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)
 

bdcjacko

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I miss the old days of drm when you had to look up a code in the game manwell.
 

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.
 

Something Amyss

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Oh God, I can hear it now. The cries of #notallDRM and those demanding ethics in DRM journalism. I mean, he said DRM is over, and what else can it mean but that DRM is literally over?

Okay, a more serious note for a moment. DRM is like Batman. Yes, that was serious. Batman often operates by making sure his image is bigger than the man. Batman uses the superstition of criminals to keep them in place in a way no amount of kung fu and Batarangs can.

DRM is the same, but for securing shareholders. Shareholders are dumb panicky animals who can break a big company. And yes, whether we like it or not, when they have that kind of power, they get appeased. So, in deference to the magical thinking of the guys who have the companies by the short hairs, we get DRM. I don't know if the higher ups think it works, but I don't think it matters. The people with influence demand something, and are in a position to walk and take their ball. It doesn't matter if DRM is Batman or Darkwing Duck. The power is in the belief. It has become more than a program to them.

And I know some people are wondering why they matter and we don't. Well, the consumer has proved time and again that we are more than happy to be little more than wallets on legs, little money-conveying devices. We pre-order, we rage. We see bullshots, we rage. We discover DRM, we rage. We see bad games, we rage. We see DLC, we rage. And then we do it all again, lather, rinse repeat. The consumer acts like an addict, so there isn't even a conflict. We'll keep buying with DRM. Investors won't keep investing without it.

And that's how we gave up our power in the equation for a series of quick hits. Wait, this was a Batman comparison. Something something Batman, something something night.
 

ZippyDSMlee

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Hopefully the poor sales for the games with newest DRM will show them that DRM is pointless. But I doubt it....
 

Veylon

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Sigmund Av Volsung said:
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.
Oh God Why?

Okay, I can understand that you need to know such things existed, once upon a time. As in, they can be briefly mentioned in the foreword to "Introduction to Computers". Casettes are still sometimes used to back up massive data files and then salted away in abandoned salt mines so that companies can resurrect their databases after Armageddon hits.

But those things shouldn't go together. The "DRM is good" side should only be acknowledged as an exercise in creative thinking or (again) letting students know it's out there, not something that aspiring hands-on programmers should be told is a valid point of view.
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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Always Online DRM such as Steam and Origin are probably the better way to go. uPlay doesn't count because it actively prevents you from playing games, just like (bad) DRM.

I wonder, how much do they pay for the DRM to ensure the first few healthy week(s) of sales?
 

Fdzzaigl

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Stupid but yet "learned" people believing DRM works is pretty much the answer. I too had a college professor (marketing) trying to teach me how the reported piracy numbers equal an equivalent number of lost sales.

He had also written in his coursebook how companies would find answers to piracy through DRM solutions. Even though he wasn't completely positive about these things he wholly believed they would offer perfect protection in the end.

What do you do when you know better than a guy like that but he asks you questions about it on your exam? You shut up your inner protest and give the coursebook answer. Luckily I didn't get that particular question however.

The problem is that guys like that belong to the marketing and PR world and keep running circles inside that world, ultimately reaching the same conclusions over and over. It's not unreasonable to see how most major shareholders and big companies keep being informed by their own little inner circles where the same stories keep running loops. In fact, all the news points towards the top brass in most sectors being utterly detached from reality.
 

gamegod25

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The problem is they are that willfully ignorant and in complete denial that DRM is ultimately useless. How many times have you seen someone demand to use only brand name products or even one specific brand because they KNOW it's better even if the generic stuff is exactly the same? They don't care if there is no proof that the stuff works better because they KNOW it is and that's all that matter. These companies have drunk the DRM kool-aid and will keep using it till we pry it from their cold, dead hands. They have their fingers in their ears and humming as loud as they can to drown out anyone who might suggest otherwise.
 

