DRM vs. DRM-Free?

Chrome

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Sally does not pirate it because not everyone pirate a game, Who knows maybe Sally are not very close to Bob and Tim so she does not ask because shes super shy, Or maybe shes an honest type girl, or maybe shes super rich and don't care about 7.99. Who knows the possibility are endless, but sally represents the people that will not pirate the game. Bob represents the founder, and Tim represents the pirater. 

Not all games have Demos, demos could potentially hurt sales. But lets say the game has a demo, demo are a lot of times not enough to push a person to buy it. For example right now, I'v played Bloodrayne Betrayal demo three times already and I really really like, but its not enough for me to buy (is this gameplay gonna be repetitive? Is the story good? How long is the game? I heard this game was hard, will I get frustrated and just quit? (all this goes into my head and the game is 9.99)

Also I told you that the scenario does not go down like that anyways. lol 
 

Shaz

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@Shaz: Yes, in the short run 50 buyers 50 talkers is a little bit more profitable then 500 talkers. But very soon the 500 talkers will put more food on the table then the 50 buyers. Look at the big picture.
Not if the people they are talking to are also pirates, or friends who they just share with. If the 500 talkers who haven't paid anything for your game tell 500 MORE pirates, that's 1000 x $0. My 50 x $10 is still more profitable. I would not accept your theory unless you can show me proof your "people buy games because pirates talk about them" idea actually works in the real world. I say, if it does at all, it's not enough to make it a worthwhile alternative.


Don't get me wrong about DRM though - there are many kinds and you seem to be looking at a VERY restrictive one. The kind of copy protection I'm talking about is where you have to use an activation key, or some online check, at the time of installing, which then unlocks that game to that computer. If you have three computers or your computer dies or you replace it for some other reason, you can install and unlock again using the same key. I absolutely agree that if you have paid for software, you are entitled to install that software on your own computer as many times as necessary. I don't like DRM that causes problems for legitimate customers, but I don't consider having to enter a key or having to email someone because you've lost your key as being problems. ALL games we sell use this kind of DRM, and ALL software I have on my computer uses it. There may be games that use something more restrictive, but they're likely not indie games. It's easy enough to copy it and give your friend the game AND the code, but it's enough to put off a lot of people who WOULD buy but DON'T because they happen to have someone handy who's just offered it to them for free.

You also arbitrarily decide that Bob will pirate the game, yet Sally buys it. Why wouldn't Sally just pirate it? Your entire argument falls apart and is based entirely on conjecture.
I completely agree with this. In fact, Sally will get a copy from Tim or Bob, and then she will also give her friends a copy. There is no point, along your timeline, when one "generation" of players suddenly decides to buy it instead of just getting it from their friends, and their friends will be happy to provide it, because they got it for free too.
 

monkeynohito

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Here's an article that pretty well sums up the sorry state that piracy has put the industry in: http://www.greenheartgames.com/2013/04/29/what-happens-when-pirates-play-a-game-development-simulator-and-then-go-bankrupt-because-of-piracy/

TL;DR version:


There's really no justification for that. There are excuses, but no justification. The pirates are also utilizing resources like support, forums, bandwidth that cost actual money, so it's not exactly free and victimless.

Seriously, there's a point where you have to start supporting the things you love or they either die off or stop catering to you. Manga is taking huge hits because it's become so synonymous with scans. One of the only ways to survive is publishing stuff that scanners aren't interested in like the dearth of Yaoi you see everywhere. Yeah, adult women buy stuff they like, male teenagers don't buy anything anymore, so which direction do you think publishing should go? Do you think casual games and gender issues in gaming are things that just popped up out of nowhere? It's because the industry wants to start shifting gears towards people that actually pay for things. The only other option is DRM. Your choice.
 

Tsukihime

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No DRM


Bob: Hey Tim!, you gotta check this game out! blah blah blah


Tim: I dunno, I dont want to spend 7.99 on it.


Bob: No worries, I'll make you a copy.


(Tim and Bob is all happy and excited, talks about the game and another friend over hears it)


Sally: Hmm, I never heard of that game I'll go check it out (buys game)


(Sally tells more people)


Repeat, Repeat, Repeat x1000000000000
I think this is a more likely scenario. If I were Sally, it would go something like this

Tim and Bob: wow this game is so cool


Sally: Hey give me a copy upload it Mega or Mediafire or something!


Bob: k
In this case I don't even need to go looking for it on TPB or anything when people I know can just give me a copy.


The only time I actually spend money is when I support the artist. Which means I must already be familiar with the person or their products. In which case, yes, pirated copies may actually result in me knowing the person and therefore wanting to support them. But that is rare.


