DRM is Over

Shamus Young

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DRM is Over

Shamus compares tamper-proof executables to invisible books: fictitious and, ultimately, useless.

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Ben Halstead

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Shamus, I agree with most of your article, but have to question your point 1. You are likely correct that there was no large increase in sales, but you have used an assumption based on the absence of released information as "proof" that the 95% sales bit is wrong.

The best you can really do is say that publishers should now have the data to finally prove/disprove the 95% sales justification, and challenge them do do so. I myself would be interested to see any response from a direct inquiry to EA on this point.

It would be great if this spelled the death of DRM, but I somehow doubt it'll be this easy.
 

Sigmund Av Volsung

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You'd be surprised at how many people know what DRM is and don't know that it's absolute garbage.

Case in point: My friend was studying AQA AS level Computing last year...one of the exam questions asked him to "Give reasons for and against DRM".

This is a thing that is present in state-sponsored education, at least in England. Because apparently there are 'advantages' to using DRM, and that they are in equal measure as all the disadvantages.
 

Veylon

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Sigmund Av Volsung said:
You'd be surprised at how many people know what DRM is and don't know that it's absolute garbage.

Case in point: My friend was studying AQA AS level Computing last year...one of the exam questions asked him to "Give reasons for and against DRM".

This is a thing that is present in state-sponsored education, at least in England. Because apparently there are 'advantages' to using DRM, and that they are in equal measure as all the disadvantages.
You gave the advantage yourself. "People don't know it's absolute garbage." You can advertise a "feature" that produces no benefits. That's got to be worth something.

The point of the test is to confirm understanding of the course. So long as the taker understands what's being talked about and can express themselves cogently on the subject, they ought to be passed.
 

hentropy

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When you say "why do they keep doing the same thing for 10 years with bad results?" they say "it's only been 10 years, DRM is still new, we'll figure it out eventually and then piracy will be over!"

In other words, they still see piracy as a problem that can solved with more DRM. As gamers we look at the short view and focus on how much this sucks now, where they have no problem with taking the long view and seeing DRM as a work in progress if it means doubling the amount of people who buy the game.
 

Atmos Duality

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Shamus Young said:
If a publisher removed the DRM after the initial week of sales, then they would get most of the benefit without the long-term costs of maintaining the DRM. (Assuming that there is some benefit to sales. If there is, it must be so small that it can't be easily measured. We don't see any kind of link between games with "good" DRM and games with high sales.)

Even better, removing the DRM a couple of weeks after launch - and before the game gets cracked - would really kill the fun for the crackers. Who wants to crack a game when it's now available DRM-free? You would deny the pirates that big moment of publicly celebrated triumph when they finally slay your latest challenge.
They won't do that because it would show "weakness" on their part by exposing the utter bullshit behind the narrative they've pushed for years. They would justify years of complaints from angry (legitimate) customers about being treated like criminals.

And they can't do that. Not in a post-recession market. Too risky. Much better to gloss over their mistakes than to take responsibility and admit them.

3. Publishers know that DRM doesn't work, but they put it there to appease stupid shareholders.

I've never liked this excuse. I can believe there are shareholders who care nothing about what a company does, as long as the stock goes up. But this idea requires us to believe that a majority of stockholders know enough about the games industry to be aware of piracy and DRM, but are then too ignorant to understand why DRM doesn't work? They have to be just smart enough to understand what DRM is but too stupid to comprehend that DRM is a bad idea if the company leadership explained it to them? That is a very specific level of dumb, and I have a hard time believing that a significant percent of shareholders would fall into that narrow band.
I don't like it either, but given just how profoundly fucked up the (major) investment and credit industry is in the United States, I can't quite reject this reasoning outright either. (We have over a decade of horrible investment paradigms to blame for the recession as proof of that.)

I'm being cynical, yes, but I have other reasons.

