Square Enix: DRM Is Here To Stay

from the no-it-isn't dept

There may have been a time in the past few years when you'd have sworn DRM was on its way out the digital door. Between free-to-play games, strong consumer feedback, and the overall failure of DRM to actually stop anyone actually interested in pirating games, movies or music, there just didn't seem to be much point any longer. With the advent of new crowdfunding business models, DRM made even less sense. But not only is DRM still around, legacy players using it are actually torpedoing otherwise useful leaps forward in business in story after story. And, despite the fact that some entrenched industry players are wising up to the futile nature of DRM, others are digging in their heels.

Such appears to be the case with Square Enix, the game producer responsible for such franchises as Final Fantasy. Square says DRM is here to stay, despite all of its problems.

Adam Sullivan, Square Enix America’s Senior Manager of Business and Legal Affairs, informs TorrentFreak that the company’s choice to include DRM in its products has its roots in a simple concept – maximizing revenue.

“We have a well-known reputation for being very protective of our IPs, which does deter many would-be pirates,” Sullivan adds. “However, effectiveness is notoriously difficult to measure — in short, we rely on the data available to us through our sales team and various vendors, along with consumer feedback.”
It's an interesting comment, in that it doesn't make a great deal of sense. The consuming public is notoriously anti-DRM, all the more so assuming Square Enix is primarily listening to the feedback of actual customers. Why would they be in favor of DRM? They're already paying. As for the feedback of the sales and vending partners, I assume it's no secret to them how laughably easy it is for anyone interested to circumvent DRM and pirate simple games if they're so inclined. Here's the amazing thing: most people aren't so inclined. Assuming a product is of a certain quality, priced to meet customer demand, and convenient to purchase, most people aren't interested in pirating these items. I know this because, as already stated, piracy isn't that tough, yet Square makes a great deal of money.
“The key to DRM is that it can’t interfere with the customer’s ability to play the game,” Sullivan says. “It’s not uncommon for people to get a new computer every few years, or to have multiple computers. Sometimes they don’t have reliable internet connections. There’s no perfect solution yet.”
Sure, but such imperfections only effect paying customers, which is the entire problem. There isn't a single pirate out there jumping through your DRM obstacle course, or finding themselves unable to jump through it. Just the paying customers. And Square's reaction to this?
“This depends on your definition of DRM, but generally yes — I think DRM will be essential for the foreseeable future,” Sullivan explains.
Essential isn't the word you're looking for. The correct word would be futile. But, hey, go on throwing those obstacles up for your customers while the pirates walk around them; I'm sure that will work out well in the long run.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    ltlw0lf (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 12:57pm

    Square Enix says DRM is here to Stay...

    Which means Square-Enix is on its way out as a company. Don't let the door hit you. Futile would be the correct word I'd use too.

    The only games I've purchased in the last three years with DRM came from Steam, and that was three years ago. Everything else has come from DRM-Free sites such as GoG. Square-Enix won't get any of my money.

    I've been burned way too many times in the past on DRM. Games that wouldn't play on Virtualized Hardware, or on a different version of Windoze than they were expecting, or games that I purchased and was never able to install or run because of a bug in the DRM...they burned me once and I'll never give them the opportunity to burn me again.

     

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      Rikuo (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 1:13pm

      Re: Square Enix says DRM is here to Stay...

      Okay, I've dabbled a bit with VMs, so...why would you try to play games on virtualized hardware? I'm not exactly an expert on VMs, but the virtual OS isn't able to "see" your real GPU. When I run Linux Mint in Virtual Box, Linux doesn't see my Geforce GTX 770, it sees a generic virtual GPU with 128MB RAM. Isn't that a natural limitation of virtualization? Or when you run a VM, are you somehow able to get the virtual OS to see the real GPU?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 1:40pm

        Re: Re: Square Enix says DRM is here to Stay...

        Do all the games you play require a high end GPU? Mine don't.

         

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          Rikuo (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 1:49pm

          Re: Re: Re: Square Enix says DRM is here to Stay...

          Well, I typically play graphically intense games, such as Sleeping Dogs and Far Cry 3, so letting the OS the games are running on have direct access to the GPU is a requirement. I would never try to run them in a Linux VM, unless I had some sort of way of letting the VM OS see the GPU (and I had drivers, of course)

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 2:02pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Square Enix says DRM is here to Stay...

            I play a lot of older games, stuff I find at yard sales, or buy used... also I tend to only support indie games these days. As such, I pretty much avoid all DRM as well.

            A lot of the stuff I play doesn't require the fastest GPU or anything like that... but then again, I also don't bother to pay in a VM, so I guess I can't really compare.

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 2:16pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Square Enix says DRM is here to Stay...

            It really depends on the hypervisor. Take nVidia Grid which is a specialized card designed to allow the hypervisor to give direct access to part of the GPU.
            Personally, I'm running Citrix now which offers HDX on their VDI deployment to take advantage of things like Grid.

            Problem is that this is mainly for enterprise customers running high end servers to multiple people, and I think your looking for a desktop in a desktop situation.

             

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 2:42pm

        Re: Re: Square Enix says DRM is here to Stay...

        VMware can use real GPUs if the CPU has virtualization extensions. There is overhead, granted but you will get about 70% of the raw GPU performance.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 2:45pm

          Re: Re: Re: Square Enix says DRM is here to Stay...

          some explanation, "Real" GPUS as in the 3D API is passed through to the real GPU and the virtualized OS sees a generic VMware GPU. It is usable in most cases, I primarily use it for games that work on XP that for one reason or another can't be run on Win 7.

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2014 @ 9:04pm

        Re: Re: Square Enix says DRM is here to Stay...

        Depends on the CPU and the hypervisor in use. Also, in VirtualBox, the amount of RAM dedicated to the video is adjustable (128MB is the default minimum), as is the number of cores/threads devoted to the VM.

         

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    Jay (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 1:30pm

    Congrats are in order

    In less time than it took for me to read this article, I have become a pirate. I promise NEVER to pay Square's rent for the old games I purchased, nor do I plan to support their newer games at all.

    I plan to NEVER look to their newer titles unless it's from a rom because for years, Square didn't want my money. Now they have the hubris to tell me they want to maximize the revenue of the dwindling fanbase that devoted a lot of time to their franchises?

    Sony already told them, "you're on your own".

    I'm doing the same.

    Now of you'll excuse me, I have some games like Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3 to add to my computer library.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 1:41pm

    “The key to DRM is that it can’t interfere with the customer’s ability to play the game,”

    That is wishful thinking as if it doesn't interfere in some way with the customers experience it isn't DRM, or it is failed DRM like CSS on DVDs.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 2:13pm

      Re:

      Steamworks would beg to differ, for the most part. AS, surprisingly, would Origin.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 2:36pm

        Re: Re:

        What happens if they go out of business, and you have to replace your computer? Or maybe setting up a replacement computer when no Internet is available. Not be able to play your games under those circumstances is an interference with your experience. If it never limits your ability to install on a new machine it is not a DRM system.

         

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    That One Guy (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 1:42pm

    Fair enough

    They say DRM is here to stay for their products? I can accept that. Of course in return my money will also be staying safely in my wallet, or spent on products put out by companies who don't show such boneheaded contempt for their customers.

    They keep their DRM, I keep my money, I'd say that's a win-win all around.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 1:48pm

    Wrong data sources

    “However, effectiveness is notoriously difficult to measure — in short, we rely on the data available to us through our sales team and various vendors, along with consumer feedback.”

    Exactly what "data" do those people possess, how did they get it, and what reason is there to believe that it has the slightest relationship to what's actually happening?

    Those are pretty much the LAST people on the planet who would be in a position to provide any kind of useful/reliable data on the effectiveness of Square Enix's DRM.

     

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    Laffriot, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 1:53pm

    Guys, guys, calm down. This is just EA getting their entry started early to take back their crown next in next year's Customer Disservice awards. EA is vehemently anti-customer and very upset they lost the crown this year to a cable company. A cable company?? Can you believe that? EA can't. A cable company brings you things you need, like news and weather. EA is pure unadulterated luxury entertainment and they will be DAMNED if they let some upstart paltry little company like Time Warner take that crown from them a second time!

     

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    Ehud Gavron (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 2:29pm

    typo

    In an otherwise great article:
    "Sure, but such imperfections only effect paying customers"

    Effect should be affect.

    Or of course alternate wording:
    Sure, but such imperfections only effect a higher disgruntled user base.
    Sure, but such imperfections only effect irritation in customers.

    :)

    E

     

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      Kal Zekdor (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 8:47pm

      Re: typo

      I was going to mention that too. It's a small mistake, but it drastically changes the meaning of the sentence.

      As written it says that imperfect DRM solutions are causing people to become paying customers.

      Of course, maybe that was intentional. I don't think I've ever looked at a DRM-free game and thought "I would buy this, but it's missing that sense of accomplishment from successfully navigating a maze of DRM restrictions.", but maybe others do. :-p

       

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    Zonker, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 3:18pm

    “The key to DRM is that it can’t interfere with the customer’s ability to play the game,” Sullivan says.

