Avalanche Studios: DRM is not the answer

Gamers have been vocal about DRM management in the past, particularly with Ubisoft’s ‘always-on’ system, which required constant internet access in order to play Ubisoft PC games. Now, Christofer Sundberg has made his stance towards digital rights management clear. His opinion holds a considerable amount of weight, as he happens to be the founder of Avalanche Studios, who were responsible for the development of Just Cause 2.

Sundberg feels that DRM merely punishes the legitimate consumers and it is not the solution to piracy. He does not dispute the costs of game development, and the frequency at which PC titles are pirated, but he does offer some interesting opinions. In an interview with Edge magazine, Sundberg had the following to say:

"If a DRM system constantly needs to be defended, something must be wrong. As a developer you will never win over any fans if you constantly let everyone know how much it costs to develop a game and how much money you lose.

I don't like always-on DRM solutions at all, since they offer nothing to the consumer. If you continuously give something extra for registering and being online, and award them for actually paying for and playing your game, it'd be different, but always-on DRM only says: 'Thank you for buying our game, we trust you as far as we can throw you.

"I know people who go and buy the game, but get the bootleg version just to get rid of the always-on requirement.

"PC games always have and always will be pirated, cracked, modded and what have you," he continues. "That is the nature of the PC as a platform; you can never get around this problem." The answer, he says, is to engage rather than enrage, to prove to customers that there is value in buying a legitimate copy of a game, and that you in turn value them for doing so."

"My solution to the problem is to start designing games for the PC player, and award PC players for being part of the community of your game and for staying connected to you - not forcing them. If you continuously tell the player that you care about their opinions, and appreciate their investment, you will lower the amount of bootleg copies. "

Sundberg’s mention of a bootleg game is directed entirely at Ubisoft, for their DRM policy. Sundberg also acknowledges that if a publisher demanded DRM for a PC version of a game developed by Avalanche Studios, he would not refuse to do so. He admits that he would have little choice in the matter, as the intellectual property is owned by the publisher instead of the developer. He assures fans that Avalanche would “go down screaming before anything like this ends up in any Avalanche game”.

Not only this, but he admits that the majority of his studio also opposes the methods of DR. He says that the company wants players to have an entertaining experience, and that DRM is only detrimental to that experience that they have tried to craft. Ubisoft has rapidly grown into a target for anger in the PC gaming community because of their business practices. From Dust was delayed on the PC during the Xbox Summer of Arcade promotion, and their always-on DRM system has infuriated gamers since it was first introduced.

Sundberg’s approach is both unique and refreshing, and it is encouraging that a major studio such as Avalanche Studios shares the same stance as their founder.

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37 Comments

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"I know people who go and buy the game, but get the bootleg version just to get rid of the always-on requirement."

Hell yeah! Copy protection is a punishment for us who actually buy the games. Those who don't buy the games and use warez versions have it all cracked away anyway.

also give us back the ability to play the game on a LAN has anyone tried playing online with 10 mates and 1 ADSL connection

DRMs are not only bad. Often they are border line illegals. Installing a hidden device driver on a PC without user consent should not be legal. It's not better than a virus or trojan. Specially since this device driver is not actually a device driver and do nothing the user want or paid for.

I'm still surprised MS let companies do this. Device drivers are not meant for DRM softwares specially the ones hidden by default.

DRM softwares should be installed in the Program Files folder. They should appear in the add/remove programs panel. Users should be warned upon installation. And users should be able to completely un-install them from the add/remove programs panel.

Ubisoft lost me as a customer for exactly this reason as of HAWX2.

The one thing i want to see developers stop doing is this:

Money Lost (Piracy) = Number of Downloads x Price($)

That's not true. I wouldn't buy 1/5th of the **** I pirate..

Since steam made it a lot easier to get games, I buy a lot of stuff off them (and then stopped when I realised I was being price gauged for being Austrlian -_-)

The real issue is that publishers treat gamers with IMMENSE disrespect. AU$ > US$, AU Price = 1.5x US Price -_-

PATHETIC

I got that from dust, the dodgy version to see if it was worth getting or not, and I'm so glad I did, what a crock of **** it really is, I haven't been dissapointed like that in a long time.
And yeah, the always on DRM would REALLY **** me off, the crack I had faked the online thing but the game still checked for it =/

Removing all the checks from game code is actually more difficult than building a complete emulated server apparently. One the plus side, the server code can be re-implemented for the next round of games.

