EA Ignored The Warnings; Now Getting Slammed For Spore's DRM

from the they-were-warned dept

Back in May, we wrote about an uproar in the gamer community over EA’s decision to include some incredibly cumbersome DRM on some new games, including the highly anticipated Spore. That story got a ton of comments and plenty of other sites also wrote about it as well, leading EA to back down just a little bit, and promise to use slightly less draconian DRM. Either way, EA should have been well aware of how the community feels about DRM on games like Spore.

Apparently, the folks there didn’t pay enough attention.

A bunch of readers have been sending in the news that Spore is getting slammed in reviews on its Amazon review page, as well over a thousand reviewers have all given the product one star, while trashing EA for the use of the DRM. Yet another lesson in what happens when your customers warn you ahead of time that they don’t want you to cripple the products they buy from you — and you fail to listen.

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Comments on “EA Ignored The Warnings; Now Getting Slammed For Spore's DRM”

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109 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Sadly its the same old EA

“Apparently, the folks there didn’t pay enough attention. “

No, they just dont care. From thier point of view they can either use draconian DRM and treat PC gamers as the theives we are, or they can use no DRM and go out of business. This is the equation for Peter Moore and EA.

It just bothers me that its the word of Will Wright that has to suffor. Truly a Foustian deal if ever there was one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Sadly its the same old EA

“Who ever led you to believe they would go out of business with no DRM?”

That is EAs position. PC gamers are potential thieves that must be thwarted. I am sure they would rather release games without DRM, its cheaper for them in release costs, support costs and simple customer aggrivation. They dont, becuase they dont believe thier business model would survive without it.

“Plus, Will Wright is the developer. EA is the publisher. It’s EA’s decision, not Will’s.”

Yes as I was saying, I feel bad that his WORK has to suffor. However, it was he who decided to “deal with the devil” and you “reap what you sow” unfortunately. This also doesnt even begin to speak to what I believe EA has done to this game. I would say wait for 3 or 4 more expansion packs to be released before getting it, EA will be adding back alot of the game in them (maybe this is another secret anti-piracy measure their using).

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Sadly its the same old EA

From thier point of view they can either use draconian DRM and treat PC gamers as the theives we are, or they can use no DRM and go out of business. This is the equation for Peter Moore and EA.

If that’s the equation, then they’re doing it wrong:

Going DRM free doesn’t mean going out of business:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20060313/0135244.shtml

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sadly its the same old EA

Their new CEO seems a bright enough guy. He’s giving studios working for EA more leeway in the way they do things (ala Mythic and Epic).

I imagine this will be one of several things that causes him to change the company stance, unless they really want to kill their PC gaming business (in which case why even buy Mythic/Epic?).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Sadly its the same old EA

“Their new CEO seems a bright enough guy. He’s giving studios working for EA more leeway in the way they do things (ala Mythic and Epic).”

Their new CEO is a marketing guy, he was hired because he talks a good game, not to actually change anything (remember they are the number one publisher of gaming content on the planet, not like they really need to “fix” anything).

Its the same ole EA, tatooed Aussie “pitchmen” not withstanding.

Geoffrey Kidd (profile) says:

Common failure mode among content providers, actually.

People need to remember that game publisher’s staffs are, by and large, not game players. Most book publishers’ staffs are not people who read for pleasure. And most movie studios are not staffed by movie fans.

All of the above are (mostly) staffed by people to whom this is a job, a business, a way to pay the rent. It’s not what they do for fun.

So of course they’re pretty much blind to the negative effects of DRM on their product unless and until the public comes up and hits them with a clue-by-four, which doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

EA/MPAA/RIAA/publishers aren’t listening because they are selling their overpriced DRM-crippled [beep] to people who live in a different conceptual universe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Common failure mode among content providers, actually.

Originally, it was going to require the disc be in at all times AND it was going to re-authenticate your registration key every 5-10 days. after about 10 days of not being about to register, it’d disable the ability to play until it can authenticate the key again. They backpedaled to just authenticating the key any time you connect to the server, though I don’t recall if you still need the disc in every time you play the game.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Common failure mode among content providers, actually.

“authenticating the key any time you connect to the server, though I don’t recall if you still need the disc in every time you play the game.”

They claim it does not authenticate the content everytime you connect to the server (you have to authenticate your account obviously). It only authenticates the disk on first install and then on any subsequent content upgrade.

You do not need the disk to run SPORE.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Common failure mode among content providers, actually.

I believe it uses a version of SECUROM which infects your PC (I say infects assuming you dont actually want it) and then “phones home” periodically to EA authentication servers. What its sending these servers of course I have no idea. Also EA has promised that it will now only “phone home” on first install and upon package upgrades. The big problem with this DRM now however is, its limited to 5 installs (which EA changed from 3). You can do all 5 installs concurrently on 5 different machines, but you cannot do a 6th install EVER. You must contact EA and beg for another code.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Common failure mode among content providers, actually.

