Sunday, February 3, 2008

DRM-free big-budget PC Game

Stardock Games has shipped Sins of a Solar Empire (developed by IronClad Games). Stardock also published Galactic Civilizations II. Both are big-budget retail titles, and both shipped without DRM, with the publisher refusing to DRM-cripple it.

In my Gamasutra piece (original post) on the subject of curbing piracy through personalized content, I pointed to a commitment to a customer relationship. Stardock's a perfect example. They put it best:

I remember hearing at a conference that when an executive at a big publisher heard that Galactic Civilizations II shipped with no CD copy protection that they quipped “I hope bankruptcy treats them well.” Millions of dollars in sales later as one of the top selling PC strategy games at retail (according to NPD) over the past couple of years let’s me say “Ha!” in response. And this is on a game that made most of its money on digital sales.


The bottom line on copy protection is that if you create a greater incentive for someone to buy your game than to steal it, those who might possibly buy your game will make the choice to buy it.

With Galactic Civilizations II, we put no copy protection on the CD. But to get updates, users had to use their unique serial # in the box. That’s because our system is backed by’s unique SSD service (secure software delivery) which forgoes DRM and copy protection as we know it to take a more common sense (I think so anyway as a gamer) approach of just making sure you are delivering your game to the actual customer.

Any system out there will get cracked and distributed. But if you provide reasonable after-release support in the form of free updates that add new content and features that are painless for customers to get, you create a real incentive to be a customer.

As I mentioned earlier, Galactic Civilizations II was success in terms of actual sales, critical reception, and most importantly, satisfaction by strategy gamers.

Sins of a Solar Empire is taking the same route. In fact, we hope to have a free update available the first week of availability with new maps, new options, and new features. We consider ourselves lucky. We get to make a game and play it and then get to update it based on talking to our customers. It’s a great system.

And I think most gamers will agree that a system that rewards people for buying your product is preferable to one that treats them like potential criminals.


(via BoingBoing)

1 comment:

Greg said...

Well, I'm not sure I'd characterize these games as "big budget" titles -- by indie standards, perhaps, but I'd be vastly surprised if the all-in cost for either is over $2m. Which in today's game industry is chump change.