Spore: DRM Backlash in the News

By Shamus
on Sep 17, 2008
Filed under:
Video Games

It seems PC Gamers managed to rattle their cages loud enough to get the attention of the Washington Post and Forbes with their protest of Spore.

Several people commented that Amazon.uk has every right to remove reviews from people who haven’t played the game. I completely agree. Actually, Amazon has the right to remove any review from anyone at all – it’s their site and they can do as they please. They do need to be aware – and I’m sure they are – that regularly removing low reviews would cause people to distrust the whole system. But I don’t think that’s a problem here.

The thousands of people who gave Spore a one-star review on Amazon without playing the game weren’t reviewing the game as much as taking part in an impromptu protest. I agree with their cause and I’m very glad that Amazon USA let those reviews stand, since it was most likely the catalyst for the news stories above. If nothing else it’s forced EA public relations people to come out on stage so we can boo them.

Keep in mind that pirates care nothing about DRM. They don’t see it, they don’t deal with it. The only people who deal with DRM are paying customers. This means that every single person who took part in the Spore protest – and all the thousands more taking part in threads all over the internet – are all people who wanted to buy the game. Some did. Some did, and then downloaded the pirate version. Others just pirated the game. Some – like me – abstained entirely. But everyone who complained was someone who was concerned about how the DRM was going to affect them as a paying customer.

I also want to note this from the Forbes article:

Electronic Arts calls those criticisms unfair. “EA has not changed our basic DRM copy protection system,” says corporate communications manager Mariam Sughayer. “We simply changed the copy protection method from using the physical media, which requires authentication every time you play the game by requiring a disc in the drive, to one which uses a one-time online authentication.”

We haven’t changed our DRM, except for all the ways in which the new one is different.

BioShock trotted out this excuse as well, “This DRM is just a tiny bit worse than earlier ones.” Which is piss-poor reasoning, since it’s clear that the DRM is useless for the purposes of combating piracy. Keeping it useless but making it harder to use seems to be a plan with no upside. Certainly you must expect customers to draw the line somewhere, which is what’s been happening.

And in any case, this isn’t just a “little” different, since the new system changes the game from a purchase to a rental.

Electronic Arts compares its DRM solution to systems in place on services like iTunes that similarly limits the number of computers that can play a particular song.

But iTunes has a revoke tool, and Spore doesn’t. You can move your tunes around, but Spore simply gets “used up.” And lots of people avoid iTunes because of the DRM anyway. I’m one of them. (Also note that Amazon now sells DRM-free MP3 files.)

Sughayer also points out that less than 25% of EA users attempt to install the company’s games on more than one computer, and less than 1% attempt to install it on more than three.
  1. They should not have access to this information.
  2. They’re wrong. How long have they been collecting this data? A year? Two? Since the release of Spore a couple of weeks ago? I’m not actually privy to how long they’ve been harvesting data from their customers. In any case, it hasn’t been very long. Maybe long enough for one computer upgrade. But if the user is playing the game, this number goes up over time as they upgrade, until they run out of installs. Which is why people are calling this a “rental”. When you get a new computer / graphics card, it’s very natural to want to see how your old games look on it.
  3. Even if the 25% figure was correct and was relevant, claiming that you only screw 25% of your customers isn’t really an impressive claim.

I’ll say it again: This is an awful thing to have happen to such a promising release.

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  1. RKG says:

    Although that particular horse has been flogged quite a bit lately, not only here but also in the “Stolen Pixels” installments, i wholeheartedly agree.

    I will not be playing Spore, just as i haven’t played Bioshock and Mass Effect. This means that EA will only earn 123215834743$ minus my 50 $

    Nuts to them

  2. Kevin says:

    You really crack me up with your attacks on these people, Shamus. You are really great at making them look like jerks.

    Even though I wouldn’t have bought Spore to begin with… (I still don’t know what kind of game it is, though I’ve heard on Twitter that the space level is the best) I’m now going to tell all my friends that I didn’t buy it because of the oppressive DRM. Those dirty bastiches!

    Viva la revolucion!

  3. folo4 says:

    They’re wrong.

    Ew, that’s quite strong. Calling their bluff.

    Very few people even considered playing the same games 10 years down the line, making this sentiment the biggest obstacle towards rejecting the DRM.

    Just wait till the masses grow 10 years older and tries to play Bioshock…

  4. Claire says:

    It’s just so frustrating. The people in charge of this mess can’t really be THAT stupid, can they? Maybe they think they’re somehow deterring “casual” piracy”, like burning a copy of a friend’s disc… but honestly, finding a friend willing to allow you to make a physical copy of his legitimately-purchased game so that you can run it, set off red flags at EA headquarters, and cause the goddamned phone spiders to be dispatched to each of your homes… SO not a casual endeavor. Much easier to fire up the good ol’ P2P program and download the cracked copy that is so well-seeded you’ll have it before Direct2Drive and other, legitimate download systems could finish collecting your credit card information.

    Really, the only possible rationale for standing by such ridiculous copy protection schemes is that they are trying to boil the frog slowly… they’re trying to sap away consumer of content slowly enough that in five years, our only remaining option will be a monthly subscription fee… renting the hot new game, 40 dollars for the first month and 25 every month thereafter. (Special offer for especially loyal doormats: rent a new release for a whole week for just 30 dollars, with no path to upgrade your subscription to the monthly model without simply starting a new subscription and paying the 40 dollar gate fee!) And people will think it’s a good deal. After all, 40 dollars is less than 50 dollars, and who plays their new games longer than a month, anyway?

    And the 1-2% of gamers who are actually informed consumers will be screaming, “See, I told you!”, while the unwashed masses are left whispering about how, in the Before-Time, people could amass veritable personal libraries of video games, returning to old favorites as desired. Of course, they won’t be able to whisper such blasphemy too loudly… because, you know. Phone spiders.

    Probably the most disappointing part of the whole thing is that the content distributors don’t even have to be particularly savvy in boiling their frog slowly. If they turn up the heat high enough to stir up the complainers, they can just turn it back down a notch, and nobody will bother to get out of the water. Next quarter or next year, they’ll dial the heat up, again, until the pieces for trusted computing fall into place and they can just flash-fry our asses.

  5. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    Just last night I went through re-installing HOMM4 on an old PC. My house – 4 computers, 4 people … the other 3 were in use at the time and I was hanking for some sort of gaming above the BeJeweled level, and the one left wasn’t capable of playing newer titles like Spore (not that I’d be renting it anyway) or even NWN2, so I went old school.

    So, they’re wrong.

  6. Claire says:

    They’re not wrong, fair_n_hite_451… they’re lying. And because they’re a corporate entity, things they say count as news that will be widely disseminated by the mainstream gaming media, while our callings-of-shenanigans are restricted to blogs and blog comments…

    …And, impressively, Amazon US reviews. I would have never expected them to allow anything like that quantity of negative reviews to remain online (even with a little hiccup and a back-pedal.) Good thing, too. If they’d simply nixed them all, why, I’d have been so enraged I wouldn’t have bought from them for a WEEK.

  7. Shamus says:

    And yes, I have been pounding away at this topic for a while now. It was like that with the release of BioShock as well. (Luckily, I’m not PERSONALLY attached to Spore the way I was to the ‘Shock series, so this is a lot less bitter for me.)

    Kevin: I’m not great at MAKING them look like jerks. They do that all on their own. I’m just good at hackling them while they do it. :)

    As far as hobbies go, a guy could do worse.

  8. Avilan the Grey says:

    EA is acting extremely stupid. DRM is evil.
    However despite feeling pride in my fellow man for rattling the cage about this, I still think that for the average user, this DRM is of no concern whatsoever. It is, for most people, a matter of principle only. However I hope that they would deliver a free revoking tool.

    Here is my points why the normal user does not care about DRM: (Normal user is not Your Average Gamer, which is far more advanced than Normal User)

    1) Most people actually does not ever upgrade their computer. Not even RAM or graphic card. They run it into the ground and then buy a new one.

    1.5) This is especially true about Laptop users

    2) Most people has no trouble with the DRM, even if they run weird programs, and have DVD burners in their computers

    3) Most people will not play this game 5 years from now, since the user sharing of stuff is what counts to them, and even if EA has their servers up still, and has or has not released a “no DRM” patch, the joy of seeing other people’s creations is gone (or maybe I am pessimistic, there are still sites for people to download Sims 1 stuff)

    4) Most people does not mess up their computer so that they need to reinstall windows. Ever. If they reinstall it’s because of a shot C:\ drive and that happens every 3 years, maybe

    …I can find many other reasons why this whole intense debate is totally over the head of the majority of people who buy Spore.

    Again though, In theory I agree with everything said. In practice, I have bought and installed the game on my Dell 1520 laptop, on which it runs splendidly. I might have to reinstall windows at some point since I dualboot with Linux Mint for everything but PC games, but hey, but I seriously doubt I mess it up bad enough to do that more than 2 times before I am fed up with this game.

    My point is that we have to be realistic. DRM IS evil. It is unbelievable stupid to use as copy protection. It is also completely irrelevant to a majority of presumptive buyers.

  9. Roxysteve says:

    I wonder if anyone at EA reads this blog.

    Steve.

  10. Kevin says:

    “Kevin: I’m not great at MAKING them look like jerks. They do that all on their own. I’m just good at hackling them while they do it.”

    … and there you go again! LOL!

    (But point taken. ;-) )

  11. Jeff says:

    “We simply changed the copy protection method from using the physical media, which requires authentication every time you play the game by requiring a disc in the drive, to one which uses a one-time online authentication.”

    “We changed it so that instead of the user controlling it with the CD he paid for, we control it.”

    They should not have access to this information.
    Highlighted for emphasis.

  12. Rats says:

    Im really glad that this has made it into a couple of mainstream news stories. When EA made their “concessions” to the gamers outcry I was afraid the whole thing would stagnate untill it got worse again.

    To see this get mainstream attention is really hopeful, but I would really love to know who EA are trying to stop with their DRM. As Clair mentions above (with the excellent use of phone spiders) casual piracy is hard already, and anyone tecnically savvy enough to rip a game with some simple disc protection on it is savvy enough to use a torrent. EA have been beefing up the DRM with no impact.

    I really hope there is real responce to EA’s statements, and that media coverage becomes more widespread. I would also like to thank anyone who reads this blog and joined the “protest” at Amazon, it got the attention it looked for.

  13. Ludovsky says:

    Actually, it seems the pressure is making its work because EA just announced an activation revoking tools for people wanting to get their activations back prior to uninstalling the game.

    In short, they basically are taking the same path that 2k Games did with Bioshock, except they released more games using the system.

    Who knows, when it’ll be the Red Alert 3 players’ turns to rant against the DRM, maybe we’ll see the activation limit revoked entirely.

    http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2008/09/16/spore-drm-update-ea-loosening-one-restriction/

  14. asterismW says:

    From the Forbes article:

    “DRM can encourage the best customers to behave slightly better.”

    Huh? More like DRM encourages the best customers to behave worse, or drives them away completely.

