DRM - Digital Restrictions Management
Since the focus for this website is games, I feel that DRM is a very important topic. For those of you who don't immediately recognize the DRM abbreviation, it basically means "copy protection". Personally I don't like that word, because if makes it sound like it's a positive thing, protecting the game. DRM does not protect games, it is an obstacle to gamers. I will use a very simple example, even though this example is not actually a legal right I still consider it important. Backups! DRM makes it impossible for you to make a backup of your legally purchased title. If we are talking about a digital purchase, then it may seem less important as you usually just download the game through a client. But what if you don't have internet access at the moment, what if the online service goes out of business. Then you would no longer have access to your game.
What is the defense for DRM? The most common defense is the claim the DRM-free releases have their sales hurt. As far as I know, pretty much all games, DRM or not, have been pirated. Developers pour time and resources into DRM for their games, even though the games always end up being cracked. I just don't see the logic here. These resources could instead have been put into more content for the game, which would also show the gamers that their gaming experience is important. This does not mean that I don't understand the concept of wanting to protect your creation, I do feel protective of my own website after all. However, restriting how users may use the content seems illogical. When you release content, should it not be easy for your audience to access your work? Putting obstacles between your users and your product seems to be an effective way to reduce the size of your audience.
There is another argument which I personally find to be quite silly. The argument goes that whenever some gains access to some game/film outside the official channels, then this is a direct economic loss for the developer/producer. I think we should examine this argument, we should especially focus on one faulty assumption here. The assumption is that everyone who gains access to media outside the official channels, this means anyone who downloads a pirated version, would have paid for the media if the pirated version was not available. This is not even logical. There may be a small percentage of these people who would have legally bought access to said media if a pirated version was not obtainable, but I refuse to believe that this percentage is significant. This reminds me of a somewhat similar situation, which I think several people can relate to. When I was young and games only had physical releases, if you didn't have a game yourself but knew someone who did then you simply borrowed the game from them. I don't know how many games and movies that I have simply borrowed from someone else. I would also lend out games and movies to other friends, so they did not have to purchase it themselves.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that it is okay to illegally download media. I was just using an example for the sake of argument. All the games I play, are games that I have purchased. There are some issues I encounter with DRM, although they are thankfully few. Since I exclusively play games on Linux, I rely on Wine to play Windows games. I have experienced issues with a few games where the DRM seems to be the problem. I do realize that Linux is not a supported platform for most of these games, but I can't help but feel slightly annoyed when the only issue is the DRM. For those games, I was able to confirm that it was the DRM that caused the issue when the game was also available DRM-free, as is the case with some online stores.
I know a lot of gamers don't care much about things like this, and if you have never experienced issues with DRM then that is great. However, if you would prefer to have your games completely DRM free with no internet connection required (except for the initial download), then there is thankfully one online game store that has always remained steadfast in regards to this policy. I am talking about GOG.com, which you should definitely check out if you didn't know about them already.
A DRM-free business model works, which has been proven by GOG. I am not familiar with their economic situation, but judging by how GOG has grown over the years, I would assume that their DRM-free policy is hugely profitable. This article is not intended to be about them, but I feel they are very important to bring up in a discussion such as this. Especially since they seem to be the only one with such a strong stance on the subject.
I suppose this article may seem like something of a rant, and that is probably what it is. But I also feel that it is important to put some focus on this topic. It is also important, at least in my opinion, to call DRM for what it is. It is a tool to restrict and shackle a legal customer. Pirates are not hindered by DRM, because they download cracked versions. So the only people who are affected by DRM are the paying customers. There is not always a DRM-free option available, for instance when a game is exclusive to a certain online store. But I always pick the DRM-free option when I can. And if you took the time to read through my article, I hope you will too.