Most everyone has heard the news about CD Projekt’s CEO Marcin Iwinski on DRM and Piracy. This story is awesome and illustrates just why you should support this developer and the platform they have developed, Good Old Games. These guys know just what PC gamers want. What makes this story interesting is how some people read too much into any kind of piracy figure.
All over the internet, people are making a huge deal about how Iwinski came to figure that CD Projekt’s latest game, The Witcher 2, was pirated 4.5 million times. That is a huge deal but that number is not important. Iwinski admits from the start that he was figuring those numbers on the bat and out of data he pulled out of nowhere.
So why is everyone making a huge deal about it? I think the main reason is that some people want to find some kind of solid number on just how much damage piracy does to the games industry. However, trying to quantify that is meaningless. Not every pirated copy is a lost sale. But that doesn’t matter to people who want to make a big deal out of piracy.
But the ultimate takeaway from Iwanski’s interview is CD Projekt’s views on DRM.
In my almost 20 years in the industry, I have not seen DRM that really worked (i.e. did not complicate the life of the legal gamer and at the same time protect the game). We have seen a lot of different protections, but there are only two ways you can go: Either you use light DRM, which is cracked in no time and is not a major pain for the end-user, or you go the hard way and try to super-protect the game.
Yes, it is then hard to crack, but you start messing with the operation system, the game runs much slower and – for a group of legal gamers – it will not run at all. None of these solutions really work, so why not abandon it altogether?
That quote really is the cut and dry version of his argument and exactly how I feel about it. Why inconvenience paying customers with a product that is not guarantied to work? Why use a system that fails in every way to stop piracy? Well Iwanski has the answer to that as well.
Fortunately and unfortunately at the same time, games are becoming huge business. And as with every growing business, there are a lot of people coming in who… have no clue about games and could work in any other industry. They are not asking themselves the question “What is the experience of a gamer?” Or “Is this proposition fair?” But rather, they just look to see if the column in Excel adds up well or not, and if they can have a good explanation for their bosses.
As funny as this might sound, DRM is the best explanation, the best “I will cover my ass” thing. I strongly believe that this is the main reason the industry has not abandoned it until today, and to be frank this annoys me a hell of a lot. You are asking, “So why is it taking so long for them to listen?” The answer is very simple: They do not listen, as most of them do not care. As long as the numbers in Excel will add up they will not change anything.
These “Excel guys”, as Iwanski puts it, are not really interested in serving their customers. They are interested in hitting a certain sales projection. In order to meet that, they make dumb decisions like add DRM to games to mitigate the piracy column in their spread sheet. If they didn’t add DRM that column wouldn’t be mitigated and they would have a hard time explaining to their bosses why the columns don’t add up. That is a horrible way to do business.
What game companies, such as Ubisoft, need to realize is that the less painful you make PC gaming for paying customers, the more customers will pay. The better you make the game, by that I mean make a game that actually works on the PC, the more people will pay for your game. That is a simple truth that few major players in the games industry realize.
In the end you need to follow Iwanski’s advice and vote with your wallet and only buy games from developers who treat you like the customer and fan you are. Don’t even deal with those developers who want to treat you like a criminal. They will only break your heart.