What Works Better: DRM? Or Just Being Nice to Pirates?

Illustration for article titled What Works Better: DRM? Or Just Being Nice to Pirates?

Earlier this week, Hotline Miami released and very quickly became the indie flavor of the minute. Then the story emerged that the game's maker went into the forums at The Pirate Bay, home of, well, pirates, and provided technical support to people who were, technically, stealing the game.

Advertisement

Naturally, Jonatan Soderstrom reaped some goodwill for this stance. It's an extremely sympathetic position in which to find yourself, large-size developer or small. For starters, you haven't done anything wrong, someone is taking your hard work and refusing to pay for it. Two, you get major props from pirate sympathizers, some of whom may actually act on the principle of paying for a game if they play a pirated version and like it. Three, you're not punishing the anti-piracy contingent, who may loathe the practice, but loathe DRM even more.

Soderstrom is by no means the first one to discover this. McPixel's creator was the latest high profile case of a developer embracing piracy and picking up an enormous PR boost for it—and even more: sales from the pirates themselves. After McPixel showed up on The Pirate Bay, Mikolaj 'Sos' Kaminski said "no biggie," on Reddit, expanded on that with some enlightened views of piracy, and tossed in some free codes for the game. The Pirate Bay responded by, wait for it, holding an event where they asked people to actually pay money for a video game (after downloading the full version anyway). [Update: Here's another example, from the creator of Mark of the Ninja, in an interview on Thursday.]

It's an almost unassailable position to be in (and, argumentatively, shows the power of not considering yourself a victim). Gamers love it because, technically, they're sacrificing sales not to inconvenience legitimate customers. Pirates love it because they don't consider it a lost sale. I'm not sure big publishers or their lobbyists love it, but anyone who comes out to rip an indie developer over his policies on his own product is going to look like a corporate dick of the first magnitude.

So what do you think? Is this an effective strategy for all? An effective strategy for some? Is it Stockholm Syndrome with digital hostages? In the past, the cynic in me would dismiss it as a shrewd PR move. (Though Gabe Newell at Valve proffered a compelling argument about why it's a service issue.)

Advertisement

Whether this policy of engagement actually works on its own is one issue. But I think it's clear it works better than DRM. If you can find anyone applauding that, let me know. But the contrast is clear; instead of trying to recover a lost sale, they're trying to make up for it with new ones, and keep legitimate customers happy.

DISCUSSION

ArMoRofGOD
ArMoRofGOD

Those who pirate software are very very low people to me who deserve even less respect than regular theives because at the very least physical merchandise thieves have skill, slight of hand, and a lot of guts (and stupidity in cases where necessity is not involved) to risk being caught or avoid being caught. Pirates , however, let someone with actual knowledge of software break through the security implemented by developers do all the work and then sit back, go to pirate bay or the like, and click a button to steal someones hard work. They require no skill and no courage, they are cowards and thieves yet will never see themselves that way because either A) "[insert game developer here] has a ton of money and doesn't need mine", B) "if I like it I'll buy it" (lol B.S.), C) "I wasn't gonna buy it anyway so no sale lost", D) "I cant afford it." The list goes on and it seems pointless to try to reason with pirates, they see nothing wrong with what they do. One of my best friends pirates games and has even stolen indie games and I tell him every time a relevant subject comes up how wrong that is and wonder why he doesn't care that hes stealing something someone worked so hard to create.

More to the subject though. I honestly don't care if DRM is in the games I buy. Ive NEVER noticed it. TBH I couldn't even tell you which games I own that have DRM because I honestly don't even know. Ive heard that Ubisoft used to put it in all their games but I've bought many UBI games and noticed nothing different than other games (including indie games). People will say that DRM doesn't work and only prevents the inevitable but that friend of mine I mentioned has stated that if its a pain in the ass to download a game (because of some strong DRM) he wont bother and if he wants it enough hell buy it if it goes on sale so I have seen first hand that DRM can work. I remember way back when SPORE came out and everyone complained about the always online connection required and I can empathize with those who has spotty connections or live in a place with no connection at all but that seems to be the only downside to DRM. I laugh when I see the creative DRM measures some games have used like serious sam and operation flashpoint (never played either but read of their interesting uses of DRM) and hope those measures work to annoy pirates. Why should they enjoy the same hobby as those who follow the rules. I hope someday soon that the laws in my country and other's get less lax about piracy and start seriously cracking down and finding the ones who crack software because without those talented individuals the lazy pre-teen pirates will at the very least have to learn an actual skill to keep their illegal activity up and could hopefully use that skill later down the road when they grow up and mature to actually fight the piracy they once took part in. That was a lot longer than I expected it to be, I'll await the "cool story bro".