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Sorta DRM Free

Submitted by kmeisthax on Thu, 10/17/2013 - 20:36 in Rants

A little while ago I talked about a certain Kickstarter project and it's... complicated relationship with the words "DRM free". Well, it looks like Team 17 is willing to reopen that particular can of worms again with the Humble Bundle "DRM-free" release of Worms Reloaded by withholding features.

Now, except for certain exceptions made to big publishers (that arguably shouldn't be able to call their own bundles "Humble Bundles") the standard, non-publisher-specific Humble Bundle has a couple rules. First off, the bundle is pay-your-own-price for the lowest tier; and there's usually a second tier which is unlocked by beating the current average pay-your-own-price. Second, games in the bundle have to support not just Windows, but also Mac and/or Linux. In fact, this is a "with Android" Humble Bundle, which means all the games also support have to support Android. Finally, the games have to be DRM-free. That doesn't mean they can't be available in a form which bears DRM, but that you should be able to play the game without an online license check. Almost everything on the Humble Bundle comes with Steam redemption keys and most people use them because while Steam includes fairly weak DRM, it also provides a number of convenience features that don't get in the way of your gameplay.

Team17 kinda... changed that, again by withholding features from the DRM-free version; specifically any kind of online multiplayer. Now, technically this isn't entirely Team17's fault because their multiplayer relies on Steam's matchmaking services, so they'd have to write an entirely new online multiplayer system to keep it working on the DRM-free version. But that doesn't excuse the fact that the Humble Bundle brand is yet again being devalued by exceptions being granted to publishers. (Since I wrote that linked article, EA got a Humble Origin Bundle!)

On a different level there's also the fact that none of this information was actually communicated to consumers until after this was discovered. There are still a large portion of consumers who are skittish or outright hostile to DRM systems (even light-DRM systems like Steam) and you cannot take advantage of their trust (whatever is left of it) by selling a mislabeled product and slapping an asterisk on there after the fact. Simply put: If your game is "DRM-free", that means I should be able to use all of what is included in the game in some meaningful fashion.

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