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.