EA To Use Controversial Internet-Required DRM On New Games

from the pissing-off-your-customers dept

SteveD writes “PC Gamers are in an uproar over a new copy projection system announced by Electronic Arts for use on their upcoming titles. The PC-port of the successful Xbox title Mass Effect, and the eagerly awaited Will Wright title Spore will be two of the higher profile games to use this new system. The new system is the latest iteration of the SecuROM protection, which has caused problems in the past over technical issues with several popular titles. The version of SecuROM that shipped with Bioshock was even accused (but never proven) of installing a root-kit on users PCs.

This new version is causing controversy due to an online verification system connected to its CD key. The system requires a connection to the internet during installation to check the CD key is valid, and then registers the key with the users’ computer. After this the game will try to re-check the CD key every 5-10 days to ensure it hasn’t since been found posted on a forum, or used in some form of piracy. If the game can’t verify the key within this period it will continue to try for a further 10 days, after which it will stop working until the key is checked. The protection will also only allow the game to be installed three times.

A lot of gamers consider this intrusive and inconvenient, and that the publishers are effectively assuming their customers are pirates and looking over their shoulders every 10 days to check. Other concerns have been raised over users who don’t play with machines permanently connected to the internet (such as laptops), or how the system will work in regards to resale. A comprehensive help-line has been promised to help people deal with these issues and the developers have mentioned the new system will remove the need for a DVD to run the game, but these potential problems combined with SecuROM’s past have made some call for a boycott of the titles and others to declare an intention to pirate the game out of spite.”

Seems like more short-term thinking. If the effort is to reduce “piracy” it won’t work. People will figure out other ways to pirate the games — that’s almost guaranteed. So, in the end, all this will really do is piss off the legitimate customers who paid for something that suddenly doesn’t work, though no fault of their own. That hardly seems like a good way to build up a strong supporting fan base.

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Companies: ea

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Comments on “EA To Use Controversial Internet-Required DRM On New Games”

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tom gordon (profile) says:

usage metrics too

Admittedly I’ve not read the entire discussion thread on the Bioware forums, but one thing that strikes me about this ‘phone home’ (and something that also holds true for Steam) is that it is much less about piracy prevention, and much more about internal KPIs. Since every copy has to be verified online, EA knows exactly how many copies have been activated, and can match this against how many copies have been sold (better JIT metrics for manufacturing in the future?).

And since customers have to re-verify every 10 days, EA knows exactly how many people are still playing the game over time, which can be used to prove KPIs, or be used for future planning of add-ons or expansions. Sounds much more like business and marketing intelligence gathering than piracy prevention.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: usage metrics too

Sounds OK to me.. but IF that’s the case.. why not make it optional?

Manufacturers have for a long time, allowed people to register their games.
Why not tie it into registration where once you register, the game communicates periodically with EA.

They could offer a rebate or those who do, special offers, be put on a beta list. Be offered a mini-expansion, etc. all to encourage registration so they can track people’s interest in the game and useage.

Though you raise a valid point… I doubt it’s about marketing

comboman says:

Re: ea

Actually this is worse than any DRM Microsoft has ever used (I almost can’t believe I just said that). At least with Windows XP you can call a 1-800 number to register if you don’t have an internet connection and it only checks at install (or re-install) time, not every 5 days.

Haywood says:

Re: Re: Re: ea

“How long do I have to enjoy my new $50 game before EA shuts it’s servers down?”
I’d say you have until the II version come out. I’m still upset with EA for not supporting NFS3. A simple patch would have made it more compatible with modern Video. I own 3 valid copies of that for network play. I’ve stopped buying. When I contacted support, I was told it was no longer supported & I should buy the new one. The problem is; the newer ones no longer are NFS, but are some sort of Fast & Furious Ricer game. Worse yet they lack the edit-ability of the real NFS games. I was able to install a 200 mph Monster truck in NFS3 that blew through roadblocks like they weren’t there. Talk about user content.

Rickler says:

Crysis was the last EA game I will ever buy. There are so many problems with the securom in that game. 75% of the time I get a black screen when trying to run the game. I can’t even update the damn game. What a failure.

Skipping Bioshock wasn’t so hard, I hope I can skip spore too. I can’t believe Will Wright sold his soul to the devil of gaming publishers.

ReallyEvilCanine (profile) says:

Not out of spite

But out of annoyance, anger and frustration will I wait for the warez version before I shell out for Spore. I would’ve done the same thing with GTA:SA had Rockstar been foolish enough to implement such an atrocious system.

There’s no need for this; it only affects and hurts legitimate customers. SecuROM has been so thoroughly broken and beaten in every incarnation that it’s easy to find guides which can walk a script kiddie through the process. It doesn’t stop piracy. There will always be warez versions because crackers get their kicks breaking protections and get their jollies by being the first to do so.

Those who can’t afford to shell out for a game will always find a freed version of it. Those of us who can afford the $50-100 will spend it if the game is good (often using warez to “try before we buy”).

Once the warezers are done with ripping SecuROM out of the 8MB exexcutable (reducing it to 3MB in the process), I might consider buying it. Either that or when EA get their collective head out of their ass and stop hurting legitimate customers in the vain and hopeless attempt to stop the impossible.

Brian W (profile) says:

DRM is bad, but piracy IS a huge problem in PC gaming

First off, I will definitely try and find a way to remove this DRM when I buy my copy of either game, simply because of the annoyance factor. Only 3 installs? Please. I have blown thru way more than that trying to troubleshoot why a game keeps crashing or didn’t patch right.

However, we cannot ignore the rampant piracy that exists within the PC game world. Take a read at this forum posting by a former producer of Titan Quest for another POV on the issue:



“Two, the numbers on piracy are really astonishing. The research I’ve seen pegs the piracy rate at between 70-85% on PC in the US, 90%+ in Europe, off the charts in Asia. I didn’t believe it at first. It seemed way too high. Then I saw that Bioshock was selling 5 to 1 on console vs. PC. And Call of Duty 4 was selling 10 to 1. These are hardcore games, shooters, classic PC audience stuff. Given the difference in install base, I can’t believe that there’s that big of a difference in who played these games, but I guess there can be in who actually payed for them.”

