Tuesday, November 8th 2011

Are The Days Of DRM Numbered?

The Techdirt article below will not please the big content industries making today's games, movies and music, or anyone who believes that they need to protect their content from so-called "pirates" and "thieves" (copying isn't stealing, but many haven't seen the memo) to control distribution so that they can squeeze the hapless customer for every penny they can get. Good Old Games www.gog.com have been up and running since 2008 and they're proving that locking up content with anti-consumer DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) is pointless and counterproductive. It's even more pointless when you consider just how quickly every scheme out there is cracked, often within a day or two and a week is a long time in most cases.

I have republished this Techdirt article, because I believe that we are at a turning point in time with content delivery. We will start to see some new triple-A content released that is unencumbered by pathetic DRM schemes which treat their customers like criminals, inconveniencing and annoying them in the process. Over time, this would become the norm, with all new premium content being released without DRM, treating customers like regular human beings instead of criminals. Wouldn't it be nice to buy the latest games such as Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 without any DRM shackles? It would be fantastic and the games houses would sell just as much if not more without DRM, regardless of the many unauthorised copies knocking around the internet.

So, why are DRM's days numbered? Because the sales numbers speak for themselves, as GOG will announce at the London Games Conference on 10th November. For example, since music has gone DRM-free, sales have only increased, despite all the "piracy" going on and pathetic, untrue laments by the RIAA & MPAA that "piracy" is "decimating" the music & movie industries. GOG has gone from strength to strength, with their primary mission statement being not to put DRM in any of their products, as point 3 in their about page says:
You buy it, you keep it.

Don't let your DRMs turn into nightmares (clever, no?). You won't find any intrusive copy protection in our games; we hate draconian DRM schemes just as much as you do, so at GOG.com you don't just buy the game, you actually own it. Once you download a game, you can install it on any PC and re-download it whenever you want, as many times as you need, and you can play it without an internet connection.
Not only this, but all their products are available worldwide at one price and without irritating DRM-enforced "release windows" for various regions – Steam, are you listening?

Crucially, Techdirt don’t put any copyright restrictions on any of their content (they have stated this in some of their blogs and there's no copyright notice anywhere on the site) so anyone is free to republish it. The company behind Techdirt is Floor64 which is run by Mike Masnick, who writes most of the articles on Techdirt. For some info on them, here's Floor 64's about page and here's a useful Wikipedia article on GOG.

The Techdirt article, written by Zachary Knight:


Despite Publisher Apprehension, Good Old Games Proves A Market For Old DRM-Free Games Exists

In preparation for the London Game Conference, Edge Magazine spoke with Guillaume Rambourg about the path Good Old Games has taken on DRM and what other game companies can learn from it. While Rambourg was light on the details of just what he will be speaking on at the conference, he remains confident that other publishers can learn from GOG's experiment with The Witcher 2.

"I will be sharing the sales numbers on GOG compared to the competition. I think the numbers will speak for themselves, what DRM-free sales of even a triple-A title can achieve. Our values are universal and they don't only apply to older content. They apply to triple-A, day-one releases."

I certainly look forward to learning more about what this experience has to show other developers but I am glad he still leaves plenty to glean from this interview. He continues by explaining that publishers have always had the ability to do exactly what GOG is doing, but they refused to do it, citing unreasonable expenses for low returns. In the early days of GOG, they were met with animosity from publishers over the idea of releasing older games. These publishers didn't want to dedicate time and resources to preparing these games to run on modern computers. They figured it was a losing strategy.

This is something that I have observed over the years. Very few PC game companies have released older games for any price. This led to the creation of a number of abandonware and warez websites. These sites have made available a good number of unauthorized games to the public. GOG specifically took notice of this and has actually used those sites to its advantage.

"When we sign content for GOG, we contact abandonware websites and make them our affiliates. So they remove the illegal content, and instead they put a GOG banner and they direct sales and traffic to us. Step by step, we are cleaning up the market and we are making the back catalogue segment a visible, and viable, market for the industry.

This is a winning strategy. I have been to a number of these sites in the past and have observed that most of the well respected sites have policies in place to remove games that are available through legal channels and even link to that legal content when it is available. Not only does this build confidence in the abandonware site, it also builds a positive attitude toward the publisher that makes these games available.

The idea of releasing older games is a proposition that only recently took hold with most publishers. A lot of it had to do with GOG and Nintendo's Virtual Console. Prior to these two platforms, most of the work done in bringing older games to modern machines was done by the fan community through the use of emulators and cracks. Most of those efforts were either ignored or attacked by the industry. Now that the experiment has been proven a success in most avenues, I would hope that game publishers will see value in bringing their older games back. The gamers want it. The publishers just need to provide it. Not only will this move provide more legal content for the fans of the games, it will also bring in more revenue that did not exist before.
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34 Comments on Are The Days Of DRM Numbered?

#1
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
In a word: no. Most people hate it, but publishers still love it. Not only love it, they think they must to survive. No-DRM/online-distribution model means the complete exclusion of publishers from the market. Publishers are doing whatever they can to prevent from being excluded. In the case of games, that's buying out developers forcing them to use DRM and their online-distribution models. The game industry will be the last to move away from DRM because they already built a fortress around preserving it.


GoG sells games publishers don't care a lick about anymore. That is, they feel they milked that cash cow for all it's worth and largely, they are correct. It isn't necessarily the DRM that is driving sales there, but the old titles that are nearly impossible to buy today without spending a fortune on what are now collectible items.
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#2
LAN_deRf_HA
It's been obvious since Spore that DRM hurts profits on both ends. Negative perception from the inconveniencing of law abiding consumers leads to lost sales and increased pirating. Then there's the cost of licensing it. Considering it takes about 15 minutes or less to defeat a DRM scheme it has been utterly pointless from day one. All this information has been available and well known by consumers, but it doesn't matter.

The people who make the decision to include DRM are either A) convinced they need it, which is no surprise because they don't know jack shit about whats going on at ground level - or B) Getting some sort of personal under the table bonus from Sony, great proprietor of rootkits. Either way nothing will change because of yet another article highlighting it's pointlessness.
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#3
Neuromancer
Didnt you just have a news article saying that sony is going to start limiting game installs to 2 machines total. That kinda of contradicts this one.
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#4
Kreij
Senior Monkey Moderator
If you keep up with the latest occurances in the gaming industry, you will find that they contradict themselves on almost a daily basis.
This article is interesting insight into the DRM issue, but is simply a snapshot of what is happening today.
Posted on Reply
#5
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
by: FordGT90Concept
In a word: no. Most people hate it, but publishers still love it. Not only love it, they think they must to survive. No-DRM/online-distribution model means the complete exclusion of publishers from the market. Publishers are doing whatever they can to prevent from being excluded. In the case of games, that's buying out developers forcing them to use DRM and their online-distribution models. The game industry will be the last to move away from DRM because they already built a fortress around preserving it.


GoG sells games publishers don't care a lick about anymore. That is, they feel they milked that cash cow for all it's worth and largely, they are correct. It isn't necessarily the DRM that is driving sales there, but the old titles that are nearly impossible to buy today without spending a fortune on what are now collectible items.
I tend to agree with you, about them flogging old stuff, hence DRM "isn't necessary". However the point is that gog are proving the necessity of DRM to be a fallacy. I've checked out The Witcher 2 and it's going for £25, a fairly premium price here in the UK. The Techdirt article said that their experiment with this title had been a success.

And of course you're 200% right about the old guard trying to use DRM to keep the old business models alive. As Masnick himself said way back in 2007, DRM cannot open new business models, only contain them in An Economic Explanation For Why DRM Cannot Open Up New Business Model Opportunities.

by: Neuromancer
Didnt you just have a news article saying that sony is going to start limiting game installs to 2 machines total. That kinda of contradicts this one.
Well, that's Sony being retarded again, innit? :laugh: With all these vested high-powered interests trying to keep the old way alive, the process sure ain't gonna be smooth, I can tell you.

by: Kreij
If you keep up with the latest occurances in the gaming industry, you will find that they contradict themselves on almost a daily basis.
This article is interesting insight into the DRM issue, but is simply a snapshot of what is happening today.
It certainly is a snapshot, but as DRM-free is proven to be successful, the hope is that there will be a general shift away from the evils of DRM. This is a true watch-this-space situation.
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#6
Kreij
Senior Monkey Moderator
DRM does not have to be evil, it has just evolved into that.

Many years ago, when you bought a game it came with a manual (that's a book of lore and/or instructions for someone who's never seen one) and something like a code wheel. At points in the game, the game would stop and make you reference the wheel which would direct you to somewhere in the manual to type in what the game wanted to continue. This was not the first DRM, but it was an early version. This was reasonably effective as you needed a copy of the code wheel and the entire manual to play the game.

People would then take the time to copy the manual and code wheel so they could play the game if they had a copied version. This was a fair amount of work to accomplish even with copiers.

The companys' then started printing code sheets and the like using colors that were very hard to copy without a very accurate color copier. This ended when every copier in the world could accurately distinguish between brown and rust.

These methods of DRM were actually more effective, because the person copying the game had to resort to physical labor to get all the information to play the game to someone else.

Alas, the cost of the code wheels and manuals was too much for the publishers so they went to digital DRM (which they also have to pay for) which is a hella lot easier to defeat.

This is what has led us to always-on internet and other methods to detect a copied version of the game. It is a self defeating proposition but one that will remain in effect for the forseeable future. The advent of digital DRM has made it EASIER to copy games than the earlier implentation that used something physical to try to prevent it.
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#7
Mussels
Moderprator
personally, i want to get back to the days where you only needed a valid CD key in your account to prove you owned the game.


no software based DRM on your machine, just a quick check online by signing into an account you previously put the key into.
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#8
Kreij
Senior Monkey Moderator
I would like to go back to a method that does not require an internet connetion at all.
Popping in the original disk was fine with me. If you are so unorganized or irresponsible that you can't find your disk(s) or take such poor care of them that they get trashed, then you're just SOL.
Posted on Reply
#9
Mussels
Moderprator
by: Kreij
I would like to go back to a method that does not require an internet connetion at all.
Popping in the original disk was fine with me. If you are so unorganized or irresponsible that you can't find your disk(s) or take such poor care of them that they get trashed, then you're just SOL.
company of heroes had that right.


if you had the disk, you could play offline. if you were online, you logged in and didnt need the disk.


it was imperfect because any old pirate could use deamon tools or its kin and mount an ISO, and bypass the disk check.
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#10
LAN_deRf_HA
Remember Oblivion? That didn't even ask for a key. Just checked for a DVD.... Then again everyone I knew passed the same dvd around and just downloaded the no-dvd patch.
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#11
Easy Rhino
Linux Advocate
DRM-free will not prove to be successful until the world runs on rainbows and gumdrops.
Posted on Reply
#12
Kreij
Senior Monkey Moderator
I understand that a simple disk check is not perfect, but nothing else is perfect either.
I don't want to be shackled to the internet to play my SP games.
Posted on Reply
#13
Easy Rhino
Linux Advocate
by: Kreij
I understand that a simple disk check is not perfect, but nothing else is perfect either.
I don't want to be shackled to the internet to play my SP games.
that's because you still have dial-up speeds. the days are coming where everyone will always be connected to a high speed connection and then think of the repercussions...
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#14
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
by: qubit
I tend to agree with you, about them flogging old stuff, hence DRM "isn't necessary". However the point is that gog are proving the necessity of DRM to be a fallacy. I've checked out The Witcher 2 and it's going for £25, a fairly premium price here in the UK. The Techdirt article said that their experiment with this title had been a success.
Playing devil's advocate: I would argue that the Witcher 2 DRM model failed because they breached the security landscape by having a DRM free Russian release of the game that was compatible with all DRM-inclusive versions of the game released in North America and Europe. Not only that, but the very first patch (1.1) they released only a week after the game hit the shelves removed the DRM from all versions of the game. It's a classic flip-flop and hardly representative of the industry at large.


by: Mussels
no software based DRM on your machine, just a quick check online by signing into an account you previously put the key into.
You're screwed if you don't have internet, have a metered internet, or your internet connection is flaky.