For one, Big Media has never been the most forward-thinking industry, especially where technology is involved.
Remember back when CD burners were going to kill music? Or WAYYY back when VCRs were going to kill the film industry?
Remember how neither of those things actually happened? And yet somehow, that distrustful customer-fearing attitude never disappeared; it just kept shifting from one boogeyman to the next even when separated by decades.

That's the kind of attitude of fear we're dealing with. It's that attitude that spawned autocrat "watchdog" organizations like the RIAA and MPAA....speaking of.

Secondly, I think it's influence from those kinds of media "watchdog" organizations that spurred AAA game publishers to engage in their present-day "Us vs Them" attitude towards their customers. Because I'd like to think no sane company wants to deliberately piss off their source of business...not without injecting some insanity, i.e. 'Not without "good" reason'...or at least, something that SOUNDS like good reason to an insane person.
If that sounds like circular logic...it is, but that's kinda the point.

Fear is self-perpetuating; it must be because THIS SOMEHOW KEEPS HAPPENING.
Companies keep pushing for DRM even where it does no good for anyone.

(Technically, it's happening again TODAY with the advent and distribution of home-3D printers, though admittedly that scare hasn't been nearly as widespread as DVD-R, CD-R, or VCR were.)
 

blackrave

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Sigmund Av Volsung said:
"Give reasons for and against DRM".
That's easy
Advantages- can slightly increase early sales
Disadvantages- everything else
Did I answered correctly? Did I passed the DRM course?

I think devs should patch DRM out as soon as game is fully cracked
DRM makes no sense after crack is out on torrents


CantEscapeMe said:
Luckily... Time to buy tons of used games now on www.whothefuckcares.com and save some money. Best way to spend bucks on games.
Sure, take a seat, have a cup of tea.
What?
Don't worry, the killsquad outside is simply working on tactical maneuvers.
You have nothing to worry about
They are definitely not after you >:)
 

Sigmund Av Volsung

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Veylon said:
Sigmund Av Volsung said:
You'd be surprised at how many people know what DRM is and don't know that it's absolute garbage.

Case in point: My friend was studying AQA AS level Computing last year...one of the exam questions asked him to "Give reasons for and against DRM".

This is a thing that is present in state-sponsored education, at least in England. Because apparently there are 'advantages' to using DRM, and that they are in equal measure as all the disadvantages.
You gave the advantage yourself. "People don't know it's absolute garbage." You can advertise a "feature" that produces no benefits. That's got to be worth something.

The point of the test is to confirm understanding of the course. So long as the taker understands what's being talked about and can express themselves cogently on the subject, they ought to be passed.
Oh sure they understood it, but the point is that an institution responsible for educating adolescents in technology treats DRM in this manner. It's not a case of opinion, since DRM has proven to be ineffective in all contexts. There is no(firmly proven) 'advantage' to it, which exemplifies the sort of ignorance present across enterprises in terms of tech.

I was disputing the article's point that 'shareholders don't know that DRM doesn't work'-I'm pretty sure that they do not. AQA are supposed to be knowledgeable in this topic, so I can't imagine what sort of notions the average shareholder has >_<

Though to be fair, that course was BS from what I hear anyway. They needed to learn about Drum Memory and Casettes as storage formats...and the programming was done using Visual Basic.
blackrave said:
That's easy
Advantages- can slightly increase early sales
AQA are idiots, so they would accept any sort of reasoning on that line, sure.

I think one of the given reasons in the textbook he was studying was that "DRM allows a better experience for the end user" or something like that.

With such a foundation for argumentation, anything is possible(!)[footnote]*commits Seppuku out of knowing that people like AQA are in charge of educating the youth*[/footnote]
 

blackrave

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Sigmund Av Volsung said:
blackrave said:
That's easy
Advantages- can slightly increase early sales
AQA are idiots, so they would accept any sort of reasoning on that line, sure.

I think one of the given reasons in the textbook he was studying was that "DRM allows a better experience for the end user" or something like that.

With such a foundation for argumentation, anything is possible(!)
What is this "end user" they are talking about?
Anyone with at least 2.5 brain cells could understand that DRM encumbrances user and after crack is freely available keeping DRM makes no sense.
 