Try this to get rid of Securom crap, it’s worked for all previous versions but they might have improved it since I last had a securom invested game on my pc:

1. stop UAService7 service (CTRL+ALT+DEL, find it and kill it)
2. using e.g. Autoruns (http://www.sysinternals.com/Utilities/Autoruns.html) remove this service and delete the file windowssystem32UAService7.exe
3. delete the folder Documents and SettingsApplication DataSecuROM
4. delete the folder Documents and SettingsAll UsersApplication DataSecuROM; in case of any deletion problems use DelInvFile tool
(http://www.purgeie.com/delinv.htm).
5. delete securom registry keys using regedit
6. key named HKLMSOFTWARESecuROM!CAUTION! NEVER DELETE OR CHANGE ANY KEY* contains embedded nulls and cannot be removed using regedit; use e.g. RegDelNull tool (http://www.sysinternals.com/Utilities/RegDelNull.html) instead of it.

RegDelNull is the only tool I’ve been able to use that actually removes their null entries in the registry.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yea but most are a joke. For example, the original Half Life “DRM” was a CD-Key and only that. It is well known that 1234567890123 and similar junk combos worked just fine.

Or take every single EA game CD-Key. There is a FFF Keygen (its safe if you get it from ‘trusted’ sites) that can generate keys for ANY EA game.

It goes on.

Nevermind No-CD patches to prevent it from checking for the disc or similar patches to cancel out the DRM.

But yea. They do mostly come with DRM.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think valve learned their lesson on DRM long ago. They seem to know now that it pisses people off, costs money to implement, and in the end, it’s not at all effective. Sure Joe PCuser won’t have a clue, but those that have no intention of buying it will find it somewhere, one way or another. Unfortunately, they still have DRM implemented in some form, but they don’t seem to be uptight about work arounds, unless Steam users actually try to have the software authenticated.

Really though, I think Steam is doing a fine job of providing an easy to use, central marketplace for games of all types. I still think it could do better, but it’s a push in the right direction. Now it needs to bring games down to price points that are more reasonable, and provide better demos (such as allowing players to play the full game, but setting a reasonable time limit for the game’s activation status). Though these kinds of things are much easier said than done.

CN says:

and promise to use slightly less draconian DRM.

Reminds me something from a joke (Jack Nicholson maybe?), where a guy runs a stop sign, and tells the cop who caught him “I slowed down”. The cop says “If I was hitting you over the head with a club, would you want me to STOP, or just SLOW DOWN?”

Less DRM is better than more DRM. No DRM is best.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

DRMs

DRMs always gets in the way of longetivity of a game.
If I get a game, I want to be able to install it as many times as I choose to reformat my machine. There should be no limits. SecuRom sucks, as do the rest.
Stupid idea made by smart people to fleece stupid companies who don’t understand anything about consumer demand.
Well, I suppose I can go without buying Spore then. Pity, I was looking forward to it. But I have an objection to this junk.

Paul Warnes says:

True Motives

To me this DRM seems to be more about stopping you from selling a used copy or lending it to a friend rather than a serious attempt to halt infringement.

I think they realize that DRM at best only slows piracy, but they get no profit from someone who buys a used game. They probably view this as lost revenue as that person is obviously willing to pay money for the product, and with the limited installs it makes it too risky to buy the game used, so they figure that person will just buy new instead.

annoyed CUSTOMER says:

Only one account

I bought the game with the intention that my girlfriend and I could link accounts to each of our email addresses. It turns out you can only have one account per key. This means if she wants to share any creatures she has created in the game, then she has to do so with my account. VERY ANNOYING! Am I supposed to buy two copies of the game just so we can keep our content separate? How hard is it to add a ‘Create New Account’ button? BLAH

Anonymous Coward #42 says:

I’m not real big on the whole PC gaming thing, but I do own all three Guild Wars campaigns and the expansion pack as well. Their philosophy seems to be very simple: you can freely download and install the software on as many PCs as you want to, but you can’t get into the game unless you pay for and log into a user account on their game servers. What you pay for is access to the parts of the game, not the software itself. However, it’s treated like standalone game software, in that there are no subscription fees, just one-time charges for each part of the game. The only limitation is that you can’t be logged into a single user account on more than one PC at a time, and the only way to circumvent this system is to hack another user’s game account, which does happen, unfortunately.

Now again, I’m not big into gaming, so I don’t really know what the norm is for copyright protection, but it seems to me that it wouldn’t be that hard to setup an online gaming server that you have to log into before you can play the game, even if the game isn’t actually played through said server, but rather standalone on one PC. That way, instead of “activating” copies, you are simply authorizing use of the software in real time, and that way it won’t matter how many copies of it you have installed or where. It’s pretty rare for a PC gamer to not have any sort of internet connection, so to me this seems like a fair compromise, although I’m willing to bet somebody will argue the point. And yes, I know that if the game runs 100% locally, somebody somewhere will figure out a way to circumvent the phone-home system required for launching the game. But like it’s been said, game companies need to stop treating all their customers like thieves, or they are going to revolt, which is exactly what’s beginning to happen.

