Hating DRM is trendy here on Slashdot, and I'm usually the first to decry it. The problem is not with DRM but with shoddy and opaque implementation of DRM -- i.e. when its implementation hurts honest consumers.
There are a couple good reasons for DRM. One -- and please bear with me here, I promise I can justify it -- is to stop piracy. Okay, yes, DRM as it has been implemented by the vast majority of businesses has been nothing short of abysmal. It punishes the honest consumer without presenting so much as a stumbling block for hardened pirates. There's actually a lot of argumentative parallels here. Why have gun control when criminals will break the law while honest people won't? Why outlaw drugs when people who want to do drugs will do them anyway? These are actually really important arguments. However, while the contrast is stark, it's not a black-and-white scenario. Simply because we have the Second Amendment here in the states doesn't necessarily mean we should be giving everyone a rocket launcher. Marijuana might not be harmful, but should we really let people make meth in motels and poison all of the other guests?
In these scenarios, the key question is what is "reasonable" regulation. In other words, the question is what is economically efficient -- what methods and standards will save us more money in the long run than we will spend? Do we need to install backscatter machines in the airports to protect against terrorists? Probably not -- we'll never see that money back. Should we deregulate and let on someone carrying an RPG? Also, no. The cost of preventing people carrying RPGs on airplanes is minimal compared to the savings. Even assuming I were lawfully carrying my RPG for non terrorist-y activities, what if it accidentally detonated? The savings are greater than the cost.
The same is true with DRM. The problem that consumers have with DRM is that it robs them of the cost of their experience. I paid full price to get some gimped, server-dependent version of the game that was not what was advertised to me. DRM right now is like backscatter machines in airports; it assumes everyone is a criminal, attempts to push the limits of personal freedoms and privacy, and ultimately is probably motivated by greed more than user experience. But that doesn't mean that DRM itself has to be evil or bad. While there are plenty of textbook cases out there of people who download to try-before-buying, or who live in a country where the software/game is unavailable via legitimate retail, there are also a plethora of people who simply want to download a product without paying for it. They'll justify it with the same reasons -- "I'm punishing the developers for X" or "I can't afford it right now." This assumes that the user has some inherent right in the product that gives them the ability to use that product without paying for it. To be honest -- and I know this is going to be an unpopular view -- but the same can be said of regional restrictions. Nothing gives me the personal right to download and play a Japanese game in the U.S. I might justify it by saying that I'm not hurting the copyright holder if he couldn't have sold it to me in the first place. I might think that I have an inherent right in the public domain, that copyright is (as it is) artificial and should only be presumed where the rightsholder is enforcing his rights (i.e. not in the U.S.). But legally that's not how it works. Nothing specifically grants me the right to use something that I have not paid for. Part of the difference is due to internet culture buying into the notion that information is free and should be shared amongst everyone. We recoil when the capitalist world starts to encroach on our free internet with their advertising and paywalls and out-to-make-a-buck mentality, so we flee the corporatized services like Facebook in search of something more open. I digress, though, and that's a different issue.
DRM's problem is in how it's implemented. Inevitably the cost of implementation is greater to the consumer than the value gained. Inevitably, DRM means that I have a broken product, and had I simply pirated the unlocked copy I would have received an unbroken product at a cheaper/free cost to me. That's not so much the fault of DRM as it is its horrendous implementation. Always-online requirements, server checks, dongles, security keys, and other such nonsense create additional points of failure at which software can break. Transparent, low-key DRM on the other hand significantly reduces my user-experience cost. The reason why a lot of people say "Steam gets it right" is because Steam is so minimally intrusive on my game experience. A one-time registration online is mostly harmless and has only affected me personally once. There is a cost associated with that, and there is a cost associated with the inability to resell my games. However, that cost is more than offset by the tremendous discounts Steam provides. Therefore, the cost to me for DRM is negligible.
Don't buy the industry's overinflated numbers where every download must translate to three purchased products stolen (one for each system or some nonsense). It still would be foolish to truly believe that piracy doesn't have a cost. The cost is less than the industry claims, but it's still there. And what costs the business ultimately costs the consumer. At its most basic element, copyright was created to "promote the progress of useful science and arts." Ideally, more money into the business will result in more created products. It might not work out that way every time, but the Call of Duty franchise is a good indicator that sales translate to sequels at minimum, and even sometimes studios that do well will create entirely new IP. At some point -- perhaps a point well below where we are now -- piracy hurts the bottom line, and a worsened bottom line results in less intellectual property being developed, which ultimately hurts the consumer.
Anecdotally, look at Steam. Look at how many publishers celebrate Steam - DRM and all - by comparison to something DRM-free like GoG. Look at how many success stories have come out of that distribution platform, all in spite -- I would argue in fact because of -- a very lightweight DRM that is attractive to developers and a non-issue for consumers.
The second issue, and perhaps the easier sell, is that DRM is appropriate when you need rules and structures for online communities. Requiring an always-online, first-party server for an MMORPG is actually draconian DRM. We tend to accept it, however, because there's an inherent value in having a well-regulated, reliable gaming community. Take Blizzard's World of Warcraft. Without DRM, I could simply inject gold into my account and buy anything I wanted. For single-player games this hurts no one, but in multiplayer games, I'm now able to crash the economy and disrupt other people from enjoying the game in a way that they want. Similarly, I could wall-hack and bot any first-person shooter, cackling maniacally and easily getting my $60 out of whatever XBox multiplayer shooter I happen to be playing. I would be doing so at the expense of the other players' enjoyment, however.
DRM is effective in these multiplayer environments that need a basic set of rules to govern how players interact with one another. When I play Battlefield, I expect the servers to kick users who aren't complying by the game's rules. The only way to do this is through DRM, because the server is managing and controlling the rights of the player to enjoy the game.
Ultimately, first-party servers are soured because companies like EA and Microsoft wind up using their first-party controls to do more than regulate the conduct of a game. EA took the "It's an MMO!" mentality and applied it, terribly, to SimCity. In that game, users realized that there was no reason to call a sandbox game an MMO. EA merely performed lip service to link up cities and force interdependence to justify greater DRM and greater control. It was arbitrary and forced. Microsoft actually had a good deal going with XBox Live -- pay for dedicated servers and an officially supported online network. Once upon a time there was value in this. Then the dedicated servers disappeared, so now you're paying for the right to host games on your own Xbox. Then ads started popping up, so I'm paying for the privilege to be advertised to. Some of you might remember that broadcast cable, once upon a time, was introduced as the "subscription, ad-free alternative to OTA!"
Thus, the problem with DRM is that it's just so easy to abuse. That doesn't mean that DRM itself is a problem, though. It is possible to implement DRM in such a way that it provides more value than it takes away -- these instances are usually so transparent or rare that they are overshadowed by the catastrophes of EA, Sony, and Ubisoft, so we tend to recoil at DRM altogether. At the end of the day, it simply boils down to what is economical for the consumer -- not necessarily what is economical for the publisher, though ideally the two should go hand-in-hand.