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Games for Windows Beefing Up Anti-Piracy Measures

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 65 comments
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Microsoft is beefing up its anti-piracy effort in its Games for Windows program, but it’s not what you think.

Microsoft has a new anti-piracy method, but it’s not DRM. It’s being termed “zero-day piracy protection and server-side authentication to help prevent game piracy before street date, and protect publishers and consumers by requiring authentication for online play,” quoted Develop.

Basically, Microsoft’s new method fights piracy from a very specific angle -- the eager hardcore fans. As dedicated and legit a hardcore gamer may be, there is the undeniable desire to play a highly anticipated game as soon as possible.

A gamer may have already plunked down the cash at a local game store for a pre-order, all with intentions to purchase a game, but often times games are leaked onto the internet before street date.

The super hyped Crysis was leaked days before retail release, which lead to otherwise honest gamers downloading the title out of sheer anticipation rather than for any intention of stealing from the developers. While a portion of those gamers who downloaded a copy earlier may still pay for a legit copy upon release, there is little incentive other than from moral grounds to pay for something that one practically has free access to.

This problem is bigger on PC games because almost everyone can download a copy off a BitTorrent network and install without any system modifications, but it also happens on consoles. Highly anticipated Xbox 360 games such as Gears of War 2, Fallout 3 and Resident Evil 5 were available to modded console owners.

Microsoft believes part of the problem is that gamers eager to play the game have little reason to wait any longer than they already have. If it’s available early from any place, free or not, gamers will flock to it. There have been countless incidents on internet forums where gamers have found a store that’s broken the street date of a game and are selling the product early -- and before you know it, gangs of gamers are there with cash ready to get their hands on it ASAP.

To combat this, Microsoft is putting into place an “unlocking” system that will ensure that games won’t be playable until a set date.

"We've heard from publishers that preauthorized release before streetdate can... they can lose half the sales, the revenue of the game. This is specifically aimed at helping reduce that for the publisher," Drew Johnston, the product unit manager for the Windows Gaming Platform, said to Ars Technica. "We have zero-day piracy protection—this helps reduce the leakage of IP before release. The bits are encrypted, and there is a one-time activation that checks to see if the game has been released or not, and we'll send out a decrypt code so the game can be played."

This method may sound familiar to those who have used Valve’s Steam online service. Gamers can pre-purchase a game, download and install before release date, and have the files unlocked and ready for play the moment the “release switch” is flipped. Of course, there are still non-Steam-exclusive games that one can obtain illegally, and before release date.

Microsoft wants to make this a part of all Games for Windows, which means that there would be a requirement for a GFW Live account, and an internet connection. A side effect of this apparent inconvenience is that Microsoft will allow the license holder to make as many installs and copies as he wishes, as long as the game can be authenticated on an account.

Such a system would also destroy the used games market, but that is less of an issue since PC games practically have no resale value.

What do you think of this new model for Games for Windows? Is this something you’d be willing to trade in place of Spore-like DRM? Let us know in the comments below.

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Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    hotroderx , March 25, 2009 9:38 PM
    I see one huge problem with this. What about people on slow or no Internet connections? I feel this is what really limits steams appeal to some people. I can also see this becoming a legal issue whether or not it would successes or fail is of debate. But I could still see people suing saying that by releasing a title and requiring you to have access to the Internet your trying to single out specific group of people from your customer base which is true. Your basically singling out the one group that doesn't pirate or torrent at all the people with no Internet. Please don't flame me about will ever one should have Internet
    I have had quiet a few friends who have either turned there Internet service off or never had it due to cost and not having the option for Internet service (other then dial up) in there area. Plus has anyone thought of the long term? Steam will not always be around nether will these servers to authenticate things as much as we love to believe things will always be around its not true people will still have the rights to the games but what happens if your beloved game isn't usable because someone decided to stop support for it?
  • 12 Hide
    CosmosX , March 25, 2009 9:27 PM
    Is the real issue here who is pirating and how?
    For crying out loud release a "mature" and stable game for once at reasonable prices and then more people are going to buy it.

    Latest example is Empire Total War with all the issues gamers have been having. When will you guys get it? It's not the piracy that kills the gaming industry, it's what we get for the money we pay.
    Maybe instead of spending money on "protections" you should invest your money into customer value proposition and take back the market share.

    Good luck Microsoft.
  • 10 Hide
    jsloan , March 25, 2009 9:18 PM
    hackers will find ways around it faster than microdopes can stop it...
Other Comments
    Display all 65 comments.
  • 5 Hide
    LATTEH , March 25, 2009 9:18 PM
    i dont know i think this may be a good thing we may get more games for the PC if this works out
  • -1 Hide
    RiotSniperX , March 25, 2009 9:18 PM
    sebojMy torrents will keep on downloading.

    And i bet your proud of that?
  • 10 Hide
    jsloan , March 25, 2009 9:18 PM
    hackers will find ways around it faster than microdopes can stop it...
  • 9 Hide
    sriojas , March 25, 2009 9:21 PM
    If it means no DRM, then I am good with it. Steam and StarDock's Impulse are certainly ahead of the curve where Microsoft sits, but this should help the gaming industry further. If they do it right, you won't always need to be "connected", just like Steam and Impulse.
  • 2 Hide
    cjl , March 25, 2009 9:23 PM
    sebojKeep on fighting that losing battle MS.My torrents will keep on downloading.


    Of course you realize that if everyone did this, there would be no games for PCs, right?
  • 0 Hide
    Flameout , March 25, 2009 9:24 PM
    i'm guessing this article is targeting the single player aspect of a game since most developers hav some sort of account rego to play online, n they can check if ur key is already used or not
  • 12 Hide
    CosmosX , March 25, 2009 9:27 PM
    Is the real issue here who is pirating and how?
    For crying out loud release a "mature" and stable game for once at reasonable prices and then more people are going to buy it.

