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Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a subject that is often glossed over in what some would call the “mainstream gaming media”. In order to protect games, publishers employ some method of encryption that locks the game behind a wall until a certain key is typed up to “activate” it. Some games have skipped this tradition and instead chose to lock them behind some kind of online protection that’s tied to one single account. While these are the basic forms of DRM we encounter in our daily lives, our hats must go off to games that have employed the most rage-inducing, and even hilarious, tactics ever to thwart intellectual property breaches.

Without further ado, I now present you with the most hilarious DRM flops in recent history:

1: DRM-ception on Grand Theft Auto IV

You’re about to play some GTA. You have installed the game, your palms are sweating and you smell like mom’s spaghetti. You click on the game icon and what the hell is this?

gta-iv-rockstar-sc

OK, so it looks like spamorama, but you bought the game and you might as well click “Play”. And that is the moment that this little gem pops up:

gta-iv-login-rssc

Oooookayyyyyyyy….. Let’s just go ahead and register, log in, then click the second “Play” button. Your computer monitor goes dark. Things are looking good. You enter a splash animation, and then suddenly you get a load of this:

gta-iv-gfwl

At this point, you’re raged. Two minutes have passed since you pressed “Play” and you’re still not tossing grenades at ambulances. What kind of game is this?!

Need I go any further? This was Rockstar Games’ idea of DRM. It involved putting you through something worse than Microsoft Bob, if such a thing is even possible.

2: Batman: Arkham Asylum transforms into the hardest level of Flappy Bird.

Batman: Arkham Asylum included a very funny little hook in its DRM method. If someone manages to crack the game, it transforms Batman into a demented bird that keeps flapping its wings helplessly. Granted, this is not a flop in DRM, but a hilarious way to troll pirates. It’s also helpful because the pirated version has more realistic physics. You know you can’t fly like that in real life, right?

Since I don’t have a screenshot or video of the actual glitch, I will instead provide you with a consolation prize:

batman-darthvader-father

3: Mass Effect 3 has an entire DLC package included in the disc.

This little problem has gained quite a lot of notoriety. Known as the “day one DLC”, the content this piece of software “adds” to the game is a new squad member and character in Mass Effect 3, perhaps the most talked-about game in the series (and it’s not always being discussed in a positive light). From Ashes, the DLC, was dug up by a few savvy gamers after they found out that it was hiding inside the game disc all along. In other words, a perfectly functional part of the game was hiding behind nothing more than a glorified pay wall. Just wrap your mind around that for a second.

mass-effect-3-javik

 

EA’s response to this came in the form of a circulated quote from Casey Hudson, an executive producer for the game: “The DLC, whether it’s day one or not, is always going to be sugar on top, the extra. You know, the extra little bits of content that tell side stories.” You mean, like the 80% of the rest of the game?

4: SimCity has online-only DRM, and the developer makes a transparent excuse about it.

When you first started up SimCity after installing it, you were met with a surprise. Not only did the game have to log in to a server, but it had to maintain a stable connection to it. Upon receiving the all-too-predictable outrage from fans who expected a game that was playable, EA added this to their blog. The explanation behind the always-online portion of the game was too suspect, claiming that the simulation has to be run on EA’s servers and, in short, the game would be impossible to play on your computer. To gamers, this blog post only told them one thing: “We have taken the liberty of putting a new version of our DRM we’d like to call GestapoDRM. It checks you every few minutes to make sure you didn’t steal a copy of the game in the middle of playing the legitimate version.”

simcity-drm

Suspicions were confirmed when a Maxis developer came out and told people that the game could theoretically play without an online connection. It wasn’t very long until EA announced Update 10, which introduced a magical fix that made the game playable offline. Yeah, we totally didn’t see that one coming. A few days later, in what can only be called a predictable and poetic outcome, pirates cracked it.

Do you know more DRM flops you’d like to share? If you do, share it with us in a comment so we can all have a nice laugh!


Miguel Leiva-Gomez

With a reputation for writing suit-and-tie articles, Miguel Leiva-Gomez needed a place to relax and let loose. Aside from deciphering the workings behind the most complex business systems, he also takes time off throughout the day to play some vidya. Ever since the early 90s when he first got his Sega Genesis, Gomez has been pressing himself to win every game he played. It was this virtually lifelong fascination with games that made him become a gaming journalist. Outside of writing, Gomez also specializes in application development using C++, C, LUA, and Python. He's also a fan of the Oxford comma and wants you to deal with it.