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Witcher 2 studio co-founder says DRM doesn't work

The Witcher 2 has sold over 1 million copies without DRM. Studio co-founder Marcin Iwinski says it simply doesn't work and they succeed by offering extras with their game and educating the consumer.

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As some publishers continue to expend massive resources in the fight against piracy, or completely ignore the PC platform, another developer has thrown their voice behind the idea of eliminating digital rights management (DRM) altogether. Sounding a lot like Brad Wardell did back in 2008 when he discussed his Gamer's Bill of Rights with Shacknews, CD Projekt RED co-founder Marcin Iwinski says that DRM simply doesn't work. And he's got more proof that there's a better way: CD Projekt RED's The Witcher 2 has now sold over 1 million legal copies, without DRM.

Speaking with PC Gamer, Iwinski explained that he's been dealing with piracy since the 90s, learning a few things along the way. No copy protection scheme ever really worked. "Whatever we used was cracked within a day or two, massively copied and immediately available on the streets for a fraction of our price," he said.

Rather than continue to butt heads with video game pirates, he says CD Project RED adopted a different approach. They asked themselves, "How can we convince gamers to go and buy the legit version and not go to a local street vendor and buy a pirated one?" They came up with a two-part answer. First, they started to include extras with the game, like soundtracks, books, and walkthroughs. And second, they started a long-term mission to educate gamers about why they should buy games legally.

Granted, one could counter that the approach only works with a game as popular as The Witcher 2, and even then the naysayers will counter that millions more may be lost to piracy. Iwinski, though, points to another reason for publisher's reluctance to move away from aggressive DRM practices. He says that it's a "cover my ass" mechanism for explaining balance sheets for PC games to upper management. "They do not listen, as most of them do not care. As long as the numbers in Excel will add up they will not change anything," he added.

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 29, 2011 5:30 PM

    Garnett Lee posted a new article, Witcher 2 studio co-founder says DRM doesn't work.

    The Witcher 2 has sold over 1 million copies without DRM. Studio co-founder Marcin Iwinski says it simply doesn't work and they succeed by offering extras with their game and educating the consumer.

    • reply
      November 29, 2011 5:46 PM

      Remember how PC games back in the late 90's and early 2000's just had simple CD-Key stuff that could be cracked in a few moments? Yet games like Half-Life, Starcraft, etc. sold millions and millions of copies? The reason is because the companies made a quality game, and were very faithful to their product. What did the Witcher 2 developers do? They patched the game, offered free content, extra features, listened to the community, and they sold a million copies.

      • reply
        November 29, 2011 11:17 PM

        Starcraft had BNet and Half-Life had WON ID's

        • reply
          November 29, 2011 11:18 PM

          Not saying that was the reason they sold so many copies, but they weren't without their own versions of DRM

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          November 30, 2011 6:07 AM

          I don't know if I'd say that battle.net enforced sharing or hindered piracy. Starcraft had the ability to spawn multiplayer only LAN copies (this feature was so awesome), and there were server programs like FSGS where you could host your own battle.net type setup.

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            November 30, 2011 11:28 AM

            it's a real shame Blizz didn't continue this practice. I get why they went with the always connected "feature", but for pure lan goodness at someone's house by people that don't own the game the spawn tech was a big win. Lots of friends bought the game after a lan party where we spawned off a half dozen copies to get everyone into the game.

        • reply
          November 30, 2011 6:46 AM

          Everytime I hear someone talk about Half Life it's always about the single player experience.

    • reply
      November 29, 2011 5:57 PM

      Finally someone learns. A simple CD-KEY is the best DRM you can have. Sure there's cracked servers for games but there are very few and majority of them are unplayable due to ping or hackers.

      Almost every game I bought that had DRM I had to crack because the DRM stopped me from playing the game. I couldn't play SPORE because I reformmated my computer too many times without de-authorizing the game.

      Make a game and support it, that's all you have to do and it will sell. Stop trying to go the CoD route and make a game ever year.

      • Ebu legacy 10 years
        reply
        November 29, 2011 10:08 PM

        "Almost every game I bought...I had to crack"

        Dude, come on. I'm anti-DRM as much as the next person, but when you exaggerate to such a hyperbolic degree it only weakens your point.

    • reply
      November 29, 2011 6:00 PM

      and Skyrim is on the same path, and about to prove the very same thing.

      • reply
        November 29, 2011 6:01 PM

        Didn't Skyrim use FADE? The coolest DRM ever made.