    Latest example is Empire Total War with all the issues gamers have been having. When will you guys get it? It's not the piracy that kills the gaming industry, it's what we get for the money we pay.
    Maybe instead of spending money on "protections" you should invest your money into customer value proposition and take back the market share.

    Good luck Microsoft.
  • 6 Hide
    hallic7 , March 25, 2009 9:30 PM
    As a computer programmer I know how sad is the fact that some people steal your work when is very hard to produce (games specially), but let's face it, piracy will never die. I encourage companies (not just MS) fighting against piracy, but this is a never ending story. More than fighting piracy I encourage gamers to support the gaming industry one way or another. Because of honest players the industry is and it will be alive.
  • 2 Hide
    anubis572 , March 25, 2009 9:38 PM
    It's not a bad compromise but I feel that those with a 'stand alone' system may have a few problems with the on-line authentication. I personally don't like to go online to authenticate anything because most of the time it's just a limited install on so many computers. Still, this is one of the better ideas MS has come up with.
  • 12 Hide
    hotroderx , March 25, 2009 9:38 PM
    I see one huge problem with this. What about people on slow or no Internet connections? I feel this is what really limits steams appeal to some people. I can also see this becoming a legal issue whether or not it would successes or fail is of debate. But I could still see people suing saying that by releasing a title and requiring you to have access to the Internet your trying to single out specific group of people from your customer base which is true. Your basically singling out the one group that doesn't pirate or torrent at all the people with no Internet. Please don't flame me about will ever one should have Internet
    I have had quiet a few friends who have either turned there Internet service off or never had it due to cost and not having the option for Internet service (other then dial up) in there area. Plus has anyone thought of the long term? Steam will not always be around nether will these servers to authenticate things as much as we love to believe things will always be around its not true people will still have the rights to the games but what happens if your beloved game isn't usable because someone decided to stop support for it?
  • 0 Hide
    hallic7 , March 25, 2009 9:41 PM
    sebojKeep on fighting that losing battle MS.My torrents will keep on downloading.


    Congratulations!!!

    You seem to be one of those guys who makes the IT world slow down because of the time we programmers spend developing ways to stop you, FYI if security issues (caused by people by YOU) would not be a problem, the IT world (gaming also) would be a super better place to be!!

    Thanks for slowing the development of the world you live in!
  • 5 Hide
    HVDynamo , March 25, 2009 9:51 PM
    HotRoderXI see one huge problem with this. What about people on slow or no Internet connections? I feel this is what really limits steams appeal to some people. I can also see this becoming a legal issue whether or not it would successes or fail is of debate. But I could still see people suing saying that by releasing a title and requiring you to have access to the Internet your trying to single out specific group of people from your customer base which is true. Your basically singling out the one group that doesn't pirate or torrent at all the people with no Internet. Please don't flame me about will ever one should have Internet I have had quiet a few friends who have either turned there Internet service off or never had it due to cost and not having the option for Internet service (other then dial up) in there area. Plus has anyone thought of the long term? Steam will not always be around nether will these servers to authenticate things as much as we love to believe things will always be around its not true people will still have the rights to the games but what happens if your beloved game isn't usable because someone decided to stop support for it?


    Agreed, if I buy the game and decide I want to play it 20 years down the road, I should still be able to install it on a computer and play it, This relatively new bout of activation bs and buying digital games from steam and other digital providers is only as good as the company is around, and companies don't last forever. I only buy games digitally from steam if they are on sale for $15 or less because that is the amount of money I am willing to part with for the risk of not being able to play it down the road. Otherwise I buy the disc, because someone will crack it if steam whet under and I would still (hopefully) be able to play the game should I desire to.
  • 5 Hide
    seboj , March 25, 2009 9:56 PM
    HVDynamoAgreed, if I buy the game and decide I want to play it 20 years down the road, I should still be able to install it on a computer and play it, This relatively new bout of activation bs and buying digital games from steam and other digital providers is only as good as the company is around, and companies don't last forever.


    Exactly. :) 
  • 0 Hide
    tekk236 , March 25, 2009 9:58 PM
    It's not really that big of a deal. Oh god! The intarwebs can't get a hold of titles before the release date! All it does is help put more money in the pockets of developers from people who would actually purchase the game. People are still going to pirate it, but overall I think it's at least an attempt to help developers get some return on their investment in the game process.
  • 0 Hide
    solymnar , March 25, 2009 10:01 PM
    Hrm...I would like to think that they could include a mailer with the game purchase to get an unlock sent to you after the game launches? Still punishes someone for not having an internet connection...but that said most people who game on their PC's have some kind of access if nothing else but for driver updates and game patches. The only people I know with zero internet access also aren't PC gamers.

    Of course there are exceptions to everything but its certainly a better solution than securom.
  • -4 Hide
    MarioJP , March 25, 2009 10:05 PM
    well folks never fear. There is something new coming out that will eliminate piracy once and for all.

    http://www.onlive.com/

    and will change the way we play games too.

    Only requirement is a cheap laptop or desktop with a os on it a web broswer download a plugin and off you go to playing these high end titles without having to have anything on the local workstation as the games is server to client based.

    Yep this will kill off piracy once and for all.
  • -4 Hide
    MarioJP , March 25, 2009 10:08 PM
    and to the guy that is happily doing torrents well hope you happy because pretty soon onlive will make sure you never torrent another game again.
  • 0 Hide
    Dreasconse , March 25, 2009 10:12 PM
    Better and less obtrusive than some attempts, but still will fail.
  • 0 Hide
    eddieroolz , March 25, 2009 10:15 PM
    I don't mind this restriction, I never buy games on the release day or preorder anyway.
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