GDC 2009: World of Goo creators slime DRM

2D Boy's Ron Carmel says digital-rights management a "waste of time"; suggests indies forgo publisher relationships.

SAN FRANCISCO--Digital-rights management remains a touchy topic for both gamers and game makers, with some antipiracy measures even ending up in legal kerfuffles. But Ron Carmel, whose indie game company 2D Boy was responsible for last year's puzzle hit World of Goo, has a simple solution: ditch DRM completely.

You don't need DRM to stay afloat, Carmel says.

Carmel, speaking at this year's Game Developers Conference, says implementing DRM is pointless, particularly for cash-strapped indie developers. "Don't bother with DRM--it's a waste of time. You just end up giving the DRM provider money. Anything that is of interest gets cracked, and the cracked version ends up having a better user experience than the legit version because you don't have to input in some 32-character serial number," he said.

"Anybody who wants the game is likely to find it on BitTorrent sites. It's going to get cracked even with DRM, it's going to be available very quickly, so we don't see the point in having DRM. Piracy rates have been released before, and there's no difference between World of Goo and other games."

Carmel, whose talk outlined the business decisions made with World of Goo, had another major piece of advice for other indies: don't get involved with publishers. Carmel says the revenue from World of Goo came overwhelmingly from digital distribution, with retail sales accounting for less than three percent of total sales.

"Retail distribution--which is what publishers are good at--doesn't generate many sales for indie games. Go with digital distribution--you won't need a publisher for this. Self-fund your game--and when you get to retail, go for per-country flat-fee deals."

Written By

Randolph is the managing editor of GameSpot, and needs more time to play games.

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Discussion

87 comments
WHO_DIED
WHO_DIED

Agreed... as aforementioned, DRM really does nothing in the long run. It annoys the legit consumer, and the product ends up being cracked and pirated one way or another. It really bugs when I purchase a game, and need to register it online just to play. As a matter of fact, a SecuROM disk checking utility is preventing me playing a game legimately. I have no disk emulator software operating an image file on my hard drive, and guess what? I can't play the game because the disk check utility is preventing the game from running on my PC. DRM is pointless when you consider the big picture.

Scientist8
Scientist8

I agree, DRM doesn't really stop anything.

Nomad0404
Nomad0404

Price and availability are probably the biggest factors to consider against pirates. If something becomes available worldwide at a respectable price point people are less inclined to pirate the software. It's expensive and hard to get software that gets pirated the most.

allie2590
allie2590

I agree completely. DRM or not, someone will crack the software. It's nice to hear this from developers though. And yes, World of Goo is a great game. I definitely recommend it.

a0me
a0me

World of Goo is a great game. DRM free and available on almost every digital platform (WiiWare, Steam, Direct2Drive, Greenhouse, Impulse, Mac Game Store, GamersGate, Gametree Online). Everyone should at least try the free demo: http://2dboy.com/games.php

Koi-Neon-X
Koi-Neon-X

never played World Of Goo but, it sounds interesting.

TehEliteElite
TehEliteElite

Go 2D Boy! I'm really glad I bought World of Goo, what a great game.

TheBatFreak777
TheBatFreak777

Great game and a great philosophy! I'm fans of 2D Boy and hope they can keep the good stuff coming...

mrhuntin
mrhuntin

yea i though world of goo was great wii game

Vlad_an_impaler
Vlad_an_impaler

Good article. And, Bjeck Below has told the truth. Just think, If it were not for DRM... games COULD be a lot smaller and cheaper once all the empty code is removed. I've never had a problem on my PC with any DRM's, other than resources (possibly) being used in the background. Piracy is a huge problem and I'd hate to see the game companies stop making these great PC games. =( But I'm afraid it's coming, and in favor of consoles... But if you don't feed the dogs eventually they'll turn to eat the consoles too. Also there is a sense of morality and honor which comes from NOT stealing games. What ruins it for me in the great MMO's is the monthly. Some days I don't want to, or can't play... but my money keeps adding up as long as I want to play at some point. (Cha-Ching!) Steam? Nah... my internet could be down from a storm and I can't play. Prices are ridiculous. They could use a good competitor.

Death_Masta187
Death_Masta187

What we can learn from this and what happened to spore. is be educated before you buy...DRM only hurts the ones that pay for the game.

PumpkinBoogie
PumpkinBoogie

I'm telling you, this guy is talking a lot of pure common sense! Especially about the DRM; frankly it's something that even big hitter developers should consider. All DRM goes is create a headache for not only users and consumers but it doesn't really do a damn bit of good for the companies spending the money to put it into their games. Anytime you have a game that's the most pirated of 2008 (a la Spore), not just because people didn't want to pay for the game to play it--but because actual legitimate buyers had to go the 'pirating' route just to get their DRM-locked game to play on their system....you know something has GOT to change. Nobody should have to feel like a criminal for having to take a backdoor method to make a game work that they PAID for when it should just work first time around.

