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"Your customers hate DRM" - Rambourg

Fri 11 Nov 2011 8:13am GMT / 3:13am EST / 12:13am PST
RetailOnline

The Witcher 2 sold more on GoG.com than on multiple digital services combined

Anti-piracy measures are harming PC sales and customer loyalty, according to Good Old Games MD Guillaume Rambourg.

The company specialises in selling classic PC titles digitally, but he argued that DRM-free content also works on new releases, revealing that sales of The Witcher 2 were higher on GoG.com than they were on multiple digital services combined.

While Steam helped the game sell 200,000 units, in the same time period the title sold just under 40,000 copies on GoG.com, but only 10,000 on other digital services combined - including Direct2Drive, Impulse and GamersGate.

"Your customers hate DRM," he said, speaking at the London Games Conference. "DRM is making companies feel safe while they handle some business, they are trying to protect their product and protect their sales, but the reality is very different.

"The reality is DRM does not protect your content. Every game is pirated within a few hours of release or more often before it's released. DRM is not protecting your product or your sales, it's going to harm your sales in the long run."

"By putting DRM in your games you are working against your consumers, you are harming those you should cherish. It's only hurting your loyal consumers which is counter-productive."

Rambourg argued that the piracy industry understands digital distribution better than some games publishers, and that companies should look towards it for examples of how to better serve customers.

"There is one industry that got everything right - piracy. Piracy quickly understood that digital needs to be simple and easy. That digital consumers are expecting a fast and easy experience. You should treat piracy as competition not as an enemy. If you treat it as an enemy you are blinded and you don't pay attention to what they are doing right."

DRM measures are too complex, there's no reward in applying it, and consumers will go elsewhere for their games, said Rambourg.

"You have to be as close to piracy as possible for ease of use for the consumers. Make it simple for them and you can turn the consumers to loyal fans. Protect your brands not your sales.

"DRM free works and we know it. You have to create some emotional attachment. We bundle games with wallpapers, soundtracks, manuals, and it doesn't take a lot of your time and it makes consumers happy.

"Many companies are fans of regional pricing. On GoG we say that any consumer, regardless of his location, should have access to the product at the same price," he added. "If you don't create an emotional attachment with your consumers they are free to buy a game one day and then the next day go to the competition."

35 Comments

One way is to make the titles affordable by all primates with opposable thumbs that (with extra bonus content, private network and added goodies) make buying legit, something to be proud of, easily accessible, enjoyable and even profitable (look at apple). This will thus make up profit in bulk rather than per unit sales.

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
We should give this guy a standing ovation.

However, one point of note - on Eurogamer it says GOG.com sold 35,000 copies in the game's first six months. So which is it, as that's a significant disparity?

Posted:2 years ago

#2
Isnt there always disparities in numbers in the press?

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
Pirates may break DRM, but breaking it gives someone a sense of "I'm doing something wrong and I might get caught" which is enough to deter some people. Allowing anyone to copy the game to a USB stick and give it to all their friends without it being tracked back to them would probably lead to a lot more piracy, rather than it just being the people who are determined enough. And to be honest, if the pirates couldn't break the DRM they probably wouldn't buy the game anyway.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,133 1,039 0.5
"Every game is pirated within a few hours of release or more often before it's released. "

What's sad about this is I think the entertainment industry is the only one that bends over SO far in the face (and naughty bits) of rampant criminal activity. Yes, EVERYTHING that's sold is ripe for some sort of theft, but it's a good thing this isn't a bunch of car companies or a restaurant chain, or they'd all be bankrupt within a week or less. DRM stinks... but letting the cat eat the canary all the time stinks even more...

Posted:2 years ago

#5
I totally agree with Rambourg. DRM can only hurt your sales, not only on PC but on every platform.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,035 912 0.9
While DRM might not protect from Internet piracy, it can stop private piracy. Friends quickly copying a game amongst each other at work, or in school. It also prevents used sales on the PC. The online codes of console games even prevent you from lending a game to a friend in many cases.

The war against Internet piracy is lost, the war on the customer is still in full swing.

Posted:2 years ago

#7

Mike Kebby
Marketing Manager

19 2 0.1
@Terrence - It was just under 40,000, or at least that's what it appeared like on the slide he showed last night. Regardless, it was a good presentation.

Posted:2 years ago

#8

Henry Durrant
Programmer

46 41 0.9
This is why Steam (and now Origin) do so well, they are effectivly DRM platforms but provide a service, so much that you dont really notice the DRM ( until the respective authentication servers go down for maintainance / whatever ). Third-party DRM feels like a stab in the heart but Steamworks doesnt, familiarity and consistancy I suppose.

