Why Always-Online DRM in Video Games is Detrimental rather than Beneficial

     Always-Online DRM, a system of digital rights management, is something that is becoming recognized and implemented by more video game developers. If you aren't already aware of it, always-online DRM is something that can get implemented into a video game, or even a console, that makes you have to be connected to the Internet in order to play your game or use it. Always-Online DRM is something that became a recent point of focus in the video game industry as a result of the botched Diablo III launch, disastrous SimCity 5 launch, and rumors stating that the XBOX 720 will be an always-online console. It's also something that has sparked interest in developers due to them believing that it is beneficial. Regardless of what some may believe, always-online DRM is more detrimental to the video game industry rather than beneficial for both the developer and the consumer.

----Why Developers Implement Always-Online DRM in Video Games----

Image Courtesy of XBOXOZ360

Developers believe that Always-Online DRM can diminish the Piracy of Video Games

     Piracy is, really, the only reason as to why developers choose to implement always-online DRM. Piracy, as the name implies, is a form of illegally stealing entertainment, such as video games, movies, and music, for your own personal use and so you won't have to pay for it. Piracy is a threat that has been around for many, many years and is why always-online DRM is implemented into video games: to lessen the amount of piracy that revolves around a developer's video game. Developers, obviously, don't want their video games to be pirated since people steal the video game and developers don't receive the amount of money it costs to buy the game, so they believe that always-online DRM can help resolve this issue. It is supposed to be a way for developers to make consumers have to be connected to the Internet and not allow them to play the game offline, which would make the game either not be able to get pirated or very hard to be pirated. Although pirating video games is bad and needs to end, always-online DRM doesn't diminish piracy of video games. For example, the game SimCity 5 was recently released by Maxis and Electronic Arts and featured always-online DRM in an attempt to lower the amount of piracy for the game. Instead, somebody was still able to pirate, or hack, the game and code it to work offline, showing that games supporting always-online DRM are still able to pirate it, or hack it.

--------------------Why Always-Online DRM is Detrimental--------------------

Image Courtesy of TechRadar

You must always be connected to the Internet and can't play games Offline

     The most widely known and biggest reason as to why always-online DRM is detrimental rather than beneficial is the fact that you must be connected to the Internet in order to play the game. Gamers and consumers alike aren't fond of the fact that you must be connected to the Internet in order to play the game they want to play. According to recent studies taken by the Internet World Stats, approximately 34.3% of the world population, or 2,405,518,376 people, have an Internet connection. This still leaves 65.7% of the world population without an Internet connection, or 4,612,328,546 people. Of course, not that many people would actually buy a console or a single video game (or probably any other console/handheld/video game in history), but this goes to show you that we're not yet ready to depend on an always-online Internet connection in order to play games. If you did have an Internet connection, there still could be major problems with having to have it always-online to play games. For example, what if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) isn't activating your Wi-Fi yet, or you are moving and you'll have to temporarily live without an Internet connection? This would mean that you'll be stuck without being able to play video games on that console or without being able to play that video game until your Wi-Fi is activated and/or works. What about keeping up with the video game company's server? This ties in to what I'm focusing on in the next paragraph, but what if your Wi-Fi is so slow that it can't keep up with the company's servers, causing the game to either lag or completely disconnect? That would cause a major disaster, as it can ultimately destroy your gaming experience. What if you needed to go offline for whatever reason? You certainly can't play those always-online games offline then. As you can see, having to keep a video game always connected to the Internet presents major problems and doesn't work well in many situations.

Image Courtesy of Treehuggers

Server Issues and Server Maintenance

     Server issues and occasional service maintenance may create problems for gamers when attempting to access always-online video games or an always-online video game console. As a result of always-online DRM being implemented into video games or even a video game console, you'd be required to connect to that company's servers to play the game, which presents problems on both the company's side and gamer's side. If the company of a game that requires always-online DRM had to, let's say, take down the servers for the game for maintenance over the weekend, gamers around the world would be forced to wait until they finish and cannot actually play the game until the servers become available. This may cause frustration to the gamers since they are unable to play the game due to server maintenance. If there is a deficiency, or shortage, of servers, problems will arise on the gamer's end and make them unable to play their game. For example, when SimCity 5 first launched, there was a large deficiency of servers, causing a number of players to be unable to play the game until more servers were added or people exited the servers. As you can see, major problems can occur with servers being in the big picture for playing a video game or a console that is required to be always-online.

