"We don't believe in DRM, and we don't like DRM," two of the developers behind the new game Shadow Warrior 2 recently told Kotaku in an email, when we asked them about their game's lack of anti-piracy protection. DRM, of course, refers to digital rights management or anti-piracy systems that are widely used to keep people from stealing games and other software. "We don't believe it works," they said. "Nor that it's good for the players." Those were words of Artur Maksara and Tadeusz Zielinski, who both do PR for their game's Polish studio Flying Wild Hog. We were talking DRM, because, on Monday, their colleague Krzysztof "KriS" Narkowicz had said that the studio chose not to use Denuvo, the current strongest defence software defence against piracy, because it would make their game worse.
"Dont you want to ensuer [sic] the most sales possible?" a gamer named Shredder had asked KriS on the game's Steam forum. "Do you want people to pirate your game at release date? You know that with denuvo you will force many pirates to buy the game instead of waiting months to get cracked."
KriS' reply: "We don't support piracy, but currently there isn't a good way to stop it without hurting our customers. Denuvo means we would have to spend money for making a worse version for our legit customers. It's like this FBI warning screen on legit movies."
It might not be obvious how anti-piracy tech would downgrade the quality of a game, but it seems that the devs at Flying Wild Hog, which employs 110 developers in Warsaw and Krakow, see the implementation of DRM as a trade-off that would take time away from making a good game.
"Any DRM we would have needs to be implemented and tested," KriS explained to Kotaku. "We prefer to spend resources on making our game the best possible in terms of quality, rather than spending time and money on putting some protection that will not work anyway." Some pirates have claimed to have cracked Denuvo, but it has taken them months after games with that protection have been launched and remains an arms race.
Shadow Warrior 2 is coming today and has pretty good buzz. It's an over-the-top shooter and successor to a beloved first game. It will be sold on the GoG marketplace without DRM and also on Steam, which some might argue serves as its own layer of DRM, but it won't use Denuvo. The developers know it will cut into sales, but they just don't buy the idea that using that kind of tech would be an overall gain for them.
"The trade-off is clear," Maksara and Zielinski said. "We might sell a little less, but hey, that's the way the cookie crumbles!"
They're banking on the quality of their game earning them enough money to counteract the lack of money coming in from people who'll just steal their game. "We also believe that if you make a good game, people will buy it," they said. "Pirates will pirate the game anyway, and if someone wants to use an unchecked version from an unknown source that's their choice."
When asked if they knew how many copies they think might be pirated and how that compares to the sales of the game they're hoping for, Zielinski said, "'Frankly dear? I don't give a damn' as the wise man said. Que sera, sera. We hope that our fans, who were always very supportive, will support us this time as well."
And what would would the perfect anti-piracy tech be like? Maksara: "Well... the world isn't perfect and it never will be so again. Hard to tell. In our opinion, in the perfect world, people would not pirate games and [would] pay the devs for their work. But, in our imperfect world, the best anti-pirate protection is when the games are good, highly polished, easily accessible and inexpensive."