I remember when I first discovered BitTorrent. It was just too good of a deal to pass up. All I had to do was go on Mininova, find whatever video games that I wanted, and click on the tracker link. That’s it. No hassle, no waiting (except for the often horrendously slow download rates when people don’t seed!), and most importantly, no money for titles that would retail for over $50. Unzip the file, upload the disc using Daemon Tools, and within 10 minutes after the file finished downloading, I was playing Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. Just like that. But even with increasing public focus upon media piracy, to some degree, piracy still remains unfettered, especially within the realms of video games.
Video game developers, unlike the music industry or the film industry, lacks a protective headline institution like the RIAA and MPAA. They don’t often actually take the time or resources to file lawsuits against simple copyright infringement, only aggressively pursuing action when the copyright infringement could disastrously hurt their income. So many video game developers, rather than working have turned towards more sophisticated ways of preventing piracy.
Many developers, corporate and indie alike, have turned towards online integration as a way to ensure everyone playing has an unique copy of the disk. Blizzard announced, not without much anger and resentment from gamers, that Starcraft 2 would not have LAN (Local Area Network) support, forcing all players to play online, ensuring that Blizzard could ensure unique CD keys. Indie developer Notch, responding to the piracy of his popular indie game, Minecraft, says that “instead of just relying on guilt tripping pirates into buying, or wasting time and money trying to stop them, I can offer online-only services that actually add to the game experience.”
But with each generation with increasingly complex DRMs, there has been just as fervent response on the pirate side. Almost immediately upon release, hackers have worked on methods on cracking new DRMs, a process not to different from jailbreaking the newest iPod firmware. It’s almost like a Q&A session, responding as if each new generation of DRM was a challenge for them.
I guess the real question soon becomes apparent. How far can this go? How long can developers keep on developing technologies to dissuade piracy? When will it end?
At some point, a balance needs to be struck. Video games developers cannot be expected to produce quality products yet constantly shovel money towards developing stronger piracy protections. Will video game developers begin turning towards methods like those that the RIAA uses against copyright infringement? With growing acceptance of video games as a serious market influence, it’s become a definite possibility.