Image Courtesy of Companies and Markets

The Game won't be yours to keep Forever

     Out of all of the downsides to always-online DRM, the one that would have to have the most long-term effects and overshadow the others is the fact that the game/console you buy isn't yours to keep forever. You might think "Sure it is. I paid for it." Well, although that may be true, eventually, you won't be able to play that game/console anymore. What is the reason behind this? Since the game requires you to be connected to the game's servers, when the servers are taken down at some point in time due to financial issues or just because the company wants to take them down, you'll be unable to play your game. If you could play it offline, though, it would be yours to keep and play with anytime you want, but, if it's a game/console with always-online DRM integrated, you won't be able to use what you bought at some point in time. For example, if you bought a video game for $60, you wouldn't be able to use that game after, let's say, 10 years because the company shuts down the servers, causing you to lose $60. If you bought a console that integrates always-online DRM, you would've had to pay about $500 for the console, $60 per game, and $20 - $50 for each accessory, causing you to lose so many games at one point and so much money that you spent. Obviously, this is a serious problem for games/consoles that require always-online DRM and is something that many gamers dread for to happen.

--------------------Who Does Always-Online DRM Affect?----------------------

Image Courtesy of Best Colleges Online


     If there is anybody who loses the most from always-online DRM being implemented, it has to be the consumers, the people who actually buy the game. As stated above in the section about why it is detrimental, always-online DRM brings literally zero benefits towards the consumers and a great deal of drawbacks. As explained in greater detail above, you won't be able to play your games offline and the game you buy won't even be yours in the first place, as it is taken away when the servers get shut down. Server issues also cause major problems that can affect consumers. When you examine the drawbacks that appear as a result of always-online DRM, it doesn't bring anything that really is beneficial towards the consumers and majorly affects them. With always being connected to the Internet, you'll be forced to be connected to the Internet to play your game, which isn't good for many due to Internet speeds or maybe even going to places without Internet. Server issues can disrupt your video game or detract from your gaming experience, which isn't something that consumers like being mandatory to their video games. When you buy the game, it isn't actually yours to keep since you aren't able to play the game after its servers are shut down. All of these present major drawbacks that arise as a result of always-online DRM.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Video Game Developers/Video Game Publishers

     Although always-online DRM's original purpose was to fend off piracy and prevent it from happening on the video game, always-online DRM's main purpose ultimately fails as a result of its major drawbacks. Since always-online DRM drags being always connected to the Internet, server issues, and the game not being yours, this actually creates more piracy for the video game rather than not. Hackers that would rather not deal with these issues can still hack the video game's code (as with what happened with SimCity 5) and make the game allow you to play offline. This hacked version can still be distributed to others around the world, creating even more piracy since people would rather download a version that doesn't require the Internet. Because of always-online DRM, the sales for the game that integrates always-online DRM typically drops due to less people wanting to buy a game with all of these drawbacks. Most people around the world don't want to purchase a video game console or video game that integrates always-online DRM due to the drawbacks of always-online DRM. If always-online DRM was removed, though, sales would easily climb since these issues disappear.  Sadly, developers still fail to notice how this harms them rather than helps them since some are still working on new games that integrate always-online DRM, even after the disasters that were Diablo III and SimCity 5.

     Of everything, although always-online DRM has good intentions, it doesn't deliver what its original purpose was, and, instead, plagues games with a variety of disadvantages that make it worse rather than benefitting it. Always-online DRM in video games and video game consoles is a plain disaster rather than a benefit because of the large amount of disadvantages that occur due to it having to be always connected to the Internet and is something that hopefully won't be exploited by developers in future video games.

First Image Courtesy of GameWPP