Poster: Captain Fantastic @ Mon May 31, 2010 5:40 pm
So a few weeks ago Blizzard, makers of World of Warcraft (as well as some games that aren't gay), announced that they weren't going to invest a lot of resources in preventing piracy of their new game, Starcraft II. They basically said it's a losing battle (can't win, don't try).
This was met with a lot of press from the nerd communities who somehow think they finally have found a company that shares their idiotic view of the world that says that piracy has zero negative consequences, and that battling it is futile.
The reason companies use copy protection is because it works. Nerds will use the absolutist argument of "No it doesn't work, people defeat copy protection all the time." Well, nerds say that because nerds defeat copy protection all the time, and they have no notion of what's actually going on outside their mother's basement.
The truth is, all copy protection has to do is hassle pirates slightly more than their time is worth. Some are willing to go to great lengths to pirate, and those will usually find a solution. Others wont.
So the real question is: how rampant is piracy, and how well does copy protection curtail it? To give you some idea, check out THIS article from a shareware software writer who works for Ambrosia Software. It's got nothing to do with morals or how much money you make. From "poor college students" to "well todo capitalists," people love the convenience and cost savings of piracy.
As soon Ambrosia they started implementing real copy protection, they saw a 5 fold increase in sales. When they implemented expiring licenses for "Snapz X", they found that nearly half of all people who upgraded attempted to do so with a pirated code. Ambrosia was a tiny firm started by some bored college students trying to get beer money. They are now a good sized, successful software firm. Most of that, according to these numbers, is due to copy protection.
I think that pretty well answers the question of how rampant piracy is. If you don't have copy protection, people steal the fuck out of shit.
Let's get back to Blizzard. If copy protection is so effective, and they've used it so successfully in the past (with WoW , Warcraft 3 , and Starcraft 1 , for instance), why give up on it?
It's simple really: They haven't given up on shit.
90+% of Starcraft II games are going to be played online. THAT copy protection will still be in place and extremely (if not entirely) effective. All codes are created and archived by Blizzard before the product ships. If you're attempting to play online, you're forced to use Blizzard's proprietary intermediary, Battle.net. Before you can play, the code is matched to one in the archive. If two machines are using the code on Battle.net at the same time, the code is flagged and it wont let you play. The code is disabled and one or both of you will have to purchase a new copy. This kind of protection, barring some fuck-up with key generators, is pretty much unbeatable.
Also, that's not to mention that you still need to activate the product over the internet (Ala M$ Windows) and I'm sure they'll crack down on "[k]racks" with every update--probably even verifying the license code for every update as well. Also remember that for Starcraft 1, you didn't even need to activate the product before you used it (it'd be a dick-move as most people were using dialup then).
Yes, they're saying they're allowing more freedom, but more freedom than what exactly?? There exist some Nazi-ass games that require you to be connected to the internet all the time (if you get disconnected, the game quits), but those are typically games that can function offline (single player). SC2 requires the internet for most of its gameplay anyway, so it doesn't have the same issue. It's very easy for makers of an almost entirely multiplayer game like SC2 to say "Oh yeah, single player mode can be pirated. We're sooo much cooler than those other meanie developers" with a big shit-eating grin on their faces, knowing that most people aren't going to play the single player much as it's a short campaign that will be entirely ignored or only played once by most users.
So to all those who thought this shifts the paradigm about anti-piracy and are spouting off in internet forums about Blizzard's pseudo-crusade: Congrats, you've just been suckered by a multibillion dollar corporation into aiding them in selling more video games. How does it feel to be a tool?