Ars Technica has an interesting story on Microsoft from GDC 2009. Microsoft made announcements for updates to Games for Windows and new anti-piracy measures. Microsoft announced ‘DRM-less’ games which would come with anti-piracy protection but wouldn’t be called DRM. According to Drew Johnston, product unit manager for Windows Gaming Platform:
“What we have is anti-piracy measures we’ve put in place. I wouldn’t quite categorize it as DRM. We have zero-day piracy protection—this helps reduce the leakage of IP before release. The bits are encrypted, and there is a one-time activation that checks to see if the game has been released or not, and we’ll send out a decrypt code so the game can be played.”
This isn’t a revolutionary new distribution system that he talks about, as Steam, the pioneer of online gaming distribution already mastered this ages ago. Not only do they sell their own games, developed by Valve, but they also serve as a platform for third party publishers, providing a great way of keeping your games with yourself no matter where you are.
How this works is that the game would authenticate with the servers so you can play it where ever you want, just the way Steam does it. Either you buy online, or you have to ‘activate’ the game just like you have to activate a retail copy of Windows.
Another announcement was that game saves will be available in the cloud so you can have have your game on no matter where you are. In game item sale is also coming just like iPhone announced it some days ago. Xbox 360 already has this since some time. This means that DLC will soon become common for PC games as well.
All this sounds very good in announcements, but it makes me wonder. How many PC games really come under the Games for Windows branding? The number is still not huge enough to be happy about it. A major title is released with Games for Windows, once in a while. But I haven’t seen many games yet providing the in-game experience that Games for Windows is supposed to provide. Maybe these anti-privacy measures and the cloud game save benefits could mean more publishers gathering under the GfW umbrella. Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure, Steam is here to stay.