# EA Plays 'Guess The Serial Number' With Customers

### from the quality-control dept

EA continues its attempts to make a near total mockery of DRM on video games. Its latest move, pointed out to us by Alex, was to misprint the serial numbers found on some versions of Command and Conquer Red Alert 3. Rather than showing the necessary 20 digits, EA only printed 19. To be fair, EA will supply the missing digit if you send in a photo of the first 19, but the company also suggests testing out every letter from A – Z and then every number from 0 – 9 to find the missing digit. While it’s true that this is likely to be an effective workaround, it’s yet another example showing DRM getting in the way of legitimate buyers, rather than doing anything useful.

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Companies: ea

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## Comments on “EA Plays 'Guess The Serial Number' With Customers”

No Six Pack says:

Make your payment with a fifteen digit credit card number

thzinc says:

# Re: Re:

Well, if it’s the first 15 digits, the 16th digit is easily calculated by the Luhn algorithm. (Gotta love check digits…)

Anonymous Coward says:

# Re: The 15 Digit numbers work

The 16th digit in a credit card number is a Check Digit. So long as you know the first 15, you can compute the 16th (last) digit.

Den Lamber says:

# Re: Re:

great idea, but i’ve bought my last EA already.

elduderino (profile) says:

hey can I guess my serial number even if I didn’t purchase the game? after all it was THEIR suggestion, right?

Hidden Force says:

# Re: Free Time

Sure, but I hope you have lots of free time. With 13,367,494,538,843,734,067,838,845,976,576 possible combinations, guessing one per second, it will take you a little over 423.59 septillion years. Better get started.

Sean says:

# Re: Re: Free Time

If you have 26 letters and 10 possible digits, how do you get that number? Or were you just trying to be ‘the cool kid.’

Anonymous Coward says:

# Re: Re: Re: Free Time

26 letters + 10 numerals = 36 possible characters.
Password length = 20 characters long.

All possible password combinations: 36^20 = 13,367,494,538,843,734,067,838,845,976,576

But then, who needs a brute force crack when a keygen is probably already out in the wild?

# Re: Re: Re:2 Free Time

“But then, who needs a brute force crack when a keygen is probably already out in the wild?”

Sure is. 😉

Phill says:

# Re: Re: Re: Free Time

He is talking about guessing all of the digits not just the last digit. However there is more then one possible solution, in fact I’m sure there are more then a ten million possible solutions. Still to guess one by hand, not likely to happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

# Re: Re: Free Time

I’d assume there are more than 1 combinations that are “correct”. Depending on that number, the time to find one combination could be drastically reduced (although your chances of surviving till the first combination is found would still be quite slim).

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

# Re: Re: Re: Free Time

Never mind the fact that, statistically, you’re just as likely on your first try to get it right with “11111111111111111111” as you are with “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”. The only plus side is that as you get more and more wrong, the remaining choices are more and more likely to be correct. So your likelyhood of getting things right make a nice pretty accelleration curve.

Or, you could just buy the damned game, take the extra (yes, annoying) minute or two and enter the 1 extra digit.

elduderino (profile) says:

# Re: Re: Free Time

> … With 13,367,494,538,843,734,067,838,845,976,576 possible…

with a limited number of installs I guess they can expect to sell that many copies…

Trerro says:

# Typical EA

Meh, RA3 uses the SecuROM game rental system, where you buy a number of installations instead of actually owning a copy. I won’t be buying it for that reason alone, so anything else they screw up is just further reinforcement that the company should be avoided like the plague.

I also love how this “hey, just try all 62 possible values for the missing digit!” thing was timed right after the announcement that if you criticize them in any way on their forums, you’ll be banned instantly from all EA games you own.

I guess once you’ve destroyed about 2/3 of the US gaming industry the way EA has, you can do whatever you want to your customers and still somehow manage to turn a profit.

*Sigh* Thankfully, Japan and Korea still make great games, without the EA BS.

Anonymous Coward says:

# Re: Typical EA

“I guess once you’ve destroyed about 2/3 of the US gaming industry the way EA has, you can do whatever you want to your customers and still somehow manage to turn a profit.”

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/30/BU0G13RIO3.DTL

Video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc. posted a quarterly net loss Thursday and said it is laying off 6 percent of its workforce to cut costs as it heads into the most lucrative season for the games industry.
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* TECH CHRONICLES / A daily dose of postings from The Chronicle’s technology… 11.04.08
* Fewer expected to use mortgage aid program 11.04.08
* October auto sales hit lowest level in 17 years 11.04.08
* AIG investors lost more than \$500 million 11.04.08

Higher development and marketing costs led to the bigger-than-expected loss for the July-September period. The quarter’s revenue surpassed Wall Street’s forecast thanks to the success of games like Spore and Madden NFL 09, but the Redwood City company did not exude the cheery optimism that has characterized the video game industry in the past few months even amid the economic turmoil. The company’s shares, which have been trading at their lowest level more than five years, tumbled in after-hours trading.

“Considering the slowdown at retail we’ve seen in October, we are cautious in the short term,” Chief Executive Officer John Riccitiello said in a statement. “Longer term, we are very bullish on the game sector overall and on EA in particular.”

The company lost \$310 million (97 cents per share) in its second fiscal quarter. That was worse than the loss of \$195 million (62 cents) a year earlier. Sales jumped 40 percent to \$894 million.

Excluding one-time items, EA says it lost 6 cents per share in the latest quarter, matching the expectation of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Chief Financial Officer Eric Brown said the company remains “cautiously optimistic” about the holidays. EA, like other video game companies, makes the bulk of its money in November and December.

