A fel­low gam­ing blog­ger posed an inter­est­ing ques­tion: DRM vs Piracy, which one is more harm­ful to devel­op­ers?  The post com­pared piracy to steal­ing and made a point with the recent Sim­C­ity launch drama.  Although a more rig­or­ous answer to the ques­tion is nearly impos­si­ble to deduce with­out the detailed analy­sis on sales num­bers, I shall steer my angle to a sightly tan­gent direction.

Yes, EA made a lot of peo­ple angry over the deba­cle.  Given that vir­tu­ally every PC game that has a sin­gle player com­po­nent will be released on pirate­bay in due time, sen­si­ble com­pa­nies will be sure to make sure that legit cus­tomer attempt­ing to play the game is no more dif­fi­cult than pirates who down­load the game and apply­ing crack.  Sim­C­ity failed such com­mon sense sim­ply because Maxis first built a DRM schema that requires an always-on con­nec­tion, and then rest of the game as a shell, call­ing it SimCity.

And they could have pulled it off, if not for their servers com­i­cally failed them.

I think they were embold­ened by Blizzard’s Dia­blo III’s “suc­cess”, but with­out con­sid­er­ing the genre dif­fer­ence between the two games: D3 has a much more sub­stan­tial mul­ti­player expe­ri­ence com­pare to the city sim­u­la­tor.  Pre­dictably, less peo­ple will com­plain once the login/authentication server starts to work again.  Peo­ple who wish to play PC games with total iso­la­tion from the Inter­net is increas­ingly a minor­ity due to the real­ity where wifi and cel­lu­lar net­works becom­ing a true omnipresent existence.

I’m not really against DRM when it’s done right.  Look at Steam; it’s the very embod­i­ment of sen­si­ble DRM for PC games that is liked by both play­ers and  devel­op­ers.  Because of this, Valve ranks #1 in my per­sonal “Rep­utable PC Gam­ing Com­pany List”, and I bet 93.57% of all PC gamers would agree with me.  (OK I made up the sta­tis­tics, but you get what I mean.)  So far I haven’t heard about any game requires Steam caused huge uproar of dis­con­tent on their launch date.

And to EA and those who wants to be like EA but will fail hor­ri­bly upon launch like Sim­C­ity did, my fol­low­ing advice should be taken with a grain of salt: get a f___ing clue.

Let me be prophetic and make a pre­dic­tion where more stu­dios will attempt to build DRM schemas dis­guised as games in the near future; the sad part is that they do it because they can afford the worst pos­si­ble back­lash from the play­ers.  It is more of a pain to see a beloved fran­chise to adopt such tac­tics.  But I still have hope; a hope that more less-known and hum­ble devel­op­ers to bring new blood into PC gam­ing with­out the toxic, moronic DRM.

And as play­ers, vote with your wal­lets should be a sim­ple yet pow­er­ful strategy.

PS: In case any­one don’t get the title…