Gamedev talk #3 - DRM isn't worth your time.


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  • Posts: 2181
Hello Stencylers,

This week we're discussing the topic: DRM isn't worth your time,

What is DRM?

DRM stands for Digital rights management. It basically protects your software from being given for free or stolen ( some guy buys the game and gives the whole world the game file on his twitter account)
If you want the long explanation, we can get you hooked up with Wikipedia....

What types of schemes are there?

Limited install activation - It basically limits the number of systems the game can be installed. It then requires authentication with an online server.

Persistent online authentication - You always have to login to use the game ( Minecraft were looking at you ) and/or you always have to be connected to the internet ( cough, cough, Super Mario Run).

Software tampering - If the game detects its been broken into, it starts messing up the gameplay, or displays a picture of a pirate all over the screen. Some companies have a sense of humor when it comes to this, see:

Product keys - During the installation for the software, the user is asked to type in a special key ( that they were emailed when they bought the software ); if the key is correctly entered that is assigned to the valid license and installation can continue. If it's not... you ain't installing this software buddy. C'mon Microsoft office, this is getting old....

Why isn't it worth it?

 Well lets first start off the idea why companies implement it. Well, as I mentioned earlier, companies usually implement DRM to protect their software from free versions or software pirates. There are two mistakes here. One, your software can always be pirated. Yes always. Just look at Minecraft for example, it has a DRM. Just type " Minecraft for free" and instantly you have a ton of pirated versions. And it's not just minecraft. All software can be pirated. All hardware can be pirated. There is no point in investing time and money. It pointless. You're not protecting your software, well maybe a little bit. But mostly, it can always be pirated.

  The second mistake is the player experience. When gamers play they want a fun and easy-to start up  game. If they are always being asked to log in or enter a key, they will get annoyed and stop playing your game. Or even worse. They love your game so much, but hate the DRM that they will go and play a pirated version. For FREE. Right there, you could lose money or you might lose your player. DRM isn't helping you rather ruining your success. There are a ton of games that are doing well and they aren't using a DRM. Yes, there are pirated versions of their game, but they're not losing money.
 A good game with a good concept and that is marketed correctly will eventually make money, you don't need to worry about money loss. Don't implement a DRM and you'll do fine.

 Feel free to share your thoughts, suggestions, and tips!

Have a great weekend!



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If you treat well the fans, they will condemn the piracy and encourage the pirates to buy the game.

Terraria did this very well with several free upgrades.

Apple did the same with a quasi-religious culture. As is known, Fans sleep in line to buy and do not desire cheap pirate versions that do not provide that they crave.

But, whoever can not invest in relationships, making this harder possible, may not solve, but it can help.

Especially when the game is cheap, and the effort required to piracy more the threats of viruses make buy a better option.

But, I think the best strategy is constant updates. Because as long as a new pirated version does not emerge, all pirates are "hot leads" - customers on the list very interested in the product. And so, piracy works as marketing for free.


  • Posts: 1617
But, I think the best strategy is constant updates.
Agreed, and i think most of the time the person getting the software for free  wasnt going to buy your software anyway.  i had a friend of my co developer on a game use  a patcher on android to get the in app lives for free and play our game.. so i got some ad revenue... i doubt they would have bought lives anyway.. im not mad..


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  • Posts: 329
But, I think the best strategy is constant updates. Because as long as a new pirated version does not emerge, all pirates are "hot leads" - customers on the list very interested in the product. And so, piracy works as marketing for free.

As far as mobile goes (and I'm not qualified to speak about any other platform),  piracy on android is rampant, it's a ridiculously high number. On iOS it's a lot lower.

Frequent updating used to be considered a good approach, not only to combat piracy but also to keep visibility up. Ever since Apple changed the way the app store works to no longer show games you already have installed in feature slots, the constant update approach became less interesting.

On Android it might still be the best way to fight piracy, but considering that Android brings in less revenue than iOS, it seems like a lot of effort for little gains.


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A simple game that generates little profit is not worth the effort.

But, a bigger game, it's can worth doing something. Because, small changes, can represent great results.

I would do it:

1- Put the free version at the store for download.

2- And the paid version, complete, extended, etc., would sell with other purchase system, like games free-to-play to purchase items (because this is model that works better).

To buy, the player will need registers name and email, and this data goes to the server. Then when the game is load, if you do not enter a name and email, or this is not stored in localstorage, the game works only in the free version, that does not even save the player's progress.

And, if the players uses duplicate email, the account is blocked, and an email is sent to him change the password.

Is it possible to cheat it?

Certainly. But, the pirates will have to practically create another game in each new update. And if they do not make money from it, they will not have time for it.
And even if they do, until the new version comes, this will be the time to acquire new players.

In addition, it is possible to do as those games that, with each new update, players are required to upgrade to continue playing.

It is possible also that, for the game to display the end, for example, you need to make a request of a variable to the server. Otherwise, the game displays a fake finale.

It's not hard to do things like that. The problem is just if this worth it.

Because, if the game is not good enough, any extra work required to player, your game is abandoned.

And to know if it's worth it, you need to test it in each context. Because opinion each one has his own.