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.