The Impossible DRM

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The Impossible DRM

Publishers don't seem to realize that effective DRM is not just difficult, it's flat-out impossible.

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Brilliant post. I've been thinking the same ting for a while now, but you've written it better than i ever could.
keep it up:)

Somebody, for the love of God, print this out and staple it to the head of EA's CEO.

It's all well and good to plight against DRM, but it seems more and more that any computer game will see more piracy rather than legitimate sales. DRM didn't stop Spore from being massively pirated, nor did lack of it stop World of Goo from a similar fate.

Definitely agree with all your points.

DRM is hopelessly hopeless, as are the companies that use them. Of course, that's why companies like GOG.com need to be supported - game publishers need to understand that a game that has no DRM can still sell very well.

Nimbus:
Somebody, for the love of God, print this out and staple it to the head of EA's CEO.

You're making the fatal error of assuming the EA bosses are capable of reading.

And I think everyone knows DRM is a huge pile of horse droppings that only horse whips the customers for doing the right thing.

Brilliant article. Pretty much sums up how I've felt about DRM ever since it started becoming an issue. You will never, EVER stop people from pirating games. It simply won't happen. In fact, in regards to your mention of Spore, it was actually pirated much more massively than it would have been had it had no DRM at all. The piraters simply saw the overwhelming DRM as a challenge, and TRIED to make it the most pirated game ever. I'm pretty sure they succeeded.

Moral of the story: this exact article. DRM will never work, so learn from Stardock Games (Galactic Civilizations, as mentioned, has no DRM) and quit harming legal paying customers with obtrusive software.

I agree completely, what publishers/developers don't get is that their only efforts that will have any effect on the piracy rate will be how good they made the game. And since making a crap game and going 'aha! We beat the pirates because no one wants our game!" is a bad business model they have to suck it up and find ways of turning pirates into consumers instead of turning consumers into pirates.

The idea is to make someone like you/your game enough for them to pay for it, not force pirates to pay for it through lawsuits as you just lost a lot of potential customers through bad PR. Whether you think piracy is stealing or not the pirates are a market segment that are simply difficult to please and most of the time they do have money in pocket and are willing to spend it or put up with other revenue streams (advertising) to get what they want.

To compete with piracy you need an easy to use, fast delivery service where all content is available to everyone at FAIR prices without any form of DRM or program that what you've bought must be tied to.

I accept that the above service isn't what the corporations want as it doesn't eliminate piracy as SecuROM and the like claim to, but the fact is it would turn a sizable chunk of potential pirates into customers - especially if your service is well advertised/supported and well known to the general consumer base.

DeathSquire36:

Moral of the story: this exact article. DRM will never work, so learn from Stardock Games and quit harming legal paying customers with obtrusive software.

Agreed. Too bad EA won't accept reality.

Also, the more I think about it, the less likely EA will want to accept it. They've invested crap loads into SecuRom, and to simply abandon the product because its worthless would effectively say to EA bosses "Our tech guys lied too us", the EA shareholders "The EA bosses lied too us/are stupid" and to the share market "Flee! FLEEEEEEEE! FLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"

Out of those 3 games you don't want to buy, Bioshock, Mass Effect and Spore, the only one that truly must be played is Bioshock. Mass Effect is ok, and Spore is a horrible game after the cell stage.

GoldenShadow:
Out of those 3 games you don't want to buy, Bioshock, Mass Effect and Spore, the only one that truly must be played is Bioshock. Mass Effect is ok, and Spore is a horrible game after the cell stage.

Bioshock was very 'meh' for me, whilst Mass Effect was alot of fun!

This is probably one of the best written articles I've actually read in a long time (not that some of the others aren't good). One question I've got that wasn't addressed (probably because of lack of information): What about concepts like OnLive. Wouldn't these services stop piracy? It's my understanding the actual "game" is on a server somewhere else and is streamed to you as you play, much the same way MMO's are. In addition to it's other benefits (less hardware requirements, no disks etc. to lose/break, possiblility of cheaper prices/better quality control), this would seem to be a possible solution. I'm no expert on the matter, however, so feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken about something.

Doug:

Nimbus:
Somebody, for the love of God, print this out and staple it to the head of EA's CEO.

