One of the older blog posts from the 2008 era of this site was humorously titled DRM? OMG! WTF? BBQ!. It derided the usage of DRM restrictions because of the inconvenient hassle that it provides for consumers, sometimes encouraging them to illegally download software to circumvent DRM. This blog post is the second installment in the REVISITED series.
DRM refers to to the variety of access control technologies developed by software corporations intended to stem piracy. It has been highly controversial since its invention. Organizations like the Free Software Foundation state that such software restricts the use of material beyond the limits of existing copyright laws. Consumers have disparaged it because of the wondrous hassle that it imposes upon them. In 2010, DRM control has begun to die out from mainstream distributors like iTunes. Which presents major progress for digital freedom.
DRM is Repulsive and Ineffectual
At the 2009 Game Developer’s Conference, World of Goo developer Kyle Gabler impugned DRM in games. Noting that not one DRM system has been successful at deterring piracy, he found that such restriction was an unnecessary expense. This is true. The 2008 Will Wright game SPORE, despite years of hype, received criticism and controversy for its painful DRM process. SPORE limited its users to licenses on only five computers and forced them to go through a lengthy authentication process. The user-average score on Amazon dipped to lows of 1.5 stars, with users acrimoniously chastising its frustrating DRM. Despite the trouble made with SPORE’s DRM, a cracked version was uploaded to BitTorrent just days later. SPORE quickly rose to become the most pirated game of 2008.
The SPORE dilemma is a prime example of how DRM is ineffective at deterring piracy and destructive to reception. SPORE’s frustrating authentication process likely deterred many gamers from legally purchasing the game, opting instead for the pirated, DRM-free version. EA Games attempt to prevent piracy and maximize profit backfired, thereby making piracy more attractive and lowering legal sales. Former Maxis developer Chris Harris stated that the DRM choice was a “screw-up and a totally avoidable disaster”.
The SPORE dilemma objectively establishes DRM’s negative effect on reception and sales, oftentimes making piracy even more attractive. No DRM systems have been completely successful in preventing cracks from circulating through the internet and bypassing frustrating authentication processes is easily done through systems like BitTorrent. Integrating DRM systems into software is an expensive process, and a usually unsuccessful one. According to Gabler, it is more cost-effective to ignore DRM altogether and release games without protection.
Over the past few years, DRM has proven itself to be an unpredictable and expensive technology to use on software. Despite the high cost of implementing it, it is rarely successful. Thus, software developers should start omitting it to cut costs. Piracy is near-inevitable, go onto isohunt.com and you’ll find dozens of cracks for a wide range of software. DRM will likely destroy itself out of its own expense and inefficiency as companies like 2D Boy begin to release products without it.