Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens says the way to beat piracy isn’t with DRM, but by selling “unfinished games” and then offering downloadable content to complete the experience.

We all know that piracy is a problem. We all know that DRM doesn’t work. But beyond that, things get hazy. How do game publishers ensure a return on their investment without compromising the rights and, ultimately, the enjoyment of their customers? Cousens, who claims that he’s “not necessarily a fan of DRM,” said the industry needs to come up with an entirely different way of doing things – and he’s got a plan.

“My answer is for us as publishers is to actually sell unfinished games – and to offer the consumer multiple micro-payments to buy elements of the full experience. That would create an offering that is affordable at retail – but over a period of time may also generate more revenue for the publishers to reinvest in our games,” he told CVG.

“If these games are pirated, those who get their hands on them won’t be able to complete the experience. There will be technology, coding aspects, that will come to bear that will unlock some aspects. Some people will want them and some won’t,” he continued. “When it comes to piracy, I think you have to make the experience the answer to the issue – rather than respond the other way round and risk damaging that experience for the user.”

Cousens noted that the music industry made the mistake of fighting technology rather than embracing it, leading to a huge downturn he described as “inevitable and self-fulfilled.” The videogame industry, he said, could end up in the same position.

“I believe we as an industry have to be far more creative in addressing the issue, and think much more about the experience the consumer gets in the end,” Cousens said. “As publishers, we can use that to our advantage as well as theirs.”

Regardless of the merits of his idea, there’s no doubt that the endless effort to combat piracy with DRM has failed miserably so far. Something different needs to be done and as he pointed out, a little creativity at this stage could very well go a long way.

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