You're making the fatal error of assuming the EA bosses are capable of reading.

And I think everyone knows DRM is a huge pile of horse droppings that only horse whips the customers for doing the right thing.

How about a poison-tipped staple? Maybe his replacement will be able to read. (This is assuming that to become the CEO of EA you must eat your predecessor...)

Nimbus:

Doug:

Nimbus:
Somebody, for the love of God, print this out and staple it to the head of EA's CEO.

You're making the fatal error of assuming the EA bosses are capable of reading.

And I think everyone knows DRM is a huge pile of horse droppings that only horse whips the customers for doing the right thing.

How about a poison-tipped staple? Maybe his replacement will be able to read. (This is assuming that to become the CEO of EA you must eat your predecessor...)

Sadly, the poison would eventually reach non-toxic levels, rendering the surviving EA CEO semi immune to future poisons.

Doug:

Nimbus:

Doug:

Nimbus:
Somebody, for the love of God, print this out and staple it to the head of EA's CEO.

You're making the fatal error of assuming the EA bosses are capable of reading.

And I think everyone knows DRM is a huge pile of horse droppings that only horse whips the customers for doing the right thing.

How about a poison-tipped staple? Maybe his replacement will be able to read. (This is assuming that to become the CEO of EA you must eat your predecessor...)

Sadly, the poison would eventually reach non-toxic levels, rendering the surviving EA CEO semi immune to future poisons.

Hmm, good point...

I've got it! We use a giant staple, made entirely out of Selenium!

He's right, but at the same time, this isn't a grand revelation. And I think the management folks working for the Big Boys know he's right. The problem is, they're publicly traded, and the old guys in ties who give them money don't know nufum bout these kids and their computin' machines. They want the products they invest in "protected", so that when the "protection" is compromised, they can cry piracy and try to get sentences increased. It's just your typical "business with old stupids" at work again.

If you're paying attention, this is why the Big Boys want to find ways of going all-online as soon as they can manage it. That way they can protect everything with, as he said in the post, a simple login.

This needs to be read.

This is one of thoase articals that needs to reach such a critical level that people will say, "But Shamus said..." in every conversation about DRM ever from now on.

dragontiers:
This is probably one of the best written articles I've actually read in a long time (not that some of the others aren't good). One question I've got that wasn't addressed (probably because of lack of information): What about concepts like OnLive. Wouldn't these services stop piracy? It's my understanding the actual "game" is on a server somewhere else and is streamed to you as you play, much the same way MMO's are. In addition to it's other benefits (less hardware requirements, no disks etc. to lose/break, possiblility of cheaper prices/better quality control), this would seem to be a possible solution. I'm no expert on the matter, however, so feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken about something.

You are entirely correct, and that is one of the many reasons developers/publishers are behind the idea of OnLive. However, I think the technological barriers of a service like OnLive are nearly as impossible as DRM.

DRM exists because of ass-covering. If some manager takes out DRM and they have 20,000 pirates, they get blamed for it. If they leave it in, they get the same 20,000 pirates, but no blame because they did everything they could. Not terribly sensible, but very bureaucratic.

Kojiro ftt:
However, I think the technological barriers of a service like OnLive are nearly as impossible as DRM.

OnLive, if it gets big enough before collapsing, will end up being remembered like PowerPlay. The only thing that could make it work would be for either the speed of light to be upped or servers set up all over the world and everyone to have a direct T-1 line. Ain't gonna happen.

Veylon:
DRM exists because of ass-covering. If some manager takes out DRM and they have 20,000 pirates, they get blamed for it. If they leave it in, they get the same 20,000 pirates, but no blame because they did everything they could. Not terribly sensible, but very bureaucratic.

Sadly, this is probably true. If only top-tier management knew what the hell they where doing. Or if the system rewarded people for working things right. Still... if they are letting "The Sims 3" out without DRM, it MIGHT stick.

Veylon:

Kojiro ftt:
However, I think the technological barriers of a service like OnLive are nearly as impossible as DRM.

OnLive, if it gets big enough before collapsing, will end up being remembered like PowerPlay. The only thing that could make it work would be for either the speed of light to be upped or servers set up all over the world and everyone to have a direct T-1 line. Ain't gonna happen.

