Let's focus on another issue: Affordability. As I have a good salary, I can afford to buy the games I play. As I can buy on-line I can get them even cheaper, I can simply buy in a U.S. webshop like Impulse and get the benefits of the strong euro. As I hardly feel the costs, I can simply do a few mouse clicks and have a game on my computer an hour later. Piracy isn't even worth the effort it takes.
But now imagine a teenager that wants to buy Sins of a Solar Empire, He might get some money from his parents or has a small income by working in the weekends. Let's say his income is about EUR 150/month.
The cheapest option to buy the game is the Impulse store. But does the teenager have a credit card? Unlikely, at least, I wouldn't give my children one. So, no Impulse webshop for the teenager. Maybe he has a bank account with iDeal, he can shop at a local webshop then, for example at bol.com. If he hasn't, he must buy it at a local retailer.
I know I may be straying off topic but, some of that falls on the parents. The parents could pay for the thing online for the child. I did that for my first machine I built, gave my mom 2300 and baught all my parts online. There are cards now that take directly out of checking account and can be set to deny transaction if funds aren't there, preventing overdraft. If a teen is making enough money on his own to buy a game wouldn't it be time to start teaching them a little responsibility of using a card now, so when they hit 18 and get a credit card they aren't filing for bankruptcy next year?
BACK ON TOPIC
I do agree that online authentication would be the way to go. However this only effects online games. There are a lot of single player games with awsome online muliplayer ability. However it would be rather aggravating to go out buy say Crysis 2, and be all pumped up to kick some alien butt, get home and not be able to play, because some idiot cableguy cut the wrong line somewhere and you now have to wait a week before you can play it, or your modem went bad and they have to mail you another one.
In the farther future when most every home has internet (a suprising many still don't) and when internet hardly ever goes down E-V-E-R, then I would say yes definately online authentication for everything would be the way to go. But right now there are many people who don't always have a stable ISP, I know of a few thanks to where I used to work but I cannot disclose what ISPs those were, but they had weekly outtages. Also a lot of the singleplayer games that require you to be online still have the needed data in the game on the disc, so they can still be cracked to not need online authentication.
The online authentication would be much more effective on singplayer games if the entire game sat on a server, but even then someone at the company might let some of that server data go and poof you have piracy back again. Even if they didn't, you would need a huge amount of bandwidth for a hi-def game on the consumer end, and the software provider would be spending way more money than they would lose to piracy to setup the system required to support that. Think of huge numbers of servers, then paying the monthly cost for the huge amount of bandwidth required to run that system. (Not to mention the cost of building the nuclear powerplant next door to run it all), or at least the power bill. Then paying for a building with an adequite cooling system to run all of that. The costs would far exceed the benefits.
World of Warcraft is a little different because they charge a monthly rate to play their game and the entire game installs onto your system, the server just need to keep track of where you are in the world and do accasional updates (which is why private servers are possible and proves a previous point).
However do you want to pay a monthly fee to play a singeplayer game? The number of customers you would lose because of that, plus paying for the infrastructure to support a singplayer game that plays over the internet that has to stream all the textures, data and entities would be far to costly.
How steam does things is about ideal as you get, you buy at store but you still need to have an online connection to play, but it would be better if you had like a 20 or 10 day activation window to play the game offline so if you baught the game and your modem is fried you don't have to wait to play. Or maybe have a phone activation system, and only make critical updates that fix huge bugs downloadable, but the gameplay and updates like 1.1 for Sins you need to be online and authenticated. However this should be done through the game, cause honestly, if all game publishers have their own authentication program , you would have a docking program for every publisher. Imagine starting your PC and
A EA downloader window pops up
A Impulse dock pops up
A THQ updater pops up
Steam pops up
Relic updater pops up
Gas powered Games updater pops up
Atari Games updater pops up
(Getting the point yet?)
Sure if only 2 or 3 startup your machine won't slow down too much, but if you have a ton of those running for all the games you got, a few megs here and there adds up really fast, then on top of that they are all sucking up bandwidth to keep up to date and if its like EAs downloader which has to reinstall itself every month cause of freaking updates you got a serious problem.Then throw in windows update, I am sorry but something somewhere is going to start conflicting and boom your PC has got a problem.
So it would be better to run the authentication and update system in the game, is this more coding? yes, it is, unfortunately for the publisher. If you could just make a simple shell that could launch into the actual game or do updates and ran in the background for authentication only while the game was being played, that would be better.
(Starts panting) anyways I think I am done...lol.