EA lowered its full-year profit outlook range because of the strengthening dollar and the delay of the latest Harry Potter game, although it kept its revenue forecast intact. The company expects to earn between \$1 and \$1.40 per share during the fiscal year, excluding items, down from its previous forecast of \$1.30 to \$1.70 in adjusted earnings. On this basis, analysts are predicting a profit of \$1.42 for the year.

The job cuts will include from 500 to 600 positions across all departments and locations, EA said. While some of these jobs are open, most will involve layoffs.

EA shares sank \$4.03, or 14.5 percent, to \$23.70 in after-hours trading. The stock had closed down 31 cents at \$27.73.
————————–

JT says:

# Re: Typical EA

I personally think it’s EA’s continued attack on the PC gaming market. They’ve been pretty clear in the past that they’d be much happier if they were only targeting consoles and their recent EA Sports announcements have shown that.

I can only hope that other companies will see how ridiculous this is and that it only pisses off buying customers. Unfortunately, Ubisoft went the same path with Far Cry 2.

Paul` says:

I don’t see how this does anything other then be a pain in he ass to their paying customers. Pirated copies would just have a keygen or crack, nothing to do with a printed number on a purchased version.

Anonymous Coward says:

26! / 10! != 13,367,494,538,843,734,067,838,845,976,576. its possible to brute it for a while then find a pattern

joe says:

thats why i am a pirate they will never get any more of my money i will rob them from now on

Tim EviLiu says:

# You've got to be kidding

Reminds me of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory by Ubisoft. The single and multiplayer games were two completely separate exe files, made by two completely separate teams, with completely separate cd keys. They didn’t tell you which key was which. Then to top it off, one of the keys had extra spam digits at the end, that you were magically supposed to know not to use, AND, although the correct key was like 20 chars long, the entry field field held like 100 chars. AND! The 8s and the Bs were nearly identical.

UNKN (profile) says:

# Re: You've got to be kidding

I always loved that about Ubisoft games, all the way back to R6, those god forsaken Bs and 8s screwed me up all the time.

Video Gamer says:

# Only a few combinations, not zillions

The article implies that it’s only the *last* digit that’s missing, therefore we are only talking about 36 possible combinations, not the zillions quoted by some of you.

While I don’t like EA’s DRM tactics and (boycott them for it), it’s ridiculous to think they would send their customers out on a wild goose chase like this.

Very Leery says:

# 36 times = 35 too many

Also, is a picture really necessary? If the person doesn’t have a digital camera, what happens then?

Me Leery too says:

# Re: What if no digital camera?

Well, in that case you get out the giant Polaroid on its tripod and snap a picture…

…or better yet, make a daguerotype and use the magnesium flash… that would be interesting to send in > a giant tin plate with the pic.

Fmfb says:

Isn’t that adding value to the game also?? Besides the game of Red Alert 3 you also have a guessing game. 2 games for the price of one overpriced game seems a good deal to me.

Fungo Knubb says:

# Potential Gammer NOT

If this is the sort of crap I can expect if I go buy the game hardware to be able to play the games, then I’m going to find some other venue to spend my entertainment money in. Once Obama gets done redistributing their wealth, maybe their navel will be glistening in the Sun, and the whole industry will be down the swirling toilet of history.

CMG says:

My sympathies go with the people who are losing their jobs because the upper management in EA have the IQ of a plush leather sofa.

But, myself being a pirate, and myself being a Red Alert fan, I think I shall peruse a few torrent sites for this one. I don’t want to miss out, but EA can perform acts of sodomy with a blow-up doll for the money they will (not) be receiving from me.

Back to Amazon.co.uk Chaps!!!

# Re: Re:

They lost my support back in 1992 when I bought one of their games and took it over to a friends house to play it and I didn’t know that the “manual lookup” thing happened more than once. Oh, I was pissed but as soon as I got back home I downloaded a crack for it and haven’t bought one of their games since.

I did buy a Popcap game the other day since they proved they actually understand how the market works to some degree. Sure they require registration but it’s simple and doesn’t rootkit ya.

Anonymous Coward says:

EA & SECUROM JACKED my PC! 3-4 blue screen errors a day when I installed SECUROM WITHOUT MY KNOWLEDGE when I bought an EA game some time ago. After uninstalling the game and following SECUROM’s own instructions on removing their VIRUS from my PC and the blue errors continued! I reinstalled windows and have been blue screen free for months!

DO NOT INSTALL ANY EA GAME WITH SECUROM UNLESS YOUR OK WITH DAILY BLUE SCREEN ERRORS!

DRM – DIGITAL RENTAL MEDIA

What are they thinking? This will not only keep them busy having to check through those photographs, but will also confuse the average user into calling technical support which will further hold up the already bogged down lines. Complete lunacy is behind a move like this.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

# Securom

As long as they are using securom, and this goes for any game company, not just EA, I will NOT buy the game. Securom is a virus, and anti-virus makers need to un-white list the darn thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

# Isnt this toying with fraud?

Knowingly selling a broken item to a consumer seems fraudulent to me? Sure you have the fix in some corporate office somehwere and the consumer can always call to get the product fixed, but that doesnt change the fact that what was represented to the consumer as a “viable” or “working” product, was in fact not and that the manufacturer knew that it was not as represented prior to the sale?

Iron(y)Man says:

# Legal question

The key is used as a form of copy protection. Wouldn’t guessing at the last digit be considered an attempt to circumvent this copy protection and therefore be a violation of the DMCA? If this is the case can EA be charged with inducement to violate the DMCA on their own game?

Wouldn’t that be poetic justice?

Jess Craymore says:

# Really a big deal

Copyright and digital protection is a huge issue, I’m really worried about how this will start to effect us in the coming years with digitizing systems like RFID, but I think EA definitely made a violation here.

Blue Leather Sofa

says: