Mass Effect:

By Shamus Posted Friday May 9, 2008

Filed under: Game Reviews 87 comments

What I most feared has now come to pass.

EA has relented and given up on the 10-day re-authentication thing, instead “only” insisting on online activation. They caved on the details and held firm on their support for intrusive and restrictive DRM. They have now backed off to the point where their system is “only” as bad as the one in BioShock.

As I feared, this has fragmented the fans. Some hold firm, and others are running back to the game, full of forgiveness. Looks to be roughly 50 / 50 now. I’m happy that lots of people “get” the implications of this, that it’s still wrong even if the system works for you personally, but I doubt the numbers are there to get EA to budge again. Worse, 2KGames promised that “at some point” the need for activation would be removed, and we have no such promise from EA.

The poison pill:

  • This solution allows gamers to authenticate their game on three different computers with the purchase of one disc. EA Customer Service is on hand to supply any additional authorizations that are warranted. This will be done on a case-by-case basis by contacting customer support.

The language here makes it very clear what they want. I buy a disc, and I can install it on any three computers I like, after which the game is “used up”. If I want to install again, I have to email EA, hat in hand, and ask them if maybe it would be okay if I installed the game again. This is a deal-breaker for me.

Sigh. I just installed Deus Ex a couple of weeks ago so I could write this post about it. That’s probably the sixth time I’ve had it on my machine, over the course of four computers. I can only imagine how angry I would have been if I’d popped in that disc at sometime after midnight on a weekend, and then had to go to EIDOS and wait for them to let me in. I’d end up trading emails with some tech support flunky who was ten years old when the game was new. Assuming I had whatever proof of purchase he wanted (all I have is the case and disc, the box and its accoutrements are long gone) I’d still have to wait for the response, get the code, go through the activation, and sometime on Monday I would have been ready to launch the game and take my screenshots.

This is, of course, even assuming the validation servers would still exist. Microsoft “Plays for Sure” system came and went in just four years, leaving customers without a way to access their purchased music. If you can’t trust a behemoth like Microsoft to last four years, then what chance is there that the EA servers will last a decade? Or forever, which is how long I’m used to owning things I buy.

No news on Spore, but we can assume that it will be similarly encumbered. I don’t think EA is going to move again.

Damn it.


From The Archives:

87 thoughts on “Mass Effect:

  1. MRL says:

    Not ideal…but for me, at least, this is enough of a change to force my hand. Guess they’re back on my list…

  2. Patrick says:

    Not enough for me to bother with it. I too keep games for the long haul.

  3. xbolt says:

    Oh my gosh… I guess you were right Shamus.


  4. JFargo says:

    They’re keeping the same SecuROM on Spore, so no having to dial in every 10 days, but with the same limitations as all the rest.

    That being said, I personally think they had this planned all along, sort of like a flow chart: “If the fans revolt, we pull the part they’re going to obviously hate, and just keep the rest, making us look reasonable.”

  5. randolph says:

    Bioware is now clearly EA’s b*tch…
    How depressing.

  6. Chargone says:

    the depressing thing is, for spore at least, that the whole ‘phoning home’ thing kinda made sense and wasn’t Too bad [depending on what it sent, of course]. the limited activations, which they kept, are the breaker.

    the original proposed DRM would have been enough to put me off buying anything but spore [as much due to the nature of the DRM compared to the nature of spore, as due to how much i want the game :)]

    now, i could be wrong here, but i do believe that they have just removed the part which gave it a hope of Working… and kept the bit which does less to secure it, while doing more to aggravate the customer. doesn’t seem all that smart to me.

    while I’ll still be getting Spore, it’s a fair bet that that’s going to be the last EA title i knowingly touch for the PC, at the very least.

  7. Laurel Raven says:

    I was interested in this when it was on the console, and wanted it to come to PC, but now, I have no desire. They’ve killed it for me.

    Why should I be treated like a theif when I’ve stolen nothing, when I could steal it and be treated much better?

  8. Steve says:

    I bought BioShock, despite being reluctant because of the DRM, and I have little doubt that I’ll do the same now with Mass Effect. Perhaps I should be more principled, but the lure of a decent PC game that isn’t an FPS is too strong.

    Like other commentors, I can’t help wondering if all this was deliberate on EA’s part…

  9. Caro Cogitatus says:

    Too bad. I’ve been really looking forward to Spore ever since it was first introduced, but this is a dealbreaker for me as well.

  10. xbolt says:

    Since this strategy seems to have worked so well for EA, just imagine next time:

    EA: “We want initial online activation, a limited number of installs, online reactivation every ten days afterward, and your firstborn.”

    Fans: “Complain!”

    EA: “Ok, we’ll get rid of the requirement for your firstborn, but the rest remain.”

    Fans: “Yay!”

  11. lebkin says:

    Doesn’t anyone else feel like this was just a big marketing scheme? They announce a horrible DRM method, let the internet drum up a huge outcry, get their name on every website, then play the “listening to the fans” card and back off to a more “reasonable” DRM method. As Shamus noted, it is now “only” bad as Bioshock. If they had just announced this level of DRM, there would have been an outcry, with nothing for EA to fall back to. This way they get the DRM they want with the added bonus of good PR.

  12. Frac says:

    I have half a dozen lawfully purchased games to which I occasionally return – and have to crack to do so. That made me feel bad at first, but I’m used to it now. I can thank the brain-dead marketing bleems at these companies for getting me used to feeling like a criminal enough that I will steal Mass Effect and Spore with no remorse at all.

  13. JoshuaSmyth says:

    I wonder how many copies of this game are going to be sold? Surely no one would buy it knowing this?

    If I was ever interested in playing Mass Effect, I’d get the xBox version.

    If PC gaming is dying, guess who’s killing it?

  14. Greg says:

    well we can only hope his is a retreat point that they can be pushed back from, rather than where they can just dig in and refuse to move from

  15. Fenix says:

    WooHoo!!! Now I can pirate it in only one day after launch instead of two!!!

    But yeah. EA getting off easy does suck.

  16. Mari says:

    Thanks but no thanks, EA. Dude, I recently reinstalled Civ 1 on my computer. One. The first one. Three online activations before being forced to beg would have been used up over a DECADE ago for me and here I am still playing it. Occasionally I run an emulator and play games even older. I like my games to last and I like to OWN them, not borrow them until the owner/distributor gets tired and wants their game back. Guess I’ll just stick with my old games and not give away my money to companies like EA. Granted, it’ll make about as much difference as my Disney boycott over paying $30 for a no-frills DVD that wasn’t supposed to BE no-frills is, but I still hold out hope that one of these days my principles will have an impact.

  17. ryanlb says:

    What? You’ve installed games you legally purchased on more than three computers over the last several years?

    Clearly, only a pirate would do such a thing.

    You thief.

  18. Terrible says:

    ‘BioWare has always listened very closely to its fans and we made this decision to ensure we are delivering the best possible experience to them.’

    But it’s like you say, Shamus. The pirates are the ones offering the best experience. Free download. No DRM. Clearly they’re not listening ‘very closely’ to all the fans.

  19. Daosus says:

    What would be interesting, though, is if at some point they decided that the smart thing would be to require activation (limited or not), but stipulate in the license agreement that their authentication servers will be up for the next X years, minimum.

  20. Tryss says:

    For someone who keeps games for a long time like me, and also reinstalls windows on a 1-2-yr basis, this DRM is a dealbreaker.

    I WANT spore so badly.. I may need to buy, play it’s 3 copies, then get the pirated copy to be spared DRM issues. lol

    What about those people (granted small group) that have a system good enough to play, then for some reason the internet’s down for them. (ISP’s Borked, cheap, dorm blocks ports, moving from one home to another) gaming shouldn’t be limited to people who have ports forwarded, etc.

    I live in a geek commune. We share two 8meg comcast cable internet connections on our little intranet of 9 computers a mythbox, and 3 console gaming systems. Sometimes I can’t get on because someone’s doing something.. (maint, anime torrenting, raiding, etc) and if Spore is my game du-jour at that time, it would suck.

  21. MSchmahl says:

    Have you read the “Don’t stuff beans up your nose” from Wikipedia? This is all your fault!

    I think I’ve had Starcraft installed eight different times.

  22. SimeSublime says:

    Beforehand I bought the rights to install a game as many times as I like. Now I buy the right to install it on three computers. Why does it still cost $80-$100? If I’m buying less rights, I should get a discount to reflect this.

  23. Mordaedil says:

    Oh goodness me, it was the giant outcry of things that made Bioware call a hurried meeting to discuss a compromise and that resulted in the deal that they should announce the 10 day activation thing to be removed, because people were crying about it.

    Now, personally, I didn’t mind it, but I could see why some people would be miffed about it, and I gave them suggestions to circumvent it.

    Now, the activation feature will likely be a bit of hassle, but if you’ve ever been to the Bioware forums, you’d find them to be very reasonable chaps to deal with, and the involvement of EA will not change that.

    Furthermore, by registering your game at the Bioware site, you’ve basically got irrefutable proof of your game ownership, until the Bioware vanishes off the surface of the planet.

    How far off that is, is kind of a hard guess though. Microsoft is still there, after all.

  24. Mark says:

    I’ll get the game because I want to play Spore so bad it hurts, implicit distrust be hanged; I’ll pay for it because I don’t want to vindicate their paranoia and let’s face it, the developers deserve their royalties; I’ll crack it because I want to be able to use it, not just today, but forever.

    Shamus, look on the bright side: now we know that our opinions can change their policy. We didn’t win, but we’ve seen that victory is possible.

  25. Kanthalion says:

    I just read the latest gamespot preview of Mass Effect for PC, guess what I didn’t see any mention of?

  26. tussock says:

    In three years, when Spore II comes out, expect Spore activations to spontaneously fail. Don’t worry, you can always pay them another hundy, as I keep playing a handfull of the best games ever written, for the cost of taking the time to find the latest user patch that makes them all the better on a modern PC.

    Enjoy the bleeding edge, guys. I’m off to play some TTD.

    PS: try not to think too hard why Magic Carpet II had a fully deformable gigantic outdoor environment (like tearing down whole hillsides into smoking ruins) with fully 3D waves and tides on the ocean, dozens of gigantic enemies on screen, real-time shadows and mobile lighting, and ran perfectly smooth all the way at high res on a 486 (that’s one step down from a “Pentium 1” for you young’uns, single pipeline, 0.066 GHz, no GPU to speak of).

  27. MRL says:

    What the heck is Magic Carpet II? I’ve honestly never heard of the game before.

  28. Kanthalion says:

    Regarding Magic Carpet 2: Wikipedia is your friend

  29. FlameKiller says:

    I was not going to buy it anyway.

    i dont have any high end computers, and the requirements would quite possibly be through the roof. on one of them RTS games are moderate in gameplay(as in speed and grphics)(AoE3(2ex)) other RTSs are quicker and are way better then the others(AoE2, DoW(2ex), SW-EaW, LotR-BfME2, WC3exFT, SC)
    on the 2nd computer the Aoe3 is better, but SW-EaW, LotR-BfME2, DoW(2ex) are dismal. they freeze right during the opening cinematic.

    so if i do get Mass Effect it would stink to high Valhalla and Odin would vomit from the stench.

  30. Fosse says:

    Still won’t buy it or Spore. I’m not a fan of the “Activating.” I don’t even care how many installations I’m allowed before I have to call tech support. That’s ridiculous. I don’t have to prove my identity to anything that I own to use it. I don’t want to start now.

  31. Tichfield says:

    I’ve gone from deciding NOT to purchase the game (when it phoned home) to TWO pre-orders, one meant as a gift for a family member.

    I find the current requirements a bad business decision for EA, but perfectly reasonable from the standpoint of a consumer with internet access.

    This WILL bite EA and PC gaming in the bum – people without internet connections won’t buy the game, reducing the market, and when EA tries to sell Mass Effects 2 and 3, it will be no doubt suprised to find a lack of an existing fan base… (No used game market, older games aren’t put on shelves, and paid-up gamers will have outgrown their activations.)

    Then again, maybe they’ll do what Sierra did with Ground Control 2, and put the original up as a free download.

    The company’s still being foolish, but at least this time, they’re hurting MOSTLY themselves. (I have plenty of other games to play after the MEPC activations run out, including a bunch of indies purchased from Stardock’s download service.)

  32. Zaxares says:

    I was going to buy Mass Effect for PC anyway (see my original post on Shamus’ first blog entry about SecuROM and ME), so this is just icing on the cake. Believe me, I’d STILL prefer a SecuROM-less ME, but I grudgingly admit that this is probably as good as it’s ever going to get.

  33. Corsair says:


    I am impressed.

    EA is one cunning devil. They propose an outlandishly nightmarish DRM, wait for the complaints, and then double back to the “Well, we’ll just use the ol’ Bioshock defenses”. Boom. Complaint about BioShock-level DRM split by a large number, you get to play the “we listen to the fans” card, and you still get ridiculously stringent DRM. At this point, I think EA is going to begin plotting to have it’s cake and eat it too.

  34. Lost Chauncy says:

    Add me to the dealbreaker list. There are plenty of other games out there waiting to be discovered and played. If any of you haven’t heard of MobyGames

    …it’s a great place to discover old games or those that never got the mainstream “GameSpot” treatment. The reviews are all user submitted and many of them are well done.

    Hidden Gems and undiscovered classics with nary a SecuROM title in sight

  35. Kanthalion says:

    Corsair said: “EA is one cunning devil. They propose an outlandishly nightmarish DRM, wait for the complaints, and then double back to the “Well, we'll just use the ol' Bioshock defenses”. Boom. Complaint about BioShock-level DRM split by a large number, you get to play the “we listen to the fans” card, and you still get ridiculously stringent DRM. At this point, I think EA is going to begin plotting to have it's cake and eat it too.”

    hmm. now that you mention it, I wonder if all the keys for secuROM protected games will start containing the number 666?

  36. Winter says:

    Tell me, again, why i’m not just pirating these games? It’s starting to get all fuzzy in my head…


  37. Terrible says:

    Winter: Because when people pirate the game, the people who want to buy it get punished?

  38. Eric the Baker says:

    I feel that EA had this “fall-back” position in mind all along. They purposely overstated their position, while all along they planned to have it this way.

