Understanding Video Game DRM: Why we need it

by on June 22, 2013

Couple of weeks ago, I discussed DRM and I tried to approach the reasoning behind it. I mentioned that I understood it existed for a good cause but that it wasn’t the right way of going about things. Now, I find myself challenging that point of view.

EA microtransactions

Here’s the thing. Right now the industry is at a point where it’s moving more towards multiplayer and F2P games more and more. Why? Because those games don’t suffer the same sales drops that single-player games do. Multiplayer games drive players to get more copies that they don’t trade in and micro-transaction games find all kinds of ways to make money off one consumer. In this world, game companies no longer see single-player games as profitable or practical. And what happens in this market? They stop investing in these properties. You’ll get single-player games with a boring, bloated multiplayer component tacked on and tons of microtransactions and DLC. But I don’t think you’ll be seeing many new games like Last of Us. Not when these games take the population of an urban high school to develop.

 In this age of photo-realism where gamers demand more and more quality, who’s going to accept budget titles?

I’ve been reconsidering the solution I proposed during my previous article and I question its validity. Sure, they can put out budget games. But in this age of photo-realism where gamers demand more and more quality, who’s going to accept budget titles? Gamers are making two sets of demands here: They’re asking for top-notch quality but they’re also asking for the games to be cheaper on their end. Only one of those things can happen. Gears of War mastermind Cliff Blezinsky put it best when he tweeted ‘You cannot have game and marketing budgets this high while also having used and rental games existing‘

At the end of the day, a system like the Xbox One has the potential to keep single-player gaming alive. If their system takes off, publishers will see a new platform where they can release games that people have to pay for if they want to enjoy. And so those publishers will do the sensible thing business-wise and go after those platforms.  Sega COO Tokishiro Nagoshi certainly agreed when he stated ‘To be honest, with the rising cost of making games, Microsoft’s strategy is something that developers will be happy about’.


You can keep asking for quality games all you want, but unless you’re willing to pick up the cheque, expect a future where nobody sees the point in dropping coin on the games you want to see more of.  So far, we’ve all been relying on those guys that actually spend money at launch and just deciding to rent it or buy it used later. But the launch buyers can’t carry us for long. It costs game companies tons of money to grab gamer attention long enough to get pre-orders and secure big day-one numbers. This is their bread and butter. After that, the used and rental services kick in. You’re still paying, but it goes to people like Gamestop, who get rich off the backs of the companies that actually made the games.

Microsoft’s new policies, if they’re well-implemented, give publishers the option to control what they make off their games. Ubisoft head honcho Yves Guillemot doesn’t mind used games at all, but he agrees that MS are on the right track because “they are not taking a fee, [and] it will give us the option to work out what service we have to give”. I personally think such a system makes the most sense, because it keeps control of the sales in the hands of the publishers.

Yves Guillemot

Companies understand that not every consumer can get the games at their prices. Hence the existence of sales, ‘greatest hits’ collections and demo’s. Budget gamers will always have ways to try out their games and ways to get them for less. It’s totally fair to ask that those ways involve the designers seeing some money at the end of the day.

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  • June 24, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    You can do away with used games perhaps, but that means a lot of people won’t (be able to) buy a console anymore (because of costs) so you’re shrinking the console maker’s ecosystem. Not sure whether this hurts more than just keeping a used market: initially profits go up, but if there are not enough customers, there are not enough consoles being sold to keep them interesting. And everyone will be moving back to PC’s, connected to their TV.

    • Mazen Abdallah
      June 24, 2013 at 6:12 PM

      That’ll happen if the game companies leave no budget alternative. If you wait a while there’s a price break, most titles are re-released for budget gamers as ‘classics’ and anything out for like a year costs way less. Consoles are still interesting for those who want them and they can make compromises or wait for price breaks. Also I don’t see budget gamers moving to PC, considering an entry-level gaming PC is just shy of $1000

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