        • reply
          November 29, 2011 6:07 PM

          I would have to agree with your assessment on FADE. (unless its a sarcasm fail of course) I don't think I've heard of one instance where FADE bit a legit player.

          • reply
            November 29, 2011 6:13 PM

            Hah. I just wiki'd this and it sounds really cool if it actually works.

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            November 29, 2011 10:57 PM

            I actually came across this in the PC version of Batman Arkham Asylum which I bought legit on steam. I am sure there is countless other accounts of this nonsense.

            Either way it's the stupidest copy protection any developer can employ - they are virtually guaranteeing a pirate would never convert into an actual sale. Even worse, said pirates are not only judging the entire company on it's lack of perceived quality for possible future games but probably influencing other would be buyers by claiming how buggy the game is.

            Like Valve has said before (paraphrased) - offer a quality product, which is convenient to get (download), at a reasonable price, and piracy is a non issue.

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              November 29, 2011 11:15 PM

              That wasn't FADE. That was a deliberately crippled build intentionally released onto torrent sites in order to drown out any actual pirated copies and it worked marvelously. Pirates called up support trying to figure out why they couldn't get past that part and hilarity ensued.

              • reply
                November 29, 2011 11:16 PM

                So perhaps you can explain why that happened to me on a legit steam copy?

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                  November 30, 2011 12:03 AM

                  Missed that part. Couldn't tell you, but it wasn't FADE since I'm pretty sure AA didn't use that.

                  • reply
                    November 30, 2011 2:00 AM

                    You sure? The cape not working was a drm tool. If the game felt the game was invalid, the cape wouldn't work. While we laughed at that one, Titan Quest used something similar where the game would crash out near the beginning of the game. However, that studio died due to a lack of customers thanks to the word of mouth from pirates stating it was unstable.

                    That said, I don't know if it was fade itself that was used in AA, but the cape was definitely the drm tool used, not a poisoned torrent (or even just a poisoned torrent).

                    • reply
                      November 30, 2011 9:46 AM

                      Titan Quest's crashing was NOT built in to the game. That was because the no-CD crack that was released with the most popular pirated version was buggy and caused crashes

                    • reply
                      November 30, 2011 10:44 AM

                      It's a similar concept, sure, but that sounds far too specific and unsubtle compared to what FADE is described as being.

            • reply
              November 29, 2011 11:16 PM

              I think the keywords there are 'at a reasonable price', so many games are overpriced for what they actually give you in return. However if a game is worth the money I will buy it and promote it to my friends

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                November 29, 2011 11:37 PM

                No question... with almost all the originality coming out of Indie titles at less than 15 bucks the pricing scheme for PC AAA titles needs to change.

                Capcom seems to get this to some degree (and shame on me for buying all their shit on the 360) but I think they are quite progressive in this manner. Valve as well obviously but they still price their stuff high on initial release - though they drop prices fast.

                Dues Ex pissed me off the most this year I think. 15 bucks for DLC? I can play 1289 games for under 10 bucks (http://store.steampowered.com/browse/under10) which include the likes of : Blood Bowl, Terraria, Magic, etc.

                Go a little higher and games like Bastion, Trine, etc. start showing up.

                Dues Ex is fucking awesome, I want to support the new company but fuck you Eidos for that shit.

                • reply
                  November 30, 2011 4:26 AM

                  So you bought the DLC when it was on sale just a week ago, right? Or were you raging so hard you missed it?

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                November 30, 2011 11:31 AM

                Games get priced based on how much they cost to make (thankfully movies aren't priced that way), not by expected ROI to you. BF/MW would be $100 if that's the case base on their multiplayer strengths. But, part of the increased price in PC games is now because the dev has to cram in anti-piracy tech again only hurting it's paying customers. Good old Stardock proved that model - drop the drm, charge $35 and they sold a ton of games.

        • reply
          November 29, 2011 7:38 PM

          If it does, i certainly wasn't aware (nor did i obviously ever notice it) . So as i paying gamer, that is one type of DRM that def works. The biggest gripe about DRM is that it is obtrusive and annoying to the paying gamer, it does more harm then good in most cases.

        • reply
          November 29, 2011 9:46 PM

          Faulty FADE DRM would explain a lot of the issues PS3 players are having with Skyrim.

      • reply
        November 29, 2011 6:03 PM

        Has Bethesda ever used heavy DRM?

      • reply
        November 30, 2011 4:24 AM

        Steamworks.

    • reply
      November 29, 2011 9:22 PM

      "And he's got more proof that there's a better way: CD Projekt RED's The Witcher 2 has now sold over 1 million legal copies, without DRM."

