GOG’s managing director, Guillaume Rambourg, has said that surprisingly enough, it wasn’t the DRM-free version of The Witcher II which was pirated the most, but the retail version which shipped with DRM.
The reason, according to Rambourg and CD Projekt CEO Marcin Iwinski, has less to do with sharing and more to do with the reputation gleaned from cracking a title’s DRM.
“Most people in the gaming industry were convinced that the first version of the game to be pirated would be the GOG version, while in the end it was the retail version, which shipped with DRM,” Rambourg told Forbes.
“We were expecting to see the GOG.com version pirated right after it was released, as it was a real no-brainer,” added Iwinski. “Practically anyone could have downloaded it from GOG.com and released it on the illegal sites right away, but this did not happen. My guess is, that releasing an unprotected game is not the real deal, you have to crack it to gain respect and be able to write: “cracked by XYZ.” How would “not cracked by XYZ, as there was nothing to crack” sound? A bit silly, wouldn’t it?
“The illegal scene is pretty much about the game and the glory: who will be the first to deliver the game, who is the best and smartest cracker. The DRM-free version at GOG.com didn’t fit this too well.”
Back in December, Iwinski estimated the game had been pirated over 4.5 million times, and by now, that figure has probably risen significantly. Still, these numbers do not constitute lost sales, according to the CEO.
“It really puzzles me how serious software companies can consider each pirated copy to be a lost sale,” said Iwinski. “Maybe it looks nice in an official report to say how threatening pirates are, but it is extremely far from the truth.
“I would rather say that a big part of these 4.5 million pirated copies are considered a form of trial version, or even a demo. Gamers download [pirate copies] because it’s easy, fast, and, frankly, costs nothing. If they like the game and they start investing the time, some of them will go and buy it. This is evident in the first Witcher, where the total sales are 2.1 million units at present and the game is still doing well, although it is already five years old.”
Iwinski went on to say he doesn’t see a future in DRM, as it simply “does not work,” and the technology, which is supposed to be protecting a company’s investment, not only gets hacked within hours of release, but does nothing more than alienate the consumer.
“DRM, in most cases, requires users to enter serial numbers, validate his or her machine, and be connected to the Internet while they authenticate – and possibly even when they play the game they bought,” he explained. “Quite often the DRM slows the game down, as the wrapper around the executable file is constantly checking if the game is being legally used or not.
“That is a lot the legal users have to put up with, while the illegal users who downloaded the pirated version have a clean–and way more functional–game. It seems crazy, but that’s how it really works.”
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