Here’s what bothers me the most about software piracy: a great number of people who engage in this activity seem to love creating excuses for their behavior. The latest and greatest of them is that they have a strong dislike for Sony DADC Austria‘s successful Denuvo anti-tamper technology, a solution that many users have branded as a disgraceful piece of software that hurts legit consumers. While I can completely understand their dislike for Denuvo, I can’t agree with it being used as an excuse to pirate a videogame. If I disagree with the choices made by a certain publisher, I can ignore their releases and that may send a strong message if enough consumers do the same thing. Pirating their games is a different thing, however, as the only message it sends is that there is a big userbase interested in that publisher’s output, but unwilling to spend money on it, so the only logical thing a big corporation can do is looking for a stronger DRM solution to protect their interests.
Software pirates don’t help the DRM-free cause, they are its biggest enemies. Yes, The Witcher 3 sold a ton of copies even though CD Projekt RED chose to release it in a completely DRM-free manner. But an enormous number of copies were illegally downloaded as well, and we don’t have any way of checking whether the people who pirated the ambitious open world action RPG only wanted to use the ill gotten goods as a sort of demo or not (for example). I think it’s fair to say that the reason behind the game’s success was its excellency, and not that its developers chose to release it without using a DRM solution.
Big companies like CD Projekt RED can take the loss of a few million copies illegally downloaded by Internet pirates, but small indie developers can’t, and they will end up looking for a way to protect their work, even if it costs them money and generates some backlash from the gaming community. Of course that some people will argue that big publishers like Electronic Arts or Bethesda can take the hit from pirated games, but let’s be real here, those corporations are ruled by share holders who NEED to see that something is being done to maximize profits, and without hard facts pointing at losses generated by a DRM solution, they will stick to the things they know.
So yeah, if you are a gamer with a strong moral compass who dislikes the concept of copy protection solutions like Denuvo, it’s perfectly fine to boycott games/publishers that choose to implement this technology in their releases. But one thing is boycotting a game or a publisher, and a very different thing is pirating their releases. Want to send a strong message to the Bethesdas, Electronic Arts or Ubisofts of this world? Ignore their work. Piracy is not a real solution, and illegally downloading a game only makes publishers think that they need to find a better DRM provider (and one that may end up hurting legit customers more than the solutions already available).