“So, before the game even comes out, we’ve got people bad-mouthing it because their pirated copies crash, even though a legitimate copy won’t. We took a lot of shit on this, completely undeserved mind you. How many people decided to pick up the pirated version because it had this reputation and they didn’t want to risk buying something that didn’t work? Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecy.”

This is why developers are starting to release games on the consoles first and then (maybe) on the PC. And also why more and more are considering models like Steam.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: DRM is bad, but piracy IS a huge problem in PC gaming

Bull. If the games just worked, there wouldn’t be this problem. Look at the games mentioned: Bioshock and Call of Duty 4. Of course the pirated copies crashed, because you had the rip the “CD protection” out of them first. The thing that’s most DRIVING piracy is developers trying to *prevent* piracy. Most users are not thieves. Most users are honest and willing to pay a reasonable price for their games. Most users get frustrated and angry when they have to jump through hoops to play those games.

Developers add in DRM, users get pissed off and remove it. ‘Piracy’ goes up because the cracked game is more useful than the retail one. So developers put MORE DRM in and make their product LESS useful, so MORE users get cracked versions. Talk about your self-fulfilling prophesy.

phoenixs says:

Re: DRM is bad, but piracy IS a huge problem in PC gaming

Funny you take a stand against piracy, with your opening paragraph saying how you’re going to crack the code and pretty much go against the protection against the piracy.

Then you link to a page that is going to be heavily biased as it is a developer writing the piece. His numbers can say what they want, I highly doubt that 70%+ of the market of games played on PC are of pirated games.

The reason developers are releasing more on consoles is that consoles have one set of specs that they need to worrry about, not what CPU is in this computer, what graphics card is in that computer, what sound card is in that other computer, etc. Consoles are also still and expanding market, which means its predictable that more people will be buying consoles and software to run on them.

freediverx says:

Re: DRM is bad, but piracy IS a huge problem in PC gaming

“However, we cannot ignore the rampant piracy that exists within the PC game world.” “Bioshock was selling 5 to 1 on console vs. PC.”

And you don’t suppose the low sales figures for the PC version of Bioshock had ANYTHING to do with its controversial DRM or rampant problems reported by users?

You're an idiot says:

Re: DRM is bad, but piracy IS a huge problem in PC gaming

People still pirate console games you moron. Go on Piratebay and you’ll see for yourself.

People dont care if a console’s system files are ruined by SecuROM because all they do is play games on it.

A PC is much more volatile (and expensive, in most cases) and you risk losing a lot if ‘rootkits’ and other nonsense screws around with it.

bob says:

Re: DRM is bad, but piracy IS a huge problem in PC gaming

I have not used a pirated game since my Amiga 500 when I got off a BBS a hacked version of Prince of Persia. I owned the game, but I heard this crack had hints to get you through the game easier. LOL So when you went in the room with the poison jugs, an arrow showed you which on to drink and items like that.

I was really looking forward to spore for the last year. I refuse to purchase a game with this type of copy protection. This will be one game I will get a pirated version. I hate it, because one of the reasons I feel I never have had issues with trojans and virus’ is because I do nto share music or video or install wares. I buy the software I need, or use open source.

Thanks Bill and EA you just turned me into a pirate. Below is a list of games I have purchased the last 12 months.
Tabble Tennis(rockstar)
Halo 3
The new expansion for WOW
Assasins Creed
Sim City Society
Expansion for 40k RTS
Eve Online
D&D Online
Never Winters night 2
A new copy of MS Train Simulator(I lost my old copy)
and about 10 games on my Xbox360. I also built a new computer so that I would be ready to handle Spore and so I could try Tabala Rising. I am not as intense about gaming as some others, but it is a few k at least I have spent.

I have always hated having to carry around a cd with me to play a game(I travel allot), but this is just as bad. There have been at least 5 programs that I have lost the key that came with the CD. The last one was Never Winters Night 1. That blows too.

Alimas says:

Re: DRM is bad, but piracy IS a huge problem in PC gaming

These numbers also seem to blatantly ignore the fact that most gamers own both consoles and computers for gaming.
And obviously, if you go with a game for one system, your probably not going to buy it again for another system as well.
Many people prefer the console experience over the computer.

Dan says:

Re: DRM is bad, but piracy IS a huge problem in PC gaming

I have call of duty 4 on ps3 and 1,2, and 3 on pc. one of the reasons I switched was do to control scheme I think the joy pad is more convenient then the keyboard and I like the fact that I don’t need to upgrade hardware for every game as it seems I have had to in the recent past. yes there is a high rate of piracy for pc software but those sound like RIAA numbers. I have been guilty of try before you buy and have been grateful of that there are some really bad games out there but the ones worth it I buy so i dont think that the shift from pc to console is do to piracy I think its due to people getting tired of the game companies screwing us over on the pc every time they can 60 for the game then another 150 for a new vid card and another 60 for more memory I had to do it for gears of war.

Anonymous Coward says:

As a matter of principle, I only get games in a form that will allow me to play them in 10, 20 years if I want to. The same as music. If that means it’s a ripped/pirated version, so be it. If I like the game enough and/or is at a fair price, I’ll buy it, too, but keep the “freed” copy around.
It’s sad that pirates can always (yes, always) release games in a more convenient and longer-lasting form than the own studios.

Anonymous Coward says:


I’ve been waiting literally years for Spore to come out. It looks like a fantastically inventive game, and the emphasis on user-generated content is *really* appealing.

Which makes it all the more disappointing that I won’t be getting it. I’m not going to pay $40-$60 for something that’s going to be so gimped with DRM, no matter how appealing the content is.

Spore was going to renew my faith in PC gaming. I guess not.

Chris Becke says:

PlayForeSure all over again.

