Just as I speculated: “Spore” DRM is about blocking resales of the game.

Thinking of buying a second-hand copy of Spore? Might want to think twice:

According to the buyer, his copy of the game was purchased from “a crotchety old redneck,” but the buyer didn’t get the necessary information needed to get into the game’s main account, and thus couldn’t play. A call to customer support was no help; sellers have to give the purchaser the account name and password, almost like a World of Warcraft account. Unless buyers get that information from the person or store they get the used game from, nothing can be done. EA will not let you open another account.

The portion of the game’s EULA that deals with sales is interesting; the company technically allows it, but EA won’t make it easy on you. “You may not be able to transfer the right to receive updates, dynamically served content, or the right to use any online service of EA in connection with the Software,” the agreement states. “You may not be able to transfer the Software if you have already exhausted the terms of this License by authenticating the Software on the allowed number machine [sic]. Subsequent recipients of this License may not be able to authenticate the Software on additional machines.”

I speculated about that possibility in a previous entry and I elaborated on it in a comment at the GamerDNA blog. I’m only surprised that it took this long before someone fell victim to it. All the claims that SecuROM is on Spore to prevent piracy are now revealed for the total bullshit they are. It’s not about piracy, it’s about limiting the first-sale doctrine. If you bought it they want you to keep it whether you play it or not. Don’t loan it to a friend, don’t try to resell it, make those fuckers buy their own copy so we get a few more bucks.

I won’t be buying videos through the PS3 video store.

When Sony launched the video store service on the Playstation Network I took the time to fire up my PS3 and browse through the store to see what they were offering and how much it would cost, but I didn’t buy anything because I hadn’t taken the time to find out what the terms of service currently are. It goes without saying that any videos bought through the service would have some form of DRM on them and therefore would be limited in some way, but I didn’t know what those limitations were.

As it turns out they’re much more limited than I would have guessed. The folks at ArsTechnica.com lay out the rules:

Noise, a forum-goer, sent out a warning after he deleted some video content to make room on his hard drive and then found he couldn’t redownload the content. The PlayStation 3 support page is perfectly clear on this matter. “Purchased content can be downloaded to a single PLAYSTATION 3 or a single PSP system,” it reads. “Content cannot be redownloaded once it has been downloaded to either a PLAYSTATION 3 or PSP system.”

You’re allowed to keep the content on one system, and you can move it to up to three PSP systems, but if you have to delete the content for any reason, it’s gone? Sort of. Lincoln Davis, who handles media relations for the PlayStation Network, told Ars that you are in fact allowed one extra download, but you have to contact Sony. “If a consumer deletes a purchased movie from their PS3, they will not be able to redownload the movie without assistance from SCEA’s consumer services,” he told Ars. “Consumer service can issue a redownload as a one-time courtesy, as provided by our guidelines, for the title to allow the consumer to go back and download the movie from their PSN download list.”

This is especially restrictive when you consider that 1) some games can eat up a couple of gigs of hard drive space with installs so after a few games and some movie purchases you could be low on space, 2) early PS3 models had as small as a 20GB hard drive in them, 3) even though you can swap in a bigger hard drive yourself the backup utility on the PS3 will not move purchased video content over to the new drive, 4) there’s currently no way to get the video off of the PS3 hard drive and onto your PC, and 5) no one knows what happens with your purchased videos when the PS4 comes out. All in all that makes purchasing movies through the PS3 very unattractive, though renting might still be an option. Renting is a few bucks cheaper and gives you access to a movie for 24 hours after which it’s deleted from the hard drive.

I figure it’s only a matter of time before someone comes up with a PC program that’ll read the PS3 hard drive format and/or allow you to backup all your data over the network. Then someone else will eventually break the DRM used on the video store files and perhaps then it’d be worth purchasing them through your PS3, but for the time being I’d recommend avoiding the temptation.

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.

Electronic Arts still doesn’t get it. Responds to DRM controversy in “Spore.”

On the one hand I suppose I should be impressed that Electronic Arts bothered to respond to all the complaints about the SecuROM DRM at all, but the responses they gave to MTV Multiplayer show they still don’t get it:

Complaint: A legitimately bought copy of “Spore” can’t be activated on more than three different computers — ever.

