As Capcom’s Devil May Cry 5 is cracked and pirated on its first day of release, we must question whether preventative Digital Rights Management (DRM) is the right approach to the problem of game piracy, says Adam Hitchen, Technical Services Executive at MUSO.
Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been a controversial topic in gaming for some time. When a game studio reveals its use of DRM as a strategy for anti-piracy, the community’s reaction is one of concern.
DRM reportedly increases the file size required by a game, and in some scenarios, has been accused of reducing gameplay frame-rate and limiting performance. Additionally, DRM also depends upon regularly “verifying” legal ownership of the content which typically requires online connectivity, and means that, in some severe cases, players aren’t able to play without a constant connection.
Regardless of the truth about performance, software bloat, and connectivity issues – the strength of feeling in the gaming community is huge. DRM is accused of being anti-consumer, and are perceived as being to the detriment of player experience. For game studios, it’s a very quick way to alienate your target market.
It’s also like a red flag to a bull and, once a game is released with DRM, hackers quickly get to work to crack it. Typically this takes a little while but, as Capcom recently discovered, the hackers are getting faster. Released on 8th March, the game was cracked and pirated within hours. With this precedent set, combined with the frustration it induces in players, is DRM really worth it?
The internet has fundamentally changed the way that content is distributed across the board. While in many ways it has made life easier for distributors – as releasing and selling a game can be done immediately – it’s also presented the same challenges it has to film studios, music studios and any other digital content provider. In the gaming community, however, DRM has created more controversy among consumers than any other content protection strategy.
Games studios and distributors need to protect their content online, and take a stand against piracy, but the chosen strategy should not undermine the core product or hijack the conversation around a release. Gaming creates huge and passionate fan bases which need to be nurtured; fans should not be left feeling as though their gameplay is being hindered.
With immediate availability of cracks to work-around DRM, and hackers choosing to proactively target releases using DRM, it’s time to change the conversation. Content protection strategies should be non-invasive and data-driven. Rather than embedding mechanisms within the games themselves, studios can effectively remove illegal content as it appears by crawling for copies.
Taking this approach keeps fans onboard, doesn’t impact gameplay and still ensures that piracy is stamped out – the things that really matter.