Quantum communication could do it - because of the quirks of quantum physic, the data link could end up as instant - but as far as I'm aware, no company has yet produced such technology.

When Shamus said that DRM is pointless because the PC platform is 'open,' he was correct. However, while his conclusion is that publishers shouldn't bother with DRM because of this, publishers are taking the opposite stance: they want to make PCs a 'closed' platform. Hello Trusted Computing!

OnLive will be as successful as DivX (the movie service, not the codec). Remember DivX? Yeah, me neither.

File-sharing orgies are my third favorite.

I don't think I have to tell anybody what the other two are.

I hate to be the one that asks, but how do you propose to stop piracy in that case? Being in the music industry online piracy has been a major problem for artists, labels, and the population in general. Since this does cross over into games, how can it be effectively stopped?

The RIAA's utter lack of sense in suing fans for stealing music has been an abysmal failure, and I don't think the videogame industry has done something as stupid as that...though putting the SecuROM software onto my computer when I bought Spore did piss me off a good deal and evidently pissed off a lot of fans as well.

So my question is, how can this be solved?

To the uninformed: The goal of DRM isn't to stop piracy--everyone already knows that's impossible. The goal is mainly to slow it down. Having a game uncracked for several days or more (Mass Effect, Bioshock, etc) can have a huge impact in sales.

2kGames Mark Reins:
"We achieved our goals. We were uncracked for 13 whole days. We were happy with it...You can't afford to be cracked. As soon as you're gone, you're gone, and your sales drop astronomically if you've got a day-one crack."

This is also the same idea behind Microsoft's new anti-piracy tech:
Drew Johnston, the product unit manager for the Windows Gaming Platform:
"We've heard from publishers that preauthorized release before streetdate can... they can lose half the sales, the revenue of the game. This is specifically aimed at helping reduce that for the publisher."

I say more power to them in trying to stop the pirates. Granted, there may come a point where the DRM/anti-piracy measures start to interfere with game enjoyment (and for some gamers, this point has been reached). However, I'd sooner stop playing games then start pointing the finger toward those trying to protect their games.

4guy5montag1:
I hate to be the one that asks, but how do you propose to stop piracy in that case? Being in the music industry online piracy has been a major problem for artists, labels, and the population in general. Since this does cross over into games, how can it be effectively stopped?

The RIAA's utter lack of sense in suing fans for stealing music has been an abysmal failure, and I don't think the videogame industry has done something as stupid as that...though putting the SecuROM software onto my computer when I bought Spore did piss me off a good deal and evidently pissed off a lot of fans as well.

So my question is, how can this be solved?

Piracy cannot be solved. There is no way to curb piracy as whatever you do if someone has the know how and doesn't want to pay they will find a way - it simply has to be accepted as a fact of the digital age, and unless everyone moves towards completely closed platforms (please no) there is no quick fix. Alternative revenue streams are probably the best bet, not requiring the customer to pay for a product but getting money through adverts, micro-transactions, subscriptions and the like effectively competing with piracy which is something that thus far the studios seem incapable of.

Although personally I don't think you have to have an alternative solution to know that the current one is a abysmally stupid idea.

GoldenShadow:
Out of those 3 games you don't want to buy, Bioshock, Mass Effect and Spore, the only one that truly must be played is Bioshock. Mass Effect is ok, and Spore is a horrible game after the cell stage.

Except that Bioshock (PC) can't be played if you like precise mouse control. It's not just a small problem either, it's as though your character is heavily intoxicated.

Veylon:

Kojiro ftt:
However, I think the technological barriers of a service like OnLive are nearly as impossible as DRM.

OnLive, if it gets big enough before collapsing, will end up being remembered like PowerPlay. The only thing that could make it work would be for either the speed of light to be upped or servers set up all over the world and everyone to have a direct T-1 line. Ain't gonna happen.

It will happen in the 20s, when everyone has at least a fiber optic 100/100 conection

4guy5montag1:
I hate to be the one that asks, but how do you propose to stop piracy in that case? Being in the music industry online piracy has been a major problem for artists, labels, and the population in general. Since this does cross over into games, how can it be effectively stopped?

The RIAA's utter lack of sense in suing fans for stealing music has been an abysmal failure, and I don't think the videogame industry has done something as stupid as that...though putting the SecuROM software onto my computer when I bought Spore did piss me off a good deal and evidently pissed off a lot of fans as well.

