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Who needs DRM?

Insight: Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens believes there's another way...

DRM anti-piracy measures are an increasingly hot topic in games.

Publishers say DRM is the best solution they have - but gamers complain it dampens their experience and punishes legitimate consumers.

One publisher boss, however, believes there is another way. Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens is a fan of a new model; one which would see a segment of a game sold in a box - with optional additional downloads for those that want the full game world.

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This, he explains, could be the middle ground cash-strapped publishers and grumpy gamers are looking for...

I'm not necessarily a fan of DRM measures. I think sometimes they're almost counter-productive. I can still be persuaded on them, and I completely understand why they exist.

But my initial thought is that DRM is not the answer to the piracy issue.

The video games industry has to learn to operate in a different way. My answer is for us as publishers is to actually sell unfinished games - and to offer the consumer multiple micro-payments to buy elements of the full experience.

That would create an offering that is affordable at retail - but over a period of time may also generate more revenue for the publishers to reinvest in our games.

If these games are pirated, those who get their hands on them won't be able to complete the experience. There will be technology, coding aspects, that will come to bear that will unlock some aspects. Some people will want them and some won't.

When it comes to piracy, I think you have to make the experience the answer to the issue - rather than respond the other way round and risk damaging that experience for the user. But I may be a lone voice in that.

It's one of the things that troubled me greatly with the Digital Economy Bill last year [which sought to 'ban' online pirates via their ISP].

Piracy has been there forever. Whether we care to admit it or not and whether we say it's right or wrong, it's a factor. It's never going to go to zero.

Lyndon B Johnson once said 'you want to be on the inside pissing out rather than the outside pissing in' - and I wholeheartedly agree. Look at the partial demise of the record industry - they never embraced technology, they fought technology and I think that created a huge downturn vacuum for them.

Actually, if they persevere now with the technology they've got, in a few years it will probably take the record industry to a level that exceeds the past. But you've got that hiatus going on - that was inevitable and self-fulfilled, and if we're not careful the games industry will make the same error.

So I believe we as an industry have to be far more creative in addressing the issue, and think much more about the experience the consumer gets in the end. As publishers, we can use that to our advantage as well as theirs.

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