No More CD Keys on Pieces of Paper!

I feel as though I am Faye Dunaway channeling Joan Crawford… After the Break…

No More CD Keys on Pieces of Paper!

I get it – PC gamers are the Irish of the video gaming community (as the Mac gamers all glare menacingly in my direction). OK, fine – We’re the lepers of the gaming community. Better? You folks can be the Irish, we’ll be the lepers. Is everyone happy now? Probably neither the Irish nor the lepers.

Fine – The game publishers hate PC gamers. That’s the take away from the above statement.

“Why?” You might ask. It’s simple – Because for the longest of times, publishers have done everything possible to keep us away from the games that we would like to purchase.

They’ve tried copy protection wheels. They’ve given us game manual checks. Physical copy protection galore on 5.25″ and 3.5″ disks. CD-ROMs got in on the copy protection schemes, too. Finally, the publishers just said, “To heck with it,” and gave us not just Internet-based copy protection but took away our physical manuals and media, as well. Enjoy your 1’s and 0’s. Want more than just that? Be prepared to pay extra… Unless you got in on the ground floor during the Kickstarter campaign.

I used to think that the least obtrusive copy protection was the CD Key check. You bought the game, brought it home, put the CD (or DVD) into the computer and than entered a string of numbers and letters as a sort of “password” in order to install the game. As long as you kept the CD Key and the discs, everything was fine. But it wasn’t.

Most publishers are sort of smart; They put the CD Key on something that is otherwise indispensable. They put the CD Key on the back of a manual or just inside of the manual (usually on the cover). They put the CD key underneath all of the discs on the CD or DVD case. On a few occasions, I’ve seen the CD Key on the CD itself. The moral of this story is that most publishers are smart and make sure that the CD Key is somewhere close by… You’re likely to not throw out the CD case and, unless the game is a typical first-person shooter, on the manual.

And then there are the idiot publishers… The ones who put CD Keys on little pieces of paper that are completely removed from manuals or CD cases or the like.

Yes, this is a gripe that arrives about eight years too late. We’ve all since goose-stepped into the “Steam” era of copy protection where you don’t get to play the game until Valve tells you that you can play the game. CD Keys are all but passe.

Yet CD Keys are still important to those of us who collect software through the secondary market (aka Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, etc. so forth). Back during the day when you could sell your software to someone else because, you know, it was yours and that, as your property, you could barter goods and services in exchange for your property. Basic freedom and liberty stuff.

In honor of a certain publisher and game that will go unnamed and unacknowledged because they decided to put the CD key of their product on a little piece of paper that is easily lost or discarded with their software, I will tell a story:

Suppose that you are playing a game that involves… I don’t know, sieging a dungeon. This is the second time you’ve decided to siege this particular dungeon and you’ve also decided that you will siege this dungeon in a deluxe manner. But you can’t… you can’t because the morons have put the key on a little slip of paper and, through the many hands that REAL games travel across, the piece of paper is gone. So, what do you do? Well, I got fairly angry until I started watching cars go by and noticed their license plates. The first one read JF282. The next one after that? YTKJM. One by one, the cars kept traveling by… One read H76H8, another XQP96 and finally the last one 8PTBQ. I didn’t seem as angry as I used to be.

In fact, I felt rather energetic. While wanting to siege a dungeon, I wanted to also fix the world… a world that was broken. Yet, how could I do that? I decided to look at a parts catalog and write down their numbers. 0204? That was a weird catalog number. 76D3 and 82FS? Where do they come up with these alpha-numeric numbers? I lost interest in the whole venture after reading the final catalog number, F884.

In the end, I decided to just go to sleep. And I slept well knowing that I never paid full retail value for a game that puts their CD keys on flimsy pieces of paper.

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