Video game industry analyst Michael Pachter has recently been quoted by VG247 as saying that he agrees with Ubisoft’s strict DRM implementation on its PC games. The DRM is notable for requiring all players to have a persistent internet connection, even to play single player campaigns.
“I’m an old guy.” … “I’m ethical and I’m a lawyer by trade. I feel if you steal a copy of a game by copying a friend’s file then it’s like going into the shop and stealing a copy. That’s how I feel about it …When a company sells you a game they have no problem if you resell it and someone else buys it and they have no problem if you give it away. If you make copies, though, it’s against the law. The guys that ran bittorrent are in jail: it is illegal.”
This is the exact same old, run-down, suit-and-tie CEO argument that corporations have been tossing around since the inception of Napster, and it hasn’t changed a bit in the near decade it’s been around: protect against copyright theft by placing restrictions upon those who purchase things (games) legally. It makes sense to analysts, and unfortunately, to investors: every time an Ubisoft rep mentions strict DRM, the stock tickers surge. As soon as a company announces any move that could have a performance risk, investors around the world pull out, and that can spell the end for a company.
On the other hand, analysts like Pachter really might be too old to understand the not-so-subtle differences between copyright infringement of physical products, and the same infringement as it pertains to an information stream. Somewhere between outright piracy and DRM is a line, and that line is called civil rights – and as a culture, we’re still having trouble figuring out where that line lies in the digital world.
Amidst all this intellectual babble, I’d say it’s fairly clear to the vast majority of consumers like myself that DRM sucks. Any game cursed by its presence is also doomed to suck, and the subsequent drop in sales has got to affect a company’s stock value more than anything else.
Ol’ Pachter doesn’t seem to think so – he’s got his money (both figuratively and literally) on moral issues:
“I think anything a publisher does to make sure you don’t rip off their games if [sic] their right, and I think that people who steal should be in jail. I welcome the flamer comments on this one; if you think that’s right good for you; we have no interest in your business since you don’t pay for stuff anyway.”
Pachter, if you want to be a real analyst, I’d suggest getting your nose out of ethics and back into economics where it belongs. Furthermore, I’d say DRM is straight up ripping off the consumer, but there’s no laws against that.
Recently, Blizzard spoke out against DRM, but the community has concluded that they’re totally bluffing, because they did the exact same thing Ubisoft is doing when they dropped LAN from StarCraft 2. As well, in yet another ridiculous marketing scheme by Ubisoft, they duplicated their box art onto an old game.
(If you’re seriously interested in the topic of piracy and free rights, I’m reading this excellent book on the subject right now called Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig. Give it a go if you’ve got the time.)