The Great DRM Revolt of 2008

Last week, Electronic Arts released one of the most highly anticipated computer games of recent memory – Will Wright’s Spore. The game, which lets you create a new species and control its evolution from single-cell organism to intelligent space explorer, was expected to be the crowning achievement in Wright’s series of computer simulations (including SimCity, SimEarth, and The Sims). Instead, EA turned Spore’s launch into a public relations nightmare, all thanks to DRM.

In order to prevent customers from making unauthorized copies of Spore, EA “protected” the game with a copy protection product called SecuROM. This technology has a long history of software conflicts and other problems that have prevented people from playing the games they legally purchased. Spore has had similar problems, and it appears that some people have had enough.

This was the customer rating distribution about noon today:

Negative Spore Review Count on Amazon

If you visit the page now, the 1-star reviews are likely even higher.

There are some people who genuinely don’t like the game because it’s “dumbed down” and not challenging enough, but most of the negative reviews seem to be directly related to Spore’s DRM technology. Here’s an excerpt from the current “most helpful” review:

First of all, the game incorporates a draconian DRM system that requires you to activate over the internet, and limits you to a grand total of 3 activations. If you reach that limit, then you’ll have to call EA in order to add one extra activation. That’s not as simple as it sounds, since when you reach that point EA will assume that you, the paying customer, are a filthy pirating thief. You will need to provide proof of purchase, reasons why the limit was reached, etc, etc (it has all happened before with another recent EA product, Mass Effect). EA, of course, is not obligated to grant you that extra activation or even provide that service. In a couple of years they might very well even shut down the general activation servers, because “it’s not financially feasible” to keep them running. What you will be left with is a nice, colorful $50 coaster. And you will be required to pay for another copy/license if you want to continue playing.

This basically means that you are actually RENTING the game, instead of owning it. The game WILL stop to function in the future. That’s inevitable, because even if EA keeps the activation servers going, there IS going to be a time when EA will simply cease to exist because of financial issues or federal laws (like most businesses eventually do).

It has to be said that SecuROM is not new or unique to Spore, and has been used on many other games. So, it appears that customers have had enough, and decided to make a statement with what is probably the biggest game release of the 2008. By staging their protest on the de facto source for reviews on the internet, these gamers will likely cost EA tens of thousands of sales from regular people who won’t take a chance on a game rated 1-star.

It’s unfortunate that Will Wright got caught up in this, as it wasn’t his decision to incorporate such draconian copy protection with his game. But the fact is, customers paying for Spore are having more problems with it than the pirates who are downloading it for free from the internet. That’s completely backwards, and will hopefully reversed someday like it has been recently with unrestricted digital music downloads from Amazon, iTunes, and others.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. It’s up to 1961 at this time. It’s so stupid to punish and eventually alienate your consumer-fan-client base, whatever. Companies should leave that to the government.

    I had thought about purchasing the game. I’m not thinking about it anymore. I won’t tolerate that foolish nuisance. I’d play fetch with the dog.

  2. ***I’d rather play fetch with the dog.

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