DRM Plus Daft Prices = Disgruntled Customers

Posted on February 3rd, 2007 by Gareth Powell

This is being written in Bangkok. Within a mile of where I am staying in Soi 22, Sukhumvit, there is every software program on offer for about a tenth of the original price.

Windows Vista? How many would you like?

Windows Office for Vista? The same.

When it comes to television shows and movies most of the best sellers are here with the most popular movies being ones where an SUV is driven by an Arnold Schwarznegger clone through a wall every few minutes. The movies are not high on intellectual content.

It would be very easy to call the center of this activity, Pan Thip Plaza, the pirates’ haven of Asia. Yet there is another side to this question. A Constant Reader wrote:

I was given a PC game. I popped it in my Dell laptop (with my legal/registered installation of Windows XP Pro) and installed it. When I tried to play it, it refused to launch. This was because I was also running disk emulation software.

I uninstalled the disk emulation software.

No dice.

The fact that I had at one time dared to run disk emulation had been noted and, short of a reformat/reinstall, it would not run.

A game that was legally purchased, on a laptop that was legally purchased with an operating system that was legally purchased, running software that was also legally purchased. So I took it back to the shop, with the receipt and explained my troubles.

I’m sure you can guess how successful that was.

I downloaded a pirate/cracked version, installed it, played it for about twenty minutes, got fed up with the whole thing, then went out into the woods to play paintball with my nephews, my brothers in law and some assorted others. Which was much more fun.

I don’t believe I’ll be buying any more PC games.

That is not untypical.

For attitudes to change two things need to happen.

First software companies need an immediate Reality Check on their pricing policies. How can there be so many prices for the same object?

If I buy a pair of Saucony running shoes I know roughly what it will cost and I am willing to bear the price for the quality.

With software, what is the price? If I buy a computer it is very probable that I will get it free. If I am a major company I will pay very low prices. If I am a university I will pay a different price. As an individual it is what-can-we-screw-from-this-mug-punter time.

Second, it must run first time, every time. Apple manages it. On PCs. to add insult to injury, quite often, as seen above, the software will not run on a perfectly standard machine. It cannot be rocket science for a software company to take care of that.

Who we ask, are the real pirates?

I’m sorry but I don’t have the faintest idea what point you’re trying to make here. Are you comparing pirated version prices with those for legitimate (albeit occasionally non-compliant) copies, or international pricing policy?

When I lived in Africa, I could buy Duracell batteries for a quarter of the price of the same ones in the UK, which I regarded as a temporary privilege. Are you saying it is not right to price legitimate software according to what people can afford on their income?

I’m not saying anything, but the author of the article seems to be saying that to avoid piracy, software (game titles were the author’s example) should be far more reasonably priced, and play fine, without any DRM. The conclusion was 'who’s the real pirate," since in the example given, the person purchased the title, but then lost all this time trying to get it to play. In the end, the person was ‘stuck’ with a non-working title he legally purchased but could not enjoy, hence the ripoff. However, once he played a ‘working’ version, he didn’t like it anyway, so I would assume an ancilliary point could be to provide some kind of way to play a ‘demo’ version of the game, so a person can try out a very limited, short version and know if it’s worth buying based on that. Obviously the person purchasing the title was so miffed by the whole frustrating experience of not getting to enjoy the legally purchased title because of the DRM, that once he could play it, it wasn’t that great. The author clearly uses a roundabout way of illustrating his point, granted, and doesn’t ‘wrap it up’ enough to make the conclusion(s) clear as to what areas he wishes to illustrate. I do agree that if one can get pirated copies for a small fraction of the original prices that also work well, without problems that yes regular prices should be lower for the consumer who desires to purchase it legally. If the whole idea is that piracy raises the price to legally purchase something (yet prevents the DRM lockup nightmare), then significantly lower the price of a legitmate title and make sure it works as advertised.

Other than that, I just posted this to show what others have found to be incredibly frustrating about DRM, and why it shouldn’t continue to prevent those who legally purchased something from enjoying it as much as they want. Additionally, while the author should have specified some concrete reasons as to the ‘pricing difference,’ he did not. I however know that certain merchants that are labelled ‘distributors,’ receive up to a 40% discount on purchases from the primary company, which the place buying it rarely passes on to the consumer. I was also quite dismayed to discover that back in 1998 when I had a local business build my first computer, that a stick of RAM they charged me $75 for obviously only cost them $9.99 (they had a pricing label on the RAM stick). Another example would be the CD burner they sold me for $99 was only $19.99 to them in reality (again, they had a pricing sticker on the unit). There’s no question in my mind there are very HUGE markups passed on the consumer, so yes, prices can definitely come down substantially.

Ah OK it wasn’t at all obvious that the post was just quoting someone else’s blog word-for-word. In that case the above criticism should be directed back there, sorry.

You have a point about wholesale/retail pricing structures, but these have always existed to keep retailers in business. For those items where retailer input is minimal, it’s probably why things are much cheaper on-line.

We bought Rayman Raving Rabits here for 20 becuase I and my sister who lives here heard from my geek friend that it was a crazy/fun game. Went to load it up and her old athlon 1.2 wouldn’t run it even with a 9800xt and 512 of ram in XP pro. It’s a bit of a limited machine nowadays but most of her stuff runs OK with it, especially after I added the 9800 from my last machine. I go to cruise the games forums/support site and it souned like 80 percent of the folks couldn’t get it to load properly even with much higher spec machines with lots of memory and CPU power, others it would load fine for no reason any body could tell. She was bummed that it wouldn’t work and the web site never mentioned a patch or even acknowledged the game had a problem and needed work.
I ended up building her my old 754 athlon 64 3200 and put in my better x800xt with a gig of fast DDR 400 and crossed my fingers and did a quick repair install over the top of her old XP, that worked out fine, and now the game works fine too. Most folks don’t have a extra box sitting around and aren’t going to redo windows to play one game, what are they to do if it doesn’t work and many places wont return a opened box game…
If I figured I could have gotten a cracked copy that would work I would have done it at that point just to avoid the extra work, I was planning on using that Board as a media box down the road… I guess that is sorta where the quoted fellow ended up too, cept he never got his legal copy to work.

great way to put it, Dartman. It always helps when a real, ‘live’ person from here in the forums has a similar experience and can elaborate upon it. Your example really backs up the example listed. Thanks!