Basically every argument I could give on DRM for PC games has already been repeated many times, and this crap persists. Admittedly we’re probably a long way from big corporations getting past this, but I think it’s still worth lamenting.
If you don’t kow, Ubisoft’s latest games have apparently disappeared from Steam, including Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Far Cry 4. Ubisoft actually hasn’t said why (I don’t think) but with this much time having passed it’s presumably the same reason Electronic Arts removed its games from Steam: they want customers to use their own digital distribution client. On top of this, it’s also come to light that the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V will come with Denuvo DRM in addition to its Steam requirement. Denuvo hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but from what I understand it’s a DRM client that relies on changing factors that pirates have been slow to crack. FIFA 15 possibly hasn’t even been cracked yet over a month after release. However, through its development staff and its code Denuvo is also basically the descendant of the infamous SecuROM. Furthermore, there are reports of it seriously affecting the stability and performance of games like Lords of the Fallen. Meanwhile in Poland, CDProjekt continues making a big deal about how The Witcher 3 wont’ have any DRM and will now be offering day-one DLC items for free. In other good news, not only is the first Dark Souls game dropping Games For Windows Live for Steamworks this month, so is the last GFWL game I care about — Red Faction Guerrilla. But do we really have to go through this again? Do we really have to go through how pirates are probably going to eventually crack all this stuff leaving paying customers as the only ones inconvenienced by DRM. Do we need to continually tout the complex reasons why people even pirate games (economics, regional availability, circumventing obtrusive DRM, buyer’s caution, etc.). Are we even getting any closer to corporations realizing piracy and DRM are service problems first and foremost?
Okay, basically everything that spurred me to type this rant is actually not happening. Ubisoft’s games have reappeared on Steam and Denuvo has denied any involvement with GTA V through two separate sources. Well, I don’t have nearly enough time to type up another blog post so I’m still going to rant about UPlay and Origin’s problems, what Steam has gotten right, and what its competitors could possibly do to compete.
Part of the whole song and dance is criticism of Steam and those who defend it. The simple truth of the matter is, Steam got to where it is because it adds so many features to games and facilitates so much that it’s convinced enough people to legally pay for games and deal with its DRM, which is very much non-intrusive.
I already did a whole blog post on why people dislike Origin and UPlay in comparison. One of my main points was my experience installing a game on UPlay, which last year felt like being transported to how PC game installation was done in 2005. It’s come to my attention that since then UPlay has improved, including automatic game installation and patching. That’s good, but the important thing stands: these services have the right to compete with Steam, but to do that they need to find real ways of drawing customers.
Right now Origin’s only real “appeal” is EA’s games. Even less is true of UPlay. Origin and UPlay sell other publishers’ games (including each others, huh…), and while I have no idea how well they sell, I haven’t heard much from people actually going out of their way to buy third party games on UPlay or Origin. They gotta give us reasons to use those services over Steam. I’ve even already gone over how EA has basically failed to follow through on its roadmap for Origin. Compare that to how far Steam has come since 2011. With additions like big picture and the discoverability update, Steam is arguably further ahead of its competition than ever.
Origin Game Time is, admittedly, a better-executed feature than Steam’s Free Weekends. I just wish it occurred for games other than EA’s own blockbusters. EA’s also offering its own old school games on a rotation of free promotions, but I keep wondering why they didn’t do that before they put all those classics on Good Old Games. And why are almost none of Ubisoft’s old school PC games on UPlay? That could have been some interesting leverage before they showed up on GOG. Playism is a great example of a niche — it and a few other companies are selling the Japanese indie games they take it upon themselves to translate. Green Man Gaming has carved for itself an interesting niche of providing discounted CD Keys, often for Steam codes. In fact in a way Valve’s allowing other stores to sell Steam codes has turned Steam into more of a facilitator than a store.
One of my favorite PC game stores of recent has been the Humble Store. Not just because they offer DRM-free games with Steam keys and let me pay a dollar for them either. They’ve turned Humble into a widget that I just look for on every indie game’s website (Steam has a widget too). Getting the games in general is as simple as downloading them from a browser. And aren’t they starting a thing where you can just play some of your games in a browser if you’re on a device that doesn’t natively support them?
You know what would be neat? If EA or Ubisoft figured out a PC equivalent to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One’s play-while-downloading feature which Steam still doesn’t have. Blizzard proved it’s possible on PC. It would be really interesting if the next Battlefield or Assassin’s Creed had this feature through Origin or UPlay respectively. They gotta figure out something man — find a need or problem in PC gaming that hasn’t been attacked yet.
- You know what? I ain’t even mad Bomberman is coming back as a mobile game. http://t.co/Mi46eR8Gca
- Sky Rogue is getting splitscreen co-op. http://t.co/qkQ61i3IJt
- Another PC game store, Direct2Drive, is back from the dead. http://t.co/EpwjqEHnWE
- Microsoft Office just became fully free (effectively) on iOS.