Posted:2 years ago

#9

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
DRM is only a bad thing when it becomes invasive to the user's experience, if it involves too much jumping through hoops to even get the game to boot, or if it breaks and locks you out of your own game. When it's transparent, like in Steam, it's fine, and the only reason I can see someone having a problem with it is if they were trying to do something illegal. Those who play by the rules don't even notice it.

It's a bit like with those unskippable scenes they put on shop-bought DVDs where your first experience of putting the disc in the drive is FACT jumping down your throat accusing you of being a thief, despite the fact that if you were indeed watching a dodgy copy, that video would likely have been removed, so the only people who see that are honest customers. That's the kind of thing that should be avoided.

Posted:2 years ago

#10
I suppose, one login to rule all gamers games - would in theory mean easy access thereafter. Which service platform is the issue because the territory to win the hearts/minds of gamers is still being fought

Posted:2 years ago

#11

Guillaume Rambourg
Managing Director

3 0 0.0
Hello everybody,

There are indeed discrepancies in terms of numbers. GOG sold close to 40.000 units of The Witcher2. No idea where those 14.000 come from!

@Gamesindustry.biz staff: I asked my PR team to contact you to publish an official correction. Stay tuned ;)

Posted:2 years ago

#12

Douglas Kinloch
Vice President of Business Development

3 0 0.0
Quite right, legitimate customers do hate DRM; when it's invasive, when it limits them and when it disadvantages them more than it does the pirate.
The answer is to render it copletely invisible to the user. Problem solved

BTW It is not true to say that every game is pirated and that every copy-protection tool is removed within hours. Most, but not all.

Posted:2 years ago

#13

Mihai Cozma
Indie Games Developer

123 34 0.3
@Henry - I am a fan of Steam too and have about 30 games in my account, but the current breach they suffered made me wonder if I should really go all digital or stick with boxed titles for a while. I usually buy older games on steam when they are on sale, and always get boxed games for the new releases, as I can get them cheaper than the Steam price. Anyway, I too think invasive DRM (not all DRM) is bad.

Posted:2 years ago

#14
I've updated the stats from 14 to 40,000, as pointed out. Thanks Guillaume, entirely my fault.

Posted:2 years ago

#15

Andrew Clayton
QA Weapons Tester

150 7 0.0
I know that Steam is a glorified DRM system, but the benefits that it offers far outweigh the downsides. I know that I'll always be able to go to any computer I own and play the games that I bought, even ones that I bought way back in 1999.

GoG.com offers great games at lower prices. There's no way I'd pirate out the games to my friends when most of them are $6 (assuming they're not on sale). I'd tell them to suck it up and pay out the cash.

It's when games are $60 a piece that I begin to at least understand why pirates do their thing. I don't agree with it at all (if a game's worth playing, it's worth paying SOMETHING for), but I understand that it's absurd to think that people would be willing to shell out $60 for a game in this economy.

Posted:2 years ago

#16

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
Andrew - "but I understand that it's absurd to think that people would be willing to shell out $60 for a game in this economy."

I don't think it's absurd at all; games offer more value and content now than they ever have done, so if anything we're generally getting a better deal than we were 10 or 20 years ago. I don't buy many games on release any more, but I cherry-pick the games I know I'll love and those which will offer a lot of value to me (in terms of hours and the overall experience), and those I'm fairly interested in I tend to wait until they're £20-£25 or maybe rent them.

If people can't afford something, I don't think there's any justification for stealing it.

Posted:2 years ago

#17
until steam gets hacked....

Posted:2 years ago

#18
It's all about how companies respect their customers. If DRM is being a bother to the user, he will quickly learn to avoid products they release, unless the game is oh-so-brilliant. Now I had a nasty situation recently, when I bough two copies of BF3 to play with my husband at home. To our surprise, the game won't let us play on the same servers at the same time, and their customer service can't do anything about it, but only say "sorry". At that point we asked if there's a way to return the game to get a refund, but of course it's not possible, since those copies were already registered. So we spent £60 for a product that in my opinion is broken and not the seller nor the publisher wants to take responsibility for it. That's really a bad way to treat consumers.

Posted:2 years ago

#19

Stephen Wilson
graphic/web designer

21 0 0.0
He's got my vote after the infamous Ubi Always on DRM killed off my beloved "Silent Hunter" series.

As for buying boxed product to avoid Steam, good luck, the last four boxed products I have purchased all required Steam.

