EA Finally Realizes People Are Upset Over Spore DRM

from the taken-by-surprise? dept

It only took two weeks since the massive backlash against EA for the DRM and account limits it included with Spore for EA to recognize that maybe it needed to respond. This morning, EA agreed to up the install limit from 3 times to 5, claiming they may also make exceptions in some cases, and also released a patch allowing for multiple user names. While it’s nice that the company finally responded, this is still a pretty weak response and doesn’t address the core issues.

Also, it’s odd that it took the company this long to respond. EA claims that the controversy caught them “off guard.” If so, then they clearly haven’t paid much attention. We were among many sites that talked about the DRM problem back in May, which got tons of angry comments. Other sites that discussed the DRM got similar angry comments as well, so the only way this should have caught EA off guard was if they weren’t paying any attention whatsoever to what various gamers were saying.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: ea

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “EA Finally Realizes People Are Upset Over Spore DRM”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Jim says:

Re: buy, then bootleg

At the very least you should send EA an email explaining why you won’t be buying their game. If there are thousands of people who just pirate it then EA won’t get the message and they’ll release their next game the same way. If thousands of people send an email and say “I didn’t buy it because _____” – then they may do it different next time.

Paul says:

Re: Re: Re: buy, then bootleg

Electronic Arts
209 Redwood Shores Parkway
Redwood City, CA 94065
United States

Who’s Who in the Zoo (Frank Gibeau, 39yrs old
President – EA Games Label

Kathy Vrabeck, 45yrs old
President – EA Casual Entertainment

Stephen Bene, 44yrs old
Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Corporate Secretary

Larry Probst, 58yrs old
Chairman of the Board

bookdragoness says:

Oh wow, really EA??

I cancelled my preorder when they released the information on their DRM scheme and included a note as to why. I’m definitely not the only person who did, either. Maybe the cascading wave of cancellations should have told them something?

Chalk this one up to cynicism, but this just seems like EA yet again trying to gauge the exact amount of offensiveness they can put in their DRM without pissing ALL their customers off. Once it’s calibrated and customers are desensitized, expect everything be released with a minimum-outrage-generating form of DRM and go up from there. Count me out.

Gabe Stephenson says:

The product lacked basic market research

A reasonable manager would have documented this in the “Risks” column of the overall project. They possibly could have researched customer’s overall customer perception of DRM or Account limits, even point to the success/failure of similar products like Windows Genuine Advantage in the customer’s eyes. This could have been done in 15 minutes using Google. After this, maybe just for kicks, they would have created a contingency plan. It’s sad it took this long.

EArrgh says:

Re: The product lacked basic market research

EA didn’t have to look any further than its own official game boards to see their customers 1) hate Securom to the point that its inclusion is a complete deal-breaker and 2) online only activation and limits are the rancid cherry on top of the deal-breaker.

They could’ve also learned a thing or two from the Bioshock mess and saved us all some money and aggravation, but as a former EA customer of over a decade, I can solemnly swear that EA is incapable of learning.

Someone called them ‘aloof’ further down. QFT. I’d add arrogant and inept too.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Such is life

Um, I don’t think marketing people are the ones insisting on DRM. I work for a technology company that makes consumer electronics products. In product meetings, marketing acts as the customer advocate, trying to shape the product to what they think customers want, and sometimes making ridiculous, unattainable feature requests. DRM is a product of those who think it will increase their profits by protecting their IP.

Anonymous Coward says:

It should be noted that it isn’t simply a matter of expanding the installs from 3 to 5. Previously, you could have thre installs. EVER. It would be like having three oranges. If you eat one orange, you will NEVER get it back. The change they made — and that we were demanding — is that you be able to RECOVER installations. That is, it should behave like iTunes. You can have it installed only so many places at one time, but if you uninstall it from one place, you are refunded that installation and can go install it in a new place (or reinstall in the same place again). It is a very significant difference. Three installs – regardless of reason – EVER. Versus three or five concurrent installs.

Then, the expansion of moving from one character per account to five (a reasonable number for a small family or a dorm room or something) is also good and addresses the second major issue.

