Will anti-DRM protests hurt Spore?

by Mathew on September 9, 2008 · 14 comments

Update:

Spore is apparently one of the most widely-pirated games in recent memory, according to a report at TorrentFreak, with many downloaders referring to the draconian DRM restrictions as a justification.

Original post:

One of the most hotly-awaited video games of the past decade, Spore — the new game from Will Wright, reportedly in development for 10 years — hit stores this week, and was promptly panned for what fans say is overly restrictive digital-rights management. The game checks with Electronic Arts headquarters after it’s activated online, and then again after a second or third activation. In order to activate the game a fourth time, owners have to phone the company and provide license codes, product details and other proof of purchase.

Electronic Arts says that such measures are required to fight rampant game piracy, while fans of the game say restricting them to only three installs amounts to making them rent the game, and they have responded by bombarding the review section of Amazon’s store with complaints. When I first came across reports of this activity, there were only a few hundred negative ratings, but when I checked today there were more than 1,600; the average rating for the game, with more than 1,550 contributions, was a single star.

As Mike Masnick at Techdirt notes, the DRM that Spore has is actually much less restrictive than was originally planned. The game was originally going to register the licence key — after checking to see whether it was official — and would then contact the EA servers 5 to 10 days after it was registered. If it couldn’t validate the game, it would try again over the next 5 to 10 days and then it would disable the game. Howls of fan outrage on various game forums and blogs apparently helped to convince the company that this wasn’t such a great approach.

So will EA care about a few thousand protests on an Amazon product page? After so many years of waiting, the pent-up demand for the game is likely to carry Spore pretty far — but I have to think that the criticisms are going to have an effect. If I were checking for information about the game before buying it, that kind of negative review would definitely affect my choice, although the reviews that mention the somewhat lacklustre gameplay probably aren’t going to help either.

  • http://www.wholemap.com/blog seemsArtless

    The online registration isn't a huge deal to me. I understand the concerns, but is it really that unusual?

    I DO understand why the rest is a concern, though — this is yet another example of a company making it really tough for legitimate, paying customers, while I assume having absolutely no impact on people stealing a cracked version of the game online.

    There must be some companies doing this right, no? We're not quite at the 'free, ad-supported' games at this level, but are there examples of game companies that get it?

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    That's the part that I didn't really get into, of course — all of the anti-piracy restrictions on both Spore and Mass Effect have done virtually nothing to stop those who really want to get hold of the games and play them. So all that these restrictions really do is cripple the software for law-abiding customers, and make them irritated whenever they hear the name Electronic Arts. Great marketing.

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  • http://www.driverarchive.org/ driver

    The online registration isn't a huge deal to me. I understand the concerns, but is it really that unusual?

  • Earn_Cash_With_Google

    I dont see what the big deal is.

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  • http://www.mikepost.nl/ Mike Post

    Great article, man. Keep up the good work and please do keep sharing.

    Thanks in advance!

    Mike

  • http://www.enviartorpedogratis.com.br/ Oi

    Actually thats very necessary.. Without it pirates will keep on burgeoning !!

  • http://blackinews.blogspot.com/ blackidea

    Parents tend to let their children play those games since they have a lot of reasons. The prices of games are relatively cheap and affordable. Those games are considered be able to train the logical thinking of children. Another important reason is that they do not consider dangerous to children. Differ to the real games which intend to cause physical scratch, they are regarded the opposite. However, everything mush have negative sides, especially if there is an abuse.

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    I like it!

  • http://www.englishclass.com.tw ????

    Interesting post. I have made a twitter post about this. Hope others find it as interesting as I did.

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    Awesome post, I really dont think registrating online is a big deal

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