“Always on DRM” is a phrase PC gamers have learned to fear after the plethora of Ubisoft games that have included the anti-piracy measure. As it turns out, one of the PC’s most iconic franchises – S.T.A.L.K.E.R – may require always on DRM in its sequel, S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2.
Sergey Grigorovich, president of GSC Gameworld, the developer of S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2, said in a recent interview that the decision to use always on DRM is, like always, a method to combat piracy. Piracy is very common on the PC, whether or not it is actually as bad as developers claim still remains to be seen, but it is still a well known issue.
If DRM is to be implemented in S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2, it will essentially force players to always be connected to the internet, as the game will download portions of the title in small sections. If players do not have access to the internet, they will not be able to proceed.
“Protection from piracy? Part of the content will be located on the server and downloaded as the game progresses. Permanent internet access is required. Text information, code and quests will be loaded through that connection. Software piracy is an issue for us, we try to fight it, but within reason.”
“If people can not afford a licensed version, it is to our advantage if they download a pirated copy, and then want to buy a license. In Ukraine, there are different products that people love so much that they buy a license in principle. We want to create just such a product.”
After some fan backlash from the previous quote, Grigorovich later clarified that they have not yet made the final decision to implement DRM, but it is still in the cards.
“The idea of implementing DRM came in as a possible anti-piracy solution. You know the severe level of commercial piracy we have here in ex-USSR region. This said however, there is no firm decision to go for DRM with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 as of now. Be assured, we do realize how uncomfortable this solution is for the players, so we’ll continue looking for most effective, yet acceptable for all, way of protecting the game by the time of its release.”
While some may question the actual issue associated with always on DRM (if one has a computer, chances are they are on the internet anyway) there are still numerous situations where one may find themselves without an internet connection, or worse, DRM servers not working correctly. Those who travel and use their laptops may find getting a stable internet connection difficult, and those who have unstable internet connection may find that the frequent disconnects will make for playing the single player portion quite a frustrating experience.
As many anti-DRM consumers have pointed out, DRM is often not a necessity. The Witcher 2 was still able to be a financial success without the inclusion of always on DRM. As well, while publishers may have noble intentions, the only thing DRM does is punish the legitimate consumer. Even with DRM, PC games can still be cracked, and usually are within a matter of days, which means that all pirates have to do is wait, and end up getting the more user-friendly gaming experience because of it. For the paying consumer, they are instead punished and forced to maintain an online connection to play a game that pirates will still be able to download in a matter of days, if not hours.
Publishers need to understand that DRM is ineffective. At the end of the day if a pirate wants a game he/she will pirate it no matter what anti-piracy measures they try to implement. All DRM ends up doing is hurting consumers and potentially costing the publisher legitimate sales. A publisher like Ubisoft may be able to take that risk, as they have a higher profile brand name and console sales to make up for any lost PC sales, but for a niche developer like GSC Gameworld, hoping to ride off of the success of a niche PC title, they may find that this move may cost them more financially than pirates would have. Luckily for gamers, GSC Gameworld is looking for alternate solutions to DRM, and will hopefully be able to come up with something before release.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 does not have a release date, though it will land on the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
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