Friday, 5 April 2013

Why Always-Online DRM Won't (and will never) Work

It looks like the next-gen Xbox will require an always-online connection to play it. It doesn't matter if you're playing a single-player game, you will constantly need to be connected. Here is a list of reasons why always-online DRM won't (and will never) work in the form of questions to the company:

1. Does the always-online DRM only account for games, or for the console usage entirely?
What the next generation of consoles are doing is trying to account for all forms of entertainment. The Wii U kickstarted this trend in consoles, with an extra screen for transporting your game, or just watching movies. The 360 is continuing this with it's dashboard, so you can access Sky TV, Netflix, LoveFilm, Music browsers and stores and other such applications for other media. Why just appeal to gamers when you can be entertainment? On my PS3, I can put movies and music on there via USB stick, so I can lay back and watch a movie on my PS3. Will the DRM cover this as well? Will I not be able to access my files if I'm not connected? Or does the DRM only account for games? Surely there should be boundaries.

2. What if I live in a rural area?
I live down a private road with 3 houses. BT wont install cable down our small road to give us high-speed internet because BT wont have enough profit. Our internet runs at 500 kb/s at best. That would mean it takes roughly 9 hours to install Dishonored, an 8GB game, and even longer for PlayStation, because Sony doesn't know what high-speed internet is. My internet constantly dips in speed, and sometimes disconnects entirely. This would mean I would have unnecessary lag on a single-player game, and for no reason. I know it's worse for most other people, like those living in poorer conditions than I. Our community should be an accepting one, a place where people come to escape. We accept all people into our community, no matter what race, religion and background. Having an always-online DRM is not accepting those poorer people who can barely afford their console, and it only turns the gaming community into an elitist one.

The Creative Director of Microsoft that announced the DRM,
said this in reply to 'What if my internet disconnects?'
Complete idiot. 
3. Will the servers last forever?
Say a publisher has really bad servers, like EA or UbiSoft, or they're just fixing their servers and they're down for a day, that means we can't play on our consoles. It also cost money for the publisher to keep the servers up and running, so that would mean we would have to pay for an online pass on top of $60 plus tax in America, and even more in Australia or Brazil. But what about 6 or 7 years down the line? Will those servers continue to be running, even though there are very little people still playing on them? What about 10 or 15 years afterwards? When the children who first laid hands on their brand new Xbox are revisiting their childhood? Or a veteran gamer is just replaying an all-time classic on that console, like people do when they plug in their old SNES's or NES's. Does Microsoft not care about their consumers? Or do they want their precious precious money?

Look at SimCity for example, it looked like it would be quite a decent God-game, but turned out to be plagued with server issues and was rendered unplayable. Hell, the lead designer of Diablo 3 now regrets having an always online connection for it, as it cost Activison-Blizzard a lot of money to keep it running. Go here for more information: and 

4. Is Multiplayer the core experience? 
This current generation was a turning point for publishers. After the overwhelming success of Gears of War and Call of Duty, more publishers have been using multiplayer as compensation for single-player and as justification for £40 worth of game. And they still charge you for an online pass. I've said many times in the past that I think this is extremely damaging to the gaming industry, as single-player is the core experience but is being ruined by publishers who make crappy multiplayer focused games. Single-player is the core experience for a number of reasons: it tells a story, it's crafted for the player, it's structured more so than multiplayer etc.

 Multiplayer is a tagged on extra, where all the guns and people are pilled into an arena and kill each other. It's inherently less structured and it depends on the skill of the other players (and of course the weapon balance; see the 'noob tube'). I say all of this, because with the always-online DRM, developers will be almost forced to include a multiplayer mode into their game, taking resources and time and effort away from the core experience to focus on something they didn't want (see the Spec Ops: The Line multiplayer). They will have to include the multiplayer because of the always-online DRM, because what's the point in having the DRM in the first place?

5. Why are you implementing it in the first place?
Money and loyalty. Purchasing an online pass on top of the £40 game is an easy way for a publisher to make money. And we of course have to show our loyalty to the publisher, by religiously buying all their products and all their DLC at full-price with out buying a second-hand copy (known to EA as 'stealing'). To quote Jim Sterling, "If that's all your next game is going to be; a cynically-structured exercise in wallet drainage, what the f**k makes you think you deserve $60 up front? What have you done to earn that? What?". That is indeed true. What benefit does always-online DRM have for the player? For Diablo 3 is had that marketplace, that no one ever uses and that they now regret implementing. For SimCity, pff, it doesn't matter if it plopped Cream Eggs out the USB slot, it's un-bloody-playable and has received dozens of average (and below average) review scores, and holds a 64 Metascore on Metacritic. With all the complaints thrown at EA's and Blizzards way, a whole new generation of this will continue, and we will continue to encounter server issues and un-playability because of this. We will have another 7 years of Error 37's and SimCity's.

On top of this, game's are becoming more expensive, with the pre-order price for Battlefield 4, AC4: Black Flag is at a boffing £45, and it's not even limited edition! The publishers know that these games are going to make money, as they're two of the biggest franchises in gaming today, so they least they can do is be courteous to the consumer, to actually treat the consumer, the one who spent £45 on your game which probably didn't deserve it, with the respect he/she deserve. Microsoft and EA have little or no respect for the consumer, and it's up to us as an audience to show EA and Microsoft that we don't want this crap. If the new Xbox does come with DRM, I will certainly not buy it, and I hope you don't either. If the new PlayStation comes with DRM, I will certainly not buy it, and I hope you don't either. PC already has DRM, but it makes up for it because Steam is cheap, efficient and it actually respects you. Origin and UPlay, on the other hand, charge full price (or over) for a downloadable game. If a company pulls a shoddy business practise that you don't like, either pirate the game or avoid it completely, to show that we will no longer put up with the crap the publishers throw our way.

Also, no more used games or backward compatibility, because WHY NOT!