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Spore: Tales of DRM

Whoa okay, I'm back.   I was taking a little break from posting after getting back from my Icelandic adventure, but now I'm back on the internets and ready to keep posting along.   I know you're out there, internet, clinging onto my every word.   So now I will write about a topic that is very important to me as a gamer.

Spore is a game that has been hyped for... oh, about 100 years now I think.   It comes from the Maxis team of EA (Maxis used to be a company themselves before EA went all pac-man and gobbled them up.) and is lead up by Will Wright, the mastermind behind The Sims, which usually finds it's way to the top 10 PC games sold chart every month.

Spore is another "god game" from Wright, in which players control creatures that they create through different stages of life.   Players witness and play through the cell stage, all the way through the space age which allow players to pack up and explore the galaxy.

Spore actually isn't my kind of game, and I'm not even that interested in it.   So why am I posting about it?   Well, when Spore was released it wasn't met with fireworks, a parade, and free cake from the hungry masses waiting for its arrival.   Instead it was met with harsh criticism for its copy protection system found in the game.

Just take a look at the Amazon page for Spore, and more specifically take a look at the reviews.   Spore sits at a 1.5/5 stars right now.   Pretty ridiculous for a game that was surrounded by waves of rave reviews and positive hype-- so what happened?

Spore's copy protection system follows that of Bioshock's, which was also met with the same criticism.   Basically when a user installs the game on their machine, they have to activate it online.   The servers checking these activations only allow any user to activate their game three times.   Yes, three times.   Now this is the part where I'm probably going to be pretty opinionated.   (Note: EA actually has since loosened its restrictions since I wrote this.)

With this sort of copy protection, it's almost as if paying customers aren't even purchasing the games.   It's more like they're just renting it, or just buying the rights to play the game, and the game companies retain all ownership over the product they just paid for.   If they upgrade your computer at all, there goes an activation.   Reinstall windows, that's an activation.   After three activations of Spore, the user has to call up EA and be granted another activation from their end.   I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one that finds this completely ridiculous.   (What's even more ridiculous is that Spore's original DRM was going to be requiring an online authentication every 10 days, and the fans lashed out against that as well.)

The severity of this situation comes from the fact that the PC gaming market is a very fragile place currently.   Consoles have taken a big chunk of the PC gaming market, and games like the Sims do very well, while games like Unreal Tournament 3 don't do so hot (but that's another story.)   PC gaming has become a niche market, as opposed to the huge and open one it was back when Quake and Doom were around.   PC gamers demand the best out of the few good games they get, and putting aggressive DRM in your product isn't going to win them over.

The point is when companies introduce DRM like this into their products, they are only punishing the paying customer.   Pirates have been working their way around copyright protection for years now, and I don't think any technology at this point is going to put an end to that.   Right now you can download a complete DVD copy of Spore, install it on your PC, and not worry about any DRM.   So the situation becomes worse because of the more aggressive copy protection.   In the end the pirates are actually providing a better product than EA, so more and more people are going to sway toward downloading the pirated version instead of buying the retail version that's up to it's eyes in DRM.

To me, this is as ridiculous as the DRM itself.   People pirating this game in mass numbers mean that they actually trust the internet pirates more than they trust the company making the game.   They download the game and install it without any second thoughts, but if they're purchasing the game they're worried about the DRM and any effects it will have on their experience, and their PCs.

The counter argument for this is just that pirates are pirates, and they're going to steal games and download games for free as long as they can no matter what the copyright protection.   Maybe pirates just plain don't want to pay money for their games at all.   There's no denying that probably a good chunk of the pirates out there are going to keep on pirating no matter what, but I do believe that at least some out there are downloading the game because they want to actually own the game and not have to ask permission from EA to activate a product that they already dropped 50 or 60 dollars on.

Piracy as always been around, and is even beginning to run its course on current consoles, and it always seems like a delicate balance to try to stomp it out when releasing a retail game.   If you put too much copy protection in a game, there will be massive backlash, causing more piracy, but if you put too little, perhaps people will pirate the game more easily and you'll be stuck with the same amount of piracy.   There are some companies that trust in their customers enough to release their game with minimal copy protection, and get the same (if not, better) results than they would've gotten with over the top copy protection.   It's up to each company to decide how they're going to go about things, and maybe with EA it's a special situation.

EA is a company that everyone loves to hate.   It's a corporate giant that has eaten up small companies to get to be what it is today.   People are just looking for a reason to hate EA, so maybe that's why there has been massive backlash against them for this, but the backlash against Bioshock didn't really last that long, and wasn't as intense.   (At least from what I remember)

Whatever the reasons, I can safely say that buying Spore isn't on my list of things to do.   It's not really my kind of game, and I probably wouldn't play it that much anyway, but I'm one of those people in this case that would trust the pirates before I trust super aggressive DRM.   The paying customers have to deal with the activation limits, while the pirates have their game for free and can install it on any PC they want, and not have to worry about a thing.

Now I hear that Red Alert 3 is going to have the same DRM built in... this isn't going to be good.
Tagged: games
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Hey man! Imagine seeing you here. I got linked to here from gamertonight.net, didn't know you had a hand in that...
Greeting. It is never too late to give up our prejudices.
I am from Equatorial and learning to write in English,...
That is insane. Congrats!
Josh Whelchel
shhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiittt GIANT ROBOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's finally done! Good job DarthMohawk! Too bad I finished the game already... Thanks to your advice. :D
Hack SW



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