Posted:2 years ago

#20
Brilliant, treat pirates as competition not the enemy, well said. Free content for registering your copy, people will always pirate your game you can only reward those willing to buy it which also helps combat the second hand market.

Posted:2 years ago

#21

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,133 1,039 0.5
@Andy

Actually, a LOT of gamers were introduced to many a game franchises via second-hand purchases or gifts of used games from friends who didn't want certain games in their collections any more. I own a ton of games I've bought new and used since the 80's and I wouldn't be such a huge gamer if it weren't for used product, trading games with friends or total strangers through a few sites and other legal means.

Anyway, what's worse, a thief who NEVER wants to pay for anything because he can always get what he wants for free, or a borrower with a wallet who will buy a future product because he likes what he's played and wants more?

I'd say yes, while the currently accepted balance between the two is a start, there needs to be a new way of thinking about this that doesn't justify acceptance of out and out stealing as part of a reliable business model.

I know it stinks that developers and publishers don't make a red cent off used games (which is the fault of the industry for not taking advantage of that market when they should have years ago) and YES, I KNOW that SOME folks who advocate piracy will indeed (and allegedly, according to the pro-piracy posts I read) BUY certain games they like after sifting through the bag of gems they just stole. But "combat the second hand market" is almost as bad as DRM to some users.

Speaking of DRM, I've actually had no real problem with in in the old disc format. The ONLY two or three issues I can recall were of security codes misprinted or not included in a manual, which had me contacting customer support line. The other one was a code printed on a multi-disc game on the darn disc that had to be in the drive when the ENTER CODE screen came up. Ejected the disc, got the code, but had to reboot/uninstall/registry wipe and reinstall because the installer rejected the disc over and over. That was funny for about ten seconds, but got annoying after that.

The CURRENT, lousy DRM model with that always online nonsense for single player games is just the worst thing ever for solo-play gamers. Especially in a game where offline play should be a key part of the experience. And yes, boxed retail games requiring online activation/massive content downloads/updates STINK. What's a non-broadband user to do if they buy a retail package and can't play unless they have to go get an account somewhere? That's something that NEEDS to be fixed, as if it's a small issue affecting a "handful" of end users. All the industry is doing is LOSING money by not making sure as many people as possible can play their games where, when and how they want to.

Posted:2 years ago

#22

William Usher
Assistant Editor

41 29 0.7
"I don't think it's absurd at all; games offer more value and content now than they ever have done, so if anything we're generally getting a better deal than we were 10 or 20 years ago.

Completely disagree. Uncharted 3 gives you what, eight maybe nine hours of gameplay? Compare that to the old Tomb Raider games where you were stuck on a few levels for eight or nine hours. How about the original Deus Ex? System Shock? X-Com? Mario 64? I never had the pleasure of saying that I conquered Mario 64 after well over 30-40 hours of play.

No, son, we're getting gimped on games these days. $60 for a 10 hour game and a tacked on multiplayer with perks and achievements and additional $10-$15 DLC that comes out a month or two later. I don't know where you see "getting a better deal" in that scenario but I do concur with Andrew's point in seeing why piracy is the way it is, even though it isn't right.

Posted:2 years ago

#23

Diego Santos Leão
Creative Director

24 26 1.1
I would agree if by DRM he means "agressive DRM" (which is 99% of it, but still). If you provide a very basic form of DRM, that is almost invisible, it wont be despised by customers. It will only avoid a bunch of friends sharing a thumbdrive with GTA for example instead of buying 5 copies of it. We cant just give a pass to indiscriminate copy, or people will start to take it for granted as something that is ok, not imoral at all. Anyway, companies need to engage their customers and understand them. For example? I just bought Worms on Steam and none of my friends have it, so I cant play a lan game. Now, to have fun, I have to buy 4 copies of it... It is not fair, and if I didnt knew better, it could make me pirate it. This is a very complex issue, it has more to do with customer behavior than with prices and "criminals"...

Posted:2 years ago

#24

Spencer Franklin
Concept Artist

93 124 1.3
Have to agree with Mr. Usher here...we are NOT getting a better deal than 10-20 years ago. these games last about 10-20 hours and that's it. On another note, Publishers/Devs complaining about not getting any profit from the used games trade, I guess I'm just not seeing the WHY in this. What other product gets produced where the original producers make money from second hand sales? I do HATE places like Gamestop, for selling used games for 5 bucks less than the same game new, but that seems to be an issue that the publishers should take up directly with the vendors. But then, you also have publishers who continue to try and sell their older titles for full price when its available everywhere else for a much discounted price...or how about selling digital downloads for the full retail box cost, when their is no box, manuals or other extras that would come with real media. Sorry, but the OP has a point, the games industry seems to do more and more to push people towards piracy with there heavy handed, and ignorant decisions.

