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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