Or, as monkeynohito mentions, pirates don't seem to be circulating something and I really want it. There are plenty of things pirates don't circulate, and the ones that are circulating it tend to be doing it for personal profit anyways (pay-outs, ad-revenue, etc). Which is quite problematic considering the fact that rather than the original artist making money, the PIRATE is making money off it.
 
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Shaz

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@monkeynohito, I was just reading another blog talking about that game, and a couple of others. Thanks for the link though - I hadn't seen that particular one.
 
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Galenmereth

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Again, like I said, of course a free version will outnumber a paid version in the beginning. Like the article there says: "Today, one day after release, our usage stats look like this:"

One day after release of a game from an indie dev most people have never heard of. But if you look at it, they've got over 200 real customers - that's pretty damn good - and over 3000 pirates who might become paying customers or spread the word (which might lead to more pirated versions, or not). Who's to say any of those 3000 would buy the game on day one?

One of the only ways to survive is publishing stuff that scanners aren't interested in like the dearth of Yaoi you see everywhere. Yeah, adult women buy stuff they like, male teenagers don't buy anything anymore, so which direction do you think publishing should go? Do you think casual games and gender issues in gaming are things that just popped up out of nowhere? It's because the industry wants to start shifting gears towards people that actually pay for things. The only other option is DRM. Your choice.
What kind of conclusions can one possibly jump to from such information? "Adult women buy stuff they like, male teenagers don't". Seriously? What about female teenagers? Do they buy more than males? What about adult males; do they buy more than teenage males? Have you stopped and considered that maybe the reason shounen manga sells so bad is because it's become extremely repetitive, and that its old fanbase has grown up from it? Naruto is still going on; I lost interest in its childish plots years ago, while I used to love it to death. I started reading it when I was 14 or so; I'm 27 now. Manga is in a state of crisis because it's failed to evolve, and it's now being pushed to do so. Digital publishing alternatives to scans have failed to be properly set up, which also hurt it.

I think it's important to take a good few steps back and stop painting everything with the same broad brush.
 

Shaz

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Studies show that the majority of players of casual games ARE adult women (based on data from BFG). It makes sense to make games that you know will be appealing to the majority crowd.


Granted, the kind of games YOU like to play will probably dictate the distributors YOU go to (I find Steam confusing, has an ugly interface, and have no interest in most of the games I see on there. Some of you may not have a clue what Big Fish Games even is). So the types and ages of players that are common would be skewed by the types of games that distributor focuses on, and it's easy for us to think that is representative of gaming in general, when it's really not. I think the key point is to determine and get to know your audience before you even begin making a game. But whether it reduces piracy, or reduces it much, I really don't know.
 

Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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^ yeah, most casual games are played by adult women (lots of my friends and aunts are)... 

IMO, if you're starting out, do free copies first... then once you have a player base etc, then you can start introducing DRMs to your next games...
 
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Chrome

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@Shaz: Wait so your DRM lets you install the game as many computers has you want? Like you can just reuse the activation key? If this is the case then I would not mind this DRM at all. 
 

Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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Yeah, that's a nice DRM (player-wise) in that case... though it's also easy to pirate in this case I think...
 
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Shaz

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Every casual game I have has DRM like that. On some there's a limit as to how many times you can install it (BFG games let you install 3 or 5 times before they pull you up) but in those cases it's just an email to whoever you got the game from, explaining the situation, and they'll reset it for you.


The kind of really restrictive DRM you're talking about is along the lines of "let's treat everyone like thieves and trust nobody". The DRM I like is "let's keep honest people honest, without making things overly difficult for them; the pirates are going to find a way around it anyway."
 

monkeynohito

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By bringing up casual games and the manga industry, I was trying to illustrate the direction things will go without DRM or a broad demographic willing to support the industry through sales. Much more focus will go towards the demographics with a higher sales to piracy ratio. Tokyopop tried to license content that was popular on the scan scene and they went under, other companies have shifted towards a library heavy with Yaoi, Josei and Shojo content, Viz stays in business by applying some DRM measures to they're online content and the brute force of popular title sales that are still far outstripped by scan consumption. The options to DRM on the manga scene are focus on a small proven demographic or dog eat dog reliance on only the very most popular titles. Japan has the same troubles with moe series taking over to serve the smallest demographic because they're the most active consumers. Even if a company wants to cater to the group that gives them the least money, they can only afford to do it for so long.

Saying games could go the same way isn't a jump, it's just common sense and the current state of the manga industry serves as a pretty good example of an entire entertainment industry going in that direction. Draw your own comparisons to the game industry. I see enough complaints about casual games to see traditional gamers feeling the sting of a demographic shift too. Getting more people into gaming is great and all, but if devs have to chase a specific demographic because the rest of the market isn't offering any support, I'd rather see DRM allow them to make the games they want to make.
 

