Stardock, 2D Boy Talk Sense on DRM

In a refreshing break from the standard video game industry propaganda, a pair of maverick PC developers offer some straight talk on DRM to Gamasutra’s Paul Hyman.

Ron Carmel of 2D Boy (World of Goo) believes that the major publishers are beginning to back off on the use of DRM following consumer outrage over its use in games like Spore:

I definitely believe this is all the result of a change in the public perception of DRM, a sort of grass roots uprising. Gamers are much more vocal about it than they used to be, perhaps because they are so accustomed to downloading music without too many restrictions.

But Carmel also relates DRM to the battle over used game sales currently being waged between video game publishers and retailers:

Publishers aren’t stupid. They know that DRM doesn’t work against piracy. What they’re trying to do is stop people from going to GameStop to buy $50 games for $35, none of which goes into the publishers’ pockets. If DRM permits only a few installs, that minimizes the number of times a game can be resold.

Although, to be fair, there doesn’t appear to be much of a secondary market for PC games among retailers. Consumer-to-consumer channels like Ebay may be a different story. Brad Wardell of Stardock added:

Spore was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. Someone who buys software does not want to be made to feel like a chump for buying it.

Not surprisingly, the Entertainment Software Association, which lobbies on behalf of publishers, argued in support of DRM. VP Ric Hirsch told Gamasutra:

DRM is a reasonable response to high piracy rates… There is little doubt that piracy would be far more widespread without game publishers’ use of DRM.

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  1. Ebonheart says:

    You have missed the point, us LEGIT players hate piracy because we suffer for it. I and other do not mind having ways to limit them, BUT DO NOT PUNISH US.I don’t care if I must not only have a CD, a CD key, Limited installs, or internet connection to finish installation.

    Do not make us: Have a single install and to reinstall it on a new PC or the old PC after a reformat call the company and ask for a NEW CD KEY (EA was going to do this for Red Alert 3 Limit of 5 installs and anymore we had call EA up and buy a new CD key. Now we can deathorize)

    Don’t install a bug that watches us and our movements without our consent, (Spore did just this) or FORCE us to have a constant internet connection to play.(Spore ALMOST has this, if you didn’t have an internet connection for more than 10 days you couldn’t play.)  Or keep us from removing ALL traces of the instalation (RootKit tools anyone?)

    Don’t make games with Authentication Servers that will be shut down after X amount of time without giving gamer a way to play it after the servers are gone. (Red Alert 3 has this and EA has already stated  "once the game has lived its natural life and the risk for piracy has died down, we… [will] decide to decommission the authentication servers [and] we will first make a patch available that will disable copy protection from the game."

    I don’t care that you want to protect your intellectual property, by al means do it. But do not bullshit us around and make legitamate consumers suffer.


  2. Ebonheart says:

    After reading the article as well as all the user comments on the article on Gamesutra. I have a question

    Why are console games 60 bucks and the PC verstions of the same games 10 bucks cheaper? In fact why is it that PC game’s are usally no more than the standard 50 (not counting collectors).

    But yet If I buy fallout 3 on PC it’s 50 bucks, but my 360/PS3 is 60?

  3. Gaming Observer says:

    "Isn’t this the pot calling the kettle black?"

    No, it’s not, because I’m not the one saying that DRM is or isn’t effecitve, only pointing out that the people making the argument that it isn’t have no basis for doing so.  Your entire argument is anecdotal.  So what if SPORE had DRM people didn’t like and was also heavily pirated "in protest".  That doesn’t necessarily mean that the game’s copy protection wasn’t effective on some level – and the point there is that you don’t have enough legitimate information to argue one way or the other.

    Again, I’m not arguing that it is, just that you -DON’T KNOW- that it’s not.  Hence my level of disdain for these absolute, hard-nosed notions that DRM does not work in any way shape or form.  You don’t know that.

    As for you being insulted… that’s just my point.  You’re bothered that I’m challening your views on DRM, and I think you should be even more upset at the people stealing software – they’re the ones hurting you (and the rest of us), not me or my statements.





