PC game piracy hurts us all

Published on Monday, March 3, 2008 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv Journals

At the end of the day, the people who "do stuff" will always have the advantage over the people who "don't do stuff".  Pirates are slowly motivating ever increasing levels of DRM and in time, I hate to say it, DRM is going to win.  That's because the people motivated to make the DRM work (the people who do stuff) greatly outnumber the motivation of the people who don't do stuff. 

One can easily picture a future in 5 years in which the telecoms, the PC makers, the OS makers, and the software makers have teamed up (and you only need any two of them to do so) to eliminate unauthorized usage of a given piece of IP. If you don't think it can be done, then you probably don't have much experience in writing software. The DRM and copy protection of today is piddly 1-party solutions. 

The DRM of tomorrow will involve DRM parternships where one piece of protect IP can key itself off another. Thus, if even one item on your system is pirated (whether it be cracked or not) it will get foiled as long as there is one item in the system that you use that isn't cracked (whether it be the OS or something in your hardware or whatever).  It will, as a practical matter, make piracy virtually impossible.

Computer games and video will likely be the first two targets because piracy of them is so rampant.  A pirated copy of something doesn't mean it's a lost sale. But piracy does cause lost sales.  Moreover, it's just incredibly frustrating to see people using the fruits of your labor as if they were somehow entitled to it.

I have long been and continue to be a big proponent of alternative ways to increase sales. I don't like piracy being blamed for the failure of a game because it tends to obscure more relevant issues which prevent us, as an industry, from improving what we do.  But at the same time, I don't like pirates trying to rationalize away their behavior because they do cost sales. I've seen people in our forums over the years boldly admit they're pirating our game but that they are willing to buy it if we add X or Y to it -- as if it's a negotiation. 

I don't like DRM.  But the pirates are ensuring that our future is going to be full of it because at the end of the day, the people who make stuff are going to protect themselves.  It's only a question of when and how intensive the DRM will get. And that's something only the pirates can change -- if you're using a pirated piece of software, either stop using it or buy it.