Im not buying this game until I find a reliable crack. While I happily pay $15 a month for World of Warcraft, single player games I consider an investment…

I have games that I purchased 10 years ago easilly that – when their DRM schemes don’t panic on modern systems – I still enjoy playing.

Game publishers have been treating me like a criminal for 20 years now. Im frankly tired of it. Plus, DRM schemes have rendered enough of my investment obsolete that I dont have a moral or ethical objection to outright piracy to collect on what I’m ‘owed’.
That rant aside, I really like Will Wrights work. I’d pay more for a DRM free product, especially if I knew the money was going directly to Will, rather than some EA or SecuROM executives pocket. *that* appeals to my ethics and morals.

Anonymous Coward says:

I *knew* EA would find some way to ruin WAR

Been eagerly waiting for Warhammer Online to come out since it was announced. Signed up for the Beta Lottery on day one, and I’ve already pre-ordered the collector’s edition. The game promises to be great and even though Mythic was bought by EA, EA let Mythic do their own thing.

So OF COURSE EA would come along and do something to potentially fuck over the only MMO that’s coming out besides Conan that can knock WoW off the top.

Hear is hoping that Mythic can talk EA out of having their game be a part of this very poorly thought out system.

Anonymous Coward says:

Can someone please explain this to me

Seriously. We all know the deal here. As soon as a single cracked version of the game is released on the internet, anywhere, that is *it*. The DRM is no longer useful, since anyone with an internet connection (i.e. everyone who can play the game in the first place) can get a free version of the game. So literally the only thing that the DRM does is piss off the people who enjoy buying the game, us folk who like having a copy of it on a shelf. This is something all of us know.

And this is where I get confused. Games developers tend to be one of the most “in touch with the fanbase/customers” people in pretty much any form of industry in the world. There is absolutely no way that they think that this kind of DRM will lower piracy rates, and that it’ll have a strongly negative reaction in everyone. That “only 5 installs” thing, for example, is literally the only reason I haven’t bought Bioshock (since I live in the UK, the phonecall to unlock it would be expensive).
I can buy that it’s the publishers that enforce it, but surely they’re also fairly in touch with the fans, and even if they’re not, the developers would take them aside and say “yeah, this isn’t going to work.” Even if the CEO of the publisher was some random old guy who’s just in it for the business and has no understanding of technology, someone would tell him it’s not gonna work.

So why do they keep doing it? It seems like a huge contradiction to me.

Liam says:

Re: Can someone please explain this to me

“Games developers tend to be one of the most “in touch with the fanbase/customers” people in pretty much any form of industry in the world.”

Not EA…they are a machine, a corporate monster, whatever you want to call them.

There are some publishers who release games with zero copy protection or any DRM of any kind.

programmer says:

Re: Can someone please explain this to me

You try telling a CEO that you should make your product easier to steal. Yes, I know that is not the case at all, they are already easy to steal, no matter how hard they make us try to do otherwise. But the CEO will hear that and stop listening.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I'd try starting with...

Sir, this DRM system isn’t going to make it harder to pirate our game. It will be broken, just like all the others before it, and probably a lot quicker than whoever sold the idea to you claimed. What it WILL do, sir, is make our legitimate product less useful than a ‘cracked’ copy, more annoying than a ‘cracked’ copy, and all around less-valuable than a ‘cracked’ copy. We can’t sell a product if the free version is better.

SomeGuy says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'd try starting with...

But you miss a key point. “We can’t sell a product if the free version is better.” that’s the key problem, so how do you fix it? Making your product worse isn’t the answer. Stronger DRM is more annoying for users — by puuting DRM in at all you’re GIVING the crackers ways of out-doing your product. If you take those opportunities away, if you make it so there’s nothing they can ‘add,’ then you won’t encourage people to take a cracked version over your software. Because now the difference is getting the product from a known source or getting the prioduct from an unknown source, and most consumers will pay for the assurance of quality we (EA) offer.

It occurs to me you have no faith in humanity. Your hypothetical CEO won’t listen when you tell him he’s losing customers, and won’t listen when you tell him he was ripped off by a DRM salesman. How would a CEO that inept even stay in the position?

Keith says:

And if in a few years I want to go back.....

Will everything be in place in four years from now for me to be able to play this game? I still go back and play some older titles, many of which were created by companies that have been absorbed by others.

I agree that piracy is a problem, and that being able to play the game without having the disk (or a patch) is something that most gamers want. But any system that requires activation either by phone or internet, mean that game is only good for as long as the activation system remains in place.

Gunnar says:

Bull. If the games just worked, there wouldn’t be this problem. Look at the games mentioned: Bioshock and Call of Duty 4. Of course the pirated copies crashed, because you had the rip the “CD protection” out of them first.

I ‘pirated’ Bioshock because I brought the game home and found out I couldn’t install it on my brand new gaming machine because I had to connect to the internet, something I didn’t want to do on my pristine system.

Looks like I’ll be ‘pirating’ Spore too.

some old guy says:


They can’t be that stupid. Every balanced study has shown so far that piracy increases sales, entire empires were built on the concept of getting people to try it for free, and they have to understand that. They just CANNOT be that stupid to not have noticed.

So perhaps this is a trick? Just a little reverse-reverse-psychology? Perhaps by making the pirated version of the game more valuable compared to the full packaged product, perhaps they are trying to increase sales by increasing the piracy rates?

ed says:

Will wait for crack too

Like others have said here, I will wait to make sure there is a good working crack before buying the game.

I’m sure a lot of people think “Who will want to play this game in 10 years”, but the reality is I just dusted off Diablo II a couple of months ago and played it for probably 15-20 hours. That game game out when 1999ish – maybe early 2000s.

It only took microsoft a couple of years to decide supporting their servers was too much trouble.

ReallyEvilCanine (profile) says:

Re: Re: Will wait for crack too

You kids these days. I reinstalled Dungeon Keeper last month. Doesn’t play nice with the graphics driver but works fine in a VMware Win98 environment, as do Redneck Rampage, Carmageddon and Quake (I). The original WEPs had some good games; by far the best blackjack and roulette. Win3.1 goodness: simple and efficient.

ReallyEvilCanine (profile) says:

Re: Re: Will wait for crack too

You kids these days. I reinstalled Dungeon Keeper last month. Doesn’t play nice with the graphics driver but works fine in a VMware Win98 environment, as do Redneck Rampage, Carmageddon and Quake (I). The original WEPs had some good games; by far the best blackjack and roulette. Win3.1 goodness: simple and efficient.

A Spore Fan says:

All this time...

I’ve been waiting for Spore to be released (after many many many delays) since 2004. It’s sad that it’ll be released with the new SecuROM. I respect Will Wright and EA, but now since they put this crap on the game I’m not buying it. I vowed long ago that I’ll never buy a game from any company that tries to put anti-piracy features in their installations, simply out of spite. In fact, when they do figure out how to crack the game and get past the new SecuROM restrictions, I’m going to download the game off bittorrent just because EA pisses me off. Congratulations, EA, you just lost 50 bucks by being an ass.

Chris says:

The excuse for the use of DRM in any product

Anonymous Coward said it best in last post, “Developers add in DRM, users get pissed off and remove it. ‘Piracy’ goes up because the cracked game is more useful than the retail one. So developers put MORE DRM in and make their product LESS useful, so MORE users get cracked versions. Talk about your self-fulfilling prophesy.”

Companies are completely eliminating the rights of the consumer/user. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about games, music, movies, etc. The end result is always piracy simply because people do not want a product that limits in any way how the product, that they purchased by the way, is used or stored, etc.

It is ridiculous to think that any company has the right to limit how many times a game is installed. What happens when you purchase a new computer or have to wipe your computer and reinstall everything. Things happen and to only allow 3 installs is crazy and is a bad move by any company.

TriZz says:

Mike, you missed the bigger issue...

The bigger issues is that all these people who buy these hugely popular games…if EA decides that the game is outdated and turns off it’s DRM server, now all the paying customers have a game that won’t run.

I like going back and playing old games that I used to love. A great game will ALWAYS be a great game. 10 years from now, if I want to pop in my Spore DVD and give it another go…now, I can’t because EA doesn’t support it anymore?! THAT is the bigger issue for me.

Chris says:

The excuse for the use of DRM in any product and corrupt business practices

A lot of anti virus and anti spyware programs will mark these programs as problems since the DRM by some companies installs rootkits, etc. These programs try to gleam any information they can from you and your computer. Whose to say how far these companies supposed DRM go and what info they supposedly collect during the process. Companies get away with this because people by there products and put up with this crap.

The only alternative is to use a pirated copy if you don’t want to put up with this crap and massive intrusion into our computers and personal property. We need to draw a limit as to how far these companies go. Anybody that remembers the original Doom, Quake, Rise of the Triad, etc. remembers that people still bought the game even though it was easy to copy and play a pirated version. Maybe if companies reduced the price, say the cost of the DRM, and put more time into the quality of there product it would sell more copies. Instead of $60.00 maybe the cost should be cut down to around $35-40 max. That would sell a lot more copies and possibly open up new markets, especially to those that can’t afford the $60 price tag of games and/or don’t want to put up with the B.S. of dealing with the DRM of these products. That is why I will never use Itunes to purchase music. DRM is just an excuse nothing more. To hell with any company that tries to limit how you use a product you purchased legally.

If companies can’t handle the loss of business do to there antiquated business model then they deserve to fail and go bankrupt.

Anonymous Coward says:

WildGames does the same crap. I got Tornado Jockey when I was at Mom’s and installed it on her LT while I was there. We uninstalled it, and brought it home.

I installed it on one of the kids computers, till I found out that it just didn’t play as nice, so I uninstalled it from her computer, and put it on my laptop.

2 months later, the laptop crashed, and I had to reinstall the OS.

Tornado Jockey wouldn’t install, and tech support said “Sorry!”…Even after I explained it to tech support.

They need to do the same thing Adobe does with their full versions….allow you to “authorize/deauthorize” computers…granted, it won’t help you if the computer crashes and you have to reinstall the OS, but even Adobe gives allowances for that!

chris (profile) says:

why not make the DRM system add value?

i am fully against DRM for a number of reasons, but if publishers insist on using it, why not make the DRM do something useful, the way that steam does.

i got the big orange box from valve for christmas, set it up on my gaming machine, moved, and lost the box. then my video card overheated and crashed everything and i had to pretty much rebuild everything.

under normal circumstances i would be out of luck.

steam let me download all my games from the site once i log in.

that’s right, no disc, just download steam, log in, and start downloading. you can even do it on multiple PCs. the only downside is that you have to be connected to the internet. it hurts me to say this, but steam saved me.

MMO’s aren’t so over the top in terms of copy protection because the value of the game is in the online play and monthly fees. you can use anyone’s disc to install the game, but you need legitimate and unique key to register a new account.

Lamper says:

I bought Call of Duty 4, its amazing, I love it! The developers completely deserve ever penny they earn from my purchase! Except for one thing….

My DVD is broken, somehow it got scratched (probably my own fault, but to err is to be human). Can I play single player now, no. Why? Need the DVD to verify I own the game. In the end I had to download a warez version just to install it to play multiplayer.

Yes I could get a new DVD from publisher, but I cant find my receipt (6 months on) so I either pay AGAIN for the game, or live with the face that I cannot play single player.


Overcast says:

Not an issue really – so many choices out there in games, I hardly need to buy EA stuff, can always pick something else.

I guess it’s possible piracy is a huge problem – but personally, what I find to be a huge problem, is getting cracked software to actually work right. I find it far easier to just buy whatever game I’m wanting to play.

