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Are games protected from being copied?

A topic by DireBoarGames created 98 days ago Views: 426 Replies: 8
Viewing posts 1 to 6


I am considering to place my game on itch.io, but wondering about one thing. Is there any kind of protection for games here? For example, Steam uses key system. What about here? Is there anything preventing from buyers from just copying the game? Is it usual for local sellers to buy copy protection from somewhere else?

Thank you in advance,



Itch.io itself doesn't apply any DRM, if that's what you're asking. Individual creators are free to put their own copy protection into the downloads they provide (at least I'm not aware of any rule against it). But you won't make many friends around here that way.

Thank you for your reply, and also for a warning not to use external copy protection. I guess I'll risk releasing my game for now (early access), and will think when it's time to release full version.


We don't have any issues with you adding copy protection. The way to do it would be to verify with the itch.io API that the person running the game actually owns your game. You can use our server-side API to accomplish that: https://itch.io/docs/api/serverside

Games launched through the app are automatically passed a JWT API key. If you'd like to have the same protection without using the app then you'll need to implement "Log in with itch.io" using OAuth apps: https://itch.io/docs/api/oauth

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There are some creators not uploading quality games on itch because there is no easy DRM protection. If you ever wondered why an indie developer wouldn't post a game on itch and would on steam, this is probably a big consideration the developer went through. I've seen some developers doing what DireBoarGames mentioned as well, uploading the early access version but when the game is complete they are removing the game from itch. This kind of sucks for itch and its users and the developers.

I am sure I don't need to go on a long rant about DRM, but some of us developers would like an easy option for it whether it makes us friends or not :\


Based on the developers we've talked to, DRM generally isn't the limiting reason. The default DRM added to Steam is easily cracked from what I'm aware of, and once your game is cracked there's no much you can do to prevent illegal distribution. DRM makes it harder for legitimate players to run your game, and generally doesn't stop pirates. There are other DRM free sites that do quite well which backs up this observation.

I think part of the reason why people remove their game after they've run a beta is that they want to consolidate how they distribute their game. Each new platform they distribute on is a slight overhead in terms of keeping things updated. Many developers don't have the extra resources to maintain pages on alternative platforms. We're trying to combat this by making things as easy as possible.

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You have made it easy, and it does add more work to distribute to multiple platforms and portals.

Here are my thoughts. I know they are not requested. So read, don't read, whatever.

I agree that many forms of DRM make it harder for legit users to play the game, and this is one of the ironic reasons itch could benefit from integrating a user friendly system. One of the reasons that pirated games thrive is the convenience (especially when you don't have to pay for it). But a good DRM backed system can be convenient too. There is added value to an online platform that organizes your games, gives you access to them on any computer once logged in, promises to help protect you against malware. It's one of the reasons I'd rather buy a game off an online platform and have it in my library then go back to the old way of having a scratched up disk with my key written on the top in marker.

But even with all that, there are arguments against it. I've heard them. I've even made them myself, before I started creating my own projects and learned how hard it is. I was never into downloading torrented games, but I've had a number of games that I bought that I couldn't play because the DRM broke and that really made me mad. I've also played new games that require a constant internet connection even when playing offline, and that also made me mad.

There will still be DRM cracked games out there. With a convenient system there is one place it can help developers, even if the game is already out there illegally. Not all users are inclined to steal. Sometimes one friend wants to play a game with another friend, and it's in that moment there are 3 choices the friends have.

1) buy the game

2) bit torrent download the game

3) pass the game on a USB drive

It is a battle against convenience. I think most would like to support the creators they like, but it is just too convenient to pass it over on that USB.

Yes, they generally are. The protection is called "copyright laws". For details, consult the law in your country.

Any other protections are generally harmful for both creators and users. There's no need for itch.io to give up its good name and reputation in exchange to broken and ineffective systems.

^ This. So much this.
Here's a tip to the OP and other devs considering putting in DRM: If it doesn't get pirated, nobody cares about it (or you've invented an uncrackable DRM, which is unlikely considering even Denuvo, once touted as the end to game piracy by Chinese cracking group 3DM) has been cracked multiple times and will continue to be cracked).

And here's a story. About a guy called Jack. He is a poor fellow. He can't afford games unless he is absolutely sure he will like it (and demos often won't cut it since they'll be literally the best parts of the game with some of initial slog/grind that may or may not be there being cut out). So he goes to TPB to get games. And now he noticed your game in the "new uploads" section. So he downloaded it to see if he likes it or not. And he really did enjoy your game.

Now, Jack can't buy your game yet, he can do so only when the next month comes around, but that's only part of the story. You see, there's Helen and Bob to consider as well. Helen and Bob don't game much. They have money for games, they simply don't have the time and only play the titles that they either know they'll enjoy or which were recommended to them by their friend Jack. Your game isn't some breakaway indie hit (yet) and you can't afford advertising the big AAA companies can. But, fortunately for you, Jack is now big fan of your game who will recommend it to anyone with a pair of ears and a computer. Of course Helen and Bob will buy it. And Jack will buy it the very next month.

Instead of one purchase, you got three (and potentially more from other Helens and Bobs), people who wouldn't even look at your game until it was all over Kotaku, RPS and other sites. All because Jack initially pirated it and liked it.

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