Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The DRM Merry-Go-Round

DRM (Digital Rights Management) is a polite way of saying copy protection. This issue has been part of the computer game industry since its inception, though the advent of the Internet has exacerbated the debate. Now the issue has become important to the book industry (including RPG books), as people scan books and post them online, or share PDF files. Publishers (both electronic and non-electronic) decry the widespread file-sharing and copying, and claims of billions of dollars in losses are bandied about. Raging debates over the ethics of copying and distributing files abound, and in the music industry we see thousands of lawsuits being filed and people being forced to pay thousands of dollars in judgments.

It's a mess. And I'm here to argue that it's one you shouldn't waste too much time on.

Let's start with one fact: There is no perfect copy protection solution, no technological magic wand you can wave that will prevent all unauthorized copying. This doesn't mean you can do some things that will cut down on the amount of unauthorized copying, but it does mean that it's a waste of time to look for a technology you can use to completely eliminate unauthorized copying.

From that point, you have two choices: Either use some form of DRM that you hope will cut down on unauthorized copying ("piracy"), or make the existence of piracy part of your marketing plan. The first choice has its own issues; some of them are explored in this article, where the author makes the point that pirated copies do not equal lost paid sales, and that DRM usually causes some problems for paid users. You have to consider carefully whether the tradeoff is worth it to you.

The second choice is to make piracy part of your marketing plan. The free-to-play model does this brilliantly; publishers want their game distributed as widely as possible, so as to encourage sales of in-game items. Many app publisher have a free version in order to advertise for the paid version. This does get trickier with e-books, but there are authors like Joe Konrath who are making good money from sales of e-books that can also be had for free.

I think if you can find a way to make unauthorized copying work for you, you will be much better off than worrying about a stream of unauthorized copies you can neither track nor control.

1 comment:

  1. If you could tack them that would be awesome for an online magazine and its subscribers :)