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No, Blizzard's DRM doesn't require players to always be online

August 31, 2009 |  5:28 pm

Chill out, folks. You will be able to fire up your laptops and play StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty on the plane.

Last week, when we wrote about the anti-piracy efforts Blizzard Entertainmentwould be taking next year with StarCraft II, fans fumed. (Many assumed, though Blizzard would not confirm, that the same anti-piracy mechanisms would also be used for Diablo III, which the Irvine game developer said would come out sometime after StarCraft II.)

The stipulation that players must verify their copies of the game over the Internet by phoning home to Blizzard wasn't sitting well.

The concept reminded users of the bad taste left by digital-rights management locks that plagued the early days of legitimate music downloads, with Apple's iTunes at the forefront.

To clarify, you will indeed need an Internet connection when you first install the game. You'll also need a connection to play with other people. (To the chagrin of many players, Blizzard won't include LAN support-- the ability to play with others on the same computer network, such as at a dorm -- without going online.)

But you can freely disconnect and play single-player or challenge modes, wrote Blizzard spokesman Shon Damron in an e-mail. Obviously, you won't get ...

... all of the Internet-enabled goodies such as seeing friends' connection status or game achievements.

After "tremendous amounts of market research," Blizzard thinks now is the right time to require players to sign on, said Paul Sams, Blizzard's chief operating officer, in an interview this month at BlizzCon. "We don't take this stuff lightly," Sams said. "We don't want to tell a significant portion of our user base, 'So sorry, bye.' "

Blizzard has taken alternative approaches to piracy in other countries, which Sams said had set trends in the tech industry.

Remember when Microsoft cut priceson its software in China a couple of years ago to defend against piracy? "Microsoft learned that from Blizzard," Sams claimed. "We did that for the first time in Russia. No one was able to crack that market, and we did over a million copies of War[Craft] III there."

Blizzard fought against Russia's rampant software black market by selling games for the equivalent of single-digit U.S. dollars. But don't expect the company to start selling its much-anticipated PC games for five bucks. Even Microsoft has begun taking more proactive efforts against piracy in China.

We're curious how effective Blizzard's anti-piracy methods will be. Others have tried the "verify with us once" approach to piracy in the past, but history has proved that software is often just a crack and an upload away from sailing freely on Pirate Bay.

-- Mark Milian

Follow my commentary on technology and social media on Twitter @markmilian.

A Blizzard fan in costume poses at BlizzCon in Anaheim. Credit: Mark Milian / Los Angeles Times

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