Third, we still have to deal with SecuROM. That sucks. However, that is an issue that doesnt’ directly affect your ability to use the game now, later and forever. It is more of a libertarian, philisophical (though practical in a way — if you have it on your computer) issue. We don’t want crap installed on our machines and monitoring us, etc.

EA also declared that they would issue a patch that turned off “phone home” for activations if they ever shut down the registration/activation server. They stated that they have no interest in preventing people from playing their game even long after everything is over with, years down the road.

As one of the most vocal critics (I’m in the not four or five reviews on amazon for it), I see this as a win and while I still dislike the SecuROM, I am glad that they gave in to the consumer on the most important and vital issues that could have potentially shut us out of our own games down the road.

If they keep this in mind for later releases of other games, I think they’ll do well and I can look past this. The SecuROM inclusion, in general, will still be a point of contention, but it alone will not prevent me from buying a title.

Spectere (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It should be noted that it isn’t simply a matter of expanding the installs from 3 to 5. Previously, you could have thre installs. EVER. It would be like having three oranges. If you eat one orange, you will NEVER get it back. The change they made — and that we were demanding — is that you be able to RECOVER installations.

The online activation is unacceptable regardless of whether you can recover installations or not.

First of all, if there is a failure to connection to the activation server during the uninstall process, what happens? Odds are, you lose the install.

What if your hard drive crashes? It’s not exactly an unlikely occurrence. Even so, oops, you just lost an install.

What if you reinstall Windows and uninstalling all of your SecuROM applications slips your mind (after all, such things should be cleanly dealt with when you wipe your drive). Oops, another install gone!

And finally, whether you can recover activations or not doesn’t change the fact that pirates are able to play the game hassle-free. If the activation servers are down for a day they’re not stuck staring at the packaging. They’re actually playing the damn game while the paying customers are sitting down cursing EA.

The pirates don’t have ring 0 copy protection drivers sitting on their system waiting to be exploited — paying customers are.

The pirates NEVER have to have a CD in the drive.

The pirates don’t pay a dime and their playing experience is almost always better than that of paying customers.

The fact that companies like Stardock, Introversion, and numerous other small companies are releasing games that have reached incredible commercial success without including horrifying DRM really says a lot. The fact that people are blinding buying games that don’t have DRM simply to support the companies who publish DRM-free games speaks volumes about how bad the recent “solutions” have been.

EA loosening up their leash on their activation scheme is certainly not a win for consumers. I consider it an insult.

Wrathernaut says:

Good Business.

They still miss the point that the pirates have a 100% DRM free, unhindered version, while users have only a slightly less hobbled version now.

Pirates deterred by DRM: 0.
Users hindered by DRM: ∞ times more.

Price paid for DRM: $Monies.
Pirates hindered by whatever that cost was: 0.
Pirates deterred per dollar: 0.

Cost of user support for re-authorizations: $More Monies.
Cost of user support for re-authorizations if DRM was not present: $0 Monies.

Somebody tell me how this is good business?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Good Business.

To be fair you’re grossly underestimating the average person. Let me demonstrate:


WOW, that was hard……

DRM does not work in deterring ANY copy infringement, casual or otherwise. DRM punishes legitimate, paying consumers. EA are moronic for going down this route.

Rekrul says:

EA also declared that they would issue a patch that turned off “phone home” for activations if they ever shut down the registration/activation server. They stated that they have no interest in preventing people from playing their game even long after everything is over with, years down the road.

Was that a legally binding statement that would stand up in a court of law or just a promise?

john says:

missing a step

I agree with Anon Coward… i read a review and it noted the manual stated you could have multiple users under one account, but that wasn’t present in the version RTM. They’re testing the waters and seeing how much people will take. They’ll back off enough to quiet the majority of the critics. Next game will push that bar slightly farther out. Eventually, most will be so used to a high level of restriction there won’t be any backlash at all.

EA can do this because they’re the largest publisher on the PC platform.

interval says:

Re: missing a step

> “EA can do this because they’re the largest publisher on the PC platform.”

