As someone who works in the arts, I can understand the need to protect my work. In the years I’ve been in this line of work, I’ve published several video game strategy guides that people can purchase, download and read at their will. Naturally, I’d prefer it if people were to actually buy it in order to get the most use out of it, meaning I’d be less than thrilled to find readers have been pirating the issues on torrent websites. How can I stop them from trying to steal my work? I could seed the document to trace the user who bought the original copy, or I could do something drastic and really inconvenient to the customers: require constant Internet access and black out the text if it were ever to flicker for a split second.
This is a big decision that many companies are faced with all the time, and while some companies do their best to try and inconvenience us as much as possible, there are still some companies that actually trust their customers by offering no DRM at all. The best scale I can come up with for this would be placing Ubisoft on one side of the spectrum with GOG.com on the other side. It would be difficult to try and say with a straight face that nobody will pirate a game when there’s no DRM, because they’re going to do that. There are people who pirate, whether they don’t have the money or just don’t want to spend it.
Naturally, some companies try to combat piracy by requiring some personal contact—which is perfectly fine; as I said before, I’m completely on board with protecting your work, because you’ve worked hard and want to get your reward for doing so, but when you bundle it with DRM that really inconveniences us, there’s a huge problem. For example, I don’t want to play Settlers 7 with my Internet activated at all times. I live in an area flush with rainstorms, so my Internet can flicker at any time. Haven’t saved your game in three hours but experience an Internet flicker? Well, I guess you just wasted those last three hours. Couple this with the offensive statements Ubisoft representatives have made regarding PC gamers and their tendency to pirate, and you have a whole chunk of community that are now boycotting DRM-ridden titles.
Some companies have the right idea of protecting their work without overdoing it. For example, Rockstar requires the Internet to activate GTA IV once, but that’s the only point you ever require the Internet for single player gameplay.
On the other hand, GOG.com is a website I really have to applaud for handling DRM properly. As Valve’s Gabe Newell put it, “The best way to prevent piracy is to create a service that people need.” In GOG’s case, they’re the only place to get the best old school games without any DRM to speak of—and newer titles too. In fact, if you’re been boycotting Ubisoft games like Assassin’s Creed, then just pick it up on GOG without DRM.
I can only hope that the DRM issue dies down eventually before it turns into a huge problem with uncertainty and lost saves. If the industry keeps moving in this direction, there will definitely be hell for the first company to mess it up.