â??Piracy can be killed by a superior serviceâ??

â??Piracy can be killed by a superior serviceâ??

By Rob Crossley

February 4th 2010 at 1:39PM

But some developers say Ubisoftâ??s new DRM service may encourage piracy

Offering consumers a service that’s faster and easier than BitTorrent can be a decisive weapon in the war on piracy, according to a panel of developers.

That panel, which took part in this week’s Jury Service, were asked whether they supported Ubisoft’s newly-announced ‘online DRM’ service for its future PC games.

And while the group was divided on the merits of Ubisoft’s new anti-piracy measures, the panel agreed that piracy can be beaten if the legitimate alternative is faster, smoother and more convenient.

Activision’s Ben Ward cited Steam as one such service that curbs online piracy for PC games.

“Yeah it has DRM, but gamers still use the client because of the auto-patching, no need for discs, built-in community and achievement tracking,” he said.

Ward went on to say that DRM will only be accepted if it is delivered in a service that brings tangible, real-world benefits with it.

“Look at iTunes in the music business – as soon as you provide a better service than the pirates, you will win.”

Ward’s judgment was reflected by the rest of the panel. Ex-Rockstar developer Chris Kruger, for example, argued that that the moment DRM services become irritating they start doing more harm than good.

And Adrian Hirst, managing director at indie studio Weaseltron, warned that DRM is precisely the kind of thing that can ruin an online service.

“Copy protection that makes the cracked version of the game more appealing threatens to turn gamers away from purchasing at all,” he said.

“The issue for developers is about keeping the public on our side whilst managing to protect our investment,” he added. “Previous draconian attempts at copy protection have only served to outrage our very customers.”

Luke Maskell – an artist at Oxford indie outfit Gusto Games – was in agreement that superior services can help curb piracy, but adamantly argued that Ubisoft will be doing the opposite with their new online DRM.

“All Ubisoft is doing is kicking their customers in the face,” he said. “If Ubisoft is going to provide a service that is worse than pirating the game, they are only going to attract more pirates.”