Ugicywapih

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Actually, if anything, I'd say that so long as the success of this Denuvo thing can be attributed to technological advancement rather than lack of interest in the previous titles it was being attached to, it could possibly mean DRM efficiency overall is improving.
The idea, as I see it, could be that as a given class technologically advanced of items enters the market, be it computer hardware, computer programs, vehicles, communication devices or anything of the sort, the invention in its earliest stages may be something that despite a novel idea isn't so complex as to require a large workforce, with many early breakthroughs being made by individuals or independent companies, whereas as the product evolves, its complexity increases and so does the effort and cost required to maintain cutting edge R&D, meaning that manufacturing of established "classes" of technologically advanced products will be dominated by large companies rather than indies and individuals. With this in mind, one could be led to conclude, that despite the inherently asymmetrical relationship between effort inherent in creating DRM and cracking it, as DRM grows more complex and involved, crackers might hit a glass ceiling of sorts, as they are most likely not able to establish a business model necessary to maintain a large, stable workforce and, their activity in itself being illegal, are unable to start official companies or other legal entities, meaning it would be harder for crackers (and possibly impossible, at a level necessary to counter sufficiently advanced DRM industry) to organize themselves.
So, in summary, it seems excusable for one to think, that if software industry allows DRM to feed off of it for long enough, it'll grow to become an efficient watchdog, rather than an ugly parasite.

This, of course, overlooks a number of important facts:
-Crackers, I imagine, are generally quite tech savvy. While lack of financial compensation might be something of an issue, if things escalate far enough, organizing themselves over the net didn't pose much of a problem so far.
-Information exchange is an issue. While tech companies may try to maintain proprietary information, it will sooner or later either leak in some way or other, or the relevant solution will be discovered independently - either by crackers or scientists who will publish their findings for peer review. Also, I imagine at least some crackers aren't quite as meticulous as tech companies about data security, meaning that while each such tech company works in a fairly isolated environment, there will be at least basic information exchange on cracking DRM on a worldwide scale.
-There's still, as the article notes, no proof successful DRM increases sales. It may entice a few people who would have otherwise pirated the game, but it might just as well scare off other customers. And that's because...
-If DRM grows too complex to break, it's got to be really bloody complex. This means it'll most likely end up bigger, more unstable and it'll likely put more of a load on the CPU. I wouldn't be surprised if it was also getting more closely entwined with the program it's supposed to protect, making creation of a DRMless version by the publisher (I think this happened a few times before with publishers trying to get their games on GoG, right? Or am I just imagining things?) increasingly troublesome.
-DRM is, in this light, capable of providing an uncertain return in the future, but the current expenses are very real. Even if a company plans to take advantage of it once, and if, it reaches a point where it's capable of generating profit for the creator of protected content, it makes no sense to implement it right now. The way capitalism works, you do what makes you profit. DRM may make profit in the future but does not do so right now? Fine, let the other guys bother with it, you should release DRM-free games until the extra expenses become financially justifiable.

So, I can justify DRM, I guess, in a way, but not without some effort and it still falls apart upon closer examination. Game publishers' CEOs may not always be very tech savvy, but neither am I (and they probably have better aides), so I must assume they have other reasons for including DRM. As for what those reasons are? I can only wonder...

Illuminati?

Edit: A factor here might be, that for all I know, DRM likely has merit in non-gaming software industry, where software prices are higher, sales are lower, companies are not allowed to take initiative on cracking, at least officially, and most individuals don't care enough to try. So maybe gaming industry is trying to chase the non-gaming software in this case? Darned if I know.
 

Seneschal

Blessed are the righteous
Jun 27, 2009
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I think DAI has an additional layer of "soft DRM" that hasn't (yet) been cracked - you must use the default world state if you're playing a pirated copy, since you need Origin to access the Dragon Age Keep (in which you pick choices from DAO and DA2 which could influence your DAI campaign, like who you sided with, what quests you did, whom you romanced, etc.).

So, in essence, DAI had triple protection - Denuvo, Origin, and the Keep. The first two have been soundly defeated in a month, and I don't think the Keep will last much longer; Mass Effect had "save editors" with which you could mod your character's appearance and tick/untick "plot flags" regarding choices from previous ME games. The Keep is pretty much that, except for 300+ plot flags.

Still, the Keep doesn't hamper legitimate users - they can experience every facet of DAI without having to play through the previous two games, and even if they don't feel like tinkering with the keep, they can play the default world state. It doesn't affect the game's functionality, it gives a boon to players willing to play around with it, and it serves as an incentive to buy the game instead of pirate it. A much more agreeable DRM scheme, though a bit dependent on BioWare's long-running-RPG-series-with-choices format.
 