Because of the Sims? Really? I still don’t get why that title is the most successful title in history of PC gaming. I understand that its a successful title, but “best game ever”? Really? Is it “that great” a game?


PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: missing a step

As with the Wii, it’s not a question of whether it’s the “greatest ever”, it’s a matter of demographics. The Sims appeals to a much wider audience than, say, Half Life 2 or GTA and will thus sell more copies.

EA have also mastered the art of selling expansions to people. For every person buying the newest FPS, there’s a “non-gamer” buying every expansion released for The Sims. Not a great game necessarily, but a massive market.

Bradley Stewart (profile) says:

EA Games Response

It doesn’t supprise me a bit that EA GAMES took so long to respond. In fact I am supprised that they responded at all. This may be the most aloof company that I have ever tried to communicate with. Good luck reaching these people about anything. In almost forty years I spent in sales and customer service on my worst days I never treated any customers as poorly as this company, if they bother to respond at all which is extreamly unlikly.

Rodney (profile) says:

Bitch Bitch

Just shut up and play the game! It’s a great game! Have it on 3 systems, it’s fun as hell, very little bugs if any, doesn’t need the CD, and I just Ghost my drives so if anything does go wrong I can just restore the drive and play on. Why all the bitching? WTF? EA thank you for a great game, well worth my money. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Bitch Bitch

Three systems were: My laptop, my computer before fatal crash. My new computer. Laptop and New Computer died in fire.

I get out of EA with some wrangling one more install. Am told that if I ever wipe windows and start from scratch they’re not likely to give me another install because they think I am lying.

I cry

rooly says:

who buys drm'd games anyway?

i have to say, i only know 2 people who bought the game, and it doesn’t work on both of their computers (running vista may be the cause). everyone else around me, probably several hundred, have a pirated copy of the game, and refuse to buy it until they get what they paid for: ownership of a copy of the program, not just a license to use it until EA flips the light switch…

Anonymous Coward says:

EA has never listened to customers

>> so the only way this should have caught EA off guard was if they weren’t paying any attention whatsoever to what various gamers were saying.

Having dealt with EA professionally for many years, both as a customer and as a service provider/solutions provider, I have never been in a position where I ever considered that what EA, or anyone working at EA, was doing was based in any way on customer feedback or on serving the customer’s needs.

Every interaction I have had with the company is based purely on marketing metrics, and how the company can make the most money for the least risk – which is why there are so many sequels of essentially the same game, and why the blockbuster titles they buy in are typically swathed in restrictive DRM – a horse/barn mentality around trying to drive up unit sales, rather than increase customer retention and satisafaction.

One of the most horrendous experiences I have ever had with EA was trying to speak to the head of their Support Department, not as an EA customer, but on a business level. After several months of non-returned phone calls I gave up on EA as a bad business risk.

And on that note, the games industry has never been interested in customer retention – once a game is released, the company basically cuts it’s losses and ignores everything (barring subscription-based titles of course), which is why support for released games is usually so poor.

EA have also been (from memory) one of the most vocal proponents for the second-sale doctrine – whereby they either control the second hand sale of the games they release (by placing onerous restrictions on the activation, making resale impossible or incredibly difficult), or by claiming they should receive a percentage of any resale made.

I don’t buy very many EA games anymore – and when I do, I buy the retail package (there you go, EA, you have my money) and then download a cracked version to actually install. The cracked version – as rightly stated elsewhere in the comments – typically comes with an easier install process, no hidden Securom drivers (or any others), no requirement for the CD to be in the drive, and an overall better ongoing experience with the package as a whole.

Like many others, if EA removed this restrictive DRM, the online activations, the limited installs, and actually released a game that I could *buy* rather than rent temporarily, then I might spend more of scarce resource (my spare money and leisure time) on their product, and I might spend more often.

But wait – that would mean they’re retaining me as a customer rather than boosting unit sales.

As you were EA…

Anon Old School Atarian says:

EA has always been about DRM.

Long before it was called Digital Rights Management, EA had some of the most nefarious copy protection on the market. Back in the days of 5.25 inch disk drives, they had copy protection which relied on the disk having bad sectors on it.

Sounds fine, but this would cause the drive to do a head re-alignment proceedure. This was death to Atari 810 disk units (About $300.00 at the time)! What the drive would do when it found a bad sector, was to run the head mechanism all the way against the calibrated stop and vibrate it in order to bring it back into alignment with a LOUD “BRAPPPPP”!

Strange thing, if you pirated their precious software by loading the correct register in memory with the fake returned error code (#144 in the case of sector not found/bad sector on an Atari), this stopped, and you avoided having you hardware damaged for playing Archon or MULE.

You think they would have learned by now. Somewhere between the programmers, and the store shelf, there are pointy haired bosses, bean counters, and DRM facilitators… and of course marketing which can hype a destroyed product as if it’s still intact… the saga of stupidity has gone on for 25 years. I would bet there’s 2500 more years to go.

PaulT (profile) says:

“This morning, EA agreed to up the install limit from 3 times to 5, claiming they may also make exceptions in some cases, and also released a patch allowing for multiple user names.”

So, they’re still not interested in making me want to buy the game then? My issue is not that there were “only” 3 installs allowed, but that there was a limit at all. When I buy a game, I want to play it at any time, on as many machines as I own. If the game is any good, I also want to have the option to pick it up again in 10 years time (as I recently did with the original Half Life and Transport Tycoon). This is not going to be possible under the DRM scheme.

I’m not paying $50 for a game to rent it, so why are there limits? This is why DRM will never defeat piracy – all it does it artificially limit the customer and cause problems that the pirated versions never cause. Why would anyone pay $50 to have their rights removed like this?

EArrgh says:

Re: Patching Spore

Oh, business as usual for EA then?

Release game with bugs, release patch with several/some/many bugs not fixed, fixed things rebroken, unbroken things broke, and a giant dose of revamped Securom to lengthen the download time and quite possibly throw you some error messages or disable rightclicking or cancel your phone service or whatever…

Finish it off by ignoring complaints about the patch/es, or complain about the complaints.

It’s like some sort of sick game – their most successful ever.

tracker1 (user link) says:

Why not hardware encrypted USB drive?

I just don’t get why they don’t start using a hardware encrypted USB interface. Then they can limit it to use *with* the drive, don’t have to install funky DRM drivers on top of the cd/dvd drivers. Don’t have to try and stop dvd-copy software etc.

If they simply did this, it would be far easier for them to limit the software being copied, far more effectively, and piss off consumers far less. With the cost of 4-8GB of flash memory and a simple encryption interface, it would be possible to use the HD for caching/media and the flash for a run-without-install experience… I don’t get why they don’t do it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Why not hardware encrypted USB drive?

There’s many problems with that:

Firstly, hardware is expensive. With the volumes being talked about, it’s a significant enough cost to eat into profit margins.

Secondly, the USB key would be easily lost – especially if numerous games started using this system. This increases support costs, locks out many legitimate users who then have to wait for snail mail to get back into their legally-purchased games. Result: a bigger PR headache than this one and a lot off pissed-off users who might decide to pirate the next game instead of paying for the hassle.

Thirdly, it would be pirated. Someone would crack the code, release a “click on this to turn your $5 USB key into an EA key” program, and it’s back to square one (even assuming that the game itself isn’t cracked first to remove the need for a key).

There’s other problems, but those are the ones that come to mind. It’s a total non-starter. Again, all those problems, and the only people suffering are the ones who chose to pay for the game. The pirates have a better experience than paying customers.

Jeff says:


I totally would have bought this game at full price. I had the money set aside and saved specifically for the game. Then, after all of the ridiculous amount of public outcry, after customers losing their shit on EA’S OWN FORUMS…they still include SecuROM? The still stick with 3-installs-and-that’s-it? They stick with the retarded activation bullshit?

I pirated the game and spent the 50 dollars on a cheap external HDD so I could install it for friends for free. Including my own, I’ve completed 11 installs of a pirated copy. That’s half a grand out of EA’s pocket because they refuse to listen to their customers.

