EA's Spore DRM fiasco Sat, Sep 13. 2008
I took a look at the Amazon user ratings for the game, and was shocked to see that it has been absolutely shellacked -- currently 2300+ reviews and only 1.5 stars. The primary reason for the low ratings? Customer outrage over EA's employment of the Sony SecuROM copy protection system, that allows someone purchasing the game, to activate it 3 times. As was pointed out in an amazon review:
Then there's the DRM. Let me just clarify what people are saying by adding, it not only counts installations, but changes to your hardware ! Upgrade a system component (memory, CPU, vid card) and you are out an installation....Basically I just paid $50 for a coaster.
When will companies learn that treating their customers like thieves is never a good business practice?
The first problem is with the basic premise of a game license. The assumption of the buyer, is that they have purchased a game that they will own in perpetuity. While changes in the technology landscape often mean that for various reasons games often have a much shorter lifespan, a game without a server component should be immune from those concerns, but Spore's DRM raises the question for customers of "what happens if EA turns off the activation servers?" There has also been a growing backlash of discontent amongst the hard core customers who have eagerly purchased EA games in the past, to what they see as invasive technology that primarily seems to target them, in a way that many believe is not only insulting, but probably illegal under United States consumer laws. What EA has done with Spore and a number of preceding games, is attempt to establish the concept that EA should be allowed to control the use of the game, and limit the machines it can be used on, even going so far as to require activation. Angry customers have likened this to "Renting" the software, and point out that not all gamers even have Internet access (especially members of the Armed Forces posted overseas, many of whom are avid FPS gamers), and the use of this technology essentially makes it difficult if not impossible for them to install the games and play them when they want to.
EA's response to the issue entirely misses the point:
EA says that the three-computer limit was designed to address the needs of the largest portion of its user base while still limiting piracy. According to the company's stats, less than 25 percent of its customers across the board activate a PC title on more than one machine -- and the number of EA customers who ask to activate more than three accounts is smaller than one percent.
Regardless of EA's internal statistics, the simple question remains: what if I have 4 computers in my house, and at various times I want to play the game on each of them? I bought the game, and I should be able to play it wherever I want to. What business is it of EA's to be preventing me from doing this? Even more alarming to many, is that EA has chosen to license the use of software that embeds itself into your operating system, and watches everything you do on that computer, using techniques that attempt to disguise it's installation and operation, which include the installation of directories and registry entries that are deliberately broken, and difficult if not impossible to remove. EA provides no warning or information about this software. Some describe SecuROM as being tantamount to a "rootkit", and this is technology coming from a company that did install a rootkit on the computers of people who simply bought their music CD's.
Worse yet, the DRM controversy has lead to reports of record Torrent downloads of cracked copies of the game. What EA and other game companies don't seem to understand, is that the perception can easily become become reality. People are turning away from Spore, citing DRM as the issue, at a time when EA needs a big hit. As one customer commented:
Well I'm glad you don't see the big deal. But I'll tell you what is a big deal for me.
Screw you. I'll install it as many times as I want. It's my game. They're my machines. I paid for it.
I'm happy to authenticate every time i login. I don't care. Just don't restrict me to how many installations I can perform over the life othe product. That's just idiotic.
They lost a sale here. And by that, I don't mean "I decided I wont' be going out and buying it". I mean, THEY HAD ME until the SecuROM. In fact, I already ordered it. And it has already been processed. I will be returning the UPS delivery, unopened.
Spore may well yet turn out to be a hit -- but the shame of it is, that EA's DRM strategy has diverted attention away from the merits of the game, and further sullied the reputation of the company amongst PC gamers, due solely to its DRM strategy.
Most people have the whole idea of DRM’s like SecuRom and the X amount of activations all wrong.
It’s not just a simple DRM, it installs separately to the game without your knowledge…if you un-install the game…it DOESN’T un-install the SecuRom, which makes it a rootkit (malware), so if you don’t know this, you will think it’s gone because it hides in “hidden folders” and in your “Registry”, not to mention disabling of some AV’s, the damage it does to some PC hardware, and stops you from being able to use legal software that SecuRom has been programmed to black band. EA deserves to be sued over this issue alone.
The other issue I have with this type of Draconian DRM is that when you can’t afford the internet anymore, you can no longer Play a Game you Paid for, and that is wrong…most games aren’t played over the Net so why do we have to be connected to it. ( It’s to Spy on PC users, that’s why it Phones Home with Encrypted Data.)
There is a lot bigger picture than what we’re seeing here right now, this is only a baby step to the end plan. This has nothing to do with piracy, because we know that the pirates will never be stopped and it is proven once again with the amount of torrented copies of Spore downloaded so far in just one month. Why is EA adamant about continuing to use SecuRom when they know it’s not doing what they say it was intended for and is only affecting the paying customers? I will not buy anything that is put out by EA or Sony anymore, even though I would love to buy Sims2 IKEA, Sims2 Apartment Life, Spore, Red Alert 3 and many more, but I just don’t trust EA or Sony. All they have done for the last 20 months is lie through their teeth to save their neck and not a bit of concern for their paying customers.
I’m a member at Reclaim Your Game: http://www.reclaimyourgame.com/ - and we’re dedicated to helping other gamers with their issues with SecuRom and get info out to educate the public.
So please feel free to visit our site and see for yourself.