Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been an issue with the launch of EA's SimCity earlier this year and the announcement of Microsoft's Xbox One features at E3. As a developer, what are your thoughts on the role DRM plays in gaming today?
We're coming at this with the mentality that when I buy media I own the disk or whatever for the rest of my life. I can put that DVD in my machine and watch it and share it with friends and trade it in. We're slowly moving to this idea that everything is on the cloud and I'm actually buying rights, and I don't physically own the actual product. There's a legal component to this, and there's a consumer psychological component to this. The sensibility of being able to play a game I want to on a PC or any device is great. I love that freedom and the free-to-play games have made good use of that. From the consumers' point of view, I can really understand a lot of the backlash to DRM. The fact that if something's required on the Internet that means they can't play it on the airplane or if their Internet connection goes down. It was interesting watching the Microsoft thing. I thought it was very impressive how responsive Microsoft (MSFT) was to that. DRM is going to be an ongoing negotiation because there are features to the DRM, or at least Internet connectivity, that is a very attractive solution to the piracy issue. Gaming has had a long history of piracy, but you can't use DRM at the expense of the customers. I'm not really sure I have a clear answer to this except that it's going to be something that we slowly acclimate the player base towards. It's really not a lot different from if you have an MMO or peer-to-peer game that requires connectivity with other players, but a lot of games don't necessarily require that. If you're just going to require it for DRM purposes only that's obviously where it upset the consumers.
What are your thoughts of the power that gamers have now to voice change through social media and actually impact game development and game policies and move a giant like Microsoft to change its Xbox One policies?
That part I think is great because that's something that I've always believed in -- getting the players very involved not just after the game ships, but even before and try to listen to them. The kind of games I'm interested in, and actually the way games are going, is they're becoming far more baseline communities of people playing the game and doing a lot of cool stuff peer-to-peer, whether it's content sharing or competition or forming social connections. I tend to think of the fan base, especially the hardcore fan base, as co-developers. These people with a passion for your project are going to go out and sell your game to other people and pull other people in. The more they feel like they have some ownership over the process and they're not just kind of customers, the better. To see a company like Microsoft actually sit back, listen, and understand the fans and respond to them is impressive. For a company that size to be that responsive is great. These companies are the ones that obviously keep us in business and allow us to make games.
On the other side there's the Internet thing where 5% of the people are making all the noise. Sometimes they represent the other 95%, sometimes they don't. A lot of times the 5% are asking for ridiculously elaborate features, and as a game designer you know that's going to make the game inaccessible to everybody else. There are these people that want you to push a franchise in a super hardcore direction, and therefore we're going to close it off to 95% of the players, so you have to understand what kind of feedback that they're giving you. But when it's something that's 5% representing the other 95 that will probably feel the same way, then I think it's really valuable.