Anyway, I’m going to stick with Guild Wars. I still have a looooong ways to go in it, and I have no problems with the service at all, aside from the occasional server crash. Well, that, and the fact that the game software likes to chew up over a GB of RAM after a few hours of usage, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. I guess it’s time to go 64-bit with 4GB of RAM. =)

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Re#28 AC#42
I love Guild Wars
Play it all the time.
I still have a ways to go as well.
Lots of stuff to do.
And I believe Steam has something like that phone home even for a local game crap.
It is stupid too.
What happens if they take down their servers?
For a local game it shouldn’t need them.
If it cannot find them, okay, start the game anyways.

Steve R. (profile) says:

DRM Costs Companies $$$$$

Developing the DRM technologies costs money. Maintaining the DRM servers costs money. Live (maybe) tech support people cost money. Managing the fiasco costs money. So how many pirated copies must be “prevented” and “converted” to real sales in order to recover the cost of DRM??????????

I haven’t a clue, but I believe the DRM efforts are a waste of time, money, and resources that could have been devoted to other useful endeavors.

CN says:

Internet activation sucks too...

It’s pretty rare for a PC gamer to not have any sort of internet connection, so to me this seems like a fair compromise, although I’m willing to bet somebody will argue the point.

I agree with this statement, but unfortunately for me, I happen to be one… I’ve got broadband at home, but I go to work for 4 weeks at a time, and have no internet connection at all until I return home again.

And it’s not just games. We bought a “video grabber” to use in our work, and when it arrived at our (remote) location, we discovered that it required “free internet activation” on first use in order to work. That made it completely useless to us. I love how they throw in “free” to make it seem like you are getting something good. Kind of like a “free punch in the head” if you ask me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Okay, given the usual “everything that can be pirated, will be pirated, therefore, do not make your business model hinge around getting money for sales of this product” stance we see so often on TechDirt … our options are:

1) Spore T-shirts
2) Customized Spore T-shirts from your uploaded critters
3) Meet Will Wright!
4) They’ll make money from touring … oh, wait
5) Sell “value-added” DVDs of … people playing Spore?
6) Game creation is a scarce good, so … don’t release until there’s $10,000,000 in the Swiss bank account
7) Spore pens
8) Spore coffee-mugs
9) Tip jar full of micropayments

I’m having a hard time seeing any of those as viable business models.

SteveD says:

Re: Re: m having a hard time seeing any of those as viable business models....

I’m curious what you’ve got up your sleeve on this one Mike, the ‘tangible goods’ arguments don’t hold up to such scrutiny in this medium. There might be a few top-end development teams with shiny graphics engines that can draw sponsorship from Nvidia, but what about everyone else?

The PC Gaming community remains its own worst enemy.

No one likes DRM on games…but no one wants to pay for them either. CoD4 was pirated by what, 80% of PC gamers?

Although its suicidal for anyone to stand in the way of the self-righteous nerd-rage you get around these issues, the sad fact is the vast majority of those who posted on the Amazon page wouldn’t have paid for it anyway.

Anonymous Software Developer says:

Re: Re: Re: m having a hard time seeing any of those as viable business models....

the problem is that most companies are just doing it wrong. I heavily doubt the numbers you claim.

but here is a post I made about how game developers can make money with the tangible goods model:

Many MMO games give their game (infinite good) away or sell at a reduced price in order to get people to pay for a subscription to their servers and regular content creation (both scarce goods)

others focus on stuff that you get in addition to the game. collector’s edition games are a good example. in the old days when you bought a game it came with a manual that was more likely than not set up to be in theme with the rest of the game. they would come with things that might be part of the game world, the newspaper or magazine bit was very common. they might also have key-rings, necklaces, cloth maps, or other things that set the tone of the game and draw a player more into the experience. these are also scarce goods, people can’t just download a custom made manual that feels like a ravaged survival guide, all they can get is the text. they can’t download the extra little trinkets either.

look at Fallout 3, if you preorder that game from certain places you get a poster and a music CD that is designed to look exactly like an old record, it does a pretty convincing job. then if you buy the special edition you get a lunchbox, a bobblehead, and a hard-cover book of concept art. all of that is scarce goods either because of the material nature (lunchbox, bobblehead, book, poster) or because of the presentation or experience (music CD).

many people out there are willing to buy a game instead of copy it just because it has these kind of things, some are willing to pay just because it has a high-quality manual that goes beyond just telling you how to play the game and attempts draws you into the world while telling you how to use the game

if a software developer gives that kind of cool stuff away when a person buys their game less people will want to pirate it in the first place. where developers went wrong was getting rid of all that cool stuff (many even reduced down to just the CD with only an electronic version of the manual) to get more shelf space.

