User-Generated Discontent: Spore/Mass Effect DRM

By Kieron Gillen on May 7th, 2008 at 12:19 am.

Alec is in bed. I do the photoshopping. The results are never pretty.
All it’s taken is one little post and a landslide of others follow. At least that’s what’s happened when Bioware’s Derek French reveals that Mass Effect and Spore will be coming with a fairly hefty piece of DRM attached. It won’t just activate online when you first install the game – it’ll also have to check in to the server regularly to continue working. If ten days go by without a check-in working, the game stops working. In other words, major lengthy internet outage, no playage. Since RPS-comrade Rossignol is going to be having that kinda length of time offline shortly, this has to be frowned at.

Beneath the cut: Derek French’s full post, just so the actual words people will be arguing about are present in the vicinity if this spirals out of control into another 300+ post thread about the P-word. Oh – and a few more initial thoughts too.

Derek French says here…

Mass Effect uses SecuROM and requires an online activation for the first time that you play it. Each copy of Mass Effect comes with a CD Key which is used for this activation and for registration here at the BioWare Community. Mass Effect does not require the DVD to be in the drive in order to play, it is only for installation.

After the first activation, SecuROM requires that it re-check with the server within ten days (in case the CD Key has become public/warez’d and gets banned). Just so that the 10 day thing doesn’t become abrupt, SecuROM tries its first re-check with 5 days remaining in the 10 day window. If it can’t contact the server before the 10 days are up, nothing bad happens and the game still runs. After 10 days a re-check is required before the game can run.

Please feel free to ask any follow up questions in this thread and I will try and answer them when I can.

Hmm.

With Spore and Mass Effect trying this, you have to wonder which other future AAA Electronic Arts game titles will have it. If it manages any effect at all, you have to suspect it may be all of them. Equally, if there actually is a noticeable avoidance of either game due to it… well, the two factors will balance against one another. I’d suspect the former would outweigh the latter – the average consumer won’t even be thinking about the nature of DRM when they pick up the box, no matter how carefully labeled French claims it’ll be. “Internet required,” is a different thing from “Internet required perpetually”.

The other thing that strikes me is that PC piracy is clearly on their mind. On one side, you have them trying strong DRM methods to try and secure more traditional PC game fare. On the other, they have things like Battlefield Heroes where rather than trying to fight piracy, they create a game that completely bypasses piracy as a worry. I wonder what else they’re thinking of.

EDIT: I didn’t quote the later post where French confirms that it is every 10 days not just once. Foolish me.Here it is. And here it is:

For clarity, though, an internet connection is not required to install, just to activate the first time, and every 10 days after. You can be completely connectionless for 9 days and encounter no problems playing Mass Effect. And you don’t need the disk in the drive to play.

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250 Comments »

  1. Ted says:

    I support this 100% and wish every game would do it. Fuck pirates for ruining PC gaming.

  2. Kadayi says:

    The shit has hit the fan over that one for sure. Pity Valves Steamworks pack has only just came out, I think that would of been a better route to go down and received less negative commentary. Any DRM ultimately gets bypassed, and this one runs the risk that the pirates might end up invalidating legitimate users codes further down the line….

  3. Zyrusticae says:

    Uh… what, exactly, is this going to accomplish? Pirates will just crack Securom once more, removing the online check entirely.

    And everyone without internet access gets screwed. Yay anti-piracy measures?

  4. Riotpoll says:

    Should either check the internet for no-disc play or need the disc in the drive for offline play; somewhat similar to Company of Heroes does these days.
    Obviously they don’t understand some people are behind restrictive firewalls (like me at Uni) and can’t have millions of ports open!

  5. Masked Dave says:

    Meh.

    You have to be offline for 25 days straight after first installing the game, but still using your computer?

    I moved house recently, I was offline for two weeks, or so.

    I still haven’t bought a desk so my PC isn’t set up yet.

    When I do (probably this week) I would theoretically still be in the time limit for it to be checked out ok.

    Still, it’s not unimaginable that they would have a Mircosoft-style phone number you can ring to do it offline.

  6. bob says:

    No matter what they do for drm it will always be cracked eventually. Maybe it won’t be cracked within the first week or even month, but eventually it will. Doing this you are only going to piss off legal consumers.
    If this is how the drm in the game is going to be I won’t buy it till a crack is released. Then I’ll buy it and apply the crack.

  7. Will says:

    In before someone claims that the DRM is so infuriating that they will now “pirate this game on principle”.

    *hits head*

  8. Shih Tzu says:

    One of these days I’ll play Bioshock, since I’ve heard such good things. But I hate FPS controls on consoles and I’ve yet to be convinced why I should accept SecuROM on my PC, so until one of these elements changes I’ll find other things to do with my time and money. Same with Mass Effect and Spore. This decision has cost 2K and EA a potential sale.

  9. Cunningbeef says:

    Unless I’m reading it wrong, it checks online at installation then once more inside of 10 days, not every 10 days. This really isn’t as terrible and invasive as some are making it out to be.

  10. Frymaster says:

    why can’t they just use Steam and get it over with? They are having to re-check because they can’t tie a cd-key down to an individual, and because just checking the key on install and then not letting anyone else use it requires knowing who the individual is, unless you go down the “x many installs” route which is just so popular. Equally, noone wants to sign up for yet ANOTHER online account which they’ll have forgotten about come reinstall time.

    Also, steam solves the distributor’s-dodgy-staff-liberating-a-copy problem which is how the 0-day piracy happens, which is the main source of illegal copies that might actually have been revenue. And steam’s community stuff might tie in well with Spore. And if you don’t have internet access after install it never invalidates. And EA’s servers always crumble to the ground when patches are due out. I could go on.

    edit: wow, there were no comments when I started my rant! :D

    those saying meh: a ludicrously large proportion of the UK isn’t on broadband.

    Shih Tzu: “I’ve yet to be convinced why I should accept SecuROM on my PC” – You could equally say “I’ve yet to be convinced why installing j.random game requires Bink dlls or certain codecs”. True, I don’t have it either, but that’s because there’s a limit enforced as to reinstalls. The fact that it has SecuROM per se has nothing to do with it

  11. Tim says:

    Maybe SecuROM has cleaned up their act, but I will always remember them as the bastards who broke my legitimately purchased copy of Shadows of Undrentide until Bioware finally released a patch that disabled the goddamn check.

    I don’t have a huge problem with the game phoning home, I’m fine with Steam needing to do so. So it’s not the principle that I’m against just the stupid buggy practice.

    At the same time that these guys are spending all of this effort, we all know that we’ll be able to get cracked copies of the game that don’t phone home at all within days of release (if not before release).

  12. bobince says:

    Cunningbeef: the original post is indeed unclear, but a later post in the topic says:

    For clarity, though, an internet connection is not required to install, just to activate the first time, and every 10 days after.

    So it is indeed – effectively – a connection every 5-10 days.

    I realise arguing isn’t going to change anyone’s position on the P-issue these days, but here are two games that are definitely never seeing any money from me now.

    (“A quick and painless check” – yeah, tell that to the people who bought tracks from MSN Music.)

  13. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Yet another move to screw everyone who doesn’t crack the game. If that is the only idea the industry can come up with, PC led development is doomed. Then again, looking at Mass Effect, it’s doomed anyways.

  14. Doug F says:

    I know this isn’t the point, but how many people are going to have the kind of computer needed to run a game like Spore or Mass Effect, and not have an internet connection?

    EDIT – Bobince’s comment is my bigger worry. As someone who plays games years/decades after their release, what happens when the authentication servers get shut off on their end?

    Maybe this is wishful thinking, but could a company perhaps implement such draconian DRM initially, and then lift it after 6 months to a year, once the demand for pirated copies goes down?

  15. Snarky says:

    DRM systems that treat every player like a potential criminal? Bah. I’ll likely never play Bioshock because of such crap, and I seriously don’t care.

    I’m fine with Steam-style copy protection and prefer that or having the disc in the drive in order to play. Why? Simply based on the prinicple that I feel like I’m trusted since the developer used one of those methods instead of getting paranoid about everybody… and screwing legitimate customers in the meantime when some hacky type manages to create a CD key generator. I don’t say “if”, because it’ll happen. It always does.

    So now I’m just worried now that my principles are gonna prevent me from playing a game that I’ve actually been looking forward to, and all simply because some devs prefer to default to mistrusting their own customers just to stave off inevitable piracy of their product for a week or two more.

  16. mandrill says:

    You’d have thought that SecureROM would have been totally discredited by now, EA were beginning to turn a corner, gaining the respect of gamers by displaying some kind of innovation, not only in the games themselves but also in how they are delivered to their customers. With this move I reckon they’ve gone and shot themselves in the foot.

    Piracy is going to happen, and the only developer/publisher I’ve seen that’s being realistic about it is Stardock. Spore and Mass Effect will be cracked and pirated within a week of release (if not before) and things will continue as normal. I was really looking forward to Spore but now I’m not so sure. As a game it looks to be something very special but, as is the way with these things, the men in suits have gotten their way and legitimate users will more than likely suffer for it. The pirates don’t care, they’re not the ones kicking up a fuss when the DRM goes tits up, because they bypass it. EA are risking drowning one of the games of the year in effluent because they only see the bottom line. The fact is that pirates won’t be buying the game anyway, EA’s move will only inconvenience those that legitimately buy the game.

  17. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Dear Ted:

    Bob is more right than you realize. Piracy is not the issue–it may be a problem that affects the bottom line, but it’s not the bottom line itself. No, the real issue is Sales. But that’s another discussion.

    Speaking of sales: PC gaming is healthier and more profitable than console gaming, bar the Wii. Oh yeah, I went there.

    I hate to sound like a monopolist, but… seriously, why can’t more developers just use Steam for crying out loud? This every-ten-days thing sounds like a wash. I was on the fence as far as these two games were concerned, but right now I’m not too keen on the idea of buying them without an available crack online.

    This sort of thing doesn’t stop pirates at all.

    It only annoys customers. Especially when something goes wrong with the DRM system and the legitimate customers suffer, while pirates get to play almost hassle-free.

    Jeez.

  18. Dot says:

    I don’t really mind this if it helps fend off piracy. Bioshock’s DRM did and this is about the same except without the overly too harsh general application-it won’t have stuff like max number of lifetime installs or something like that. Seriously.
    Most games distributed not on DD require CD checks, which are even more annoying than automated online verification, nearly all digitally distributed games already have stuff like that, and um, basically I am not seeing what’s the problem here-it remains the same thing for DD, and only replaces the obnoxiousness of having to swap CDs for retail buyers.
    Besides, everyone who is posting about this on this issue probably has an internet connection so they don’t have an excuse to complain, unless they are really worried about internet outages lasting longer than a week, and that’s it I guess.

    Oh and as far as Digital Distribution is concerned, I’d really like to see this on Steam, but Electronic Arts are probably going to use it to push EA Link. As much as that service sucks, I guess I’ll have to use that in the end. =/

  19. drew says:

    One of Spore’s big selling-points is that it grabs user-generated content from a server and puts it into your game. Why not require an account to do that, and deny pirates access to that (presumably important) part of the game? It’s built-in copy protection.

    That way the game doesn’t completely break when they decide it’s not profitable to run the server.

  20. Indagator says:

    @Dot The problem is, of course, that it won’t do a lick to prevent piracy.

    I mean, seriously: does any actually believe that casual piracy of “I ripped this DVD for my friend” variety is actually what’s killing sales? Come on, it’s 2008! If someone wants to pirate something, they fire up bit-torrent or eMule, and as others have already mentioned, all it takes is one pirate group to crack it and it’s suddenly out there for the entire world. Personally, I give it maybe two weeks before the cracks are out.

    One other thing that I saw mentioned on the quartertothree forums is that the DRM will limit you to three installs of the game. After that, you will apparently have to call up to get your account revalidated or some other nonsense. Hope you don’t like playing games more than once!

    The worst part of all this, though, is they’re spending a ton of money for absolutely no gain. I just can’t fathom what’s going on in the heads of the suits at EA. I can understand how much it must burn to see something you poured time and energy being used without receiving compensation, but there’s a break even. You have to wonder how much such an elaborate setup (authorization servers, call center, the DRM itself) is going to cost.

  21. cannon fodder says:

    @ Snarky

    I think it’s largely the publishers that mandate intrusive anti-cheats rather than most devs but other than that I agree completely:

    I’ve not bought Bioshock for the same reason as you and as interesting as Mass Effect would be to me, it’s not getting bought either if it has that crap attached.

    While steam is net-based activation it allows offline play for more than 10 days and includes all the useful things like auto-update and friends lists. It also allows itself to be turned off, all of which make it a tolerable compromise/necessary evil.

    Disc in drive is only a minor irritant especially if you have more than one DVD drive (if i’m building a computer and have to put an IDE cable in it I think it makes sense to populate it fully).

    CDkeys are a bloody good idea if only as they allow global banning of cheaters in multiplayer (as is built in punkbuster for the same reason).

    In a world where sane online activation systems and tolerable anti-piracy measures exist which won’t screw people for trivial reasons, this kind if idiocy on the part of games publishers has no excuse.

    I guess I’ll just have to put some more time into CoD4 multiplayer weapons achievements.

  22. Cooper says:

    If the biggest issue (as far as I’m aware) is the first-week sales – where’s the need for perpetual online-ness?

    Sure, ‘everyone is online nowadays’. But that doesn’t quite cut it.
    First off, many students in halls are behind firewalls.
    Then there is the obvious issue of what happens after a few years and the servers are taken down.
    Finally, I’m just not comfortable with this ‘phone home’ deal. Call me paranoid, but I’m not one for trusting large corporations.
    And, most importantly – why complicate things for those who /gave you their money/?

    I was looking forward to spore. But I’m behind a firewall (even postgrads here) and will have to wait for a crack. (Which is gonna happen, pretty soon I’d guess, especially as this is even more of an enticing challenge). In which case, I might as well just get a pirate version…

  23. Robin says:

    A one-time online activation is good enough for Microsoft, Adobe, Cubase, and well, everyone, but not for EA?

    Steam works. Bioshock’s system worked. (That is to say, what they *intended* to do – there were some teething problems caused by errors in the implementation.) Problem solved, do not keep digging.

    I can’t see the additional checks having any effect on piracy (it’ll most likely be fully cracked within that first ten days), but I’m certain that they’ll substantially increase the tech support overhead, especially if Spore’s audience largely overlaps The Sims’s.

    The sad thing is that if Spore does become a mega-hit, EA will claim that justifies this method. The “new EA” sure seem to be lurching from one needless and avoidable PR-shitstorm to another these days.

    “I’ve yet to be convinced why I should accept SecuROM on my PC {for Bioshock}” – um, loads and loads of games use SecuRom, dude. It’s pretty benign.

    “So now I’m just worried now that my principles are gonna prevent me from playing a game that I’ve actually been looking forward to” – From the rest of your comment I’d be more worried about misinformation wrongly warning you off games. Bioshock’s DRM is no more restrictive than Steam, in practical terms. (Unless I’m missing something.)

  24. Rustkill says:

    I think CunningBeef is the only person to have mentioned this… But to me it looks like it’s a matter of rechecking the activation within ten days of the first activation “in case the CD Key has become public/warez’d and gets banned”. If the computer isn’t online within those first 10 days nothing happens, but after those first 10 days if there’s no recheck the game gets locked until the recheck happens. Seems to me that as long as you do that recheck once after the first activation you will be fine. Not sure where the “every ten days” idea is coming from tbh.

  25. The Pope says:

    Whats the point of making a legitimate copy less reliable and user friendly than a pirated one?

    I can’t really see any pirates deciding “Wow, that DRM sure is annoying. I’ll buy the version with it, rather than getting one without it for free!”

  26. DosFreak says:

    The “Every 10 days” comes from the BioWare Community forums:

    Here is the Part 1 Thread: http://masseffect.bioware.com/forums/viewtopic.html?topic=628375&forum=125&sp=180

    I’ve created a FAQ since they don’t have one on their site. The FAQ was compiled from Part 1 and Part 2 of the activation thread on the BioWare Community forums:

    http://vogons.zetafleet.com/viewtopic.php?t=18522

  27. Mark says:

    I really wanted to buy this game. However, I wouldn’t invite an escaped convict into my house, I wouldn’t take a rabid dog for a walk, and I wouldn’t install anything on my computer that requires SecuROM. And since the game is supposed to go online, the pirated version probably won’t work right either, so buying a legitimate copy and cracking it is also out of the question.

  28. SenatorPalpatine says:

    Out of reading the comments, I think I only read one that supported what EA is doing (some who thought the internet check is only once at beginning and again after 10 days), the first one.

    Maybe the popular uproar will be enough that EA realizes that this DRM policy makes them appear to be dickholes in the eyes of most people.

  29. NegativeZero says:

    Looks like two games I’m not buying then. I still have horrible memories of the hacking I had to do to get my sister’s copy of The Sims 2 to work on her machine due to their shitty DRM not working properly.

  30. Mickiscoole says:

    @Rustkill
    http://masseffect.bioware.com/forums/viewtopic.html?topic=628375&forum=125&sp=15
    Second post down:
    “For clarity, though, an internet connection is not required to install, just to activate the first time, and every 10 days after.”

  31. Monkfish says:

    While this DRM may help prevent the day zero piracy we all know and love (hmmm), it’s ultimately futile. The crackers will crack it, and the pirates will, um… pirate it. It’s all so predictable.

    I dread to think how much it’s costing to pay SecuROM, set up all the authentication servers and draft in the support staff that will deal with all the technical issues this DRM will inevitably cause. There can’t be many products out there that have something added that is known will cause problems for some legit customers. Alarm bells should be ringing at EA suit central – this really can’t be the best way forward, can it?

    I say remove the DRM altogether. Have a little faith. Sure, the pirates will still fill their boots, but fuck ‘em – they probably wouldn’t have bought it anyway. And you’ll have pissed the crackers off by taking their challenge away, which is nice. The perceived lost sales will be offset by the reduced support costs brought about by there being no nasty DRM. Throw in other incentives to make people want to buy stuff from you and things will work out just fine. At least, they will in my naïve little world :D

  32. wyrmsine says:

    Given that my internet provider recently shut off my internet for three weeks by accident, I find it hard to support this security feature. Both titles just became games I’d rather pirate, because it just makes more sense to have a game that works.

    (long story short, and as near as I can figure it: My dad tried downgrading his net access, and it seems he got my fast connection and I got bupkiss. That’s at a guess, mind, no good answer was given me, but tech support kept confusing our phone numbers, and once, our names…. No mean feat, considering we don’t live in the same city…)

  33. Aaron says:

    I will Not be buying either of those games now, even though I want them both. I suppose they will just state that piracy was the problem when the games don’t sell. I support Stardock in their quest for no DRM in games.

  34. Dot says:

    @Indagator
    It’s not as simple as that. Copy protection *IS* somewhat effective. Do you think any company would apply activation schemes like this if it had zero effect? No company would want to damage its own PR with stuff like that for nothing at all.

    Bioshock’s developers admitted the scheme they used was flawed-and those flaws were unfair to the customers, but it helped to generate a whole load of sales regardless. Why? Every game sells the most in the first two weeks. If a game is leaked out and cracked before the first day, most people, who don’t give much thought to piracy will just go out to torrent sites and download it for free, early, without any hassles. It kills actual sales big time. With internet activation, when the game is leaked, it typically is missing a few key files so the pirates can’t produce a crack and make a “release” before the game is actually out, and by delaying that for a few days, up to a week and a half, as with Bioshock, it means that those people who wouldn’t mind pirating stuff but really want to play the game will have no choice but to buy it, which is good.
    Furthermore, games are not video or music, those two industries work differently, not to mention that DRM put on movies and music is going to be exactly the same for every item so in that case it’s pointless. Here we’re talking absolutely harmless internet activation, polished so as to get rid of the flaws of Bioshock’s CP, like the activation limit and such, so that it shouldn’t even inconvenience anyone, and is the way of the future, replacing disc checks and coexisting with digital distribution in harmony.
    So, in my opinion, this isn’t a big deal. If EA will botch this up and make it inconvenient for buyers, I’ll obviously be angry about it and become an opponent of their particular implementation of internet activation, but as of right now, it looks like that they are trying to make it as transparent and unobstructive as possible so I don’t have a case against them.

    @Aaron
    Just dismissing a game you want to play from the get-go because of a very light DRM scheme sounds like folly to me. I mean, I boycotted Starforce releases at the time, but compared to Starforce, this is absolutely nothing IMHO. I’ll still be getting both most likely, unless some other newspiece closer to release makes that copy protection look like a total trainwreck.

  35. mrrobsa says:

    I can’t/won’t buy these games now because I have crapola internet at Uni. Surely this only punishes people who purchase it legally, whereas the cracked version will be bullshit free.

  36. Mario Granger says:

    Wish I could say I was bothered by this. I’ll just do what I’ve been forced to do for years: buy the game, then head over to one of a thousand game cracking sites and download the cracked executable.

    Developer gets their well earned money, I get a game that works properly without hassle.

    Win-win.

    I’m in suport of what Valve does with Steam: boxed copies ship incomplete, thus cutting down on zero-day piracy.

  37. Burgerboy says:

    Sigh, I fail to understand how penalising legitimate customers helps stop piracy – haven’t they learned anything from the route that stardock went?

    I’ll add myself to the “not buying anything unless it’s well and fully cracked first” crowd.

  38. Fisherman says:

    I’d join in the bitching, but I’m still waiting to see how the last EA internet shitstorm over Rock Band costing a month’s rent in Europe turns out. At this rate I expect Sims 3 to come with an aborted fetus and spray anthrax from the screen.

  39. Rustkill says:

    Ok, Having followed the links people have shared I can see that it actually is an every 10 days system. That is ridiculous. I will not boycott Spore (it’s on the top of my Want-to-Play list) but I will certainly look into the best way of getting this system fixed.

    Although, the post by Chris Priestly makes the system a bit more palatable:

    If the system cannot connect to the internet after the 10 days, you will not be able to play MEPC until you are connected to the internet. Once you reconnect to the internet and try to play, it will re-validate and you can play as normal for another period of 10 days as before.

  40. Tim says:

    This is really silly. This is so absurd I’m assuming I’ve got this wrong. Does this mean that even if you don’t play the game for ten days, you’ll never be able to play it again?

    Why don’t they just check each time you start the game like steam does?

  41. Ben Abraham says:

    @Monkfish,

    Here here! Can I come live in your naïve world?

  42. Shih Tzu says:

    “Um, loads and loads of games use SecuRom, dude.”

    This is true! And how many of them do I have installed? Looks like none.

  43. Kevin says:

    First of all, Tim, that is completely wrong. If you don’t play for 10 days, you’ll need to start up the game, and have it automatically re authenticate.

    Personally I’m 100% for this. Let me tell you why. The PC platform is being overlooked. Developers aren’t porting games to PC because of the rampant piracy.

    If you are one of those people who say, if they add DRM, I WON’T BUY THIS GAME, relax and smile, because if they didn’t add DRM, THEY PROBABLY WOULDN’T BE MAKING A PC PORT OF IT ANYWAYS.

    Obviously, this doesn’t apply to spore. But you need a internet connection to enjoy spore anyway, so whats the big deal.

    Screw the pirates, they are ruining the PC gaming front for all of us.

  44. RichPowers says:

    Both games just lost my sale (and no, I won’t pirate them).

    Pirates will crack the game as usual and paying customers will suffer. Seems as if the wrong crowd is being punished here. One keycode, one activation. No need to check up on us every 10 days, Big Brother. I’m already PO’d at EA for adding in-game ad mumbo-jumbo to BF2142.

    It’s funny how pirates offer superior products, ones without absurd DRM or nagware. Based on product quality alone — and not on ethics, legality, etc. — the pirated copy is your best bet. Not condoning here, but food for thought.

  45. DosFreak says:

    “Screw the pirates, they are ruining the PC gaming front for all of us.”

    No shitty Publisher/Developers who hide under the “piracy is killing PC gaming” banner are ruining PC gaming. These guys need to STFU and go develop their games for consoles and leave PC development to the real PC devs.

  46. Txiasaeia says:

    Oh well. Spore looked pretty good, too. I guess I’ll play one of the thousands of other games that doesn’t have such restrictive DRM. Stalker: Clear Sky’s supposed to be coming out soon, right?

    Another question: does anyone think that the $10 Spore editor to be released next month will include this DRM? Hmm.

  47. frank says:

    I guess I’ll play one of the thousands of other games that doesn’t have such restrictive DRM. Stalker: Clear Sky’s supposed to be coming out soon, right?

    Sheesh, no hate left for Steam?
    Clear Sky’s DRM…

  48. Indagator says:

    @Dot

    Do you think any company would apply activation schemes like this if it had zero effect? No company would want to damage its own PR with stuff like that for nothing at all.

    Absolutely they would, because when faced with a potentially critical threat that none-the-less is impossible to empirically quantify, all organizations (publishers, school councils, governments) fall back on the basic response of we have to do something. And since there isn’t any way to actually tell how well a game might have sold if not for piracy/the economy/phase of the moon, the publishers have no way of knowing whether the all the money they poured into the DRM actually accomplished anything at all. They can simply decide whether the sales of the product were satisfactory or not. And because no one likes to think that they wasted money, these same groups are more likely to interpret unsatisfactory results to mean “We need more DRM!” than “Well, that DRM didn’t work, let’s scrap that idea and start over.”

    Every game sells the most in the first two weeks.

    Minor nitpick: That’s not strictly true: Homeworld immediately comes to mind in the category of “sleeper hit.” I think what you really meant to say was “Tremendously hyped AAA titles sell the most in the first two weeks,” which I’ll readily agree with. However, if the goal was just to stop piracy early on, why bother with the recurring 10-day activation? Surely just a single one time activation could stop that (it seems to work for Valve).

    Furthermore, games are not video or music, those two industries work differently, not to mention that DRM put on movies and music is going to be exactly the same for every item so in that case it’s pointless.

    Regardless of their individual differences, all types of DRM share a single point of failure. Once it’s cracked, the secret’s out. This is just as true for games as for movies and music.

    Here we’re talking absolutely harmless internet activation, polished so as to get rid of the flaws of Bioshock’s CP, like the activation limit and such

    Have you actually seen where the devs said that the activation limit is out? The post I referred to earlier claiming that there was a limit turned out to be quoting a secondary source, so I’m going to back off that claim until I have corroboration one way or another. Onto the other two points you made:
    Re: harmless internet activation – This would have made it impossible for me to play two years ago, when I didn’t have internet at home. It would have made it impossible for me to play during college vacations when I was with family members who didn’t have Internet or didn’t have a wireless router. A one-time activation is relatively easy to work around those issues, it’s the continual bit that’s the deal breaker.
    Re: polished to get rid of flaws – Do you honestly believe, in the era when new releases are more like expanded beta tests than finished products, that the component of the system that designed to inhibit the normal functions of a computer is going to be flawless? That it won’t cause problems? Hopefully you said yes, because if so, could I interest you in a couple of investment opportunities with my Nigerian friends? :)
    It’s too bad, really, because EA just lost two (possibly three) sales with this nonsense. I was on the fence regarding Mass Effect, but I was quite excited about Spore. I’ve also been planning on picking up Bioshock (which I don’t have because it came out before I had my latest machine built), which I may still get, but over Steam. In fact, I might not purchase another EA game at retail ever again. I’ll either get it via DD or go without.
    Edit – sorry for all the verbiage, I’ll be more succinct in the future.

  49. RichPowers says:

    @frank: Yes, I realize that Steam is a form of DRM and therefore only purchase Valve games through the service, since they’re tied into Steam anyway. If a third-party releases a game over Steam and at retail, I always buy the retail version. Then I take appropriate action to disable or mitigate annoying copy protection schemes.

    @Indagator: Ya, EA has been losing sales with me for years because of their incessant nonsense. In-game ads in BF2142, the joke that is SimCity Societies (why bastardize one of the greatest game series ever?!), buggy releases, etc. This latest DRM nonsense adds to an already sizable pile.

  50. Durandal says:

    “I don’t really mind this if it helps fend off piracy. Bioshock’s DRM did ”

    I know twelve people at my work with hacked copies of Bioshock. Twelve. Clearly, it didn’t help shit.

    Keep in mind that not only will this not help piracy, it’ll just generate negative press and misgiving against the creators of the game. It’s lose-lose for them.