While we only had the chance to test a demo version of the Sapphire Select DVD, we were happy with the problem-free activation process, the test phase and the generally unobtrusive presence of ActiveMARK software. This kind of game bundle makes Sapphire's graphics cards even more attractive and is a real buying incentive, provided the tiles on the DVDs appeal to you. Once you own the card, you get to select whichever game you want from a long list of popular titles, plus you have the opportunity to thoroughly test all of the games for a whole hour - and don't forget we're talking about the full versions here. The activation process went smoothly with the prerelease version of Sapphire Select we were given to test.
Sapphire says that game developers have expressed an intense interest in the concept. First of all, it allows them to conclude longer-term contracts with graphics card manufacturers, meaning they can plan on a longer-term basis. Newly-released games can simply be bundled onto the Sapphire Select DVD when the next update rolls around, without any new contracts required.
The exact contents of the first Sapphire Select DVD have yet to be finalized. On board are games from publishers Vivendi and Ubisoft. Currently, planned for inclusion are Ground Control 2, Tribes Vengeance, Richard Burns Rally, Codename Panzers and Swat 4, with Brothers in Arms, FarCry and other titles under consideration. Sapphire also wants to keep a few surprises up its sleeve.
According to the company, the new type of game bundle is available exclusively to Sapphire for six months, after which other card makers are likely to follow suit. Trymedia, developer of the authentication software ActiveMARK, claims its digital rights management guarantees that the software on the DVD is securely protected against misuse or illegal use. This sounds nice in theory, but in fact it would be the first such protection to actually foil pirate copiers. Up to now hackers have managed to crack every copy protection system.
One big plus point is that, unlike the case with many actual games, ActiveMARK does not overburden the consumer with annoying CD or DVD copy-protection features that ask you to uninstall various programs or that conflict with different DVD drives. At least on the demo DVD ActiveMARK was very unobtrusive.
Sapphire graphics cards featuring Sapphire Select are supposed to start leaving the factory within the next few weeks. However, the manufacturer is keeping the precise date under wraps.