Some DRMs Explained

**DRM Free**

About DRM Free: It’s the most well-received form of non copy protection, but the most misunderstood for all the right reasons. Here, we set the standard for what DRM-Free is and what isn’t.

If DRM is all about employing a system of controlled use upon the media that’s implementing it, then DRM-Free is its antithesis. It must be so in its entirety. That means disbarring any copyrights or trademarks applied to the gaming medium, the game bought by consumers is theirs and theirs to use it to their personal whims.

Semantically speaking, a general ‘disc check’ isn’t DRM free. A game bought on Steam without any third party DRM isn’t DRM Free. A serial key applied isn’t DRM Free. Having inert DRM files installed isn’t DRM Free. Perhaps a proper example that exemplifies this DRM Free notion are the games that are sold through Good Old Games (GOG). For the most part, the classic games they’ve placed for sale are considered DRM Free. However, we urge you to make sure as we have not evaluated every game sold through GOG.

This is a particularly high standard upon which we adhere and one that must be consistently performed if only to analyse each DRM scheme with accuracy and consistency.

DRM Characteristics: None

Relevant Documentation: Good Old Games; Humble Bundle

RYG’s assessment of DRM-Free: Please refer to the following PC games evaluated by RYG that were considered DRM-Free by the Industry (just to name a few).

• Alan Wake
• Botanicula
• Braid
• Camping Manager 2012
• Chaos On Deponia
• Colin McRae DiRT
• Cortex Command (TB24)
• Driftmoon
• FTL: Faster Than Light
• Fez
• Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games
• Machinarium (Disc Version)
• Machinarium (Digital Version)
• Pid
• Prince of Persia (2008)
• Project Giana
• Sins of a Solar Empire
• Snapshot
• Splice
• Waking Mars
• Witcher: Enhanced Edition
• Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings (GOG Version)
• World of Goo (Disc Version)
• World of Goo (Digital Version)

**EA Core / EA Origin (Origin)**

Websites: www.origin.com/en-au/about + www.origin.com/en-au/store + www.origin.com/en-au/faq
Operated by: Electronic Arts Inc.

About Origin: Origin is both a digital distribution service and a DRM that is developed, operated and owned by Electronic Arts Inc. Origin DRM requires an EA user account, serial key, online verification, which will follow with SecuROM’s Release Date Checking process (See SecuROM further down).

Prior to the launch of Origin, EA’s DRM was known as EA Core, which served either as a generic disc verification-based DRM and/or a serial key verification, which was validated through EA’s servers. Gamer are given an option to either access their downloadable content or save their games on EA’s Cloud-based servers (Amazon Web Services).

DRM characteristics: Serial key / Online activation; Pre-release date check; Periodic / Persistent online-activation; user account verification; Disc verification.

Relevant documentation: EA Origin EULA; EA’s Privacy Policy

Known issues for PC gamers as found by RYG:
• SecuROM, especially its Release Date Checker, is a key component in Origin’s DRM, which isn’t made clear, known or publicly available through Origin’s official website and its Product EULA.
• Resale or account transfers prevented due to its User account-based / serial key DRM feature;
• Can be implemented as a persistent-online DRM, particularly with accessing DLCs;
• Can reconnect to third party servers upon each game launch, even after a successful online activation has been made;
• Origin DRM waivers any known liability against its customers in the event of a security breach of its servers. Any data saved, stored or given to EA, according to them, isn’t safe.
Origin’s Privacy Policy, at times, fails to delineate between what is personally identifiable information and what is not. Moreover, what isn’t personally identifiable can be identified by EA through other means.
Any disputes made against Origin or EA are written and navigated in such a way that it ensures any type of litigation or dispute raised against EA will ensure EA is never liable for them.
• Inconsistent support pages and documentation, especially in reference to how the DRM is specifically implemented;
• Inconsistent customer / technical support.

