Mark Jacobs addresses DRM and WAR

Mark Jacobs graced the VN boards with an awesome post last night.  He addressed the issue of whether or not WAR will have a SecurROM type system and then proceeded to give great insight on both sides of the DRM argument.

It’s a long post so I won’t display the whole thing on the front page.  You’ll have to click the little ‘more’ button for the entire post.   Needless to say I agree with him completely.


Just so you know, WAR will not be using any sort of copy protection technology like SecureROM on the disk because, as it has been pointed out, you need to play our game while connected to our servers and that you need an key and an active account to play our game just like DAoC, WoW, etc.

However, I’m sure this was not an easy decision for either the Spore or the Bioware guys. I know that Will/Lucy and Ray/Greg really care about making great games and I’m sure that they wish that the world was a different place and that putting any sort of DRM system on their games wasn’t necessary. However, some facts are clearly true:

1) Dissemination of pirated copies of games is much easier now than it was even only 10 years ago. Thanks to today’s technologies (bandwidth, torrents, etc.), people can get full copies of games faster and easier than ever before from sites all over the world.

2) That piracy of PC games (in terms of sheer numbers at least) has also increased over the last 10 years. I won’t get into a debate about what the numbers are or might be (since nobody really knows) but I think we can all agree that piracy is out there and has grown over the last decade. Simple observation of both the number of sites and the material on them is irrefutable proof that piracy of just about everything is sadly alive and well. Lots of developers and publishers have spoken out about the effect that piracy has had on sales of their games and it is certainly not just EA who have felt that some type of copy protection is necessary.

3) While it is foolish to say that piracy has killed PC gaming it is equally foolish to say that piracy has no effect on PC sales. While I believe the vast majority of people are honest and want to pay for things that they enjoy, the fact remains that quite a lot of people will happily pirate everything that they can. While some people say that they will download a cracked copy of a game/film/whatever and if they like it, they will buy it, I don’t think anyone believes that everyone who says that, means it.

4) There is also no question that the technologies being discussed here and that have been used elsewhere can have a negative impact on the customer under certain circumstances. However, the old method of copy protection of PC games (key, disc 1, etc.) could also have a negative effect on customers when they lost the disc, key, etc. I am not saying that these are the same things as SR but copy protection of some kind has been around on computer games for since the Apple II. Also, it is not like EA is the first company to use SecureROM or any DRM system of the same type.

I so wish it was a different world where we didn’t have to worry about such things. I’m an avid gamer who, for most of the last 5 years, has also both traveled and had an incredibly lousy and unreliable internet connection (mine was never “always on” more like “always on except for most of the time”) and so this type of copy protection might have really affected my ability to play a game that I had legally bought. So, I can really quite easily see both sides of the issues with this or any other copy protection scheme of this type.

So, I can’t ask, nor would I ask, people to buy the game(s) regardless of the copy protection scheme since it really always is our decisions as individuals about whether a game is worth buying or in this case, worth buying even with the possible inconvenience that comes with buying a game; that is not my role here. What I would ask is that people look at all sides of the issue and not simply rush to a judgment that EA or other publishers are doing this either out of ignorance, stupidity or just greed. It really is a tougher decision that some here think it is especially when you look at the cost of some of the PC games being made these days. It’s a lot easier for the developers who make less expensive games (I was once one of those guys) to turn a profit (since they need to sell fewer copies) not to fret as much about lost copies but when you spend as much time and money as was spent on Mass Effect and is being spent on Spore in terms of both development and marketing, a significant loss of sales due to piracy can really make a difference in whether the game turns a reasonable profit or not.

Anyhow, feel free to continue the debate, just thought I’d raise a few points before turning in for the night. Enjoy! happy


Well said Mark.

  • Hm… In order to even play the game you pay a monthly subscription.

    Is the issue with people pirating the actual box software? Because an MMO doesn’t really rely too heavily on that after release.

    Sort of a “well, duh!” kind of thing.

  • Yeah it’s a big “well, duh” thing. He was addressing a thread where some people were saying “I hope this type of thing isn’t in WAR”. Regardless of there being no need for DRM in a mmorpg, it’s still nice to have that official word that there won’t be any.