Galenmereth

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You're attributing things to piracy that has little to do with it. The rise of casual games – often aimed at adult women – isn't because the other demographics have dried up due to piracy; it's because adult women is an untapped and new demographic. Casual games are also very popular for commercial developers because these kinds of games require less financial risk and smaller teams to develop.

Yaoi, Josei and Shoujo content in the world of manga can be attributed to many things, but here too (in the west, at least) it's because this is a fairly "fresh" market/demographic. Comic books used to be a male dominant market; manga has broadened this appeal. Publishers work based on trends in sales and popularity. I'm sure piracy and scans are hurting some manga publishers, but to attribute it solely to that phenomenon is incorrect. One problem with manga is the slow translation/print/publish cycle; scanlations are available almost immediately (and AFAIK, often of very high quality too), while printed versions and official digital versions are much slower to be published. You can lament this reality all you want, but the truth is this: People want things as fast as possible. If it's available somewhere online illegally while the legal alternative takes months to catch up, then you'll lose some people to the illegal versions. This is the reality of today. But many – including the manga and games business – want to cling on to the old ways of publishing, which is becoming obsolete.

Now, I want to take a moment and say that I am not against all forms of DRM. For example, I buy retail Nintendo 3DS games from the eShop knowing that they're:

  1. Tied to the console, not an account. If my console gets stolen, I'm losing all my downloaded games.
  2. Can't ever give these games to anyone else
I'm fine with the above because it's more convenient than physical copies. And the 3DS has yet to be cracked; you can't pirate 3DS games yet. While for me the latter is inconsequential (I don't pirate games anymore; stopped with that many years ago), I'm sure a "pirate card" for the 3DS would hurt Nintendo's eShop sales. And so making it hard for pirates can be necessary. But the important thing to notice is that convenience is a very big factor; if a legal method is more convenient than the pirate alternative, you'll win a lot of potential pirates over. But if your solution ends up complicating things for consumers, then you'll lose a lot of them – to piracy or to other games. I don't buy games that use Games for Windows Live or Origin because of this reason. I just don't play EA games at all, nor games that require GFWL. I don't pirate them either, because I don't have time for all these games anyway. Make it hard for me to play your game and I'll ignore it forever, because I already had to make time to actually play it.
 

BigEd781

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Here's another thing to think about; you're DRM scheme probably won't stop piracy at all.  If your game is really good, more pirates will want to crack it.  A sufficiently motivated, intelligent pirate *will* crack it unless you institute something like a phone-home policy, which is pretty effective (it's also effective at pissing off your paying customers FWIW).

I think the best plan is to make it hard enough to crack to prevent otherwise honest people from doing so, but no harder.  It has been shown time and time again that people will chose the legal route as long as the illegal route isn't easier and more user friendly (which it often is). You're never going to convert those bent on cracking DRM to customers, so why concern yourself with them?
 

monkeynohito

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Galenmereth, DMP went from publishing a variety of manga, years ago, to almost exclusively publishing yaoi for their print releases now. Emanga has brought them back towards variety publishing, but even there, a large percentage of the catalog is yaoi. They've only just recently started releasing the male-interest equivalent. Yaoi is the big moneymaker and they really have no choice but to cater to that audience over other content like, say, hot-blooded fight manga. To say they're just exploring new markets...well, right now, male readers are the new market they're exploring.

I will admit that I think Emanga is doing better than the now defunct Jmanga and Squenix's thing thanks in large part to their variety of delivery options whereas the others tried to maintain tighter DRM in their online viewers. The purchased content from Jmanga that I've now lost access to also shows that it really can happen, cloud distribution DRM is only as dependable as the distribution channel.

You have to do something to curtail piracy, or be willing to shift or shrink your market focus. On the other hand, extreme DRM most certainly burns the customer more than anyone else. To me, effective DRM is something that makes you stop just long enough to question whether what you're doing is wrong if you're thinking about circumventing it, but not enough of a hurdle that an honest consumer feels resentment. Seriously, I've been burned by EA's broken DRM on legit purchases enough that I no longer play any of their games, wouldn't feel a bit of remorse if I cared to pirate them. When I hear about indie games being pirated en masse, I kinda want armed guards posted in people's houses though. :3
 

Zeriab

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The only certainty about DRM is that having a too restrictive DRM will hurt sales.

I advise against too heavy a focus on fighting software piracy. Reducing the amount of pirates should not be the primary goal. Why? Well the easiest way to achieve the goal is by not creating the game. People cannot pirate that which does not exist.

Have your primary goal instead revolve about your customers, the good kind who buy your game(s). The financial aspect also matters. How exactly profits, sales, piracy interacts nobody really knows. Games are different. How much does those differences affect the attempts at measuring the effect of software piracy? Most of the surveys and discussions including facts (including this topic) have been riddled with generalizations without questioning them too much.

