Video Game Without DRM Has Piracy Rates About The Same As DRM'd Games

from the so-why-bother? dept

Reader SteveD sent in this story a week ago, but I just got around to looking at the details. Apparently the makers of the video game World of Goo, which (as mentioned) was released without DRM, have roughly calculated the rate of piracy on the game to be about 90%. The calculation is certainly a rough one, and people can quibble with the number, but the basic reasoning seems sound. A lot of folks focused on that 90% number, but didn't pay as much attention to the more important comparison: how this compared to a DRM'd game. The game makers noted that it had almost no difference compared to another game released with DRM, showing that adding the DRM did absolutely nothing to prevent piracy. So why do video game companies keep insisting they need DRM?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 12:10pm

    Correlation blah blah blah. You know this doesn't prove anything, unless they release two extremely similar titles at the same time with the same market appeal, one with DRM and one without. I think DRM is a waste of time, and that retailers like GOG.com have the right way to go about it. But, nothing is in any way proven until we have some kind of a crazy well-designed study for this purpose. Anectdotal evidence is not proof, in any (figurative) school of statistics.

     

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  2.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Nov 20th, 2008 @ 12:12pm

    Because

    So why do video game companies keep insisting they need DRM?
    I have been reading the blog long enough to know you know the answer, but to state it as I see it:
    Because the people selling DRM are like "Look it will increase profits because our product can stop piracy!".
    And the game makers simply see increased profits and pour money at them to add as much DRM as they want, consequences be damned.

    Meanwhile plenty of legitimate buyers are hurt and tech support ends up temporarily flooded with people upset over why their game won't work when they just bought it.

     

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  3.  
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    Stute, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    DRM encourages piracy

    I buy games only to find out they are so bogged down with restrictions you're forced to pirate them. Same with movies...and music... And anything else with DRM.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 12:32pm

    Re:

    I don't think that's the proper use of the correlation/causation bit, mostly because I'm missing any causation implication that you're refuting. Game A has no DRM and a 90% rate of piracy. Game B has DRM and a 90% rate of piracy. We're not saying one caused the other, we're just saying that with or without DRM, there's a 90% rate of piracy. I think that's a useful observation, especially if killer_Tofu is right and game publishers are 'only' buying DRM because they think it will impact piracy. They're spending their money and upsetting customers for no benefit.

     

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  5.  
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    Petréa Mitchell, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 12:37pm

    OTOH

    It equally refutes assertions that DRM makes people choose to pirate games rather than deal with hideous DRM.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Re:

    Actually it probably just means the particuar DRM used was lousy and not worth having, but there are lots of different DRMs

     

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  7.  
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    Greg, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 12:43pm

    DRM encourages piracy

    I'd like to see the piracy numbers for Spore. It seems in that case that the DRM massively encouraged piracy. After all, the DRM-free version of Spore is a much better product. It can be installed as many times as you want on any computer you want and has no other annoying restrictions.

    I guess if you want to be honest these days, you pay for the product, throw the disk away and download and use the improved pirated version.

     

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  8.  
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    Chris Charabaruk (profile), Nov 20th, 2008 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "... but there are lots of different DRMs"

    All of which are lousy, and not worth having.

     

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  9.  
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    Jordan, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 12:51pm

    piracy is too easy

    The root cause of piracy, as far as I can tell, is that it's just too d$#@ easy. It's actually easier to illegally download the game than it is to buy it, even ignoring the cost of the game! DRM is supposed to change that, but I think it's pretty clear at this point that it doesn't. These results support this idea, but I don't think they really mean anything because, as Anonymous Coward said, the games they're comparing aren't similar enough and the market is too complicated to have a control.
    I'm not sure what could happen, but something needs to happen to show the people who are choosing to develop DRM that DRM isn't making a difference, and it never will.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    >>Actually it probably just means the particuar DRM used was lousy and not worth having, but there are lots of different DRMs

    Name one that is as secure as promised, does not get in the way of a good consumer experience, and does not cause technical support problems.

    I'm easy; I will accept any two of the three as a challenge met.

     

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  11.  
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    P. Warnes, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 12:58pm

    Re: piracy is too easy

    It is not the people that develop it that are the problem. If no one used it then they would not develop it, so they are really just fulfilling market demand.

