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What are the best 3rd party DRM solutions available from a user experience, development integration, and security perspective?

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I might argue that "user experience" and "security" are opposites when talking about a "best" solution. But I'm interested to see what technologies are mentioned. – Ricket Sep 1 '10 at 22:46
Good point. :) I guess it's all about finding the right balance. – rrhoover Sep 1 '10 at 22:59
Honestly? I will only put up with Steam, any other drm platform, and my interest in said game drops to 0. – AttackingHobo Sep 2 '10 at 7:13
Most the comments and responses are not relevant to the question. The question is not "Is DRM bad?" If a person has decided to implement technical DRM solution then that's their choice. – Kimau Sep 2 '10 at 10:23
Kimau, if someone asks a question about something with the intentions of doing X, and the methods the person wants use are really bad for achieving X, would it be bad to suggest a better answer that better achieves X. In this case, rrhoover want his game not not be pirated. A lot of people agree that for every 1000 copies pirated, you make one sale. So blocking pirates doesn't mean a great increase in sales. In fact it can put off legitimate buyers who don't want to be treated as a criminal. With no drm, his goal is better achieved. – AttackingHobo Sep 2 '10 at 18:15

There is no such thing as good DRM. Consider it from the computer owner's perspective: DRM is a program whose function is to override the owner's ultimate control of the system and allow some other programmer somewhere else to dictate what he can and cannot do with the computer, which is his personal property.

In any other context, this would be considered computer hacking, which is a serious crime. The only reason people can get away with using DRM today is because the DMCA explicitly turns the entire legal issue inside out. (It's now legal to hack anyone's computer pretty much however you want to as long as they have your copyrighted material on it, and the owner is the one guilty of a computer crime if they try to assert their natural right to control over their own property.)

When programmers say they want DRM, what they really mean is that they want to protect against lost sales. This is both futile and counterproductive. Futile because in the age of the Internet, all it takes is for one person, anywhere, to produce a working crack and upload it somewhere, and your DRM is broken everywhere. Counterproductive because DRM causes inconveniences for the user which lowers their perception of its quality and thus their incentive to buy it. Just look at Spore, which was a mediocre game, but nowhere near as horrible as its reputation would have you believe. It got crushed by backlash against its DRM, not by the game itself being bad. On the flip side, look at Sins of a Solar Empire, the best-selling game of its year, released 100% DRM-free. Consumers saw the lack of DRM as a positive feature that increased the perception of quality significantly.

There is only one way to get people to pay money for your game, and it's not by hacking their computer. It's by releasing a product whose perceived value is greater than the price you're asking for it. Don't waste effort even thinking about DRM; work on making a game people will want to play.

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So say we all. :) I believe the same, I am making my game "shareware" (you can actually download it for free and play all you want) with a order info button on the screen. Why? Well, it is because we are in a age where you CANNOT prevent information from flowing, thus bothering with it is not good idea. – speeder Sep 2 '10 at 6:42
"There is no such thing as good DRM." - - Words of truth. Upvote for that. – AttackingHobo Sep 2 '10 at 7:13
I technically agree with some commenters that this is not really an answer to the question, but sometimes it's good to look beyond the question and see the motivation for asking it, and responding to that. – Bart van Heukelom Sep 3 '10 at 0:33

For a PC title, Steam is really the only one that should be considered these days. Safedisc and SecuROM install terrible things onto the user's computer and cannot be uninstalled.

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That sets a bit of a dangerous precedent though. We risk entering a world where only people who manage to catch the eye of Valve are able to make a decent profit on single-player PC games. I've bought a lot of good stuff on Steam but I know of several good indie developers who'd love to be on there but get ignored by Valve. So it's worrying if the choice becomes Steam vs. Easily-pirated-archive. :( – Kylotan Sep 2 '10 at 9:37
Fair enough, although the question was "which DRM is 'best'", not "should I use DRM" or "which DRM should I use." – dash-tom-bang Sep 2 '10 at 17:27
to the question - "which DRM is 'best'" - none is certainly a valid answer. Whether it's the best answer can be debated, and for checkmark purposes, is certainly up to you. – Cyclops Sep 2 '10 at 20:55
None is not a valid answer in this case, because some are clearly worse than others. I suspect most would prefer to not have their machine rootkitted by software when they install it. Since some are worse than others we can see that some therefore must be better. – dash-tom-bang Sep 2 '10 at 21:57
@Cyclops I didn't say that but it's pointless to argue against logical fallacies. – dash-tom-bang Sep 7 '10 at 16:50

From a security perspective, 3rd party DRM is never good, as it allows hackers to apply knowledge gleamed from other products using the same middleware.
Middleware and copy-protection are pretty much mutually exclusive, getting a custom solution will at least defer the process a bit allowing some sales before the game is hacked.

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Although I assume you're asking for PC games, I would like to add that Google provides their own license system for Android developers.

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