DRM in retreat

“I personally don’t like DRM. (Digital Rights Management)”, Electronic Arts CEO, John Riccitello said. “It interrrupts the user experience. We would like to get around that. But there is this problem called piracy out there.”

A few months there was a big hoo-ha over the three-installation limit placed on each copy of Spore. Of course, due to the backlash, the policy was then changed but not before Spore’s ratings on Amazon tumbled.Spore, being one of the most highly-anticipated games being coupled with one of the most restrictive policies ever imposed on a game created caused the game to be a prime target for critics bashing the increasingly heavy-handed digital rights managment systems.

As a result, Spore was heavily pirated but still managed to sell well. While the debate of whether the lack of piracy would have caused the game to sell better is best left to eggheads to debate on, this scenario serves to remind publishers that alienating gamers also affects their bottomline.

Less than a year later, it seemed that such heavy-handed DRM systems are on their way out. EA will release The Sims 3 with only a classic serial number and CD check combo for protection. Valve on the other hand, will rely on its CEG (Custom Executable Generation) system. What it does is that the user can log on to Steam to download and install a game on any PC but the catch is that he user can only log on to Steam from only one machine at a time. The user also cannot transfer or sell his games to another party.

Stardock’s GOO (Game Object Obfuscation) which was launched in April goes one further. Once you install and game on a PC and activate it, you will never have to log on again.

There is no perfect solution for either gamers or developers yet but at least both parties can take comfort that the DRM systems of the future will only get better and better.

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