Has Amantia discovered that listening to users complaints about DRM is a bad move? Would Machinarium have been copied as much had DRM been in place?

There are many arguments for and against file sharing copyrighted material.  There are also many justifications given for sharing copyrighted material and infringing on those “rights”, one argument being that those who support file sharing often cite is that far from material being shared via a p2p protocol being harmful to profits of the company involved, it actually helps not only expose the product to a larger audience, but actually increase the sales of that particular product.  Additionally DRM is seen by many as an “evil” and there’s probably some truth in that, it is no secret that it has in the past caused great inconvenience and lack of functionality in the products it’s shipped with for some users.  The method to protect material from making unauthorised copies, in some cases made the product unusable.

I sit somewhere in the middle with my opinions and file sharing.    Amanita Design have had a rather different experience.

Their latest release, Machinarium is a point and click adventure title which sells for $20 that Amanita released without DRM.   Subsequently the title is reported to have been shared in what I can only describe as a “free for all” resulting in Amanita only getting revenue from a paying 5-10% of players.  This is not the great business model and brave new world I have been reading about in the comments section of sites such as Torrentfreak and is certainly no justification to me for data to be shared via P2P or the need to remove DRM.

The makes of Machinarium had this to say on their blog:

We released the game DRM free which means it doesn’t include any anti-piracy protection, therefore the game doesn’t bother players with any serial codes or online authentication, but it’s also very easy to copy it. Our estimate from the feedback is that only 5-15% of Machinarium players actually paid for the game. If you decide to buy the game, you can be sure you’ll support directly the developers, not any big publisher or distributor.

And now (since the title has been hit by piracy) are hoping to appeal to users, saying:

Everybody who downloaded our game illegally (for free) has now a chance to redeem himself and get the latest version of the game (Win+Mac+Linux) and it’s fantastic Soundtrack only for $5 (instead of $20).

That being said, it is impossible to second guess what the sales would have been if DRM had been incorporated into the code and if it would have achieved any more sales anyway, but with figures of piracy quoted like the ones above, one has to wonder how many file sharers of actually believe in this “future” and how many merely just want something for nothing, using a similar defense to the one I mentioned earlier.

Who’s to say? and the lack of success for Amantia would suggest that they will be using DRM in the future.  Ive always maintained that DRM is a necessary evil, with surely a fundamental right for the developer to release their material in any way they see fit.  If you don’t like it, then you simply don’t purchase the title.  Amantia appears to have played it the other way and understood the concerns of DRM. They appear to have got burned.

I think we are still a long way off a DRM free future, but maybe not a true cross-platform one? Machinarium is available for Linux!


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