Now they come at us with this. Oooooo, 2 more installs. Shiny! And OH MY GOD! Multiple users! Pretty!

Fuck you, EA. Suck my cock.

Joe says:

id goes EA for RAGE

I love id games, I bought all the doom, quake, wolfs. Now RAGE will be published by EA. from idsofware front page:
“On Monday at E3, John Carmack announced that id Software is publishing it’s new game RAGE with EA “
Looks like I may skip it if it contains the same bullcrap protection. Sorry John, bad choice there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: id goes EA for RAGE

“I love id games, I bought all the doom, quake, wolfs. Now RAGE will be published by EA. from idsofware front page:
“On Monday at E3, John Carmack announced that id Software is publishing it’s new game RAGE with EA “
Looks like I may skip it if it contains the same bullcrap protection. Sorry John, bad choice there.”

I am also a long time Id fan, but the truth is they have been as big a proponents of restrictive and insulting DRM as anyone in the industry. It makes me sad, but Id views thier fans as potential thieves as much or more then anyone in the business.

sporenicator says:

a lot of complaints about nothing


I think a lot of people are going all nerd-ragey for no reason. Likely, many of those who are complaining that they will “never get this game or any other game by EA” are likely playing it right now.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: a lot of complaints about nothing

As covered in the comments to that article, the article itself is totally missing the point.

Ars claim that they overcame the install limit with a simple phone call. Well, that’s great for now, but what about in 2, 5 or 10 years’ time – will the lines still be open? Will the keys still be available? Will EA even still be in business? That’s also assuming you find a phone call acceptable – how much does it cost? How much time do you have to wait on hold? How many times over the lifetime of the game do you need to make these calls?

It’s impossible to know, which means that the DRM will block many paying customers, who have paid good money for the game. They are essentially renting the game at the whims of EA’s restrictions. Meanwhile, pirates have no such restrictions. I’m yet to hear a good explanation as to why people paying $50 for a new game should be restricted in this way, while those who pay nothing avoid those problems completely.

John (profile) says:

Caught off guard

I’d like to see a related story go into more depth about how EA could EVER be caught “off guard”. This is a company that spends gazillions of dollars and resources to make sure their next game will be a hit. Would they really release the umpteenth version of Madden NFL if their research showed it wouldn’t sell?

So, come on, EA. Caught “off guard”? Really? No one in your entire marketing department told you this would happen? None of your research/ focus groups warned you about this? None of your beta testers or final play-testers warned you?

I’m not sure what’s worse: that EA would actually put out a game with this many restrictions or that they could be caught “off guard” by customers’ reactions.

Scott says:

THQ did it right.

I have to congratulate THQ for what they did with Supreme Commander. They removed DRM completely! once there customers experienced problems. They also made a very good and polished game, i really thing they’ve done a great thing in putting there customers first.

A lot of these businesses seem to forget that there are people who perfectly legally buy the game. These people end up getting punished with DRM effecting there performance and not to mention adding compatibility issues.

People are going to copy it anyway so why add all these extra issues?

Its just as bad with DVD’s too. You have to watch the piracy adverts at the start on your legally bought DVD!

Most pirated copies don’t have that, because its so annoying, so why do they have it on the legally bought DVD!?

Its like saying we don’t want you to lend your DVD to your mates so you can only watch it 5 times. Its stopping you from using what you legally bought.

By law here in New Zealand in a way it is actually illegal. If you use it 5 times and after that is will not work you can return it under the consumer guarantee’s act. The goods should be usable for years after that.

Loyd (user link) says:

Bogged Down with DRM

Since I’m writing a review on Spore I had to get a copy and install it DRM or No DRM. Spore requires you install the EA downloader if you get the game direct from the EA store online.

