EA to use SecuROM DRM on “Mass Effect” and “Spore.”

Apparently the folks at Electronic Arts want me to become a software pirate. You may recall that I refused to purchase the PC release of Bioshock because the SecuROM DRM it contained would actually disable some perfectly legitimate troubleshooting software on my PC out of fear that I might use it to crack the game. It also limited you to 10 installs before you had to “reactivate” the game over the Internet and, as someone who restages his PC often, that was too much of an intrusion.

Now word comes down that the critically acclaimed RPG Mass Effect will also make use of SecuROM with a limit of 3 installs and a requirement that it phone home every 10 days to reactivate itself. Apparently the same will also be true of Spore:

BioWare technical producer Derek French lit up the Mass Effect forums this past week announcing that both their game and (on page 2) fellow Electronic Arts title Spore come with SecuROM, a DRM system that requires activation the first time you play the game and then a re-check every ten days, with the first check on the fifth day.

French explained that there is no external program installed and the check will be run through MassEffect.exe (or Spore.exe, presumably), the data transfered will be the CD key and a “unique machine identifier of some type” and that he has been told, “there will be clear labeling on the package.”

This is very disappointing news as it guarantees that I won’t even consider purchasing Mass Effect now and it makes my purchase of Spore debatable as well. If I do end up being weak willed enough to buy Spore I can guarantee you that I will be hunting down the crack for it. There’s been a fair amount of talk among developers that piracy is killing the market for games on the PC, but these draconian DRM schemes aren’t helping the situation at all as it pretty much ensures that legitimate customers will either end up turning to pirated copies to get away from the restrictive DRM or just refuse to purchase the game. Given the fact that Spore will contacting servers on a regular basis to download user created content there’s even less of a need for SecuROM as opposed to just using the game’s CD Key.

What’s going to end up killing the PC game market in the long run is treating your customers like criminals, but it appears that’s a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon.

19 thoughts on “EA to use SecuROM DRM on “Mass Effect” and “Spore.”

  1. Apparently that question of which DRM new game releases will use isn’t just a pet peeve of mine anymore.

    Commercial PC games were fun, but between a lack of interesting titles and intolerable DRM shenanigans, the industry has lost me as a customer. Not that it’s much of a loss; in the last five or six years, I’ve bought two games and promptly flogged off the latest one on Amazon.

  2. Man, and I really wanted to play Spore. Well…at least it also comes out for the Wii, so it’s not so bad. If you have a Wii.

    Which I do.

    It still makes me wonder whether I really want to play it knowing the company I bought it from thinks I am a criminal who simply hasn’t decided to steal yet.

    Fuck you, EA. Fuck you.

  3. EA can count me out of both of those games, then. Maybe not Spore. Depends on when I get a Wii and if I’m still interested by then.

  4. Funny thing is I’ve never had a problem with DRM in games. One reason might be that I tend to buy games online through steam or direct2drive. Bought Bioshock thru steam. I’ve had no problems with playing the game. I think online distribution for pc games is the future which should solve the piracy issue. If people have a problem with DRM in a game just don’t buy the game. Pirating a game because of drm is still stealing.

  5. I think online distribution for pc games is the future which should solve the piracy issue.

    I’m not sure I see the logic between those two. Online distribution is a method of distribution – it can no better stop piracy than a brick-and-mortar store selling a copy on DVD. The essential problem sits with the practicality of the DRM involved.

    If people have a problem with DRM in a game just don’t buy the game. Pirating a game because of drm is still stealing.

    Moving past the implicit moral imperative in that statement, one can reasonably expect a digital product to be pirated if the legal alternative is crippled or invasive. This is a slap on publishers, who, even more than developers, claim that piracy is the problem.

    Les has often repeated a statement which has virtually always shown true: DRM only hurts the legitimate purchasers of a game. It has not, and does not, stop pirates from pirating. As far as I’m concerned, this only backs it up. IMO, publishers need to stop buying the snake-oil that DRM designers are selling. The reason DRM is being attached to big titles is so that the DRM designers can claim an increase in sales on all of their DRMed products. Of course, publishers hear of this, and buy it up for their biggest titles.

  6. DRM is really stupid. Basically it was developed by the old man sitting on his porch rocking chair yelling “Get off my lawn you damn kids!” It’s people that do not understand the digital age, communication mediums, and the audience they’re dealing with.

    On the other hand, what do we all expect? Have any of us that bitch about DRM actually done anything to stop piracy? Companies legitimately lose money because of piracy and feel as though they are being robbed or taken advantage of. It seems to me DRM is a natural consequence of rampant piracy and in some ways a bed of our own making.

    It also doesn’t help there appears to be no good solution to the the problem of people steeling computer games and it’s really a catch 22 at this point. Until video games become developed under an Open Source model or pirates stop their work and do something else with their spare time, we will likely see a shift from computer to console for game production in future. Maybe not completely, but I would expect major titles to be released under consoles.

  7. xav, your purchase of Bioshock through Steam didn’t stop your machine from having SecuROM installed on it. Even the demo came with it.

    Though I don’t disagree with the idea that digital distribution is a good thing. All of my copies of Valve’s various games have been bought through Steam and for folks who have broadband it’s a reasonable solution. That hasn’t stopped Valve’s games from being pirated, though.

    I’m not one to start pirating games outright, but I’m not beyond using a crack on a game I’ve legitimately purchased to get around intrusive DRM schemes.

  8. It appears that I’m not the only person saying these things. Lots of other bloggers are complaining as well and there’s articles up at TechDirt:

    A lot of gamers consider this intrusive and inconvenient, and that the publishers are effectively assuming their customers are pirates and looking over their shoulders every 10 days to check. Other concerns have been raised over users who don’t play with machines permanently connected to the internet (such as laptops), or how the system will work in regards to resale. A comprehensive help-line has been promised to help people deal with these issues and the developers have mentioned the new system will remove the need for a DVD to run the game, but these potential problems combined with SecuROM’s past have made some call for a boycott of the titles and others to declare an intention to pirate the game out of spite.”

    Seems like more short-term thinking. If the effort is to reduce “piracy” it won’t work. People will figure out other ways to pirate the games—that’s almost guaranteed. So, in the end, all this will really do is piss off the legitimate customers who paid for something that suddenly doesn’t work, though no fault of their own. That hardly seems like a good way to build up a strong supporting fan base.

    And Cnet:

    Systems like this are never going to be winners for companies like EA. For every copy of one of its games that it successfully keeps from being illegally copied, it’s going to lose a good customer who’s beyond annoyed at the way the system works and the way they feel they’re being treated.

    To be sure, software companies feel they have to fight tooth and nail to avoid being robbed due to the ease with which many programs can be copied. But it seems they would do well to run their antipiracy/DRM systems by their PR departments—or, if they’re doing that already, then some outside consultants—to make sure that the systems aren’t going to alienate their user bases.

    If they’re already doing that, they might want to consider seeking additional guidance. Because as the Sony rootkit scandal and other DRM PR nightmares have shown, users do not want to be controlled in this way. And they vote with their wallets.

    EA started using SecuROM on some of the Sims 2 expansion discs and I’ve not purchased them as a result and I’ve already opted not to buy the very popular Bioshock due to the DRM.

  9. I know next to nothing about the games industry and I can’t comment on the real impact of piracy. However, I draw the line at DRM schemes that are indistinguishable from malware, potentially or actually mess with my computer’s operation, dictate what software I can have installed (never mind run concurrently with the gamemalware, limit how often I can reinstall a game, and interfere with my ability to flog off a game on ebay. In very simple terms: Fuck that shit.

    By the way, I don’t see any ethical problems with using cracks for games that somebody owns. Chances are the cracked game will run more stably than the encumbered one.

    I doubt that switching to a console as an evasive maneuver is a feasible option. If console games aren’t pirated now, they’ll be pirated soon and the DRM bullshit will follow.

    Call me open-source gamer from now on…

  10. EA can go fuck themselves. It is known fact that securom can and has damaged personal computers. Securom wont stop pirates from hacking the software, but what it WILL do is cause more people to by pirated games purely because of the risk of damage from securom.

    As far as limited installs go, there is NO justification for that whatsoever, that’s nothing but a scam. Good luck trying to beg them for a code after the third install – a year down the line EA will just tell you they don’t support it and to go buy the newest edition. Too bad if you’ve had to format your C drive a few times because of fu**ing securom!!

    EA have shut themselves out of the rental game market, have antagonized their own clients, have promoted buying pirated games, and have the added expense now of having to provide call centers just to deal with customers who have gone over their 3 install limit. The negative impact on goodwill alone is huge.

    I have always been very anti pirating, but not anymore, f*ck EA and securom, all they’ve done is punish the innocent, and I will not support that. I will NEVER buy an EA game again as long as there is anything like securom on it. That pisses me off because I really wanted to buy Spore.

  11. I pre-ordered Spore last night from Amazon—and I just canceled the order after catching this thread.  I also left a message that the reason for the cancellation is because it will use SecuROM, which is an unacceptable form of DRM.

  12. I’m buying Spore – and I’ll probably crack the game to remove the SecureRom checks too.

  13. I may eventually buy it, or borrow it, as long as a reliable crack is available.  The DRM quite likely means that they won’t be getting my money for Spore or any of their games in the future.  If it wasn’t for the DRM, my pre-order for Spore and the strategy guide would still be in place.

  14. It’s certainly stopped my spending on their other games, but Spore would have to contain a EULA clause involving EA’s right to come into my house and smash my Little Mooks before I’d pass it up. Besides, I crack just about everything because they want the stupid CD even in the best of cases and I just don’t care to waste time looking for disks all the time.