  4. J.Alpha.Gamma says:

    "DRM is a reasonable response to high piracy rates…"


    Let’s analyze this a moment. The DRM format in question, SecuROM, operates like a virus; it installs itself into the user’s computer without their knowledge or authorization, then turns off whatever the hell it wants to. Among the most common casualties is the user’s CD/DVD-ROM drive, which means the disc check portion of SecuROM will never see the game disc, meaning the user may never be able to play his game, as well as back up critical files and documents, listen to music CDs, or watch movies on DVD.

    Which is, you know, the whole point of having a CD/DVD-ROM drive in your computer.

    And then it straight-up treats the user like a criminal, restricting the number of times they can install the game, how long they can play before having to reregister it, and how many people can have an account for it. All options left to the discretion of the publishing company, with the consumer end left with little more than a "screw you" from that company’s CEO when they complain.

    And to put the cherry on it all, it’s permanently installed into your operating system; the only way to remove it is to completely reformat the hard drive and start over.

    And yet somehow this is "reasonable."

    Under that line of logic, I should go break my little sister’s hands so she doesn’t break my iMac. She has no interest in it, and she won’t be able to use her own computer, but the RISK is THERE, darn it!

    And the whole time she’s over there not using her computer with her broken hands, I’ll make sure to remind her that it’s her fault I broke her hands to keep from hacking my computer. I’m sure she’ll understand.

    Isn’t that the way this stuff works, Mr. Hirsch? EA? Sony? Anybody?

    What I’d give to know what planet these nutjobs hail from, because it’s definitely not Earth.

  5. Monte says:

    The DRM’s that are considered draconian are generally the ones that go a step beyond the old stadard of CD protection and start moving into the areaa where it becomes a pain on the consumer to have such DRM… for example, DRM’s that limit installs… Seriously, when it comes to protecting against people who can’t download/torrent games, the old methods of protecting a game was enough… you make the CD a requirement to play the game, and you add some protection to the disk so that it can not be easily ripped… the average cosumer doesn’t really have the software knowldge to crack a CD and would need help to do so… ofcourse, this is all a rather moot point as more and more homes are getting broadband connections and thus downloading is open to a lot of people who want too abuse it… so pirating by way of making copies of the CD is pretty much a dying breed

    And how do we know DRM is doing nothing to stop piracy? we need only look at spore which was said by many to have one of the most tight DRM’s to date but wound up being just about the most pirated game ever. If DRM worked then shouldn’t tighter protections lead to less pirating? No, it had the opposite effect… sure a lot of hype about the DRM convinced many people to go and pirate it and that might have increased the piracy rate, but if the DRM really was being effective on the pirating then this shouldn’t matter as much as the improved DRM would have limited the increased piracy…

    Why doesn’t it work? simple really… with the way downloading works it only takes ONE cracked copy to get an illegal copy into the hands of everyone who wants to pirate the game… ONE guy cracks it; puts it up for download; several people download it; they then put it up for download; rise, wash repeat… it doesn’t matter if one guy cracks it or a thousand people crack it, the result is still all the same… There’s really no such thing as limiting pirating through DRM, cause as long as one guy cracks it then everyone is gonna get it regardless; it’s pretty much all or nothing… unless the game is made 100% crack proof, then the game will be pirated just like any other game

  6. Daria_C says:

    You’re making these aggressive, absolute statements, that are wildly uniformed and nothing more than mob-mentality rationalization, which makes me not even want to listen to what you have to say.

    Isn’t this the pot calling the kettle black? You have not backed up anything either. Now, I will point out that the most pirated game of 2008 was Spore, which was infamouse for its DRM. If what you said about the nature of DRM was correct, and that the purpose of DRM is to limit piracy, wouldnt Spore have seen only a small amount of piracy? (Or at least not taken the number one spot?)

    I’m also insulted that you waved away what everyone else has to say by simply stating that we are in the throes of "mob-mentality." I’m not here with the mob, I’m here because overzealosy of anti-piracy meaures have personally hurt me in the past, and have been affecting my families video game purchases.

  7. Gaming Observer says:

    I feel like I’ve already addressed this.

    And draconian according to who?  This whimsical demonization of DRM seems extreme to me.  While it may be an issue for some, it’s not an issue for all, and has never been an issue for me.  I buy a PC game, I install it, I play it, I finish it, I’m done with it.  So no, it doesn’t "piss off consumers", it pisses off some consumers, and only -some- consumers.

    Believe me, I’m sympathetic to the debate about whether or not it’s the best solution, and there are some valid complaints that are being made.  But I also don’t see the balance in absolutely demonizing DRM, and I don’t think the arguments against it are being made rationally or fairly.

    For example, you have no way of knowing whether or not DRM does anything to stop piracy.  You’re making these aggressive, absolute statements, that are wildly uniformed and nothing more than mob-mentality rationalization, which makes me not even want to listen to what you have to say.

    The point of DRM is not to stop piracy, but to limit it, and usually amongst people for whom torrent downloading isn’t a regular activity.

    As for arguments that it gives the customer a product inferior to the pirates… again, according to who?  Probably only the guy that -wants- the ability to install it 1000 times.  Whether or not he ever does so is an entirely different issue.  But that’s not me.  So to me, the product is the same.

  8. Bennett Beeny says:

    "Stop hating publishers for DRM.  They’re protecting their work product."

    The whole point is that they’re NOT protecting their product.  In fact they are actively HURTING sales by including draconian DRM, which is why they’re backing off using it.  Draconian DRM does nothing to stop piracy and does everything to piss off consumers.  It doesn’t work and it hurts the industry.

  9. Daria_C says:

    We are not endorsing piracy. You seem to have missed the point of why we are all up in arms about this. We are angry not that the are taking steps against piracy, but that the steps they are taking are screwing over those of us who pay for the games. You notice that the DRM hate is aimed at things like Spore, and dead space. When was the last time you saw a gamer complaining about entering the serial code upon installing a game? Long time, huh?

    If the flop of spore taught us anything its that draconian DRM will stop pirates from getting the game for a few weeks, but it will damage your sales FORVER. =P

  10. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Dragon age will have limited DRM so what will Mass Effect 2 have if it has limtied DRM thigns have shifted away from DRM finally if not  bear down for a exstened winter…


    I am a criminal because I purchase media,I am a criminal because I use media, I am a criminal because I chose to own media..We shall remain criminals until Corporate stay’s outside our bedrooms..

  11. Gaming Observer says:

    Actually, I think it’s the combined logic of pirates and many people posting on this board that are to blame for the piracy problem.

    Stop hating publishers for DRM.  They’re protecting their work product.  You may not like DRM, you may even find it to be a major inconvenience to the occasional consumer, you may even think that it does nothing to stop YOU AND PEOPLE LIKE YOU from pirating games, but to argue that it’s entirely ineffective is just silly.  How would you even know?  You don’t have all of the information.  You’re making assumptions at best.

    Anti-piracy measures aren’t about absolutely stopping piracy – you can’t – they’re about making it harder for the average person to do, and there are plenty of people out there that don’t even know what a bit torrent is.

    So regardless of how you feel about DRM, the arguments you’re making don’t hold water.

    And you’re wrong to discount piracy as irrelevant because "pirates wouldn’t buy it anyway".  This whole "pirated copy doesn’t necessarily equal a lost sale" argument is bullshit, because you don’t know that for certain, and it can easily be argued the other way – that many pirated copies do equal lost sales.  Again… there is no source of concrete data so please stop with the assumptions.

    I’m also pretty tired of these "I pirate a game so I can see if I like it" arguments.  It’s not okay to steal a Ferarri so you can figure out if you actually want to front the $$$, and it’s not okay to steal a game for the same reason.  If the demo isn’t convincing, don’t buy the game, or rent it, or play it at a friends house.  But don’t steal it, and when you do, don’t be stupid enough to try to justify it.