Yea Bob – EA is telling people like us – who travel from time to time that we have no business playing their game while we wait in an airport or if we want to play a game without hassling with getting hotel internet set up. Or if our internet service happens to be out for a time – we can’t play – sure it’ll work sometimes, but when I *purchase* things – my desire is to have them work all of the time. Would anyone seriously buy a car that depended on the availability of cell service or it wouldn’t start? Sure – it might work *most* of the time – but that doesn’t cut it.

Another slap in the face for paying customers – I’m sure the games will still get cracked – and those won’t likely need an internet connection.

At least Steam can run in ‘offline’ mode after the initial activation.

John says:

I’ve been reading the comments here and other places about this and one in particular from another forum stood out. It was essentially an appeal to quit complaining on internet forums and contact EA to let them know directly that their anti-piracy measures were costing them sales. With that in mind, I went to their website to find an email address so I could write them directly.

Oddly (or maybe not) there doesn’t seem to be an email address anywhere on their site. Not for any of the VPs, the CEO, not even a comments email address. I assume support@ea.com would go somewhere, but even that isn’t listed on their website. It’s almost as if they don’t -want- to hear from anyone.

Anyone with any experience in the business world (or who has even taken Business 101) knows that contact and feedback from your customers is the most valuable information a business can get. That EA has made a point to not include a simple feedback email address somewhere easily visible on their website says that they simply don’t care what the customer thinks.

I won’t be buying anything from a company with that opinion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

John Riccitiello is the current CEO. A little Google-fu (which I can’t perform at work) should be able to find him somewhere.

Larry Probst is the former CEO but is still the Chairman, so he’s not without clout. Similar Google-fu could find him as well, I expect.

I strongly encourage you not to buy from EA, but I also encourage you to tell them your opinion, as well. When it comes down to it, I’d rather they learned the hard lesson and improved rather than withered and died. If we don’t tell them their games flop because of DRM, they’ll pass it off as general lack of interest and/or piracy, and that serves nothing.

Eric (user link) says:

Boycott of EA

I haven’t been happy with the last two PC titles I bought from EA and their performance on a pretty well configured XP PC (Need for Speed Underground 2, Need for Speed Most Wanted) and therefore didn’t buy the last two games in that series. This nonsense is just another reason to not buy any more EA PC games. I’m sticking with my consoles for gaming and buy PC games from someone else. As stated in the article, anyone who plays games on a laptop and isn’t always connected to the internet, will have problems. Apparently the genius clowns at EA didn’t think of that when brain storming this “bright idea” of theirs.

JP says:

And this is one big reason why I have washed my hands of PC gaming in general and bought an XBOX 360 at Christmas. I’m tired of fighting with a game I legitimately purchase in order to get it to just run. The last game I purchased (which wasn’t an EA product) was Turning Point with SecuROM. I was never able to get this game to run without getting SecuROM errors. I finally gave up and now only play older, paying-customer-friendly games. I don’t think major game publishers realise that there will ALWAYS be a constant in this world: No matter how much copy protection they put on a game.. there will always be someone out there who can break it and put it into the public domain. In the end though, the only people it really hurts are those of us who are foolish enough to fork out $50 for a poorly coded game that we have to fight just to get to work on our computers. The only thing they are doing is alienating people and weakening an already-shaky PC Gaming industry.

TSO says:

Peronal examples

#1: officially bought Black & White. Won’t work with my CD-ROM because of some idiot coder’s mistake who thinks CD-ROM is always the last drive in the system. Had to DL warez version, guess what, they fixed that.

#2: Valve claims Half-Life 2 won’t run on Windows 98… bullshit. They specifically inserted a check that will halt the program if it detects Windows prior to XP. Grab a warez version, change 4 bytes — works like a charm with no ill effects.

CMG says:

No Freakin' Way

Outrageous!! I have un-installed and re-installed loads of games like Doom 3, Crysis, C&C3, and Warhammer MANY MANY MANY times, and with one or two it was because of the patch!

F*ck You, EA. I hope you never sell another game in your soon-to-be-short career.

I’m so mad right now.

I’m gonna go eat an egg.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think it really counts as a search or a seisure. They have code, and part of that code verifies it’s authenticity by playing phone tag with home base. If it can’t play tag, or the verification fails, it turns iself off. Nothing has been searched, nothing has been seized, the code just ran as intended. Unfortunately, “as intended” in this case is pretty crappy.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t buy many video games unless they are on clearance or a really good sale, and even then, I only buy maybe two games a year. I wish I had more time to play, but between work and school there isn’t time like there used to be.

Despite that, Spore was one of those very few games that I was actually going to buy on the release date, and I only have done that a few times in the past. But now with this secureROM crap I don’t think I will be….how disappointing. Shame on you EA

BT says:

Re: Re:

I abandoned PC gaming all together just recently. I love my Xbox 360 (even though it’s a microsoft product). I’ve always loved console games better b/c everyone has the same hardware, generally leveling the playing field. Goodbye, PC gaming. As long as companies like Activision keep releasing awesome games like Call of Duty 4, who needs EA?

Older Gamer says:

Boycott EA

Talk about destroying your customer base. Re-installing is necessary and I do it when I rebuild or just re-format and that happens around every three months. I also uninstall when not playing and may want to re-install an older game to re-try it. I bought one version of software, use one version, and expect one version to work.

Before this, if a game was good, I would buy an original even if I could get a cracked copy. I wanted to support the business of good game manufacturers as well as get the box and manuals. However, now, if I do buy one of those games, I’ll purposely forward it, just out of spite, to someone who can crack the security just to screw EA.

Tell me I’m a security risk crook and I’ll become one for you.

Rekrul says:

I don’t buy a lot of games, but I do have a fairly large collection. All were bought at closeout stores, or used from eBay. I have a few downloaded games, but except for very old DOS games, I prefer to have an original because then I know it hasn’t been tampered with or had anything left out. I have the Half-Life game of the year edition with Opposing Force. I downloaded Blue Shift because I could never seem to find a copy at a good price. I was willing to buy Half-Life 2, but not as long as it requires Steam to run.

