Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Unable to comprehend the Spore DRM controversy

I'm not really surprised that Heartless, being Heartless, uses rather strong language on the announcement that Spore will have some DRM (Digital Rights Management) features to prevent piracy. I was a bit more surprised when Darren, normaly a Common Sense Gamer, chimed in and likewise declared he wouldn't buy Spore just because it had that protection. Both of them happily (or in the case of Heartless unhappily) play MMORPGs all the time, and every MMORPG by its very nature has an even stronger DRM protection than Spore announced. You simply can't play World of Warcraft if you aren't logged in. Why would I object against Spore having to log in every 10 days? My computer is online all the time anyway, and if I had a 10+ day internet outage, Spore stopping to work would be the least of my problems.

Gaming Steve has news from Maxis on Spore DRM, pointing out the obvious advantage of online DRM compared to previous piracy protection methods: You can play Spore without having the DVD in the drive. Woot! Yippee! I find that is a *huge* improvement. I don't see why I should be annoyed about having to authenticate myself when I want to download new content, patches, or online feature. You *can* play Spore offline, and you *can* install it on multiple computers.

I really hope that this new DRM system manages to diminish software piracy a bit. Some people think of piracy as a victimless crime, but that isn't true. There are several good game studios that have gone under or been forced to sell out because while lots of people played their games, less than half of their players had actually paid for them. If you are playing a pirated game, you are effectively stealing the companies development budget for the next game.

Software piracy is also a huge influence on the old "PC games are dying" discussion. Game companies report that the same game sells 4 to 5 times more on consoles than on a PC, just because it is so much harder to pirate a console game. Crysis was pirated so often, that the makers of the game Crytek declared they would stop making PC-only titles. When people say that making PC games is still profitable they automatically cite World of Warcraft, which as I already said above has a DRM which is a lot more stringent than Spore, and installs a lot nastier hidden software on your computer than SecureROM. PC gaming is profitable because of DRM. Yes, DRM can be annoying to legit buyers sometime, but I much rather have a online-based DRM system than a disc-based DRM system.

So I really can't understand people who won't buy a game just because it has DRM. But if they don't buy it, it still doesn't matter, because for every copy of Spore that isn't sold because of DRM protection, there will be 5 copies that are sold because somebody else found that he couldn't pirate the game.

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