Always-on DRM or always-online DRM is a form of 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, mainly because it has failed to stop pirates from illegally using the product, while causing severe inconvenience to people who bought the game legally.
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, hence, the criticism.
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.
As of October 2015, always-online games with single player modes that now have had dead servers for six months and longer can now be cracked and copied under the DMCA.
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- Karmali, Luke (5 September 2012). "Ubisoft Officially Ditches Always-On PC DRM". IGN. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
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