For a long time, game developers and publishers have tried long and hard to combat piracy. This has dated back to the start of gaming (on the PC at least) in that it was easy enough to copy a game cassette and play it back on your device of choice.
As technology advanced, it was still easy enough to copy games that came on floppy disks. The buck in the trend really came from Nintendo who introduced the lockup chip for the NES which did manage to prevent pirates from running unauthorised code on the NES. This worked for a while before they managed to circumvent the copy protection.
Fast forward to the era of CD-ROMs and for a while this halted the progress of pirates since CD copiers (or burners depending on your term of choice) were initially extremely expensive. Added to this was a layer of protection that allowed you to copy a game disc to a blank one, but the game itself wouldn’t actually run. This paved the way for the underground scene to develop cracks and patches for the game so that they’d run without having the original disc present in your PC. This trend was emulated when video games jumped ship to the DVD format as they were able to hold a lot more data than CD’s, therefore negating the need to ship as many discs in a box. Regardless, old timers like Razer 1911 were able to crack the copy protection extremely quickly for new releases and in some cases even on the same day.
A new challenger approaches
However, one of the biggest hurdles to pirated PC games is the evolution of Steam. Whilst Origin and UPlay are also available, it is only Steam that supports a wealth of titles from an array of developers such as Rockstar etc. Whenever you buy a new PC game, you will have to register it through one of these platforms. This in itself could be argued to be a form of DRM since to run the game, you have to have it installed on that platform.
Coupled to this is the updates which install automatically for the games. The developers know that by adding this layer of protection to their games via a platform such as Steam that they will be able to limit the number of pirated copies that are being circulated.
Then we need to take into account the fact that Denuvo has been sending shockwaves to the underground pirating scene. Denuvo could be thought of as a layer of protection for the copy protection and it has prevented Just Cause 3 (as well as other games) from being able to be played illicitly. Game developers have in the past put in subtle bits of code to prevent people from pirating their games, and they’ve worked to a moderate degree. For example, in GTA 4 there was a continuous ‘drunk cam’ whereby you couldn’t actually play the game properly. A more hilarious game breaking glitch for the pirates was in the original Crysis which had Crytek replace bullets with guns in the pirated copy of the game.
Pricing has also always been an issue when it comes to piracy, but this is an area that Steam excels in. The reason for this is that they’re always running sales on the games in the library. When you couple this up with the fact that you can now preload a lot of games (sadly Doom wasn’t included in this) as well as getting automatic updates for stability and security issues, it really is a no brainer to buy the game legitimately.
Of course people will still hark that the games are too expensive, and some games aren’t worth their initial retail price. Having said that, there are now various online platforms available whereby you can buy (legally) Steam, Origin and UPlay game codes at a fraction of their price such as Kinguin and G2A.
When you add all of these little snippets together, it makes a compelling case to not illegally download games and instead pay for them. Pirates know this and given the fact that it is becoming harder to crack games, the days of PC game piracy are on their way out. It isn’t like piracy of other media such as films and tv shows whereby someone might still want to burn the footage onto a disc and therefore not go down the Netflix route.
The biggest benefit of course to consumers is that the decline in piracy will mean bigger profit margins for the developers. They’ll then be able to invest this money into better technologies and ideally lower the price of the games as well.