Posted:2 years ago

#25

Jamie Watson
Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment

179 0 0.0
I agree 100% with what is said in the article and believe more companies should do it.

make a game WORTH having and people will buy it.

this is a personal story of mine which relates to the article points very well.

late last year i got given a pirated copy of a game made by a successful games company with many different successful IP's. I had heard of this game before and wanted to play it but the cost of buying the game was too expensive (it was $100+) so i thought i would wait untill it became cheaper. As it turns out when a friend of mine had the game they asked me would i like it and i said yes as i had never tried it. So i got the game installed and started playing...i was hooked, the story, the adventure and the fun of slicing enimes up with my sword and shield as great fun for many hours. So much that when DLC for the game came out i downloaded that too. Now i really enjoy what this publisher/developer puts out and really wanted to buy the game so i saved up and waited for it to go on sale. I then brought the game with the everything i had downloaded included earlier this year for a fraction of the cost of the game when it was released. I now continue to support the developer by buying there products as i am a fan of there work.

if a game is fun and enjoyable people WILL buy it.

Posted:2 years ago

#26

Tony Johns

520 12 0.0
I hate DRM.

I used to play a games from a friend's house because my family didn't afford the money to buy me games.

If I did own a games console back then but still had to rely on money from my parents, I would have had to rely on my friends to have the same console and borrow the games from them.

With DRM, it breaks that sort of friendship and it also breaks those sorts of memories of lending games to my friends to play and I would borrow some of their games.

We would all get together and give our games back to eachother and that would have been a perfect childhood.

DRM kills that by saying we can't share games with our friends, and that is a dangerous and greedy move by the industry that is slowly killing the PC market.

Posted:2 years ago

#27

Guillaume Rambourg
Managing Director

3 0 0.0
@Matt Martin: thanks for the edit!

Posted:2 years ago

#28

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,133 1,039 0.5
"What other product gets produced where the original producers make money from second hand sales?"

Well, vehicles, washer/dryers, stoves, computers and certain high-end audio equipment (among other consumer products sold as used or "pre-owned" through OEM retailers and licensed resellers) would like to have a word with you.

Yeah, games are a different bird, but used is used and I may as well make the obvious joke above and get it over with.

My point was about 20 years back, the industry COULD have realized that they'd actually make a bit more profit for themselves (and yes, game developers) had they decided to get in on the pre-owned market. Now, it's far too late for that.

Their "Plan B" which consists of: "Demonize the used market, charge people who buy used games "unlocking" fees and stick DRM into games where it isn't needed even if the end user won't be playing online at all, ever" is one that makes me wonder if they think ALL gamers are under 34 or so and don't remember when things were much better. Actually, back in the day, here were awful resellers like FuncoLand (notorious for taking in used games, throwing away the boxes and manuals and replacing them with badly-written one-"page" instructions on a cheap index card stock, among other things).

As for the pro-piracy statements here about justification... they're a bit wrong-headed. NOTHING "pushes" someone towards any criminal act at all (and yes, data theft is a crime, like it or not). That's the excuse killers and molesters give to the cops when they're caught on bad crime shows. Or at least Flip Wilson's excuse for Geraldine (look it up). "The Devil Made Me Do It!"

If I don't like something that's restrictive, even if I'm a huge fan, I simply refuse to support it with my money. Those people decide to do something wrong based on the idea that they deserve to play something but don't want to pay for it (restrictions and all) seem to me, silly. Example: I want to play Diablo III, but I can't where I live currently. And while I love the company a lot, I'm not happy with Blizzard blowing us who can't always be online off. So, my money is going to Torchlight II and a few other titles that aren't so limited in who can play them offline.

How to slow theft if you're a digital thief: Go find a competitor's product and PAY for it instead.

What better "revenge" than to see a formerly popular franchise fall on its ass because people have decided to let the publishers know that their DRM is "forcing" them to NOT want to steal their game, but BUY someone else's work?

Of course, this is a bit shitty to a dev team that's worked hard on something special. On the other hand, if it's a pain for people to play, they need to be made aware that you guys won't put up with it as much as they think you want to...

Posted:2 years ago

#29

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,035 912 0.9
@Greg

20 years ago, Wing Commander 2 was just getting reviewed. Amiga owners got excited over Battle Ilse, blissfully ignorant of the fact that its German developer was just ripping off an unknown Japanese game. Magazines ran articles on Super Nintendo vs. Mega Drive, while both consoles were only released in Japan.