Tarfeather

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Shamus 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.
This quote made my day. It's just like the fact that most "investors" are probably smart enough to realize that they need skilled workers, but not smart enough to pump large amounts of money into an overally good education system which would produce those skilled workers. Yes, they are a very specific level of dumb.. The kind of dumb where whatever harassment you apply to human beings is irrelevant, but getting a few extra dollars because you managed to harass your customers into buying your game is totally worth it.
 

hermes

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You kind of answer point 4 with your last paragraph: Why don't developers patch the game to remove DRM? Because, as well as including a DRM solution costs money, time and effort, taking it out also costs time, money and effort for developers. While it might be negligible, why would a company assign resources to patch a game that is no longer giving them money?

And about point 3, while I agree shareholders are not genre savvy enough to know the minutia about DRM, most people involved in the business are genre savvy enough to know piracy is a big problem for PC games. They can push the issue of fighting piracy to the board, and they, in turn, push it to the project managers (or maybe the concern originates from the board, which are often not savvy enough to know the minutia about DRM either). While saying "we know it is unsuccessful, so we will not include any technology whatsoever to prevent even the most basic level of protection from piracy" may sound nice for the clients, it turns all kinds of red flags for people that want some level of protection to their investment, no matter how hard you try to tell them it will be, eventually, futile. Even a thin shield is better than no shield at all...
 

Sigmund Av Volsung

Hella noided
Dec 11, 2009
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Veylon said:
Sigmund Av Volsung said:
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.
Oh God Why?

Okay, I can understand that you need to know such things existed, once upon a time. As in, they can be briefly mentioned in the foreword to "Introduction to Computers". Casettes are still sometimes used to back up massive data files and then salted away in abandoned salt mines so that companies can resurrect their databases after Armageddon hits.

But those things shouldn't go together. The "DRM is good" side should only be acknowledged as an exercise in creative thinking or (again) letting students know it's out there, not something that aspiring hands-on programmers should be told is a valid point of view.
^why AQA are idiots.

All of my friends that actually want to become programmers are doing it solo: self-teaching through online courses and just programming for the sake of programming. The actual course is terrible.
 

Las7

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Piracy is a big problem for any type of media - sometimes it's overlooked but console games are also heavily pirated and there is a second hand market for games on consoles that also gets overlooked.
The difference is companies can track number of people downloading a torrent, they can't track individuals in none-developed countries who make pirated copies of console games and sell them for a $1 each. Current Gen consoles haven't been jailbroken yet, but I'd bet you that older generation of games of consoles were heavily pirated. I remember seeing thousands upon thousands of pirated copies of games while I was on Holiday in Thailand.
Also piracy is not considered a crime outside of developed countries, it's usually monetizing piracy that's the crime. Example - Pirate Bay(and other similar sites) are making thousand of dollars through ad space but aren't making money out of the actual property itself thus it's difficult to sue a Search Site when literally ten others will pop up if you remove it.

The problem is that publishers of intellectual property also forget that piracy is a natural occurrence. Whether it's China coping patented products and making cheaper alternatives, Tomas Edison outright stealing other people's inventions etc. Monetizing and protecting intellectual property will always be a problem and certain people will never pay for something they could get for free. Imagine 3D printers in a few years being capable of creating a variety of devices which you would otherwise have to buy - it's not stealing per say but in the end the actual design of a physical object will be more important than the actual object itself. If you could "download" a car, I would venture to guess that majority of people would "download" the car as opposed to buying it. Those anti pirating ads were always funny - if we could download a bunch of physical objects - obviously we would do it because it's more convenient and likely less expensive.

In developed countries it's more of a problem of distribution and ease of use. There are certain people who won't pay for intellectual property no matter it's cost if it's possible to get it for free. Others simply prefer to be able to purchasing a product as easy as getting a pirated copy of the product. Steam has made a lot of headway in both the way it distributes the content but also being able to price it correctly to make people who otherwise would not buy it actually purchase it. It's why Steam is a DRM that works but if each publisher has it's own Steam type store front - Steam will no longer work because you would have 10-20-100 different types of DRMs that would required to be installed on your gaming computer.
Steam is also a platform that's creating the right type of environment to cultivate long term users of their platform in areas where there is a lot of growth. Right now Russia/Brazil/Philippines/China etc people might not have enough capital to be anywhere near as important for developers as potential markets. But given time economic realities might change, similarly to how World Wide markets have become hugely important in determining the success of Movies. Gaming is a far more expensive hobby but over time with the correct approach these markets will become increasingly important.
 

ryukage_sama

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Wouldn't a post-launch patch have much the same problem with lacking support years after a game is released? This could work if copies of the game that are sold later already have the updated software, but that would require printing a 2nd edition of the game shortly after its initial release.
 