KavazovAngel said,
DRM is bad, yes, but gamers have double standards, so they don't deserve to be allowed to complain about DRM.

How is that? And how can you lump them all into one group?

KavazovAngel said,
DRM is bad, yes, but gamers have double standards, so they don't deserve to be allowed to complain about DRM.

And you don't deserve to have an opinion.

hurr hurr

Good. He's not the only one, I remember reading something similar by the guys who made Super Meat Boy.

The only thing I disagree with in what he says is "if you [do x, y, z] ... you will lower the amount of bootleg copies". Bootleg copies are not the problem, lost sales are, and the two are not equivalent. Sometimes a legitimate buyer will crack the game to get rid of protection, like he said himself, so that's not a lost sale; a lot of people who crack the game wouldn't have bought it anyway; and of course a lot of sales are lost due to other factors than piracy.

Sundberg feels that DRM merely punishes the legitimate consumers and it is not the solution to piracy

OMG, somebody in the game industry with some common sense!

I've argued the same thing for years on many a publisher's forums. DRM has no effect whatsoever on pirates. The pirates are happily playing a cracked version of the game without the DRM in it. The only people affected are us loyal paying customers who have to put up with draconian measures.

It's almost driven me to obtain the pirated version of the game on several occasions.

Games industry (and greedy publishers in particular), PLEASE for the love of God, listen to this guy!

One of the big reasons I moved to playing the majority of games on the xbox was because of stupid DRM tatics by publishers. I love Just Cause, the first one, on the xbox 360 but I've not got a chance to play Just Cause 2 yet - still waiting for it to drop below the £10 price tag.

On a related not, the copy protection on the 360 (and I assume most other consoles) is such that you can't just make a copy and put a no-crack fix on. The result is you have the occasional accident where discs are damaged. A few years back a lot of publishers would replace the original disc for the price of pre-paid postage. I recently looked for a replacement need for speed disc and they wanted £15 + postage... the game isn't even worth that new from retails stores anymore.
And then I recently emailed Microsoft's XBOX dept to see if I could get the one of the xbox live arcade discs exchanged for the games being added to my account (or codes) and they refused even though launcher itself doesn't work anymore and you have to go into the 'games menu' and find them as an installed game. Altho, I don't mind that, it would have been nice but for the kids its frustrating for them.

As I see it, publisher's really do need to strive to help legit gamers have what they want. WE are the ones that are paying for the development and their wages etc, help US support YOU and you'll make more profit. Make us jump through hoops and do stupid stuff like always on activation and we'll go with another publisher/developer even if your game is the best,you're just going to end up with pirates playing it.

sagum said,
I've not got a chance to play Just Cause 2 yet - still waiting for it to drop below the £10 price tag..

Speaking as someone who has put over 160 hours into JC2 it's easily worth the original retail price. I think I've bought seven copies for friends on sales.

It and Crackdown 1 are still my favorite games ever.

It's about time the companies themselves realized that punishing the legitimate consumer is not the answer.

One Blu-Ray I bought had 1 intro video saying "Thank you for actually buying this Movie" and went right to the movie. Made me smile.

The best solution is to stop selling games at $60+ and start selling them at $0.99, that way, you'l get the entire market and it won't be worth peoples time to steal your games.

Brian Miller said,
The best solution is to stop selling games at $60+ and start selling them at $0.99, that way, you'l get the entire market and it won't be worth peoples time to steal your games.

Valve has conducted studies on a concept similar to what you bring up. By drastically lowering the price, you effectively gain the interest of people who didn't have any prior. Many more people will buy the game with not very much to lose.

They concluded that they had received up to four times profit due to the massive amount of people buying their games. In the aftermath of the sale, they even show a major increase in regular sales, mainly due to the fact that word of mouth is the best advertisement.

Section 8: Prejudice was 15$ from the get-go, and it was infinitely more profitable than the first, more complete than the first, and still has a multiplayer community.

Introversion, the makers of Darwinia, Uplink, and DEFCON, were all but saved as a company due to the Introversion pack dropping to 5$.