  39. Mordaedil says:

    Pirating these games only proves that the companies were right in including these anti-pirate countermeasures for sure. After all, you are no longer a customer, you are a customer becoming a pirate.

    In a Bioware thread, someone suggested that if you wish to show your disapproval with your wallet, you’d go out and buy another PC game, which does NOT have SecuROM. Do some research before you walk out though, there are PLENTY of traps out there.

  40. Visi says:

    For Spore.

    ““ We'll re-authenticate when a player uses online features, downloads new content or a patch for their game.

    From what I understand Spore is always downloading new content, so basically very little has changed?

  41. Strangeite says:

    From a legal perspective, the DRM scheme is still onerous enough that it is reasonable that a consumer would choose NOT to agree to the publishers EULA. As stated on other posts, since the EULA is not presented at the time of purchase and the product is not returnable once the consumer actually has the ability to read the EULA, the consumer would be entitled to take the retailer and publisher to small claims court.

    I am certain that the consumer would win such a suit, without a lawyer, by simply stating the facts and explaining why leasing a game is not what you thought you were getting.

    I am going to continue working on the brief, but I am very aware that many of you have lost the earlier rage that was fueling your desire for action. To have any noticeable effect on a large publisher like EA, it will take more than one solitary figure taking them to court. One successful lawsuit will be not much more than a paper cut. Hundreds of paper cuts would get their attention, but I am afraid that this “concession” on EA’s part will pacify the hordes.

  42. Bonejesta says:

    Terrible: I think it’s a bit late for that. The people who legally buy the game are already being punished a lot more than the pirates by the companies responsible for this stupid DRM. It seems to be a vicious circle; The more DRM thats put into games, the more likely people are to turn to cracked, pirated copies, thus justifying the reason for the DRM in the first place.

  43. Burning says:

    A horrid cynical thought has come to me. The worst thing about it is that I can’t see anything wrong with it.

    People keep asking why companies use DRM that is manifestly only good at inconveniencing the honest customer and which is irrelevant to the actual pirate. Perhaps because the goal is not to reduce piracy, but piracy makes a convenient scapegoat. Pirates are an enemy of publishers, but they may have given up on them.

    The posts above reveal the existence of another enemy: honest gamers who hold onto their games for a long time. Because, anyone who is spending a lot of time playing a game they bought 3, 5, 10 years ago is not buying as many new games as they should.

    Under this hypothesis the whole purpose of the exercise is to make the limited activations acceptable. As has been remarked, for some gamers this is still a deal breaker, but those people are lost sales already. Even though the average age of gamers is rising, the big money is still with the younger gamers. If they come to accept limited play time as the natural way of things, they’ll never develop the bad habits of their elders. The good EA game of five years ago will not steal sales from the mediocre one of today.

    I know, never attribute to malice what can safely be attributed to stupidity. I usually live by those words, so it might give you an idea how disgusted I am that I’m giving this notion serious contemplation.

    The real argument against it beign true is that it requires forward planning, which is pretty much against the job description of executives of large publicly traded companies.

  44. Lain says:

    Until now, nobody asks, what kind of informations are sent to the company? Do you really believe, that this only about “activation”?

    I strongly believe in Cyberpunk and George Orwell. What happens, when this Company let this “updater” or “activator” scan your computer for differént goals. Some “harmless” like advertisement, perhaps for selling that information to other companies?

    When all or only most the game developing companies decide to use an “activator” needed game, they know WHO bought their products and perhaps what other kind of products and programs are on your PC.

    I must always laugh, when some games want me to install the GAMESPY tool, or what that name is. Yea sure, only for multiplaying. Right.

    As I mentioned earlier, I prefer to buy my games and use the cracks. And pray, that the pirates also don’t have other intentions.

    Ok, I’m paranoid. But that doesn’t mean, they are not hunting me…

  45. Zaghadka says:

    I’m with you, Shamus, but you have to understand one thing:

    You don’t buy software. You license it.

    The software distributors are, just now, making it abundantly clear what that means to the consumer. It started with Windows XP, and it only gets worse from here. In a decade, we’ll be renting our software if it keeps running downhill as it has been.

  46. empty_other says:

    In a decade, we’ll be renting our software if it keeps running downhill as it has been.

    No need to wait a decade, Microsoft is already offering MS Office as a subscription.

  47. Stu says:

    In my experience, expecting a Windows machine to run forever is nothing more than a pipe dream. Eventually the things gets so full of gunk that it’s nice to start afresh – clean off the drives and install everything from scratch.

    I’ve found that doing this every six months or so is the sweet spot.

    This of course will have to stop now or software won’t last more than a couple of years. Microsoft: Please make a Windows that doesn’t slowly degrade over time, kthx.

