Electronic Arts modifies “Spore” DRM again, but still doesn’t address SecuROM controversy.

EA Games Label President Frank Gibeau sent the folks at Kotaku.com a press release about DRM used on Spore which again demonstrates that they just aren’t getting the message. They continue to think the issue is solely about how many installs the game has and they continue to repeat the lie that DRM stops piracy:

Two weeks ago EA launched SPORE – one of the most innovative games in the history of our industry. We’re extremely pleased with the reception SPORE has received from critics and consumers but we’re disappointed by the misunderstanding surrounding the use of DRM software and the limitation on the number of machines that are authorized to play a single a copy of the game.

We felt that limiting the number of machine authorizations to three wouldn’t be a problem.

Let me put this simply: You were wrong, but this is only one of many issues you are wrong about. The limited number of installs may not have been as big an issue had the utility to revoke an authorization been available from the get go, but it would still have been an issue. The claim that the limit is to prevent piracy is ludicrous given that the game was, as has been said many times previously, cracked and on the P2P networks five days before it hit store shelves. Even if you’d managed to keep it under wraps up until launch day the likelihood of it being cracked within a day or so of launch is very high so the DRM and install limit does nothing to prevent piracy.

The only other obvious conclusion to draw from the install limit is that you’re attempting to eliminate the secondhand sale market which the folks at Gamestop have been making millions off of. One of the big draws of digital distribution is that it would effectively negate the ability to turn in a game to Gamespot when you get tired of it and an install limit would seem like the best of both worlds. Sell them a disc, but eliminate the resale possibility.

* We assumed that consumers understand piracy is a huge problem – and that if games that take 1-4 years to develop are effectively stolen the day they launch, developers and publishers will simply stop investing in PC games.

We know it’s a problem, but it’s not one that we – your legitimate paying customers – should be punished for. Which is effectively what you are doing. As a reminder: Spore was effectively stolen five days before launch so your solution to piracy was ineffective. That means the only people being affected by the DRM are those people who paid you for the game. The pirates have already stolen it and will continue to do so.

* We have found that 75 percent of our consumers install and play any particular game on only one machine and less than 1 percent every try to play on more than three different machines.
* We assured consumers that if special circumstances warranted more than three machines, they could contact our customer service team and request additional authorizations.

That’s nice, but it’s irrelevant. Most of us who have concerns over the number of installations we’re allowed are probably part of that 1% that will put it on a single PC. It’s not how many PCs we can put it on so much as how many times we can put it on a particular PC that’s the issue. Some of us restage and upgrade our PCs on a regular basis and could use up a three install limit in the course of a single year. Bumping the installs to five only delays the inevitable. Providing a utility to deauthorize one of the installs helps, but is still a pain in the ass that shouldn’t be necessary. Sure we can call your nice support people and ask for additional authorizations, but we shouldn’t have to be interrogated just to install a game we bought and paid for. I have tons of EA games that I bought years ago that I still install and play every so often, some of them on a computing platform (the Commodore Amiga) that no longer exists as an active platform as far as Electronic Arts is concerned. I don’t have to call your customer service people to install and play those games so why should I have to do it for this or any other game?

But we’ve received complaints from a lot of customers who we recognize and respect. And while it’s easy to discount the noise from those who only want to post or transfer thousands of copies of the game on the Internet, I believe we need to adapt our policy to accommodate our legitimate consumers.

Going forward, we will amend the DRM policy on Spore to:

* Expand the number of eligible machines from three to five.
* Continue to offer channels to request additional activations where warranted.
* Expedite our development of a system that will allow consumers to de-authorize machines and move authorizations to new machines. When this system goes online, it will effectively give players direct control to manage their authorizations between an unlimited number of machines.

Sorry, that’s not good enough to get me to plunk down the $50 you’re asking for. You haven’t addressed the fact that SecuROM itself is part of the problem as it is known to cause issues with some legitimate hardware and software people may have installed in their machines. It’s also known to update itself without notifying or getting consent from the owner of the computer and even if it was working previously those future updates could potentially introduce problems. Additionally it’s known to send encrypted data back to a server without informing the owner of the PC what info it’s sending or why and that falls under the definition of spyware.

We’re willing to evolve our policy to accommodate our consumers. But we’re hoping that everyone understands that DRM policy is essential to the economic structure we use to fund our games and as well as to the rights of people who create them. Without the ability to protect our work from piracy, developers across the entire game industry will eventually stop investing time and money in PC titles.

This argument doesn’t wash because SecuROM hasn’t protected your work from piracy and it’s probably a good bet your insistence on it has less to do with stopping piracy as it does stopping secondhand sales of your game. You’re not stopping the pirates, but you are fomenting a lot of ill will from your long-time dedicated customer base made up of people such as myself. I refuse to spend good money to be treated like a criminal, but that’s what you are insisting you must do for the sake of your “economic structure.” There are plenty of other equally ineffective copy protection schemes out there that you’ve used for years that were less of a problem than SecuROM is so if you insist on putting worthless copy protection into your software at least go back to one that is less of a burden on your legit customers. Otherwise the sales you lose won’t be solely due to piracy.

13 thoughts on “Electronic Arts modifies “Spore” DRM again, but still doesn’t address SecuROM controversy.

  1. That was very well put, and dead on.  I don’t know why they insist on DRM when it doesn’t work.  People who illegally download the game get a less restrictive version of the game.  Not only are they punishing people who buy the game, they’re providing an incentive for piracy (which I am not condoning).  I think you should email a copy of this entry to EA and see (post) what response you get.

  2. I actually went looking to see if I could find an email address of one of the execs at EA to send it to. I could’ve sworn I’d seen an entry at The Consumerist with a list of email addresses, but I wasn’t able to find anything.

  3. * Expand the number of eligible machines from three to five.
    * Continue to offer channels to request additional activations where warranted.
    * Expedite our development of a system that will allow consumers to de-authorize machines and move authorizations to new machines.

    Does that mean they were PLANNING to stop offering the ability to request additional activations, but the feedback talked them out of it?

  4. Well, you should still support the developer and buy a copy if you are using the pirated version, im most cases the developer has little say in the DRM. Otherwise take the high road like Les and do not buy the game at all…

    I really hate people like moloch who act like a tick on the body of the game developers industry…

  5. Well, you should still support the developer and buy a copy if you are using the pirated version, im most cases the developer has little say in the DRM. Otherwise take the high road like Les and do not buy the game at all…

    That just supports the false notion that DRM works.  Pirates have some value because they prove that it doesn’t.  Buy the game if you want to encourage other games like it AND encourage DRM.  Don’t buy the game if you don’t.  Beyond that, using a pirated copy is between you and the law.  It’s got nothing to do with the developers..

    …oh except that it says “Hey, you made a decent game.  Because it had DRM though… I’m not giving you any money.  Also, the fact that I don’t HAVE to pay you to use it proves DRM doesn’t work, so pull your head out.”

    I don’t play pirated games, mostly because there just aren’t a lot of games out there that I like, but I got no problem with software piracy in this form.  It’s an easy fix.  It’s called making good games without stupid DRM schemes.  There are a lot of people out there who would buy their games if they just didn’t put in stupid code that makes the game difficult (and sometimes impossible) to actually play.  If they’re not willing to do what it takes to correct that problem, I can’t really feel sorry for them.  They obviously don’t think that market is important enough to deal with honorably.  As far as I’m concerned, they might as well be saying they WANT to have their games pirated.

    That being said, if you’re one of those people who just doesn’t want to pay for a game, THEN I have a problem with you, because that IS hurting the development of good games.

  6. I was really looking forward to buying the game, I even bought the Creature Creator. The DRM is what completely turned me off to that idea.

    The fact they consider making a DRM-killing patch when they pull support in several years means that there IS a vulnerability somebody can exploit. I think it won’t be too long before we see a pirate patch that doesn’t require downloading an already cracked version of the whole game.

  7. I will not buy this game until the DRM is gone or what not the 3 excuse me 5 computer thing is not the biggest of my problems i just dont want a company puting spyware on my computer its BS

  8. According to a German news report, a class action suit against EA’s use of SecuROM in California was filed.

    I doubt it will really go anywhere, but at least EA can’t have any confusion about how much people don’t like it.

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