Microsoft (MSFT) has a new vision for how to stop the rampant piracy of computer games. And of course, Microsoft is right in the middle of the new system.
The key change is to abandon the idea of trying to stop pirates from copying software. Instead, Microsoft thinks software should be everywhere — publishers could even distribute some games on P2P networks like BitTorrent. But to play, gamers would need to purchase a licence online. That licence becomes portable, letting the gamer play wherever they are.
What we like about the Microsoft idea:
- Win for publishers: Piracy is a revenue-killer for gaming companies. And when publishers try to solve the problem themselves, like EA (ERTS) did last year with Spore, the anti-DRM crowd on the Internet goes nuts.
- Double win for publishers: Microsoft’s tech will help keep a game locked up until the official launch date. “Leaked” copies of games eating into first-week sales is a huge revenue-killer for gaming companies.
- Win for gamers, too: No more worries about losing install discs. And under a licensing model, gamers can run a game on multiple PCs without running afoul of DRM locks, long a bitter complaint.
- Double win for gamers: The free-to-distribute but pay-to-play model encourages game publishers to release free demos to suck gamers in, as is now common on the PS3 and X360. And as part of the licensing system, Microsoft wants to let gamers save their games to the cloud — start a game at home, play some more on another PC, all with no fuss.
- Win for Microsoft: Microsoft presumably has a revenue opportunity as the gatekeeper. And Windows is already by far the preferred platform for heavy-duty games over Apple’s (AAPL) Mac. Making life easy for publishers will only cement that.
It all sounds a bit like Valve’s Steam gaming delivery system, but that’s not a bad thing.
No word yet on when these new ideas will get implemented, but we’re looking forwards to seeing how it all works in practice.