I may possible be completely wrong, but I believe that typical diffusion of innovation model is preferable to use on the customer/sales over time rather than a linear model:



What can and should you practically do when you stand with this choice where the effects are practically unknown?

Personally I would initially try to protect my game just enough so that a deliberate conscious choice is needed to illegally copy my game. I like the activation key scheme so I would look for a used and tested software product with the lowest amount of false positives. I don’t want to prevent legit users from playing my game. Using a DRM will however mean that someone will not be able to play my game. So prepare how to deal for such situations. Note that I said ‘initially’. The reason being that I expect going from DRM to DRM-Free is easier than going from DRM-Free to DRM.

Talk to the portals about DRM. It is not uncommon that you have to customize games specifically to portals. Steam has its own DRM. GOG focuses heavily on No DRM. Look at this news for example: http://www.gog.com/news/2013_nodrm_summer_sale_thank_you

So to answer the question in the title:

DRM and/or DRM-Free depending on the situation. Yes, that includes having both DRM and DRM-Free versions
 
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Omnimental

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My plans right now are for my first game to be DRM free.  It making money isn't important to me, it spreading my image and gaining me a reputation is.  I'll probably use light DRM on later games,  DRM doesn't really stop pirates, but heavy DRM drives away people who would pay money for your game.  I'd probably do something along the lines of sending the people who actually buy my game one of their choice of a selection of wallpaper related to the game.  A pirate who needs a copy to crack probably won't want to buy multiple copies to access all of the bonus content, and it gives my supporters a nice thank-you for purchasing the game.
 

Zalerinian

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(BFG games let you install 3 or 5 times before they pull you up) but in those cases it's just an email to whoever you got the game from, explaining the situation, and they'll reset it for you.)
A DRM system that I personally think would go well with most people is similar to this. You get your game and an activation key, and then the key can be used to install the game on any computer, but the activations are recorded, and a key can only be used so many times before it gives you an error that it's been used too many times and that you need to uninstall it from somewhere. Key got stolen/released online? No problem! Just prove you bought the game (email with purchase number, account information, credit card even, maybe), and we'll reset it, or give you a new key and deactivate the old one.

One of the biggest things that people have against DRM, in my opinion, is that the company that has the DRM on their product did a poor job of using it, or they're starting to take it 'too far'. I think that EA's choice of always-online DRM for Sim City was a terrible idea. Not only is it inconvenient, you can't play it if you don't have an internet connection. You can't do it when you're traveling, you can't do it when there's a network outage, it's just in the way. If your DRM idea will get in the way of a legitimate buyer's way while playing, then you're doing it wrong. That's my view on DRM. Serial keys are good. They let you keep track of your game, and they're not, in my experience, obtrusive after you've entered a valid key.

But that's just my opinion on the topic.
 

GaryCXJk

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Here's my take on this.


Ever since the start of my small leap into indie development, starting with C++ using SDL, then moving on to Java with first using libgdx and then jMonkeyEngine, I have always said this.


No DRM.


Here's my reason, though.


The main problem with DRM is that it actually repells gamers. Not a lot, mostly a vocal minority, but it's still a group. I know of one person who actively avoids Steam because of its DRM, and its DRM isn't even that restrictive. He'd rather not play the game at all than to get the game with DRM. I don't think he's pirated most of the games he wanted to play, in fact, I believe he just really avoids playing these games at all.


Here's the thing. I'd rather have people pirate my game than to not have anybody play my games at all. It's the same reason I give away free copies of my novel, and why my novel will always stay DRM-free. I'm an artist, I'm a creator. I don't make stuff to make money, I make stuff to make stuff. It's why I constantly work on scripts without doing anything with them, it's why I adapt WTFPL for some of my scripts. Because I don't give a damn.


In the end, I might have put, I don't know, 35 days into RPG Maker VX Ace (total running time that is), without making anything that could potentially make me money. Sure I would love to get some money, but in these days, I'm just one in an ocean of indie developers. I need to make name first. If I have to make name by essentially giving all my hard work away for free, then so be it.
 
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Shaz

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A small group not playing your game because it has DRM != nobody playing your games at all.


There's also a group of people who WOULD pay if they HAD to (if you had even very simple DRM), but who WON'T pay if you give them the choice (no DRM), and I believe that group is significantly larger than the group you mention.


If the income from your games was all you had to live on, and you relied on it, which would you prefer?


And here is the clincher:

I don't make stuff to make money, I make stuff to make stuff.
This is a commercial topic in the commercial forum. People who ask questions here ARE making stuff to make money. So they are going to look at this question from a "how will it affect my profit" standpoint, not from a "how will I get as many people playing my game as possible, even if I don't make any money" standpoint. All topics here, and responses to them, should be made with that thought in mind.
 
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