EA Backs Down From 10-Day Authentication

By John Walker on May 9th, 2008 at 9:43 pm.

Now let's make them dance like a monkey.

Good news, loud, complaining denizens of the internet! Bioware have backed down on their draconian copy protection for Mass Effect.

Edit: And EA say the same goes for Spore.

Community Manager, Jay Watamaniuk, has posted to the Mass Effect forums saying,

“There has been a lot of discussion in the past few days on how the security requirements for Mass Effect for PC will work. BioWare, a division of EA, wants to let fans know that Mass Effect will not require 10- day periodic re-authentication.”

The reasons jumpward.

Watamaniuk explains that the change of heart comes as a result of listening to quite so many people pointing out how an every 10 day authentication would make the game impossible for them to play.

“BioWare has always listened very closely to its fans and we made this decision to ensure we are delivering the best possible experience to them. To all the fans including our many friends in the armed services and internationally who expressed concerns that they would not be able re-authenticate as often as required, EA and BioWare want you to know that your feedback is important to us.”

So what instead? A one-time online authentication (and additional checks whenever you add new downloadable content), and no need to have the disc in the drive after that. Blimey – it’s like being treated with dignity as a customer!

Things do get a bit BioShock with the news that this alternative method means it can be installed on up to three computers, and further authorisation will require a call to EA. However, it does appear that you’ll be able to install it on three separate machines without the disc, which, er, no one point it out.

Many more details in the forum post here

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65 Comments »

  1. Log1c says:

    OH THANK GOD!

  2. Homunculus says:

    [Edit - John picked up on Spore already]. It’s heartwarming to witness forthright consumer debate affect positive change. A one-off activation and then checking on supplemental downloads is much more reasonable, and resembles the Stardock model of handling things. I’d be happy to endorse that sort of DRM model with my money.

  3. Optimaximal says:

    Point of note – it’s not entirely one-time.

    It will still call-home whenever you install DLC – probably to check on people downloading it when they don’t actually have the game.

  4. Acosta says:

    Fantastic attitude from EA, I’m glad they took notice of the issue and gave such a satisfactory answer. I’m perfectly happy with that model.

  5. RobotLiberationArmy says:

    As usual, a torrent (lol) of relentless internet bitching has resulted in…wait, WHAT? They changed it? Wow, good job team internet?

  6. Meat Circus says:

    Yay!

    Meat can buy Spore and Mass Effect again!

    Hooray!

  7. Mark-P says:

    A sudden outbreak of common sense!

    On the other hand, I don’t mind anti-piracy measures that tend towards the draconian, such as this or Bioshock’s, so long as the company legally commits to removing said protection within several years or upon their closure. The ability to throw the install disc in the drive of my PC ten years from now and know I can still play it means the most to me.
    ( Yes, yes I know, Microsoft and their backwards compatability are doing the best to scupper these hopes anyway ¬_¬ )

  8. The_Mhor says:

    Any word on if uninstalling the game frees an activation?

  9. PleasingFungus says:

    Hooray! That sounds actually pretty okay!

    (Good question, Mhor.)

  10. Hypocee says:

    I guess I have to invert my previous comment, then: Looks like EA just cost me ten or twenty more bucks. Curse you, EA!

    That is entirely satisfactory, and I applaud EA. Is this a first, getting planned restriction junk removed before release?

  11. Pidesco says:

    The three installation thing is still in place, though.

  12. Matu says:

    Very well, we may have won a skirmish, but the battle’s far from over. For example, will I be able to install Spore more than trice?

  13. fluffy bunny says:

    This is good. I had no real problems with the previous method, and nothing much has changed (they still require online authentication, and whether this happens once or several times isn’t really that important, IMO). But I am very pleased that they kept the no-cd bit, which was the best thing about this approach in the first place.

  14. Mark says:

    They still have SecuROM. I still don’t know what side effects SecuROM has. It’s good that they listened but does anybody have anything that can verify the rumors of what sorts of things cause false positives for SecuROM?

  15. Kismet says:

    Nice to see EA back in shape: they announced totally absurd requirements, let people vent their anger, scaled down those requirements – “because they listen to their fans” – to the level of those of Bioshock release that pissed off a significant amount of the game customer base and now (almost) everyone’s happy.

    For the next game, I suggest demanding customers’ first-born child. Then announce shortly after a reasonable change to just an activation each 10 days. Ahem.

    Unless they provide a way to free up an installation token and a legally binding statement that they’ll remove the activation system client-side within a reasonable (and explicitly stated) time frame (or they simply go with Steam vanilla DRM system, which is unlikely), Mass Effects remains on shelves and Spore will be eventually bought when it drops under 10€.

  16. dkg says:

    Damn, why’d they fold on this and not Rock Band :(

  17. Astargoth says:

    This changes little. 3 activations still means that few years down the line you will need to kindly ask the good people at EA to let you play the game you payed for.

  18. Hypocee says:

    A little, but that little’s a lot. By then it’ll be cracked. The difference here is between a traditional system that stores the key on the local system and the proposed system that required a 100% reliable server on their end and a 100% reliable Internet connection on the user’s end.

