Imagine a movie studio was known for making great movies. Imagine they spent three years hyping the final segment of a beloved trilogy. And now imagine that the media company they were owned by decided that the movie was only going to be available—ever—on a cheap iMax ripoff called Origin. Now, anybody could get to one of these theaters, though it would be less convenient and you had to wear annoying glasses all the time; the picture was the same, and the big media company told the studio that there was no harm, this was just the price of getting their movie funded and preventing people from making illegal copies of it.
Now, the movie came out, and it made lots of money because it was a good movie, and the big media company made even more money because of the exclusive deal they signed with Origin. And, of course, lots of people bought the DVD when it came out, and even more people pirated it (the exclusive deal did work to prevent piracy) and watched it at home. Most of these people would not have bought or paid to see the movie anyway, but a few of them did so because they did not like the glasses that Origin made them wear or the other inconveniences that were associated with this brand of theaters. A few more were worried about leaving their name, credit card info, and SSN with Origin theaters, but Origin promised that it wouldn’t even look at that information if you didn’t want it to, and, as far as anyone knew, it didn’t.
Basically, everyone was generally happy with this situation. The studio made money, the big media company made money, the people who saw the movie in theaters were pretty satisfied, and the pirates were happy because it was a good movie. A couple of economists looked at the numbers and said that the profits lost when a few people demanded their money back or refused to go see the movie was more than covered by the exclusive deal with Origin.
I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that I get it: I understand that EA wants to get into the digital download market, and that they cannot do that unless they give consumers a reason to prefer Origins to Steam. I get that the number one way to make that happen is to make games exclusive on Origins, because it is the thing they control the most easily and because it is the best way to win gamers over. I get that game studios need distribution giants like EA, and that, moreover, they own you, so Mass Effect 3 is their product and their biggest ace right now. I get that maybe you like the deal too because it might mean that more people buy your game which means you get to keep making your games; I get that even if you did want to change the whole situation, you couldn’t. I get that you’re trying to maximize profits and quality, and appreciate that you understand that maximizing the second increases the first and that increasing the first gives you more latitude to improve the second.
What I want you to understand, though, is different. I want you to understand that all of the above is the reason that I BUY games, the reason I bought Mass Effect, and Dragon Age, and Mass Effect 2, and, well you get the picture. I buy your games because I believe in you as a studio, and I understand the realities of being a studio that makes blockbuster games, and because I know I will enjoy them. Those are the same reasons that I will likely buy Mass Effect 3.
So don’t make it purchasable through Steam. That’s ok. Make it so that you have to have an Origins account to buy, install, and run the game as well as to acquire any DLCs. Make those DLCs exclusive to Origins even. As a loyal consumer, I am ok with all that. I don’t like it. I don’t like ANY of it, but the problems with exclusivity and DLCs in general are a different issue, but I will happily accept it as part of what you determine to be the price of your game. All I ask is this:
Please allow me to run Mass Effect 3 without another program running in the background.
Don’t force a “client” on me, or a constantly active “launcher”: neither of these prevent piracy; neither of them will make it so that someone who is smarter than I am cannot bypass your protections and make the game more enjoyable because it is less inconvenient. As has been rehashed ad infinitum, the only effect that such launchers have is to hurt those people who have bought the game legitimately. And, as I hope you understand, this type of DRM—the constantly running/constantly connected variety—hurts us a lot more than any other method.