  48. Annon says:

    Meh, I’m not particularly worried about the “3-limit activation” thing. In that case, I think they will run into more practical issues for that restriction to pay off in the long run. Windows used to do that–after three activations on the same disk it would force you to call tech support to activate it again. I activate Windows about once a year to get rid of the overhead that seems to build up of its own accord on the system. With four systems at once-a-year activation, usually evenly spaced (though occassionally I would need to do an extra if I upgraded the MB on a computer) I activated about every three months. Over time, I learned the most efficient way to bypass the automated teller and get things done.

    I also noticed a definite point when the program stopped caring about the number of activations. Of course, I can only hypothesize, but I’m willing to bet they had so many people who needed reactivations and it was doing so little good that it finally hit home how worthless the limit was, and they got rid of it.

    I’ll put money down that the same thing will happen with SecuROM. Granted, the customer base for these games is smaller than for Windows, but people are much more likely to reinstall games than operating systems, and they are much more likely to have multiple programs which run on the same DRM. Since Microsoft threw the idea out the window, I give SecuROM a year before it stops paying attention to how many activations have been done.

  49. Annon says:

    Sorry, accidental double post…

  50. nevered says:

    I hear that in order to beg for another chance to reactivate your bioshock disc, you had to prove that you had purchased it by providing a photograph of the actual disc itself, with the case.

    Does anyone know if cases with a big “Used game – Thanks for shopping at Gamestop” sticker on the front are acceptable proofs-of-purchase?

  51. method3 says:

    I still wonder why people think any kind of DRM in any shape or form is acceptable after purchasing a game. Say whatever you want about EULA’s or whatever legal bullshit, the premise has always been that you pay to be able to play the game. Any hindrance to that merely punishes you for purchasing it legally. I find the whole “leasing a game” argument as disgusting as “intellectual property”.

    Somehow people think that if piracy were to go away then companies would get rid of DRM. Maybe yes, maybe no, but guess what? It’s not going to go away, ever, so stop dreaming. Anyone backing up DRM by saying piracy causes DRM is basically saying that companies are “morally right” to punish customers for what pirates do (as pirates themselves are never hindered in the first place). Pirates aren’t forcing companies to implement DRM, they are directly competing with companies’ business models to produce products at a price people are willing to pay for.

    DRM is just the incompetent byproduct of companies who think they can bully people into buying their game. It’s an unwillingness to adapt to what the market is telling you: people want to play games their own way, they want to play before they buy, and they’re not willing to pay if you’re going to shaft them. Anyone standing up for this idiotic approach is simply caught up in the fabrication that piracy is morally wrong. The whole idea of “lost sales” is a straw man when there’s no way you can prove people would’ve bought your game otherwise.

    Look at the other side, piracy is the ultimate form of praise. Someone wants to copy you. Piracy can market your product better than you can, for fucking free. If your game is shit, no one will pirate it, or so few people will that it doesn’t really matter anyway. If you’re game is good, why not use as many channels to get it out there as possible? There’s tons of other examples of why piracy, even historically, has always pushed innovative ideas (printing press anyone?).

    BTW I buy the games I like, including Bioshock, and hated the fucking DRM. So I bought it and played a pirated copy anyway.

  52. Suzene says:

    Too little, too late. No Mass Effect, Sims 3, Spore, or Dragon Age for me, so I can still hold off on the new gaming rig. More money for me, yay!

  53. Terrible says:

    It’s still a matter of principle. How can you say anything against a DRM scheme if you actually are pirating the game?

  54. Bonejesta says:

    Terrible: Thats my point: You wont find the pirates bitching and moaning about DRM, because they dont have to put up with it in the first place!
    The only people you will EVER hear complain about draconian measures like these are the honest folks who are being made to jump through the bulls**t hoops because they actually cared enough to buy the game legitimately!

  55. method3 says:

    “It's still a matter of principle. How can you say anything against a DRM scheme if you actually are pirating the game?”

    What? Why can’t you talk about DRM if you’re pirating? That makes no sense. It doesn’t make you’re argument less valid if you pirated the game, on the contrary it probably makes the argument more valid. If you felt you had to pirate a game to avoid dealing with DRM then…?

  56. Cybron says:

    Man, reading this stuff makes me ever so increasingly glad that most of the games I play on the computer still use ASCII for graphics – no DRM in ADOM or Nethack.

  57. Chris says:

    This is crap. I for one will not be buying Mass Effect for either the PC or my XBox 360 console. I’ve seen a friend playing it on the 360, and it looked interesting, but if this is how EA would treat me if I bought the PC version, then they’re not getting my hard-earned money at all. In fact, it’s doubtful I’ll be getting any EA games in the future, simply because of this.

  58. MadTinkerer says:

    This might not be the place to ask this, but this is an issue relevant to the discussion:

    What about Steam?

    See: in principle I have been opposed to this whole SecuROM thing, and have heard horror stories about Bioshock. However, I recently bought Bioshock through Steam and installed it and didn’t notice any problems at all. No confirmation codes (I chuckled in surprise when I installed Unreal Tourney 3 and it asked me for a code which Steam helpfully gave me in a pop-up window) or anything.

    So my question is: is Steam a completely different story, or is Bioshock’s DRM secretly watching my every move, waiting for me to do something horrible like install legally purchased arcade ROMs on my HD that it cannot verify are legal?

  59. Hal says:

    Actually, nevered put a thought to mind. How much money does Gamestop/EB Games make from selling used PC games? This sort of scheme guarantees that Gamestop can’t make money off the game that EA will never see.

    Perhaps the pirates aren’t the actual target?

  60. nevered says:

    I know that used textbooks (as for college classes) work essentially the same way:

    A textbook is released by a publisher, sold to a bookstore, and sold to a customer, who sells it back to the bookstore. From there, It just enters a cycle where it is swapped back and forth between the store and the students: the only time the publisher sees money is when there is an initial release of a new edition.

    The publisher’s solution to this is to release a new edition as often as possible, usually every other year. Only in rare cases where the professors prefer the older edition (or do not want to bother familiarizing themselves with the newest edition), does the old edition stay in the cycle.

    I know for a fact that if the publishers could make everyone buy a new copy, they would do so.

    fortunately, it’s hard to make a book that can only be opened three times

    oh, and:
    “Man, reading this stuff makes me ever so increasingly glad that most of the games I play on the computer still use ASCII for graphics – no DRM in ADOM or Nethack.”

    Woo ADOM!

    sorry, just had to get that out there. :-P

  61. Lost Chauncy says:

    Here’s another thought. What about those of us who own a 60-200GB Hard Drive and have a decent library of both music and video games. In short, space is limited. In my case (especially when you factor in my wife’s Sims 2 stuff) I have to rotate games on and off the hard drive. When a new game shows up it’s time to choose one that I’m willing to take a break from. But just because I’m uninstalling it now doesn’t mean I won’t feel like playing it again in a few months. It might get reinstalled 2-3 times a year.

    Thank goodness all my games don’t use this scheme or I’d have to start making a lot of phone calls. Or is it my responsibility as a consumer to make sure my hard drive is always large enough to contain my entire game library in perpetuity…?

  62. MadTinkerer says:

    Oh, BTW: the “only 3 installs” thing is still an absolute poison pill for me too, and I don’t intend to get Mass Effect if they’re trying crap like that.

    I’m just curious about the “only as bad as Bioshock” part because Bioshock-on-Steam seems to be just fine for me. Or am I in for a Shock sometime in the future? (feel free to groan at the awful pun)

    Hal: To answer your question: I don’t know of any stores that sell used PC games anymore. Confirmation codes already killed that business AFAIK. I do know I personally got burned by a used PC game that didn’t have it’s code around the time they were stopping it.

    Come to think of it, this may be one reason why a lot of Gamestops also stock few (if any) new PC games. I never thought of a bad resale factor as a disincentive for supporting a platform, but this would make sense.

  63. Vekoma says:

    Won’t Spore”Phone home” every once in a while anyway because it will pull al other creatures that populate your universe off a server?

    And as for activation and such. I don’t care much to activate my game over internet, but I will only go as far as STEAM does it. Activate once, then have it registered in your steam account and you can download/install it everytime afterwards without further hassle.
    I DO NOT wan’t to be forced to only 3 fixed installs max and then the need to call some center that only operates weekly in certain hours (I doubt they will be open 24/7) to beg to them that I may use my game again because I was so smart to upgrade my pc again to fully experience the game at the maximum level intended.

  64. blah says:

    The limited installs is per machine. So those of you installing it on the same hardware multiple times need not worry. That’ll only count as one install. Upgrade enough components and that’s another story.

  65. Chargone says:

    assuming it doesn’t break.

    always assuming it doesn’t break.

    which is a BAD assumption with PC software :S

  66. Suzene says:


    Bookman’s, a locally owned used-media chain here in Tucson, is one of the few outlets I’ve found that sells secondhand PC games. Gamestop it ain’t, but I’ve found more than a few gems there. This limited activations mess would definitely make me more wary of picking up a title secondhand (of course, Bookman’s also has a “return it within seven days for any reason for a full refund” policy, so, theoretically, I might be willing to risk it). Still, I pretty much agree; such businesses are such a small impediment to sales on the PC side of things that I can’t imagine that EA cares much. If they could kill the market for secondhand console games, though, I’m sure they’d be happy to.

  67. Terrible says:

    method3: Your argument is basically “they started it”? You may not be the person responsible for the DRM’s existence, but you’re lumping yourself in with that group.

    I don’t think DRM is justified by the pirates, nor do I think the pirates are justified by the DRM. And to the people that buy the game and download the illegal version: you’re supporting both sides. They don’t cancel each other out. It’s perpetuating the cycle.

  68. Nazgul says:

    I love their FAQ, particularly this item: “Did BioWare and EA change their mind on requiring that the game be re-authorized every 10 days?” because they don’t actually ever answer their own question(!) as they’re too busy referring to themselves in the third person.

    I and my friends have declined to participate in their schemes. Their actions lost our money.

  69. Robert says:

    I’ve been looking forward to Spore, but it sounds like I’ll be giving it a miss. Not only do I not want anything installing “hooks” into my system, but I game on an old machine that isn’t hooked up to the Internet. (The last game I got was Civilization, back in 2003, so I don’t need, or want, Internet access.)

  70. Mordaedil says:

    I’ve changed my mind a bit…

    Since I found out I have to contact EA Tech Support to reverse my activations, instead of Bioware Tech Support. It promises to be a headache, BUT by Monday I hope for an answer.

    Bioware has not let me down until they release the game (unlike what a lot of people feel)

  71. method3 says:

    I should say more clearly that I think piracy is an inevitable byproduct of culture and technology. What I mean is that pirates aren’t here because “they” started it, more like it was bound to happen whether or not DRM was implemented in the first place. The point is though that piracy is compounded when you give more people more reason to do it.

    Nor did I discuss the justifiability or morality involved with the act of piracy. I do it because I don’t have to deal with DRM, I have no idea whether or not it really hurts the company at all (my guess is it doesn’t really since I buy what I like only, but that’s impossible to measure).

    In fact I don’t think this is even a question of morality, it’s a question of business, economics, and free market ideas. Do you accept piracy as a channel and a force that you have to deal with in your business model? Or do you think this has something to do with the ten commandments, thou shalt not steal? Piracy in my opinion is just another market force, deal with it and adapt or go away please.

  72. Red says:

    Screw Spore. Really, I was looking forward to it, now I can’t bring myself to care aside from a vague disgust. I mean, I move around a lot: at the end of the month, I’m heading from Hawaii to Washington, where I’d be negotiating contracts which will either take me to South Korea or a tiny farming town in California for work. And if I’m in the middle of Asia, with a new computer and no more installs, the last thing I want is to beg via long distance calls at 3AM my time for another install.

    Seriously. And I’d have some grudging respect/understanding/patience if these various inane DRM schemes actually worked, but they don’t. They’re ineffective. They do nothing to deter piracy. They serve only as a method to annoy the paying customer and perhaps as a way to give the initial pirate a bit of a challenge as he or she cracks the code.

  73. Zereth says:

    This might not be the place to ask this, but this is an issue relevant to the discussion:

    What about Steam?

    Steam doesn’t refuse to let you play your games if you’re running perfectly legitimate system tools provided by Microsoft, doesn’t care how many systems you install on as long as your account is only trying to use one at a time, and provides actual benefits. And includes Offline Mode, which lets you play your games without using the internet indefinitely. (or at least should, I’ve heard it’s somewhat buggy.)

    Securom does nothing but make it harder to play your game. (while this isn’t quite what you asked, it’s why people complain about Mass Effect/Spore’s copy protection while happily using Steam.)

    And unless things have changed, while you don’t have to manually enter a code, you do have SecuROM sitting around on your hard drive waiting to prevent you from playing Bioshock because you have something it doesn’t like installed. And it’s silently counting down your limited number of installations, too.

    On top of the built-in Steam DRM stuff.

    EDIT: Okay seriously how does the “blockquote” tag work? What does the “cite=” part DO?

  74. Cybron says:

    nevered: Indeed, hurrah for ADOM.

    This whole mess is just yet another episode in the ongoing battle of industry vs. piracy. The music industry went through it first, and consequently gave up first. Then the movie industry (they’re still going at it, but I haven’t heard a whole lot about that recently, so I think it must be dying down), and now PC gaming. If the pirates track record is any indication, they don’t have anything to worry about; EA is wasting its time. But they won’t lose too much of their customer base, simply because those of us reading this blog are a horribly non-representative sample of the population; most of the people playing probably won’t care.

  75. David V.S. says:

    I just reinstalled Thief 1. Partly for the game itself, but largely to revisit some of my favorite fan-missions, most of which were just as fun as the original missions.

    (FMI visit — have you played any of the fan-missions for the Thief series, Shamus?)

    Needless to say, I have installed and uninstalled the game more than thrice since 1998.

  76. K says:

    Clever move by EA. With every game, they can add twenty DRM features, then after fans complaining go down to nineteen and everything is fine. At least we still got our trustworthy russian crackers.

  77. tussock says:

    Planned obsolescence is a big part of modern business models. Has been for better than 30 years now. This thing’s just a certain technological take on it, a way to make infinitely copyable works need replacement in a couple of years.

    For Spore, tying the basic function of the game to a server they can kill at any time is Zunetastic. WoW is at least honest about making you pay over and over again for the same basic thing.

