Kickstarter-Funded Game Drops DRM-Free Version It Promised, Then Promises It Again After The Backlash
from the 360-degrees dept
Readers of this site should know by now that, as a general rule, DRM is equal parts dumb and ineffective. What in theory is a way for game publishers to stave off piracy typically instead amounts to a grand digital method for making sure legitimate customers can’t play the games they buy. Now, not all DRM is created equally shitty, of course — one of the more benign forms of DRM is Valve’s Steam platform. Because games purchased on the platform check in with Steam servers for product keys and otherwise encrypts the individual files for the game each user downloads, it’s a form of DRM.
And because DRM is almost always annoying even at its best, there are some gamers who will only buy DRM-free games. Many Kickstarter campaigns for video games, in fact, explicitly state that backers and non-backers will have a DRM-free option for the game available, either through platforms like GOG and HumbleBundle, or directly from the developer. Duke Grabowski, Mighty Swashbuckler! was one such game, with developer Venture Moon Industries promising both a Steam release and a DRM-free release when it collected funds from backers. Then, suddenly, once the company got a publisher on board for the project, it announced that the game would only be available on Steam.
During the campaign, DRM-free copies of Duke Grabowski were promised to backers. Of course, most people expected this promise to be honored. As of yesterday, the publisher the developers have lined up told them this no longer is the case. The whole DRM-free thing has been thrown out the proverbial window and only Steam keys are being offered. Understandably, the comments section on Kickstarter is in an uproar.
The reaction has been almost universally negative, with nearly every commentor speaking out against the decision. Several backers are demanding a refund because they only backed it because DRM-free was promised. Instead of getting militant, a few backers have decided it best to petition the publisher to honor the original promises. One has even written up a template to send toDukeGrabowski@gmail.com.
Well, yes, the reaction from those who have paid for a product, even if it’s a pre-payment in the form of a Kickstarter pledge, will tend to be negative when promised iterations of the game are suddenly yanked away without warning or recourse. Everyone seems to agree that publisher Alliance Digital Media was the one behind the decision, but to the end customer that makes little difference. If a developer promises a DRM-free version of its game to backers, then that developer had damned well better make sure the publisher they select is on board with that as well. Otherwise, it was a promise made without the commitment to keeping it.
As it turns out, this particular story has a happy ending, with the developer announcing on Kickstarter that the DRM-free version of the game has been promised again.
Good news! Alliance has told me that they are planning on releasing a DRM-free version of the game before the end of the year, and that more details will be coming soon. So thank you for your patience and understanding.
Which is, you know, fine, but with Kickstarter becoming a major vehicle for funding the creation of new gaming content, this kind of thing needs to get ironed out now. Because backers aren’t going to keep backing without some level of trust that promises made to slurp their money from them will be kept, preferably without them having to light the torches and dig up their pitchforks.