“The Sims 3” hits torrent sites two weeks ahead of its release date.

It seems any hotly anticipated video game these days is going to end up being pirated weeks before it hits store shelves. That was the case with the heavily DRMed EA game Spore and now it’s the same with The Sims 3 as it appears to already be widely available on torrent sites:

The release notes on the torrent gives pirates instructions, and a stern moral warning: “Be sure to have a firewall prevent the launcher and main game from going online,” it warns. “Support the software developers. If you like this game, BUY IT!”

This is bad news for EA as the game is still two weeks away from release. The game also doesn’t require online activation to play. “The game will have disc-based copy protection—there is a Serial Code just like The Sims 2. To play the game there will not be any online authentication needed,” EA said on the official site. “We feel like this is a good, time-proven solution that makes it easy for you to play the game without DRM methods that feel overly invasive or leave you concerned about authorization server access in the distant future.”

I don’t know if this is really all that much bad news for EA. All of the previous Sims games have been cracked and pirated and yet that hasn’t stopped The Sims from being one of the most financially successful franchises ever. Back in April of 2008 EA announced that they’d sold over 100 million copies of the game and/or its add-ons in the eight years since the first one hit store shelves. The new game is likely to sell just as well as past versions and will probably still earn EA a good chunk of change in the years to come especially given that it will have a built-in store for microtransactions that are all the rage these days.

About the only thing they should probably be worried about is finding out who in their organization is leaking their games early to the pirates. The game will be cracked and available within days of its release regardless of what protection scheme they used, but surely they should be able to keep it under wraps until at least the release date.

EA goes back to serial number copy protection for “The Sims 3.”

In a blog post on the official The Sims 3 website executive producer Rod Humble has announced that the next outing of the franchise will be reverting to less intrusive forms of copy protection:

Hello everyone I wanted to share news with you regarding our copy protection plans for The Sims 3.

We’ll have more information for you as we get closer to launch about everything we’ll have to offer on TheSims3.com and The Sims 3 Store, but we have heard your requests over the past months and here is our plan for The Sims 3.

The game will have disc-based copy protection – there is a Serial Code just like The Sims 2. To play the game there will not be any online authentication needed.

We feel like this is a good, time-proven solution that makes it easy for you to play the game without DRM methods that feel overly invasive or leave you concerned about authorization server access in the distant future.

We’re really excited to bring you the game for the PC and Mac starting June 2, 2009. The extra time we’ve taken to polish the game has resulted in an even better game experience for you to enjoy and we can’t wait for you to see for yourself!

Thanks for your passion and your loyalty.
Rod Humble

This is certainly good news as I was looking forward to the new iteration, but I’m concerned by the fact that they don’t specifically state which copy protection system they’re using. A lot of video game blogs are reporting this as though EA are not using SecuROM, but there’s nothing in the way of evidence that that’s a correct assumption. SecuROM has varying levels of restrictions and it’s entirely possible to use it as just a simple disc-based serial number protection system. Given the ridiculous level of system modification SecuROM engages in, even when not using all of its features, it would still stop me from buying the game if it were present. I’ve asked a couple of the bigger blogs to follow up and ask which copy protection scheme EA does plan to use.

Still, this is a step in the right direction at least. It won’t stop the game from being pirated, but at least it won’t be too intrusive on the legitimate users. EA certainly seems to have learned a lesson from the release of Spore which continues to be one of the most heavily pirated games of all time which many attribute to being a direct response to the use of SecuROM and the installation limits.

“The Sims 3” teaser website is up.

The next sequel to the best selling PC game of all time has been announced by the folks at Electronic Arts with a new The Sims 3 Teaser Website. There’s not much there at the moment, but they promise all will be revealed on March 19th.

If you can’t wait that long and happen to be a subscriber to Games for Windows: The Official Magazine then you can check out the 12 page preview they have. It’ll hit newsstands soon, but the folks at 1Up.com managed to snag a sneak peek:

The biggest change to The Sims 3 is that it takes place in a wide-open, constantly changing neighborhood—a much bigger sandbox, if you will, and a much more complex simulation. The town and park you see on the cover image to the right (click to enlarge) exist in the same seamless space as your Sims’ household, and what you do outside your home now matters as much as what you do within. (Yes, previous expansion packs added out-and-about activities, but they were always separate sub-games. Here, everything’s completely integrated.) The game also sees a major shift in how Sims’ motives are handled: Individual meters indicating bladder and sleep-deprivation levels are replaced by a new system of discrete moods, the aim being to get players off the treadmill of fulfilling primal eat-sleep-pee-repeat requirements so they can focus more on, well, going out on the brand new town.

Sounds like the game is getting a major overhaul and will lose that weird time-warp effect that going into the other areas induced (the time of day when you left the house would be the same when you returned no matter how many days you spent in town or wherever). The removal of having to tend to every basic need should be a nice change as well. The first two games were regularly played in our household so I’ll be checking things out on the new website come the 19th.