There has always been a cat and mouse game between game developers and pirates. Over the years developers have tried various tricks to prevent people from pirating their games. My earliest experience with piracy prevention the original MechWarrior. When you first loaded the game it presented you with a prompt that required entering information based on what was prompted. That information was found in the game manual. Of course this method was a pain in the ass if you either lost the manual or bought the game used without the manual because you didn’t realize that you needed it in order to play the game. Therein lies the problem with piracy prevention mechanisms, they always inconvenience paying customers.
Piracy prevention mechanisms continued to evolved after MechWarrior. Not too long ago computer games started including what amounted to literal kill switches. These mechanisms were referred to as Digital Rights Management (DRM). The name was idiotic since rights should need to be managed but it sounded friendlier than Developer Kill Switch so the marketing teams went with it. As you might expect, these kill switches didn’t sit well with a lot of games. However, time heals all wounds and now many games are unaware that their games include a kill switch.
Enter GOG. GOG is my favorite game distributor because, unlike Steam, it provides titles without DRM. And it has decided to make modern gamers aware of the fact that they don’t own many of their games, they merely rent them:
The landscape has changed since 2008, and today many people don’t realize what DRM even means. And still the DRM issue in games remains – you’re never sure when and why you can be blocked from accessing them. And it’s not only games that are affected, but your favourite books, music, movies and apps as well.
To help understand what DRM means, how it influences your games and other digital media, and what benefits come with DRM-free approach, we’re launching the FCK DRM initiative. The goal is to educate people and ignite a discussion about DRM. To learn more visit https://fckdrm.com, and share your opinions and stories about DRM and how it affects you.
This is the kind of marketing I like. GOG is telling gamers why its service is superior by pointing out the very real flaws that exist in many of their competitors’ services. It’s also important for everybody to understand exactly what DRM is, especially since it can render a legitimate copy of a game unplayable. DRM mechanisms usually involve a phone home system where the game contacts a DRM server to get authorization to load. If that server cease to exist, say if the developer goes out of business or decides that maintaining the server is costlier than an old game warrants, then legitimate copies of the game can no longer be played.