Saturday, March 04, 2006

Copy protection, a necessary evil?

Nowadays, almost every game comes out with copy protection, claiming its essential in order to secure sales, and avoid pirates. But, in all honesty, is it really that necessary? On February 21st, 2006 Stardock Entertainment released Galactic Civilizations II – the follow-up to their successful game of 2003. What's more, its sales figures are up beyond all expectations. A new game selling well might not seem like news, until you realise that it ships with ZERO copy protection. You don't even need to authenticate a serial to play it. At a time when everyone blames the potential of downloaders for a multitude of sins, sales flops and marketing disasters, Stardock has made a product that they've not protected, or even advertised, and its flying off the shelves.

Yes, flying off the shelves. To quote Brad Wardell, one of the games developers n an announcement on the games frontpage says, “We just got our report on the first week of sales of Galactic Civilizations II. Despite some availability problems, we're told that we're presently the best selling software title at Walmart. Let me be clear: Not just #1 PC game, but overall software. Best Buy, EB, and Gamestop have put in additional orders that actually exceed their initial sell-in orders.”

Heres another thing to consider. It wasn't only available at stores. It was also available for purchase through the games website as a digital download. It's predecessor, Galactic Civilizations, was the first PC game to be offered in such a manner, a method popularised in recent times by games such as Half life 2. There's still more though; as Brad says, “you can install the game and toss out the CD and use the included serial # (which you don't even have to use to install) to redownload the entire game from us even years in the future.”

A company that looks out for its users then, and doesn't burden them with potential malware, such as Starforce. Nor is it by any means a poor game. I've been playing it the last few hours (I had a copy on layaway at Walmart, which was rushed home this morning) and its clear that a lot of time and effort has gone into it. Even to the point where its not restricted, as many games are nowadays, to users running high-spec'd machines. If only other companies trusted and had faith in their potential consumers as Stardock does. Regardless, it was a brave decision to entrust so much work to users honesty. That being said, you do need a valid serial number to get any updates and patches via StarDock Central, for all those with an illicit copy.

Clearly the moral of this is, if you have a good game, people will pay for it, even if its easy to copy. If it's not worth the price you're asking, they'll copy it regardless of how much protection you put on it.

Ben Jones.

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1 comment:

  1. Hello,

    Copy protection is a tool used by DRM. DRM relates to the processes by which content-licenses are obtained, accounted for, and used to unlock copy-protected content. It is also used in some proprietary file formats to prevent access to the work on unauthorized machines. Thank you.

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