Always-on DRM is a bit off

I can proudly say that I have been an avid supporter of the games industry for over ten years (I don’t tend to count the years that my parents footed the bill for my gaming addiction). I have owned and/or played every major console released since the early days of the NES and I’ve loved every minute of it.


You see, I’ve never been a very outgoing person. I don’t enjoy going to bars, sporting events, group gatherings, etc that other “adults” can often be seen attending. My ideal evening is staying in with my wife both of us engrossed in an amazing game and sharing stories from that game with each other. One long standing hurdle in my gaming past time has been the advent and ubiquitous nature of multiplayer gaming. I enjoy it very much but as I live in a rural area, I don’t always have an internet connection that can be relied upon. My solution to that issue has always been to have some games on “standby” that I can play. These are games that I want to play but wasn’t able to get until sometime later so they’re lower on my priority list, or games that only have a single player adventure waiting for me. They work just as well with or without internet so this seems like a natural solution to the problem. Until the companies forcing DRM down my throat get their say.


Before I properly begin my tirade against DRM, I want to first say that I support the games industry. I do not play pirated games and I tend to lecture and scold anyone I know who does. Stealing games is a horrible thing to do and hurts the chances of seeing our games industry prosper and continuing to release content for me to consume avidly. I subscribe to content packs, buy most DLCs, optional expansions, whatever I can afford I happily buy because I see it as a win/win situation. These companies get more of my dollars and I get to enjoy the games I love even more.


The new Sim City game recently released to terrible showing this past week. Many players are having issues connecting and EA has seemingly poured gasoline on the fire by refusing to refunds for digital editions of the game as it is “not their policy”. It is normally just an annoyance when you can’t access the multiplayer portion of the game but it isn’t really the end of the world. After all, most people like to play the single player experience first anyway and that often gives the publisher/developer time to sort out the kinks. There is only one problem in this case, even if you want to play a solitary game not interacting with anyone…you still can’t connect. EA claims to have opted for the “always-on” approach to this game requiring players to be signed into a server. They say that it is to handle processes that would normally be done on the players computer in order to beef up it’s capability but everyone knows the real reason. EA doesn’t want anyone to pirate their game and will crush every normal, paying customer to do it.


I would again like to stress that I support fair and legitimate means of protecting someones property or product. I am a professional artist by trade and as such I am always aware where my work might be misappropriated or outright stolen. The problem is the DRM isn’t the solution, if I were to apply that means of piracy protection to my paintings it becomes all the more ridiculous. You can purchase my painting, but it comes in it’s own box that has a shutter on the front of it. Now the only way to view this painting is that it must be plugged into your router and have an active connection to the internet. If it doesn’t that shutter will slam shut and won’t open again until you’ve reestablished that connection.


This sort of policy with games is one of the greatest reasons why I have an issue with any digital distribution. I cannot help the fact that I live in an area where most people are just discovering the strange new world full of information and kitten videos that the “young’ins” call the internet. In such a developing technological state we have poor infrastructure built for internet so occasionally a blizzard will break my internet connection. The idea that I can’t play a game that I paid $60 for simply because I don’t have internet is abhorrent. I could even get behind the idea that you have to connect to the net once to setup the game and verify that you did in fact purchase it, but what purpose does constantly checking serve? Other games have tried to go down this route and to the best of my knowledge none have succeeded and all have had to get rid of their always-on DRM policy.


I don’t believe that it is asking too much to have the ability to play a game that I paid money for regardless of net connection or otherwise. This new idea that consumers are no longer purchasing products but rather paying a steep price in order to essentially lease them is rage inducing to say the least. I strongly and with my whole heart believe that these sort of practices hurt more than they protect. You may stop two pirates from stealing your game, but in the process you’ve lost ten paying customers. I wish I had an easy solution for this, but I’m not a programmer, designer, or otherwise tech guru so all I can rely upon are the hopes and fears of myself as a consumer. I will gladly vote with my dollars as is the way with capitalism. Until this DRM issue gets fixed I will most definitely be voting a resounding NO.



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