    The problem is that DRM is by its very nature designed to interfere with a customer's ability to play the game. DRM assumes that you are not licensed to play the game you own unless you can prove (or trick it into believing) otherwise.

    DRM assumes that:

    * If you run it from hard disk without the original CD/DVD inserted, you are infringing.

    * If you modify your hardware in any way after the first installation, you are infringing.

    * If you are not connected to the internet and it can't phone home, you are infringing.

    * If you have CD/DVD burning software or hardware of any kind, you are infringing and your burner must be disabled.

    * If you modify the game in any way (whether to customize it to your liking or to work around unpatched bugs) or run any background software it doesn't like, you are infringing.

    * If you don't have the game manual handy (whether it's lost, stolen, or packed away in some long forgotten box in your basement), you are infringing.

    * If the game was released more than X years ago and your current operating system isn't supported or the server it expects to phone home to is no longer available, you are infringing.

    * If you re-installed the game too many times, you are infringing.

    Without DRM: if you bought the game, you can play the game. Period. This is the only way to not interfere with the customer's ability to play the game: no DRM.

     

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      Zonker, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 4:34pm

      But what DRM cannot do is prevent anyone from making an actual infringing copy of a game because this is impossible. Therefore, the only purpose DRM actually serves is to interfere with a customer's ability to play a game they purchased. Those that do infringe typically just remove or circumvent the DRM.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 3:30pm

    Square-Enix seems to be on their way out. Between this, Sony dumping all of their stock in Square-Enix and FFXIV:ARR bleeding out subscribers, I don't know how positive their diagnosis is looking right about now.

     

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    James Jensen (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 3:56pm

    Alternate Title: Square Enix: We Can't Admit We Wasted A Whole Bunch of Money on FFXIV So We're Going To Blame Piracy

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 3:59pm

    Which means the next thing we'll be hearing is the demise of Square Enix. No DRM'ed game will be installed by me.

     

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    Jake T, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 4:25pm

    Feedback

    "The key to consumer feedback is that it can’t interfere with our own stupid opinions" - Squenix

     

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    Wally, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 4:29pm

    So whose fault is it?

    "The key to DRM is that it can’t interfere with the customer’s ability to play the game,” Sullivan says. “It’s not uncommon for people to get a new computer every few years, or to have multiple computers. Sometimes they don’t have reliable internet connections. There’s no perfect solution yet.”

    Translation:
    Consumer: There is something wrong with the way you programmed the game...I have the latest parts for a gaming rig and it still causes severe framerate lag.

    Square Technical Support: Did you upgrade to the latest computer parts?

     

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      PaulT (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 2:36am

      Re: So whose fault is it?

      Actually the translation is:

      "We admit that we know the flaws of DRM and how it negatively affects paying customers and nobody else, but we're not willing to admit that it's a failed cause yet, probably because our shareholders are blind idiots"

       

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    Chad, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 5:05pm

    While I do believe that usually DRM in games tends to not solve any problems and just create more, I can understand where Square Enix is coming from here. A lot of companies act like making their game annoying for everyone is fine if there's a chance it will prevent some piracy, but it sounds like Square Enix actually has their heart in the right place. They're aware that not only do DRM systems all have their problems, but also that you can't get so focused on protection that you ruin the game for your paying customers.

    I know a lot of people here are saying that all DRM is evil and that they refuse to buy products containing any kind of DRM, but that's way too extreme of a view. I personally only have a problem with DRM systems that degrade my gameplay or require me to do all sorts of extra crap just to prove I bought it. If a company finds a system that works and doesn't cause problems for paying customers then I'm perfectly fine with that, and it sounds like this is the route Square Enix is trying to take.

    Of course it will never be possible to totally prevent anyone from copying the game, however shouldn't be the goal of DRM anyway. All you really need to do is make it more convenient to purchase a legitimate copy than to pirate one. If a company figures out a good way to accomplish that without affecting the actual gameplay then I will have no problem supporting them and buying their products.

     

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      audiomagi (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 5:48pm

      Re:

      Chad Says:
      Of course it will never be possible to totally prevent anyone from copying the game, however shouldn't be the goal of DRM anyway. All you really need to do is make it more convenient to purchase a legitimate copy than to pirate one. If a company figures out a good way to accomplish that without affecting the actual gameplay then I will have no problem supporting them and buying their products.