Brian Miller said,
The best solution is to stop selling games at $60+ and start selling them at $0.99, that way, you'l get the entire market and it won't be worth peoples time to steal your games.

Economics 101: Lower price = higher demand.

Well, he's a swede. Swedes are widely known for their love of all things pirate, right?
/s

One-up for the guy. Increasingly more developers and artists speak against DRM.

cralias said,
Well, he's a swede. Swedes are widely known for their love of all things pirate, right?
/s

One-up for the guy. Increasingly more developers and artists speak against DRM.


I know you were just joking, but it's worth emphasizing the point that this issue has nothing to do with pirates. DRM doesn't affect them in the slightest. They're all playing cracked versions with the DRM removed. At worst, they have to wait a few days after release to get their game while somebody cracks it.

TCLN Ryster said,

I know you were just joking, but it's worth emphasizing the point that this issue has nothing to do with pirates. DRM doesn't affect them in the slightest. They're all playing cracked versions with the DRM removed. At worst, they have to wait a few days after release to get their game while somebody cracks it.

Meanwhile, people like us that have bought the game are suffering through DRM, then often end up getting the crack to bypass it anyway.

Hey be honest, who doesn't do that?

Everything he says is true, especially this...

"I know people who go and buy the game, but get the bootleg version just to get rid of the always-on requirement."

How many of us have downloaded things like "NO CD" crack because the damn game insists in checking you really do own the original CD despite online registration and jumping through hoops.

The same could be said for movies, I recently bought a DVD which had 10 minutes of warnings & adverts which I could not skip.
I downloaded a copy from the interwebs, much better, movie and no adverts.

So true.

They really don't reward legit buyers. I bought the damn thing so why do I need to see this or do this to enjoy it hassle free?

I think it's all about community and expansive worthy content. Make it compelling to own the legit version and you will pretty much get the sales you deserve. It's out there for people to see what works. No need to test the waters.

http://craphound.com/images/ifurapirate.jpeg

Valve really had the right idea with making players want to use their DRM. They took an idea for an account system DRM and made it so much more than just a DRM. People like me are now practically begging more companies to further integrate their games with Steamworks because it offers a good deal of ease to the process of gaming.

Pirates will not stop with a restrictive DRM - it has been shown in the past that most games are put on torrent trackers within a week regardless of the DRM. The only thing it does punish the regular customers.

Exosphere said,
Everything he says is true, especially this...

"I know people who go and buy the game, but get the bootleg version just to get rid of the always-on requirement."

How many of us have downloaded things like "NO CD" crack because the damn game insists in checking you really do own the original CD despite online registration and jumping through hoops.

The same could be said for movies, I recently bought a DVD which had 10 minutes of warnings & adverts which I could not skip.
I downloaded a copy from the interwebs, much better, movie and no adverts.

Agree we install 2gb or more of files of dvd's just to have top have the disc in the drive to play. I hate that. Not that I play many PC games anymore but when I do I always look for a NO-CD crack.

warwagon said,
"'Thank you for buying our game, we trust you as far as we can throw you."

Best quote EVER and SO True!

kinda like gog*com no DRM on their games. yes some are rather old. The Witcher 2 thats not old and no DRM on that one. Nothing like encouraging people to buy bootlegs.. now I know why I don't buy video games anymore.

PatrynXX said,

kinda like gog*com no DRM on their games. yes some are rather old. The Witcher 2 thats not old and no DRM on that one. Nothing like encouraging people to buy bootlegs.. now I know why I don't buy video games anymore.


I bought Witcher 2 boxed, and while the original version has DRM, the official patch removes it - in fact, when you first complete setup, it automatically patches for you.

Now that's good thinking, IMO.

Reminds me of UT2003/4.

PatrynXX said,

kinda like gog*com no DRM on their games. yes some are rather old. The Witcher 2 thats not old and no DRM on that one. Nothing like encouraging people to buy bootlegs.. now I know why I don't buy video games anymore.

Oh please, nothing was stopping people from pirating games before and nothing ever has. GoG actually has a very good service and if they weren't selling any games they would not still be in business. Not only do they not cripple their games with pointless DRM, they also update them and for their older games do whatever is necessary to get them running on modern computers.