Super Meat Boy Developer Argues Against Using DRM

In a recent blog post Super Meat Boy developer Tommy Refenes argues that using DRM to keep games from being pirated and general apathy ultimately hurts developers. He also notes that applying loss prevention techniques to digital products doesn't work in the space.

"As a forward thinking developer who exists in the present, I realize and accept that a pirated copy of a digital game does not equate to money being taken out of my pocket," Refenes writes. "Team Meat shows no loss in our year-end totals due to piracy and neither should any other developer."

"Companies try to combat piracy of their software with DRM but if loss due to pirated software is not calculable to an accurate amount does the implementation of DRM provide a return on investment? It is impossible to say yes to this statement," Refenes continued. "Everyone needs to accept that piracy cannot be stopped and loss prevention is not a concept that can be applied to the digital world."

Refenes says that the use of DRM can have tangible and quantifiable effects.

"In the retail world, you could potentially put a return back on the shelf, you could find another customer that wants it, sell it to them and there would be virtually no loss," Refenes said. "In the digital world, because there is no set amount of goods, you gain nothing back (one plus infinity is still infinity). It's only a negative experience. A negative frustrating experience for a customer should be considered more damaging than a torrent of your game."

Refenes adds that he knows all about the affects of apathy, citing the Mac version of Super Meat Boy as an example. Refenes said the Mac port was of poor quality, disappointed customers and resulted in a number of refunds. That disappointment was damaging to Team Meat's future business on the platform. Refenes worries that few Mac owners will be interested in giving his next game, Mew-genics, a chance because they will remember the last game he released on the Mac.

"The reality is the fight against piracy equates to spending time and money combating a loss that cannot be quantified," Refenes concluded. "Everyone needs to accept that piracy cannot be stopped and loss prevention is not a concept that can be applied to the digital world. Developers should focus on their paying customers and stop wasting time and money on non-paying customers. Respect your customers and they may in turn respect your efforts enough to purchase your game instead of pirating it."

Source: GII



Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. 0
    MechaCrash says:

    And that's why DRM isn't going away: it appears to "do something." The fact that it is ineffective at best doesn't matter, just that "something" is "being done."

  2. 0
    MechaTama31 says:

    Yes, but it's far simpler to just "do something" so you can tell your investors that you are "fighting piracy".  As long as Wall Street buys your horseshit, it doesn't really matter if it's effective or not.

  3. 0
    MechaCrash says:

    The way I see it, when you add a bunch of DRM to your game, your potential customers fall into one of four general categories.

    In category 1, you've got the people who say "well, it has DRM which keeps me from pirating it, so screw it." You weren't going to get money from these people before, and you aren't going to get their money now, so your DRM has zero impact on the balance sheet.

    In category 2, you've got the people who say "I was going to buy it, DRM or not!" You were going to get their money now, so your DRM has no impact on the balance sheet.

    In category 3, you've got the people who say "I was going to pirate it, but now I can't, so I guess I'll buy it." Your DRM has now made you money! These people do exist, but not in the quantities that developers seem to think.

    And then we have category 4, which I'm sure Sim City saw a lot of: the ones who say "well I was interested, but this bullshit DRM means I don't want to give them money." It doesn't mean if they go on to ignore the game or just go ahead and pirate it anyway, that is money they were going to give you and now they are not. Your DRM has cost you money, and I suspect that always-on DRM is going to generate a hell of a lot more of these people than it ever could people in the "can't pirate, will buy" category.

    Of course, this overlooks the extra money involved in actually implementing and supporting the DRM. Does the cost of implementing and supporting the DRM, the cost of the bad press it generates when it inevtibatly doesn't work (and I know it won't because I do this thing called "paying any attention to this issue ever"), and the lost sales from people driven away get covered by the pirates turned customers? I'd say hell no to that.

Leave a Reply