CD Projekt Red: DRM 'Absolutely Does Not Work'

Each and every time someone at CD Projekt Red discusses piracy, it seems as though they talk sense. After experimenting with DRM and other methods, CD Projeckt Red has completely abandoned use of DRM in any form. Now, speaking to Forbes, they've reiterated their stance: DRM "absolutely does not work".

First of all let me dispel the myth about DRM protecting anything. The truth is it does not work. It’s as simple as that. The technology which is supposed to protect games against illegal copying is cracked within hours of the release of every single game. So, that’s wasted money and development just to implement it. But that’s not the worst part. DRM, in most cases, requires users to enter serial numbers, validate his or her machine, and be connected to the Internet while they authenticate – and possibly even when they play the game they bought. Quite often the DRM slows the game down, as the wrapper around the executable file is constantly checking if the game is being legally used or not. That is a lot the legal users have to put up with, while the illegal users who downloaded the pirated version have a clean–and way more functional!–game. It seems crazy, but that’s how it really works. So if you are asking me how do I see the future of DRM in games, well, I do not see any future for DRM at all.

CD Prokekt Red's CEO, Marcin Iwinski, also shot down publisher claims that every pirated copy of a game represents a lost sale.

[W]e have indeed estimated the number of pirated copies at 4.5M units, although it’s just an estimate – and by now it’s probably more. However this number doesn’t represent lost sales. It really puzzles me how serious software companies can consider each pirated copy to be a lost sale. Maybe it looks nice in an official report to say how threatening pirates are, but it is extremely far from the truth.

It's a stance that CD Projekt Red has reiterated many times, but one that is the direct result of making mistakes, but then rectifying them -- by listening to consumer feedback and responding. It's worth heading over to Forbes to read the full thing. I love CD Project Red's attitude towards piracy, and would love to see every other publisher move in a similar direction.

'The Truth Is, It Doesn't Work' - CD Projekt On DRM [Forbes]


    How are pirate versions not lost sales? Not that I disagree, I just want to understand his logic.

      from what i understand, their logic is that people who pirate games probably wouldn't have bought the game anyway.

        Yep. Most people who Pirate because they either A: Can't afford it or B: Have zero interest in paying for it. These people are not about to put down cash for a product in the event that they can't pirate it, they'll just ignore it.

        At least in a few cases the pirates can be used as some form of free marketing, which might lead to a sale or two down the road.

          Yeah it's usually that they can't afford it or have no interest. I would guess there is also a decent amount of people who would only buy a certain game if they can try a demo first, and if there is no official demo, pirating it would be the way to get an unofficial demo of sorts.

          Let me add C: don't know much about the game and want to check it out. It's a weakish rationale, but valid. I pirated Star Wars Battlefront 7 or so years ago when I had little idea about it. Loved the crap out of it, went & bought it so I could play online and bought the sequel.
          That downloaded copy turned into a sale. It does happen. Not as often as the devs would like, I'm sure, but it's there.

        exactly, if you were NEVER going to pay for the game, then its not a lost sale - its actually a positive thing, its one more person playing the game which has a potential flow on effect of influencing other people to purchase it legally.

      I would think that they're arguing against EVERY pirated copy being a lost sale, as opposed to SOME being lost sales.

        This is an important clarification.

    seriously, everything these guys say makes sense, they are the only game developers who seem to have a grip on piracy.

    also, i was very happy that when i got my new cimputer, that i didn'nt have to put in any serial code for witcher 2 :)

    Holy crap a dev gets it :O
    Seriously, ask every other publisher/dev to comment on what he said, esp. the "consider each pirated copy to be a lost sale".

      I'll take a stab: "We have responsibilities to our shareholders to ensure as many sales as possible, and to our valued customers by preventing others from getting what they paid for for free".

      Generally the way these responses go. Won't actually address the realities of the inadequacy of DRM.

        I just hate it how when some interesting point gets addressed, noone really follows it up with others to try and change things. And as a result, we just hear the same things over and over...

    Every time these guys say something, I love them even more, and I already love them a lot. Take my money.

    This is why I love CDPR and - a developer and distribution platform dedicated to DRM-free gaming, strong customer support, and epic value.

    They pretty much bring shame upon all their peers when you compare their consumer-friendly business strategy to the standard DRM-by-numbers approach everyone else is taking.

    Hell, Steam is the only DRM I am willing to tolerate, for the most part, and yet instead of copying their system, you get idiots like Ubisoft and their always-on shit in Assassins Creed, or Games For Windows Live which is so prone to buggy, failing, idiocy that it barely works whenever you want to pay your games. I remember how disastrous patching/installing DLC was for Fallout 3 because of GFWL... and why Bethesda then chose Steam for Fallout New Vegas.

    I pirated witcher 2, I then bought it because I liked it.
    Basically it was a demo. So its not right to say every pirated copy is a lost sale.

      Mark could do a Tell Us Dammit on piracy that would be fascinating - that, and smoking - hint hint Mr Serrels.

      While I admire your candour, your definition of a demo is different to mine.

      CD Projekt RED said something in another recent interview about people on forums opening discussing pirating the game and then getting ridiculed by scores of people. I'm not going to troll anybody unless it's about Half-Life 3!

      I did not pirate the witcher 2, however I did pirate the original, liked it, bought it and then bought witcher 2 when it came out.

    Always-Online "DRM" is not about protecting the game from piracy; it is about knowing how many people are playing, how many are playing multiplayer, how many are playing single player, how many people are doing this or that. It's a joke to think that it is now about anti-piracy.. in the past, yes.. maybe that's what the original purpose was.. but these days.. no.

    It's about the numbers.. and being able to report to shareholders and key stakeholders the numbers and figures..

      I think it depends on the implementation. Ubisoft's always online is probably rooted in anti-piracy, whereas if you look at Blizzard they try to provide value through always online. Blizzard's way acts as a double-wammy because if you do somehow manage to crack the always online, they pirate still won't get that value, so there's a lingering incentive to purchase.

      errr...are you sure about that? Why do they need to know how many people are playing single player as opposed to simply knowing how many copies of a game they sold? And surely it is not that difficult for them to know how many are playing multiplayer considering they have to be connected to the developers servers? What financial report are these companies providing to their shareholders that requires them to state how people are playing their games - actual sales figures would be far more relevant.
      And most importantly: Why is it that you seem to know more about DRM than a AAA game developer?

    Same here... pirated it, loved it, bought it. My bought copy is still wrapped in the box, but I wanted Witcher 3 enough to want to support the developers. (Although they probably only received a dollar or two judging from the price...a direct download from their site would net them more.)

    I bought The Witcher 2 enhanced ed because i wanted to support developers with the right idea (and its a good game) and i will be having a look at anything this studio makes in the future.

    I liked their game so much I bought it on two platforms. Release something people will find value in owning and they will purchase it. Perceived value is the key to sales.

    and that is why i bought the Witcher 2 the other day (not to mention the awesome price of $24.95 for all the game, latest version/patch + 9 DLCs + a heap of extra swag).

    Now I hope people respect that by not pirating their games. I doubt this will happen, if people have the chance to get stuff free then some will do it.

    Please support this dev's stance, go buy something from I recommend the witcher 2; no drm, fun to play, and meaningful plot player decisions you can't get around with save scumming, there's a lot to like.

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