Spore's DRM So Effective It Was The Most Downloaded Game Of The Year

from the nice-work,-EA dept

It never really made sense for EA to be so insistent on having draconian DRM on games. Before the company even launched Spore people made it quite clear the plan would backfire, but EA went forward with it anyway, creating a PR nightmare. And all for what? Turns out (not surprisingly) the DRM didn’t do squat to stop unauthorized file sharing. Spore has now been declared the most downloaded video game of the year. And, even though the year’s not over, no other game is going to catch up. And, it’s worth noting, the game only launched in October, so this is only over a couple of months. In other words, EA’s “antipiracy strategy” backfired almost completely. The company got a huge PR blackeye which probably only encouraged more people to download the game via file sharing. Can someone explain, again, why any company thinks DRM works?

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Comments on “Spore's DRM So Effective It Was The Most Downloaded Game Of The Year”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Some explainations

There are two possible scenarios here.

1. Almost two million people downloaded a copy, liked it and went out and brought a legal copy.

2. Almost two million people brought a legal copy, ran into problems with the DRM and went out to the internet to downloaded a copy.

Hey, are these any less reasonable than the explanation that goes “EA could have sold nearly four million copies”?

Cowmoanut says:

Re: Spore was a hit, after all

Correction Patrick:

After they managed to sell close to 2 million copies the first three weeks a LOT of people A) returned the game and B) went and downloaded the pirated (DRM free) version. Please note that B and A are not exclusive. Some people did both.

Also, you can’t go around touting that sales number as evidence “it worked” not just because of the RETURNED games (which the retailers pay for BTW, not EA) but also because of that whole Amazon consumer review scandal.

Please note that 70-80% of the people that purchased the game on Amazon gave it a 1 or 0 stars BECAUSE OF THE DRM


EA seems to be a bit too big of a company, the various departments don’t seem to know what others are doing. For example, you get asinine events like Spore that should result in whoever suggested the DRM scheme to be fired. Then you get events such as with Warhammer Online where they absorbed Mythic, but left Mythic to their own devices to make the game.

It seems when EA just lets developers do what they want and keep their “business strategies” out of it they make better games and don’t suffer from these kinds of issues.

EVERY single EA game that comes out with DRM gets pirated, and a fair number of people are actually boycotting the brand entirely now.

And lets not forget about the lawsuit. There is just no excuse for EA. Maybe they should of released it all on Steam…

harry says:

Re: Spore was a hit, after all

The point is, if it did not include said draconian drm, it would have sold a lot more than 2 million. Not only did the drm extensively hurt regular sales, it turned many many legit buyers towards piracy who will most likely do it again. Once you know you can get something for free you were paying for before, you don’t want to pay again.

In short, the drm did nothing but put a huge dent in the legit sales figure, undoubtedly contributed to the game being pirated more than usual and turned many potential legit buyers towards piracy. And this was supposed to “prevent” piracy?

Complete backfire, as the article suggests.

Izkata says:

Re: Spore was a hit, after all

Patrick: [And even though it was downloaded close to 2 million times, they also managed to sell close to 2 million copies the first three weeks.]

Keep in mind that a lot of them did what I did – bought the game not realizing how bad the DRM would be, then downloading the game afterwards to avoid it.

Michael Whitetail says:

Re: Re:

Regardless of what the vocal majority believe, people download games (and to a lesser extent, movies) to try them first, and buy the product if they like it.

Spore was pretty polarized in that people either loved it, or hated it. Personally I hated it. It was over hyped and had worse than mediocre game play.

Most people who bought it, did so on the basis of the hype. Those who tried it out first where able to avoid this hype. And while 2 mil units in 3 weeks is good it is by no means the best for the year.

Fallout 3 was and is widely available for download, and yet still churned out 4.7 mil units in like the first 10 days.

Trevlac says:

Re: Re: Re:

While you have good logic, I don’t see any facts backing up that very concrete statement: “people download games (and to a lesser extent, movies) to try them first”.

Here’s how you should write something that you have no facts on. “It is very probable that the reason most games are pirated is due to the DRM on them.”

See? Now you’re letting people know you have an opinion based on very good logic (there’s mine right there) but not trying to force it on them without any evidence to back it up.

Michael Whitetail says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes I could have worded my statement better, I agree.

However, I think that most reasonable people would also understand, ya know, read between the lines so to speak, that I was not attempting to state an absolute, nor trying to quantify a ‘number’ but to convey a personal opinion.