  15. Dix says:

    The only people who deal with DRM are paying customers. This means that every single person who took part in the Spore protest – and all the thousands more taking part in threads all over the internet – are all people who wanted to buy the game.

    [emphasis mine]

    Actually, I don’t think this necessarily applies in this case at this time. It’s sound logic, but Spore’s DRMgate has had so much media attention and publicity that I fully expect pirates to pop up on Amazon, claim they won’t buy the game because of its ridiculous security cobbles, then go away feeling righteous – even if they pirated the game before it came out, or never had the slightest inclination to pay for it.

  16. Sam says:

    “Kevin: I’m not great at MAKING them look like jerks. They do that all on their own. I’m just good at hackling them while they do it. :)

    As far as hobbies go, a guy could do worse.”

    Careful there Shamus – EA are now doubt listening, cracking the whip above the code monkeys backs and about to release this as a fully DRM’d game for your pleasure. . . . .

    NOW for a mere £3 per day* play PRwnd (TM). You control your very own EA(TM) PR / Marketing / CEO, score points by trashing your companies products and destroying your customers faith! Bonuses include crashing major websites with the weight of complaints or being publicily ridiculed across the blogsphere (TM)

    Our patented ET(TM)(ATM)(TLA)(TM) system will rudely monitor your computer and crash it should you do anything! Can you actually play the game before the pirates kill you? play PRwnd now to find out!

    For a limited time only we’ll even monitor your emails** for you so should you complain we’ll sue your for slander!

    and all for the small price of £3 per day*

    *One of installation fee: £50
    DRM-unbreak-my-pc fee: £50
    Tech support help line: £1/minute
    Eventual purchase of new computer that meets min specX100 and can actually play the v1.01 of this game £500

    Some games are made to be played

    for everything else, there’s EA

    ** e-mail monitoring is legal – we swear and obligatory

  17. GAZZA says:

    If EA are collecting personal information, collect this extra bit, free of charge: I ain’t buying Spore.

    And you’re hearing this from someone who buys every expansion for the Sims (original and 2) fanatically, despite the fact that I rarely even play it anymore. (Well, only the gameplay-enhancing expansions – user created content out there is way better than EAs custom content packs – but I digress…)

    Hell, Sims 2 alone makes a mockery of this “25%/1%” bullshit. If you bought a minimum spec or even average spec machine when Sims 2 came out, you’d be struggling to play Open For Business on it. I own Bon Voyage and Free Time, but I’ve never even installed them let alone played them (no time, never enough time – and since upgrading my machine a few weeks ago – yeah, I’m FIRMLY in that 1% category – I haven’t reinstalled any of them, due to the sort of dirty revulsion I have towards a company that would inflict this crap on paying, loyal customers).

    Basically you have to move to multiple computers just to play Sims 2. And if Spore is anywhere near as popular as a game made by Will Wright ought to be, it’s going to be around for a similar length of time with similar expansions. And hardware marches on, with the expansions typically written to increase the requirements as time passes.

    Yeah, that’s right. I’m saying that in a few years time (Sims 2 was released over 4 years ago; it’s not unreasonable that EA at least hope Spore will last as long) the expansions for Spore will have in and of themselves potentially required customers to upgrade more than twice to continue playing. How many of those customers are going to shy away from buying an expansion because they’re afraid that they won’t be able to play the base game anymore if they install it and find out they need new hardware? More than zero. And those are the most loyal parts of your customer base.

    This isn’t just screwing your customers. This is figuring out who your best customers are, and screwing them in proportion – the most loyal get screwed the most. Those who are merely casually interested in Spore won’t care – they’ll play it for a few hours and then chuck it in the bookcase (though even then it would be nice if they could trade it in for credit, like you can do at many stores for virtually all other games). No, the guys this hits hardest are the ones that are still buying your expansions in 4 years time.

    It’s reprehensible. My original plan was to buy Spore for Wii only, but now – screw it. I’ll save the money for Guitar Hero World Tour.

    After all, from the looks of the price I’ll need to save up… ;)

    (This rant has been brought to you by Extradimensional Omnipotent Enterprises Unlimited).

  18. Nazgul says:

    Despite the EA spokescreature’s standard corporate doublespeak, I found it refreshing to see this unambiguous description in the mainstream press:

    “So now EA has a consumer backlash on its hands, and not because consumers don’t like the game, but because they don’t like EA telling them what they can do with the game after they’ve paid for it.”

    Exactly right.

    To be honest, I had no personal interest in Spore. But two people I know planned to buy it, and they both changed their minds after the DRM fiasco came to light.

  19. Lee says:

    The best idea I’ve heard so far (and the one that doesn’t paint EA as complete idiots) is that they completely acknowledge that this isn’t making a dent in piracy. That’s not the point of their actions.

    This isn’t about turning Spore into a rental. It’s about stopping YOU from turning it into a rental, by playing it and then trading it in or selling it. They get no money on that transaction, and THAT makes it a true “lost sale.”

    Their sights are on Gamestop*, not the Pirate Bay.

    *Yes, Gamestop doesn’t sell used PC games anymore. Ask yourself why… the first few salvos of this war (i.e. a CD key lets you create one account) were enough to shut their PC game trades down. Gamestop, however, is still the flagship of used game sales.

  20. Justin says:

    I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a corporate pawn. I have a Vista laptop, an Xbox 360, and a Zune. Still, although Microsoft has made some mistakes in the past (here I pause for the laughter to die down), Zune Marketplace has DRM-Free songs that are labelled as such, and I can play all of my Xbox Live Arcade games offline. Hell, if I put something on my computer with a DRM that crashes my computer, the machine will do its level best to help me get rid of it.

    I firmly believe that a company can redeem itself just like a person can. It’s hard to imagine EA doing that at this point though. There would probably have to be a bunch of gamers on the board of investors. It kind of reminds me of the scorpion and the fox, where EA gets to be the scorpion and the fox is an aggregate entity made of everyone who plays video games

    Incidentally, those greedy bastards are trying to rape console gamers too. I’m generally ok with microtransactions, but when they start selling you a half-finished game and then asking that you buy “extra features” that should be considered basic functions, there is a problem.

  21. K says:

    Yeah, I’ve seen the “casuals cannot copy the game” reasoning a couple times. It goes like this:

    A nerd/computerbuff/whatever you call them can get a cracked version of any game, no matter the protection. So the DRM is not meant for them.

    It’s meant for the simpleton who barely manages to get it running so he cannot pass the DVD on to his friends and they install it too.

    But that fails. Guess what’s harder: Copying the DVD where you need some dedicated software or just downloading from P2P?

  22. Rustybadger says:

    First, a note about the DRM: People who don’t notice the DRM are the same folks who don’t notice GAIN and all the other spyware on their machine. Once in a while they complain it’s not ‘as fast’ as it once was, but otherwise they keep clicking away merrily, installing a million Toolbars, Registry Cleaners, Porn Removers, Anonymizers, Download Helpers, and Password Aggregators. They’re also the people who make up the entirety of botnets like Storm et al. So a little crapware like SecuROM won’t bother them at all!

    ****************

    Well, I played Spore. Yes, the cracked version- duh! And no, I didn’t buy a retail copy like I thought I would. And that’s because the GAME SUCKS! In fact, it sucks all kind of nasty.

    Here’s the thing: the graphics suck. Really, they do. Specs say you need a 128MB graphics card, which is retarded. For the quality of the grpahics in this game, a standard shared-RAM Intel adapter would do the trick fine. Really, it does suck, honestly.

    Here’s the Other thing: the gameplay- it sucks too! Creature stage is fun, but that’s all. And even that gets boring after a while. The Tribal stage is major lame-sauce, as my son would say.

    It all boils down to my main complaint, which is that as a civilisation simulator, this game simply sucks. There is NO indication while you’re playing as to what effect the choices you make will have; when you go into the editor screen where you ‘buy’ evolutionary upgrades, there’s no sense to good or poor choices; there’s no permanent consequences for buying crappy wetware- you can sell it back at full value the next time you ‘mate’ and produce a new generation. There’s no long-term ramifications for eating everyone in sight (yes, I played as a carnivore, again- duh!) rather than forging alliances with other critters. The animations are dumb- Caesar III had better event animations than Spore. The little cut-scenes are dumb, and I can’t figure out how to skip them (of course, I don’t have a manual, so maybe it’s in there). The AI is dumb, really dumb. You can demolish foes with way more hit points than you simply because you, as the player, actually have a brain.

    Now, I suppose all my criticisms of Spore may be unfounded, since it seems to be a game for children, not adults. I’m not sure. I guess if my own kids weren’t playing COD4 and BF2 and Guitar Hero and Halo3 and oh yeah, WRITING THEIR OWN GAMES, they *might* find it interesting. I’d let my 4-year old nephew try it out, but his parents would probably freak out because it ‘promotes’ Evolution. Whatever. Let me tell you, this game will do more to discredit the Theory of Biological Evolution than any Bad Science trotted out by the Young Earth Creationists (I should know- I used to be one!). This game is not only Bad, it’s Bad Science. It’s not even Science Fiction, since for that we have to suspend our sense of disbelief; it pretends to be Science, and it’s just crap. It’s not even Science in the way that the Civ games are History. In Civ, you get to see how everything you do or build affects your future. In Spore, it’s like- whatever.

    Maybe I am being too harsh. Maybe I should play the Space part of the game and shut up until then. But I really can’t muster the energy to finish it when COD4 is so much more fun. Maybe I should stick with what I know best, which isn’t video game reviews. Maybe I should just build a model of the Eiffel Tower out of Belgian waffles.

    I should also point out that while this isn’t the first game I have ‘test driven’ before purchasing, it’s the first one (and hopefully the last) that I won’t buy after playing. I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but that’s because it sucks.

  23. Shamus says:

    Rustbadger: The BEST thing about Spore?

    The way it pits the Evolutionists against the Creationists. I’ve heard both sides claim the game supports the OTHER side. Short of giving them baseball bats and locking them in a room together, I can’t imagine a more gratifying form of entertainment.

    It’s a game of evolution where the player acts as… an intelligent designer. Beautiful. Seeing the Zealots go crazy over this brings much joy, and no DRM can keep it from me.

  24. BlackJaw says:

    I actually brought this up in the PAX panel on piracy.

    The panel of various industry related people (Jason Della Rocca – International Game Developers Association, Chris Melissino – Chief Gaming Officer of Sun Microsystems Inc, Dennis Mccauley of GamePolotics.com, Jennifer Mercurio of the Entertainment Consumers Association) spent the first 1/2 the hour pounding away on “Piracy = bad: because” debates until one of them mentioned DRM… and then my hand shot up with a question (first of the panel.)

    With the history of ever more annoying anti-piracey, and what must now be a small but lucrative industry of DRM software… why do games keeping coming with stuff? Bioshock was cracked in 2 days. Was all the money being spent on DRM and lost to pissed off customers saving them enough to justify keeping it around?

    Chris Melissino said it must be otherwise the publishers wouldn’t still being doing it. Jason Della Rocca pointed out that it wasn’t the game designers that do DRM in games… it’s the publishers and there were no representatives of them on the panel. As far as the game designers were concerned (which he represents): They are already paid by the time the game is released so they aren’t immediately losing or making any money off a game if it gets pirated.

    The panel more or less figured that piracy is hurting the gaming industry in a number of ways, and that the publisher’s attempts at dealing with DRM is way over the top… but there isn’t some silver bullet. There are too many hackers targeting games, and making ever nastier DRM just draws more of them to the challenge.

    Some interesting things mentioned: Legally, when you buy a game (or a CD of music, etc) you aren’t buying THE GAME or the THE MUSIC. You’re buying a chunk of plastic and getting a license to play the game or the music. (I’ve run into issues with this on DVDs before). What’s odd here is that under the DCMA, the law effectively does away with “fair use” privileges. So arguments about “needing permission to play a game you legally bought” are not legally backed. You DO need permission to play a game you purchase! It’s just that in the past, that permission game with the disc. Now the publishers are making you ask for that permission even after you buy the game. Still freaking stupid, but some how it’s legal.

    I also found it amusing that half the heads on the Panel nodded knowingly when I brought up the “Shamus Young’s blog.”

    Video: http://theeca.blip.tv/file/1226303/
    In Brief: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/86007

  25. Shamus says:

    Oh: To clarify my comment above: I actually think pure evolution vs. ID is a great debate in the right hands. Philosophy and science at their very best. When thoughtful people go at it, it makes for stimulating reading.

    When fundamentalists jump in with the Bible, and when the Atheists act like the fundamentalists are the Taliban… then we truly has a battle of the idiots. To take the best of science and philosophy and reduce it all to the level of a FARK thread takes a very dedicated breed of ninny.

  26. Joe says:

    BTW, to further illustrate why Spore is even worse than the (unpleasant) DRM of iTunes: with iTunes, you can burn a playlist to a CD, which can then be played on an ulimited number of computers, cd players, dvd players (that understand the Redbook spec) or what-have-you, and will probably be playable for decades.

    So if Spore’s actually like iTunes, that means that you can export the whole game to something that you can play on any other PC or console an unlimited number of times.

    Of course iTunes *does* have a 7-burn limit for this feature. That’s 7 burns *per-playlist*, not per song. Also note that this means that iTunes allows you to make 7 *unlimited use* copies of your songs.

  27. I love when EA tries to claim that nobody would possibly go through the three install limit. I’d use all of mine up in one day.

    I have my main system — my powerhouse, basically — and my laptop. Since my dad is somewhat of a gamer, his system would likely get an installation. Even if my dad didn’t want to deal with Spore, that wouldn’t change the fact that I’d lose my last installation if I reinstalled Windows at any point.

    Just to emphasize, it’s pathetic how much easier and less stressful it would be to just pirate the game.

    @Jeff:

    They should not have access to this information.

    Of course they should. Remember, your system has to talk to their servers before you have the privilege of running their incredibly overhyped game. They know exactly how many installations of each product key are used; they’d have to.

  28. GAZZA says:

    For: There was absolutely no reason to bring politics (or nationalism!) into this, to refer to an entire side of the debate as “loonies” or to completely mis-characterize what I’d said.

    Three strikes.

  29. Aergoth says:

    EA pubrep rep doubleplusungood duckspeaker.

    For those not fluent in newspeak: The EA PR people are terribly horribly mangling the english language. I hope they choke.

    As to the install limit, there are two computers in my house. Assuming either of them (one has difficulty RUNNING WINDOWS XP) could run the game, that would be two installs used up, because I don’t want to have to worry about not being able to play if one computer is occupied. The second computer (the better computer) recently had to be reformatted, bang, third install gone.

  30. guy says:

    @Ian B.

    Actually, what they should not have access to is the trends. Spore hasn’t been around long enough to say more than, 25% of purchasers have installed it on three seperate machines in about a week, 1% have installed or attempted to install it on 4+.

    @blackjaw

    Actually, at least one federal court descision has ruled that you are in fact buying THE GAME. That doesn’t give you lisence to duplicate it and sell or give away the duplicates, but it does mean the EULA is in fact not legally binding.

  31. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Rustybadger

    Did you notice the abilities you get?There are three parts in every stage,and each brings a different set of specials that differ in every stage.So there are long term ramifications of playing one way or the other.

    Also,in the civilization stage you have three different types of cities,and thus three different types of vehicles that you can start with,and each has its unique thing it can do.

    The problem with the game,however,is that they focused to much on the space part,and left the other parts of the game too short.So you can go from cell to space in just 3,4 hours.And the only gain from playing longer than that is in achievments,which isnt much.

  32. Factoid says:

    I would bet the information they have is based on survey data from a non-scientific sample of the ea.com forum participants. hardly a good cross-section of their customer-base. Might also be using some install data from their online download service, which has only been around a couple of years

    Screwing even 1% of your customers is a terrible idea in business, because that 1% will become a VERY vocal minority.

  33. LintMan says:

    BlackJaw wrote: “Legally, when you buy a game (or a CD of music, etc) you aren’t buying THE GAME or the THE MUSIC. You’re buying a chunk of plastic and getting a license to play the game or the music. (I’ve run into issues with this on DVDs before). What’s odd here is that under the DCMA, the law effectively does away with “fair use” privileges.”

    There is no “music license” when you buy a CD, just as there is no “book license” when you buy a book. Just as when you buy a car or a sofa, there is no “car license” or “sofa license”. You pay money and receive a product. I find the increasing amount of people just assuming otherwise to be greatly disturbing. In the software world, they claim you are entering a license agreement with them rather than actually buying a product. But this is dubious because that is not how it is represented on the store shelves and usually you have no idea what you’re agreeing to until after your purchase, and even sometimes not until after you’ve broken the shrink wrap that indicates your agreement. I’ve heard some reports that these shrink wrap and click-through license contracts haven’t been upheld in the courts when they’ve been tested, but even if they are, there is no shrinkwrap license on a CD or DVD when you buy it.

    The evil DMCA mainly makes it illegal to circumvent copy protection methods, which does step on some “fair use” (ie: making a backup copy), but it doesn’t otherwise make the whole shrinkwrap licensing issue any more legitimate/less dubious.

  34. Old_Geek says:

    Actually, this has nothing to do with pirates. I know its been said before by people smarter than me, but drm is 100% directed at paying customers. Pirates are just a red herring. They’ve given up on stopping pirates a long time ago.

    They hate the idea that Shamus can buy a game today for $50 and still be playing it in ten years. They WANT you to use up your activations and have to buy a new copy. If they could rig the game to self-destruct every 30 days, EA would be doing a dance of joy on their rooftop.

    Also, they WANT to make sure the used game market dies out. When you buy a used playstation game for $20, an EA executive cries himself to sleep that night.

    Hate DRM and protest it all you want. But NEVER think these executives are stupid or clueless. They are getting everything they want. They are PREPARED to lose money on Spore to change their business model. KNOW YOUR ENEMY.

  35. Claire says:

    Shamus:

    “I actually think pure evolution vs. ID is a great debate in the right hands. Philosophy and science at their very best. […] When fundamentalists jump in with the Bible, and when the Atheists act like the fundamentalists are the Taliban… then we truly has a battle of the idiots.”

    I spend a fair amount of time hanging out at the local Uni’s History and Philosophy of Science Department, and I have to share my take on this: It’s the same goddamned ninnies. They’re a little less polemical and a little more logically rigorous when arguing at conferences and in journals, but from what I’ve seen, most of the players on each side of the “grown up” debate thinks that the bumper-sticker-grade arguments in play on the internet are basically right.

    The ID-folks really do support ID because unguided evolution cramps their creator-beliefs, and the champions of evolution-gone-wild really just see ID as throwing out key parts of evolutionary theory to make some gaps for God to hide in. One man’s modus ponens is another man’s reductio ad absurdium.

  36. RudeMorgue says:

    Probably doesn’t help that, judging by the non-DRM-related reviews, it’s just not all that great a game.

  37. Drew says:

    You’re on the ball here, Shamus, except when you say that “everyone who complained was someone who was concerned about how the DRM was going to affect them as a paying customer”. This is simply untrue. There are a few classes of people who would complain:

    1) Paying (or potentially paying) customers. These folks are interested in addressing the issue of DRM because they don’t want to spend money on what they consider a rental, or because they want to know that in a few years they’ll still be able to play their game.

    2) Anti-DRM crusaders who have no interest in the product. These folks are going to post negative reviews anywhere they see anything pertaining to DRM. This is perfectly reasonable, but to suggest they’re potential paying customers isn’t quite genuine.

    3) Pirates with some kind of conscience. There are plenty of people who were going to pirate the game anyway and were looking for a good excuse. This is a nice easy one, and by saying “I won’t buy this game because of the DRM”, they’re justifying stealing it to themselves.

    As for the relative percentages of each group, I can’t say. And none of these groups represent a justification for restrictive DRM. I just don’t think it’s fair to say that only paying customers would complain.

  38. Kris says:

    iTunes DRM is still easy to get around though, it’s really not any bother to me as a paying customer. I purchase the iTunes files, burn the playlist to a disc, and then immediately rip it back as DRM free files.

    So, I get the DRM free files and a physical back-up. It really doesn’t take much time and I don’t see that I lose out anything really.

    Edit: My conclusion was too repetitive. Bah.

  39. Cthulhu says:

    People only install games on 1-3 computers, eh? I have on this here computer a game from a while back, Age of Empires II, which I have installed on… lessee here… 10 computers, counting this one. Oh, and I lent it to a friend for a while too.
    Not that EA ever made a game as good as AOEII, but still.

  40. @guy

    Actually, what they should not have access to is the trends. Spore hasn’t been around long enough to say more than, 25% of purchasers have installed it on three seperate machines in about a week, 1% have installed or attempted to install it on 4+.

    Yes, that makes sense. His post kind of read like they shouldn’t have access to the data at all.

    It is definitely too soon for EA to come out and say how many installations that people are using. Considering most people that I know of have one system that they maintain, and maintain well, it’s not strange to think that a lot of those “single installation” people are going to switch to be on their second or third installation in a year after they do a maintenance reinstall.

    Another group that EA isn’t considering are habitual uninstallers. My dad uninstalls games when he’s done playing them. If he gets in the mood to play them later on he reinstalls them. Given his normal behavior, him using up his three installations within a year or two with one system and one Windows installation certainly wouldn’t be out of the question.

  41. Cybron says:

    Gotta agree with Old Geek… EA’s perfectly competent. They’re just a bunch of devious bastards intent on laughing all the way to the bank.

  42. Alan De Smet says:

    BlackJaw: You’ve been deceived. When you buy a music CD, or a book, or even a most console video games, you are not buying a “license.” No matter how hard you look, you cannot find a reference to needing a license for a music CD in copyright law. You are buying a single copy of the work. You are free to use that particular copy however you like, with a small number of exceptions regarding copying, distribution, and public performance. You do not need a license to enjoy a copyright protected work you purchased. The law has never said this! This idea that you need a license is a lie propogated by the many in copyright-based industries because it lets them override copyright law with worse rules. By getting the public to believe this lie, they manage to change the fundamental terms of the debate. We’ve already gotten some very weak court cases supporting this idea, but so far the damage is limited to computer software that you install. We need to stop this lie from spreading before this madness spreads.

  43. straechav says:

    Kris: So, let me get this right? You’re taking an LOSSY music file from an online store, burn it to a CD, and then rip it AGAIN in to a lossy codec? You have to be kidding me!

    Jeez, my ears bleed in sympathy. I sense with my spidery senses that you don’t have very high quality speakers. Something that cost 25$ used, right?

    This is like taking an JPEG picture with JPEG artifacts and saving again at lower quality – just because you didn’t think it looked bad enough to start with.

    Sorry for being a tad off topic – I agree about 99% with shamus on everything about this subject anyway – but this comment I couldn’t pass without reacting.

  44. Jeff says:

    Regarding Blackjaw’s issue, not only are you not buying a license, the publishers are actively trying to convince you it is when it is legally not.
    It’s a sale, not a lease, and there have been court rulings to that effect. The EULA is valid only when it’s actually covering things under the UCC and Copyright, not on things of this nature.
    Part of the ruling generally says you can call it whatever you want, but as it has none of the qualities of a lease (license), and all the qualities of a sale, it’s a sale.

  45. Eric says:

    Ya know what really flips me about the whole F’ing thing is the fact that the professional reviewers don’t comment on the drm issue. X-play on G4 only brought it up because a viewer asked them is it really that big of a deal. Adam Sessler said no it wasn’t, and that everyone on amazon was out of order, and that everbody who pirates, should know that their responsible for this. Meanwhile Attack of the show(which is on the same station, films in the same studio, and the hosts talk with each other and show up on each others shows)bitches about drm constantly on music and games. I don’t think the reviewers realize that the majority of gamers who read or watch their magazines, and programs respectively are people who actually know about these things, and are not casual gamers who don’t know the difference between windows, mac, and linux.

  46. Carra says:

    [quote]Sughayer also points out that less than 25% of EA users attempt to install the company’s games on more than one computer, and less than 1% attempt to install it on more than three.[/quote]

    Yes, that also struck me. The game has been out for 2 weeks, how many people are going to install it more then once during that period? And if they’re talking about mass effect, that still means half a year.

    What in two years, five years, ten years? I still play ten year old games and they can’t have data on that.

    Besides, 25% of a million copies is 250.000 people, that’s huge.

  47. BlackJaw says:

    A couple of things:
    First, the DVD issues I’ve run into are in reference to “public performance” with a DVD, and are not related to DRM type issues.

    Second: Can I get some links to information on these topics? I’d like to learn more, and I may not be the only one read this who would.

    Third: I could have sworn I got this information from Jennifer Mercurio… a Lawyer who works for the Entertainment Consumers Association and previously the Entertainment Software Association. Am I missing something here? The ECA is backing a bill in congress to put Fair Use back into digital entertainment.
    http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:H.R.1201:

  48. Claire says:

    Sughayer also points out that less than 25% of EA users attempt to install the company’s games on more than one computer, and less than 1% attempt to install it on more than three.

    This looks like a fun playground for parallel reasoning run amok…

    “Fewer than 25% of our customers attempt to drive their cars more than three hours a day, and less than 1% attempt to drive it more than 6 hours per day. … therefore, it’s totally unobjectionable if we monitor their car with OnStar, and shut it down remotely should they attempt to drive it for more than 6 hours.”

    Oh, and this one is fun, too, adding in a reasonable assumption about how EA gathered that data to begin with (namely, that they know from watching Bioshock activations):
    “Judging from our monitoring of cars sold in the last calendar year, fewer than 25% of our customers have attempted to drive their cars more than 24,000 miles, and less than 1% attempted to drive more than 72,000 miles. … therefore, it’s totally acceptable to remotely render their car permanently inoperative when they pass the 72,000 mile mark.

    The second one is especially awesome, because it highlights the way in which they failed even to attempt to extrapolate future trends from their one measly year of data, instead choosing to assume that the # of installations by the end of year one was the most anybody would want to perform. Because God Knows I don’t have an old, worn-thin Dungeon Hack CD from which I’ve installed no fewer than 75 times over the last 15 years. And let’s just not discuss StarCraft. If I’d run just one mile every time I installed (not even played – installed!) StarCraft, I could beat Lance Armstrong in a race, my feet to his wheels.

  49. ravells says:

    With the advent of the credit crunch and less disposable income, my prediction is that the egg heads at bioware and EA will run the numbers and really start to look at income lost through dedicated gamers (who will make sacrifices to buy a good game) not buying their game because of sites like these (Go Shamus!)as opposed to the ‘general gamer’ who will not buy their game because they have less cash to spend.

    The economic downturn might do some good after all.

  50. Adeon says:

    Unfortunately it won’t. Even assuming EA notices falling revenue they’ll simply put it down to those nasty pirates and call it a day.

  51. Vao Ki says:

    I, like many others, was quite interested in Spore when it was announced and had planned to check it out.

    After finding out about the DRM that tags along with the game I boycotted Spore as well. I was hoping these people would see sense and drop the DRM garbage but alas, it seems they will not. Now I’m not even interested in playing a pirated version of anything from EA, let alone buying anything they sell. EA deserves the respect they’ve given their potential customers: a big steaming pile of none.

  52. Steve C says:

    @34 Old_Geek:They WANT you to use up your activations and have to buy a new copy.

    Who would ever do that?

