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As piracy grows ever easier, and as users become more and more vocal about the measures publishers take to try and stop it -- witness the Spore DRM controversy -- the appeal of user-friendly DRM lumped into a subscription service seems like the best solution.
After all, very few players complain about the fact that World of Warcraft is tied to a unique account that costs a constant $15 per month fee to keep playable -- because that's the very point of the game.
But even for games that don't require online interaction, the tied-to-an-account model can work a charm: Valve's Steam service is typically extremely well-regarded, thanks to its selection of games, its appealing community features, and most recently, the addition of its Steam Cloud service.
This makes online integration all the more relevant, as user data is stored on servers and accessible on any PC the player logs into. Surely, providing a tangible benefit for users to tie themselves to a verification system is the way to make to help the copy protection-related medicine go down?
Whether or not GameStop's management wants to admit it, many developers and publishers consider the used game market to be, well, less than benevolent. Whether it should or can be stamped out completely is not the issue; few would disagree that at least discouraging players from selling games back quickly is a good idea.
One of the best current tools for doing so is downloadable content -- or as Xbox Live group program manager Alvin Gendrano put it at Microsoft's GameFest this year, "Using [premium DLC] we can keep your games being used over a long time. The longer your users play your titles, the less chance they give those titles away to retailers and sell them for used."
Moreover, stats Gendrano released suggest that games with strong DLC retain their market value for longer: "Games with PDLC were still selling for $59 in [the second quarter of their release lifespans]; those without were selling for $56." And Microsoft's Gears of War 2 recently took a new tactic; it shipped with one-time-use coupon for free DLC that can only be downloaded by the initial purchaser.
Perhaps the boldest mover in this space, however, is EA's Criterion studio, which has launched the "Year of Paradise" initiative for the company -- its Burnout Paradise, which was first released in January, is still receiving substantive free DLC on a regular basis, with its first paid pack, Big Surf Island, coming approximately one year after the game's retail release.