Again, I could have worded the post differently to better convey the thought. My bad 🙁

Anonymous Coward says:

I had the game given to me for my birthday and had trouble installing it plus it wouldnt allow different people in my family to play with their own characters and we only had one PC it would run on. Went online and found a ‘version’ that runs flawlessly plus allows everyone to have their own character. Thanks EA for bringing this game to market! Thanks to everyone else who went to the trouble to make it useful. In retrospect I would have shelved the game like I did with black and white 2 years ago when I had similar issues…this time was different, I knew there had to be others as frustrated as me and more capable at making it work. EA shouldnt bitch about the DRM workaround crap instead they should be happy that more people will be playing it. The question now is can I trust EA to give me something I want in the future or should I just go straight to the forums? I already know the answer. EA and SONY and the Recording industry are all going to eventually pave the way for someone else to come in and make a butt load of cash who knows how to play the new market.

Peter G says:

Stated before the DRM is to kill resale.

EAs other great enemy after pirates, is legitimate customers selling their games when the get tired of them or they when they buy on hype and find out they suck (Spore).

The kind of DRM pretty much ensures no one will want to buy a used copy.

Now when you buy crap from EA it becomes instantly worthless for resale because of the DRM, so yet another reason not to buy it in the first place.

I am boycotting anything EA because of this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Stated before the DRM is to kill resale.

“The kind of DRM pretty much ensures no one will want to buy a used copy.”

You mean nobody will be ABLE to buy a used copy? You have to register your game on Spore’s content server in order to download content. It binds the cd key on your specific game to the email address you register with. Nw you have 2 choices:

a) Coaster.

b) Give your account details to the person that’s buying the game from you.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m convinced that these DRM methods aren’t even designed to prevent piracy, but to prevent secondary markets of said games. Would you rather spend 20-30 dollars on a used game to have to go thru the hassle of calling up EA and trying to get the 3 installs back or just spend the 50 to buy it brand new. EA knows DRM does nothing to stop piracy, they just use it as an excuse to control secondary markets and to have something to point the finger at when their sales/profits are down.

skuphundaku (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“DRM methods aren’t even designed to prevent piracy, but to prevent secondary markets of said games”.

You are completely right. DRM for stopping piracy is just an excuse. It hasn’t worked before and I bet they knew for sure that it won’t work with Spore either. What publishers and producers are actually trying to do is to get rid of the secondary market by any means necessary. A lot of people from major players in gaming business have been bitching and moaning about how much the secondary market hurts their sales figures. Let me give you just a couple of examples: Epic Games and Atari. You can find many more similar articles if you look hard enough.

And DRM is not their only way of attack on the second hand market. They also plan to move more towards online gaming (EA, Ubisoft) or digital distribution (Atari), thus eviscerating the second hand market. There is some talk around the water cooler that Valve has already gained more from digital distribution than through physical sales (Valve sales).

DRM will ultimately fail in face of public outrage and boycott. Nevertheless, I think that the drive towards online gaming and digital distribution, if successful, will drastically diminish and maybe even kill the second hand game sales. If nothing happens to change this trend, in 10 year’s time we will probably be unable to buy an games in a real life store. One implication is that single player gaming could die off, which would be even more tragic than the death of the secondary market. Another implication is that the power of the developers, producers and publishers over the client would increase by tighter control on the way the games are experienced. That is obvious in the case of online games, but it is just as true in the case of digitally distributed content. We are already seeing this in the case of present day games which require online activation in order to work at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is a key difference in regards to Valve though. They’re DRM is almost entirely painless. The “biggest” pain that I ever hear about is the need for an Internet connection when you first install even if you have the CD/DVD.

On the plus its hassle free to install the games (literally right click the game and click install and it downloads for you) but you can play them anywhere.

Oh and if your account gets hijacked, Valve is VERY good and quick about returning your account. 2 of my friends were victims of a phishing attack this week and had their accounts back in 2 days. The longest I’ve heard for a stolen account was 1 week.

Another minor complaint is that you can’t trade or sell games. Valve is a company like Mythic entertainment. They listen to their customers. If enough people give them that feedback they’ll figure out how to add it if they can. Chances are other developers would probably be the handicap there. They would be the ones refusing to allow it as it means that other person doesn’t buy one of their games.

But yea. If every game was available on Steam I’d be a happy person. The “headaches” you tend to hear about are people not knowing what they are doing, or giving you outdated information.

Most of the time.

daretoeatapeach (user link) says:

Re: all publicity is good publicity

I work in PR. When you are small-time with a limited budget, it is true that all publicity is good publicity. When you are a product so coveted 1,000s will watch previews of your product on YouTube, you don’t need publicity. You’ve got more than enough. It’s not like Spore was an unheard of game only getting press because of the DRM. What they have now is a PR problem (PR being image).

