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Subject:  Games & DRM Date:  9/26/2008  5:35 PM
Author:  TheJTrain Number:  28367 of 36492

Penny Arcade has a comic series on the evolution of DRM, with original comics but guest posts from others in the industry. Wednesday's from Kotaku's Brian Crescente was an excellent start, and today's was good also.

Though it's not a popular view, in my mind a lot of gamers are overreacting--look how many people buy music through iTunes, whose DRM mechanics are hardly lenient.

Stream of consciousness follows:
People put up with the DRM of iTunes because they want to have the music they own on a proprietary device, because that proprietary device is (I guess, I don't own an i-anything) so unassailably cool and powerful and great that it's worth putting up with the DRM to be able to use the device. My first thought after that was, what exactly is the carrot that goes with the DRM stick for PC gaming? Is it the same, a device that's cool enough to want to game on (for a plethora of reasons, from its multifunction nature to mouse/keyboard controls) that we're expected to swallow the DRM? Or is it (or should it be) something not hardware-related but product quality-related; that is, should the publishers themselves be giving us the carrot for putting up with their stick? Steam does that for a shload of people in the near-transparent updates, digital distribution, more frequent sale prices, community, etc., which is one very poignant explanation for why Steam escapes most if not all of the DRM-fueled scorn that's heaped on EA et al.

That led to another thought, that the iTunes model might be more closely related to each individual console market than the PC market. Console owners have to have the right proprietary device to play the games they want to play, with no interoperability at all, and no other options other than switching devices or owning multiple. They can handle the stick of proprietary-ness because they have little choice in the matter, and the millions of people who are iPod stalwarts would argue that the iPod is so superior in every way, that they have just as little choice.

Somewhere along the line I got to the latest under-the-counter theories as to the real reason for the new age of install-limiting DRM. Given that it's absolutely proven that DRM does not limit the availability of pirated games one iota, there must be another reason for it getting more strict these days. The latest theory is that it's to purposefully limit or eliminate the secondhand market (booooooo, says all the cheapskates like JT). I stumbled on these articles on touching on the issue (all from the developer perspective):
"I think it's really damaging to the single-player experience," he said. "Games like BioShock and Assassin's Creed, where they're perfectly valid games, but once you've played them they go into the pre-owned section."

"The sales don't reflect the actual sales of people playing them because someone has gone out and bought, at almost the same price, a pre-owned copy because they couldn't get an original. It's very frustrating that they don't carry that stock any more."

If this guy thinks that folks that buy used are buying used because new copies are hard to find, he's an absolute blithering idiot. A), just because the GameStop on the corner might not still stock new copies of Bioshock (which I'd be willing to bet they still do, even a year post-release) does not mean at all that said consumer can't find a new copy anywhere., Amazon, GoGamer,com, anyone? Sheesh. And 2), don't be a moron dude, they're trying to save 10 bucks each so that the same $360 buys 7 games instead of 6.
"The fact is that we're making new innovative videogames all the time and it costs a lot of money to do that," commented Eades. "If we're only seeing one slice of the profit then that makes the games more expensive in the first place and the more expensive you sell a game for the more inclined [consumers] are to swap games... improving the rental market for videogames sounds like a really good solution."

"From the gamers' point of view it's really good because you can effectively pay a tenner buying a game, which is great, which is maybe where the price point for games should be," he added. "But of course we can't really reduce the price point of games if the only profit we're getting is off of that first sale. That's why retailers aren't the most popular people with game developers right now."