Witcher 2 Digital Download Sales and the Case Against DRM

Game publishers are in love with DRM, even the Draconian kind that every once in awhile causes an uproar in the gaming community. Remember Spore? It initially shipped with a three-activation limit, and like baseball, three strikes and you're out. This limit was later relaxed by Electronic Arts, who upped it to five activations and made it possible to de-authorize machines, but only after it became a huge controversy. Anti-DRM advocates even went so far as to trash Spore's rating on Amazon with negative reviews and 1-star votes without having purchased the game, and to this day, Spore is only rated 1.5/5 stars. Three years later, a little title called The Witcher 2 is said to have notched 250,000 digital download sales, all of them sans DRM.

Before you scoff at that number, consider that these are digital download numbers only. Throw in the fact that The Witcher 2 is a PC exclusive and, well, 250,000 sales isn't too shabby. More than that, Good Old Games (GOG), the digital distribution system owned by The Witcher 2's publisher CD Projekt, believes these figures are further proof that DRM-free content still sells.

"Your customers hate DRM," Good Old Games MD Guillaume Rambourg said at the London Games Conference, according to GamesIndustry.biz. "DRM is making companies feel safe while they handle some business, they are trying to protect their product and protect their sales, but the reality is very different."

He took it a step further and said that putting DRM in games works against the consumer, "harming those you should cherish. It's only hurting your loyal consumers which is counter-productive."

What's even more interesting is the way Rambourg views piracy. According to Rambourg, piracy is the "one industry that got everything right...You should treat piiracy as competition, not as an enemy. If you treat piracy as the enemy, as the majority of publishers do, Rambourg argues you'll be "blinded and you [wont] pay attention to what they are doing right."

Rambourg is a bit of a dissenting voice among game publishers, and even if he's right, it's hard to imagine game publishers ditching DRM. Recent figures from research firm Envisional suggests illegally downloaded games shot up 20 percent in the past five years, and that the top five games from 2010 were pirated nearly a million times, BBC reports. That would seem to contradict Rambourg's viewpoint on DRM, but does it really?

"I buy games because I've pirated them; if I don't get to try them I never would have bothered picking them up," BBC quotes one gamer as saying. "Games that I enjoy I purchase; ones I that I don't enjoy I delete."