EA Response: That will be changed, according to the EA spokesperson, who told Multiplayer that the current limit on the number of computers that can be associated with a single copy of “Spore” is “very similar to a solution that iTunes has. The difference is that with iTunes you can de-authorize a computer [that you no longer want associated with your iTunes content]. Right now, with our solution, you can’t. But there is a patch coming for that.” The official timeframe for that patch is “near future.”

*Some stats regarding this issue — EA provided Multiplayer with updated information indicating that it is rare for consumers to perform installations of recent EA PC games on more than one PC, let alone three

They then go on to show that the vast majority of purchases of Mass Effect, Spore Creature Creator, and Spore are only authenticated on one PC and very few ever do three PCs. However this completely misses the point. Very few of us are worried about being able to use Spore, or any other SecuROM protected title, on more than one PC as much as what happens after the third restage or upgrade causes us to hit the three install limit. Yes we can call EA and request a new license and perhaps it’s as easy as pie to do, but we shouldn’t have to do that. I don’t have to do it with Red Alert 2, but I will if I buy Red Alert 3 and there’s no valid justification as to why. It doesn’t stop the pirates in any way as they had Spore five days before it was available in stores.

If your restrictions don’t actually prevent piracy then all they do is inconvenience legitimate customers. If you continue to insist on them after a game has already been broken then I can only assume there is an unstated ulterior motive for requiring the online activation and install limit. My guess would be A) to gather usage information and B) try to squeeze extra sales out of gamer families. The latter of which is likely to purchase multiple copies of the game anyway.

Complaint: Consumers fear there is spyware being installed by the SecurROM copy-protection software incorporated into the game.

EA Response: “There’s no viruses, no spyware and no malware…We have located a download off of one of the Torrent sites that is a virus. The thing I would say to the consumer audience is that, if you’re concerned with a virus on your computer, the chances of that are infinitely higher when you’re downloading off of a hacked version than it would be downloading the authentic game. We would never put any spyware on anyone’s computers. That’s not going to happen.”

This falls to address exactly what it is SecuROM is phoning home about, which it is known to do. Exactly what information is it gathering and sending off across the net? If you refuse to tell us then it’s exactly like Spyware in terms of spying on us without revealing what info it’s communicating. If SecuROM interferes with the operation of legitimate software and hardware, which it has also been known to do, then it also fits the definition of Malware.

Pretty much everyone knows that downloading a hacked copy is risky, but there’s plenty of virus-free hacked copies that don’t spy on folks out there for the taking. The response also assumes that people who don’t buy the legit version will turn to the hacked copy and that’s not necessarily the case. A lot of us will just refuse to buy the game costing you sales because we don’t appreciate being treated like criminals.

Complaint: The “Spore” instruction manual claims that a purchaser of “Spore” can allow multiple users to create online accounts with a single copy of the game. The game does not allow this.

EA Response: The company has already stated this is a misprint in the manual and referred Multiplayer back to a statement issued by “Spore” executive producer Lucy Bradshaw apologizing for “the confusion.” But EA has not replied to Multiplayer follow-up questions regarding why the company implemented this restriction and what EA makes of complaints from households that include multiple people who want to have separate “Spore” accounts associated with a single copy of the game.

Of all the issues raised, this one is probably the lowest concern of most of the complainers, but I can see how it would affect households who only have one PC. It’s telling that EA would choose to address this over some of the more substantial complaints. It also says a lot about the restrictive nature of SecuROM that they had to drop this feature as a result.

Complaint: The requirement for a “Spore” user to have their ownership of the game automatically authenticated every time they access the game’s online features threatens to render the game useless if EA someday turns the “Spore” servers off.

EA Response: “If we were to ever turn off the servers on the game, we would put through a patch before that to basically make the DRM null and void. We’re never walking away from the game and making it into a situation where people aren’t going to be able to play it.”

At last they finally address one of the more meatier complaints. It’s great to hear that they’ll patch the game to remove the DRM if they should ever decide to walk away from it, but the pirates don’t have to worry about that right now. My response to EA is this: Good. Call me when you decide to release that patch and I’ll consider picking up a copy of the game. It’ll probably be quite cheap by that point in time and you’ll likely never see the revenue because it’ll probably be a second-hand sale so you still lose out on getting my money.

