DRM does more damage than piracy

3 min read


There’s nothing worse than being a paying customer, and having to jump through hoops to get your freshly-purchased game working. Well, there’s being sodomised by a rabid elephant while fire-ants nip at your genitals, but that happens only once or twice in your lifetime; while DRM is a regular occurrence. All too often DRM, like your girlfriend’s monthly ovarian operating system reboot, gets in the way of you having a good time. Affirming what we’ve all believed for forever, Super Meat Boy developer Tommy Refenes argues (via Destructoid) that DRM does nothing to stop piracy – but in fact makes it more likely a thing to happen.

Weighing in on EA’s current SimCity DRM woes, the indie developer had this to say:

“I think I can safely say that Super Meat Boy has been pirated at least 200,000 times. We are closing in on 2 million sales and assuming a 10% piracy to sales ratio does not seem unreasonable.

As a forward thinking developer who exists in the present, I realize and accept that a pirated copy of a digital game does not equate to money being taken out of my pocket. Team Meat shows no loss in our year end totals due to piracy and neither should any other developer.”

Refenes suggests that all that money spent on developing DRM measures is fruitless, and that piracy’s going to happen either way.

“The reality of our current software age is the internet is more efficient at breaking things than companies are at creating them” he continued. “A company will spend massive amounts of money on DRM and the internet will break it in a matter of days in most cases. When the DRM is broken is it worth the money spent to implement it?

Did the week of unbroken DRM for your game gain you any sales from potential pirates due to the inability to pirate at launch? Again, there is no way of telling and as such cannot be used as an accurate justification for spending money.”

Furthermore, he believes that DRM actively encourages the scurvy practice – and that people are far less likely to steal your game if you make it easy to buy, and easy to run.

“Unfortunately there is nothing anyone can do to actively stop their game from being pirated,” he explained. “I do believe people are less likely to pirate your software if the software is easy to buy, easy to run, and does what is advertised.

“You can’t force a person to buy your software no more than you can prevent a person from stealing it. People have to WANT to buy your software, people have to WANT to support you.”

"Respect your customers,” concludes Refenes, “and they may in turn respect your efforts enough to purchase your game instead of pirating it."

We could go in to the semantics of piracy for all eternity; is it theft? Can you steal something by making a copy of it, whatever. There’s no real justification for it; but are YOU more or less likely to perpetrate piracy when faced with DRM?

Last Updated: March 20, 2013

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