      That doesn't constitute proof of anything, perhaps save the quality of the underlying game. As you note later in the post, the impact of the presence of DRM on Witcher 2's sales is a counterfactual conditional the answer to which we will never know.

      One thing I am more confident about is the sophistication of the analysts who work for the higher profile publishers, publishers that have by and large fled the PC as a lead platform. That CD Projekt RED has made a business selling DRM-free games for the PC is laudable, but they are an exception among higher profile developers/publishers that have almost universally come to different conclusions about the current viability of the PC platform relative to consoles.

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        November 29, 2011 9:58 PM

        No one is arguing that consoles don't have better sales than PC games, for the most part.

        Piracy is always used as an excuse for a "failure" of sales, despite the fact that DRM hasn't proven itself to massively boost sales. We always see the inflated estimates of how much money is lost, despite the fact that it's illogical to claim 1 download = 1 lost sale.

        • reply
          November 30, 2011 5:58 AM

          No one has ever claimed that 1 download = 1 lost sale. It's just seems to be a convenient strawman

      • reply
        November 29, 2011 10:00 PM

        yeah, restrictive DRM titles that were also very good have sold well. i think ultimately game quality trumps all else. shitty DRM sucks, but it won't stop *most* gamers from buying a title.

      • reply
        November 29, 2011 10:01 PM

        [deleted]

        • reply
          November 29, 2011 10:21 PM

          the other side has plenty of evidence, it's just not publicly available, instead reflected in their public business decisions

          • reply
            November 29, 2011 10:26 PM

            you mean like the ones where they want more of the PC digital distribution market?

      • reply
        November 29, 2011 10:18 PM

        [deleted]

      • reply
        November 29, 2011 10:36 PM

        One thing I am more confident about is the sophistication of the analysts who work for the higher profile publishers, publishers that have by and large fled the PC as a lead platform.

        Market analysis is nothing more than misappropriation of statistics and causative relationships invented through pseudoscientific voodoo. The Big Majors fled the PC because they didn't know how to make money on it, that doesn't mean there's no money on the PC.

        • reply
          November 29, 2011 10:38 PM

          i think we can agree that there is both money on PC, and that there won't necessarily be more money there than on consoles

          i think a lot of PC guys demand land, sea, and air superiority because in the 1990's the absolute domination of PC gaming was evident. but it's okay if there are still great games on PC that don't outsell the biggest console titles.

          profitable but niche can be quite a nice thing. in fact it's the very definition of a lot of classic PC titles.

          • reply
            November 29, 2011 10:44 PM

            I'm an old man. I don't need the best graphics, even if I enjoy them, I just want something that fills me with excitement and wonder, that feels genuinely good to play and more importantly that's fresh.

            I've had such a long drought of compromised experiences, playing DXHR with the proper interface and the attention to detail that that game put in was... god, it was like when you realise you've been in a terribly uncomfortable position for hours at work, and you finally get up to go home. It was that sort of wonderful relieved feeling, to have a proper PC interface with which to explore an entirely new world. Truly lovely.

            I want more of that, I also want more cool indie titles like Frozen Synapse and Amnesia from independent developers who can do what they want, and I want the industry to acknowledge that's something worth working for. None of that is too much to ask.

            • reply
              November 29, 2011 10:49 PM

              i fully agree. in fact i think BF3, with its numerous flaws (more DICE-related than console-related) is a sign that PC developers still understand what their audiences want.

              DX: HR; BF3. and other games. there are still games that are ideal on PC.

              • reply
                November 30, 2011 1:11 AM

                Battlefield 3 is an epic fail and very much not what their PC audience wanted. It actually swings the other way quite a bit. It's a superficial unlock-oriented CoD influenced funnel map spam fest. If you read the official Bf3 forums you'll see that people are not pleased with it at all. The maps suck, the UI sucks, the art direction sucks, etc...

                Take a look at this thread:

                http://forums.electronicarts.co.uk/battlefield-3/1438307-my-body-isnt-ready-dice-index-threads-about-communitys-concerns.html

                and there are literally dozens and dozens of threads to this effect, saying how terrible the maps really are, and how they utterly fail to live up to Battlefield's name and heritage:

                http://forums.electronicarts.co.uk/battlefield-3/1457971-just-had-go-dragon-valley-16p.html

                Battlefield 3 is the ultimate sell-out game. It's crap.

