Recently Tommy Refenes posted on IndieGames.com about Piracy and DRM and you really should read it.

http://indiegames.com/2013/03/team_meats_refenes_apathy_and_.html

Its a well written piece and he brings up several points I want to highlight.

We are closing in on 2 million sales and assuming a 10% piracy to sales ratio does not seem unreasonable. As a forward thinking developer who exists in the present, I realize and accept that a pirated copy of a digital game does not equate to money being taken out of my pocket.

He goes on to say...

In the digital world, you don't have a set inventory. Your game is infinitely replicable at a negligible or zero cost (the cost bandwidth off your own site or nothing if you're on a portal like Steam, eShop, etc). Digital inventory has no value. Your company isn't worth an infinite amount because you have infinite copies of your game. As such, calculating worth and loss based on infinite inventory is impossible. If you have infinite stock, and someone steals one unit from that stock, you still have infinite stock.

I think his points are apt considering the recent SimCity 5 single player always on DRM fiasco. Basically, the launch of SimCity 5 saw many people not able to play the game due to the always online requirement. This led to many returns and a ton of bad press for EA. Refenes comments on this as well.

After the frustrations with SimCity I asked Origin for a refund and received one. This was money they had and then lost a few days later. Applying our earlier conversation about calculable loss, there is a loss that is quantifiable, that will show up in accounting spreadsheets and does take away from profit. That loss is the return, and it is much more dangerous than someone stealing your game.

His point is that its worse to have a refund than a lost sale to piracy. This is an interesting point because its not one I had considered before and after thinking about it more tend to agree with him. I come from the “all DRM is bad” camp and don’t enjoy any form of it. Some I tolerate, but most of the time I don’t buy things if the DRM is annoying. But shouldn’t DRM as a thing be totally dead in the game industry by now? I mean what customer is asking for DRM?

And really, DRM should be dead by now. I mean wasn’t Gabe talking about DRM being lame back in 2008? Oh right, seems he was.

http://www.gamefront.com/gabe-newell-talks-about-drm-and-piracy-on-steam/

I get fairly frustrated when I hear how the issue is framed in a lot of cases. To us it seems pretty obvious that people always want to treat it as a pricing issue, that people are doing this because they can get it for free and so we just need to create these draconian DRM systems or anti-piracy systems, and that just really doesn’t match up with the data.
As a customer, I want to be able to access my stuff wherever I am, and if you put in place a system that makes me wonder if I’ll be able to get it then you’ve significantly decreased the value of it.


I figure “DRM thinking” is limited to older companies like EA only, but that doesn’t seem to be the case as seen in this recent “Ask Slashdot” post.

http://ask.slashdot.org/story/13/03/20/214236/ask-slashdot-what-is-a-reasonable-way-to-deter-piracy

I'm an indie developer about to release a small ($5 — $10 range) utility for graphic designers. I'd like to employ at least a basic deterrent to pirates, but with the recent SimCity disaster, I'm wondering: what is a reasonable way to deter piracy without ruining things for legitimate users? A simple serial number? Online activation? Encrypted binaries? Please share your thoughts.

Doing a simple serial key check is fine but doing much more than that is a waste of bandwidth because if your thing is popular enough, piracy will happen no matter what you do. Its hard enough building something awesome, don’t split your bandwidth doing things that in the long run will never get you what you want.

This is just a strange topic that shouldn’t really be a thing in 2013. I think the best thing we can do is make choices that put money in the hands of people that build things we want. That means if you get a game with crap DRM, ask for a refund. And likewise, buy games that respect you and your time. For instance, all games on GOGcom are DRM free. As are all the games that come out as part as the Humble Indie Bundles. Because, really its 2013 and publishers and developers need to understand that treating their legitimate customers like criminals isn’t the way to ship awesome.

Sparklepop wrote on 03/26/2013 at 07:09pm

Agree 100%. And this isn't a hard concept to understand. Well, at least not for us little people.

IceMice wrote on 03/26/2013 at 10:42pm

i'm just gonna be sharing this over on facebook now...

