• The Value of “Always Online DRM” Lacks Conviction

    I might have applauded Blizzard for doing it right by AUS customers. But after 11 years they should know better when it came to launching Diablo 3, a single player game in a persistent online ecosystem. Martin and I have yet to look at Diablo 3 in depth, but I felt compelled to say something, even if I’m repeating what I’ve always hated about always-online DRM.

    First of all, I don’t like the idea of playing a single-player game that keeps connecting to the Internet. It began with SecuROM back in 2008, continued on with Ubisoft’s DRM and, quite recently, with EA’s Origin in its many forms. In all of these cases none of them had convinced me, as a gamer, the logical, financial and emotional value behind an always-online DRM attached to a single-player game.

    This isn’t about the (anti) piracy argument or the futility of DRMs as a whole. When publishers tell us that this game will require a persistent online connection they’re telling us that:
    • Their servers are safe and reliable – that they won’t crash at any instance,
    • Their DRM is safe and reliable for all gamers, and, most importantly
    • The game requiring the always online DRM was made to ensure that gamers aren’t feeling tethered to any form of restriction whilst they’re enjoying their game.

    In essence, whenever publishers propose that their future game will require an always-online DRM they are making a solemn promise to their gamers that everything will be alright and that these gamers should trust these publishers.

    Understandably, a broken promise, no matter how small and insignificant they might think, invites doubt and a question of trust in the mind of the concerned gamer. No one likes the idea of being controlled, restricted or be told what and how they should use their video games. A game isn’t just code – it’s a product that represents everything that a developer or a publisher believes in.

    To have them buy a game they believed can work on their machine, only to have them fail is nothing short of a broken promise. That’s what I believe and, even now, Blizzard has become yet another casualty in over delivering on a 11 year promise and failing to deliver when it counts the most all because they overlooked the concerns gamers have about always-online DRMs.

    As they say, the results speak for themselves. The consumer value of an always-online DRM (or any DRM for that matter) have yet to be communicated (yes, I'm also talking to you, EA and Ubisoft!). Until gamers are convinced of its value they have no present place in PC gaming.


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