Shamus Young

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ZippyDSMlee said:
Hopefully the poor sales for the games with newest DRM will show them that DRM is pointless. But I doubt it....
I really want to see the sales data. It's an interesting piece but the no data = no noticeable spike in sales assumption bugs me.
 

shirkbot

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Zachary Amaranth said:
Well that's lovely, but then what do you actually propose we do about it? The information is out there, how do we spread it? Because the way I see it we need to either convince more people to actually pay attention to DRM, or try to convince devs to never go on the stock market so they never have to deal with investors that have no idea what they're talking about. There must be something we can do, even if it's small, because things have to start somewhere.
 

Something Amyss

Aswyng and Amyss
Dec 3, 2008
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shirkbot said:
Well that's lovely, but then what do you actually propose we do about it?
Since the thigns you suggest are implicit within my post, I'm not sure if you're serious or not with this question.

But the honest answer is I really don't freaking care.

Res Plus said:
I really want to see the sales data. It's an interesting piece but the no data = no noticeable spike in sales assumption bugs me.
Not sure it matters. In one month, DAI has managed more than half the lifetime sales of DA2. Fifa 15 is about 2 million shy of the 16 million combined units FIFA 14 sold. Now, these numbers come from VG Chartz and don't include sales Data from Steam, but PC ports tend to be treated as an afterthought anyway.

Besides, there are many factors in game sales, anyway. Even if there was a spike, it doesn't mean it has anything to do with DRM.
 
Dec 10, 2012
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It's over, man, DRM is over! Thanks for ruining DRM!

Ahem, anyway... I do believe you may be underestimating how thick these people can be. Why do they keep repeating the same mistakes? Because they are incapable of learning. They have it in their heads that DRM can be perfected to stop piracy and usher in a golden age of pocket-lining, and this 'proof' of the fallacy will go right over their heads.
 

Ishigami

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I love this article, I would marry it if could.
Still I doubt DRM is going away... if anything it will be more intrusive. Publishers and developers alike want to move away from Video games being a product and make them a service.
A service is after all the ultimate form of DRM and just imagine getting paid not once but on regular basis?
 

Something Amyss

Aswyng and Amyss
Dec 3, 2008
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Ishigami said:
I love this article, I would marry it if could.
Still I doubt DRM is going away... if anything it will be more intrusive. Publishers and developers alike want to move away from Video games being a product and make them a service.
A service is after all the ultimate form of DRM and just imagine getting paid not once but on regular basis?
Services are so 1990s. Back in those awful days when greedy consumers selfishly expected companies to actually provide something in exchange for money.
 

Shamus Young

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DRM would actually make me MORE likely to pirate a game where as if a game is DRM free i'm buying it ligit. maybe Executive Assholes (EA) and Boobiesoft (Ubisoft) will get rid of Origin and Uplay.
 

DBLT4P

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Even if DRM does not actually guarantee the extra sales that companies try to justify it with, having more control is always better, even if it costs you a little on your bottom line.
 

ZippyDSMlee

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Res Plus said:
ZippyDSMlee said:
Hopefully the poor sales for the games with newest DRM will show them that DRM is pointless. But I doubt it....
I really want to see the sales data. It's an interesting piece but the no data = no noticeable spike in sales assumption bugs me.
True, I wonder if someone can bug the EFF into compiling some data.
 

Darkness665

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Good points. Having taken the time to reread your Bobby The Jerk From Activision article I don't see the industry getting better. EA is run by fools. Ubisoft, same deal. Zenimax? Well they are suing to extort money from Facebook because Carmack.

DRM is their pet dog. He is ugly, bites the kids, pees on everything and just by finally getting him to do his job for two months resulting in no measurable increase in sales. Well, its their dog. And they aren't going to give up on the dream that if they just do it right somehow their business will rocket to 20 times it current sales.