    So no, it’s not perfect – it’s the status quo – but it’s tremendously better than what they had planned.

  19. restricted3 says:

    Good. Now, out with the initial check. And SecuROM. And only THEN it will be peachy.

  20. Rook says:

    I still think the 3 activations (it’s tied to hardware and not installation) is complete bullshit, especially as it’s probably ridiculously trivial to produce a deauthorise tool.

  21. Biscuitry says:

    So we’re more or less back to what Bioshock had. I don’t think this is so bad – Bioshock would have been reasonable if it had, you know, actually worked as advertised. So obviously the jury will remain out until release day, but I’m going to stay optimistic.

  22. xbolt says:

    This course of action is the worst they could POSSIBLY do. The system is now ‘only’ as bad as Bioshock was.

    I was elated, until I saw that the three-install system was still there. I’ve installed/uninstalled a lot of my games way more than three times. I can’t imagine having to go crawling to the publisher every single time, asking permission to play the game I ‘own’. (Unless I can play the game whenever I feel like it, I don’t believe I truly own it.)

    But now that they’ve only gotten rid of the 10-day re-activation, half the fans will go back to the game, and the other half will stand their ground. This split down the middle will mean that there is no chance of EA giving us the number of installs we deserve. (Infinite.)

    Divide and conquer.

  23. Rob says:

    I for one welcome our new slightly-better-than-threatened overlords

  24. MisterBritish says:

    Maybe they’ll completely open it up after the first few (pirate heavy) months like with Bioshock.

    And since when did forum bitching change anything? This is either a PR stunt or Bioware didn’t like it from the off and have been trying to change it.

  25. RIchPowers says:

    Mixed reaction. I welcome the removal of the 10-day checkup. But the three installations maximum is bullshit.

    If Bioshock has taught me anything, however, it’s that I should wait at least a month or two before buying a game with SecuROM so all of the show-stopping bugs can be worked out.

  26. Kadayi says:

    It’s only 3 installs and after that it’s phone verification (a bit like XP was, serial PC upgrader that I was, I did that a few times), not too bad tbh.

  27. redrain85 says:

    EA was testing the waters, to see what they could get away with. At least they were smart enough (in a sense) to announce their plans before release, so there was still time to make a decision and change their plans if need be. Not like 2K who took a “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” attitude toward the protection on Bioshock, and then got hammered for it by their customers and the popular press.

    Once they saw the overwhelmingly negative reaction, some execs at EA no doubt shit a few bricks and quickly decided to make the change.

    Good news, though the three activation limit is still bullshit. Get rid of that as well, and then I think most people would find the copy protection reasonable.

  28. wyrmsine says:

    Kadayi: Still pretty bad, actually. I’d prefer to actually own a game I bought, not have to ask permission to re-install it. I’ve had to call Adobe three times to get CS3 re-authorized following hard crashes at work, and that program costs some billz more than Mass Effect will. Each time they chastise me and tell me that I only have X amount of these activations left before I have to buy another CS3. Y’know, because they won’t let me use the last one I purchased. Somehow I doubt EA will be any more forgiving, and they’ll almost certainly be less efficient.

    Hypocee: Making customers use an illegal crack to (eventually) play the game seems pretty counter-intuitive to the intentions of the security system in the first place.

  29. JonathanStrange says:

    It’s not 3 installations as I understand it but 3 computers, or hardware configurations if you will. When you initially install the game your serial number is assigned to your specific computer, you can then uninstall and re-install on that computer to your hearts delight! However if you try installing the game on more than 3 seperate computers, then you’ll have to call EA much like you have to for XP in order to get more access. Smaller upgrades shouldn’t make any difference, but if you were to say, change the motherboard, that might count as a new system. Atleast that’s what I’ve been lead to believe from the various press release.

    Considering my computers typically last about 5 years with various small upgrades over their lifetimes, that means I wouldn’t have to worry about this till around 15 years down the road, by which point I figure there’ll probably be other things keeping me busy or, presuming I’m still determined to play Mass Effect, another way to get the game working if it even works at all on whatever OS is around then.

  30. caesarbear says:

    Congratulations! A victory for pirates everywhere and even more difficult DRM for legitimate consumers. Well done to all the whiners who live in the dark ages without internet or can’t possibly to bothered to find a free hotspot.

  31. Monkfish says:

    Phrases Monkfish never thought he’d say #274:

    Nicely done, EA.

  32. Robin says:

    Some people really are never satisfied are they?

    Further to JonathanStrange’s sensible comment, I doubt that the keys it dishes out will be tied to specific hardware profiles, just specific Windows installations/registries. But we’ll see, I guess.

  33. Zuffox says:

    Would have fun to see how many protesters would actually have followed through with their bombastic boycotts, though.

  34. Bozzley says:

    If the online activations are mandatory though, will the boxes for each game state a net connection is required before each game can be played? If they’re not, why have them?