Here’s the part, however, that shows just how much Electronic Arts doesn’t get it:

The bottom line shared to me by EA spokesperson Mariam Sughayer today is that “EA has no intentions — nor will they ever — to make it easier for people to play a pirated game… than to play an authentic retail copy.”

You’ve already lost that battle. Legit purchasers of Spore must authenticate the game online at least once before they can play it, the cracked copy doesn’t require authentication, legit owners have an install limit of three PCs max, the cracked copy doesn’t, legit customers may lose the use of legitimate and legal software and hardware on their PCs thanks to SecuROM, the cracked copy doesn’t interfere, legit owners will have to run a special application to “de-authorize” their PCs when they hit the three install limit or they have to call EA and be interrogated by a helpful customer service rep, the cracked copy doesn’t require that, legit customers have to hope EA keeps their promise to release a patch to remove the DRM should they decide to no longer support the game, the cracked copy doesn’t have any such concerns.

Explain to me how it’s not easier to play a pirated game than an authentic retail copy? Better yet, explain to me why I should pay $50 to be treated like a criminal when your DRM doesn’t stop the pirates from getting the game five days before it was officially released?

“Red Alert 3” will also have SecuROM DRM.

It appears the folks at Electronic Arts are doing everything they can to ensure I never purchase one of their PC games again. Word over on the official support forums for Command and Conquer says that the upcoming Red Alert 3, a sequel to my all-time favorite RTS, will use a slightly more lenient SecuROM DRM scheme:

Hi guys—

I’ve been hearing your concerns about the DRM situation and wanted to get back to you with some information about our plans. In the case of Red Alert 3 (and all PC titles coming out of EA), we will use SecuROM – the same copy protection that the EALA RTS group has used on our last three titles. This time around, however, the copy protection will be configured to be more lenient than we’ve supported in the past.

I know this can be somewhat of a polarizing topic, and I thought it would be best to open the lines of communication with some facts:

– We will authenticate your game online when you install and launch it the first time.

– We will never re-authenticate an installation online after the first launch. In other words, no reaching out to a central server post-install to see if you’re “allowed” to play.

– You will be able to install and play on up to five computers.

– This system means you don’t have to play with the disc in your computer. Personally, I think this is a huge improvement over our previous copy protection requirements, which have always required a disk to play.

– Life happens. I know it’s unlikely, but for those unlucky few who install the game and have their machines nuked (virus, OS reinstall, major hardware upgrade, etc.) five times, EA Customer Service will be on hand to supply any additional authorizations that are warranted. This will be done on a case-by-case basis by contacting customer support.

-You can, of course, play offline without impediment or penalty.

Red Alert 3 is shaping up to be a world-class RTS game that will give you many hours of enjoyment. I think it would be a shame if people decided to not play a great game simply because it came with DRM, but I understand that this is a very personal decision for many of you and I respect that. As you might imagine, I’m a lot less respectful of those people who take the position that they will illegally download a game simply because it has DRM.

Either way, we’ re very proud of the hard work our team has put into this game and we hope you will all enjoy it when it launches.

I’m so not happy. So not happy that I took the time to leave the following comment on that thread:

    I’m a 41 year old gamer who has bought numerous titles from Electronic Arts all the way back to the original Archon on the Commodore Amiga back when EA was just a small company run by Trip Hawkins. That was back in 1982 and I was 15 at the time. In the 26 years since I’ve spent countless thousands of dollars on EA games for the Amiga, PC, and various consoles. I’ve watched over the years as the copy protection became more and more intrusive while doing nothing to actually stop the pirates, but the games were good and the copy protection not much more than an annoyance so I spent the money and enjoyed myself. It’s safe to say that I’m a long-standing fan of EA and many of the titles they’ve put out. Red Alert and its sequel remain two of my all-time favorite RTS games and I was eagerly looking forward to playing the latest installment when it is released.

