What SimCity Can Teach Publishers and Developers About DRM

There’s a reason everyone who bought Diablo III nearly broke their keyboards on launch night and it’s the same thing that pissed thousands of gamers off with SimCity’s debacle of a launch.  Always-online DRM (Digital Rights Management).  In a nutshell, developers and publishers have seen how much of their profits have been eaten by torrenting and they’ve gotten their panties in a twist trying to figure out a solution.  The thing they’re forgetting is that when it comes to cyber-security, the hackers will always win.  The reason for this is simple, no matter how big the wall, the sky is always above it.

Rather than trying to blot out the sun like Mr. Burns did, publishers like EA should be supporting indie developers that can make cheap and good games (wink wink, Minecraft) for sale in addition to $60+ AAA titles.  Throw in free-to-play games, and all of the sudden the reasons to avoid paying for games becomes less about cost and more about whether or not the game is worth downloading.

Yeah, pirates will always be raping and pillaging on the information superhighway so long as there’s still treasure chests with pay-to-access locks, but resistance has proven at the very least futile and at that very worst, catastrophic (PSN hack).

So, what can EA and the other big gaming companies learn from SimCity’s launch?  Always-online doesn’t work as a form of DRM, especially when you have millions of people logging on for the first time on launch day.  The SimCity servers are stable now and people have been able to enjoy the game without the same level of network problems as on launch day, but first impressions are everything.  SimCity might be a great game, but you’d have been hard pressed to find a review that said as much on launch day.  Imagine how much greater SimCity’s initial sales would have been if it weren’t for the ever-amazing Francis and thousands of other people putting out videos like this (audio NSFW):

What are your thoughts?  Do you think always-online DRM is hurting game companies and gamers?

  • Hardly stable and still very broken…

  • Seemed pretty fun from NODE’s gameplay, though of course DRM is a pig.
    This image is relevant: http://www.lolbrary.com/content/806/ea-and-sim-city-5-in-a-nutshell-41806.gif

    • Jacobkim12

      Ahahahaha, nice gif!

    • What movie is that?

      • I believe that would be the absolute blast that is SHOOT ‘EM UP. Clive Owen is your carrot chomping hero (who ends a guy with a carrot I believe) and Paul Giamatti as the villain. It’s all tongue in cheek, over the top action, but a lot of fun. Highly recommended.

  • Always online DRM is retarded. I would like to buy Sim City, but I literally boycott every single game that cannot be played offline. I don’t have greatest internet service where I live and it frequently lags so bad that all games are unplayable or even goes down entirely for hours at a time. And during those times, I can’t rightfully play a game I paid good money for? From what I hear, it’s actually pretty easy for pirates to STILL find a way to play Sim City for free. So in the end, all they are really doing is hurting their loyal customers, or even losing them completely (like me). Most forms of DRM are lazy quick-fixes that are poorly thought out, but most of them are still better than always-online. They can give all their excuses about “cloud computing” and try to mask it by claiming the game literally REQUIRES server-side operations, but we all know the ONLY reason is them trying to combat piracy with the laziest method possible.

  • Always online drm doesn’t stop piracy. Server simulaters or just bypassing the check will get passed it anyway. All always online drm does is Screw the Launch day of games. Error 32…..

  • ZaneMatter

    DRM is more harmful to publishers than piracy

    • didn’t help Ubisoft with Assassins creed 2 won’t help EA with any other games.

  • pot51e

    The solution is simple, rather than “always on” have a random on-line validation point between 30 and 60 days (with an option to register at that point). That way, all the torrenting is doing is providing a “trial use” platform. Sim City is one of those games I used to carry on a laptop and play in hotel rooms, on airplanes, in trains. The idea that it would need to be played online/all the time is ridiculous and counter productive.

    • I don’t think this provides incentive to pay for the game. It provides incentive to circumvent the random online validation. Give a pirate an opportunity to pirate, and they will find a way. It’s been that way for almost 20 years I would say.

  • asgaro

    Actually, with DRM, they encourage piracy.

  • I don’t think DRM is the problem. I think BROKEN DRM is the problem. When it works, it does not bother me in the slightest, and I am not so insistent on getting my gaming fix that I need to do so when my Internet connection dies.
    But ultimately it’s not just the DRM that’s broke. It’s the quality and polish of ALL the software that is being produced right now. This is mostly due to annualization of the product.
    Do I think indie titles help refresh some of the creative aspects of gaming? Yes. Do I care? No. I don’t play games for new experiences, diversity or stories. I play them for challenge and competition. By challenge I do not mean trophies or achievements, but ACTUAL difficulty of performing a legitimate task through the game’s mechanics and controls… not Quick Time Events.
    Do I think free-to-play games help refresh things? Not really. I’ve yet to see a free-to-play game that is any good unless it also includes pay-to-win. I’ve not played any of these on console, so the only example I can think of is League of Legends. There are some open-source exceptions to this that have absolutely no cash shop that have turned out excellent, such as Xonotic, but they are few.
    Also, I think many of the things we see on PC these days are still better than what we used to have. The pure game experience is often better IMO than mods and piracy. Pure dedicated servers with standard rules are often better than the hundreds of tactical crouch and Nuketown servers for example. At least you know you can get a consistent experience rather than one that caters to attention deficit bitches who always need a distraction rather than a real game.