The market was dominated by the Amiga, the most pirated system ever. A PC running games would cost a few thousand Dollars. Console gaming in Europe did practically not exist. A few people even believed the Atari ST was still relevant in 1991; it wasn't. Games were developed in shoddy warehouses with a chance of your neighbors being drug runners or sweat shop operators. A team of ten people could be considered large. On the upside, Acclaim showed the world how DLC was done when they released expansion disks for their products, such as Test Drive 2.

Trips to look at games in development were largely paid for by the magazine! Game publishers were in no position to organize used game sales. Heck, there were still companies who did nothing else but distribute the games of publishers to retailers. Imagine wanting to order 10.000 copies from EA and they send you to another company, because they do not do that sort of thing.


The industry did not miss their chance, they never had the chance. Today, there is quite an easy fix for the industry to solve the used game sales problems created by Gamestop. Buy Gamestop. Gamestop is only worth $3.4 billions. If the major publishers decide to sit down together and organize a crackdown, they just do a hostile takeover and that is the end of used sales. At least until the next company does it. Which ultimately means, they have to do it themselves. Buy Gamestop, run it, split the revenue from used sales.

Just like 20 years ago, when publishers gobbled up the distributors one by one.

Posted:2 years ago

#30

Mary Hilton
Community Manager

37 20 0.5
I applaud his comments-at our site, we've been saying the exact same thing for years, and nobody's ever listened-but they laughed at us.
Now they're hearing it from an industry insider, and it's being taken seriously. Heed what he says-the customers do not like DRM and will purchase anything that avoids it like the plague.

Posted:2 years ago

#31

Jeff Wayne
Technical Architect

82 35 0.4
Speaking as a person that buys quite a few PC games every year and as others have pointed out, when DRM is done properly and offers genuine added worth to the experience, it is pretty much a non-issue for most law-abiding people.

Steam is a fine example of this. Whilst the achievements side of things never interested me personally, the Offline mode is great for those of us with shaky internet connections and the Steam community overlay is fantastic as is keeping games up to date on-login.

When it puts potential customers off buying the game at all and generates nothing but vitriol, then it's doing things very wrong. Ubisofts DRM is an example of this (the latest Settlers is the first version of the game I haven't bought due to the woeful DRM). I'm sure people can appreciate publishers trying to protect their IPs but when they do so in a very eyes-wide-shut manner, it never ends well from the perspective of repeat custom and PR.

Of course when there's no DRM at all, that's the most preferred option for any legitimate customer. I'm happy to see that in a time where various notable publishers would have you believe all gamers are evil pirates that need to be wired in to their servers even for a single player campaign that the others ones that take a brave approach do in fact succeed.

Posted:2 years ago

#32

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

730 411 0.6
Tyring not to echo what's been said:

- Games are worth and worthy of being bought at $60/£40, to some people. Personally I think many of the gaming experiences are much more streamlined (and I don't mean cut-down) and well-realised than they were in the past. I just bought Skyrim for close to €60 and before I'd even played it I knew it was worth that amount to me... though I did buy it for a console rather than PC... thus no DRM.

- DRM is a complex beast because it depends on the person discussing it in what the term means to them. Copy protection, something that was around before the term DRM came into common usage is not, to me, DRM (even though it technically is. DRM started with authorisation and authentication methods... anything like that and beyond is DRM for me.

- Saying that, DRM is not just about ease of use. It's also about the reflection of value. A DRMed game is less valuable than a non-DRMed game in the same way that a book from a library is less valuable to the reader than one owned by themselves... or a car that is rented is less valuable to the driver than one they own. In each case the content or the function of the item isn't changed, however the psychology of the person interacting with the item is. Value is not something that can be dictated, it is something that is judged by concensus. Of course, there are exceptions to everything so it doesn't apply to everyone, ever

Posted:2 years ago

#33

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
Rather than see games as a "product" I see them as an experience, and second hand game sales to me are roughly equivalent to being able to sell your cinema ticket second hand outside the cinema. "I've finished with that movie now, I might as well get some of my money back". The cinema's form of DRM is to rip your ticket so it can only be used once or have it valid only for one showing.

Posted:2 years ago

#34

Falko Böcker
Licensing Manager

6 1 0.2
Just wanted to mention that there was a ridiculously good sale on GoG.com (during which I bought the game) which didn't happen on the other platforms.

Posted:2 years ago

#35

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