It Is Time To End Anti-Piracy in Gaming

I know, right? About ten years too late. But like a lot of long-term campaigns that just don’t make sense, the best time to end draconian anti-piracy measures was yesterday. The next best is today.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pro-piracy. I’m just for common sense. And at this point, today’s anti-piracy is tomorrow’s preservation problem.

And more than that, pirates manage to get around the measures in place within hours, while paying customers must put up with issues for years.

This has been on my mind for a few reasons. The first is the news that Switch is getting anti-emulator tech courtesy of Denuvo. This will doubtlessly stop pirates dumping the latest Nintendo game… for about 30 seconds.

The second is the oft-reported fact that Rockstar released cracked versions of their own games on Steam so that they could run without discs. And that Nintendo supposedly (but probably didn’t) release downloaded Roms on their retro game collection. Whether it’s true or not, it’s a funny thought.

And finally, the developer who linked his DLSS for Starfield mod to his patreon found hackers turning it around within a couple of days.

Just in the stories above we have seen pirates save old games, make them easier for preservation, get past subscription models and more. You can’t win there. They will bypass your security, especially if the end product ends up better as a result.

That doesn’t mean you should give up. No company is going to be happy just allowing people to download their titles, burn them to a disc and play like normal. Ask SEGA about that one.

But it’s about playing smart. Why do people pirate games? What is it about your business model that is causing people to find alternative ways of getting access? And, most importantly, will your game still be easily accessible in years to come?

I don’t mean to combine the issues of piracy and preservation. But traditionally they kind of go hand in hand. The emulation scene has always been in varying shades of grey, depending on which part of it you look. Nintendo would say downloading Mario All-Stars is piracy, and it’s hard to argue with that.

It is daft to spend time and money implementing anti-piracy measures that hurt your customer and cause no issues for pirates. 

On the other hand, how many people are pirating Starfield? I’m sure there are still too many. But it is “free” with Game Pass, and still available to those who wish to buy it through Steam. The business model largely removes the issue of piracy, except from those who wouldn’t play the game regardless of anything else. 

For a long time it looked like this was heading in the right direction. Games For Windows Live had died. The Steam sales were legendary. But it seems as PC gaming has gotten more popular, developers are looking to punish the 1% who do the wrong thing.

I’m not fully sure what the answer is. Good pricing and easy access should solve most of the problem, but perhaps that is naïve. But at the very least, what we have isn’t working. And if something isn’t working, you might as well stop it. 

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