In an interview with Forbes
, Guillaume Rambourg, the managing director of DRM-free online game retailer Good Old games (GOG.com
), and Marcin Iwinski, the CEO of CD Projekt (developers of the hit game 'The Witcher 2'), revealed some startling facts about their recent DRM experiences.
The revelation includes the rather startling the fact that the DRM-free version of the hit game 'The Witcher 2' was pirated less than the DRM-laden boxed version.
And while at least 4.5 million pirated copies of 'The Witcher 2' has been downloaded, Iwinski was keen to stress that this number has almost nothing to do with lost sales.
And both agreed that DRM simply does not work.
GOG.com, previously the go to place for older abandoned games, but now also features some of the latest games, has been built on the premise of not using DRM. Rambourg was keen to emphasize this point. "We use no DRM and we never will," Rambourg told Forbes, before noting the differences between GOG's download assistant tool and similar tools used by other publishers, "There’s no authentication server. There’s no functions to sweep through your memory or your storage device looking for other active programs or data."
But with The Witcher 2 being released DRM-free on GOG, and at the same time, a SecuROM DRM-protected boxed version being sold in stores, common sense would suggest that the DRM-free version would be the most commonly shared illegal version online. But surprisingly, this wasn't the case at all.
"We were expecting to see the GOG.com version pirated right after it was released, as it was a real no-brainer. Practically anyone could have downloaded it from GOG.com (and we offered a pre-download option) and released it on the illegal sites right away, but this did not happen," Iwinski noted.
His theory on why this was the case? Bragging rights. Release groups pride themselves on their ability to crack the latest DRM and to beat other groups to the release. But without DRM, and so without any challenge, the DRM-free version was pretty much left alone. "The illegal scene is pretty much about the game and the glory: who will be the first to deliver the game, who is the best and smartest cracker. The DRM-free version at GOG.com didn’t fit this too well," explained Iwinski.
And the failure to protect the game was no surprise to Iwinski. "First of all let me dispel the myth about DRM protecting anything. The truth is it does not work. It’s as simple as that. The technology which is supposed to protect games against illegal copying is cracked within hours of the release of every single game. So, that’s wasted money and development just to implement it."
And the worst part, according to Iwinski, is that DRM makes the illegal version usually the better choice when it comes to usability and functionality. "I do not see any future for DRM at all," Iwinski said.
So what about the 4.5 million copies of The Witcher 2 that has been pirated so far? "Coming back to The Witcher 2: we have indeed estimated the number of pirated copies at 4.5M units, although it’s just an estimate – and by now it’s probably more. However this number doesn’t represent lost sales. It really puzzles me how serious software companies can consider each pirated copy to be a lost sale. Maybe it looks nice in an official report to say how threatening pirates are, but it is extremely far from the truth, " Iwinski explained, "I would rather say that a big part of these 4.5M+ pirated copies are considered a form of trial version, or even a demo. Gamers download [pirate copies] because it’s easy, fast, and, frankly, costs nothing. If they like the game and they start investing the time, some of them will go and buy it."
But instead of worrying about sales, DRM, Iwinski says developers should focus on the games themselves. "All in all, our job is to make each of our games a must-have ... the only thing which can increase our sales is the quality of the overall experience the gamer has."