For the record, I was really looking forward to Spore, so much so that I was going to reinstall Windows just to play it. I’m one customer they lost.

Deggs says:


All I have to say to EA is HahahahBwahaAHAHahaha

Seriously all DRM does is punish honest people that buy their games… It doesn’t take a ridiculously over paid executive to figure that out… Or maybe they just can’t.

Oh, as far as this being a publicity stunt; I haven’t bought a damn thing from EA since their decision to use DRM. Maybe some of you have, but frome where I’m sitting it hasn’t helped them one bit.

Overcast says:

And even though it was downloaded close to 2 million times, they also managed to sell close to 2 million copies the first three weeks.

That’s because half of the people who downloaded the ‘pirated copy’ needed to download a cracked version to simplify things.

And yeah, can see how bad it hurt sales, in any event. I didn’t download or buy it, hehe. I usually buy my games anyway, can’t think of one I’ve downloaded for quite a while, most of the time they are a big hassle – but many times, not as big of a hassle as the DRM they ship the games with.

mslade says:


“The question now is can I trust EA to give me something I want in the future or should I just go straight to the forums?”

Even though this was rhetorical, I will reply 🙂 EA has taken every opportunity to show that they only care about $, not at all about the customer. I realize all business is about money, but some companies know how to strike a nice balance between profit and a successful relationship with their clients.

EA is not an example of such. EA wants your money and would kick your dog after taking it if they could get away with it. IMO, if you actually want to play one of their watered-down, buggy, released-way-too-early games… well… here’s a discount code you can use on the intarweb: “thepiratebay”.

ConceptJunkie (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This is typical of a market where one or a few companies has too much power. EA treats their customers with contempt because they can. Good customer service is for companies that have real competition. Look at Microsoft. Microsoft would have to go _up_ to be hated, and they treat their customers with nothing but seething hatred. They couldn’t get away with what they do if most of their market had a real choice. While I don’t use Microsoft products, the alternatives are not viable for a lot of people, if only because of Microsoft’s FUD campaigns.

Monopolies are bad.

Craig says:

So is it stealing?

I did actaully buy the game. I had been looking forward to playing it for a while. Since installing it my computer has run pathetically. I would have uninstalled it along time ago, but my two year old loves “making monsters”.

So, if I have a legit copy of the game, is it considered stealling to unistall it, get rid on the evil that is secureRom, download a DRM free version and play that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The class action lawsuit, the number of returned copies, the further number of downloads by people that did not even purchase the game because they heard about the DRM, the absolute hatred they earned from many legit and non-legit customers, and the number of people now flat out boycotting everything done by EA.

I’d say all of that proves the people who said it would backfire right. The DRM didn’t stop the game from being pirated. It didn’t even slow down the number of copies of it being pirated. That was the WHOLE FUCKING POINT to the DRM.

So yes, it backfired. The DRM was a failure and is costing them a whole lot of more money after the fact than they realize.

trollificus says:

What EA is accomplishing...

…is much like what our “captains of industry” are accomplishing in other fields: lining the pockets of the top execs while killing the business (particular) and industry (general) in which they “work”.

I’ve basically quit gaming. There are other ways to waste one’s spare time that don’t involve buying products from people I despise and who seem to hate ME.

Just f’ing give up on PC gaming altogether. Consoles are the platform for the future…which is sad, except for the much-anticipated opportunity to someday dance on EA’s grave (and kick THEIR dog).

NiNiNiNI says:

Defective by Design needs overhaul

I hate defective rights management, as it approaches the problem from wrong angle. It adss complexity where none is really needed. A band-aid to a bigger, unaddressed problem, it criminalizes those that are without blame, and does nothing to stop the problem it intends to stop.

I find it very gratifying to see the whole MP3 saga play itself out with WalMart’s server shutdown fiasco. Now Amazon and iTunes sells MP3s, and that martket hasn’t exploded.

For games, and music too, I think any reasonable person can see that a company has to do its due diligence to protect the product of countless hours of development. However, implementing safeguards should not be at the cost of functionally criminalizing those customers that make up their livelihood.

We’ve heard it over and over again – revamp the business models. Microsoft has it half-right – tie the product/hardware together, then dole out extra goodies periodically to legitimate users. The difference is that the product shouldn’t be broken before it can be used.

And give those illegitimate users a path for “going legal” without all the Machiavellian pomp and overtones.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have bought hundreds of PC games over the years and since all the problems I had with SECUROM(mass effect,hellgate,world of conflict)the way I see it, PC games are dead for me now(legally) since they do in FACT treat their paying customers and in effect, CREATE THEIR OWN REALITY!

In response, I am boycotting ….

EA games for using SECUROM
Sony for creating it



Mattin says:


This is slightly ridiculous, there are ways to protect content from piracy. Steam is a good example of this, built on a platform for multiplayer games it has allowed publishers to sell and distribute their content as well as reduce piracy.

The problem with DRM is that people are not downloading illegally because they are getting a free version. but because they are getting a better version of the game.

Neverhood says:

lost sale?

Mike. I think it would be worth noting that every download is not necessarily a lost sale, and therefore a lot of downloaded copies is not necessarily a bad thing for the offline sale.
Spore was so anticipated and hyped and mainstream, that if I didn’t know about the DRM, I would still not be surprised that it was the most downloaded game of the year.

All that aside, I also luckily downloaded it first, after hearing about the DRM, and actually found out that I didn’t enjoy the game at all.

prinny says:


I have, as far as I am aware, never illegally downloaded a game but as I became aware that EA and the industry at large would be tracking the number of illegal downloads of Spore I decided that i would download it as a protest against DRM. I downloaded it played it for an hour and deleted it, it is utter crap and shame on all those reviewers who gave it 90%+ ratings, how much money did it take to buy your lies that this was truly the future of gaming?

Jfed says:

Not inclined to shut up about it yet.

A few points:

– Spore sales (possibly lumped in w/Creature Creator sales?) of 2 million were across 3 different platforms: PC, phone, and handheld apps. PC numbers were speculated to be around half a million, but that was a couple months ago.

– The Sims2 game(s?): love to know if the 2008 number is a giant leap up from previous years, since Securom and all its tech problems were included on gameplay expansions only beginning in Sept. 2007. Note from EA: Prior to this, The Sims games sold over 100 million copies with nothing but cd checks and confined to the disk anti-copy. Note from me: a metric ton of Sims players knew little of how to pirate until Securom came along and fuxx0Rd their computers.

– The Mac version of Spore does include Securom. The free demo and sold versions of Creature Creator included Securom. Anything from EA includes Securom these days, activations or not.

– Initially Spore only permitted 3 activations. Versions sold a few weeks later (after the hooraw) allowed 5. Changing out hardware on one machine uses an activation, good luck guessing when that happens since you get no notice that an activation is used up (only a notice to buy another copy of the game when they’re gone). The activation revoke tool promised months ago by EA is yet to be seen.

– Fallout3’s ‘milder’ version of Securom is nothing of the kind, it just dispenses with the activation nonsense (like the Sims2 games). Securom still installs on your computer and actively scans for blacklisted software like Daemon Tools, Process Explorer, etc. and could prevent startup if they’re running or detected. It might prevent startup just for the hell of it. It might also disable your optical drives too, just for funzies.

– There are four class action lawsuits now filed against EA regarding the steath installation of Securom, the technical issues it causes, and EA’s non-disclosure of its installation (there were five, but one was recently dismissed by the plaintiff to be consolidated with another). The suit specifying purchasers of Mass Effect PC also raises the issue of denying a purchaser the right to sell their game on to someone else.

– The DRM EA uses backfired because it actually gave people a CAUSE to rally around, an anti-EA cause; it showed the true arrogance and deaf ear EA has been so often accused of exhibiting toward its customer base and has to be one of the dumbest moves in the history of the gaming industry: their insistence on problematic DRM (instead of SANE DRM their customers begged for) virtually led those customers by the hand to crack and torrent sites or just plain turned them off from buying at all.

Yeah. They could’ve sold millions more, in other words, but they pulled the trigger with pissed off customers that blew up on them. They had to know it was coming, so many customers told them so. All EA had to do was read their own boards…


mdm-adph (profile) says:

I tell you one thing that Spore has excelled at — I’m never again paying $50 or even $40 for a new game ever again. Biggest damn waste of money I ever spent.

Even with all the fun that my friends are having with Left 4 Dead, I’m waiting it out to see if it’ll still be fun two months from now. If so, I’ll buy it discounted.

So, thanks, Spore, for improving my buying habits!

Abcdefg says:


the piracy rate for spore was much higher than two million, people seem to forget there is more then one torrent site, and more then one tracker per torrent site, the real number was probably around 5 to 10 million, including those who bought the game, or did so in protest
the drm was/is bs though, i wouldnt want to rent a game i own, the only way i could justify that is with an mmo, and honestly, there are hardly any out there that truely are worth a sub
requiring constant internet activity wouldve been a much better route at least, or just letting you install once per month (for different machine ids) and not considering driver updates as changing your machine

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