Thursday, December 10, 2009

The DRM mistake (9/13/2008)

Moved from Myspace...

I, like many others, had heard about Spore a long long time ago and couldn't wait to see the final product.

Now I, like many others, am greatly upset at what has come to be with the game. This is clearly shown based on the reviews on Amazon: Spore. As of this writing there are 2,217 reviews of the game... 2,017 of which are Amazon's lowest rating of one star. Could the game really be that bad? Well, it's not as clear as it seems.

You see, what most people are complaining about is not the game itself. It is actually the use of Digital Rights Management on the disc (DRM for short). The use of this product has made a huge impact among both consumers and in the media. You may still be asking what this has anything to do with the game... well, what Electronic Arts does not tell you is what they are really installing on your systems and what it means for you.

Lets start with the simplest of the problems. Spore will only allow you three installations of the game before it locks up on you. Three installations... I mean, really. Does EA not understand how this all works? It is not an issue on how many computers one wants to install it on, it is an issue of how the real world works. Hard drives crash, Windows has to be reinstalled, computers have to upgraded and/or replaced. Three installs is really not many when you look at the larger picture. There have also been reports in the past that DRMs will even register an upgraded video card as a "new computer" and thus a new installation. Now, if you require a fourth installation then you can call EA and plead your case and hope you have enough information that they will grant you that installation. However, you would need to call a non toll free number and hope you get someone who cares that your computer had a catastrophic hard drive failure and who is nice enough to grant you that fourth install.

The next problem is that the game must be activated in order to be played. No big deal, a lot of games are like that. However, Spore required the game to check in every so many days of play. So, if you play "offline" after the first activation, after so many days the game will just stop playing. Thus, you are required to have an internet connection to play what is really a one player game with extra player made content. Nowhere that I could find within the requirements found online or on the box does it state that an internet connection is required to make the game work. Now, one could say that you can find that information out if you look around... but I would say many people who may buy this game would not know that they would have to do this. They would expect the box or at least the official website to mention something about it.

The DRM also installs itself in a way where it hides itself on the drive and can not be uninstalled. It is there for good and it does not just sit there. It communicates with EA without your consent, sending them information on your playing habits and your computer whever it wishes to. This is, by definition, Malware. I personally do whatever I can NOT to end up with Malware and Spyware on my computer... so why would I want to install it on purpose? It uses up my hard drive space, my processing power, and sends who knows what sort of information back to EA.

As you can see, this DRM is something to be worried about and many people are based on the information available on the internet. So why did EA make the decision to add this on, even though they knew the consumer would not like it (The Motley Fool)? To stop piracy of course! So, is it working?


Simple as that. It didn't help. "As of Thursday afternoon, "Spore" had been illegally downloaded on file-sharing networks using BitTorrent peer-to-peer transfer 171,402 times since Sept. 1" (Forbes). The game was online to be downloaded without the DRM issues at least 4 days BEFORE it was even released in the United States. Someone please cue the fail music. The DRM, which is supposed to keep pirating of the game at bay, has failed and is only hurting the one person EA does not need to be hurting... the people who paid good money for the game.

But don't complain about it... or EA will call you big bad names like they did to spin the complaints that are piling up on Amazon. These include "petulant children", "flash mobs", and "angry pirates". Maybe it is just me, but I am thinking making fun of people who have a valid concern is not a good buisness strategy.

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