  35. Bozzley says:

    Clarification – obviously, I have no internet connection. I represent the billions of people who own PCs and who don’t have access to the internet. Even though I am one of them. Obviously.

  36. Nick says:

    Glad they dropped the 10 day part, but limited activations (can you uninstall then add new hardware then reinstall or what?) is still a bit of a kicker.

  37. ShawnD says:

    this is ridiculous and still not good enough. Limiting installations is ok? Hell no. Paying customers should have the ability to install any time they feel. The original plan was so ridiculous that they had to retract, now EA is acting like they did something good for the community, BS, it was a terrible terrible decision to begin with.

  38. Lukasz says:

    One time activation and then check every time you want to patch it, download extra stuff?

    I have no problem with that whatsoever! Internet is a part of requirement. It is like complaining that crysis doesn’t run on my Geforce7600 with maxed out settings.

    whining actually accomplish something :)

    edit: limited installation do suck though… but not as much as bioshocks. it is three pc so you can install it as many times as you want on one computer. only if you get a new one or change your current one drastically then you will use your quote. So even if you have it on your Laptop and on your desktop it still might take a few years before you have to call.
    still I am not big fan of limited installation. STEAM does it better

  39. Jash says:

    @caesarbear

    Forget it. Just deleted the rant that I spent the last half hour typing for your smug ass. Lets try to be a little more constructive. All of us.

  40. MeestaNob! says:

    @Robin etc
    It’s not based on unique PC configurations but TOTAL successful installations.

    You install on 3 machines, you’ve used your installs up. If you uninstall on 1 of them, you now have 1 install left, and so on.

    It’s not a Windows style ‘locked to a certain PC’ style system, it just keeps count.

    Whilst, YES, it’s not a horrendous imposition, I’m still opposed to it merely because there are some people who have lots of trouble reading these discs with SecuRom, and they never find any real help from publishers when it goes wrong save for heading to the open seas and committing piracy.

  41. malkav11 says:

    It’s good news, but not great news. Great news would be the announcement that they’d dropped SecuROM entirely and gone with something non-consumer-hostile.

    But given that I was okay with it for Bioshock (grudgingly), I might now be willing to buy the PC version of Mass Effect. We’ll see.

  42. Optimaximal says:

    Whilst, YES, it’s not a horrendous imposition, I’m still opposed to it merely because there are some people who have lots of trouble reading these discs with SecuRom, and they never find any real help from publishers when it goes wrong save for heading to the open seas and committing piracy.

    Semantics aside, it’s technically not piracy if they have already bought a copy – whether it’s activated properly or not, EA still have their money.
    Remember, the disc/image is just a distribution method – The cd key is what is worth the money.

    Ofc, if the games downloaded from a torrent tracker, there’s that whole murky water surrounding ‘supply and demand’, but we won’t go there.

  43. Kanakotka says:

    VICTOLY! *dances in circles* Holy damn, EA’s rep just went mile high in my eyes all of a sudden.

  44. theapologist says:

    Personally, I don’t mind anti-piracy hassles but this one seemed to exclude so many legitimate paying customers that it’s good they listened.

    Let’s hope the internet listens to EA in return and doesn’t steal their games…

  45. Fat Zombie says:

    Hurrah! Good news! EA have redeemed themselves in my eyes.
    The 3-computers limit is fine by me, as it is with Bioshock. I was going to buy it anyway, but now the sense of selling out my fellow gamers is diminished! Yay!

    (Also, the people who will still insist on pirating this are fools, and will be sacrificed to Horace)

  46. Crispy says:

    It might be EA testing the waters and then going along with their original plan, it might be a genuine effort to see reason, it might be execs buckling under consumer demand and then adding a little spin to the story “we support our armed forces”, etc.). Nobody can say for sure which it is.

    All I know is that it’s not perfect, but it’s better than it was. It’s actually very similar to the Valve approach, which only lets legitimate owners download new content (this includes patches for bug fixes and so on). If EA can release updates as frequently as Valve does, and keep significant bonus additions for later on, they will severely reduce the incentive to get a cracked version that can’t get patched.

    Like I said in the other thread, it’s time for publishers to see sense and reward legitimate owners for their loyalty, instead of punishing across the board.

  47. Astargoth says:

    Could anyone point out where did any of EA or Bio reps said anything about reusing an instalation credit? From what I can tell you install it on three comnputers and that’s it.

  48. Kadayi says:

    @wyrmsine

    Seems to me with your CS3 problem you need to fire your IT manager then. Where I am we’ve never had a problem like that and we’ve been using Adobe Software for years.

    As for the 3 installs situation I think Jonathan Strange is kind of on the money. It sounds like a similar situation to how Itunes deal with DRM songs. The tunes are tied to your account, and you can run the account on 5 machines max. However you can deauthorize any computer from your 5 listed at any time and authorise others. You just can’t have it on more than 5 machines at once.

  49. Myros says:

    Nice to hear EA reassesed their position on this. Will consider buying the game now, though I will still likely wait a few days after release just to be sure there’s no major problems with the copy-protection scheme anyway.