RYG’s assessment of Origin: The following PC games were evaluated by RYG that were implemented with EA Origin (just to name a few):

• C&C 4: Tiberian Twilight
• Crysis 3
• Dead Space 3
• Dragon Age: Origins
• Dragon Age 2
• Dragon Age: Inquisition
• Medal of Honor (2010)
• Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010)
• Mass Effect 3
• SIMCITY (2013)
• The Sims 3
• The Sims 4

**Online Services Platform/Uplay (Ubisoft’s DRM)**

Websites: Ubisoft Support – https://support.ubi.com/en-gb/ Online Services Platform is now known as Uplay – https://uplay.ubi.com/#!/en-GB/
Operated by: Ubisoft Entertainment SA

About Online Services Platform (OSP): Ubisoft’s DRM, dubbed Online Services Platform (OSP), is a DRM service that is developed, operated and owned by Ubisoft Entertainment SA. OSP’s features are centered around an online-based DRM system with its most prominent being its persistent online DRM feature. Within this persistent or permanent online connectivity include remote storage of savegames and gameplay progressions and periodic online verifications. Serial key and/or user-account verification comes as standard. OSP can be implemented “inertly” where gamers can play any OSP-protected game without the need to be connected to the Internet. While it is not specifically stated, OSP does require an ADSL connection at the very least in order for gamers to play OSP-protected games without issues. Of course, this is dependent upon the reliability and stability of Ubisoft’s third party servers.

DRM characteristics: Cloud-based gameplay; Persistent / permanent online-activation; Serial key / online-activation; Serial key only; user account verification.

Relevant documentation: Refer to Ubisoft’s support page on OSP for further information.

Known issues for PC gamers as found by RYG:
• Requires an ADSL connection at the very least to play any persistent online-based game;
• Resale or account transfers prevented due to its User account-based / serial key DRM feature;
• Autoupdate feature cannot be set during the first activation of the OSP-protected game;
• Can be implemented as a persistent-online DRM;
• Can be implemented to have savegames remotely stored (rather than locally stored);
• Can reconnect to third party servers upon each game launch, even after a successful online activation has been made;
• Third party servers used for OSP may have reliability and stability issues;
• Inconsistent support pages and documentation, especially in reference to how the DRM is specifically implemented;
• Inconsistent customer / technical support.

RYG’s assessment of Online Services Platform: The following PC games were evaluated by RYG that were implemented with Online Services Platform (just to name a few):

• ANNO 2070
• Assassin’s Creed 2
• Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
• Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (INERT)
• Assassin’s Creed 3
• Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD
• Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
• Far Cry 3
• Far Cry 4
• HAWX 2
• Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
• Watch Dogs

**SecuROM / Sony DADC**

Websites: www2.securom.com + www.sonydadc.com/en
Operated by: Sony Digital Audio Disc Corporation (DADC)

About SecuROM: SecuROM is a DRM service that is developed, operated and owned by Sony DADC Austria. SecuROM is comprised of a number of DRM solutions, ranging from its serial key / disc verification system, right up to its online activation platform, which, in itself, can be implemented as a try-before-buy platform, pre-release date checker and/or as an online verification system. SecuROM also provides a service to package and distribute downloadable content (DLCs) and game patches. Each of these services can either act in isolation or as a package as requested by their clients.

DRM characteristics: Serial key / Disc verification; Time-based activation; Pre-release date check; Serial key / Online activation; Hardware-binding activation.

Relevant documentation: Release Date Check, Sony DADC’s Marketing Material, SecuROM Customer Support Page, SecuROM’s FAQ Page.

Known issues for PC gamers as found by RYG:
• Earlier versions of SecuROM 7+ can have hardware-binding capabilities, which will affect activation limits;
• Will install hardware-binding drivers;
• Will reinstall problematic and specific registry keys if not removed properly;
• Can blacklist certain diagnostic softwares;
• Can blacklist certain disc-emulation and/or disc-copying softwares;
• Can reconnect to in-house servers upon each game launch even after a successful online activation has been made;
• Later version of SecuROM 7 – 8+ will perform dual online activations: 1) to determine the validity of the game’s executable and 2) to determine if the game was purchased before the general release date;
• Will leave activation information on users systems, even after a successful deactivation of the game itself;
• Known to have performance-degrading issues in comparison to a DRM-free copy of the same game;
• Inconsistent support pages, particularly if developers and/or publishers opt to implement their dedicated SecuROM-support pages;
• Inconsistent customer / technical support

RYG’s assessment of SecuROM: The following PC games were evaluated by RYG that were implemented with SecuROM (just to name a few):

• Batman: Arkham Asylum
• Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (Disc)
• Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (Online)
• Bioshock 2
• Cities XL 2012
• Crysis
• Crysis: Warhead
• Dead Space
• Dead Space 2
• Dragon Age 2
• Fallout 3
• FUEL
• Gothic 4: Arcania
• GTA: Episodes From Liberty City
• Mass Effect 3
• Medal of Honor (2010)
• Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
• Race Driver: GRID
• Sacred 2
• Split/Second Velocity
• Spore
• The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection
• The Sims 4
• Wall.E
• Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings