image The most anticipated video game out there is Spore, released today by Electronic Arts. While the game has gotten mediocre reviews, the commentators have been amazed by the DRM backlash it has provoked. As of this writing the game has gotten an amazing 837 one star reviews on Amazon because of the DRM scheme. This has been confirmed by a number of sites, including afterdawn.

Here is what Amazon reviewer Erich Maria Remarque has to say in his review on the Amazon site (see url above):

First of all, the game incorporates a draconian DRM system that requires you to activate over the internet, and limits you to a grand total of 3 activations. If you reach that limit, then you’ll have to call EA in order to add one extra activation. That’s not as simple as it sounds, since when you reach that point EA will assume that you, the paying customer, are a filthy pirating thief. You will need to provide proof of purchase, reasons why the limit was reached, etc, etc (it has all happened before with another recent EA product, Mass Effect). EA, of course, is not obligated to grant you that extra activation or even provide that service. In a couple of years they might very well even shut down the general activation servers, because "it’s not financially feasible" to keep them running. What you will be left with is a nice, colorful $50 coaster. And you will be required to pay for another copy/license if you want to continue playing.

This basically means that you are actually RENTING the game, instead of owning it. The game WILL stop to function in the future. That’s inevitable, because even if EA keeps the activation servers going, there IS going to be a time when EA will simply cease to exist because of financial issues or federal laws (like most business eventually do).

Sound familiar?


  1. It’s funny how timely this posting is. I own a different EA title, Command and Conquer 3 which only allows 1 activation. This means that you can only install the game and play it online on 1 machine. As far as I know there are no additional activations for this title. The problem is that the machine that I have the game “activated” on (Dell XPS1210) is overheating. So wanting to play the game on my other laptop (Dell Inspiron 1521), I got to the point of activation and was denied. The frustrating thing is that I’m sure there is a “patched” version of the game out there which bypasses this issue. So pirates get around the DRM while regular paying customers are disadvantaged. And just to note: there’s nothing on the packaging which clearly explains that it can only be registered on only 1 computer and only 1 time.

  2. Well, up yours EA. I wont be giving you any cash to rent a game.

    I have to admit I am becoming a pirate. Whenever I purchase a game the first thing I do is check around for a patch to get past the protection schemes. I got sick of having to cart around the Cds just so I could play the games, as I am terrible at getting them scratched.

  3. I recommend only buying PC games through Steam or Stardock’s Impulse system. With Steam I can download and install a game I buy on a dozen or more computers over the lifetime of the game. As long as I’m logged into my steam account I can play all the games I own anywhere I like.

    The negative is that the DRM is just shifted to the steam server. If they ever go out of business you could lose the ability to play any of the games you purchase. Other than that it is a sweet system. Games automatically update, install without problem and play flawlessly.

    For the most part I think the huge game publishers like EA would prefer that PC gaming fade away and everybody play on a console. Only the more nimble publishers like Valve and Stardock are really looking for a solution that benefits both them and gamers alike.

  4. A number of things:

    1. I bought a copy of Spore, despite the DRM.

    2. I was aware of the three install limit, but EA does a horrible job of making it clear that you’re limited to three installs. You really have to do some digging to even find this limit.

    3. There doesn’t seem to be any way to deauthorize a machine, which is insane with a three-machine limit and a game that is likely to be viable for 3-5 years at least with all the inevitable expansions. I’ve bought plenty of games that required authorization but they almost always have a way to deauthorize a computer.

    3. A crack will be out soon enough, and I will have no moral qualms about installing the crack to remove this limit. As I’ve argued ad nauseum, all DRM does in instances like this is normalize piracy. I can guarantee you I know people who bought this game who don’t even realize what copy protection is on games who will be asking me how to fix their Spore game so they can install it on a new computer. Every time someone realizes they have to break the law to use the product they paid for, the less they actually care about breaking those laws (copyrights IMO are quickly becoming like speed limits … we wouldn’t generally break them in the extreme but we see little wrong with routinely violating them in small increments, especially if the posted speed limit seems inconsistent with the actual driving speed on a road.)

    4. Spore was really over-hyped. A bunch of crappy mini-games with a deep end-game. Give it a couple patches and an expansion or two and it could be an awesome game. As it is, its some very nice customization tools to a Star Control/Elite-style game.

  5. I recommend buying video games from indie developers who create original games and choose to not use DRM. EA is evil, and I started boycotting them a looong time ago for other evil things, such as smothering their more innovative competition (2K Sports) by buying exclusive licensing rights, buying out great developers and turning them into buggy game factories (Maxis and Westwood in particular), overworking their employees, and dumbing down the gaming market with unoriginal and watered-down gameplay.

  6. The gaming industry is going two ways one is heawy DRM almost binding the game to a single console the second is tying the game to a subscription based service. the last being the least annoying model for the PC games. Most indie developers sign a deal with a bigger distributor like valve or EA to seed their game to the market.

    Your going to see the same happening for ebooks the kindle platform will remain completely locked and the competitors will go the same way, soon(tm) someone will make a web based reader and add content to it in a way that works the same way as steam do, they are like stram going to add community software in the mix.

  7. Before you read too much into it, it should be noted that the massive level of complaints is most likely due to a “flash mob”—someone making a posting somewhere on a site that a lot of anti-DRM geeks read, the readers there thinking it sounded like a good idea, and going for it—and then the effect snowballing as the Amazon reaction gets carried by other news sites that more anti-DRM geeks read.

    The majority of the negative reviewers have not had any experience with the actual game; they simply heard about the DRM on it and want to say they won’t buy it because of that DRM. Some of them probably would not buy it even if it did NOT have that DRM.

    That being said, the DRM is intensely obnoxious, and a lot of people are suggesting that it is not even meant to prevent piracy in the first place—it is meant to make an end-run around the Doctrine of First Sale and kill the secondary market in used and resold games (which those game publishers hate with a passion).

    It will be interesting to see how EA responds.

  8. EA (or Amazon) in the UK have responded by removing all reviews of Spore from the website!

    As for Daniels suggestion that books may go web based, I for one would be extremely reluctant to purchase/read web based books, or for my book reader to phone home to check whether I am allowed to read my books.

  9. I’m still leaning against buying the game because I despise the abuse of DRM — especially as one poster has said, it’s so hard to find out what the limits are. Sure, cracks and workarounds are bound to be easy to find and use, but I’d rather punish the company and save my $50.

  10. one of the importent questions to ask is: If it was a rent for the lifetime of your current windows instalation would there still be a market for the game.

    I kind of think yes and thats wry DRM is’nt a big marketfailure.

    The same can be asked of the online model surprisingly many people would probably accept a call home function if they knew there was a decent privacy policy.

  11. Daniel Udsen wrote:

    “one of the importent questions to ask is: If it was a rent for the lifetime of your current windows instalation would there still be a market for the game.

    I kind of think yes and thats wry DRM is’nt a big marketfailure.”

    Look at Steam. Using Steam is a bit like using World of Warcraft. What you have is an account and you have games associated with that account. You can play the games you’ve bought with Steam on any PC you want.

    Its DRM but the only major downside is the possibility that Steam will go out of business and leave you stranded.

    That’s a nice model. In fact, in some ways its providing a very nice service in handling patching, etc.

    The EA model is the opposite — the install is tied to the computer rather than the account. So I have Spore installed on 3 computers right now, and I know I’m going to be replacing 2 of them in the next 6 months. Great — I get to go out and buy the game again, or crack it.

    That just doesn’t make sense.

  12. I have a gaming system set up JUST for games, no internet. My net connection is on a slow laptop. I will not install a anti-virus and firewall to my gaming system just to activate one game. I might just take the game back and demand a refund.

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