    Electronic Arts, however, has decided to reward my (literally) decades-long loyalty by making use of one of the more problematic DRM systems available. These days I make my living as a PC support specialist and there are various legitimate programs, such as Process Explorer, which may or may not run properly if I have SecuROM installed on my systems. SecuROM said this was an attempt to stop people from hacking their DRM system, but considering that Spore was cracked and on the Bittorrent sites almost a week before its release it doesn’t seem to be stopping the hackers. In fact the only people being inconvenienced by this DRM system are legitimate customers who have paid for the software. You’ve already admitted that even if it works fine without conflict for the vast majority of your customers there’s still likely to be a subsection who run into problems. I believe you called that “Life Happens” in your original post. What a great attitude to take with your paying customers. It was enough to get me to take the time to register an account just so I could let you know how I feel about it.

    I’m done being treated like a criminal in order to use the software I’ve paid for. I did not purchase Bioshock despite being a fan of the original System Shocks because of SecuROM, I did not purchase Mass Effect for the same reason, I also haven’t purchase Spore in spite of following its development since its announcement, and I won’t be purchasing Red Alert 3 for the same reasons. I don’t care how many copies you allow me to install before I need to call your support line. I’m testing software and OS installs all the time which means I’m restaging my PC on a regular basis which means it won’t be long before I have to start calling and explaining why I need a 5th, 6th, 7th… 20th reinstall to some poor sap on the phone. Meanwhile Joe Pirate Boy is able to enjoy his copy as much as he wants and reinstall it as much as he wants without having to call anyone.

    There are three of us in my family who were dieing to play Spore so much so that we would’ve spent $150 for three copies of the game just so we wouldn’t have to wait for one person to stop playing before someone else could start, but now its not going to happen. I still play my copy of Red Alert 2 some eight years after it was released and it still installs just fine without any need for an Internet connection or calling someone up on the phone. Will I be able to do that with Red Alert 3 in 8 years? Will you still have registration servers running for it and someone sitting by a phone ready to grant me my 130th install? Will you release a patch at some point that removes the DRM so that nonsense won’t be necessary?

    In summary: Explain to me why I should spend $50 just so I can be treated like a criminal?

Every now and then some PC developer goes on a rant about how piracy is destroying PC gaming. I say what’s destroying PC gaming is the bullshit DRM schemes. While they whine about how some game they just released has been cracked and downloaded some 10,000 times being the loss of 10,000 sales (which isn’t entirely true) they manage to overlook the loss of sales from people like me who are sick of the pirates having the hassle free version of the game. If the reaction to Spore is any indication then people are starting to get fed up and the publishers risk alienating the few people who are buying their software.

“Spore” gets a shitload of 1 star ratings due to DRM.

Out of the (currently) 230 reviews for Spore at Amazon.com some 199 of them are 1 star and the comments make it clear this is due entirely to the SecuROM DRM. Some of the comments include insights such as:

This type of DRM with not stand, man

Do not treat your customers as “Criminals First”. The DRM has already been cracked and is online anyway, so what was the point, seriously? The only people who are being punished is those of us who actually pay for quality games.

NO DRM! – Jason C. Roskam

A sentiment I agree with completely.

DRM is a no go

Their DRM copy protection is outrageous. Limiting to 3 installs for a full price PC game is not going to cut it. They are inconveniencing their customers for a game many have anticipated for many years. To prove the folly of gimping their official disc, I think I’ll pass for now. My pirated copy will keep me busy in the interim.

NO THANK YOU EA!

You’d think someone at EA would take note of the fact that their DRM has actually driven at least one person to the pirated game, but chances are they’ll just use it as an excuse for why they need DRM.

Personally I’m torn once again. I really was looking forward to this game as was everyone in my family to the extent that we were seriously considering buying three copies at some point because we’re all going to want to play it at the same time. That’d be a total of $150 from one household alone, but the presence of SecuROM and the three install limit bugs the shit out of me. I’ve only played a small amount of Bioshock because I refused to buy it for the PC due to the SecuROM and was limited to trying it at a friend’s house. It’s finally coming out for the PS3, but I don’t tend to care for playing FPS games on a console (much prefer keyboard and mouse) so Ken Levine will probably never see a dime from me for his excellent game. Now I’m seriously thinking I won’t be buying Spore either because of the DRM and that’s seriously disappointing. I doubt EA will get the message as it’ll probably still sell well enough for them to consider it a success, but badly enough that they can jump up and down about the problem of piracy. For legit customers it’s a no-win situation.

