I know, I know, we’ve used this headline before. For once though, it’s not us who are well and truly extracting the Michael. For the past couple of weeks the games industry has been shooting itself in the foot (and the consumer in the face) with everyone’s favourite anti-piracy measure, Digital Rights Management, or DRM.
It all started in January, when Ubisoft announced that all their forthcoming PC releases would come packaged with a new DRM system which requires a constant Internet connection to play the game, regardless of whether the game was single- or multi-player. In short, should your Internet connection fail while playing games like Assassin’s Creed 2 or Silent Hunter V, you will immediately be booted from the game.
Naturally, the reaction from the PC community bordered on nuclear, but Ubisoft persisted with their draconian piracy-protection system, and a fortnight ago Silent Hunter V was released. Typically, just over a day later, the new DRM system was cracked.
The insanity doesn’t end there. On the day of Assassin’s Creed 2’s PC release, Ubisoft’s servers, which have to constantly monitor the new DRM in order for it to work, went down across the board, the result being that any legitimate purchaser of either Assassin’s Creed 2 or Silent Hunter V found themselves unable to play the games. In contrast, anybody with a pirated version of those games could play without any problems.
DRM has been a thorn in the side of gamers for years now, and it seems the situation is only set to get worse, as measures like Ubisoft’s only serve to create justifications for piracy. Which would you prefer: to pay for a game and then be forced to wait a week before you could play it, or to acquire a game for free and be able to play it immediately?
It has been shown time and time again that attempting to curb piracy by treating the consumer like a criminal and then beating them across the head with a stick of capitalist righteousness simply does not work. The pirates will inevitably crack the coding, and the consumer will feel even more justified in downloading a pirated copy regardless of legality.
However, pirating a game ‘out of principle’ is not the solution; it only serves to exacerbate the problem and lead to companies like Ubisoft creating even more intrusive DRM systems. For although they are quickly cracked, they do protect their immediate profit, which is all game publishers care about. If you want to make a stance against DRM, the most appropriate move is simply to not buy the game at all.