Adam Jensen_v1legacy

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Denuvo didn't survive for months because it was hard to crack, it survived because no one gave a shit to crack the other two games that were using it. DA:Inquisition was cracked in less than a month after release.
 

Sigmund Av Volsung

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blackrave said:
Sigmund Av Volsung said:
blackrave said:
That's easy
Advantages- can slightly increase early sales
AQA are idiots, so they would accept any sort of reasoning on that line, sure.

I think one of the given reasons in the textbook he was studying was that "DRM allows a better experience for the end user" or something like that.

With such a foundation for argumentation, anything is possible(!)
What is this "end user" they are talking about?
Anyone with at least 2.5 brain cells could understand that DRM encumbrances user and after crack is freely available keeping DRM makes no sense.
I don't know.

Perhaps AQA looked at iTunes and thought that all DRM is like iTunes. People like iTunes, so therefore DRM is good for the end user, or some other bullshit reasoning like that.

Again: AQA are idiots.
 

RhombusHatesYou

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Shamus Young said:
3. Publishers know that DRM doesn't work, but they put it there to appease stupid shareholders.
This is actually close to the reason I've heard from corporate and IP lawyers when I've discussed DRM.

In their opinion DRM exists to protect publishers from the possibility of opportunistic stakeholders litigating against the publishers for not taking 'all reasonable measures' to protect their stake/property/so on. This is corporations protecting themselves from the exact same thing most of them would do if the situation was reversed. Doesn't matter that DRM doesn't work and that everyone knows it doesn't work as long as DRM is legally considered a 'reasonable measure' for protecting the interests IP/authorware/3rd party utilities/so on rightholders.

They're essentially protecting themselves from the same arsehole logic that insurance companies use to say that your flood coverage only covers things damaged directly by water and not, say, the 18 wheeler that a flash flood tossed into your house.
 

RhombusHatesYou

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Adam Jensen said:
Denuvo didn't survive for months because it was hard to crack, it survived because no one gave a shit to crack the other two games that were using it. DA:Inquisition was cracked in less than a month after release.
That would explain why HAWX 2 held (possibly holds) the record for going uncracked.
 

Sanunes

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RhombusHatesYou said:
Shamus Young said:
3. Publishers know that DRM doesn't work, but they put it there to appease stupid shareholders.
This is actually close to the reason I've heard from corporate and IP lawyers when I've discussed DRM.

In their opinion DRM exists to protect publishers from the possibility of opportunistic stakeholders litigating against the publishers for not taking 'all reasonable measures' to protect their stake/property/so on. This is corporations protecting themselves from the exact same thing most of them would do if the situation was reversed. Doesn't matter that DRM doesn't work and that everyone knows it doesn't work as long as DRM is legally considered a 'reasonable measure' for protecting the interests IP/authorware/3rd party utilities/so on rightholders.

They're essentially protecting themselves from the same arsehole logic that insurance companies use to say that your flood coverage only covers things damaged directly by water and not, say, the 18 wheeler that a flash flood tossed into your house.
Unfortunately that makes a lot of sense, it reminds me a lot of when IP holders feel they have to use copyright protections because allowing one person to use it could nullify their claims in a court of law for another issue. Heck we even saw that with EA when their shareholders were suing them because of Battlefield 4.
 

Hairless Mammoth

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Yep. Nothing is uncrackable, and it's only a matter of time until the latest scheme breaks. It nice to know that FIFA 15 did pretty much the same, with it's mighty shield, as FIFA 14, same with DA:I. Really, if a pirate does not want to pay (or can't pay) for a game, they will wait the weeks or months until the cracked version hits the inter-webs. That same principle applies to any media in a region with no import in the foreseeable future.

