Digital Rights Management is a term used to describe technology that companies use to attempt to limit the ability of end-users to manipulate and copy the computer data that their game consists of. Methods for such piracy prevention are varied, but generally involve restricting installation and file protocols in an attempt to make the game harder to copy, distribute, or in some cases, even modify.
DRM is usually associated with PC games, although with newer consoles and the rise of digitally distributed titles through services like Xbox Live Marketplace, and the Playstation Network, DRM has started to enter the console scene; controversy in particular has arisen over how difficult it is to transfer your XBLM purchases from one Xbox to another, a fairly common occurrence with the epidemic of Red Rings of Death on the 360.
On PC's, DRM has a long history.
Different Cases of DRM
- Far Cry 2 (PC) was released with DRM that only let it be installed on three different PCs. This was later patched, removing this limit and allowing the game to be installed on a limitless number of computers.
- The Witcher (PC) had all its DRM removed in Patch 1.5 with CD Projekt giving away exclusive content to new users instead of using DRM.
- SecuROM is one of the better known, and more infamous, DRMs. It's used in the PC versions of Spore, Far Cry 2, Mass Effect and BioShock. SecuRom asks for the user to register the game online before playing it and limited the number of installs to three. This meant that if you were ever to modify your hardware, you'd have to re-install the game and this would count as one install.
- Spore was patched by Electronic Arts so it could be installed five times after uproar from gamers. Because of its DRM, Spore became the most pirated game of 2008, and until EA removed its DRM entirely, averaged a 1-star-rating on Amazon.com.
- Gabe Newell of the Valve Corporation is firmly against DRM. He has often stated that the pirated games market offered a better service and that was why they had such success (especially in terms of distribution, Newell giving the case of when a publisher doesn't release its game in different regions at the same time).
- In Europe, the Digital Economy Act plans to make pirating illegal and punishable by law, which it already is. If the Act is passed, pirates could be permanently banned from the internet as the network providers would be working closely with publishers to punish pirates.