Near the beginning of the 2010 I finally broke down and sent back the copy of Civilization IV that I'd bought. Yes, yes, I know, I know, it's a Windows game, but I couldn't help it. I was bound and determined to play it under Wine, and the results that I had with the demo version were playable, so I took the chance and purchased it. Unfortunately, I didn't realize at the time that it had some DRM which Wine couldn't cope with, so I couldn't play the game at all.
A sane person would have just loaded it up on a convenient Windows machine, but nobody has ever claimed I was the sane one, which is why I decided to take a Civ-4 sized loss and send it back to the publisher. I threw some "Eliminate DRM" stickers onto the box, and typed up the following letter:
To whom it may concern,
I am sending back a copy of Sid Meier's Civilization IV to you that I purchased. I have not been able to play this game as I had intended (under Linux, with Wine) because your copy protection scheme is not supported by Wine. Since I can't play the game, I'd like to return it to you. I am not asking for a refund, rather I'd like to ask you to reconsider how a potential customer would see your actions. I regard this purchase as a mistake. Shame on me. I understand that Civilization V is coming out soon, and if it too has DRM, I will not make the same mistake in purchasing it. That would be foolish.
I have taken the liberty of "decorating" the box as a potential customer like myself would see your attempts at protecting your software. Perhaps this would help your decision regarding preventing customers from using the software as they might see fit, rather than imposing some arbitrary will upon them
Thank you for your consideration.
Now, frankly, I'm not a fan of these sorts of tactics. At best I figured that I would just make some poor mail-person have to throw away a game that was sent to them, along with the message. At worst, I figured they would pass around the box and criticize those freedom loving wonks, and proceed as normal.
Months pass, and 2K Games releases the Civilization 4 Complete Collection. I'm not sure how exactly I found this information, but I found out that the Complete Collection makes a clear point to say that there is no DRM at all. Here's the quote from the box:
DRM Free: The Complete Civ IV experience with no Digital Rights Management limitations
I was stunned. Finally, I would have my own technical limitations to prevent me from playing this game, instead of some DRM nonsense preventing me. I picked up the game, and showed it to JoDee, who was also familiar with what I had done. She was also astonished.
2K Games made a sale that day.
I won't go so far as to say that I was completely responsible for 2K Games removing the DRM from Civ 4, but I'd like to think I had a hand in making it so they would consider it. Even more, that they put a notice of it's removal on the outside of the box.
Again, I'm not advocating folks purchase DRM games and return them after decorating them; that's not the point of this post. I'm saying that we should praise those companies that do take a stand and actively remove DRM from their products. We should laud companies that regard their customer relationships as more important than locking down their products.
Well done, 2K Games, and thank you.