    Sure this one case in isolation does not prove anything, but as more come to light then together they can prove something statically significant.

     

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  12.  
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    DRM-champion, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 12:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    But, but... But it could work. I mean, just because we haven't gotten it right yet doesn't mean we can't... I'm sure there's a non-obtrusive way to keep users from using the content the way they want...

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 1:14pm

    Stop the pirating

    How about we give away the CDs and charge them to play the game by requiring the purchase of server time? You will then be able to give out copies to all your friends, only any time they actually want to play they are going to have to PAY! Economies of WOW. Welcome to "pay to play" - gaming as a service. The business model that companies are going to be forced into is going to end up costing consumers far more money than they spend now. STOP PIRATING YOU ARE GOING TO COST US MORE MONEY!!!! FRICKIN MORONS. If the software companies were serious about stopping pirating they would offer rewards to peple who turn in others for pirating games, much like the business software world does now.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 1:17pm

    Arrr Matey!

    Be cognizant of any new international laws against SOMALI Pirates-- you know the ones who are taking tankers captive.

    I have reason to believe this is actually being engineered, maybe by the MPAA/RIAA.

    How nuts can they get?

     

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  15.  
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    Adam Whitney, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Stop the pirating

    so you would prefer a system of tattle tailers???? Please grow up. 1. You seem to be on this tech site with such regularity I wonder how you perform the function that is living. Second, Piracy is not the problem, the system is, so, piracy will continue until those that create are not raped by those that sell, as most that create are the same that buy,and are exploited by those that manufacture.

     

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  16.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Stop the pirating

    The only people here who spoke of them pirating software are the people who purchased the software and then found they could not use it because of the DRM. They then download the cracked copy just so they can use the program that they payed money for.

    WOW is pay to play because it's an MMORPG where you are connecting to their servers. You can play it for free on other servers. Is Blizzard going after them? No, because the so called piracy helps WOW by getting people interested in the game.

     

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  17.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Nov 20th, 2008 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re:

    There is a chance I am being overly optimistic.
    It could be that they are not just ignorant, but down right malicious and are doing it on purpose to try to stifle the second hand market. Stupidly anti-customer, or purposefully anti-customer.

    The short answer of my first post for why they keep doing it, one way or the other: Money. I did not mean in any way to state that the stupid anti-customer reason was the specific reason Mike "knew". There are many possibilities, but it all boils down to money.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Arrr Matey!

    The MPAA/RIAA and perhaps the oil industry to create new legislation which would put US Naval forces in charge of combating identified "pirates". Now, Navy does a lot of things on land. TRUST ME, I KNOW. But taking into account the Pirate Act of 2004, (Fully supported by the RIAA/MPAA) this is borderline lunacy and a disgrace to our current legislation.

    When Bush says he "watched the issue all day on TV", I want to know who was in the room with him.

    The freaking Auto Industry is melting down and he's interested in pirates?

    Again, how nuts can these people get?

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 1:35pm

    DRM doesn't increase marketshare. Just Control.

    It's not difficult to believe that a system that uses DRM may see an organic sales lift of 3-5%.

    But as knowledge of these DRM systems are disseminated, and human capital costs plummet, more people will find time to explore and learn about systems for fun if nothing else.

    As long as the system is generated by humans, humans will be able to subvert it. There will always be a way around DRM.

    Perhaps the only value DRM provides is that of the short-lived gymnastism provided by the Streisand Effect (No offense, Mike, but I like to call it an attention "Bubble")

    Ergo, as more systems and games implement DRM and it becomes mainstream, games, media and the like may depend on DRM for the unintended Streisand Effect. But, understand this attention quickly fades for those that truly focus on innovation as their core competency. EA had 7 years of dev work into Spore. Great job, btw.

    But at the end of the day, as properly described by Mike and SteveD in the article, the game will ultimately be judged on it's merits and playability factors. With or without DRM.

    As I watch these marionettes- (EA, Sega, and the like) Play with DRM, I either have to congratulate EA's Marketing team for their use of the Streisand Effect and one-shot chance for throwing questionably into the entire gaming industry's implementation of DRM, or disown them as a company who makes poor management decisions on the back of their pursuit for 3-5% market share increase.


    On another tangent, why are we not talking about the new Zune strategy these days? When you sign up for their upcoming service, you get 10 MP3s per month... I think Microsoft finally gets it, in one way or another. GREAT JOB, MICROSOFT!

     

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  20.  
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    Jacob W, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re: Arrr Matey!

    WOW!
    Your ability to link things together is amazing. I'll keep an eye on it, and having recently moved, I send a letter to my current and former congressional leadership.

    It seems the simple answer may be to limit any legislation to crimes performed on WATER, and this should be written into any pending legislation.

    Thanks for the heads up!

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Jacob W, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re: Arrr Matey!

    WOW!
    Your ability to link things together is amazing. I'll keep an eye on it, and having recently moved, I'll send a letter to my current and former congressional leadership.

    It seems the simple answer may be to limit any legislation to crimes performed on WATER, and this should be written into any pending legislation.

    Thanks for the heads up!

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 2:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Arrr Matey!

    Agreed, the challenges with the Music/Entertainment industries are deliberate business decisions, and very different than those within the Oil Tanker Industry.

    This may seem obvious to some, but it nonetheless made me laugh.. Until I searched for the PIRATE act of 2004.

    Oh boy. Writing Congress now.

     

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  23.  
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    Yakko Warner, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 2:35pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Of course they want to stop second-hand sales. Come on, they can't even have a multi-million-selling blockbuster title without complaining about used game sales.

     

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  24.  
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    deggs, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 3:09pm

    Re: Arrr Matey!

    Personally, I've chosen not to buy DRM products. What I do with products I purchase is my business, that includes how often I install, or view, or whatever.

    DRM has nothing to do with fighting piracy i'ts just another attempt to squeeze every last penny out of a product that honest people purchase.

    Frankly, I'm more likely to play a pirated DRM game that I would have purchased had it been equiped with standard copy protection.

    I'm tired of being milked, I want some value added services, and the companies that offer it to me are the ones that will get my money, even if it mean I have to bypass the lasted EA game.

     

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  25.  
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    Overcast, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 3:32pm

    Actually it probably just means the particuar DRM used was lousy and not worth having, but there are lots of different DRMs

    Yeah, some of them work..... just not sure which ones. I think the 'pirates' just see it as a challenge as it gives them something to do.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 3:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The older nintendo games

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 4:07pm

    So why do video game companies keep insisting they need DRM?

    Because they are fucking STUPID!

     

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  28.  
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    headkase, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 8:43pm

    Bioshock 2 DRM discussion thread

    I'm trying to have a civil discussion about the DRM that will be part of Bioshock 2. I am acting independently here and the only acknowledgement unofficially from 2K Games is that they are "listening". There is a lot of inertia behind DRM systems so they are unlikely to go away soon. What I am trying to reach a balance with is a system that is as transparent as possible to the end-user while at the same time satifying the corporate check-box requirement of having a protection scheme. PLEASE register and share ideas at the link, fair and constructive ideas may just make a difference!

     

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  29.  
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    headkase, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 8:44pm

    Fixed link.

    Sorry didn't realize the URL box would go to my name, heres a text link:

    http://forums.2kgames.com/forums/showthread.php?t=24507

     

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  30.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 10:49pm

    Re: Bioshock 2 DRM discussion thread

    headkase wrote:

    I'm trying to have a civil discussion about the DRM that will be part of Bioshock 2. I am acting independently here and the only acknowledgement unofficially from 2K Games is that they are "listening".

    There is nothing to discuss, and it is irrelevant whether they are "listening" or not. DRM doesn't work. Nothing will change that fact. You don't negotiate with market forces; your only choices are 1) annoy your customers and drive yourself out of business; 2) try to find some way of accommodating your customers and staying in business; 3) go find some other business to be in.

     

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  31.  
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    Another Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2008 @ 1:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Sorry, those were strictly hardware related, no DRM there.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2008 @ 2:17am

    Re: Re: Bioshock 2 DRM discussion thread

    You're right, market forces will work it out - in a few years. But if you would like to be less annoyed now join the discussion.

