Valve’s Gabe Newell: DRM Is “Totally Backwards”

The creeping trend of legitimate player-screwing DRM is something that rightfully troubles a wide swath of the gaming world. DRM does little to discourage actual piracy, it just inconveniences and in cases, shuts out entirely legitimate gamers whose only crime was not breaking the law. Unfortunately, with the continued success companies like Blizzard have experienced despite the inclusion of restrictive DRM in their games is only encouraging other companies to do it.

It would seem complaints from gamers and digital property rights advocates are falling on deaf ears and that like it or not, the problem is only going to get worse. Fortunately, it turns out not all of gaming’s mega-corporate behemoths are on board. Kotaku interviewed Valve’s Gabe Newell, and asked what he thought about persistent internet connection requirements, or forcing players to make additional purchases in order to unlock DLC. His response was an unambiguous rebuke of restrictive DRM:

We’re a broken record on this. This belief that you increase your monetization by making your game worth less through aggressive digital rights management is totally backwards . It’s a service issue, not a technology issue. Piracy is just not an issue for us.

he added:

The best way to fight piracy is to create a service that people need,” he said. “I think (publishers with strict DRM) will sell less of their products and create more problems.

“Customers want to know everything is going to be there for them no matter what: Their saved games and configurations will be there. They don’t want any uncertainty.

That’s damn right, and we endorse his comments completely. Naturally, the entire piece is worth a read. So what do you think? Is DRM a necessary fact of life or is it just another way for large gaming companies to nickel and dime their customers?

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11 Comments on Valve’s Gabe Newell: DRM Is “Totally Backwards”


On August 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm

DRM is a giant scam from greedy companies such as blizzard, who only end up losing sales. Then they thinbk their games did well and do it again. YAY!


On August 30, 2011 at 7:06 pm

DRM or anything like that is not the answer but I understand the developer/publisher’s point of view. There are just too many ppl stealing their work.

The problem is their target audience is largely pimpled faced teenagers that don’t see anything wrong with pirating. They age to 20′s and 30′s but haven’t matured and still sees nothing wrong with pirating.

But yeah, Gabe is totally right, DRM is punishing the legit money paying customers that appreciate the company’s work. I don’t know what the solution is but I always try to keep that in mind and not get too upset with DRM. They tried everything but just can’t stop piracy. Its getting worse until DRM. As bad as it is, it is working as a deterant. Isn’t it?

Ross Lincoln

On August 30, 2011 at 8:45 pm

While I don’t pretend to have a magic bullet solution, I think the solution is similar to what the music industry should have done. There will always be a subset of s who refuse to pay for anything. And there will always be pirates. But most people just want to get their hands on something they like as inconveniently as possible. IN music, this meant actually making Mp3s available for sale. Doing so reduced music piracy somewhat though, I think, the music industry waited far too long and they still insist on ridiculous regional restrictions that prevent law abiding music buyers from accessing the music they want because the band in question hasn’t been given a record contract in their country (particularly absurd when you consider that there are only like 4 big companies that own everything. There’s no reason being signed to WB in England should allow instant access to Americans who want to buy your stuff. But I digress.)

The point is that the gaming industry needs to make it as easy as possible for law abiding gamers to get access to their products.


On August 30, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I lost all faith in Blizzard, back when Starcraft 2 came out, I was a die hard fan and now I can’t stand the company, There DRM is extremely annoying, Not having lan support anymore unless you have a online connection is a joke, What happens when I want to play a video game on a laptop and I don’t have access to the internet, I’m screwed that’s what.

Blizzard was once a company built around its customers, now its a company built around its bank account. They lost track of what matters and thats there customers, but they will nickle and dime you cause there brand name entitles them as if they where the Porsche of gaming, you are blowing money on brand if anything with them.

I wonder how many people have moved out of there parents home and now live on there own or with a roommate and can’t afford a internet connection and stealing it from there neighbors isn’t possible, owning a copy of Starcraft 2 and dream everyday about playing it but they can’t.

Man I’m feeling really ranty today.


On August 31, 2011 at 11:51 am

Is always about money no matter the excuse or cause. DRM gives absolutely no benefit to the end user. Security and privacy bullsh1t!!

What i really hate is they’re treating people like thieves even if you pay/waste your money on a game.


On August 31, 2011 at 12:22 pm

You have to keep in mind the publishers are doing this because of piracy. They’re not intentionally trying to irritate their loyal customers. Honest paying customers are unfortunate consequences but its necessary because piracy is getting out of hand.

Its like airport security checkup. 99% of all checkup turn out false and unfairly inconveniences innocent paying customers but its necessary. In the gaming industry I’ll wager the piracy problem is more than 1%.

As a paying customer I do get annoyed but if it means more cheating stealing good-for-nothing-loser don’t get to pirate the product as a result of security measure then I get some satisfaction from it. Knowing that some loser is complaining and saying its unfair and its all “greed and capitalism” nonsense because boohoo now he can’t pirate the game like he used to. Shut up and get a job and work for it.

