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Since gamers went out in droves to buy Diablo III, setting a record in sales for the title, it was bound that other developers and publishers would take notice. We mentioned before that the top publishers would be watching closely, because the main idea is to strip away YOUR consumer ownership rights so that you no longer own the games you buy but instead you will be leasing the game from the company as they deem fit.
According to Kotaku, they had a chance to talk to the developers of the upcoming and recently announced SimCity reboot for PC. Speaking with producer Kip Katserelis at EA development studio Maxis about the upcoming title, Kip was asked about the single-player component, to which he replied...
"This is a mutiplayer game,"... "we're constantly tracking what you do… and then feeding that back to players."
In the promo video they mentioned that the game centered around multiplayer and in the original article I questioned if that would mean always-on, but it looks like it does.
He basically throws out the same line on why EA uses Origin as spyware, except instead of it being for marketing purposes it's basically to see who is playing a legal version of the game, how long, etc., etc., etc.
The Kotaku article further mentions that the game will have a new kind of feature for those who lose sync, enabling players to briefly stay connected if the connection drops for a minute or two but no details were shared. EA is watching Blizzard in handling Diablo III, so that they can try to enhance on their always-on for both capacity purposes and single-player streaming.
By all means this is equally as bad as disc-locked content. Always-on for single-player games is inexcusable and it limits the shelf-life of the game to that of the publisher. And we all know how long EA keeps their games in service.
Gamers will have to step up to the plate this time around. We're already dealing with widespread account infiltration cases in Diablo III since everyone has to be online, even if you don't want to play multiplayer. Always-on means you are always at risk.
The common belief is that always-on for single-player games prevents piracy by 100%. But let's be real, piracy is a none factor. Console games make $22 billion at retail and PC games are an $18 billion dollar industry alone. CD Projekt already admitted that the DRM-free version of The Witcher 2 was pirated less than the SecuRom version. Statistically, the numbers aren't adding up: If piracy was so bad why did PC gaming have a record year? Why does CD Projekt sell more games that are DRM-free and these same versions are torrented less than games with DRM?
Jumping to the assumption that SimCity's always-on prevents pirates from hacking the game is false. As mentioned, look at Diablo III. What's more, you don't create sales by forcing someone to be always-on. If pirates didn't pay $60 before a game had always-on DRM, what would make them pay $60 because it does? They'll just find a way to crack the game and still play. There is zero evidence that supports the hypothesis that pirated copies equate to lost sales.
For the love of gaming I hope gamers use Diablo III's launch fiasco as a clear indicator that while some of you will be able to play online, a lot of you won't. The subsequent hacked accounts should also be a warning to always-on DRM, as well. To top it all off, EA is known for setting expiration dates on their services so there's no guarantee you'll be able to play at your convenience several years down the line. And take note, always-on DRM is a service.
If you want to preserve any sense of history in gaming, please let the publisher know how you feel in a legible manner by contacting them on their official website. We all know that Blizzard used Diablo III to peddle always-on single-player and that other publishers would follow, but it's imperative that gamers speak with their wallets this time around, otherwise every new game we get from a major publishing label will be laced with always-on DRM.
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