After installing the game and playing for a while I restarted the system and noticed the EA downloader is automatically running at startup. I went back to some of the other FPS games I normally play and realized I was getting really crappy frame rates (10fps instead of 30 I normally get). I alt tabbed and killed everything running including the EA downloader. No improvement. I began checking processes and couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary running that would explain the low frame rate. It is my contention that there may be a rootkit or otherwise hidden DRM scheme which has yet to be uncovered and is not showing up in the process list.

Marsman says:

One Re-Load Shot

When I bought Spore, I wasn’t aware of the DRM issue. Yes, I live under a rock. As I was loading it, I checked my disk space and decided to delete some old junk games and do a defrag, so I stopped the Spore load (after I had input the key code). So, I guess I’ve lost one re-load for no other reason than being lazy and not checking disk space prior to loading the game.

EnOne says:

Include DRM with minimum system requirements

When Mass Effect came out there was similar DRM problems but after a small growl of anger it went away. I think Spore will be more of the straw that broke the camel’s back.

If DRM is to be included in games it needs to be on the boxes next to minimum system requirements.

– this game requires the disk to run
– this game will allow you can only have one player per computer
– if you upgrade your computer you will have to repurchase this game
– this game requires a blood sample every five minutes


Anonymous Coward says:

I admit that the comments is some of the above posts leave me a bit confused. In the case of this specific game installed on, say, a Win machine, must the original be present in your DVD drive anytime you want to play the game? Or, is this a game where the program is installed, it is verified online once installed, and thereafter can be used independent of the original disc. Multiple simultaneous installs as is apparently possible suggests the latter and not the former.

Anyone have an answer?

Mike (Different Mike) says:

EA not paying attention?

EA not paying attention? What, like the how every year people complain about certain aspects of their yearly franchises, only to see the exact same problems in the following year’s version of the game. Or the most grossly inadequate, anemic, poorly written manuals put out by any game manufacturer. Or their reliance on yearly franchises with very little differences between yearly versions.

You got it right, EA definitely doesn’t pay attention.

Paul in Chicago says:

Keep the pressure on EA games to go in the direction of Fallout 3

Too bad EA hasn’t fully embraced trusting its customers more. Another blog noted Pete Hines has announced that Fallout 3 will ship with little to no DRM whatsoever because they want to trust their paying customers. See http://www.aeropause.com/2008/10/fallout-3-to-ship-on-pc-minus-drm/

If you want to pressure EA games to unbundle DRM and SecuROM, there’s a campaign that just started to refuse to buy EA games until they remove DRM and SecuROM from their software. Check it out at http://www.thepoint.com/campaigns/ea-games-without-drm-and-secu-rom

Figure each game costs $50 minimum, and if 500 people sign on, that would be $25,000 in lost revenue. For its loyal customer base, secretly adding DRM and SecuROM in their install is just not the way to treat us.

The three issues are that DRM and SecuRom are being installed without the user realizing it; DRM limits the number of computers you can install it on; and SecuROM has been affecting some people’s computers to the point that they needed to re-format their hard drive and uninstall the game to get their computer returning to normal.

And it takes just a minute to sign up. You can even sign anonymously.

Kenny Hendrick says:


This is a letter I had to waste my time in composing for the dumbest of games:


I am a computer tech located at 5340 Grand Blvd. in the Sunrise Village Shopping Center.

A customer (slave to his grandchildren) came to me with this game (spore) and requested to purchase a computer that will play it (actually it started out that he just purchased a computer that was apparently not good enough so he traded it in for another computer, and now we are on the fourth computer….for a freaking game!).

Okay, now we have a video card (pci-E) with 256mb ram and a new motherboard and a 3Ghz processor and a world of ram but the stupid game now tells me it’s been installed on too many computers!!!!????

Will you kindly rectify the error so I can statisfy this guy (we have the final computer, I built it from scratch and EVERYTHING is new in this one…even the case is new. The game was installed on the aforementioned computers in the span of two days trying to tailor a machine for it.

The sooner this bug is fixed the sooner I can get paid and the owner, John Gloria, will not be hating ea games.

My phone number is (727) 277-8006

The customer’s number is (727) 992-2795

Thank you for your kind consideration to this matter.

24hours later….all I received was a canned response.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...