  15. On the other hand, what do we all expect? Have any of us that bitch about DRM actually done anything to stop piracy?

    I have not pirated a game for 8+ years. Basically since I started earning some money on my own. In that time I have bought at least 15+ games at initial price, and another 15+ at discount pricing. So yes, the market can work.

    I have also borrowed games from other people, or lent them my games. Golly – I do that with the novels I own, too! So I AM a copyright criminal after all. Turning myself in now…

  16. I had a ZX Spectrum in the 80’s and pirating games started then already. I mean I had twin decks to copy games from tape to tape, because I was like 14, so I just couldn’t afford the games myself (nor could my mom), but I enjoyed being exposed to so many types of games and new games ideas.

    they started implementing a variable speed system, to prevent copying, as this didn’t transfer too well over the double tape-deck. i thought this was crap, but understood why they were doing it.

    but things have changed, its 20 years later and DRM should be a thing of the past. people are more likely to pay for technology today, and only the poorest of the poor will copy, which is fine by me.

    Today, I buy all my games for PS2, XBOX360, PS3, PC and all my DVD, Blu-ray movies and Music, iTunes and otherwise.

  17. I could seriously not wait to buy this game.  The only reason being that I felt they deserved the money for a brilliant game concept and the effort they put in (The reviews I’ve read stated that they could not even spot one bug or crash).  The game would have reached me via the piracy channels in no time, but I wanted to support them out of principle.  I cannot however support this game now, because giving them money for the game will not help stop this stupid trend.  Buying the game then cracking it makes little sense to me(no offence).  I’d rather send the money to the crack masters who spend their time on cracking these games so legal or not so legal can play the game without being harassed.

    I did of course have my suspicions that it would probably have some sort of piracy protection. If a game is not cracked it is simply because its not worth being cracked and would not make that much money anyway.  Unless they come up with some form of protection that actually works there is no point.  Those who pirate games are doing it effortlessly.  One receives the game with its crack and it has already become a normal install routine to crack it once installed.  As one can see in the other posts the only thing this does is annoy the legitimate buyer and teaches them to download a crack for their legal copy.  If you ask me this is a slippery slope which could easily lead many to just pirate the game if its going to run better without the annoyances.

    Many of the pirates I know buy games thy like because they like owning the box with all the trimmings.  I remember some games of old that had amazing box art and stuff included inside(rather than the modern weak DVD case).  In my opinion taking the money spent on silly copy protection and spending it on a figurine, cloth map or something for the box would have far better results.  This would also not tick off any customers.

    There are still places where a proper internet connection is expensive or not available and those people truly hate online activations and such.  Consoles while mildly amusing will always be silly little devices more suited to those who don’t know what they are talking about.  Even if all games migrate to consoles which is almost the trend then there will be people emulating it on more powerful pc’s with better input devices. Where games load faster and look better.

  18. Most people have the whole idea of SecuRom and the x amount of activations all wrong.
    It’s not just a simple DRM, it installs separately to the game without your knowledge…if you un-install the game…it DOESN’T un-install the SecuRom, which makes it a rootkit (malware), so if you don’t know this, you will think it’s gone because it hides in “hidden folders” and in your “Registry”, not to mention disabling of some AV’s ,the damage it does to some PC hardware, and stops you from being able to use legal software that SecuRom has been programmed to black band. EA deserves to be sued over this issue alone.
    The other issue I have with this type of Draconian DRM is that when you can’t afford the internet anymore, you can no longer Play a Game you Paid for, and that is wrong…most games aren’t played over the Net so why do we have to be connected to it. ( It’s to Spy on PC users, that’s why it Phones Home with Encrypted Data.)
    There is a lot bigger picture than what we’re seeing here right now, this is only a baby step to the end plan. This has nothing to do with piracy, because we know that the pirates will never be stopped and it is proven once again with the amount of torrented copies of Spore downloaded so far in less than a month. Why is EA adamant about continuing to use SecuRom when they know it’s not doing what they say it was intended for and is only effecting the paying customers. I will not buy anything that is put out by EA or Sony anymore, even though I would love to buy Sims2 IKEA, Sims2 Apartment Life, Spore and Red Alert 3, but I just don’t trust EA or Sony. All they have done for the last 18 months is lie through their teeth to save their neck and not a bit of concern for their paying customers.
    I’m a member at Reclaim Your Game:  http://www.reclaimyourgame.com/  and we’re dedicated to helping other gamers with their issues with SecuRom and get info out to educate the public. We also have a SecuRom Removal Instruction Walkthrough Tutorial on the site for people to use and we’re in the process of updating it.
    So please feel free to visit our site and see for yourself.

  19. The fact that SecuROM doesn’t uninstall when you uninstall the game does not make it a rootkit. It just makes it really obnoxious. It is difficult to uninstall without using a tool provided by the company that produces it, but it’s not a rootkit.

    Otherwise everything else you’ve said is stuff I agree with.

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