Always-on DRM or always-online DRM is a form of digital rights management (DRM) that requires a consumer to remain connected to a server, especially through an internet connection, to use a particular product. The practice is also referred to as persistent online authentication. The technique is meant to prevent copyright infringement of software. Like other DRM methods, always-on DRM has proven controversial.
Popular video games such as Diablo III and Starcraft 2 employ always-on DRM by requiring players to connect to the internet to play, even in single-player mode. Reviews of Diablo III criticized its use of always-on DRM. As with Diablo III, SimCity (2013) experienced bugs at its launch due to always-on DRM. Its developer, Maxis, initially defended the practice as being a result of the game's reliance on cloud computing for in-game processing, but it was later confirmed that cloud computing was only necessary to support the inter-city and social media mechanisms. Tim Willits at id Software has also defended the use of always-on DRM, arguing that it would make updates easier.
Reviewers have expressed issues such as early review experiences with products that have always-on requirement is in no way representative of the final product, since reviewers did not play under the same circumstances as normal consumers.
A major disadvantage of always-on DRM is that whenever the DRM authentication server goes down, or a region experiences an Internet outage, it effectively locks out people from playing the game.
Ubisoft's first title requiring an always-on connection was Silent Hunter 5: Battle of the Atlantic, which had reportedly been cracked as of the first day of the game's release. Ubisoft also used always-on DRM in Driver: San Francisco. However, the company announced in September 2012 that it would not employ always-on DRM in its future games.
- Kain, Erik (17 May 2012). "'Diablo III' Fans Should Stay Angry About Always-Online DRM". Forbes. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
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- Usher, William (5 March 2013). "SimCity Now Available; Always-On DRM Causes Major Launch Day Issues". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
- Makuch, Eddie (21 December 2012). "Maxis: SimCity's always-on DRM for gamers' benefit". Gamespot. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
- "SimCity Boss's "Straight Answers" Seem Pretty Wiggly". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
- Thier, Dave (March 18, 2013). "One Simple Change Allows SimCity Offline Play". Forbes. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
- Yin-Poole, Wesley (10 August 2011). "Id Software on always-on internet debate". Eurogamer. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
- "Ubisoft DRM Authentication Servers Go Down". Escape Magazine. 7 March 2010. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
- Geek.com. Ubisoft’s always-connected games DRM already cracked. Accessed 2013-03-12.
- Karmali, Luke (5 September 2012). "Ubisoft Officially Ditches Always-On PC DRM". IGN. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
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