When I buy a game or any piece of software, I expect it to work forever, providing I still have a system that will run it. I’ve bought and played (not to mention enjoyed) games that were over a decade old. I expect many of the games I have today, I may want to play again a decade from now.

Older Gamer says:

Boycott EA if they do this.

Progammer (73) … What we are talking about is that there will be even fewer total sales for the CEO if he alienates a customer base that will buy his games.

Sure there will still be pirating, but a lot like me will buy the original if it is a good game. All we need is one game out there to break for pirating. Now, with the new scenario, us previously legitimate buyers will also start pirating too. Sales now equal two: one for pirating, one for backup pirating.

Will we get the CEO’s game for Xbox or PS3? No, we just won’t get it legitimately. We’ll stay with online subscription games and our pirated copies of his game.

programmer says:

Re: Boycott EA if they do this.

Like I said, I understand this. A CEO does not, and no amount of talking will get him to change his mind. The only thing that will is a large amount of people that he know would buy he game telling him they will no longer buy it, on the order of 10-20k people… An even then he will probably look at it like a banker being told he needs no vault door.

Anonymous Coward says:

Piracy helped sell my game

I helped develop a game several years ago for a small label gaming company. We didn’t use DRM. Piracy was rampant, and we felt like we sold more games because it got our game more exposure.

But it still annoyed me when a club would get together for a tournament and everyone was using one copy of the game (We did burn a unique serial number on each disk).

Phillip Vector (user link) says:


I was looking forward to getting Spore.. Allot…

Now, if this is on there, I’ll just have to be satisfied with the pirated version. I honestly hate to do that, but at this point, I feel like I don’t have a choice in the matter. Either I miss a game I’ve been waiting for 2 or so years for or I accept this copy protection (not happening).

Here’s to hoping that Spore comes out on Steam.

dave says:

A better idea....

It is simple – boycott the game; we all think they are making enough money on their titles. Most people will buy them new or through used channels. If they want marketing information they need to pay for it; this is a federal law and you can opt-out of this on-going communication since in all rights there security is malware and since it can change the configuration of the computer; it could definitely be considered a virus. I am sure someone with a little dough will take them on in court; and all the money the made with the fancy-pancy secure-rom BS which is fairly simple to hack out anyway – or so I am told. I got a better idea for EA – Pay people credits for allowing the reporting and give them $10-20 off their next game if they leave the system on. ON MY GOSH! A positive way to enforce EULA!

JustMatt says:

Crappers, that really sucks

I’ve been playing computer games since the early 80s and have purchased nearly all of Mr. Wright’s games. My wife has all of The Sims games and expansions and guidebooks. We have been looking forward to Spore for a year or two.

It is unfortunate that this decision will cause me not to purchase Spore for myself or my wife, so that is two sales lost. Should this sort of DRM show up in The Sims I doubt we will buy them in the future.

Hope it was worth it EA!

stwf says:

depends on execution

OK, I hate DRM like everyone else, but I think I prefer this to games that make you insert the DVD to play, that can really make playing while on an airplane a PITA.

As long as this DRM won’t shut me down while trying to play offline I think its better than current Master disk DRM. So I’ll wait and see, there is n reason this can’t be implemented in such a way that you won’t even notice it. As long as they can do that they have a right to check against ID nubers placed on bulletin boards and stuff like that.

That having been said experience dictates this will be a buggy, obtrusive piece of junk that will keep me from buying either title, oh well…..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: depends on execution

My main concern with this idea is that in 3 or 5 or 10 years, where will EA be? Where will support for this be? Will still be able to play the game I bought when EA crumbles to dust? I hate having to mess with CDs as much as the next guy, but at least I can still play StarCraft despite it being long-abandoned by Blizzard.

Microsoft just showed us the future when they killed PlaysForSure. If that’s what’s going to happen to Spore, it’s not worth it to me.

JJ says:

I think the limit of 3 installs is a point of contention that is worth arguing, however I don’t think we can keep going without some sort of DRM for PC gaming and expect the industry to survive. I for one will rue the day I have to purchase a console gaming system in favor of my PC. We are already seeing it with titles like GTA4 not coming to the PC when a) it started on the PC, and b) every title since has been out for the PC. Companies simply can’t make money on PC alone anymore, and why would someone pay $60 for a title on PS3 or 360 when they can rip it off for free on PC? Therefore you have less titles being released for PC.

I think the major bone here is that we PC gamers have had a long period where consoles just held no water when compared to the PC and there was nothing technology could do about that, and so we received the bulk of games and felt like we were entitled to have them. Unfortunately with the growth of piracy and the money to be made on PS3 and 360, we are being left behind.

I would welcome DRM as long as it meant I could get the games I want to play on the platform I love the most; PC!

Michael L says:

So much for community

I have faithfully bought all of the games that I felt were good games, even when pirate copies are readily available. I have downloaded cracked versions of some games, but just the ones that weren’t worth the price tags. If they put securom on their titles, I won’t be purchasing them. I refuse to support any company that will assume I am a criminal, and especially when I am being told how many times I can install (and this also includes hardware upgrades which count as an install) EA is already alienating the PC community by taking the battlefield franchise away from PC gamers after we supported their games for many years. I will never buy a console, I just plain don’t like the controllers, and for what you get they are completely overpriced. I think they will regret this move in the future as even if they decide this was a bad idea down the road it will be too late to win back the PC crowd. Other companies will take advantage of this foulup and take their customers away anyway.

Another Mike says:

Only 3 reinstalls?

So if I have to do a rebuild on my computer, I am only allowed 3 reinstalls of the game? Considering the frequency of hardware upgrades, and the fact that I like doing system reinstalls to keep things running clean means that I would probably burn through all three of those reinstalls in one year. Well, I guess EA just guaranteed that I will only use a pirated version, since the legit versions will have this stupid limitation.