  • I wrote this on Common Sense Gamer, but it’s worth a repost since it’s an angle that I don’t think is being considered.
    I wonder if the MDY vs. Blizzard case influenced this decision. From what I understand, the biggest obstacle that Blizzard faces is applying copyright law to the digital trespass that Glider infringes upon the WoW client when it bypasses Warden. If they can’t establish that it’s a copyright infringement, then the DCMA can’t protect them. The use of DRM in Spore to protect copyright might be a clever way to ensure that the DCMA can protect their client from digital trespass. This may be less about corporate greed and more about ensuring they can legally protect their product from Glider-like products.

  • 1. This is a false assumption. Pirating games is no more easier or hard than it ever has been. The only way it could be considered any easier is because publishers no longer have those ridiculous code wheels and keyword look ups from the manual. We are lucky to even get something that could be considered a manual these days.

    2. Saying the piracy has increased over the years is just actually reflecting the fact that the game industry has grown so much over that period.

    3. I would argue that piracy has had the same effect it always has had. No more no less. The DRM they are using will not change this fact. It will only aggravate those of us who don’t pirate.

    4. He is making my point for me here. The method of protection has changed, but the end result will not in my opinion.

  • Well that is a sigh of relief, with WAR slowly luring me in when I am figuring more out about it. It can’t afford to have any major set backs like that for me.

  • The reason this is so blindingly stupid is actually quite simple. The people who want to crack and pirate your game WILL. There’s no way around it. You can come up with a fancy new protection scheme, and these people will view it as a fresh challenge, complete with bragging rights for being the first to crack it. So, when a publisher starts forcing harsher and more stringent DRM methods the only person being hindered is the paying customer. The reality is that there is no perfect solution, so they ought to just stick with some basic copy-protections to keep Joe Average computer user from making copies for all his buddies and just leave it at that.

  • DRM is just another tool, which can be easily cracked with pirates. The problem comes with that tool hurting the legitimate buyers. If you hit them which means they can’t play their game they will more likely to pirate because they are sick/can’t be bothered to go through so many hoops to play the game. What do you have to do to pirate? Just download install and your in. What do you have to do with ridiculous systems of anti piracy? Go on a website, fill in your details, wait for a few days for them to get it back. And if anything suspicious happens you’re out. So i think these systems are actually hurting the PC industry and not helping it. I know of several cases where i got the legitimate game and was screwed because of their systems, and if definitely made me think of pirating more.

  • I have a copy of Medieval Total War sitting on my shelf not being played because I can’t find the little card that gives me the key code. I have the disks, the manual and the box, but I still can’t play that game.

  • I don’t understand why anyone would need this question answered. Considering MMORPG’s require you to be logged into their servers securom would be completely redundant.

  • Well it would force everyone to buy a copy of the game to play it. For wow you can download it from any torrent sites and play on more than a dozen different free servers.

    I would be very surprised to see EA release anything without some nasty copy protection.

  • @kmxs: I had a little be of uncertainty because of the reasons sid67 brought up. If Mythic were to include the protection then they could have legal standing to go after companies like Glider that circumvent systems like Warden. But it looks like Mythic and EA won’t be going that route just yet.

  • @Flying Norseman

    Of course games are easier to pirate today. I can go to PirateBay and download a torrent for Crysis, start it right now, and have it be done sometime tomorrow. Maybe by the time I wake up if I sleep in late.

    Before Bittorrent, there were the older P2P networks that took longer on dialup modems, and before that, it was trading games on copied discs and CDs with friends. It’s vastly easier now to pirate anything and everything. It’s just common sense when you look at today’s technology.

  • Actually what is the point of anything besides “cd-key”?

    Take a look at SecurROM or other like that:
    1) It costs money.
    2) It does not secure anything, everything is cracked anyway.
    3) It only anger people who bought game by causing additional problems (YOU HAS BAD PROGRAM ON PC YOU NO INSTALL!1) or annoyances (INSERT CD/DVD IDIOT!1).

    If I buy something and I need to prove that it is legal all the time (anything besides serial) I seriously feel offended.

  • Honestly, I gotta say, I think Steam’s form of copy protection is my favorite among all these stupid systems.
    Most people are familiar with Steam, and by connecting your games to an accounts is a nice compromise, plus, once you DL the entire game onto your desktop, you can play it without being online. Keeping track of other Steam players ect. is handy too, and the no need for the disc once you activate you CD-key/buy it through the client.

  • It just seems odd that he’s talking about Wright and Bioware choosing to add DRM to their titles when it’s pretty much always the publisher, not the developer, pushing for this stuff. EA is demanding the DRM, picking the DRM, and choosing how much of their DRM package to have enabled (as demonstrated by their move to turn off SecuROM’s phone home feature in Mass Effect).