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2D Boy's Carmel: PC Game DRM Utilized To Prevent Game Resale?

2D Boy's Carmel: PC Game DRM Utilized To Prevent Game Resale?

May 11, 2009 | By Staff, Paul Hyman

May 11, 2009 | By Staff, Paul Hyman
More: Console/PC

PC game publishers have been using DRM to restrict the reselling of games as much as to prevent piracy, 2D Boy co-founder Ron Carmel has been musing, as part of a larger Gamasutra discussion published today.

Referencing the recent public backlash on 'restrictive' DRM in games such as Spore, "I definitely believe this is all the result of a change in the public perception of DRM, a sort of grass roots uprising," Carmel observes.

"Gamers are much more vocal about it than they used to be, perhaps because they are so accustomed to downloading music without too many restrictions."

Carmel believes that the extent to which a game is pirated is approximately the same whether it uses any of the DRM technologies or not. If it is that ineffective, he asks, why use it at all?

However, he says that DRM is used not so much to thwart piracy -- since it's not very good at that -- as it is to combat the used game market.

"Publishers aren't stupid. They know that DRM doesn't work against piracy," he explains. "What they're trying to do is stop people from going to GameStop to buy $50 games for $35, none of which goes into the publishers' pockets."

He particularly notes: "If DRM permits only a few installs, that minimizes the number of times a game can be resold."

But with a very small percentage of his company's sales coming from physical retail, and other philosophical and practical reasons not to get restrictive: "DRM is a waste of time and money for us," says Carmel.

"It takes time to wrap the game in DRM and you have to pay the DRM provider a percentage of your revenue. Not only doesn't it work but, ironically, if your game gets cracked, then the person with the cracked version has a better gaming experience than the person with a legit version who has to enter a registration code to play."

And so, when 2D Boy shipped its first game, World of Goo, in October, there was no DRM aboard.

"People have actually written to tell us how much they appreciate that," Carmel recalls. "Even though they hadn't intended to buy the game, they bought it just to support us. So there's an element of good will involved in not using DRM too."

In a recent blog, he reported the methodology he used to determine that 90% of the copies of World of Goo that exist are pirate versions.

"Many people who are resistant to accepting the reality of DRM read my blog and said, ‘Oh, that's bullshit!' But I'm telling you," says Carmel, "we found 10 times more player IDs and 10 times more IPs out there than there were legitimate licenses sold."

Nevertheless, Carmel says he's not complaining; he says he's made good money off of World of Goo.

"I'm convinced that we lost very few customers because of piracy," he says. "People who pirate the game are people who wouldn't have bought it anyway. I don't know anyone who would try to find a cracked version and, if they can't locate one, they say, ‘OK, since I can't find it for free, I'm going to go out and buy it.' I just don't think that happens."

The bottom line is that Carmel doesn't intend to use DRM protection on his next game -- or on any of his subsequent games.

The 2D Boy co-founder's comments came as part of a larger Gamasutra discussion on PC gaming piracy and DRM, with comments from Stardock, EA, Ubisoft and the ESA on the extent and effectiveness of game protection on the PC.

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