Found via Twenty Sided.

“Good Old Games” is about to go beta.

It seems there’s never enough time or money to play every great game that is released. There’s plenty of titles that have sat on my Amazon Wish List until they were no longer available so I never got around to playing them. If you’re like me and prefer to buy your games rather than just download them off of Bittorrent then you may be interested in a new service called Good Old Games. They make available the best games of the past at affordable prices and, best of all, NO DRM. From their website:

1. We’ve got games your 10-year-old won’t be better at.

GOG.com offers you critically acclaimed games from major publishers in every genre. Don’t let your kids mock the graphics; remind them that the classics never go out of style, unlike their totally wicked haircut.

2. So you’re cheap. It’s okay – we are, too.

We sell games for $5.99 and $9.99. For less than the cost of a lunch at some lousy diner you can own some of the greatest games of all time. No matter how big the file is and how successful the game was, you’ll leave the table satisfied that you got a great deal for your money. As an added bonus, our house specialities won’t make you sick.

3. You buy it, you keep it.

Don’t let your DRMs turn into nightmares (clever, eh?). You won’t find any intrusive copy protection in our games; we hate draconian DRM schemes just as much as you do, so at GOG.com you don’t just buy the game, you actually own it. Once you download a game, you can install it on any PC and even re-download it whenever you want, as many times as you need, and you can play it without an internet connection.

4. All games are Vista and XP compatible.

Thanks to our handsome programming team, the classics are now Windows Vista and Windows XP compatible. Now you can use your lightning-fast PC to unleash the full potential of those games you just couldn’t play properly on that busted old 386.

5. Extend the experience with tons of cool and exclusive add-ons.

Buying the game is just the beginning. With a purchase of any game at GOG.com you’ll also get some great additional materials for free, including game guides, walkthroughs, wallpapers and more. No joke.

6. We’re bringing together classic games and a classy community.

Dive into the GOG.com community, share your love for the games and meet other gamers with the same passion for the Good Old Games as you. Rate and review every single game, discuss your favorite titles on message boards, get support for your games and help others. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that special someone.

7. It’s so easy, your gramma’s probably already playing.

GOG.com is so easy to use. Just a few clicks will get you on your way to playing some of the best PC games of all time.

  • easy account setup
  • simple, fast and hassle-free downloads
  • game installers as user-friendly as can be
  • DRM-free games make it easy to re-download, install on any computer or even back them up on a CD.

Early Access Beta is Coming! Beware.

On Monday, September 8, anyone who signed up for the GOG.com beta will start receiving access keys to the site. We’re saying goodbye to the press beta and gearing up for the next phase: Early Access Beta. Everyone who signs up at http://www.gog.com before Sunday September 7 at midnight (EDT), during the next week will receive an access key, which will allow them to dive into the GOG.com site. If you don’t receive your access key on Monday, don’t worry as we’re sending them out in stages. The Early Access Beta will offer all the main features of the site, including buying DRM-free games, joining the community and writing reviews. Apart from just getting access, everyone buys a game from GOG.com during the Early Access Beta will receive a bonus code to get one game from GOG.com’s Interplay catalogue for free! So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t signed up yet, be sure to enter your email address and get in on the action.

Yep, I’m basically giving them some free advertising, but I think it’s a cool idea and I’m hoping it’s a success. I’ve never gotten around to playing the original two Fallout games and I keep hearing about how awesome they are so this is a chance to go back and try them out. They had a short interview with Shacknews on what they’re shooting for:

Shack:  If there’s isn’t any copy protection, aren’t you concerned about piracy? How do you ensure this will be a profitable and long-lasting enterprise?

Tom Ohle: Realistically, it’s probably out of our hands. What we wanted to do is kind of, provide that unique value in terms of—it’s something that other competitors don’t offer. Separate just from the games catalog itself, every other digital distribution platform basically requires some kind of online authentication, some sort of copy protection in there.

