This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.


In the past year and a bit, there has been a whole lot of talking about DRM and how it is impacting games. A lot of it sucks, but even more of it is being exaggerated about how terrible it is. I'm going to do my best to provide my consumer based opinion on why it sucks without exaggerating, and why some forms of it aren't that bad.

The glorious master gaming race known as pc users are very used to DRM with the popularity of services such as steam, origin, and even battle.net. These services are great in that they bypass traditional third party resellers. Allowing the publishers to give substantial savings, straight from the source. Where they suck however is that if you purchase a game, you own that game... for life. Unless of course you go through the hassle to get a hold of customer support and cancel your order and come out lucky. Further, according to many of these, the DRM explicitly states that you cannot modify the product. So really, you aren't purchasing the game, you're purchasing the rights to play said game, which can be taken away from you if you don't play nicely. It also eliminates 3rd party add-ons, which correspond to a huge chunk of my gaming hours when I was a teenager.

Advertisement

Lately however, DRM has been leaking onto the consoles as well. Games requiring you to create accounts for online play mean that if you give/sell your game to someone else, they either won't be able to play it, or the entire online portion of the game will be cut out. However, this is mainly an issue for those games which you do not wish to keep and is a huge reason why the rental market is dying.

The above examples show just how bad DRM can get. But lets try to be a bit more optimistic and look at where DRM is heading, and how it can potentially be beneficial to the consumer (as opposed to being purely beneficial to the producer).

Lets focus on the third letter of that acronym. Management, this is where most forms of DRM blow chunks. DRM if executed correctly can save the consumer from a number of evils.

Advertisement

1. Elimination of shifty third party game resellers that offer next to zero on older used games, then turn around and mark up used inventory 3-4 times. This is one of the aspects of the xbone that after thinking about it a bit, really excites me.

2. Scratch/etc protection, moving the game to the entirely digital world and ditching out on the need for physical media (disks) means that even if you snap your install disk in two. You still own the game, and aren't forced to buy a second (or even third) copy of a game you love, but have had the misfortune of using too much.

3. A resurgence of the rental market. If/when a console allows you to rent games online, I will be extremely excited. There are lots of games I only ever want to play for a week or two, offering discounted rates to rent said game means I will actually get to play them, and who knows, if I really enjoy it, I'll probably purchase the game outright. This is all covered under DRM, and if executed properly will be the final nail in the coffin for the all of the third party rental stores.

Advertisement

4. Owning a game doesn't mean that you are stuck owning that game on one console. Just like how you can log into steam/etc from any computer and play "your" games, a properly managed drm allows you to play games on your friends consoles. DRM free games on the PS4 are great, but what about the ones that require accounts? how easy is it going to be to play a heavily restricted drm game on a friends ps4?

So where does that leave me? I am a consumer who has been burned by drm in the past, but who is foresighted enough to realize that we have the potential of a great system. I'm nervous about how the PS4 is allowing publishers to concoct their own DRM policies. While at the same time recognize the potential. Hopefully *crosses fingers* microsoft doesn't screw this up on the xbone.