DRM, or why publishers want you to pirate their games

It seems that video game publishers seem very confident in their selves. While the rest of the market is suffering loses due to the current recession, the video game market boasts over a 40% growth. Anyone with any sort of taste in games knows that this is both good and bad; good that the video game industry continues to rise in hard times, but bad that it did so in a year when there was not such a wide selection for high-quality games. The biggest offender to this confidence, however, is the video game industry’s crusade to “fight” piracy, which could accurately be compared to trying to hunt down every terrorist in the world (good luck).

It all started with with BioShock. The Digital Rights Media has always had their hand in trying to protect digital media from being pirated (and rightfully so), but it was always inevitable to actually believe that there is a fool-proof method to do so. Thus entered a new age of protection from piracy, the draconian version of SecuROM that decided what it wanted to do with the game you rightfully bought with your dinero. This was, of course, at the behest and assurance that it was “necessary.” 2k Games learned really quick when the SecuROM that shipped with BioShock caused a stir not only within the gaming community, but with actual customers, who found themselves locked out of the game they owned, was actually a terrible idea.

Ironically, the attempt to dissuade piracy only provoked it. If you wanted to play the game without the worry that it would shut down or lock you out or affect your computer in some other way, then the safe bet was to pirate the game. So with all that’s said and done, we can see just how well the draconian version of SecuROM prevented piracy so well. One can only imagine how much money was wasted in the process to distribute it to all box copies and then only have to remove it later.

Apparently, however, the video game market was determined to continue to be idiotic. Thus we enter another power-hitting publisher in the industry, EA, who also thought that not only was the draconian version of SecuROM that originally shipped with BioShock a good idea, but that perhaps they could up the ante by making it even more restrictive. Despite the amount of worry the gaming community and gaming media generated, EA stuck to their guns and was sure there were going to be no problems with the version of SecuROM that originally shipped with Spore. Of course, we all know what followed: over 2,000 reviews that blasted Spore on Amazon.com, followed by EA threatening to ban people that complained about SecuROM. So when lawsuits start knocking on EA’s door or Spore has a 1:1 ratio to bought to pirated games, EA acts surprised.

Excuse my language, but I have to express how fucking idiotic EA is. Yes, I most certainly do think the language is warranted in this situation. Here is this phenomenon that has struck the industry from the likes we have never seen. Legitimate customers (including me) were infected by this malware. Some people even had to replace their CD drives because SecuROM had screwed them up beyond repair (which also happened to me). And we still have people trying to bring lawsuits against EA. The very fact that this is happening is absolutely disgusting. If there was ever a law in according to business ethnics that would decree that violation of that law would incite the immediate termination of that said person’s employment, then I can think of no better person to receive such an honor than John Riccitiello.

And you would think that after all the hell SecuROM has been through in the gaming industry that video game publishers would have learned by now. Then I found this little gem. Yeah, apparently Microsoft thought it would be a good idea for the SecuROM version on Gears of War for the PC to stop the game from working yesterday. People that wish to continue to play the game have to reset their computer’s clocks to an earlier date in order to play the game they legitimately own.

If a publisher ever wonders why their games are being pirated, perhaps they should check in a mirror for the sheer amount of arrogance that is emanating from their talking head. Perhaps when they want to start to treat their customers like people instead of criminals, then perhaps they will stop becoming ones in order to enjoy the product they have bought.

Originally written: February 2009

About Agamemnon
Started blogging back in 2007 amidst that whole Hellgate: London fiasco on a blog known as flagshipped.com. Eventually moved on to do my own thing in December 2008 at gameriot.com and started Caveat Emptor there. Wrote there for six months, gained some notoriety, and then left. Now I'm back.

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