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DRM still needs to exist, says Square Enix exec - but shouldn't "interfere" with games

Until Square Enix stop making games as good as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, we have to care about what they say.

At some point in the last two or three decades, DRM became a dirty acronym - like FMV, or GCSE. Yet still the concept persists. The major publishers now tie bespoke online activation systems to their storefronts. And for good reasons, insists Square Enix business man Adam Sullivan.

What are those reasons? “Profit”, first and foremost - but also data privacy, account sharing and hacking.

“The primary benefit [of DRM] to us is the same as with any business: profit,” Square Enix senior manager of business and legal affairs Adam Sullivan told TorrentFreak. “We have a well-known reputation for being very protective of our IPs, which does deter many would-be pirates.”

Sullivan noted that the effectiveness of DRM is “notoriously” hard to quantify - Squeenix rely on consumer feedback, as well as data from their sales team and “various vendors”. Evidently, they see results - but Sullivan emphasised that publishers need to employ a light touch.

“The key to DRM is that it can't interfere with the customer’s ability to play the game,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for people to get a new computer every few years, or to have multiple computers. Sometimes they don’t have reliable Internet connections. There’s no perfect solution yet.”

Nevertheless, Sullivan said he believed DRM will remain “essential” for the “foreseeable future” - even if that future is partly free-to-play.

“So long as we're concerned about things like data privacy, accounting sharing, and hacking, we'll need some form of DRM,” he finished.

Developers and publisher execs don’t like to talk about piracy: they worry that their reasoned arguments will be drowned by the noise of pitchfork-sharpening and flaring torches. So: in the interest of not scaring off men like Sullivan, let’s set a decibel limit for this discussion at ‘not-shrill’, eh?

Thanks, Gamespot.

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Dog Pants's picture
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A voice of reason out of the blue there. I'm a vocal opponent of always-online DRM, but only because it has more negative effects on legitimate users than it does on pirates. Appropriate DRM which is invisible to the end user is fine - whether it's as necessary as the industry makes out is debateable, but as someone who only ever plays legally acquired games I have no objection in principle.

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subedii's picture
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The chief issue I have with DRM is that it guarantees that at some point my game will become unplayable.

I remember looking over my copy of Planescape: Torment after Black Isle collapsed.

So here's the thing: If that game had been online DRM'd, there'd have been no _way_ for me to play my own, legitimately bought copy. Which is ridiculous. As it stands it took several more years before GOG.com managed to get it on-store (notably again, DRM free).

Any and every one of these companies can collapse, and with them goes the game you bought. Yes even Steam. Supporters of DRM typically say "hurr durr paranoid" or some such at this point. But a decade ago, people would've said the same of THQ. Heck, nobody would have imagined that Sega would get out of the console market and that their primary market is now the _PC_. Attempting to say "this won't happen" is kind of ridiculous. Nobody can predict what happens to even the big ones.

Even leave aside the major companies. Think of how many small companies have come and gone over the years. Do you really like the idea that your game stops working when the company does?

I've said this for years, but I'd have no problem with DRM. Lock it up tight, do online checks, whatever. BUT... At the end of its sales life (say 5 years to be generous), REMOVE all DRM. This does not make the title itself "free", merely that you've removed a barrier to playing should your company stop supporting it. You've made your money, I keep my game, everyone's happy.

The devs behind Dead Space 1 even promised they'd do this on their forums. They never did (DS1 has install limits BTW).

This ties into another problem, which is what happens when it comes time for these games to enter public domain (ignore for the moment the thoroughly messed up nature of IP laws meaning this can't happen for a ridiculously long time). DRM creates one more barrier to preserving a title's history.

Books didn't un-write themselves, Films didn't erase themselves. I can go to Guttenberg.org or Archive.org and download thousands of classics, or old WW2 public service announcements. The most you can say is that some materials were uncared for and allowed to degrade before they could be preserved. Gaming's the only medium I can think of where you've got the company taking the title to the grave with them, even whilst people _still can and want to use it_.

All that's leaving out other issues. Server load issues and dropouts (Diablo 3), online only games, 3rd party service failures kicking what should be working games...

It's not an easy to rectify thing. But things could be a lot more accommodating to the purchaser than they are now. And I'm not interested in hearing about how I'm "fantasising" because BIG COMPANIES have to look after their shareholders and _they don't care about you_. It's not a major thing to remove DRM after 5 years, and companies have done more significant things than that to generate "goodwill".

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subedii's picture
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Danke. I'd be much obliged if you guys could put the idea across to some devs / publishers during an interview or two some time, because I've never seen it brought up.

DRM's always been an "all or nothing" kind of topic, but I don't think it HAS to be. Whilst I'd happily prefer to buy all my games off of GOG.com, I can recognise that most of the major publishers would be extremely averse to such an idea. But there's nothing to say that it has to be permanent.

When you've made your money, the game's been cracked for years, and the title's barely selling anymore, I don't see the harm in admitting that the DRM has ceased to have a purpose anymore. The only thing I can think of is paranoia that it "sends the wrong message" or something.

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Tim Edwards's picture
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I think this is the best comment on the issue I've ever seen.

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Dog Pants's picture
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I'm assuming you're referring to always-online DRM. Passive copy protection, while not as effective (not that any is completely effective) doesn't need continued support so will become no more intrusive over time. Always-online DRM, meanwhile, is potentially crippling from day 1 in the event of server or connection issues.

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Danger Zone's picture
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Now that GFWL has been eviscerated, I don't really have a problem with DRM. There is a special place in hell next to Ken Lay and Hitler for the person who came up with it.

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Shriven's picture
1108

I have a great Net Connection. I don't play on Laptops or anywhere away from my desk. I dont even know how to pirate a game. I genuinely have no problems with always online DRM's.

Now, let the hate begin!

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Dog Pants's picture
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A lot of people don't have issues with always online DRM, and you're entitled to form your own opinion based on its impact on you. It seems to be more apathy than support that prompts such opinions though.

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Shriven's picture
1108

Or indeed, Ignorance! Im sure I would have a differing opinion if I pirated anything or have been burned by DRM in the past. I dont and I havn't. But when It does happen I will unleash the BFG 9000 of wtf.

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Dog Pants's picture
782

Hah, eloquently put. I don't pirate games either, but I don't think they're the ones affected - the DRM is stripped out of the cracked versions.

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Danger Zone's picture
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I have zero problems with DRM as long as they are 100% invisible. Steamworks is exactly what a DRM should be: it's there, but it's completely invisible to my gaming experience. GFWL was the polar opposite of this. I had games infested with GFWL that I never could get to launch because of it.

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