We all work and have income and expenses. If you really want a $60 game, don’t tell me you can’t make a little sacrafice and save up and buy it in a month or two. If you really can’t afford $60 even after 2 months of budgeting then you’ve got more bigger problems than trying to get a game.


On August 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I don’t believe pirating really is a issue, the people that do that sort of thing usually only do it because they don’t have the means to pay for that product there stealing, its not like there breaking into a store and stealing a physical object, that object took time to manufacture, resources where involved in making it and after it was stolen it would be resold or traded for something else plus a loss takes place in dollars from the place that lost it.

But with piracy its a copy, no windows broken, no resources used in making that copy and no dollars lost from that store cause there is no store involved. Sure you should be buying games, but if you never had the means to buy the game thats been pirated then it really doesn’t matter anyways cause they would of never got your money. Plus a lot of people test games out first and buy later.

Also DRM has never stopped anyone from pirating ever, after 15 years of trying to prevent people from pirating it has never worked ever! not even once. MMo’s are another story but look at how success full wow is and there are a lot of wow sever emulators out there where you can run your own wow server, and thats the same for a lot of mmo’s. If pirating is really bad right now then its because are economy around the world are really suffering.


On August 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm

@ Luther
There are some ppl who really can’t afford $60 game so they pirate/steal it. But the VAST VAST majority of these ppl who pirate could afford to pay but simply choose not to. Just look at your high school or college friends with pirated software. Sure they can afford to buy an iphone and a fancy shoes but won’t pay for games because its possible to download them. I bet you 100% if it was possible to download an iphone and expensive shoes and somehow materialize it afterwards, they wouldn’t pay for that either or anything else that can be anonymously downloaded. “hey why pay $60? That’s a lot of money when its free.” Its a rational choice really. But its not a moral or ethical one. You are a no good free loading thief no matter how you justify it.

Stealing is morally/ethically wrong and bad for the economy PERIOD.

Luther says pirating a game didn’t involve breaking into a store and taking an actual object thus implying it isn’t as bad as actually breaking into a store. Well yeah sure its not as bad because sure you didn’t have to break into a store but that doesn’t change the fact you still committed theft. It was electronic theft and not break and enter but theft. Did you take something that didn’t belong to you without compensation? Yes. Its that simple you stole. What you’re actually trying to say is yeah I stole but at least I didn’t break in and took an actual object. Okay it wasn’t an object like you would call an TV an object but it was Property that didn’t belong to you. It was intellectual property that took many months/years of hard work from ppl who had to spend many years studying and perfecting their craft to create this product.

This is like kids who photocopy textbooks and say why do I have to pay $$$ when all this textbook is just few cents of paper and ink on it. Games now take upwards of 50 highly talented people all working together many years with the studio incurring millions of dollars of cost. That cost has to be made back and decent profit for taking on such a huge risk.

That’s how the system works. Talented ppl work their ass off and studio taking on huge expense and if the property is great then they make their money back and a rewarding profit. When Luthor steals, that’s like a leak, a cancer in the system. If its a small leak or cancer then its okay, the system still works and its healthy but the problem is the leak is getting bigger and the cancer is killing the system.

Oh man, this is getting too long. I can write pages and pages so let me wrap it up.

1) I’ve never heard of anyone just stealing a copy and trying it out and then later buying it if they liked it. There may be a tiny % that actually do that but 99.9% never do.

2) Stealing is stealing. Regardless if you actually broke into a place and took an object or not. You still took a property that didn’t belong to you without proper compensation. -Its this kind of narrow minded thinking that allows scumbags that actually do break in and steal a TV to sell it on the street because the buyer is saying to himself, “hey I didn’t really break in myself. Nobody got hurt. I wasn’t going to buy it anyways. So its okay.” WRONG-you’re an accessory to the crime. YOu are a thief and a criminal and if you were caught you would be prosecuted and charged no different.

DRM doesn’t completely stop piracy but it doesn’t make it more inconvenient and combine that with other measure it does lower the rate of piracy. The whole point is DRM and the like are responses to pirating scumbags. WHen I get annoyed and the inconveniences of DRM, I get upset at those scumbags and not the company whose trying to protect their property.

Dave J

On August 31, 2011 at 5:19 pm

@ JosephPS3

I Agree mainly with what you are saying about software theft, but the problem seems to be that DRM is only really a problem to users who purchase the software. Most pirates download fully cracked pieces of software which have the DRM removed, they never contact the servers or ask for registration nothing. The only reason a constant internet DRM would affect a pirate was if they borrowed a disc and installed it on their system. That`s what the problem is if someone wants to pirate a piece of software they get it with the protection stripped, while the paying customers always have extra hoops to jump through! (and a internet connection without a download limit!)


On August 31, 2011 at 6:15 pm

@ Dave J

Yeah you’re right. I was just ranting a bit there lol

I think they should stop using DRM because its just not effective and only hurting the wrong people. I agree in principle what the publishers are doing and understand it but if its not working then they’re using the wrong tool. I don’t know what the solution but all these DRM are only frustrating their customers.


On December 14, 2011 at 9:10 pm

“making your game worth less through aggressive digital rights management is totally backwards”

Coming from the guy who made Steam. Lol.