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Intern’s Corner: DRMs, Electronic Middle Men, and Used Games

Posted July 29, 2009 - By Rob Vaughn

Everyone should remember the flop that SPORE came out as. It was a fun game, with an awesome creature creator. So why was everyone so angry at it? Digital Rights Management of course. I remember going to many sites on the internet and looking at the reviews. A lot of, "this was an amazing game but the DRM warrants 1 out of 5 stars." showed up.

For those who aren’t in the know about SPORE’s attempt to ward of piracy, it went something like this. According to the license buyers of SPORE could only install the game three times off of one key. This infuriated the gaming community. Many people took offense, saying as buyers they should have the right to install and uninstall the game as much as they want. A backlash came down on the franchise. The DRM also did little to stop hackers from distributing the game electronically. It was a no-win situation for SPORE.

Should buyers have the right to use a product they have paid for in any way they see fit? Of course they do. Once something is paid for it belongs to the consumer. However, not everyone pays for their games. Piracy is still a huge issue in the video game industry. Support the developers and buy their games. It encourages them to make better ones.

Perhaps one of the finest examples of anti-theft is what I have deemed, the electronic middle man. Valve has come out with the best example of this, Steam. For those unfamiliar with how Steam works, it’s a small management program that runs valves games. It has been made to run in the background while players enjoy their products. It can instantly receive game updates from the developer, and gives the user the ability to shop online for more games by valve or their constituents. It also acts as an instant messenger between players who are signed into Steam. Perhaps its most important job is to authenticate game keys to prevent piracy of their games.

With the ability to buy games directly from the developer, how will this affect sales from stores like GameStop? Apparently, not very much. GameStop has reported some of its highest profits in years, while most developers have been having a hard time in the economy. This is because of used games. It’s become acceptable to buy a game from a store that has been traded in by someone else who has bought that game. The only people to benefit from this, however, are the store itself. They buy games for cheap prices from their customers and sell them at acceptably cheaper prices then new copies. The game gets recycled and the developer receives no royalties from the sale.

What do you, the readers, think? Is it acceptable for a game company to limit what you do with a product in the name of security? What do you think of background programs like Steam? Should GameStop Pay Royalties on Used Games?

Tags: Geek Out

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