                • reply
                  November 30, 2011 2:27 AM

                  Yeah but I love Battlefield 3 so your oppinion is wrong.

                • reply
                  November 30, 2011 2:38 AM

                  [deleted]

                • reply
                  November 30, 2011 4:42 AM

                  The fact that you think linking to forum threads is in any way representative of anything at all shows that you have no idea what the fuck you are talking about.



                  Battlefield 3 is the best online multiplayer shooter of the past 5 years, easily. Possibly the best of all time.

                  • reply
                    November 30, 2011 11:00 AM

                    The fact that your response didn't include a valid point or shred of logic shows that you have no idea what the fuck you're talking about. And the difference between me and you saying that is that it is true when I say it.

                • reply
                  November 30, 2011 7:41 AM

                  Unlocks are a terrible game mechanic. I can't wait until they go away.

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                November 30, 2011 1:12 AM

                Agreed with that sir. BF3 especially isn't a perfect PC game but it's a great PC game none-the-less. It seems to me that PC gaming generally went cripple after 2007. Crysis, CoD4 and Orange Box had great PC versions. While there are a few PC gems since then, most have been somewhat to very disappointing.

            • reply
              November 30, 2011 12:34 AM

              Well put.

            • reply
              November 30, 2011 10:41 AM

              [deleted]

              • reply
                November 30, 2011 2:37 PM

                No lets not make sure about that, lets instead have boulder textures that may repeat but aren't so uselessly low res that Half Life's texturing gives them a run for their money.

        • reply
          November 30, 2011 10:09 AM

          Hard work in figuring stuff out is hard, SpaecKow! Big Majors having to do some more work to figure out how to take advantage of a platform?

          HERESY!

      • reply
        November 30, 2011 8:11 AM

        I don't see how anyone can come to any conclusions about DRM as is. You can't simulate the same release with and without DRM, so they are bullshitting no matter how it's stated.

        The facts we do know is that DRM can (and does) hurt legitimate users. It also does not stop all piracy. I've seen the reply several times in these threads that "the goal is to stop all the first few days of piracy". If that really is the goal then why not implement something that is equally as temporary?

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          November 30, 2011 8:43 AM

          The field's called predictive analytics, and it's not exactly bullshit voodoo magic like people with the "I don't understand it therefore it's stupid and bullshit" mentality claim.

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            November 30, 2011 8:55 AM

            There are people in these threads with hilarious anecdotal "evidence" of DRM working or not (for sales). All I'm saying is there are obvious observable facts. Of which, many users fucking hate DRM because it messes with shit and breaks when you're a legitimate customer. As an employee of a company that focuses on our customer experience, I can't imagine us building something to ward off problems for a WEEK that hinders legitimate customers for the entire lifetime of the product. It's just backwards.

            • reply
              November 30, 2011 9:01 AM

              People in these threads do not have access to sufficient data to draw a conclusion. While this never, ever stops someone here (some even making downright idiotic arguments claiming they do), it's the simple truth.

              There's more observable facts...

              - Including DRM costs money, yet companies continue to include DRM. This implies they get some benefit out of it, otherwise they'd cut the cost to increase profits. Whether this benefit is in investor confidence or final sales, we don't know, but some benefit is there.

              - Publishers & developers have mentioned in interviews that they have seen significant increases in sales (meaning actual sales significantly beat their predictions) when the bootleg copy is delayed until a week after release. One a one/two basis, this indicates something unusual happened in that game. When consistently observed, however, it implies DRM is working.

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      November 30, 2011 1:16 AM

      DRM absolutely works. It's nice that Marcin Iwinski is satisfied with the sales of Witcher 2, but undoubtedly they'd receive more with good DRM. Batman Arkham City took a week to crack, and you can bet those who needed the game gave up waiting after a few days. Serious Sam 3 still hasn't been cracked yet, and it's been over 1 week, and many people who've been waiting for it to get cracked have given up and bought it. Deus Ex: HR took several days to crack, and I watched on warez forums as people got frustrated and were posting to say "screw this, just went out and bought it." DRM works.

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        November 30, 2011 5:02 AM

        horse shit. You can't prove that, unless you're speaking from personal experience.

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          November 30, 2011 5:37 AM

          Seems like neither side can prove anything. So I happily skip over this thead :)

          What matters is what the developers perceive. They have more sales data than we do. Unfortunately, regardless of what side of the fence you're on, the perception of the developers is what matters -- i mean they're creating our awesome games are they not?, and 99% of developers are taking steps to prevent piracy. I can't blame them. I only ask that they use something that is generally transparent - such as steamworks. I have personally boycotted 90% of GFWL titles because I despite GFWL.

