Spore and DRM


in Economics, Geek stuff, Internet matters, Rants

One of the most talked about aspects of the computer game Spore is the digital rights management (DRM) software being used to prevent unauthorized copying. The SecureROM software restricts each copy to being installed on a maximum of 3 computers. Beyond that, you can call Electronic Arts and beg them to let you install it more times. Given that hardware upgrades can make your computer count as a ‘new’ one, this might happen to a lot of people.

As DRM software goes, this really isn’t that bad. It doesn’t run an annoying program in the background, like the awful Steam system that accompanied Half Life 2. It also lets you play the game without the DVD inserted.

Arguably, the key to this issue is the following: somebody is always going to crack the DRM and release pirated copies of the game without it online. As such, DRM does not stop unauthorized copying, but does inconvenience the people who actually shell out the money for the game. As such, DRM is both useless and unfair to legitimate customers. As the Sony DRM debacle demonstrates, it can also open massive security holes on the computers of those who run it.

P.S. I will write a full review of Spore once I finish it. My first impressions are quite positive. One major suggestion to anyone trying it: play a very aggressive species for the first four stages (basically winning by killing everyone). Then, start a new game at the space stage with a blank state species. If you bring your hyper-aggressive species out into the galaxy, you will spend all of your time manually defending each of your planets from attack. It is infinitely less frustrating to build an empire based on trade and teraforming, earn lots of badges, make alliances, buy some awesome weapons, and then start busting people up if desired.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

. September 16, 2008 at 2:14 am

The biggest thing is that the copy protection prevents you from taking your saved games and playing on a friends PC (which was activated under a different serial)
This is openly hostile to their customers and an unbelievably stupid move.

BuddyRich September 16, 2008 at 6:32 am

The DRM limits you to three “activations”. So basically three installs, before the CD-KEY is no good.

In effect what they did was go from an “onwership” model to a rental/lease model, the holy grail for most software businesses…

What EA and Maxis did was kill the resale and rental market for their games. It really didn’t stop piracy, as Spore is already the most pirated game of 2008, having been downloaded over 500000 times on bittorrent.


. September 20, 2008 at 3:42 pm

EA Patches Spore, Eases DRM

EA has released the first patch for Spore, the purpose of which is to fix a number of bugs and tweak some gameplay settings to be more entertaining. Some of the visual effects were upgraded as well. They’ve also officially responded to the complaints about Spore’s DRM, stating their intention to increase the number of allowed installations to five and to set up a system to “de-authorize” systems in order to reclaim the installation credit. They plan to allow multiple screen names per account, which was an issue for many families trying to play the game. This comes not long after EA made similar changes to the DRM of upcoming RTS Red Alert 3, and after Spore’s DRM protest spread to in-game creature designs. Reader SoopahMan notes that users in EA’s Spore tech support forum are reporting a number of new issues caused by the patch.

. September 27, 2008 at 11:16 am

Wal*Mart shutting down DRM server, nuking your music collection — only people who pay for music risk losing it to DRM shenanigans

But don’t worry, this will never ever happen to all those other DRM companies — unlike little fly-by-night mom-and-pop operations like Wal*Mart, the DRM companies are rock-ribbed veterans of commerce and industry, sure to be here for a thousand years. So go on buying your Audible books, your iTunes DRM songs, your Zune media, your EA games… None of these companies will ever disappear, nor will the third-party DRM suppliers they use. They are as solid and permanent as Commodore, Atari, the Soviet Union, the American credit system and the Roman Empire.

. September 29, 2008 at 8:36 pm

not enough hours in the day
Monday, Sep 29 2008

In gaming news, which seems to be the only gaming related activity that I have time for these days, I read an interesting article today concerning the issue of DRM and online games. In the wake of amazon.com’s controversial decision to delete negative reviews of EA’s Spore that criticized the limited activation system of the new PC release which gives three lifetime activations of the game before you have to call EA and request a new key. 1000’s of one star reviews were removed by the online distributor, who attributed the deletions to “a glitch”. The reviews have since been restored on the site. On a side note, Penny Arcade has released a recent set of cartoons detailing The Origins of the CD-Keys.

. April 1, 2009 at 10:35 am

Electronic Arts releases DRM-removal tool
Posted by Cory Doctorow, March 31, 2009 4:30 PM

Electronic Arts has released a de-activation tool for removing the SecuRom digital rights management that the company earlier deployed on several of its games. SecuROM is known as the most Draconian DRM tool for games, apt to screw u your computer and harm your ability to play the games you bought. It’s also entirely ineffective against piracy: Spore, the SecuROM-crippled game released to much fanfare in 2008, was also the most pirated game of 2008. It seems like the decision was driven by the massive, global negative publicity that SecuROM attracted, and by the rumblings from the FTC about regulating DRM.

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