    What pirated copies of games absolutely equal is revenue theft.  You downloaded the game, you played it, and you’re not paying for it.  That’s money you owe the game Publisher/Developer, that they’re now entitled to, that you’re withholding.  Congratulations, you may never have bought the game, but now you’re thieving their compensation and there are giant sums they’re entitled to that they’re not getting.  It’s stolen money is what it is.

    Stardock is actually a perfect example of how NOT to run a company.

    Take Demigod for example. There were reportedly 138,000 some-odd unique server hits from individual copies of the game after it was released.  Of those, only 18,000 were legitimate copies.  So 110,000 people are out there playing a pirated game.  Good thing they’re trying to reason with pirates, because its clearly working, right?

    If even 20% of those 110,000 morons were forced to buy the game because they couldn’t pirate it, it would more than double Demigod’s sales, which is beyond meaningful.  They should be doing everything they can to stop piracy, not sitting there on some sort of moral high ground bitching about DRM alongside 18,000 people that will never manage to make that game profitable.

    To be fair, I totally respect their impulse – they want to give a good experience to the people buying their games and they see DRM as intrusive.  That’s a separate issue and worth debating.  But their public statements about DRM and their views on piracy are as flawed as everybody else’s, and frankly I think they need to grow up a little.

    What bothers me the most about these DRM articles is that YOU ALL (including Game Politics) seem to be missing the point.  Don’t you understand that software piracy is OUR problem?  Not the gaming industry’s problem, but OUR problem.  Yes, it affects gamers – me and you – because it makes business harder for the people creating content, which is good for who?

    When 80%+ of Demigod’s use comes from pirated copies, it makes it insanely difficult to stay in business, let alone take new risks or try to make new and interesting kinds of games.  We all like Chris Taylor and his team, right?  Well congrats, they just got shot in the economic knee caps – you might as well have soaked their right foot in quick-drying cement and sent them off for a swim.

    Pirates are what are harming Demigod, Stardock, Gas Powered Games, and their consumers, not anti-piracy measures.

    Point is, YOU (including Game Politics) should be angry at SOFTWARE PIRATES, not the companies trying to fight them, or trying to protect their games and their economic position.  If you want to sit there getting all pissy about why these things exist, blame the THIEVES out there that are ruining it for all of us.

    Just look at what they’ve already done to the music business.  If it weren’t for iTunes (which has its own version of DRM *shock*) and Guitar Hero/Rock Band, the industry would be gone right now.  I’m being hyperbolic when I say that, but it’s that bad.

    So enough with the DRM hate.  Hate the pirates instead.

    rant = 0;

    return 0;


  12. MaskedPixelante says:


    —You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

  13. thefremen says:

     Just bought Demigod today, this article factored largely into that purchasing decision. Pretty good game.

  14. Doom90885 says:

    If DRM actually did something against piracy then maybe I wouldn’t be as harsh towards these people. But the fact that it does next to nothing against pirates and fucks over legit customers 10 ways from Sunday that pisses me off. I am agreeing that DRM is nothing more than an excuse to avoid used game sale. If they would admit that I think that people would at least give them cudos for honesy. BTW after I purchase that game and I decide to sell it whether online at gamestop or a garage sale that’s my choice. You can’t sell a product and then dictate how and when the customer can use it. For the record I am not a pirate and condemn the use of illegally downloading games that honest people buy.


    Everyday I lose more and more faith in human intelligence.

  15. Aliasalpha says:

    Wasn’t that DRM free prince of persia pirated to pretty much the exact same level as a DRM "protected" game?


    Does that not completely negate the "Imagine how bad things could get round here" argument?

  16. thefremen says:

     "DRM is a reasonable response to high piracy rates… There is little doubt that piracy would be far more widespread without game publishers’ use of DRM."


    Just because there is little doubt about an assumption doesn’t make that assumption a fact. There was little doubt that the sun revolved around the earth.