Tiger626516
Tiger626516

I can agree. Why waste your money in trying to stop hackers from cracking your game when you can pocket that money and make more in a long run. Get a clue guys, stop trying to jack our game prices to justify the "DRM" when you can elminate the DRM and lower the prices.

Darthnaevus
Darthnaevus

Thank you very much for this refreshing piece of article.... This is what John Carmack thinks too.

Mr_Versipellis
Mr_Versipellis

The man knows! Three cheers! Ladies and gentlemen -- 2-D Boy!

quickchord
quickchord

Most Indie games are turning out better than the big productions, although the games arent nearly as expansive

Rebelzource
Rebelzource

Indie games 10-33% off at Steam guys =)

udoslask
udoslask

this is a wery slimey game and some levels are easy and some are hard

Bjeck
Bjeck

@atopp399 Well perhaps you are right, I havent got the number on DRM day-1 and day-0 cracks, but that aint the point... The point is that DRM is put on there for a GODDAMN reason, and if you dont start listening to that reason.... Totry to prevent it... Why do u all hate DRM? ask yoursself that question.. It is annoying, doesnt prevent anything, help piracy more, blablabla all those reasons, think of it from a dev's point of view.. what can they do? THey need enough money to keep going... and if they dont get enough money, well then can will eventually have to stop making games, and this is happening right now, because of piracy.. And then they have to go to lengths they even dont want to... DRM, game developers doesnt like to put on their games, because they now what u feel about it, but they have no choice.... Last thing, I HIGHLY recommend you to read this article, yes its long, perhaps u dont have time, but seriously... read this... Before I read it, I was a DRM-hater just like u guys... http://tweakguides.com/Piracy_1.html It changes everything.

Gammit10
Gammit10

Less than 3% of revenues came through retail sales? Wow, I never figured the number would be that low.

Brad_the_one
Brad_the_one

I don't blame him for being upset, i would be. Didn't around 90% of WOGs experiences come from illegal downloads? If it was really that high, then it surely it is a case to support against DRM.

atopp399
atopp399

DRM is usually cracked the first day. I recall it being cracked on Spore before the game was even officially released. It doesn't stop widespread piracy for even a day most of the time

This guy knows what he is talking about. He Sounds like a developer who also actually plays games for fun. He doesn't sound like an executive sitting in his $7 million penthouse making decisions that make no sense.

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

@volcomstoner180 - I would have to say WoG is my 2nd favorite DL game of 2008 :) Braid takes first. But I'm glad to see the statement of the facts... DRM does nothing but annoy real customers. Also the fact the two major ways to get this game, DL Wiiware, DL PC is probably the reason they saw 97% via DL services. It also helps that the game was great. I doubt people putting out shovelware would see DL sales like WoG or Braid have seen though, thus they have to go with publishers.

Bjeck
Bjeck

Your'e forgetting why DRM was made in the first place... DRM isnt there to keep there from being a crack ever... Thats impossible game developers know that, DRM-makers know that for gods sake! No, DRM is there to prevent day-1 or day-0 piracy, by that im meaning that there isnt a crack on the internet in the first couple of weeks... Then the DRM has done its job... So im not saying get rid of all DRM, only get rid of that kind of DRM that fx stops you from installing more than 3 times, thats just stupid.. DRM isnt stupid... Dont forget the reason it was put out there.. Piracy

DDR_Midian
DDR_Midian

"meh im not intrested by gamz like this >_>" omfgzzzzz.

Blackviperr
Blackviperr

meh im not intrested by gamz like this >_>

wahyudil
wahyudil

and thats why people created more MMO games ....

blooice
blooice

Now THAT's a developer who knows what he's talking about. Ye, we all loved WoG but the important thing here is getting rid of DRM that hurts paying customers more than the people who download pirated games!

Erebus
Erebus

Sound reasoning and advice -- all of it.

BarkotGamer
BarkotGamer

World of goo was an innovative and very unique game, I loved it. :)

Sassal
Sassal

i bought it because its the most awesome puzzle game ive ever played and i love INDIE DEVELOPERS!

biggy887766
biggy887766

just for that i might have to buy it with the $50 i got gathering dust

paul_hubans
paul_hubans

I was the production associate for this game. I think Ron is a really cool guy. It broke my heart when I heard that the game had a 90% piracy rating. Pirating games, software, music, etc is one thing, but stealing from indies is downright despicable.

thesaxmaniac
thesaxmaniac

Yay! Go 2D boy, you tell 'em! Seriously though, these guys kick ass and I hope World of Goo made them rich.

yoyochn
yoyochn

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

metalisticpain
metalisticpain

These guys know gamers. Why hit legal gamers with malware DRM, when pirates do get a better experience because they ripped it.

Terdog
Terdog

I bought World of Goo, and Audiosurf. Both great indie games that get it right. We don't need DRM to enjoy our PC games. Now, if only some of the other companies (hint, EA, Take Two) would actually listen to us and ditch DRM once and for all. And yes, I know Audiosurf is a Steam Based game, but at least it doesn't restrict on how many times you can install and play it...