I'd rather go back to the days where computer games were new and exciting and people weren't thinking about piracy at all.
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#15
Arctucas
Likely the days of DRM are numbered.

Unfortunately, that number might exceed the lifetime of any member of this forum.

In my opinion, there is only one way to convince the publishers to eliminate DRM; money.

By money, I mean the lack of it, as in; no sales.

I realize very few will give up their entertainment in order to regain their rights, but I believe that is the only way.

Also, Oblivion (at least the Shivering Isles expansion) installed SecuRom, but you could always uninstall SecuRom, and the game still ran fine.
Posted on Reply
#16
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
by: Arctucas
Likely the days of DRM are numbered.

Unfortunately, that number might exceed the lifetime of any member of this forum.

In my opinion, there is only one way to convince the publishers to eliminate DRM; money.

By money, I mean the lack of it, as in; no sales.

I realize very few will give up their entertainment in order to regain their rights, but I believe that is the only way.

Also, Oblivion (at least the Shivering Isles expansion) installed SecuRom, but you could always uninstall SecuRom, and the game still ran fine.
Totally +1 on the bold bit. And I can't claim to be so pure in that respect either, because I've spent a small fortune on Steam games (and still going).

Re money: that's the point of the article. DRM-free hot content eg The Witcher 2 can sell for significant money and turn a tidy profit, all without DRM. Then, DRM infected titles will start selling less and less. Hopefully.
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#17
marcthpro
by: LAN_deRf_HA
Remember Oblivion? That didn't even ask for a key. Just checked for a DVD.... Then again everyone I knew passed the same dvd around and just downloaded the no-dvd patch.
still didnt' stop them to make thousand of sales on pc market it perhap even sold more then on console via steam but that uncertain they still have plenty of money

Fallout new vegas Use Steamwork but yet can be Cracked Easily / Fallout 3 & GotY Which ad GFWL which everyone hate could be crack in the similar way

So if Betheseda softwork manage to make that much money despite piracy ? perhap Good Old Game idea of making ubisoft and other to drop DRM is the right way to go

But i do remember that CD Projekt RED STUDIO did blame the piracy for profit loss in The Witcher 1 cause they found it was hugely download (in the top 100 most download game)

but yet as they claim The Witcher II to have DRM for non good old game studio / impulse they removed it nearly 2 week after with a performances patch claiming : DRM is not the way to go

I certainly hope this abolish Draconian Ubisoft U-play Massive DRM which write in ToS Stay online with Zero Packet Loss internet or GTFO Of our Game
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#18
Steven B
if there is no DRM i wouldn't buy games. Right now you can basically get a pirate copy, but its hard to work and install and actually work. But if that was made easier then i wouldn't buy BFBC2 or MOH id download it for free. That is the truth for most people.

i do buy my games BTW, just b/c i don't want the hassle.
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#19
marcthpro
I buy all my games that worth really it : expect elder Scroll Oblivion for PC because i already own the Xbox 360 Retail Version Since it release with 2/4 of it DLC. didn't want to pay the big price again rather buy something else like Fallout 3 + DLC which i didn't own but lately they try to Limit the resales value of ur console game those big greedy corporation by put a one-time code where it not needed and that code is not reusable for another Xbox 360 / Ps3

If You could purchase ur game for all System at one time for a little premium price like 5-10$ i would do that so you own the right for PS3/360/PC Via Digital Download Forever then that be a revolutionary concept