So my question is, how can this be solved?

It can't be completely solved, but devs can come close by producing true quality games. For instance, I know many people who pirate damn near anything, but refuse to pirate a Valve game because they respect them.

dochmbi:

GoldenShadow:
Out of those 3 games you don't want to buy, Bioshock, Mass Effect and Spore, the only one that truly must be played is Bioshock. Mass Effect is ok, and Spore is a horrible game after the cell stage.

Except that Bioshock (PC) can't be played if you like precise mouse control. It's not just a small problem either, it's as though your character is heavily intoxicated.

Well, technically, he is heavily intoxicated.

dragontiers:
What about concepts like OnLive. Wouldn't these services stop piracy? It's my understanding the actual "game" is on a server somewhere else and is streamed to you as you play, much the same way MMO's are.

Assuming it works (and that's a big assumption to start with), then yes, it would certainly make things a lot harder to pirate, because you'd never actually have the game code on your machine.

Of course, that's probably the #1 reason why I would never trust it (again, assuming all the technicalities proved themselves). If I don't have a disk in my hands, then the game I "bought" isn't mine, and it can very easily be taken away from me, accidentally or intentionally, by powers completely out of my control.

It's why I don't like the idea of digital downloads replacing disks either. Let me control how and where I play my games, thanks...

dragontiers:
This is probably one of the best written articles I've actually read in a long time (not that some of the others aren't good). One question I've got that wasn't addressed (probably because of lack of information): What about concepts like OnLive. Wouldn't these services stop piracy? It's my understanding the actual "game" is on a server somewhere else and is streamed to you as you play, much the same way MMO's are. In addition to it's other benefits (less hardware requirements, no disks etc. to lose/break, possiblility of cheaper prices/better quality control), this would seem to be a possible solution. I'm no expert on the matter, however, so feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken about something.

Assuming OnLive works, it suffers the same problems I have with Steam: I don't own the game, even though I buy it.

Am I renting the game or buying it? If I'm buying it, can I sell it? Can I let a buddy borrow it and try it out? Can I get my money back if it turns out to be a dud? Do I have to pay a monthly fee to access all games, or only some of them? What if OnLive dies...do I lose all of my information and games that I've payed for?

There are too many problems I have with online only distribution for me to agree to it.

EDIT: Piracy is the excuse when all they truely want to do is end the aftermarket of video games...

Lord_Jaroh:

Assuming OnLive works, it suffers the same problems I have with Steam: I don't own the game, even though I buy it.

You never own the game.

And DRMs do work to some degree. Otherwise piracy would be even worse, no?
Obviously, the easier the piracy, the more there is, and the more tempting it is.
It's almost a principle.

Makes me almost glad I have an xbox. Almost.

Lord_Jaroh:
Assuming OnLive works, it suffers the same problems I have with Steam: I don't own the game, even though I buy it.

Am I renting the game or buying it? If I'm buying it, can I sell it? Can I let a buddy borrow it and try it out? Can I get my money back if it turns out to be a dud? Do I have to pay a monthly fee to access all games, or only some of them? What if OnLive dies...do I lose all of my information and games that I've payed for?

There are too many problems I have with online only distribution for me to agree to it.

EDIT: Piracy is the excuse when all they truely want to do is end the aftermarket of video games...

I believe, and I'm having trouble finding the article or I'd link it (if someone else knows where it is I'd appreciate the help), they mentioned on one of the articles that when you purchase the game you'd retain the right to "sell" it by transferring all the relative information to the buyer and then it deletes your access to the game. And as far as losing all your information, I'm sure its going to be the same as any on-line game, where they keep two or three back-up servers that they update the information too but are otherwise completely unconnected to the other servers as a fail-safe. Monthly fees, that sort of thing would probably be determined on a game by game basis by the game publisher (similar to how playstation has no on-line playing fees but microsoft does). As for a "physical" copy, that's an issue that individuals would have to deal with. I have no problem not physically having a Super-Mario Brothers 3 cartridge as long as I can actually play it on my Wii after buying it from them. I don't see why this would be much different.
Of course, that is all just speculation, as a working OnLive server does not yet exist.

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