eventually it turns into people thinking of the game (infinite good) as free, but they are willing to pay for the cool merchandise and the experience that the creative documentation provides (scarce good). that is not to say that you can’t still have a cheaper version without that stuff that people can buy, just that you are really selling the cool swag they get and that less people will care about just copying that game and then the small people who will pay, but don’t care about the swag can get a cheaper version with just the disc or digital download. if you follow this style of model you can still “lose” some sales due to copying but because of word-of-mouth you can gain more sales from buying who see their friend play it and then want to pay for the game or all the cool swag.

as said elsewhere, it isn’t Piracy, it’s Free Advertising!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 m having a hard time seeing any of those as viable business models....

“in the old days when you bought a game it came with a manual that was more likely than not set up to be in theme with the rest of the game.”

Oh the good old days.

“some are willing to pay just because it has a high-quality manual that goes beyond just telling you how to play the game and attempts draws you into the world while telling you how to use the game”

Back in the days, the manuals didn’t just tell you the basics of how to play the game. In strategy games for example, they would contain the stats of different units and such for handy reference. They were actually useful.

“where developers went wrong was getting rid of all that cool stuff (many even reduced down to just the CD with only an electronic version of the manual) to get more shelf space.”

Exactly. I hate electronic manuals. How am I supposed to play the game AND browse the manual at the same time effectively? Plus I don’t like reading annoyingly formatted stuff off the screen, and I don’t have a proper printer and don’t want the stack of unbinded papers anyway. I really wish proper manuals would make a comeback.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: m having a hard time seeing any of those as viable business models....

I’m curious what you’ve got up your sleeve on this one Mike, the ‘tangible goods’ arguments don’t hold up to such scrutiny in this medium.

Why not? You’re saying that basic economics doesn’t apply in the video game world, and I’ve seen no proof that this one industry avoids the same economic forces of every other industry.

SteveD says:

Re: Re: Re:2 m having a hard time seeing any of those as viable business models....

No dodging the bullet Mike.

You got short with that guy because he was making fun of your standard business-model arguments; fair enough. But you flamed him for not coming up with any ideas and haven’t yet suggested any of your own.

It seems a trend lately that every time a piracy issue comes up we get the same idealistic arguments cut&pasted into your responses. I’m not disagreeing that the basic economic theory is the same no matter what medium your in but the practical application of that theory surely does, and its practical application that’s conspicuously absent here.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 m having a hard time seeing any of those as viable business models....

No dodging the bullet Mike.

What bullet would that be?

You got short with that guy because he was making fun of your standard business-model arguments; fair enough. But you flamed him for not coming up with any ideas and haven’t yet suggested any of your own.

Hmm. I’ve spent a dozen years coming up with business models, many of which we’ve discussed here. How could you say that I have not come up with any ideas on my own?

It seems a trend lately that every time a piracy issue comes up we get the same idealistic arguments cut&pasted into your responses.

I actually spend way too much time on these comments, and almost never cut & paste. I’m sorry, but I’m trying to run a business here as well. You do realize that the blog isn’t even my main job? I’m sorry if I haven’t answered the comments to your satisfaction but I have to believe that the overall content of the blog and my participation in the comments would suggest that I do not shirk explaining what I am discussing.

I guess I’m just confused how you think I somehow ran from the comment.

but the practical application of that theory surely does, and its practical application that’s conspicuously absent here.

We have discussed a variety of business models for video games in the past. Do you really want me to retype them all? I would suggest you can use the search engine to find them yourself.

Freedom says:

Fight Back!

I run a VAR business that specializes in helping small businesses with their IT. Our technical staff spends a significant amount of time getting products re-authorized/re-activated.

There is no doubt that DRM punishes paying clients as almost ALL these programs that we spend the time to “do right” we could have just downloaded a non-DRM’d pirated version for free instead.

Seems to me that all DRM does in encourage people to steal!

I’ve had it and I’m glad to see others are fighting back.

We are starting to do this as well and telling our software vendors that are using DRM/activation that is not acceptable and if an alternative exists we are using it instead and calling the company the lost the business to tell them why they didn’t get the sale.

I have no doubt that there is a problem. I also have no doubt that the current DRM solutions are worse than the problem!

Freedom

P.S. Even Microsoft seems to be getting it. In Vista and Server 2008 they just nag you on boot and occasionally if you haven’t activated your software but you can continue to run it. Not perfect but a step in the right direction.

Also, has anyone noticed that as soon as Microsoft started requiring activation that less and less people are willing to put up with them? I wonder what would have happened if people could still easily steal Windows and Office – would Apple have had their success? Would Linux be increasing every day? Seems to me, better to have more users using your software … pirating isn’t always a bad thing – just has to be balanced.