For us, it’s basically log into your account and download any game [you’ve bought], any time. The concern about piracy is something that we’ve gotten from publishers, who kinda go, “We’ll give you these games, you sell them, and then they’ll just be out on torrents immediately.”

We’re hoping that with the low price point—we’re also adding a bunch of added value features. For some of the key games, we’re gonna have really in-depth game guides. And just trying to have that low price point, plus the no DRM, sort of working on a bit of an honor system.

The gamers that we’re targeting are going to end up being a more mature audience anyways, because they’re these hardcore, old-school PC gamers. For $5.99 or $9.99, it’s pretty cheap. Hopefully people won’t be too tempted to copy it and give it to their buddies, because it’s pretty cheap. And hopefully the more sales we get, obviously, the more likely we are to bring on additional publishers and different titles. If everyone’s pirating games right off the bat, then I guess we’d be in a bit of trouble.

It’s likely they’d be pirated even if they had DRM on them (Spore comes to mind), but with the price being so low and the titles being older perhaps it’ll be less of a temptation. Either way it sounds like a good opportunity to catch up on titles you’ve missed along the way.

“Spore” already cracked and available through Bittorrent.

The folks over at Game Viper are reporting that Spore has already been cracked:

After news of Spore breaking the street date in Australia, we hear that Spore has already been cracked by a group called “RELOADED” despite it’s use of SecuROM, the anti-pirating software. (the same one used in BioShock) There are currently over 10,000 people downloading the game on just one public torrent tracker. All this 4 days before the game even comes out in North America.

Fat lot of good that copy protection is going to do EA now, but will they remove it? Not on your life. This also shows just how ineffective SecuROM really is. The only people it punishes are legitimate customers.

Stardock proposes a “Gamer’s Bill of Rights” at PAX.

Stardock is one of the few game publishers out there that seem to understand their market. Their games generally don’t have any DRM systems mucking up your system or other forms of copyright protection and yet they tend to sell pretty well despite the fact that they’re pirated just as much as any other title. They’ve also been at the forefront of arguing against the use of such systems for quite awhile now.

Now at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) they’ve put out what they consider to be a Gamer’s Bill of Rights:

…a statement of principles that it hopes will encourage the PC game industry to adopt standards that are more supportive of PC gamers. The document contains 10 specific “rights” that video game enthusiasts can expect from Stardock as an independent developer and publisher that it hopes that other publishers will embrace…

…the objective of the Gamer’s Bill of Rights is to increase the confidence of consumers of the quality of PC games which in turn will lead to more sales and a better gaming experience.

Chris Taylor, CEO and founder of Gas Powered Games, expressed support for the Bill of Rights, which Stardock enumerates as:

  • Gamers shall have the right to return games that don’t work with their computers for a full refund.
  • Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.
  • Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game’s release.
  • Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.
  • Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will play adequately on that computer.
  • Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their consent.
  • Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.
  • Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.
  • Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.
  • Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.

It would be wonderful if more publishers were to take this seriously, but I doubt it’ll happen. With any luck most of the independent developers will jump on it as a means of drawing attention to their products. I currently own Sins of a Solar Empire by Stardock and I have to say it’s damned refreshing to be able to start it up without having to find the damned CD or worry about if my Net connection is down. The game is pretty damn good too.

DRM Deja Vu: Yahoo! Music shutting down. Any music you purchased through it will soon be useless.

Here’s a familiar song. Yahoo! Music is calling it quits and taking their key servers down on September 30, 2008. If you’re one of the dozen people who bought DRM protected music through that service, well, it sucks to be you:

Once the Yahoo store goes down and the key servers go offline, existing tracks cannot be authorized to play on new computers. Instead, Yahoo recommends the old, lame, and lossy workaround of burning the files to CD, then reripping them onto the computer. Sure, you’ll lose a bunch of blank CDs, sound quality, and all the metadata, but that’s a small price to pay for the privilege of being able to listen to that music you lawfully acquired. Good thing you didn’t download it illegally or just buy it on CD!

There’s probably some software out there on the Interwebs that’ll rip that DRM out for you as well, but those are technically illegal for you to use under the DMCA. Still, it beats the hell out of the Yahoo! approved method of securing the files you legally purchased.