This is all based on the iPod craze, BTW. When the *AA did the math they realized that ordinary people could be walking around with thousands upon thousands of songs. In their pocket. Since they didn't buy that many the iPod must be for pirating music. WTF? It makes no sense but the *AA people don't make sense on a regular basis. Now assume a few of the MBAs littering the entertainment industries bump into each other. Soon enough the infection that was focused on music and movies has to hit the game business. And it did. The only reason it did was because gaming became big money. Big money means MBAs. While the main theory is they want to drive stockholder value the truth is there isn't an MBA that is out there to do anything beside increasing their own personal wealth. If stocks go up and they have options, great. If it makes the customers mad, so what? MBAs don't care as long as the money is still coming in. And if it isn't coming in it must be the fault of pirates.
 

IamLEAM1983

Neloth's got swag.
Aug 22, 2011
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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.
And stupid shareholders are, in turn, spawned by the erroneous notion that piracy kills the industry outright. If them dirty pirate scum so much as touch my invested I.P., my moneytubes will vanish out of the Interflux! LOCK MY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DOWN NOW!

Half of the problem is a lack of understanding of the ways in which data distribution differ from retail sales, and half of it is baseless fear. Plenty of companies have opted for a DRM-free platform and they haven't exactly been nuked out of business.
 

Signa

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shirkbot said:
Zachary Amaranth said:
Well that's lovely, but then what do you actually propose we do about it? The information is out there, how do we spread it? Because the way I see it we need to either convince more people to actually pay attention to DRM, or try to convince devs to never go on the stock market so they never have to deal with investors that have no idea what they're talking about. There must be something we can do, even if it's small, because things have to start somewhere.
Well, telling everyone in a mass group of people to change their behavior to solve an issue really isn't a solution. Getting devs and publishers to stop is a lot more feasible. Of course the shareholders are just as stupid as the masses, and they are the ones with the real power. Really, the only practical thing is to just stop buying games that have unacceptable DRM in it. It won't do much, but at least you won't have to deal with or tolerate the problems DRM adds. There's thousands of games from over the decades that you can return to without DRM if you really run out of modern games to play due to limiting yourself.
 

shiajun

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All good points and discussion, but the title is dead wrong. DRM will be over when they stop using it. Right now it's just another rotting zombie of corporate decisions stumbling around the industry.
 

Phishfood

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Well written. I also 100% agree - I've seen absolutely zero evidence that piracy can increase sales. Sure, you might be able to stop the pirates for a while but that alone has no benefit. Most pirates are from poorer countries or just jobless students and literally can't afford the current price of games. Stopping them does nothing for scoring a sale.
 

Steve the Pocket

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I had a thought. I'd kind of like to see what would happen if some DRM system managed to keep a game from being pirated until after the first major sale. You know, after the people who were interested in buying it at a discount have had a shot as well. Because right now we're only factoring in the people who are willing to pay $60 for a game. Impatience is a powerful motivator, after all, and we do know how many people go all out when the big sales come around.
 

Amir Kondori

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Ben Halstead said:
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.
These companies have known for a long time that strict DRM does not significantly impact sales in developed markets like North America. They know that their games are cracked and available to pirate typically within days of release. For many developers and publishers it is a matter of CYA, the shareholders are concerned about piracy, the management is concerned about piracy, so the rank and file have to say they are doing something and the easiest way to do that is to stick some DRM on top of your game.

For lesser known games from smaller studios piracy can even help sales. I did a quick look and can't find the article but a few years back there was an indie developer who said sales of his game shot up after it hit the piratebay.

I think Tommy Refenes covers the topic well here:
http://tommyrefenes.tumblr.com/post/45684087997/apathy-and-refunds-are-more-dangerous-than-piracy

He talks about all the things I think most of us know already. That DRM can only hurt paying customers. That draconian DRM can hamper paying customer's enjoyment of a game and kill excitement about a game. It can lead to players asking for refunds. One example used was the disastrous launch of Sim City last year, which seemed as much an experiment in preventing piracy and gaming software as a service than it did a game.

Bottom line DRM has more negatives associated with it than positives, for both developers, publishers, and gamers alike. GOG.com is always my first stop when buying games because I know I won't have to deal with any DRM when I buy titles from them. Steamworks I put up with and I think Valve would get rid of even that if they thought that publishers would get on board.
 

Tharwen

Ep. VI: Return of the turret
May 7, 2009
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The problem with removing the DRM after a couple of weeks is that it would draw attention to how easy it is to pirate the game after that point. People would be all "Oh, the DRM's gone. I guess that means they're OK with us pirating it then."
 

drivetheory

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Egosoft, the makers of those fantastic X Universe games (except Rebirth...), removes the DRM from all of their games a year or so after release.