provided it.

"Not only doesn't it work but, ironically, if your game gets cracked, then the person with the cracked version has a better gaming experience than the person with a legit version who has to enter a registration code to play," said Carmel.

World of Goo used no DRM and Carmel said fans have written to and congratulated 2D Boy because of it, resulting in an "element of good will" among the community.

"I'm convinced that we lost very few customers because of piracy," he added, even though he found 10-times more people playing World of Goo than had legitimately paid for it.

"People who pirate the game are people who wouldn't have bought it anyway. I don't know anyone who would try to find a cracked version and, if they can't locate one, they say, 'OK, since I can't find it for free, I'm going to go out and buy it.' I just don't think that happens," he said.

Wardell shares the opinion that time spent implementing DRM and tying to stop pirates is time wasted.

"When the focus of energy is put on customers rather than fighting pirates, you end up with more sales. It seems common sense to me," he adds on the Stardock blog.

But not all are against the DRM protection. The Entertainment Software Association's Ric Hirsch believes the software is a "reasonable response" to piracy, and reckons just because some pirates find away around it doesn't mean DRM doesn't work. "No security technology is 100 per cent effective," he said.

A popular solution to piracy is increasing the value of a game through DLC, which is only obtainable by legitimate customers. This is a tactic BioWare will hotly pursue in the future.

Stardock has created its own system called Goo, which ties a game-key to an email account, meaning the registered user can re-install as many times as he or she likes.

Valve has tackled a large portion of piracy by forcing players to launch games through an online Steam account. Furthermore, Valve believes its new set of Steamworks features will soon obsolete DRM altogether.

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