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Mar
31
2014

Offline vs. Online Gaming

Offline vs. Online Gaming

One of the most controversial topics in gaming right now is that of “always online” gaming. In order to understand just how controversial this topic is, look no further than the recent flip-flopping of Microsoft over its always online policy with the Xbox One system.

The company initially announced that players would need to be connected to the internet at all times in order to play their games—even if those games were single-player only. After some backlash from fans (and Sony announcing they would not be using similar DRM policies on their Playstation 4) Microsoft backed away from the always online approach for the Xbox One.

The Xbox One announcement may have caused some negative feedback from gamers initially, but Microsoft has since rebounded and the Xbox One has been a tremendous success. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true.

The Strange Case of Sim City

In March 2013, EA released the most recent entry in the popular SimCity franchise. Many gamers—including myself—were excited to dig into this “reboot” of the series, which was released 10 years after the previous installment. But, as many people know, the launch of this game was marred with problems, and many long-time fans of the series were left with a bad taste in their mouths.

In order to play the newest edition of SimCity, gamers needed to be connected to the internet at all times. On top of being connected to the internet at all time, players also had to be connected to EA’s servers. Unfortunately, those servers were both unstable and ill-prepared for the massive wave of players looking to build their dream cities.

The situation was so bad when the game launched that many people were unable to play the game at all. In fact, popular review sites were forced to delay their reviews of the game, as they were unable to access the game’s servers. Retailers such as Amazon.com added disclaimers to the game that warned players of the possibility that the game would not work when customers purchased it. In this case, DRM was a massive failure.

Is DRM Worth It?

This is a pretty loaded question. Of course, there are good reasons for the implementation of DRM in games. As many gamers know, piracy is fairly rampant in the PC gaming world, so developers need to find ways to ensure their games aren’t being stolen or accessed illegally.

Despite what many people will say, DRM isn’t always evil, and there are some upsides to it—when it is correctly implemented. For example, the Steam service uses DRM on every game purchased through their online store. Unlike SimCity during its launch, Steam offers customers an offline mode, which allows users to play their games without a connection to the internet.

One of the nice aspects of purchasing games through a service such as Steam is the digital locker of sorts the service offers. Every game you purchase is saved to your account, and can be downloaded as many times as you’d like to any machine connected to your Steam account. This certainly helps with storage (both physical and digital), as games can be deleted and reinstalled at the player’s leisure. But, of course, the only way that this can work is if there are DRM measures in place.

Where do you stand on the DRM debate? Is it a necessary evil? Is the increase in DRM measures slowly killing offline gaming entirely? Let us know in the comments below!

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