      What you fail to realize is that it is impossible to achieve your conditions listed above. Compare the following:

      No DRM
      a) Download and install software
      b) Play

      With DRM
      a) Download and install software
      b) DRM Check
      c) Play

      Even if step c (DRM Check) is completely transparent to the user, it has still added unnecessary overhead to the computing resources required for the game. This additional overhead will affect your machine by reducing its efficiency (not to mention possibly transmitting data that you would consider confidential or introducing other security flaws into your system--see the Sony Rootkit Fiasco).

      If it will never be possible to "totally prevent anyone from copying the game," then why should we accept these very real security risks?

       

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      nasch (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 11:04am

      Re:

      Of course it will never be possible to totally prevent anyone from copying the game, however shouldn't be the goal of DRM anyway. All you really need to do is make it more convenient to purchase a legitimate copy than to pirate one.

      I think what you're missing is that DRM cannot play a role in that equation. DRM does not make it harder to pirate a game. Anyone who wants to can easily go pirate any game they're interested in. It might make it harder to buy the game and then upload a cracked copy, but all it takes is one person doing that, and then the game's up.

      Your equation is absolutely correct, but the solution is not DRM, it's making the legitimate copy more convenient and attractive. It doesn't even have to be more convenient than pirating, because most people prefer to buy games than pirate them*. It just has to be close enough to not drive potential customers away.

      * and anyone who is determined to pirate is never going to buy the game anyway, so they are not a potential customer in the first place

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2014 @ 9:24pm

      Re:

      "I know a lot of people here are saying that all DRM is evil and that they refuse to buy products containing any kind of DRM, but that's way too extreme of a view."

      No, refusing to buy products containing any kind of DRM is not way too extreme of a view. It is the correct view from a consumer's standpoint. Anything else is equatable to fully paying for the product, then voluntarily dropping one's pants and grabbing one's ankles without even being asked to do so.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 6:45pm

    Think they mean Steam DRM

    I just checked Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs and Deus Ex on Steam, with enhanced steam extension to be certain. No 3rd party DRM is listed on the store pages, which Steam does list when it is used. Pretty sure they just meant Steam and similar DRM, so the kind which gamers generally tolerate. Everyone can chill out now.

     

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      James Jensen (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 7:33pm

      Re: Think they mean Steam DRM

      It's still disheartening to hear them say things like this. DRM is at best a security blanket for the anxious. Steam's DRM provides that comfort with a minimal interference, but I'd still rather buy from GOG.com and get it with no DRM at all. That way I can make my own backup.

       

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    vegetaman (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 7:51pm

    Well the DRM does have a preventative effect...

    You know what your DRM has done, Square Enix? It's prevented me from being a customer. I don't pirate things -- I buy them. But I don't buy shit from people who plan to treat me like a criminal or cripple my purchase with shitty DRM. Just like I refuse to buy things from EA, Sony, and Ubisoft. So bite me. More money for the artists and developers I care about that don't equate me with a machine that shits dollar bills into their hands on demand.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 8:02pm

    Square Enix is right. DRM is here to stay. DRM is here to stay because gamers have no self-respect and keep purchasing it.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 2:23am

    "Square Enix: DRM Is Here To Stay"

    PaulT: I'm buying games from Square Enix's competitors.

     

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    Vasagi, Apr 18th, 2014 @ 5:31am

    Square/DRM

    My experience with Square/Enix & DRM on android devices has been very poor, and I actively avoid their games because of it.
    They have some of the most expensive apps on the Google Store ($15 where most apps are ~ $1), and the DRM often gets in the way. I loved their Final Fantasy & other role playing games for SNES back in the day, and have purchased one or two of these games for my android devices mainly because of nostalgia.
    The games are ok, but their latest android ports have been pretty disappointing. When coupled with the fact that their strict DRM either limits access to the game or cuts it entirely once my device is out of network range just makes the whole experience not worth it.
    If I'm paying FIFTEEN times the cost of a competitor app, I'd like the privilege of actually playing and enjoying that app anywhere I take my device, regardless of whether or not that app is able to talk to Square servers every time it starts up.

     

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      PaulT (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 6:59am

      Re: Square/DRM

      Yeah pretty much. I have an iphone, where obviously DRM is far less of an issue for me than with my laptop or other systems I own. In the uk iTunes Store, I'd happily pay £2-3 for the FF games, in line with most other premium titles, no question. But they're asking for £10.99 each - no sale, ever, at that price. But if course, low sales have to be the fault of piracy so they have to "protect" sales further...

       

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    anonymous, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 6:01pm

    why you shouldn't care

    for one please understand the you are from the west and they are from the east. we all don't think alike especially americans and japanese.

     

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