SRNissen says:

Yeah, but Brad Wardell admits that the type of games they publish aren’t the kind you’d usually pirate anyway – eg. the latest FPS without a lot of replay value.

I personally don’t mind the fact that Steam games have DRM – it doesn’t limit me in any way, except of course it prevents me from playing the game on two machines at the same time, for which I don’t have a license anyway.

And Clay, in post#4: A one-star review? Really? Is it that bad a game? Or are you just doing this maliciously?

Overcast says:

Regarding one-star comments not stopping it from being the number one game… all those comments represent – as well as cause – lost sales. I’m sure that weighs heavy on their stockholders.

Possibly – but I personally wouldn’t have bought it, as it’s just not the type of game that would grab my interest.

However; it’s further reason for me to stay away from some of the other stuff they have coming out in the future, and just stick with games from companies who’s DRM is easy or non-existent.

I mean, seriously; it’s enough of a hassle to go to work everyday and make money to buy stuff, I certainly don’t want to waste more time than needed, particularly when it’s cutting into my ‘recreation’ time budget 🙂

Lots and lots of options in PC games now, so it’s not even hard. I guess that’s why EA’s trying to buy it all up – to narrow those options…. who knows? 🙂

Big companies that make bad decisions (trying to put limits on what’s in the market or how their customers can buy their goods) can become smaller companies – ask Xerox or IBM when they think they will be passing Dell, HP, or Microsoft in revenue…

Joe Schmoe says:

This has ancillary impact.

Spore will not run on the old family ‘puter, so I had bumped up “buy new pc” on my to-do list so that my boys could run it.

This game I’m sure is fueling many hardware/system upgrades. I’m not really in the mood to now anymore. It’s the DS version for now and a wait for a game console version of the full game.

Yakko Warner says:

Oh, they're listening.

I submitted an article earlier today, so it’s probably sitting in TechDirt’s inbox; but EA is definitely listening. They’re listening so well, that for their next game, Red Alert 3, they’re promising to use more “lenient measures”.

And by “lenient measures”, they mean instead of limiting to just 3 activations… you get 5.

Ars Technica: EA gives customers middle finger with “lenient” Red Alert 3 DRM

Gozza says:

potentially harmful software

One of the comments on the Gamers Bill of Rights is hilarious and haunting! Props to JohnLudlow the poster.
This is what he proposes should be on gamebpxes, like the warning messages on cigarette boxes:

“WARNING: THIS ENTERTAINMENT SOFTWARE CONTAINS COPY PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY. Such technology may cause unwanted, harmful side effects including but not limited to: a) degradation in computer performance and reliability, b) failure to load the enclosed software, c) increased vulnerability to malware such as viruses, and d) transmission of personal data to third parties.

This would be in big black-on-white letters on the *front* of the box, with penalties if it’s not displayed correctly. What d’you think?”

I vote aye.

Anonymous Coward says:

I knew people who were playing the full, pirated version of Spore up to a week before the first release.

So, well done, Securerom. You really did the work there.

What pro-DRM people need to understand is that piracy isn’t a one-for-one thing. Pirates aren’t limited to the amount of people who personally share their games, i.e, if only 100 people share their game, more than 100 people can download it.

It takes *one* person, anywhere, at any time, to crack the DRM on a game and upload it. And that’s it.

From there on out, the DRM on *every other copy of the game ever* is utterly useless, and serves *only* to annoy the legitimate buyers of the game. Which is absolutely ridiculous.
DRM is akin to installing a vault door on your house and leaving the windows unbarred. Criminals will just smash the windows and get in. The only people inconvenienced by it are the people who want to enter your house legitimately (i.e., you.)

The “three installs” thing is ridiculous, too. If nothing else, it limits your user rights. You can’t re-sell the game. You don’t “own” the game, you’re essentially leasing it under a set of terms. Imagine you have a music CD with extras on it. You play it on your stereo. You then play it on your PC to view the extras. You play it on a walkman (lol walkman) in the kitchen while you’re doing the washing up.
Then you try to play it in your car stereo, and it won’t play, because you’ve used your three “play zones”. You have to ring up the music store and ask them to let you play it in the car. How awesome would that be.

Lucretious (profile) says:

here’s a pleasant flip side to EA’s anti-consumer practices; its an interview with Stardocks Brad Wardell (Sins of a Solar Empire and several other best sellers) extolling the virtues of NOT treating your customer like a filthy crook. Sales are extremely healthy with a very low return rate despite the fact that they have a 100% money back guarantee.

http://www.shacknews.com/featuredarticle.x?id=994

the article is in two parts.

Repulseda says:

Golly, what's the big deal?