  78. Rossmc says:


    While reading your umpteenth post on this topic it became apparent (Zaghadka beat me to it though), that there is in fact a proper term for the transaction EA is planning to conduct with it’s ‘customers’ and that is: ‘renting’.

    If you pay for limited usage of a commodity/product/dwelling that’s called renting. Of course rental agreements are generally done on agreement by both parties up front, hence the term agreement.

    To be letting their software while still implying that they are selling it, aren’t they lying in the first place? Who are they to condemn pirates then?

    Anyway, a succinct summary of this retardation is simply:
    1) Those gamers who BUY games will buy it without the DRM.
    2) The mythical ‘lost sales’ won’t turn into sales if you are making the product harder to own!
    3) Pirates will pirate regardless.

  79. Kevin says:

    The User Friendly web-comic posted this on Sunday.

    Just thought I would take a moment to share.

  80. MadTinkerer says:

    Zereth sez: “And unless things have changed, while you don't have to manually enter a code, you do have SecuROM sitting around on your hard drive waiting to prevent you from playing Bioshock because you have something it doesn't like installed. And it's silently counting down your limited number of installations, too.

    On top of the built-in Steam DRM stuff.”

    Ah, right. So: it won’t be a problem in the short term because the only computer I have that can run Steam right now is a laptop(that I already know it works on because I played it this morning), but a few months/years down the road it might suddenly decide to stop working on my next computer for some arbitrary reason. And each further installation increases the chances of SNAFU.

    That’s what I suspected. Oh well, I guess I just need to enjoy it while I can. At least my grandkids will be able to play HL2 some day, and that’s more important than Bioshock. :)

  81. MadTinkerer says:

    Cybron: “This whole mess is just yet another episode in the ongoing battle of industry vs. piracy. The music industry went through it first, and consequently gave up first. Then the movie industry (they're still going at it, but I haven't heard a whole lot about that recently, so I think it must be dying down), and now PC gaming.” learned their lesson very fast. They almost went out of business when they started because of DRM. Now they’ve merged with their former rivals and are the leading source of tabletop RPG PDFs. They still have some non-intrusive anti-piracy measures in place (each PDF you buy from them has a little “stamp” at the bottom identifying you as the purchaser so if you distribute it via peer-to-peer they know whodunnit), but no DRM.

  82. JFargo says:

    Kevin: Thanks for sharing that. Absolutely hilarious, and oh-so-true.

  83. Don J says:

    I’m way behind on my RSS feeds, and just read this post. I also haven’t read all the comments, or any more recent posts, but I just had a thought that might be worth sharing, so here it is:

    I wonder if a better way to campaign against draconian DRM schemes would be to spend more time singing the praises of those who don’t use them (like Stardock).

    As the saying goes, “Any press is good press”. For some people, seeing lots of complaints about EA will only strengthen the name recognition. The recent discussions have affected me mostly be reawakening my desire to play Mass Effect, and moreso, Spore. (I want to play them on a platform other than the PC as statement of principle, but I would still be giving money to the people who made me turn from my beloved computer.)

    Your comments on Sins of a Solar Empire, while not glowingly positive in all ways, certainly reinvigorated my interest in that game, and a cascade effect had me playing Gal Civ 2: Dark Avatar on the weekend, and thinking about buying Twilight of the Arnor.

    I’m not saying that you personally should stop posting complaints about EA (and I do know that your posts have been a great service to me, since I would probably have merrily played these games in blissful ignorance), but I do wonder if there is a better way.

    I see that the next post is about SoaSE, so I guess I shall see where that takes us!

  84. Zebulon Pi says:

    Where there is SecureRom, there will be NoCD cracks. I wonder if the fact that they force me to become the criminal they fear me to be ever bothers them, or if they realize it at all.

    I understand the desire to protect their investment, I really do. I also totally understand and believe in the fact that, in great numbers, people are scum, and would gladly murder puppies if they could do it anonymously and it would get them a “free” game. SOMETHING has to be done to combat that, or PC games will cease to be profitable, and, therefore, cease to be made. Some middle ground has to be attained, and that means some compromise on both parts.

    I vote for a hardware dongle. Make it virtually indestructible (this CAN be done), and make it’s use the ONLY form of copy protection on your game, and I’m in, gladly.

  85. Addy says:

    I REFUSE to buy any game with these kinds of software UNTIL someone finds out a way to hack this bullshit. Yes, I will actually buy the game and not torrent it (I only torrent games when the company who created it decides to stop selling the game), but I flatly refuse to buy any program that violates the freetrade agreement. I.e. it states that I OWN the copy of the game I purchases and I HAVE THE RIGHT to uninstall and reinstall the game as many times as I WANT TO. If I wanted to uninstallt he game and reinstall it 20 times in one day I have the right to do so BY LAW.

  86. Sean w/o an H says:

    Loved this post before, but just got the Job reference… man am I slow.

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