DRM vs. Software Piracy: Worth the Hassle?

DRM vs. Software Piracy: Worth the Hassle?

Earlier in the month, Matt Ployhar, the President of the PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA) told Gamasutra that PC-based game piracy is on the decline.

Ah, such a conflict of emotions. On one hand, we want to see developers get paid for their hard work. On the other hand, we can see manifestations of EA and UbiSoft in the backs of our imaginations, their (huge, scaly) arms crossed, smirks lifting the corners of their (fang-filled) mouths. “See? All that torture we put you through with DRM? Totally worth it.”

Indeed, it’s important for us to stop and talk about whether or not the end justifies the means. Though the anti-piracy measures that are inflicted upon us by DRM does help restore profits to publishers, legitimate buyers are punished alongside the pirates.

But before the Internet goes to war over the matter, consider some of the observations Ployhar relayed to Gamasutra. DRM might not be responsible for cutting back piracy any more than natural changes that are occurring in the PC gaming landscape.

First and most obvious, digital download services like Steam make it far harder to rip a game and put it on BitTorrent. With cloud gaming on the rise and more digital download services looking to compete with Valve’s method of distribution, the physical PC game market will continue to fossilize.

More importantly, Ployhar said, the nature of popular PC games simply makes pirating a game more trouble than it’s worth. Why would anyone pirate a free-to-play game? Or a subscription-based MMORPG like World of Warcraft? (Though Activision-Blizzard continually has to hunt down and close illegal private servers.)

“What’s happening is game design is shifting and as a result of shifting game design, piracy, at least on the PC side, is actually declining as a result,” Ployhar told Gamasutra.

That’s not to say that there still aren’t big problems with PC piracy, including the recent leak of Crysis 2. But Ployhar’s words are a needed reminder that draconic anti-copying rules aren’t the only way to solve an industry-wide issue. The developers who are creative enough to put together great games are usually creative enough to heal the troubled market they love–even if they’re not consciously aware that their innovations help stump pirates looking for a free ride.

But all anti-piracy methods, including DRM, are helpful in their own way. Piracy, for instance, is one big reason why console releases don’t hit the PC as often as they could. The general decline of piracy, according to Ployhar, will help remedy the issue and the PC market will continue to grow.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.


  1. Writen as though cloud gaming, Steam, and subscriptions are not DRM. Those are some rosy glasses.

  2. Consoles are no less prone to piracy than the PC.

  3. Consoles are actually far more likely to have pirated games, and while the PC games are dying (which has been predicted for the last 20 years), that does not mean the removal of physical copies will automatically lead to less piracy.
    Where there’s a way, the pirates will always figure it out.

    But if the expense of the DRM that is so beloved to publishers were removed, perhaps it would lead to better games and more players. Gee, what a concept-try it, sometime, EA and Ubi!

  4. Hey dude! Thanks a lot for the particular benefit! Copy games just isn’t that uncomplicated!

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