– online activation only
– three activations only (on 3 separate computers OR one computer w/configuration changes, which are not disclosed by EA)
– activations are NOT revoked upon uninstallation
– exceeding the 3rd activation and needing another requires approval from EA at their discretion on their timeline, M-F, US business hours only; further activations are in no way guaranteed to any user
– for some disks will be unreadable by their DVD drives due to Securom manufacturing process
– already longstanding problems resulting from Securom conflicts w/other programs still occur, including game startup failure due to Securom errors
– resale is virtually killed due to activation limits
– no refunds are given for downloaded games
– games purchased via EA Download Manager require additional payment for access to them after 2 years
– EA Download Manager installation required for patches
– EA Download Manager installs Securom on user’s computer without notice or consent
– Securom does not fully uninstall when the game is uninstalled
– Securom transmits unknown iinformation over the internet without user’s knowledge or consent
– Securom accesses Ring0 to detect emulation software
– Securom installs hidden files/folders/registry entries upon execution of the game
– Securom is made by SonyDADC, with whom purchasers have no contract when they buy an EA game
– Securom is not identified nor documented in any EA eula
– activation limits are not disclosed to the purchaser in any packaging or documentation prior to purchase
– toll free EA support phone numbers are not available outside of the US
– Securom is well known to cause conflicts w/factory installed emulation utilities, older versions of itself, optical drive software, antivirus software, OS processes and other peripheral software
– None of the above is conveyed by EA to any purchaser until after purchase

EA should eat itself.

Trevlac says:

All DRMs can be overridden. Once it’s done a single time someone will automate it for the average pirate. Thus DRM only frustrates users. I had to explain to a customer today why a game I installed for him isn’t going to be playable until he gets his internet connection working because it phones home.

He now has to wait 3 weeks to play a game he legally bought. In contrast: he could pirate the game in 10 minutes.

GV (user link) says:

Scroll up (at Amazon)

I applaud the grass roots voice, but really: scroll up and look at the sales position @ Amazon: #1 in video games. Wonder what that means in numbers? Think EA *cares* about a few thousand whiners? Highly unlikely. I hope the effort keeps growing and the one-stars reach the ten-thousands or more. Maybe then EA will listen…but not likely. Pay or don’t play. That seems to be their mantra.

Saturnina says:

Re-activating? But how?

I remember wanting to contact EA on some matter or another sometime in the past, and having a very difficult time finding any sensible contact information anywhere on their site. So if and when the allowed re-installs are used or I have other problems with the DRM or the game, how exactly am I supposed to even be able to beg them for help since they try to make contact as hard as possible? They are extremely un-userfriendly.

Needless to say, I don’t think I will bother buying it, even though I was really looking forward to it.

Anonymous Coward says:

“No one likes DRM on games…but no one wants to pay for them either. CoD4 was pirated by what, 80% of PC gamers?”

I pay for them? Usualy even if I am forced to get “fixed” or “bootleg” copy. Also I find those “pirated” numbers HIGHLY DUBIOUS. Where does this 80% come from, my guess is, it comes from someone who benefits from selling DRM solutions.

The fact of the matter remains, great game designers and game companies have grown very large and gotten very rich over the last 20 years, and for most of that time they used no DRM. Seems someone must have been paying . . . non?

SteveD says:

Re: I find those

Those numbers came from Michael Fitchs (THQ Creative Director) rant on piracy not long back; “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.”

And honestly I don’t know what games you’ve been playing for the last 20 years, but copy protection of some form has existing just about as long as disk drives. The original Worms on my Amiga came with a ‘impossible-to-photocopy’ codebook you had to use every time you wanted to play the game, my first flightsim had something similar. You think modern DRM is bad?

I’ve got some friends in the games industry. I know a few guys in the top, one or two in journalism, one or two just starting out as developers. Its that last group I really feel for.

You can just about get away with arguing that CDs should be a free promotional product; albums can be recorded fairly cheaply these days. But it takes a team of two-dosen designers a couple of years to put together a quality game and you want them to live off tshirt sales like…webcomic authors?

EAgitta says:

Re: Re: I find those

Oh, that old Mr. Fitch bitching about his game getting pirated BEFORE it was fecking released chestnut, poor Mr. Fitch who doesn’t bother to actually cite this research he’s seen. 90+% pirated…just say they were ALL pirated, why dontcha?

Oh, that’s before he said the game MADE money, left out that part. Yeah, okay.

I don’t give a flying blue crap what devs/publishers want anymore. I pay for a superior product but don’t get one. I do what they want and get a limited, devalued product that’s defective out of the box due to DRM or their horrific lack of QA. My sympathy dried up for these people when they laid down with the devil to piss on their paying customers.

Where the hell are they getting the multibillions they’ve been making over the past YEAR? Read a financial report or two – somebody’s still dumb enough to pay them for stuff that could be gotten for free with less headache or restriction.

SteveD says:

Re: Re: Re: I find those

“I don’t give a flying blue crap what devs/publishers want anymore. I pay for a superior product but don’t get one. I do what they want and get a limited, devalued product that’s defective out of the box due to DRM or their horrific lack of QA. My sympathy dried up for these people when they laid down with the devil to piss on their paying customers.”

