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Newell: 'Draconian DRM Systems' Push People Away, Piracy Not Necessarily About Pricing

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
News
Tags:
BEARD!, DRM, Gabe Newell, Piracy, Steam, Used games, Valve

Newell: 'Draconian DRM Systems' Push People Away, Piracy Not Necessarily About Pricing

In a recent interview with Ben Kuchera, who brought up the used games mess and the pertinent topic of piracy, Valve guru Gabe Newell slammed what he terms "draconian DRM systems or anti-piracy systems", arguing that in many cases piracy has little to do with pricing models and more to do with better service.

"To us it seems pretty obvious that people always want to treat it as a pricing issue, that people are doing this because they can get it for free and so we just need to create these draconian DRM systems or ani-piracy systems, and that just really doesn’t match up with the data."

Newell went on to suggest that the systems put in place by publishers and distributors are often punitive in nature, designed to punish rather than looking to incentivise. It's this that he proposed pushed consumers into looking for better services elsewhere. Newell highlighted staggered releases and delayed localisation as part of the reason some might look outside of official channels.

"A lot of times the systems that are put in place when you’re just trying to punish your evil customers for maybe doing something that’s not in their terms of service end up driving people towards service providers who don’t, right?" he continued. "So, you know, if I have to wait six months to get my Russian language translation and where I can get at this other guy on the street who will give me my Russian translation right away, it seems pretty obvious when you talk about it in those terms how the pirate selling pirated DVDs has a higher product than some of the people who try to DRM their way out of not giving customers what they really want."

When asked if Valve had ever considered imposing a standardised set of DRM tools on Steam to put an end to the issue altogether, Newell responded in the negative, saying that his company "tend to try to avoid being super dictatorial to either customers or partners". He did say, though, that they often present data to third parties that highlight the negative effects of DRM.

"Recently I was in a meeting and there’s a company that had a third party DRM solution and we showed them look, this is what happens, at this point in your life cycle your DRM got hacked, right? Now let’s look at the data, did your sales change at all? No, your sales didn’t change one bit. Right? So here’s before and after, here’s where you have DRM that annoys your customers and causing huge numbers of support calls and in theory you would think that you would see a huge drop off in sales after that got hacked, and instead there was absolutely no difference in sales before or after. You know, and then we tell them you actually probably lost a whole bunch of sales as near as we can tell, here’s how much money you lost by bundling that with your product. So we do that all the time."

it all comes down to the consumer, and Newell made the point that sometimes all that it needed is a change of perspective, stating that he felt treating the customer as an opponent "on the other side of some sort of battle" is all wrong. He went on to state that it's far better for companies to look to create value for the customer rather than make it difficult for them to actually access the content they've bought.

"I think that we have a lot more credibility now with developers on issues like this simply because there’s so much data that we can show them where we say look, we’ve run all of these experiments, you know, this has been going on for many years now and we all can look at what the outcomes are and there really isn’t – there are lots of compelling instances where making customers – you know, giving customers a great experience and thinking of ways to create value for them is way more important than making it incredibly hard for the customers to move their products from one machine to another."

We love you Gabe. [PAR]

Add a comment4 comments
Tsung  Feb. 20, 2012 at 16:00

Talks a lot of sense, it's like when I go to the Cinema why do they make me watch an advert calling me a pirate if I copy the film and the cinema is the best experience?. Taken..
1. I've already PAID the cinema to watch the film there, so, calling me a pirate is not the way to say thank you.
2. Showing me there is an alternative to paying for your service which you don't approve off is just crazy.

It's the same in games, DRM which prevents me from playing a game I bought or causing my system issues is the equivalent of sticking two fingers up at me for being a customer and making me seek alternative options.

GetsugaTenshoS  Feb. 20, 2012 at 16:00

These have been my thoughts towards DRM and piracy for quite a while now. Ubisoft is a great example of this, many people just pirated their games because they hated the DRM being used. Not only did they not want to deal with the DRM, they didn't want to support it by giving Ubisoft money and so but not buying it, they'd still be able to play the game they wanted and not make Ubisoft think that the DRM is going to profit them. Provide a good service rather than sticking DRM that punishes customers on your games and you'll attract customers rather than push them away.

GetsugaTenshoS  Feb. 20, 2012 at 16:03

Talks a lot of sense, it's like when I go to the Cinema why do they make me watch an advert calling me a pirate if I copy the film and the cinema is the best experience?. Taken..
1. I've already PAID the cinema to watch the film there, so, calling me a pirate is not the way to say thank you.
2. Showing me there is an alternative to paying for your service which you don't approve off is just crazy.

It's the same in games, DRM which prevents me from playing a game I bought or causing my system issues is the equivalent of sticking two fingers up at me for being a customer and making me seek alternative options.


Yep, that's one thing that's always bugged me about anti piracy warnings when you go to the cinema and buy physical or digital media. They've never made sense since the only people seeing that are the people who've paid to see that media as those videos and warnings aren't present if you pirate them. It's also like how they stick a lot of adverts on before you get to watch a film you've paid for and on DVDs and Blue Ray, punishing people for purchasing something by throwing anti piracy warnings and adverts that can't be skip, taking away from the overall experience.

DivideByZero1  Feb. 21, 2012 at 11:16

One thing that really gets me when Gabe talks about DRM.

Steam was the first of many that tied a game to your account, so you could not sell it on etc. This sucks quite a lot. While I have gotten used to it (it does even have benifits) and it does not bother me now, when people are new to gaming / Steam and you explain that Steam locks the game to your account forever, they hate it. Especially if they have just come over from console gaming.

So in terms of draconian DRM, Gabe is right up there. He needs to get off his high horse. Sure, his stuff works better at a technical level and problems wont send people to piracy unlike Ubisoft etc. But his moral high ground is pretty hypocritical.

DbZ

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