DRM. Once the big bogeyman of gaming until the Epic Store rocked up and redirected the frothing hordes to another target for their ire. But DRM is, and always will be, a negative for the consumer. There are no positives to the end user for DRM being used on a game they’ve purchased. There are literally no scenarios in which someone could wish a game they owned had DRM patched in; it’s just not a thing.
Which means, as consumers, we’re predisposed to liking this ‘bad’ thing because, well, it’s either an invisible extra or it actively prohibits us from using the product we bought in the way we’d like to.
Reasons why DRM is bad:
- Can prohibit mod support
- Potentially affects performance
- Ownership can be taken away
- Can require an online connection
- Relies on 3rd-party servers for activation
This is all thinking about it entirely from our point of view though, the people handing over a comparatively meagre 60 bucks in order to play an entertainment product. On the other side of the fence, you’ve got developers and publishers who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a game, and arguably quite rightly, don’t want to put the game onto the net and let anyone and everyone play it for free. It’s much the same thinking for why an author doesn’t just post a PDF of their latest book on their site, and why cinemas persist as a means to get viewers to watch before the pirates can get their hands on it. Sometimes.
Now I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want anybody taking my work, whatever it is. I wouldn’t want to work my arse off making a music album and then put the whole thing on a torrent network. I don’t want to come up with a good idea at work and then gift it to a colleague and pretend it’s theirs. We want the things we create to be a path to our success.
And it’s exactly the same with videogames. It’s absolutely understandable why a AAA publisher feels the need to protect its $200m investment with some Denuvo DRM. It might not work for long, but at least they’ll feel something is being done to prevent four years work being uploaded to anyone and everyone for the princely sum of nothing.
Which brings us round to the one and only CD Projekt RED. They are the go-to evidence for those who want to suggest going DRM-free doesn’t affect sales. Using common sense tells us that’s nonsense. We’ve no way to know whether The Witcher 3 would’ve sold fewer copies if it had Denuvo DRM. It was a fantastic game which sold well. No amount of sales data can tell us whether being DRM-free was a good or bad thing.
And, in about seven months time, CDPR will launch Cyberpunk 2077. The most anticipated game two years running here on GD, and probably the most anticipated game of 2020 in general. It’s going to be huge. Yet on April 16th, CD Projekt RED will upload a DRM-free version of Cyberpunk 2077 and the whole world will be able to download a simple installer and play the biggest game around. They did it with The Witcher 3 but it feels like an even bolder move with CP2077. Millions will torrent it, we can be assured of that. But CDPR will be hoping many millions more actually reward their hard work, and their resistance to DRM, by handing over cold, hard cash. The people who hate DRM and pirate CP2077 though? They’re just pirates from top to bottom, and DRM receives their hate because it’s the inconvenience between them and pirating a game.
I think Cyberpunk 2077 is a massive move from CD Projekt RED though, and it got me to thinking about what I’d do if I were overseeing my own AAA game project. Would I be prepared to launch my four years of hard graft without any copy protection whatsoever? Or would I load it up to the eyeballs with Denuvo, VMProtect, SecuRom, and just about anything else I could get my hands on? I’ll leave that thought for the comments as I don’t want to swing this debate one way or the other.
What do you think then, if you made a game would you sell it DRM-free? Get voting and let us know why below!