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Anonymous Insider Reveals Game Publishing Secrets, Talks DRM

Posted by: , 17:18 AEST, Thu July 19, 2012

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DRM is not aimed at hardcore pirates, but "the average guy/girl" buyers, according to anonymous industry insider at an online Q&A event hosted by Kotaku
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Image/Photo Credit: nSeika @ Flickr, CC

Kotaku recently held an Internet Q&A event with an insider at a gaming "mega publisher", who chose to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, and many insights were shared.

DRM was mentioned a couple of times during the exchange, with the insider acknowledging that 'For the most part, DRM isn't going well" due to the escalating arms race between publishers and crackers.

When asked if publishers estimate losses due to piracy prior to the game's release, and whether harsh DRM, such as those employed by Ubisoft help or actually hurt games sales, the insider responded by clarifying that, at best, DRM delays the inevitable piracy of games, not prevent it. "The questions are more like, 'How long did the DRM last on that title?' Because they all get hacked sooner or later," the insider, using the username "AnonPublisher", explained.

As "80% of your sales happen in the first two months", the insider revealed, "If we can push that out a couple months, then we've protected the bulk of our sales."

And as for the notion that "DRM is easy to crack, so why bother", AnonPublisher had an interesting take on the issue. The insider posted "you [the more technically minded users] could get around DRM relatively easy. I'm not worried about you, I'm worried about the average guy/girl who wants to play our games. If it's easier to download it for free, that's what they'll do. If we throw up enough roadblocks, then they'll probably just buy it outright."

This suggests that publishers aren't necessarily interested in stopping hardcore pirates, because even they know they can't be stopped. It's more the casual pirates that they may be after. "At least that's the theory :)" - AnonPublisher posted as a caveat.

There were also non piracy related pearls of wisdom being shared. Referring to the contentious issue of "day one DLCs" (that is, purchasable downloadable content being available on the first day of the game's release - making the "full" retail version essentially incomplete right off the bat), the insider noted that, as a solution, gamers can "stop buying it". AnonPublisher then noted that as long as it costs less to produce a DLC than what can be earned with it, publishers will always produce day one DLCs.

And on the issue of profitability, AnonPublisher revealed the fairly obvious way in which publishers make money - bank on the mega-hits, and gamble on the other titles (many of them don't make money). As for PC profitability, it turns out that "Publishers won't be releasing $60 PC-exclusive titles any time soon, because they're not selling". It's a trend that publishers don't like, because margins are actually higher on PCs than on console platforms. MMOs and free-to-play titles may be the way forward, AnonPublisher noted.

For more interesting tidbits, you can read the entire Q&A here


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