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/26/2013 at 11:13pm

This is good stuff. I like Tommy's article. The argument that piracy equals lost sales never made sense to me. Value and respect go hand in hand, and the idea of creating something valuable, rather than creating a product that you put a value on, is an essential concept. Radiohead experienced a similar thing with their pay-what-you-like digital release of In Rainbows:

http://www.nme.com/blog/index.php?blog=10&title=did_radiohead_s_in_rainbows_honesty_box_&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/27/2013 at 12:02am

I picked up that Radiohead album and for me, yeah it brought with it a new way of thinking about buying stuff. They should have tagged it better and added album art BUT it opened peoples eyes to a new way to delivering the rad.

I think people in the ivory towers of mega-videogame-corp-o-tron don't understand that paying customers are not evil. I don't pirate software but I have a shitload of Steam titles. You can't invent DRM that works with me cause I don't pirate games, I buy them. I have met people that pirate as a way of life, they just want free stuff, no amount of coaxing will get them to think otherwise.

Anyways ill get down off the soapbox :D

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/27/2013 at 03:49am

I'm OK with certain DRM. Steam is fine. It's something that you have to be logged into, or have logged into in the somewhat recent past, in order to play. It's totally unobtrusive and doesn't put up roadblocks every step of the way.

But like you and everyone else has said, if it's good enough, it's going to be broken and spread all over the net. They aren't punishing pirates in any way, they're punishing paying customers.

If I download a movie I open it and it starts playing. If I buy one it takes at least a minute or so to get through all the crap to get to my movie.

If piracy is providing a better product than you are, you're doing something wrong and need to change your model.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 03/27/2013 at 06:28am

"If piracy is providing a better product than you are, you're doing something wrong and need to change your model."

That is exactly true.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/27/2013 at 04:03pm

@Travis: I think there is a difference between "always online DRM for single player games," "online multiplayer games" and Steam.

* Always online DRM: Must be online to start start and play single player game.
* Multiplayer Online Game: Games like WoW and DoTA 2, must be online to play, kind of the point of the game.
* Steam: Must download game before you play it. Can play most games offline unless its like DoTA 2 or some other online multiplayer game.

Just because you need to download something before you play it doesn't mean its DRM, that's like saying Firefox is DRM'ed too. Does Cheerful Ghost employ DRM because you have to be online to use it? :D

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/27/2013 at 04:15pm

No, Steam is DRM because you have to sign into Steam in order to play most of the games you have purchased. There's a significant difference between always online DRM and Steam, I wasn't trying to equate the two, but Steam *is* a kind of DRM. Or I guess more correctly, DRM is a part of Steamworks. It isn't just a download manager for your games, it provides its own DRM for publishers to use. This is most notable in (for me) its only downside-- If you've signed out incorrectly or if you've failed to install an update and sign in once afterwards, you can't use Steam offline and you are locked out of your games.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/27/2013 at 04:16pm

The relevant bits from the FAQ:

"Steam's DRM solution (called "CEG" by Valve) is just one of many Steamworks components game developers may use, alongside achievements, cloud saving, the workshop, matchmaking network code etc.; just like with all the others, implementing it is not required to distribute a game on Steam. A game can use the other Steamworks features and still remain DRM-free."

But in effect, the list of games that choose not to use it is very small.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/27/2013 at 04:38pm

Huh. Well, I didn't know they did that. So yeah, apparently it is. It seems just like a download manager to me and I have played offline to boot.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/27/2013 at 04:45pm

Yeah I've played offline a bunch, in fact I may have once or twice... heard about... a friend... sharing accounts with people to and after signing in blocking Steam via the Windows firewall to force it offline so two people could play single player games on the same account. But it requires that sign-in, and if Steam ends abruptly or thinks it needs to do something you're screwed until you sign back in.

I think you have to sign in once every 60 or 90 days for offline mode to continue to work as well. Can't remember the cutoff.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/27/2013 at 04:54pm

BUT! I think it speaks volumes about Steam's DRM implementation that it was so unobtrusive you were unaware that there was any DRM there. It's DRM done right. At this point DRM is still a necessary evil if we want games from most publishers, and Steam has a way to do it almost transparently and without being detrimental to the customer.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/29/2013 at 03:24am

For some reason it just now, more than a day later, occurred to me that my previous comment could be taken like "haha you didn't know Steam had drm you stupid head." That wasn't my intention at all- just pointing out how well that Steam had implemented it, so that it's almost entirely transparent to the user.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 03/29/2013 at 03:39am

I didn't take it that way :)

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