Lucretious (profile) says:

whats really insulting here is that EA’s “Download Manager” makes you pay extra for the privilege of downloading the game you bought from them more than once. Pay the extra $10 and you can download it for up to 2 or 3 years. Now you will only have 3 shots to install it. You can’t burn the downloaded version to save space on your hard drive. I know because I bought Crysis this way.

Then they wonder why people get hostile.

Anyhow, what makes them think that they can do any better than MS, Apple or even past versions of Securom? Theres no game that hasn’t been cracked.

ac says:

Just FYI, from the EA thread:

1) If you use up all your installs (3) you can call tech support and they will (might?) give you a new key so you can re-validate and keep playing.

2) They claim that if they were to ever shut down their validation server or go out of business, they would release a patch to remove the validation check. So if their server goes down, everyone can still play.

Of course, when your team is taken out into the parking lot to be fired, creating a new patch isn’t really on the top of your to-do list.

BRADLEY STEWART (profile) says:



PaulT (profile) says:


Long thread, one of the longest I’ve seen here for a long time… I didn’t have time to read the whole thing, but here’s my thoughts:

1. This will encourage piracy, not stop it. People turn to illicit sources to obtain things for their legitimate products – I personally have over 20 games on my laptop with “pirated” patches on them. Why? So I don’t have to carry 20 CDs around with me in case I fancy a quick game of something. Look at “no CD” cracks, then extrapolate that for people who actually want to play the game but can’t access the net for some reason when authorisation time comes around.

2. The PC game market has problems, but this can be put down to a large number of things, including the regular need and sometimes high cost to upgrade your machine, the long wait for some titles to be converted from consoles, the success and longevity of MMORPGs and the higher percentage of problems due to hardware incompatibility, etc. Surely, the last thing you want to do in this case is force people to wait months for a PC port, then make the gameplay experience inferior (which this does).

My 2 cents here: I’m not buying any of the reported games (Mass Effect, Crysis, Spore) on the PC. I’m also boycotting DRM on PC games, as I’ve been doing for several years on music. That’s not to say I’ll pirate them, I’ll just buy the games for consoles instead (where the DRM doesn’t try to stop me from doing anything with a legal product – thus far, anyway). I hope enough people do the same, and EA get the message instead of just resorting to the “OMG piracy!” excuse again. Then again, maybe that’s the flying bacon patrol outside…

Bill says:

Punish ALL paying customers! Pirates aren't even slightly inconvenienced by this.

So how long before game companies require all of their paying customers to send in DNA samples? How long before paying customers are required to play under company supervision? How long before we must play in electronic handcuffs?

Every time I turn around, another company is treating their paying customers like criminals. I see more stories about how companies are punishing their loyal customers every day. Meanwhile, the criminals are the ONLY ones who AREN’T inconvenienced by insane DRM. What the hell are they thinking?

Tony says:


Well for me i hate games that will limit me to be able to install them, I didn’t get bioshock for that reason alone.

As for the game calling home, that fine with me when i install, but after that it dosen’t need to call home. also I know where i can download anythign i want, but i do buy games that i feel are worth it, other wise i want to try the game and see if i like it.

I’ve just switched over to a console for one game, which saddens me that won’t be on the PC, Star Wars The Force Unleashed.

I feel that in the past few years the market for Pc games have been getting very slim, only one or two good titles anymore.

Also I don’t plan on buying anymore EA games, the last one i bought the registation didn’t even work right for it. and there logon system is just screwed up.

Frank says:

Re: sounds like what they were doing in the commodore 64 days.

Don’t recall the drives being killed. But I do remember at least one product where it would try to wipe the floppy if the DRM failed to authenticate. If your screen turned orange, your game was irrevocably destroyed. It was after that happened to me that I went to some high school buddies to get their cracked copy.

That game? Skyfox. Published by Electronic Arts.

Seems like EA still hasn’t learned their lesson…

Charles says:

Steam seems to be a good system. You do have to activate once online but after that you can play offline with out issue. They could imrove it by allowing you to call in to activate and improve a few other things. I to wanted to get Bioshock but was really pissed to hear the steam version still had securerom. Even for the demo! I was looking forward to Spore hopefully they rethink what they do or at least put a version on Steam without securerom. Gave up on EA a long time ago and it really sucks that they are buying or publishing for so many interesting games.

Joe says:

Would have bought one of the Battlefields, but wasn’t about to register online — no need to sign up for a bunch more SPAM. Had enough trouble going through hoops to patch a Stardock game — won’t be buying any more of theirs either. Besides, EA probably wants to update all the ads they’re putting in the game anyways.

Anonymous Military says:

EA hates the US military

I’ll promise this, and this is the first time I’ve ever said or have done this…if EA does this new copy protection scheme, I will get a pirated version of any game of theirs that I want to play while I’m deployed, and I will write them every week to tell them. Why? Because there is no internet at the places I am deployed to, but I am still able to have my laptop there.

Rekrul says:

OK, I hate DRM like everyone else, but I think I prefer this to games that make you insert the DVD to play, that can really make playing while on an airplane a PITA.

By requiring Internet access so that the games can “phone home”, you’re essentially relying on the company to give you permission to play the games that you’ve paid for. What happens when the company no longer wants to give that permission? What if some group writes a keygen for the game that just happens to randomly generate the same key as your copy uses and EA thinks you’ve given copies to other people?

2) They claim that if they were to ever shut down their validation server or go out of business, they would release a patch to remove the validation check. So if their server goes down, everyone can still play.

They all say this, but if you look closely at the EULA, I’m sure you’ll find a clause that says that in the event they ever do go out of business they aren’t required to provide squat to their users. If it even mentions this possibility at all.

Unless they put it in writing, and code the patch ahead of time so that they have it ready for release, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Steam seems to be a good system. You do have to activate once online but after that you can play offline with out issue. They could imrove it by allowing you to call in to activate and improve a few other things.

And what happens if Valve goes out of business or they decide to stop allowing activation of older titles? The original Half-Life is already a decade old, but I can still install and play it today. Can you make that same guarantee about Half-Life 2?

