Conan Exiles launches without DRM: Did it hurt or help the game's release?
When Conan Exiles released a patch a few days after launching their barbarian-themed survival game, eagle eyed players noticed that the title was just a little light on DRM protection.
It wasn't long before fans and critics alike realized that developer Funcom had managed to launch a version of the now notoriously dong-centric multiplayer survival title without the Denuvo DRM protection keeping the game safe from misbegotten miscreants and their pirating ways.
Funcom realized their mistake pretty quickly and rolled out the DRM protection to players via the very next possible update, citing an issue with the build process that resulted in a version of Conan Exiles sans Denovo anti-pirating software shipping out to players.
It was a mistake for sure, but the question of the day is whether this mistake actually harmed or helped Conan Exile's release.
Obviously developers never want to see their game pirated, but with an early access title in particular it's likely that any potential damage that could occur as a result of this leak is minimal at worst.
Players that pirate the game won't be able to play on any official servers, or on any servers that are running an updated version of the client. That implies that whatever state of the game Funcom forgot the DRM is the stage of the game pirates will be stuck with for the near future.
Players can still host a server on that particular version of the title and join any other players that are similarly using that exact version to play, but any future updates, content, or bug fixes won't make it to players using a pirated copy of the game.
So despite the fact that there's a fair bit of content to explore in Conan Exiles, all of the really interesting content that's due to release as developers move out of early access, like large scale bosses, magic, and new tiers of gear, is still locked away. Similarly, several of the more annoying bugs the game currently experiences, like disappearing items, invisible structures, and numerous balance and lag issues that still need to be worked out, are a permanent feature of the pirated software.
Meanwhile, there's a certain opportunity available here. Players that pirate the game just to try out an early access title could find themselves enjoying it enough to look into purchasing the updated version of the game in the future. It's by no means a reason to pirate the game, but Funcom is taking a relaxed stance on the mishap, stating in a press release:
"There is unfortunately not much we can do about those who choose to download and play unauthorized copies, but we hope they make the jump to the official version so they can stay up to date with the latest patches and improvements."
No Harm, No Foul
It doesn't seem like Conan Exiles is feeling much heat from their mistake. The title hit the top of Steam charts during the first week of its release, and it was recently revealed that Funcom has already recouped all of their development costs in that same week. All in all, the game sold over 320,000 units in a whirlwind of transactions that show that promising early access titles still have plenty of elbowroom on the Steam marketplace, despite more than a few games making consumers skeptical of the system.
Additionally, the mishap has kept the game in the news for another few days, generating more exposure and likely more sales as a result. Although, maybe not as much as their endowment slider did.
So far, Conan Exiles has been a really promising survival game, showing off an engrossing yet dangerous world, and demonstrating that even an early access title can still be a lot of fun. Funcom still has plenty of work to do before they fix a lot of the bugs that plague any early access multiplayer title, but they're off to a good start.
Failing any other errors as big as forgetting DRM support, Funcom could have a really great game on their hands by the time it rolls out of early access.