    Who would ever buy a game and then buy another copy because the original discs stopped working? Wouldn’t it be far more likely for anyone, anywhere to vow never to do business with that company rather than pay for the same thing twice?

  53. Steve C says:

    @24 BlackJaw: Still freaking stupid, but some how it’s legal.

    That should read: Still freaking smart, because some how they’ve tricked people into believing it’s legal.

    @42 Alan De Smet:The law has never said [you need a license to enjoy a copyrighted work]!

    Actually the law has said it both ways. It’s very screwed up at the moment but the earliest EULA attempt was on a book long before computers existed. It was shot down hard and was very much like shrinkwrap contracts we loathe today.

  54. Steve C says:

    If someone believes Eula licenses are legal then there is a legal way out by doing the same to them. Just send the following:

    *READ CAREFULLY. By reading or replying this article, you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies (“BOGUS AGREEMENTS”) that I have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.*

  55. Mari says:

    Steve C – well, I admit I’ve paid for the same thing twice. When it was something awesome. I’ve bought some movies on VHS and then bought them again later on laser disc and then again on DVD. Guess what I didn’t buy on DVD, though? Disney movies. Because they were treating customers with much less contempt than EA is currently showing their customers. EA is now subject to the same treatment that Disney’s gotten from me: I’m not just boycotting the products with DRM or even all products until they straighten up, I’m boycotting all products until they show a prolonged change of business practice that shows that they genuinely value their consumers. Until then, they can do without my money.

    Oh, and I ran across this article about where their “less than 1%” nonsense came from. Apparently they’re going by 1) activations of Mass Effect and 2) current activations of Spore. It kind of shocks me that .4% have already used up their three activations on Spore.

  56. Veylon says:

    If there is a huge tide of anti-DRM sentiment, and Amazon sells DRM-free music, doesn’t it make perfect business sense for them to try to channel that flow to their doors?

    I think that if this gets big enough, a few major distributors might try to seize the anti-DRM flag by refusing to carry DRM software. If Wal-Mart or Amazon decide that they can make more money playing the champion of the people, whither then, DRM?

  57. DocTwisted says:

    Knowing that the game is so stringently controlled in its legal, commercial form, most people who wish to play the game are not even paying for it ONCE. Spore is now breaking records for downloads via Torrent:

    http://torrentfreak.com/spore-most-pirated-game-ever-thanks-to-drm-080913/

    They’ve already passed the number of times Crysis has been distributed, and that hit game is [b]a year old.[/b] I can’t actually play this game on my PC (So old it runs Win98), but frankly, the DRM BS has me up in arms enough that I’m tempted to download a copy to my hard drive anyway, just to drive the number of “pirated copies” counted up.

    After the years of hype and constant delays, slapping all the potential customers in the face with this 3 online activations crap is actually costing EA money. Me, I’m laughing quite hard at it all. Here’s hoping you are too, Shamus.

  58. mixmastermind says:

    Ya know, I never really thought about this “Installs” thing until recently, when I bought a new video card, then installed a game on a laptop. I realized that if I bought a game with Spore’s DRM, then that would be it. No more, unless I wanted to buy it again or convince EA I’m not a pirate.

    That was a sobering thought.

  59. kh_hawkes says:

    So my question is when I am overseas. How do I activate a game I buy in the PX or have shipped to me when I do not have internet? And how do I call EA or some other company to get my activations returned or get a new one when something happens to my laptop or I get home and install it on my old PC that I will upgrade shortly with a new PC then have to deploy again in a year with a new laptop?

  60. DontLikeNames says:

    Was with a group of friends and their parents earlier today when someone brought up Spore. They said they were having problems with it. Told them they shouldn’t even bother because of the DRM.

  61. Galen says:

    @Shamus- I’m just curious now, from the other perspective, lets say you made the game. What would you do as DRM assuming your game was good enough to sell… a lot. I’m definately not siding with EA here. I’m just noticing that when you review games you say how you would do it (FPS trackball, Survival Horror posts). So what would you do if it were your money and time that will be pirated?

  62. Matt K says:

    @Galen: I think you are misunderstanding the problem. DRM in no way shape or form prevents pirating. In fact, to a certain extent it encourages pirating games.

    For a game with the EA DRM once they encounter a problem (possibly at 1st install) the person is most likely not going to just say oh well. No, what they’ll do is find a way around it which involves going to hack site or torrent. So now the company has given the user incentive to visit a site full of pirated copies of said game plus a bunch of other games.

    Now a good many people will see this treasure trove and dig in. Especially with the ill will said user feels towards the company. Now next game comes out and user sees DRM and figures if I’m going to have to download work arounds anyhow, why not just download the whole damn game. Thus a new pirate is born due the DRM.

    Add to this people downloading because they have no clue if the game will work on their system (and once bought they cannot return the game and in some instances also cannot resell the game). These people already download the game so they have even less incentive to buy it and put up with the DRM.

    In the end DRM doesn’t work. What will lessen pirating (because it will never go away ever and you have to be mentally challenged to think otherwise) is treating your customer well be it packaged in bonuses, web site extras (which will be pirated as well but it makes your customer feel like you care) or just talking with people on the web site/forum.

    DRM is never the solution to combating pirating and it delusional to think otherwise. That’s the short of it otherwise I could go on all day.

    EDIT: Broke it up into smaller paragraphs for readability

  63. Galen says:

    @ Matt K: Yeah I see the point here. I’m just wondering, were Shamus the maker, what (if any) steps would he take? Any new ideas on how it SHOULD be done?

    And reading your post I like the idea of packaging the bought game with extras and stuff. Though that could be pirated too… I suppose then that the best way to sell a game is to make it EASIER to buy than to pirate.

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