          Now witcher 2 is a great exception. But I know plenty of people that would happily torrent shit without blinking an eye, and they definitely would not buy the product.

        • reply
          November 30, 2011 10:59 AM

          I am speaking from person experience. DRM works. Suck it up.

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            November 30, 2011 11:04 AM

            I don't mind DRM but ubisoft/rocksteady should really switch to steamworks. I don't like GFWL at all....i've never had issues with ubi, but my connection is usually okay.

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              November 30, 2011 11:06 AM

              because really, I can't count the number of times i've seen people buy games just because they're steam/steamworks. You see it here all the time! Just about everyone loves it and steamworks is a value added feature which ensures the game won't be a pain in the ass to activate.

              • reply
                November 30, 2011 11:22 AM

                I got Crysis2 on steam and it was a gigantic pile of shit to activate. Had to contact EA and have them give me a different key entirely. Took like an hour.

          • reply
            November 30, 2011 11:30 AM

            So you got a job? Good for you.

      • reply
        November 30, 2011 5:30 AM

        lol

      • reply
        November 30, 2011 5:43 AM

        Serious Sam 3 is out? Wow I'm out of the loop

      • reply
        November 30, 2011 6:59 AM

        SS3 is out?

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        November 30, 2011 8:56 AM

        So why not just disable it after a week then?

      • reply
        November 30, 2011 10:13 AM

        many people who've been waiting for it to get cracked have given up and bought it

        And you have this statistic from? They all called you up and told you?

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          November 30, 2011 10:38 AM

          Haha, I wonder this as well.

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          November 30, 2011 11:03 AM

          From reading the posts of would-be pirates on warez forums. And from personal experience.

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          December 1, 2011 6:14 AM

          I wish I could link to warez forums where this has been discussed with polls taken, and roughly 50% of piraters say they've bought a game because they didn't want to wait for a crack... but it wouldn't be smart for me to do so. So it's official, DRM "works," meaning it increases sales by reducing piracy, to whatever large or small extent.

    • reply
      November 30, 2011 2:27 AM

      Ugh, the game industry is slowly catching on, it'll take the film and music industry even longer :(

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      November 30, 2011 6:09 AM

      Hasn't Iwinski caught on to internet piracy yet?? Do people actually buy pirated PC games?

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      November 30, 2011 6:26 AM

      Publishers have known for a long time that DRM doesn't work, well not in the way it's intended anyways.

      Doesn't mean that they want to release they games without any protection at all. DRM at least delays and allows for the existence of cracks. Those lovely exes that pirates just love to click on. As someone once said using cracked exes is the equivalent of sleeping with a prostitute without any protection.

      In order to stop pirates from pirating you frustrate them into buying a legal version. Having to deal with virus (many of which can slip past virus scanners and degrade system performace), broken cracks is definitely one of the major reasons I stopped pirating.

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        November 30, 2011 9:06 AM

        As someone once said using cracked exes is the equivalent of sleeping with a prostitute without any protection.

        Whoever said that was probably very dumb--to say nothing of those who repeat it.

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          November 30, 2011 9:11 AM

          It's hilarious because what is an STD then, a virus? Crashes? BSOD? You know because official exes never crash or fuck things up right?

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            November 30, 2011 9:43 AM

            And nobody's official girlfriend ever gave them the clap either ;)

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              November 30, 2011 9:53 AM

              Official exes also tend to nag you with bs and expect you to commit. With the cracked exe you can just have some fun and get rid of it when you are done

              • reply
                November 30, 2011 10:25 AM

                Tell me about it. If I have to sign one more pre-nup EULA...

    • reply
      November 30, 2011 8:08 AM

      This made my morning, at least there is a big, successful voice out there saying this now and not just ranting, spergy PC elitists on the internet nerdraging all over the forums.

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      November 30, 2011 8:12 AM

      wow with DRM it would have had 95% more customers according to ubisoft

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      November 30, 2011 9:24 AM

      You know, in the glut of digital distributors out there, GOG is the only other one besides Steam I will purchase from because of the lack of DRM.

      Steam has DRM, yes, but it also makes life so much easier in so many other ways, that I'm cool with it.

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      November 30, 2011 9:49 AM

      So this article quotes 1 mill sales, and here it says 4.5 mill pirates. http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2011-11-30-cd-projekt-red-witcher-2-piracy-estimated-at-4-5m-copies drm might have helped. justsayin

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