What if Valve gets bought by another company who decide to turn off the activation servers for older games? It wouldn’t be the first time a company got bought out and the new owners drop support for all the old titles. Gee, when is SiN Episode 2 coming out?

Farproc says:

Steam & HL2

I actually don’t have HalfLife 2 – despite owning at least 2 copies of 1, because of Steam. When Steam was announced i decided to wait until Valve got a clue and released a standalone version that *worked* from CD. They still havn’t, and iv’e found plenty of other games to play.

More generally, at my office, where we have for years played lan games at lunchtime, we are seriously considering starting a halflife 1 based game again – because we have a cracked copy we can install on each players pc. We (still) have enough legit cd keys to go around too. It didnt start like that of course – we did install warez copies with generated keys on many PCs for people who wanted to try the game out – but we did get a >90% conversion rate from people who played the game – not because of ethics or morals, but purley because having the _standalone_ CD meant people could play the game at home without having to copy the warez version. The lack of online checks actually made ownership of a legitimate CD more valuable.

HL2 + steam is just such a pain that it just doesn’t get the numbers that HL1 got. An empty map is a boring map. Its just not getting traction except amongst the die hard FPS players.

Richard (profile) says:

DRM only hurts the legit customers

This is about the biggest bonehead move they could have done. I remember fondly my first game that I purchased and couldn’t play, Civilizations 3, because of the DRM on it. I had to go get the crack in order to even play the game. From then on, for every game that wouldn’t work or required me to keep the disc in the drive, I got the crack for them. Companies are using piracy as an excuse, and there are those games with extremely low piracy rates, like World of Warcraft and other online games. So maybe that is a hint, make your games online and multiplayer, and then people have no choice. But as this is, it’s a single player game forcing you to pretend it’s multiplayer, and using a horrible method, SecureROM to do it. Just make the game online to begin with. Oh, wait, I guess that would kill all your console sales. Idiots.

Charles says:

@ Rekrul and Farproc

Well i agree Steam isn’t perfect it is nowhere as obtrusive as EA plan. Could they have a 30 period before you are required to activate? kind of like xp? Mostly steam just stops 0 day cracked games after that at least it adds something to the gaming experience. I also agree that something could happen and the servers are shut down. I guess i trust Valve more then I trust anything EA does.

Paul Harris says:

Polite Copy Protection

I am a consultant familiar with a few alternative copy protection systems that strike a balance between piracy and user-friendly activation. Maximum Software, a software development firm that focuses on PC software is using polite software copy protection from Uniloc (uniloc.com) who has a product called SoftAnchor. The technology allow casual sharing which is important to promote viral product awareness and distribution but can be configured by the software publisher to prevent excessive piracy.

In recent news about the Maximum Software use of Uniloc, they state that Maximum Software is now able to quantify software piracy levels and adjust licensing strategies in real-time to set policies addressing casual sharing, open sharing and piracy. The software provides real-time statistics for the publisher about actual license usage with 100 percent accurate results so that license management decisions can be based on hard facts rather than assumptions. Maximum Software is also using Uniloc’s license throttling capability which can increase or decrease software copy parameters to manage the flow of help desk calls and anti-piracy controls to optimize viral marketing models.

Most copy protection models can be broken, but Uniloc uses Physical Device Recognition. PDR is based on the fundamental principle that no two digital devices are identical. The process of Physical Device Recognition starts by generating a digital identity for a device, known as its “Physical Device Fingerprint.” This fingerprint is made up of a combination of machine characteristics and properties that are generated using a set of proprietary algorithms. The Physical Device Recognition algorithms allow the unique, reproducible identification of a device with accuracy more precise that DNA. This results in the ability to smoothly identify requesting devices, allowing users to re-activate updated devices, while managing the ability to install trial versions.

Qute Pi (user link) says:

Boycott EA

If its not one thing by EA it’s another. Normally I would just say their customer service is the worst out there.

However now I am glad I have decided to never purchase another ea game in my life. I have never downloaded a copy of anything (game/music/movie) and I always purchase or rent what I want. But these new steps to avoid this issue just makes it harder on those of us who are honest.

I’m curious how this will effect reselling games at game stop or buying used games, which I don’t usually do, but its available.

How will this effect renting games as well?

I’m also the type to play a game when I run across it in my drawer 3 years later. lol. How will that effect me?

Forget it, I don’t even care, EA sucks! Nothing will change that!

Manny says:

How completely STUPID of EA

Real pirates will simply download a cracked version of the game that will have the DRM and other copy protection either disabled or bypassed.

Who are they trying to kid here? This is really a way to spy on users and will stop only the most basic of “pirates” from plopping this DvD in her burner and clicking “copy”

What is the real reason for EA trying to do this? Are they really so out of touch with the real world that they think this will change anything?

A far better approach to stop piracy would be the HBO tactic. HBO regularly scans public bit torrent sites and tracks the users IP address of anyone sharing a HBO copywrited program. They then contact the indvidual ISP’s of these users and threaten to sue THEM if they dont stop the users from illegally distributing their intellectual property.

At least HBO only targets those that are actively sharing their product and not legitimate users… EA better get a clue quick or else they are going to lose a large part of their target market.

Nick says:

Going Illegal is easier

I bought a game for my pc. However, I scratched the disc, and then my PC screwed up forcing me to format. So I had a few options:
1. Buy a new CD
2. Fix the CD.
3. Pirate the game

It was too damaged for option 2 to work, so I chose option three because I’d already bought the game once and hadn’t even lost my original copy. I then threw in a crack and the game worked perfectly fine. It even accepted updates. (though I had to update the crack separately.
I understand exactly why some people pirate. It is incredibly easy, and, surprisingly, faster.

Irritatingly, I have a small $5 game I bought on Steam that requires the net to work. This I find really annoying, but the sad thing is that I can edit the programs shortcut to remove steam from starting the program, and it works fine. Go figure that out.

Added note: This comic says it perfectly (xkcd)

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