DRM is a thorny issue with many computer gamers. It is tolerated where it works without popping up its ugly head too conspicuously but presents an extra level of complexity for things to go wrong, causing software issues, for instance. In the former camp most Steam users feel the platform operates slickly and its convenient features are a counter to its underlying DRM functionality. In the latter camp gamers have been stung when Windows is updated, for example, and an old DRM system locks users out from enjoying a classic game which they own.
CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwinski thinks the solution to the old DRM vs piracy debate is simple – don’t use DRM and reap the benefits of winning favour with pirates and end users – your game buyers.
Talking about when The Witcher 3 was released DRM-free, Iwinski told Kotaku “The piracy factor was irrelevant, because we cannot force people to buy things. We can only convince them to do it. We totally believe in the carrot, not in the stick...” He went on to relay a dialogue which he believes goes through many gamers’ heads “I’ve seen many times, comments [that say] ‘Hey, I couldn’t afford the game when it was full price, but these guys are so fair, and they were never against us. They were always trying to do good, add a lot of value, give free DLC, give free content, that I bought the game from them when it was mid-price.”
Further convincing is done on behalf of CD Projekt by fans of the game, acting like anti-piracy foot soldiers. Every free dodgy download request is countered 10:1 by forum users, bashing the person seeking something for nothing and recommending purchasing the game, says Iwinski.
Considering the above, CD Projekt Red’s case might not be typical for the industry. The Witcher 3 is, according to its Metacritic score, the best PC game every released. If the game wasn’t such a gem perhaps people wouldn’t feel the carrot was so attractive? So it will be interesting to see if this games developer can repeat its piracy-curbing success with the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 game.