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Witcher Dev: Game Publishers Use DRM To Fool Bosses, Investors

Posted by: , 22:31 AEDT, Sat November 16, 2013

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The game industry knows DRM isn't working, but still uses it to fool investors, shareholders, and themselves, into thinking they're doing something against piracy - says the developers of The Witcher series
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Image/Photo Credit: YayAdrian @ Flickr, CC

The CEO of the developers of the popular Witcher series, CD Projekt Red, says many in the game industry know for a fact that DRM does not work, but still persist with it because it's what's expected of them. 

In a frank interview with gaming website Giant Bomb, CD Projekt Red boss Marcin Iwinski goes into detail about how developers and publishers view DRM and piracy, and why CD Projekt Red's next game, The Witcher 3, will be a DRM-free affair.

Iwinski says that there is a drive to use DRM because it is seen as doing something, even though he believes the industry as a whole knows it does not work.

"It seems to me that the industry as a whole knows DRM doesn’t work, but corporations still use it as a smokescreen, effectively covering their asses, pretending to protect their intellectual property in front of bosses, investors, and shareholders. I’ve actually had quite a few discussions with high level executives who admit they know DRM doesn’t work, but if they don’t use it somebody might accuse them of not protecting their property," said Iwinski.

But far from being a useless, but harmless tool, Iwinski says that ultimately, gamers are the ones that lose out when DRM is used. "Whenever policy trumps common sense, the best interest of gamers is lost in the process."

Iwinski speaks from personal experience with the first two Witcher games, both of which contained some form of DRM. Speaking about the first Witcher game, Iwinski explains: "When the game was released we even held some hope that the DRM would help sales and wouldn’t be cracked for some time, but events proved us wrong: as with every DRMed game, it was cracked in no time."

For the second Witcher game, things had already started to improve on the DRM front.

"For The Witcher 2 there was a DRM-free version on GOG.com on day one. Then, approximately two weeks after the launch, we released a patch that removed the DRM from the retail version, but still we had a co-publishing agreement and were contractually obliged to put a protection on the game, as per our publishing partner’s requirement," explained Iwinski.

When asked why Steam, which can be seen as a form of DRM, is so popular with gamers, Iwinski explains that being gamer focused is key, although warns that Steam is far from perfect. 

"It definitely makes a huge difference that Valve is a gamer-centric company--they really care about gamers, which is a rarity.Still, I believe more freedom should come with the content you buy. I would feel much safer if I could download all my games and play them off-line without running a client application first, without accessing the Internet."

But does rejecting DRM like CD Projekt Red does means the company accepts piracy? Far from it, but Iwinski says the best way to fight piracy is to incentivize the purchasing experience, as opposed to punishing those that choose not to.

"We shouldn’t accept it--that’s not the way to go. We should be active in convincing gamers to get a legal version, but the industry is moving in exactly the opposite direction by using DRM. Like I said: the carrot, not the stick," said Iwinski.

And in conclusion, Iwinski presents a really simple argument as to why DRM should not exist. 

"Because it just doesn’t work, and frequently does the opposite of what it was intended to do--it doesn’t stop any pirates, and instead acts as an obstacle to gamers who acquire their content legally," says Iwinski.


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