If consumers want to copy games, let them

DRM provider claims to have answer to 'honest' copiers

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Consumers know it's bad, but they do it anyway. Copy games, that is. The solution? Let them go right ahead.

So says Trymedia Systems, which conveniently makes secure distribution software.

In a bid to better understand why consumers copy games, it asked visitors to its web site to tell it. Some 2122 people responded, of which 15 per cent confessed to having copied a retail game in the last six months.

Essentially, those who do, copy games to make back-ups, to allow them to run the same game on multiple computers - say, one a home, the other at work - and to share games with friends. Typically they buy seven games a year and make 17 copies, just over one copy of each, in other words. 35 copies are made per 100 units sold, on average.

The first two uses arguably have no impact on the games industry, but the third does, and punter's know it. Some 64 per cent of respondents said they accepted that illegal copying hurt games developers, Trymedia found.

That admission, along with the claim that in almost half the cases, a game shared with a friend would lead to a purchase, suggests to Trymedia that consumers are a fundamentally honest lot, and aren't out to bring down the games industry. It believes the desire to make back-ups and the social reasons for copying are not going to go away, and should rather be leveraged than discouraged.

Indeed, it's ready to step in with its ActiveMark technology, which allows consumers to copy games for back up purposes and to share copies with chums. When the game is loaded on a new machine, it reverts to a demo mode with limited functionality.

The system uses a CD activation code, but couples it with a "a unique machine-configuration fingerprint" to match code against system - essentially the purchaser is forced to register his or her copy of the game. If the key is transferred, there's no match between key and fingerprint, and the game drops into demo mode.

The system operates via an Internet connection or by phone - presumably you have to read out the fingerprint code, for Trymedia to record it alongside the activation code. Multiple fingerprints per activation code allow users to install on multiple machines - the game vendor permitting - and using a back up disc requires the same code/fingerprint match. ®


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