1up.com has a pretty good article up that looks at different methods of anti-piracy (mainly StarForce) and whether or not they are effective. I have been boycotting any game that is using StarForce for quite a while now, which is why I was extremely happy when Heroes of Might and Magic V dropped it. The article does a pretty good job of pointing out reason why everyone should boycott it, and gives arguments against using copy protection at all. I don’t advocate piracy, I believe it severely hurts the game industry, but anti-consumer products like Starforce are unacceptable as well. Here is a small excerpt taken from the article:
Space Rangers II is a fun game that integrates old-fashioned gameplay with a well-designed and cool setting. But is it worth the risk of your having to reformat your hard drive, your DVD drive failing to function, or your system just not recovering from the uninstall when you’re done with the game? Your friendly local videogame store — which is probably only one or two of those things — isn’t likely to mention that you can buy the game entirely online and avoid all those risks, without even having to leave home to pick it up or waiting for a delivery. Copy protection and digital distribution are changing the contours of gaming’s landscape, but what’s actually going on?
Lock it all down!
Copy protection’s specific methods are kept secret by necessity in order for the manufacturers to have a product to sell, but the majority of games’ copy protection schemes revolve around requiring that the game’s disc be in the drive when the game is played. While considering how outrageous it would be to require the disc of Photoshop or Word to be physically present to run those pieces of software, let’s look at the three main venues of hacking a protected piece of software that need to be guarded against for software protection to work. One-to-one copying, emulation of the protection software, and straight hacking are the key things a copy protection manufacturer needs to guard against. If someone can copy the game disc freely, easily generate the code necessary to gain the program’s trust, or run the game without the disc in the drive, then the copy protection software has failed.
The goal isn’t to encourage people to be honest, or to drive innovation in the hacker community, or to be an irritant because you’ve lost your CD and want to play. The goal of a publisher in picking a copy protection service is to make more money by selling more copies. The logic is that if it’s impossible to pirate the game, then people have to buy it if they want it. Why doesn’t that work?
If your copy protection is StarForce, then it doesn’t work because people are boycotting your copy protection. StarForce, which installs a hard-to-remove driver onto your computer, has an unproven but generally accepted track record of causing computers to slow down — at best. Some reports have complained of permanently damaged physical drives or hard drives. The company’s $10,000 prize contest required a user to travel to their offices in Russia and demonstrate StarForce’s causing damage to a computer to claim the prize, and the official site mostly used the contest to help sell related products.
StarForce is merely the worst example of the impact copy protection has on the consumer and the publisher, where it actually drives people to not purchase a piece of software they might buy otherwise. When Ubisoft put out its public beta of Heroes of Might & Magic V, the inclusion of StarForce sent the fan community into as big a fit as the gameplay issues. Add in such general class act behavior as posting links to pirated copies of unprotected programs to demonstrate the necessity of copy protection, and it’s easy to see why Ubisoft, Aspyr Media, and CDV Software have replaced StarForce with programs like SecuROM and TAGES. What’s hard to understand is how why the argument for the necessity of copy protection wasn’t addressed instead — the argument that led to the infamous StarForce company post that linked to the pirated file torrents.
– 1up.com: Pirates vs. Publishers