Team Meat: DRM is more damaging to companies than piracy, says Refenes

Tuesday, 19th March 2013 11:06 GMT By Dave Cook

Super Meat Boy developer Tommy Refenes has published a thought-provoking blog post on the impact of DRM as an effective measure against piracy. He argued that the cost going into DRM does little to offset losses suffered by piracy, and that the controversial security measure makes people more likely to pirate a game.

Refenes wrote in his post, “I think I can safely say that Super Meat Boy has been pirated at least 200,000 times. We are closing in on 2 million sales and assuming a 10% piracy to sales ratio does not seem unreasonable.

“As a forward thinking developer who exists in the present, I realize and accept that a pirated copy of a digital game does not equate to money being taken out of my pocket. Team Meat shows no loss in our year end totals due to piracy and neither should any other developer.”

The claim is that piracy will always exist, even when DRM is in place, and Refenes suggested that investing in DRM that is going to be broken anyway doesn’t make for smart business and economical sense.

“The reality of our current software age is the internet is more efficient at breaking things than companies are at creating them” he continued. “A company will spend massive amounts of money on DRM and the internet will break it in a matter of days in most cases. When the DRM is broken is it worth the money spent to implement it?

“Did the week of unbroken DRM for your game gain you any sales from potential pirates due to the inability to pirate at launch? Again, there is no way of telling and as such cannot be used as an accurate justification for spending money.”

Refenes added that DRM does nothing for a game’s favour among potential buyers and that players are less-likely to pirate of a game is easy to run and isn’t marred by always-online DRM blockers.

“Unfortunately there is nothing anyone can do to actively stop their game from being pirated,” he explained. “I do believe people are less likely to pirate your software if the software is easy to buy, easy to run, and does what is advertised.

“You can’t force a person to buy your software no more than you can prevent a person from stealing it. People have to WANT to buy your software, people have to WANT to support you.”

It comes as SimCity publisher EA continues to receive stick for its DRM. Check up on the saga’s latest developments here.

What’s your take on the DRM issue?

Thanks Destructoid.



  1. SameeR_Fisher

    Much much respect, this guy knows what he is talking about, especially this part:

    ““You can’t force a person to buy your software no more than you can prevent a person from stealing it. People have to WANT to buy your software, people have to WANT to support you.””

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Mineral4r7s

    Since Origin I have not bought a single EA Game. Steam is enough for me already. I really dislike Steam as Steam is DRM but I fell into the trap that is steam once and I can’t get out until politics clear everything up. I hope that one day I can make my own copies of the games that I won on steam like I can with my games I own on GOG (if that happens I will not complain about steam anymore).

    And about GOG I really love them I have a tons of games at their place. I download them and store them on my hard drives. REally love GoG.

    So EA take a look at GoG. Then I may buy your products once again (if they dont suck)

    #2 2 years ago
  3. mreko3230

    Been saying this for years. People pirate games they never had any attention of buying or supporting in the first place. And this may sound crazy, but I’ve heard a lot of pirates (who really enjoy the game they are playing) will actually buy the product even after they pirated it as a way to support the people who made the game. Putting tons of cash and resources into DRM is a fools errand.

    Of course, then you have to think, maybe DRM is a way to sooth investors uneducated fears that the company is losing millions to piracy.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. sh4dow

    Hear hear.

    Just the other day, I wanted to support the developers of Driftmoon by buying from them directly but they used DRM in their version, while it was DRM-free on GOG. I asked them about that, they decided to change their policy and so I bought it from them. I am happy, they got a couple bucks more out of it and I am more likely to pay attention to what they do in the future. How is that a bad business decision…

    #4 2 years ago
  5. The_Red

    “maybe DRM is a way to sooth investors uneducated fears that the company is losing millions to piracy.”

    I actually think that IS the case. Most investors are led to believe that it is because of piracy that their companies are losing money, not bad decisions / games / strategies. Stupid and intrusive DRMs are here just to calm those scared idiots.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. TheWulf

    I think the problem is is that the mainstream isn’t as strong as some publishers seem to think it is. And even with the most common of folk, a nagging at the back of their mind can be felt that maybe they’d rather something with a little more depth than an incredibly one-dimensional spectacle shooter or super-troped third person action game with a wet paper-thin plot and sub-fanfic quality characters.

    If you ask me, that’s what’s responsible for the lack of sales more than anything else. You’ll have a vocal minority that always wants one-dimensional entertainment, but I’d like to think that the quiet majority are beginning to want more than that. And as such, their buying habits are changing and moving out of the mainstream.

    I’m sure poor sales on the PS3 now have been attributed to piracy due to it being so easy to hack, similar to the Wii. Piracy is a wonderful scapegoat when you don’t want to face the fact that most people simply are choosing not to buy your game because it’s not what they want.

    Less marketing, more market research.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. hyperbaric

    Or maybe these DRM companies (securom, gameshield, etc) have more power than studios like to admit. I don’t think investors are that stupid.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. DSB

    Refenes isn’t saying that piracy doesn’t hurt his business, he’s just saying there’s no way of knowing how much, which is obviously true.

    It’s just another case of indie developers outsmarting the big publishers. If someone like Ubisoft had adopted a gamer-friendly approach and chosen to focus on their paying customers instead of punishing them, they would’ve improved their numbers.

    Instead they lost half of their revenue on the PC.

    @7 Sadly, they really are that stupid. Ubisoft managed to fuck up something like five or six launches until they got smarter, and this is after undoubtedly spending millions on DRM that was broken after a month.

    Ultimately investors depend 100% on the board of directors. If they’re asleep, nothing happens. Look at THQ as an example. It had a lame duck board, nobody knew or cared where the company was going, and they collectively paid the price.

    It would be nice if there was some kind of logical limit to how ignorant people could get and still be in power, but there’s just not.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Lord Gremlin

    True. So true. I’ve bought so many copies of Binding of Isaac to gift to my friends. Amazing game.
    It’s very true that people have to WANT to support you. Like, I always buy Suda51 games and anything that Platinum Games make. Because I want them to prosper and make more good games.
    As for EA, people think various things, I just want them to go out of business.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Cobra951

    So very well said. It carries real weight coming from an industry insider too.

    #10 2 years ago

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