Digital Rights Management (DRM)
GOG.com and Itch.io generally delivers DRM-free copies of games, although some might require additional DRM for online-based features. GamersGate and Humble Store also offer a substantial DRM-free catalogue, and some titles on Steam are also in essence DRM-free post-download.
Games which use a disc check include The Sims 3 and Age of Empires III.
For a list of games, see games using Disc check DRM.
Games which use a CD-key include Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
For a list of games, see games using CD key DRM.
Games which require online activation include Company of Heroes.
For a list of games, see games using Online activation DRM.
Games that set an activation limit include Mirror's Edge, Crysis and Spore.
For a list of games, see games using Activation limit DRM.
Services such as Steam and Origin are examples of account-based DRM.
For a list of games, see games using Account DRM.
Games that require a constant internet connection include Diablo III.
For a list of games, see games using Always online DRM.
OnLive was an example of cloud-based gaming.
Many DOS-era games like The Secret of Monkey Island utilized some form of physical DRM system.
For a list of games, see games using Physical DRM.
For a list of games, see games using Arxan Anti-Tamper DRM.
For a list of games, see games using Denuvo Anti-Tamper DRM.
Denuvo Anti-Tamper is an anti-tamper protection used to strengthen the account-based DRM (e.g. Microsoft Store, Origin, Steam, or Uplay) of a game through various methods such as unique hardware-based codepaths, obfuscation, virtualization, or more. It is integrated into the executable of the game, and only stores licensing data separately on the disk which might remain after an uninstall. Denuvo Anti-Tamper is the de-facto standard for securing DRM schemes on newer titles. Since Denuvo Anti-Tamper uses a uniquely generated token based on the hardware and OS of the system, certain changes to the system might cause an invalidation of this token and require a one-time online connectivity to renew. Most common causes of a token invalidation is a game update, Windows update, or hardware change.
Easy Anti-Cheat (EAC) is designed to counter cheating in multiplayer games using various methods, however it has also been used to prevent the use of third-party modding tools (such as 3DMigoto) in singleplayer games.
See the main article for more information. For a list of games, see List of Games for Windows - LIVE games.
For a list of games, see games using Microsoft Store DRM.
For a list of games, see games using Origin DRM.
For a list of games, see games using SafeDisc DRM.
For more information, see the SecuROM FAQ website. For a list of games, see games using SecuROM DRM.
One of the most common and longest enduring forms of DRM, SecuROM uses a variety of methods to verify the integrity of a game, as well as prevent disc copying of the protected material. The original disc-based DRM solution is simply called "SecuROM", while the online activation-based version meant for digital distribution is called SecuROM Product Activation. At the launch of a game and during play SecuROM (both versions) would also monitor the system, preventing the game from running if it detects applications or tools that can be used to enable piracy, disassembly, or hacking of the game.
The disc-based version of SecuROM works by using strong software encryption along with a special signature applied to the physical disc during manufacturing. The game will only launch if the original disc that carries the special signature of the game is detected, otherwise an error message will be shown instead.
For a list of games, see games using SecuROM Product Activation DRM.
This is the online activation-based version of SecuROM meant for games released through digital distribution (although it has also shown up on some disc-based games). It functions much the same way as the previous disc-based alternative, although it replaces the dependency of a physical disk with an authentication license retrieved using a one-time internet connection and stored on the local hard drive. SecuROM Product Activation is integrated into the executable of the game, and after the game have been uninstalled only the authentication license remain on the system. Some older versions also used a background service to allow the sharing of these licenses between multiple user accounts in Windows. Use the SecuROM Removal Tool to remove the remaining licenses after all SecuROM Product Activation protected titles have been uninstalled from the system.
For a list of games, see games using StarForce DRM.
Another older DRM, StarForce has changed several times over the years. StarForce provides many of the functions of other DRM software, but installs itself as a driver on the computer. This along with some purported hardware and software issues made StarForce very controversial, and lead to a decline in its use due to user complaints. For removal options, see the official support page. If the game uses online activation remember to deactivate the license before removing the driver.
For more in-depth information, see Cyanic's Steam DRM user page. For a list of games, see games using Steam DRM.
For a list of games, see games using TAGES DRM.
For a list of games, see games using Solidshield DRM.
For a list of games, see games using Uplay DRM.
For a list of games, see games using VMProtect DRM. Please note that this list might be incomplete as some iterations of Denuvo Anti-Tamper also reportedly used VMProtect.
DRM is often a critical component of a game, and a removal of the DRM might affect the functionality of the game; sometimes even make the game unplayable. Removing the DRM while these games are installed is therefor not recommended; although in some cases, running the game might reinstall the DRM. If you uninstall all software related to the DRM, the DRM can typically be removed safely. Many DRM companies provide a removal tool; other programs can be uninstalled directly.
Occasionally a developer will remove DRM from a game with a patch after a period of time. Patching the game in these cases is a legitimate way of running the game without DRM. For example, Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword was eventually patched to remove DRM and CD checks from the game, and the Civilization IV series was re-released as a DRM-free game soon after.
Used software is very susceptible to anti-piracy measures. Some problems can occur when buying used games, due to DRM or copy protection.
Due to its very nature DRM sparks controversy as the limitations/restrictions enforced can, and sometimes will, affect customers as well. The consequences for customers can either be intentional or unintentional; therefor DRM requires a balancing act on the part of studios were the intended purpose of the DRM (e.g. prevent cheating or delay piracy) is weighted against possible customer inconveniences (e.g. prevents modding or offline play).
Examples of controversies: