Digital rights management software for games could be a thing of the past—at least, if everybody used Steam for distribution. Valve says it has updated its Steamworks publishing and development suite with, among other things, a feature that purportedly "makes DRM obsolete." Here's the skinny straight from the Steamworks page:
Custom Executable Generation creates a unique build of your game for each user, making it difficult for any one user to share the game with any other user. Each individual copy of a CEG-protected game is only playable by the Steam account authorized to access it. CEG is transparent, and does not impose limits on users. It lets users access their content from any hardware, and allows unlimited hardware configuration changes without the content becoming unplayable. In fact, no changes are made to a user's computer for CEG to work. Instead, CEG works in tandem with Steam authentication, enabling content access based on user accounts, not arbitrary hardware-based "rights-management" restrictions.
The best part, of course, is that Valve makes Steamworks available to content publishers free of charge. Since the toolkit's launch in early 2008, Valve says games like Empire: Total War, Dawn of War II, and F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin have already hopped on board.
Naturally, though, Steamworks ties a game release to Valve's online distribution software. The latest version of the suite also brings support for in-game downloadable content (both free and paid) and the multiplayer lobby system that debuted in Left 4 Dead last year. Other functionality includes support for Steam Cloud, automatic updating, and Steam's community features.