What a strange sense of self-entitlement the internet has created. You don’t like their products…but your going to pirate them anyway. Reminds me off all those teen rockers shaking their fists at the evil music companies for producing rubbish music…then downloading it anyway.

No fault of yours, of course. Its the publishers at fault for lacing their product with ineffective DRM. Or the developers at fault for making a bad game. Or the vendors fault for not delivering the product in exactly the manner you prefer.

Take your pick for self-justification, but at least when I pirate a game or a song I’ve enough self-honesty to know I’m being greedy.

But here’s a conundrum for you; the customer might always be right, but if your not paying any more are you still a customer?

And Mike, of course you don’t literally cut&paste your responses but you do have a tendency to recycle arguments for similar issues without adding any real analysis of the specific problems. I read the blog less and less these days because, quite frankly, there’s not a lot of new content here.

The story you posted can more or less be boiled down to ‘I told you so’. You’ve mentioned you have ideas but not linked to any of them. Of course I know Techdirt is a business above a blog but isn’t that what you’re meant to do? Come up with business solutions?

Now before you get irritated with me and start dissecting this sentence by sentence, please realise I’m not just being critical for the sake of being critical.

EAgitta says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I find those

Where did I say I pirate? Your blind, kneejerk disdain for an entire customer pool is showing.

I’ve never pirated in my life. I’m what publishers need most yet continually push away. I respect the deal and gladly support publishers who view me as a customer first and actually give a damn that I paid them for something because I DID.

I’m an EX-customer of those like EA who broke the deal. I’ve got the money, but their terms have become insulting, cheap, and low. As a paying customer you’re damn right I’m entitled to a functioning product that doesn’t conceal broken code, ridiculous policies, and destructive or limiting activity. Software that does such is not worth it anymore to me.

I’ve always paid for software. Always. And from where I sit, here’s the view: it’s not pirates that have hurt me, the paying customer, it is the publishers that choose to chase non-sales over my money in the till.

Just so we’re clear: my choice is boycott. Mark me down in the proper column as an ACTUAL sale lost *because* of DRM and crappy attitudes from those I PAID.

Christian Olsson (user link) says:

Is Anti-Piracy/DRM the Cure or the Disease for PC Games?

This is a terrible story for 2 parties – legitimate users who simply wanted to play Spore and couldn’t because the activation servers went down and EA because Spore was cracked even before it was released.

Often developers walk a tightrope with the tradeoff between protection strength and the degree of impact on legitimate users but this was a failure on both dimensions! Is this really what the publisher wants to ‘accomplish’? Why not use a solution which is friendly to honest users, has no impact on development time and the strongest available protection against crackers – see the whitepaper “Is Anti-Piracy/DRM the Cure or the Disease for PC Games?” which can be downloaded here http://www.byteshield.net/byteshield_whitepaper_0005.pdf.

Amalthia says:

DRM can work without killing computers

World of Warcraft has some sort of DRM but they didn’t price the game at 60 dollars and the subscription is well worth the money. I also have starcraft and I’ve been able to un-install and re-install the game for over 8 years, it has a unique key so if I want to play online I have to have that key, but otherwise it’s good to play. I think most consumers are a-okay with that kind of DRM.

but when companies install virus’s on their consumer’s computers….they have a lot of nerve to complain when consumers go to the cracked version of the game instead of paying 60 bucks for someone to ruin their computer setup.

Anonymous Coward says:

People have kinda lost the point here. DRM *doesn’t stop piracy*. At all. If it did, there would at least be some reason to defend it. If it did stop piracy, you wouldn’t be able to download Spore, or Bioshock, or countless other games.

*All* DRM does is piss off legitimate customers. That’s it. Imagine if all the security on your car involved an elaborate set of locks that keep your door closed. You have to spend a few minutes getting the door open to get in and drive, but a carjacker can just smash the window and drive off.

That’s exactly what DRM does. It’s a minor, if any, inconvenience to pirates, but a relatively major, and *pointless* annoyance to actual customers.

Anonymous Game Developer says:

Bought the game, still going to pirate it

I pre-ordered the “galactic edition” because I want to support the five years (or has it been longer?) that EA has taken to nurture this genre-defying product.

But I won’t be installing it from the disc. After looking over these DRM rules and noting that it’s incompatible with my “computational lifestyle” (multiple computers, hard drive swaps, kid computers, etc), I’ll be installing it from a pirate site.

The kicker is: am I breaking the law? I guess so? This is sort of a unique situation for me, pirating a game I spent $80 on…

Sunny says:

Ridiculous...