But as far im aware it not gonna happen any soon if you want a game for both system you buy it twice. dividing ur friendlist and funds for other games waiting to be try : Because it hard to sell a Retail copy of Used PC game at affordable price

This could explain they P2P which is = Piracy as some of my friend do P2P Game as Demo if they like the game they buy it tough sometime they only buy it when in sales lol so the company make money of you anyway

If there Game that really worth our money so far it indie studio they from 2.50$ Sales to 19.99$ and some offer great online like Dungeon defender :P while other Great solo Like Bastion if with our money they can make more game :)

Drm indeed act as a Barrier so people want to get the game but to get but the out of the DRM barrier because the DRM Like Always online they Crack the game because DRM is self is Close to totally ineffective for the solo-gameplay aspect you can always p2p it

as soon you go online there always a kind of DRM called Cd-key how ever there not DRM because there not installing to ur system some Rootkit or Install Limitation there just access code for a legitimate purchase of a game and i agree with cd-key but not with stay-online DRM & the Limited installation DRM without a Revoke Tool (To Re-use the same key infinitely)
Posted on Reply
#20
xenocide
by: Steven B
if there is no DRM i wouldn't buy games. Right now you can basically get a pirate copy, but its hard to work and install and actually work. But if that was made easier then i wouldn't buy BFBC2 or MOH id download it for free. That is the truth for most people.

i do buy my games BTW, just b/c i don't want the hassle.
That is the worst logic I've ever heard. You're basically using the same shit logic the MPAA and RIAA are using. Saying that because it is available for free, so everyone will use that method, just isn't true. I have no issues buying music, movies, and games that I enjoy, but I definitely don't like having to jump through hoops and sit through anti-piracy warnings when I did buy them.

I liken the Anti-Piracy movement to the Anti-Smoking movement at this point. Nobody is really on the fence about the legality of downloading movies, music, and games, just like nobody is really still unsure if smoking is bad for you. But here's the thing, no matter what, people are still going to do it. Punishing those that agree with you because of the actions of those that do not, DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.
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#21
marcthpro
by: xenocide
That is the worst logic I've ever heard. You're basically using the same shit logic the MPAA and RIAA are using. Saying that because it is available for free, so everyone will use that method, just isn't true. I have no issues buying music, movies, and games that I enjoy, but I definitely don't like having to jump through hoops and sit through anti-piracy warnings when I did buy them.

I liken the Anti-Piracy movement to the Anti-Smoking movement at this point. Nobody is really on the fence about the legality of downloading movies, music, and games, just like nobody is really still unsure if smoking is bad for you. But here's the thing, no matter what, people are still going to do it. Punishing those that agree with you because of the actions of those that do not, DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.
I agree with you on that matter tough when i was very young i used to Pirate all my game it was free and every friend did it : now most of my friend but there game so do i

tough lot still do it : I buy them specially if there online Feature that worth it so you get a Valid Cd-key = online play-ability
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#22
Steven B
i am sorry if the truth hurts.
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#23
TRWOV
I must say that GOG is another kind of animal. The catalog is composed of games that publishers weren't making money off anyway so whatever they can get from GOG is good to them.
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#24
wolf
Performance Enthusiast
Isn't it a fact that every single game DRM that has been used has been cracked or circumvented? shouldn't that tell them everything they need to know....

you know the saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"? well, it's broke.
Posted on Reply
#25
m4gicfour
by: Steven B
if there is no DRM i wouldn't buy games. Right now you can basically get a pirate copy, but its hard to work and install and actually work. But if that was made easier then i wouldn't buy BFBC2 or MOH id download it for free. That is the truth for most people.

i do buy my games BTW, just b/c i don't want the hassle.
That's because you're a douche.

You're the same kind of person who gets laid off every year and works, collecting Social Security (where available) while getting paid under the table, and brags about it to those of us who declare our income, and pay our taxes. You're so damn proud about getting something for free that you forget that the person you're bragging to is paying, and paying more to cover your share so you can have your illegal free ride.
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