Points 1 and 3 really go together. If it really is shareholders demanding DRM, then it really is the fault of the executives who can't convey how much always online DRM will cripple the company's reputation. Otherwise, it's the executives themselves that believe it works, and shareholder's fault for allowing them to remain in office if sales dive. (Of course, you can read up in many places on how dropping even one major executive is seen as a double edged sword.) And the fact that when sales don't plummet enough for the shareholders to get involved means it's the fault of people who voted with their wallets for crappy DRM schemes. (Also, anyone who boycotts something should say why, a lot, so they know it's not because the game wasn't popular.)

Point 2 bugs me. PC second hand is gone, and pubs want to knife console second hand, too. But why put your own DRM in a game being sold with a service that has built in DRM? That should go back to 1&3, where they are idiots that put DRM in as a security blanket that helps them sleep at night because they just can't rest easy knowing that the services DRM could be cracked and they could lose money (maybe a little in reality). But, some pubs might fear Steam and other services going into second hand markets in the distant future and want their own measures is place to block it. Or they want you to check out their own client that nets them a larger profit if you start buying games directly from them, your convenience of not having extra clients bog down your computer be damned. *cough*Ubisoft*cough*

Point 4 is basically the reason why DRM is still around, at least offline/one time activation DRM. It's just that patching it out weeks, months or even years later means extra work to remember to do, costs extra money for the programmers' time, let's casual pirates get their free junk when they could have paid their $10-50 share, and undermines the industry ideal that DRM is necessary. Some really nice PC devs give up the source code or a full version of the game for free after the game has been out for ages, though.

Just like in other media, the main surge of profits are right when the game/movie/album/book comes out. That's why a lot of theater chains don't let you use you coupons for free/discounted shows on the new releases. They don't get a big percentage of each ticket sale until 3 or more weeks after the first engagement. (The popularity of a new movie is also why I had to stand outside auditoriums, check tickets and look like a tough manager in my business suit when we had R-rated horror films. After the latest gore fest appeal died down, we only checked ID at the point of sale and if suspicion was present of a particular group of kiddoes that would theater hop. Otherwise, R-rate films like King's Speech were unguarded. They weren't popular, with the younger crowd.)
 

RhombusHatesYou

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Hairless Mammoth said:
Point 4 is basically the reason why DRM is still around, at least offline/one time activation DRM. It's just that patching it out weeks, months or even years later means extra work to remember to do, costs extra money for the programmers' time, let's casual pirates get their free junk when they could have paid their $10-50 share, and undermines the industry ideal that DRM is necessary. Some really nice PC devs give up the source code or a full version of the game for free after the game has been out for ages, though.
And some publishers/developers who do patch out DRM get threatened with legal action by their distributors (just like one of Namco Bandai's many threats of litigation against CD Projekt over The Witcher 2)
 

Las7

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Most major publisher don't have a culture of cultivating a market on PC. They seem to think that if their game gets pirated a lot their are making substantial loses, when in fact the majority of those pirated copies would have never been bought to begin with. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity, they see it as a burden.
Instead of battling piracy they should be trying to either milk piracy(via product placement and other covert marketing strategies) or cultivate a small number of the pirates into consumers. If your product is good certain people will deem it worthy of their money perhaps even as a token of goodwill towards a company. Especially in developing markets where the majority of pirates reside, or when looking at a lower aged target demographic which might not have disposable cash to spend on hobbies.

The truth is that gamers are happy to spend a lot more than majority of people pirating Movies/Music/TV. Whether it's the investment into hardware to run these games(Consoles/PC etc) it's a lot more expensive as a hobby than certain other intellectual property for the endusers. This is the reason that the most widely played games are currently in the F2P/P2W model in developing countries, games like LOL/Dota/Shooters/FREE MMOs etc. Games who treat people who don't actually purchase in game hats/currency to a certain degree as NPC who help with the internal market by grinding for the rest of the people who have enough money to spend ALOT on a certain game.

The problem is that large publishers seem to think that games actually require million dollar budgets and bloated publishing structure to be successful. It's leading to a bubble, where development costs will one day be far greater than what you are able to milk out of the populace. I don't know what will lead to the crush but certainly if games continue being released broken and publishers are always chasing the next deadline it will crush. It would only take a few monumental flops for some studios to go under especially as marketing/development costs continue to sky rocket.

