A long time ago, before home computers were considered “PC’s,” games were coming out.  On tape, cartridge, or disk, they all had one thing in common: even in this primitive age, they were being pirated.  Copied.  Stolen, if you will.

Over the years many methods of preventing piracy have been tried.  Codes, printed on funny colored paper so they couldn’t be photocopied, typing in a word from a manual, code wheels, dongles, bad sectors on disks.  All of these had several things in common: things got lost, couldn’t be easily seen anyway, and they were all bypassable.  Every single one.  None of them worked.  Not even for stopping casual piracy.  They only thing they ever did was inconvenience the person who paid money for their game.

Sam, at one point, had bought a game.  She brought it home, installed it, and immediately ran into a problem: the game said that she was running an illegal copy, which she wasn’t.  After doing a search on the internet and calling the company that made the game she found out that the copy protection was not compatible with her CD-ROM.

She now had a choice: buy a new CD-ROM drive, which would bring the cost of the game up from $40 to $70 or more, or get one of the copy protection bypass cracks on the internet for free.  Not only would it be free, but if she got the crack then she wouldn’t need to hunt down the CD and keep it in the drive to play the game.

Needless to say, she installed the crack and was quite happy.  Until it dawned on her, that she could have gotten the entire game that way.  She wouldn’t have wasted time and money trying to figure out why it didn’t work and then fixing it herself.  Download and play.  In the future, when buying add ons for this particular game, she never bothered paying for it first.  Who suffered for it?  Sam, who plays the game for free without any worries about what works or doesn’t, or the company who released it and is now out quite a bit of money?

Let’s think of this another way.  You go to buy a new car.  The car has several anti-theft devices.  You need to insert your computer chipped key, scan your fingerprint, do a retina scan, and then keep your hands on the wheel at all times so the built in palm print reader verifies that you own the car.  Or, you can steal a car that had all of these features disabled except for a key and locks.  And you’ll never get caught for stealing it.  Which one would you be tempted to go for?

Copy protection has never worked in the past and it’s likely that it will never work in the future.  When copy protection gets more advanced it doesn’t deter people from trying to break the protection, it spurs them on even more because it’s a challenge to be met.  To top it off, copy protection is not free.  You pay for it because it’s included in the price of the game.

Would it be better to get rid of copy protection and lower the price of the games?  People that pirate games will always do so.  It wouldn’t matter to them if it was affordable or not.  But there are people out there that like to pay for what they have.  Would it make a difference to keep those customers instead of making it harder for them to use what they pay for and making them feel like they should be copying the software just to make life easier?

I am not saying that people should illegally copy games.  I’m not advocating piracy.  But I am saying that there comes a point where you just have to realize that making your paying customers life more difficult is not going to stop piracy.  It’s never going to stop as long as there’s a reason to do it.  This applies to video, audio and games.