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Used Games and Shoddy DRM
Posted on Friday, May 28 2010 @ 17:00:54 Eastern

DRM, the last acronym a gamer ever wants to hear.  Its idea is evil and it has caused a lot of pain and suffering for gamers all over the world in recent years.  The concept of Digital Rights Management launched quite a while ago, originally with music purchased online from stores like iTunes and the like, however not many people knew that that's what it was called, they simply knew they could only authorize x number of computers to play their purchased songs.  In 2008, with the launch of EA Games' and Will Wright's "Spore," the concept was brought to the video game world, and has since been the main cause of outrage amongst gamers worldwide.

In the beginning for games DRM would give the user a select number of uses for the CD key they received when the game was initially purchased.  I believe for "Spore" the number was five.  That seems like a lot, but when you remember that back then a computer could never be unauthorized the number of uses became significantly less.  Even if one was to reformat the computer the game was initially on they would have to use another one of their five CD key uses.  This made gamers begin to ask the question "does paying $50-$60 for a game not mean that I have ownership over the intellectual property rights of this disc that is in my hands?"

Fast forward to present day.  DRM is still in existence and going at full force to combat computer game piracy, but new ideas have been implemented.  Ubisoft, for example, requires that the user maintain a constant internet connection on a PC in order to play the game you have shelled out your hard-earned cash for.  It's not a perfect idea, in fact it's a far from perfect idea, causing many gamers who do not have constant access to the internet to miss out on some phenominal games, Assassin's Creed 2 being one of them.  This is still all well and good, I mean let's face it, if a company goes through all the trouble to make a game and spends however many dollars ensuring it's as good as it can be (or in some cases spending the money on advertising for the game instead of ensuring its quality), then they deserve to not have their game downloaded for free off of some torrent site.  It's not a good method, but it ensures that anyone playing the game has paid for it.  Unfortunately companies have now decided that because they don't see a dime for the sale of a used game, they want to initialize a DRM system for console games as well.

Industry giant Electronic Arts has implemented a new method of doing this.  When they release a game it comes with a one-time use code that the player puts in when they first connect to the game's online features (be it Xbox Live, PSN, or Wii Connect24, but who really uses that?).  This code verifies that you have purchased said game first hand and it permanently links your online account to that code.  This means that when you sell it back to a retailer such as GameStop whoever buys it next will not be able to access the online features without buying a new code from EA themselves for the "low, low cost for $10."  Basically even though the company that makes the game doesn't buy it back from you when you are done with it they want to see more money on the resale of the same property they have already profited from.  Seem fair?  I didn't think so.  The entire point of a used game is so that whoever buys it second hand saves money on the game as a whole.  The original buyer gets some of their money back, and the new buyer is able to enjoy an almost new game.  Because when you buy a copy of a game you are buying all ownership of that copy's features, the game should be yours to do with what you want when you are done with it, but now the industry (which is still one of the few to be posting profits quarter after quarter) wants to see more money.

This is not an issue for someone who has no plans of ever connecting to the online community in a game, but for those of us who want to save money on say, a shooter that came out four months ago, is still full price in the store, but we can find it used for 33% off, we can no longer play it online without buying a license to do so from the manufacturer, and honestly, who wants to play the story mode to a shooter coming out today?  The entire purpose of the game is to play it online.

At this point in time it doesn't look like the idea of console DRM is going to go away anytime soon, only time will tell.  What I can see happening however, is gamers deciding that they have had enough with a company trying to take the rights to a game that they have already paid for away, and possibly rallying together against the industry giants.  Again, only time will tell.
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