     

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  33.  
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    headkase, Nov 21st, 2008 @ 2:39am

    Re: Re: Bioshock 2 DRM discussion thread

    Lawrence D'Oliveiro wrote:
    There is nothing to discuss, and it is irrelevant whether they are "listening" or not. DRM doesn't work. Nothing will change that fact. You don't negotiate with market forces; your only choices are 1) annoy your customers and drive yourself out of business; 2) try to find some way of accommodating your customers and staying in business; 3) go find some other business to be in.

    headkase responds:
    As I wrote in the get off your butt and post some comments reply which I forgot to put my name in for, instead of being indignant about it and expecting the world to come around to your personal viewpoint just because its the right thing to do why don't you join 2K's forum write some rational and persuasive posts filled with - you know: reasoning, and be part of the market forces you seem to hold in such high esteem? Hmm?

    The market is patient. I'm not. So I started a thread. Please join me.

     

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  34.  
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    SteveD, Nov 21st, 2008 @ 2:42am

    82%

    The number has been revised downwards since I submitted; the 2D Boy chaps did some solid geekery and worked out that 82% was a more accurate figure. That means their game was actually pirated less then most of the DRM games out there (who normally hold a 90% piracy figure).

    There are a whole lot of things 2D Boy did right in launching this game, focusing on the reasons they could give customers to pay for their products rather then ways of forcing them too, lessons any publisher should be learning from.

     

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  35.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Nov 21st, 2008 @ 6:11am

    Re:

    Yeah, some of them work

    Yah, no they don't.

     

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  36.  
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    Noah Callaway, Nov 21st, 2008 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Actually it probably just means the particuar DRM used was lousy and not worth having, but there are lots of different DRMs"

    Yes, there are lots of different types of DRM. However, all types of DRM are fundamentally broken. In fact, it is provably impossible to implement an "unbreakable" DRM scheme, based on a simple fact:

    You can encode the data all you want, but in order for a 'legitimate' user to be able to view the data they have to have way to decode the data. This means on any disc, you must provide encoded data along with a key to decode that data. There is no way to provide the key in a way such that someone who wants to make illegitimate copies can't access it. You can make it a little bit harder, but see all versions of "unbreakable" DRM get broken in a few months.

    DRM is fundamentally broken, from a cryptographic point of view. A complete waste of time, money, and the goodwill of your customers.

     

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  37.  
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    Noah Callaway, Nov 21st, 2008 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "But, but... But it could work. I mean, just because we haven't gotten it right yet doesn't mean we can't... I'm sure there's a non-obtrusive way to keep users from using the content the way they want..."

    Well played, sir. Hilarious.

     

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  38.  
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    Enigma, Jan 20th, 2010 @ 11:26am

    DRM is bad

    DRM is not productive. It is expensive and it doesn't solve the piracy problem.

     

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  39.  
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    Mark, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 11:55am

    Re:

    To be honest, I don't like pirating simply because I want to go into the field of creating video games. The real problem for me is that the people who make the mainstream games make you pay $60 per copy, hoping to sell at least 500,000-1,000,000 copies and break even, and everything after that is profit. The real problem is, if they sell the games at $20 each like they used to, they'd sell MANY more copies. Another option is to offer discounts for downloaded games, as $10-$30 of each game you buy from the stores goes just to packaging, manuals, shipping & handling and of course, the retailer's cut of the profit. Allow games to be downloaded, without any DRM except a product key, for $20. The companies make so much more money. More people get interested in the game, fewer people have the money to afford the game. Most pirates event state "I pirate because the games aren't good enough to spend $60 on."

    Out of all the DRMs I've seen, Steam is by far the best. You don't need to pay for the packaging, the purchase is instant and you can download the games within an hour and be playing. They also did a few studies by dropping the prices of their most popular games a dramatic amount. Counter-Strike: Source is probably one of the most recognizable names of a PC game that's still played today, and they lowered the price 70%. In that one day, they sold more than 7 times the number of copies they sold during the first 2 weeks it came out when it was $20, making more than 2x the money in a fourteenth of the time.

     

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  40.  
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    Simon, Jan 13th, 2012 @ 12:31pm

    Re: DRM encourages piracy

    for exemple Heroes Might and Magic 6. Almost 100% offline game... ( possible multiplayer but Turn based strat game .. )

    The server been offline for a week and i couldnt play. 60$ F. useless bucks.

     

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