We Don't Know Where They Came From
In an age of gaming where we're all used to invasive copy protection, and "DRM" (Digital Rights Management) is a daily buzzword, there has been one name in gaming that has created quite a stir: Stardock.
To those of us who are extremely irritated by current copy protection implementation systems, Stardock represents a level of counterculture cool matched only by Apple before the iPod became a status symbol for the average stock broker. Where most publishers seem bent on ladening us with the likes of StarForce, CD checks, Internet key registration, and the like, Stardock chooses to defy those that say a game without copy protection can't make a profit due to piracy. They use no copy protection. None at all.
This fame (or infamy) began when someone posted a link to a downloadable version of Galactic Civilizations while attempting to defend StarForce, a copy protection product that has been the subject of much debate on the 'net over how invasive or destructive it may actually be. The link was an attempt to prove that without copy protection, the product was vulnerable to unlimited downloads by non-paying customers. What it actually proved was quite the opposite. Not only was it a terrible display of the pro-copy protection community seemingly promoting piracy, if only in an attempt to prove a point, but Galactic Civilizations went on to post a very good showing in terms of sales. Whether it was able to be illegally downloaded or not, it seems fans were more than happy to show their support for the game and the majority of them had no objection to paying for it. So much for the copy protection theory.
Flash forward to present. With the release of Sins of a Solar Empire, Stardock has done it again. Another game without copy protection. All that is required is that the CD key stuck to the inside of the jewel case must be registered online in order to obtain patches and updates. To the illegal mind, it's not a huge problem. The game seems reasonably stable out of the box (unlike many high-profile games) so even pirates will get their joy from it. But much to the dismay of the pirate-wary, Sins is actually selling well. Very well. In its first few weeks it was among the top selling games, beating out a number of big name franchises from big name publishers.
Maybe it's a showing that gamers are tired enough of copy protection schemes that cause more trouble for legitimate buyers than for the pirates who circumvent the frustration, and are willing to support a company who is attempting to tfe a different approach. Maybe it's just a sign of how good the game is. Read on while we try to find out which!
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