DRM harms ONLY legit consumers.
Pirate copies will ALWAYS be available on day of, or often BEFORE release.
EA’s DRM has a history of being BROKEN (Like my preordered special edition copy of C&C – which it INSISTS is not a legit copy, and I had to install a CRACK FROM A WAREZ SITE to run – an example of piracy HELPING legit customers who got screwed)
Statistics in the latest reports by gamesindustry.biz suggest that the numbers cited by publishers are off by several orders of magnitude, since the majority of people who pirate a game would never have bought it in the first place, while those who pirate it and WOULD have bought it, often DO go out and buy, considering it an “extended demo” (Backed up by a recent survey performed by one developer, who lowered pricing and removed all DRM from his games in response)
This particular DRM is clearly an attack, not on piracy, but on the second hand game industry. If the movie studios had developed a type of VHS tape in the 80s which blanked itself if played on any player other than the first one you played it on, you can bet they would have. And if there wasn’t enough outcry over it then, then people would just accept this kind of DRM now.
Of course, as anyone with ANY economic sense knows, if you destroy the second hand trade in ANY industry, you cripple the industry, massively slashing the number of consumers. This hurts marketing, it hurts brand recognition, it hurts sales to middle and lower income brackets, which are a vast majority, and in the end it WILL kill your business.

linkohki says:

spore doesn't work

my spore worked fine for 2 days, then it stopped working, when i tried loading it nothing happened, i tried again and it got an “error [1000] another instance of this game is already running”, first i tried reinstalling it which solved the problem, it solved it the second time too, but apaprent you can only use the code 3 times then you’re doomed. so it doesn’t work, waste of money

Anonymous Coward says:

Funny. Spore is the most pirated game in history now. Looks like EA accomplished nothing but keeping money that people would have spent on Spore in the pockets of people who would like to be a paying consumer but refuses to deal with their DRM and has to resort to piracy of the game instead.

Spore runs a lot better when you use a pirated version to bust the DRM then copy any files you want over from a friend’s or pc not inuse.

I know because I always pirate a game before I shell out my money to buy it, if it’s worth paying for I do if not I delete the files and I’m not out the cost of a good meal and wine.

If EA doesn’t change something I’m going to stop paying for games and just outright pirate them and save myself some money. I don’t mind paying for a good ligitmate produce and there is a lot of people on the same page, but if your going to screw it up don’t expect less people to pay for it then normaly would.

We'll see says:

What authentication???

What’s all the ruckus about authentication? I bought spore on the day it came out and have played it a few times in the last couple of weeks. I turned off my internet connection during the install which went fine. After attempting to run the game for the first time there was a popup saying something about not having a connection and/or not being able to get online content (I didn’t read the whole thing) at which time I rebooted my machine. After the reboot, it ran fine and has been ever since. Granted, I’m not registered with EA and I can’t share my stuff or download other’s but that’s exactly what I wanted – and remember – this game isn’t like the Sims where people can actually create different types of items…only different creatures, vehicles, and buildings…they may look different and their stats might be somewhat different but they’re all basically the same. Also, If I decide someday to go online, the option is right there on the menu.

TrueLugia121 says:

heh it seems Electronic Arts learnt their lesson in court today and made up the the huge, poor excuse, always-gonna-get-cracked-right-from-the-onset piece of shmuck called spore. I’m lucky i stood well away from it cause if bought Spore, i dont wanna waste anymore money on pathetic excuses for Digital Rights Mockery. I bought The Last Remnant by Square-Enix, I get hit in the face by VALVE Steam DRM once. I bought Silent Hill Homecoming PC by Konami, I get hit in the Face by VALVE Steam DRM twice. I tried to take both of these titles back to my local EB Games and they don’t refund those whatsoever. why the !@#$% do i have to have an internet connection to active just so i can play MY GAMES THAT I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN !@#$% MONEY 0FF FRICKIN LINE? I’m TOTALLY DISGRACED ABOUT THIS PATHETIC EXUCE THESE SO-CALED PC DEVELOPERS CAL DRM, OR DIGITAL RIGHTS MOCK-MY-ASS. and now I tried Grand Theft Auto IV by Rockstar games and yet still requires me to have an internet connection to active so i can PLAY THE GAME OFF FRICKIN LINE.

gee the way DRM does business is just utter plain !@#$%. I ONLY BOUGHT, I repeat, ONLY BOUGHT, Dragon Age Origins just because there was no DRM. And THAT, sorry for locking my caps, IS THE ONLAY WAY TO GET PEOPLE TO BUY AND PLAY PC GAME. i understood that Electronic Arts have now learnt their lesson by taking out online activation of The Sims 3, and I might actually consider that game one day, but if they continute to put Digital Rights Mockery and Online Activation Requirements in their future releases, and this goes to al other game companies, not just EA, then they are promoting Piracy, PERIOD. which is why i have better things to spend my money on, like fishnet stay-ups, have bette3r things to do in life like downloading English Translated Japanese Visual Novels. cause i have no plans on buying PC games at al from here on.

and to finish my protest, DRM stands for Devolvingly Retarted Moondogs.

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