  17. shady8x says:

    I know some 8 year olds that can do it so why can’t 13 year olds?

    What you are proposing is that children are idiots that can’t read… but children are actually better with technology then most adults… so sorry but your argument is rather silly…

    while it may take a few minutes for them to read the instructions provided with most torrents, the key and crack are often provided, and how hard is it to click next a bunch of times on the installer???

    the only thing that could slow them down is the mount part, so a 5 minute google search would be needed…

    so yes: "LOL JUST BITORRENT IT!"


    not that anyone should torrent things, but it is really really simple…

  18. insanejedi says:

    Any old 13 year old? Or a special kind of 13 year old?

    Just because you know how to

    1. Dowload

    2. Mount Drive

    3. crack

    4. CD-Key gen

    5. install

    THAT and the fact that because piracy is illegal, it doesn’t work as advertised because there is no standardization of practice. There could be a difference in mounting 5 ISO images and patching 39 .rar files when 1 ISO image is corrupted or 1 rar file is damaged.

    Does not mean that 13 year olds can do it, even adults have a hard time understanding and wraping their head around how to use Damon tools. Piracy is not as easy as everyone here says it is of "LOL JUST BITORRENT IT!"

  19. Monte says:

     Why should the 13 year old bother making so many copies… his 80 friends could just hit a bittorrent site or a hub and download a copy of the games they want.

    That’s the thing with pirating and PC gaming… DRM is useless cause it doesn’t matter whether one person cracks the game or a 1,000 people crack it; the result is all the same really… ONE crack is all it takes for THOUSANDS of people to have a copy of the game. Unless DRM provides 100% crack protection the game WILL get pirated and WILL get distributed. That’s why its such a fallacy to say that DRM lowers piracy rates as it just takes ONE crack… without DRM, the piracy rates would be just about the same

  20. zel says:

    so you think i’m some kind of idiot that doesn’t know what piracy is?

    You dont give 13 year olds enough credit. It’s awefully easy to type in <game name here> crack in google. Sure you have to wade through some fake crap but you’ll get it eventually. Kids can be just as smart about getting cracked versions as any adult, all it takes is the will to find it. Honestly that is a very weak arguement. Hell when I was 13 I was downloading games off BBS sites on a 9600 baud modem and such, no problem. Is that really the driving force of piracy these days, the dreaded copying of a cd by a kid that spread via sneaker net? Is that the justification of today’s DRM? is that really your justification that DRM is great protection and we shouldn’t laugh at it?

    Lets face it, even for the casual pirate, its not hard to find a cracked exe. Hell its usually easier to find just the cracked exe because its alot smaller than a torrent with the whole game included.


    I am a signature virus, please copy and paste me into your signature to help me propagate.

  21. insanejedi says:

    Why do you think people launched those "don’t copy that floppy" ads? And yes, one copy does not equal one lost sale, but that also goes the other way around, that one lost copy is not always one sale that would have never happened.

    And for the response of having 80 people, let my friend MC Double Def DP explain.

    "You say ‘I’ll just make a copy, for me and a friend’
    Then he’ll make one and she’ll make one and where will it end?
    One leads to another then ten, then more,
    And no one buys anything from the store
    So no one gets paid and they can’t make more
    The posse breaks up and they close the door
    Don’t copy! Don’t copy that floppy!"

  22. DarkSaber says:

    I’d love to meet a person like who could do all that AND have 80 friends. And also, that example seems to cling to the fallacy that one copy always equals one lost sale.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  23. insanejedi says:

    You have to realize that piracy is more than just…

    Download+Mount Drive+Crack=Game

    That is basically the highest "savy" level of piracy short of hacking the publishers computers and stealing the game itself. Piracy can also be as simple as buring a disc constantly and redistrubiting it to people around your vicinity.

    CD-Check is a form of DRM, CD-Keys is a form of DRM, and Steam is also a form of DRM. You can’t stop the people from bittorenting, but you can stop the 13 year old who discovered how to use a DVD burner, and burn 80 copies of Galactic Civilizations to give away to all his friends. The use of CD keys prevent that method from being widespread.

