Preventing game piracy: Digital Rights Management

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The next generation game consoles are introducing a radical new anti-copying strategy: Digital Rights Management (=DRM). DRM is an umbrella term for any of several arrangements which allows a vendor of content in electronic form to control the material and restrict its usage in various ways that can be specified by the vendor. It is the science, art, and business of managing digital goods so that all of the participants in the digital goods chain win:

  • Consumers win by getting a good, perhaps novel product or service at a reasonable price.
  • Distribution and infrastructure providers win by getting paid to facilitate the distribution of goods, and perhaps by additional related interactions with their customers.
  • Content owners win by getting fairly paid for their efforts, and by having new, innovative distribution channels available to them.

The theory behind DRM is that it tries to prevent illegal copies of a particular console game. But how should this work in practice? At first illegally copied games protected by the system work properly , but start to fall apart after the player has had just enough time to get hooked. As a result, the pirated discs actually encourage people to buy the genuine software, according to the developers. It also makes unauthorised copies of games slowly degrade, so that cars no long steer, guns cannot be aimed and footballs fly away into space. But by that time the player has become addicted to the game. And because players get addicted to the game, they will go out and buy an original version of the game.


  • The increasing use of Peer-to-peer technology
  • Bittorent and bittorent programs
  • The low costs of DVD recordable
  • The increasing use of DVD-writers
  • The increasing use of Modchips and emulators
  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act


  • Time will lead to introduce new chips and emulators that could crack and disable the DRM in the future
  • China as the most dominant piracy market in the world
  • Increasing development costs of games

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Macrovision - developers of DRM game consoles


DRM is fairly new, and it started with the introduction of digital technologies and with the 1996 WIPO World Copyright Treaty, which many developing countries are also under pressure to adopt. It became possible to produce an essentially perfect copy of any digital recording with minimal effort. With the advent of the personal computer, software piracy became an issue in the 1970s. Development of the Internet in the 1990s virtually eliminated the need for a physical medium to perform perfect transfers of data (such as MP3 formatted songs).

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