Sega has made Steam activation compulsory for the next edition of Football Manager, after claiming that at least four fifths of the game’s players are using pirated copies.
Those who buy the upcoming football management simulation will need to install Steam, if they haven’t already, and activate the game through Valve’s online network.
Sega insists that this one-time activation is the only measure that will be taken to prevent piracy. Players can play offline.
Yet the announcement has met resistance from vocal members of the Football Manager community.
Sega, and the game’s London developer Sports Interactive, is engaging with the community to calm concerns raised by piotential customers.
“Last year we decided against any activation as we couldn't find a solution that we thought struck a balance on combatting piracy and not penalising the genuine consumer,” a Sega spokesperson said.
“We did make our position on anti-piracy pretty clear though, as we see it as a big problem for our game and we said we'd continue to look for a solution that stopped, or made it very difficult, to pirate the game and play it for free.
“This year we have found what we believe is an acceptable solution,” the company added.
The statement, which can be read in full on the FM forums, claimed “if a quarter of the people that usually pirate the game switch to purchasing Football Manager 2012, the sales of the game worldwide would more than double”.
That calculation suggests Football Manager has been pirated by more than 80 per cent of its fan base.
Sega said increased legitimate buyers would boost development budgets.
Despite the 80 per cent piracy rate, Sega said that “the vast majority” of people reading its forum were legitimate users – a claim which, statistics suggest, may not be true.
Numerous replies to the message threatened to never buy the game unless Steam activation was removed.
“We've taken this decision because we believe that the steps the consumer has to take are not excessive, and that as a one-time only measure with no tracking or reporting it is not too intrusive,” Sega added.
“Having worked with Steam for a few years now we also believe that their system is ever improving and gives Football Manager players a good service of free auto-updating, achievements and other great benefits without cost or hassle.”
Football Manager routinely tops the Chart-Track PC format chart, which measures physical sales. The game has expanded across digital formats, with the full package available to buy on Steam, while various spin-offs have been released onto handhelds and mobile devices.