  24. Chuma says:

    Ofcourse, when their servers go down in an area known for hurricanes, you can’t access the games you have paid for…hmm….

  25. Navi says:

    Steam is one DRM I actualy like.  Not only does it have a tech support team that will not accuse you of theft, but if you lose the disk, you can always download it again.

  26. Chuma says:

    I actually sent back my copy of Spore and got a refund.  I haven’t pirated the game, and actually since I preordered it and would have been stuck with a crappy title, I’ve no intention of getting it in the future.  All they have done is lost a sale.  I find it hard to believe I am the only one.

  27. DarkSaber says:

    Yep, gotta love the ‘head in the sand’ approach!


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  28. zel says:

    "DRM is a reasonable response to high piracy rates… There is little doubt that piracy would be far more widespread without game publishers’ use of DRM."

    Whew, good thing that DRM is so impossible to crack and stops millions of pirates dead in their tracks! omg theres noooo way to get around that stuff….


    I am a signature virus, please copy and paste me into your signature to help me propagate.

  29. hellfire7885 says:

    I doubt it, because no one wants to be permanently stuck with a game they no longer want.

  30. Chadius says:

    Agreed. Telling me DRM works when I can grab any PC game I want for free without hassle doesn’t earn my trust.

  31. Neeneko says:

     I wish the ESA would just be honest and admit they are going after resale.  Trotting out the same line that anyone who actually plays games knows is complete bunk doesn’t fool anyone and makes them look dishonest.

    Agree or disagree with their stance on game resale, if they were open and honest about trying to stop it they would probably fare better then thier failure of a stealth attack.

  32. nighstalker160 says:

    Piracy would be far more rampant without DRM?

    You mean there are games out there that DON’T end up on torrent sites?

    Face it ESA, the pirates aren’t going to buy the game ANYWAY. It isn’t about playing the game for them, its about cracking the DRM.

    The people that download the game for free were never going to pay for it even if you gave it to them free and clear.

  33. Ambiguous says:

    It is still possible to "pirate" in a sense using that.  I picked up last remnant by downloading it from steam.  My friend wanted to try it, so we decided to try something out: I gave him my account name and password, he installed steam and logged in, and downloaded last remnant from it.  Now it works on both our computers, and as long as neither of us are online (on the steam account, just run in offline mode) at the same time there are no problems.

    It’s basically the same as letting a friend borrow a game.

  34. NovaBlack says:

    ‘DRM is a reasonable response to high piracy rates… There is little doubt that piracy would be far more widespread without game publishers’ use of DRM. ‘


    BWAHAHAHA yeah totally reasonable apart from it does nothing.


    And standing outside on the street beating every person who comes within 10 miles of your house with a giant fluffy toy is a reasonable response to the threat of burglary.

  35. Archgabe says:

    *Raises Hand*

    Umm…  Your little DRM was cracked already.  The only people that the DRM hurts is the honest consumer.  Really, it is only hurting game sales and shrinking down an already hurting PC gaming population.

  36. Brett Schenker says:

    Hal and the ECA have both spoken out about DRM and EULA’s and are asking for your thoughts on the subject:

    "The ECA respects the careful balance that must exist between the content community and the customer, and agree, that piracy is an ever-present challenge for the trade; it is also becoming evident that consumer rights are being diminished." 

    Speak up if you haven’t yet,

    Brett Schenker

    Online Advocacy Manager

    the ECA

  37. Krono says:

    What did you expect? It’s not like they’ll admit to trying to destroy the used games market. Nor can they admit that their expensive DRM doesn’t work and still justify using it in the future. Without those, what other defense can they raise?


  38. GoodRobotUs says:

    Wow, I actually expected better from the ESA than to start dragging out the same old, tired, disproven line.

  39. Alex says:

    You know, I’m trying REALLY hard to hang on to some modicum of respect for the ESA, but they make it so hard…

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

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