The funny thing is that marketing a game, makes marketing more expensive - the more you spend on marketing the more marketing costs for a similar result to what you were previously able to achieve. You give a few Youtube/Twitch personalities money to do PR for a game/studio, next time you approach those Youtube/Twitch personalities the cost will go up. You tap into marketing on sites like this one, as more and more people visit the site and go into the ad links and purchase a product the more the cost for bringing visitors grows.

DRM is really the least of their problems, but right now a lot of publishers are selling on hype alone and the way they generate hype is by buying more presence. When they release the game it obviously won't live up to the hype train since more was spend keeping that on track than actually polishing it.

There are exceptions obviously, but even the exceptions are effected by the current state of the industry.
 

Adraeus

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Shamus Young said:
Here we had a system that was - as far as anyone could tell - good enough to stop pirates for months. And the result? Not much. Nothing changed.
The corollary to this is that all those "boycotts" of DRM-protected games haven't shifted sales in either direction, too.

So, what exactly is the problem? The relatively few people who pirate games are forced to wait for working cracks? That warez groups have to crack games before they release them to "the scene"? Publishers bring in revenue from neither group, so why should they care?

I guess you could argue that there's an engineering cost to implementing off-the-shelf DRM but what impact does that really have on development cycles? Regardless of the impact, the margins might be so high so that the cost is negligible, in addition to the fact that corporate counsel is able to show that they've taken steps to protect their employers' intellectual property.
 

Signa

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Atmos Duality said:
3. Publishers know that DRM doesn't work, but they put it there to appease stupid shareholders.

I've never liked this excuse. I can believe there are shareholders who care nothing about what a company does, as long as the stock goes up. But this idea requires us to believe that a majority of stockholders know enough about the games industry to be aware of piracy and DRM, but are then too ignorant to understand why DRM doesn't work? They have to be just smart enough to understand what DRM is but too stupid to comprehend that DRM is a bad idea if the company leadership explained it to them? That is a very specific level of dumb, and I have a hard time believing that a significant percent of shareholders would fall into that narrow band.
I don't like it either, but given just how profoundly fucked up the (major) investment and credit industry is in the United States, I can't quite reject this reasoning outright either. (We have over a decade of horrible investment paradigms to blame for the recession as proof of that.)

I'm being cynical, yes, but I have other reasons.

For one, Big Media has never been the most forward-thinking industry, especially where technology is involved.
Remember back when CD burners were going to kill music? Or WAYYY back when VCRs were going to kill the film industry?
Remember how neither of those things actually happened? And yet somehow, that distrustful customer-fearing attitude never disappeared; it just kept shifting from one boogeyman to the next even when separated by decades.

That's the kind of attitude of fear we're dealing with. It's that attitude that spawned autocrat "watchdog" organizations like the RIAA and MPAA....speaking of.

Secondly, I think it's influence from those kinds of media "watchdog" organizations that spurred AAA game publishers to engage in their present-day "Us vs Them" attitude towards their customers. Because I'd like to think no sane company wants to deliberately piss off their source of business...not without injecting some insanity, i.e. 'Not without "good" reason'...or at least, something that SOUNDS like good reason to an insane person.
If that sounds like circular logic...it is, but that's kinda the point.

Fear is self-perpetuating; it must be because THIS SOMEHOW KEEPS HAPPENING.
Companies keep pushing for DRM even where it does no good for anyone.

(Technically, it's happening again TODAY with the advent and distribution of home-3D printers, though admittedly that scare hasn't been nearly as widespread as DVD-R, CD-R, or VCR were.)
I was going to say the same. Sure, the reason doesn't make sense when you're a smart, rational person that can use deductive reasoning. The thing is, I don't think we are talking about people like that here. And it only takes one person like that, and not a "significant percent" if that person holds like 10-20% of the stock at a minimum.