There are two approaches to eliminating piracy and second hand sales being tested these days and that might influence the way videogaming evolves in the coming years. The approaches are somewhat conflicting, although the objectives in themselves are not the same.
Ubisoft's is the more ambitious of the two. The French publisher is aiming to make its PC releases piracy-proof by requiring all those who are interested in playing them to maintain a constant connection to the Internet in order to be able to enjoy them.
The game will use the connection to prove its authenticity to the official Ubisoft servers
and to save games to the cloud, so that they are accessible everywhere. A recent hands-on by PC Gamer shows that if the Internet connection drops for whatever reason, the progress made since the last automated save spot is lost. And even in 2010, there are quite a few things that can break the connection: Ubisoft servers going down, problems with the ISP service, router issues or surprise loads from other programs.
Electronic Arts is trying something much less ambitious with the so-called Project 10 Dollars. For Mass Effect 2
and Battlefield Bad Company 2, the publisher is aiming to bundle enough downloadable content with the new copies of the game, using unlock codes, to make buying the package a more attractive proposition than waiting for it all to be pirated or to pick it up used. The company is not making all the extra content exclusive, allowing all those interested to buy it after the release date, but for a bigger price than getting the game new.
There's already a backlash against the Ubisoft DRM solution, with gamers saying that legitimate customers of the upcoming Assassin's Creed II on the PC and Settlers VII might get a playing experience poorer than those who could pick up a pirated copy. The Project 10 Dollars concept was much better received, with some grumbling that the content should be better integrated into the game but with an understating of the overall aim. The ultimate test will not be in the reaction of the gamers but in the sales achieved by titles like Assassin's Creed II and Battlefield Bad Company 2 on the PC.