EA Continues Draconian DRM Policies - General DRM Discussion (Thread Title Change)

Ulairi wrote:
Am I the only one who really doesn't have a problem with DRM unless it has some negative effect on my machine? They have to protect their IP, and really, how often do you uninstall a game or put i on a 5 unique machines?

Personally, I prefer this type of DRM. I installed Mass Effect and Spore both on my laptop and home computer, and after both doing a 5 second online activation, I can play both at my leisure without even having the disc in my drive.

I like how someone mentioned there are not many products that you have to ask the company to activate for you once you've already purchased it.

Imagine if buying cars, houses, groceries, or anything else was like this. Ok, this is technically a digital good, so it doesn't apply? Except that the average consumer doesn't care about the lack of physical resources it takes to actually distribute software, they just know that they paid money for it and want to use it.

In the meantime, piracy continues. Who is DRM stopping? I'd like to have an answer to this question -

Is DRM driving away more customers than it is from preventing pirates from stealing the game? Since piracy is ongoing in the industry, what I mean specifically is not that it stops piracy, but how many people who attempted to pirate a game simply gave up because of DRM versus the number of customers who opted to not purchase a game because of DRM.

Even iTunes is turning away from DRM. Amazon is offering MP3's without DRM. Everything seems to indicate it's a dismal failure.

What is irresponsible is engaging in a business practice that ultimately hurts sales. If your product becomes undesirable to paying customers then it doesn't matter if you stop piracy. Not to mention, uh, piracy seems to be alive and well in the face of DRM.

I don't know about hassle-free piracy, actually. It is definetily true any game will be pirated, but hassle-free access?

I'm pretty sure my non-techy gf could install and play a legit Spore on her own, but I seriously doubt she'd be able to find a Torrent Spore, download, install and play it without anyone helping her out. My guess would be that more than 90% of the market is covered by regular DRM (not being able to copy the original cd with Nero Express + needing the cd in the tray). I'd guess this DRM is to avoid one person buying a copy for him and all his friends - something I often did in less comfortable financial times Also: patching a pirated game is no fun either. Maybe releasing buggy games is a game publisher conspiracy to make piracy more difficult

All that said, I still find it extremely humiliating to know that equally-tech savvy pirates get all the fun while I may have to call customer support to use something I bloody paid for.

I will concede the point that this iteration of DRM was a poor business decision and will effect my decision to further invest in ERTS. But the question arises in my mind why is there such and uproar about a company attempting (in any fashion) to protect its assets, while the pirates get no attention what so ever?

It is passed off casually and appears to me it is looked upon acceptable behavior to pirate the software. If my work was being stolen and no one seemed to care to stop it I would do everything in my power to insure that it was not stolen.

kuddles wrote:
Ulairi wrote:
Am I the only one who really doesn't have a problem with DRM unless it has some negative effect on my machine? They have to protect their IP, and really, how often do you uninstall a game or put i on a 5 unique machines?

Personally, I prefer this type of DRM. I installed Mass Effect and Spore both on my laptop and home computer, and after both doing a 5 second online activation, I can play both at my leisure without even having the disc in my drive.

I'm with you guys. I like it too. Huh.

Regarding Steam: don't forget that the Steam version of Bioshock still was saddled with Securom and a limited number of activations in addition to the Valve DRM. I would fully expect EA to follow in those footsteps.

I tend to fall in line with rabbit at this point, because I never even noticed the Spore DRM. If you hadn't told me it was there, I never would have knew it existed. Will I be annoyed if someday I need to call EA to activate? Sure. Is it likely I'll ever have the need? No.

It seems to me that in the post-Starforce world where DRM is tying itself more to activation rather than invasive, local programs that mess things up, we're seeing a bit more distance between the philosophical opposition to DRM and the reality of how much it's really going to affect the common gamer.

I'm all for opposing it and letting companies know it's not a good thing to do. But I won't personally be lighting any torches unless it becomes a practical issue that has a negative effect on a large amount of people.

It's also worth keeping in mind that EA is likely more interested in curtailing casual swapping of retail discs between friends than preventing pirates from downloading the game. I have a hard to believing any company thinks they can do more than possibly slow down the pirate release for a day or two with DRM.

Botswana wrote:
Imagine if buying cars, houses, groceries, or anything else was like this.

If anyone could replicate a car for free, maybe they would be like this.

WiredAsylum wrote:
I will concede the point that this iteration of DRM was a poor business decision and will effect my decision to further invest in ERTS. But the question arises in my mind why is there such and uproar about a company attempting (in any fashion) to protect its assets, while the pirates get no attention what so ever?

It is passed off casually and appears to me it is looked upon acceptable behavior to pirate the software. If my work was being stolen and no one seemed to care to stop it I would do everything in my power to insure that it was not stolen.

It is considered acceptable to pirate the software because almost everyone has done it at some point among the enthusiast PC gaming crowd. Ironically most people I know have done it simply to get a game they bought working without copy protection.

And the uproar is mainly because their implementation sucks. Yes there's lots of people who think there shouldn't be install activation at all, but the main thrust of the complaint comes from the fact that people aren't in charge of their authorizations. You know, the thing they plopped down the $50 for, the right to play the game. When you pay $50 for something, then find out after the fact it's got hidden terms and conditions that are likely to be constricting over the life of the product, and oh yeah you can't return it, it's kind of a screw job.

Let's also keep in mind most gamers aren't like the GWJ crowd and do play games for more than a week, especially a game with replay value like Spore, it's going to be getting at least occasional play for a good year or two for most people.

If they had just included a notice saying "hey we're only going to let you do 3 installs at a time, and by the way here's how you control which machines are authorized" then it wouldn't really have been an issue.

The primary problem is not having control over what you paid for.

Will I be annoyed if someday I need to call EA to activate? Sure. Is it likely I'll ever have the need? No.
Again, keep in mind, the average gamer has a few games they enjoy playing and they play them for a year or two before getting tired of them. Especially something aimed at the casual crowd like Spore. You're not exactly the typical use case here

Moving away from PC games will move the pirates to new platforms.
Piracy will not stop.
The biggest thing I could see here is publishers controlling pre-release code.
Yes it can get stolen(HL2), but that is what is going to kill revenue.

NSMike and Pyro, I see what you guys are saying and I can not say I agree 100% with you guys or that I am sold on DRM free but I do see the alternative points at this time.

One more reason why I enjoy GWJ we can have discussions like this with out the BS.

me wrote:
I'd guess this DRM is to avoid one person buying a copy for him and all his friends - something I often did in less comfortable financial times

Certis wrote:
It's also worth keeping in mind that EA is likely more interested in curtailing casual swapping of retail discs between friends than preventing pirates from downloading the game.

You know, the moderators of this beautiful place really frown upon skimmers. Let's both hope they 'skim' over this one, shall we?

Pirates are not the primary focus here because piracy is inevitable. Also, no one trusts the piracy reports released by developers and publishers, because it is in their best interests to inflate those numbers as much as possible (and they do, at every turn, especially when they assert that every pirated copy is a lost sale). Some folks consider it an acceptable practice because they consider it a protest against an unjust practice. Personally, I like the idea of using the review system to protest more than piracy.

As someone who pays for his games, my only option now is boycott, or live with it. Piracy essentially eclipses my boycott, and game publishers put blinders on to anything BUT piracy, and nothing gets solved. Piracy is passed off as a subject amongst all of this because it's such a familiar subject, and aside from stopping to make games, movies, music, etc., there is no effective tactic against it in this digital world. As such, it's one of many costs of doing business.

As I said, with DRM solutions out there that are elegant and even popular, like Steam, there's no excuse for the SecuROM totalitarianism.

Ask any brick-and-mortar retailier: if someone really wants to steal something, they'll get it. Casual shoplifters are occasionally stopped by those detectors at the entrances, but take a look around the store and see what is protected by that kind of system: items that are easily stolen and worth a good amount of money. Retailers don't bother otherwise because it's more expensive to protect against ALL theft than it is to just let the shoplifter walk out with certain merchandise. And businesses operate with the assumption that there will be losses. It's part of the cost of doing business. Plus, those anti-shoplifting systems are used primarily as a deterrent (this is evident in the fact that the really expensive items, even with the anti-theft tags on them, are locked up). Even if the alarm goes off, there's usually no one there to stop you physically, and you can ignore verbal orders all you want. Once you're out of the store, they can't legally touch you.

On a point of clarification, piracy also isn't an equivalent to theft. It's arguably worse, but ultimately theft is when something is taken, and the original owner no longer has it. Piracy copies and distributes.

PyromanFO wrote:
Will I be annoyed if someday I need to call EA to activate? Sure. Is it likely I'll ever have the need? No.
Again, keep in mind, the average gamer has a few games they enjoy playing and they play them for a year or two before getting tired of them. Especially something aimed at the casual crowd like Spore. You're not exactly the typical use case here ;)

I'm willing to admit that the activation limit is kind of lame. However, if what Securom did with BioShock is any indication, I'm confident by the time I need a fourth activation, the limit has been removed anyways.

It's also worth keeping in mind that EA is likely more interested in curtailing casual swapping of retail discs between friends than preventing pirates from downloading the game.

I would point out that this practice has a similar allure to pirates as straight-up piracy does, in that because they CAN get it for free, they will, rather than it being a truly lost sale. If casual piracy is prevented by DRM, it likely means that someone who wouldn't buy the game in the first place simply doesn't get access to it. In those cases, it's not preventing any loss, and in cases where casual disc-swapping is not permitted, it's likely that if the person is truly interested in the game, but not interested in, or not capable of, paying for it will either turn to direct piracy or do without. This practice is not generating sales for them.

kuddles wrote:
PyromanFO wrote:
Will I be annoyed if someday I need to call EA to activate? Sure. Is it likely I'll ever have the need? No.
Again, keep in mind, the average gamer has a few games they enjoy playing and they play them for a year or two before getting tired of them. Especially something aimed at the casual crowd like Spore. You're not exactly the typical use case here ;)

I'm willing to admit that the activation limit is kind of lame. However, if what Securom did with BioShock is any indication, I'm confident by the time I need a fourth activation, the limit has been removed anyways.
Until EA states they have intentions of doing this for all their activation limit titles, it's not a defense. I paid for a game I will have to beg them to play in a few months time, and I had no warning of this beforehand. I'd much rather them just give me the damn keys, but I'd even accept "we're only going to do this for the first 6 months, then lower the price and/or remove the DRM". I'm fine with that as well. It's never going to happen though.

It's a pity we're discussing this in the context of Spore, which has an online component that will become as important to some players as the main game.

EA had an opportunity here to use Spore as an example - if the game is a platform for user-developed content as they say, just force users to log in using a game code in order to access or create content, and otherwise allow them to play the game in peace?

The real rubber meets the road in respect to a purely single-player game that requires no multiplayer or online access. In that hypothetical single-player game, there would be no need to log in online to enjoy the full experience. Thus DRM becomes a serious question of protecting shareholder value.

ps. In a hurry, grammar is bad. Yes, English is my first language

I'd even accept "we're only going to do this for the first 6 months, then lower the price and/or remove the DRM". I'm fine with that as well. It's never going to happen though.

How can you, or anyone be sure of that? Bioshock removed this type of DRM, as kuddles stated, I remember Unreal Tournament patching out cd checks, so it's not really unprecedented. Regarding the probable motive for this type of DRM, avoiding one guy buying one copy for him and all his friends, this would make the DRM obsolete once the must-get-it-now hype blows over. By that point, it would be much cheaper to patch it out than to pay for the overhead costs of people calling customer service for activation.

Testimonies of people actually having real instead of hypothetical trouble with this DRM scheme would be more convincing.

You know, the moderators of this beautiful place really frown upon skimmers. Let's both hope they 'skim' over this one, shall we?



I don't moderate skimmers, I mock them. Ohhh ... I see what you did there.
PyromanFO wrote:
Will I be annoyed if someday I need to call EA to activate? Sure. Is it likely I'll ever have the need? No.
Again, keep in mind, the average gamer has a few games they enjoy playing and they play them for a year or two before getting tired of them. Especially something aimed at the casual crowd like Spore. You're not exactly the typical use case here ;)
PyromanFO wrote:
It is considered acceptable to pirate the software because almost everyone has done it at some point among the enthusiast PC gaming crowd. Ironically most people I know have done it simply to get a game they bought working without copy protection

In the course of your arguments (which I think are clear and well thought out) you make a number of assumptions about the motivations and actions of a large group of people. It's just as easy to say that the "average" gamer who only buys a couple games a year rarely upgrades their computer or uninstalls anything. So the activation would effectively be a non-issue for them too. I don't think either point takes us very far because we simply do not know the truth of where the ratio lies.

Same goes for "most of the people you know" pirating games they already bought. You must live among Techo-Saints, because I have a hard time believing more than a small minority cracks games they bought. My assumption is most people download games because they don't want to pay for them.

dejanzie wrote:
I'd even accept "we're only going to do this for the first 6 months, then lower the price and/or remove the DRM". I'm fine with that as well. It's never going to happen though.

How can you, or anyone be sure of that? Bioshock removed this type of DRM, as kuddles stated, I remember Unreal Tournament patching out cd checks, so it's not really unprecedented. Regarding the probable motive for this type of DRM, avoiding one guy buying one copy for him and all his friends, this would make the DRM obsolete once the must-get-it-now hype blows over. By that point, it would be much cheaper to patch it out than to pay for the overhead costs of people calling customer service for activation.

Testimonies of people actually having real instead of hypothetical trouble with this DRM scheme would be more convincing.

I actually meant that they'll never come out and actually say this. Which is really my point, it's a good thing to take that out later, sure, but they can never say this up front for fear of affecting sales. And without saying this up front, it's still kind of just wishful thinking that they'll take care of us 6 months down the road after all profit motive is gone.

Perhaps that's the key to non-assy DRM. If they planned to have it patched out of the game completely after some amount of time well after the hype and sales for the game have gone down then it would still do its job of molesting your friends and family or whatever it's supposed to do, but by the time you had to reinstall it for the 15th time, it's gone. Congratulations, you finally own your game and it will no longer kidnap your money, spend all your house and burn down your children. EA could be all, "You know, in sixth months our game won't position Russian satellites over your house to spy on you anymore, so shut up and enjoy the game already." And then, this being the internet, nobody would shut up ever. But at least the rest of us could be secure in our knowledge that we will always be able to make penis monsters on any number of machines, well into our final days before we die.

Kuddles, you're a genius.

WiredAsylum wrote:
Ulairi wrote:
Am I the only one who really doesn't have a problem with DRM unless it has some negative effect on my machine? They have to protect their IP, and really, how often do you uninstall a game or put i on a 5 unique machines?

No you are not the only one. I honestly do not give a sh*t. It would be irresponsible for any company to not include DRM.

Excuse me if i find that completely unsurprising. You have a conflict of interests in stating the above. That's like saying you disagree with lowering oil prices because you're a stakeholder in the oil cartels. Your opinion in this case is void - just as it is for employees of GWJ to enter the prize draw on the front page - because of your involvement. There is no loss to you for the inclusion of DRM. You have your apple and eat it, let the rest of the world eat s***t.

Sorry for the strong sentiment but your posts make me angry. I'm sure as a consumer in other markets you would be against whatever arbitrary consumer limitations that are imposed that provide no net benefit to either the company or youself.

Back on topic:

I had RA3 pre-ordered but as soon as i read the first article on Ars the other day i immediately cancelled it. I'm not paying full price to rent a game. Nor do i buy the calls of people who say it's not a hassle. Just because something is invisible at the moment doesn't make it less of a hassle at some point - the proverbial sword of damocles hangs above every purchase of a game with activation DRM (i'm differentiating historically disk-based DRM here) because it is IN THE INTEREST OF THE PUBLISHER to not allow the consumer to use the game over an extended time frame because it pushes them onto the new products. I've seen EA and other companies shut down PS2 online servers for games that are less and two years old. What's to stop them doing that for the costly activation servers for these games? What happens when they are overloaded upon release? What happens when customer support is compromised when it is in conflict with the DRM scheme?

Invasive, activation DRM is bad for consumers and there is no two ways about it.

Certis wrote:
It seems to me that in the post-Starforce world where DRM is tying itself more to activation rather than invasive, local programs that mess things up, we're seeing a bit more distance between the philosophical opposition to DRM and the reality of how much it's really going to affect the common gamer.

I'm all for opposing it and letting companies know it's not a good thing to do. But I won't personally be lighting any torches unless it becomes a practical issue that has a negative effect on a large amount of people.

So you are making an arbitrary distinction between an immediate problem and one that lies somewhere down the line. Just because there's a time difference does that make the problem any less real? Complaining about a possible issue at the point of release (or before) that will appear only after the product has been released for some time is the only logical recourse. Complaining about it at the point of the possible problem rearing its head will have no effect on company policy. It will cost them nothing in sales.

Certis wrote:
PyromanFO wrote:
Will I be annoyed if someday I need to call EA to activate? Sure. Is it likely I'll ever have the need? No.
Again, keep in mind, the average gamer has a few games they enjoy playing and they play them for a year or two before getting tired of them. Especially something aimed at the casual crowd like Spore. You're not exactly the typical use case here ;)
PyromanFO wrote:
It is considered acceptable to pirate the software because almost everyone has done it at some point among the enthusiast PC gaming crowd. Ironically most people I know have done it simply to get a game they bought working without copy protection

In the course of your arguments (which I think are clear and well thought out) you make a number of assumptions about the motivations and actions of a large group of people. It's just as easy to say that the "average" gamer who only buys a couple games a year rarely upgrades their computer or uninstalls anything. So the activation would effectively be a non-issue for them too. I don't think either point takes us very far because we simply do not know the truth of where the ratio lies.
It's a fair point. I just don't like dismissing all the complainers out of hand as whiners. There are many people this will legitimately affect, and considering the legs on Spore it will probably affect me at some point.

Same goes for "most of the people you know" pirating games they already bought. You must live among Techo-Saints, because I have a hard time believing more than a small minority cracks games they bought. My assumption is most people download games because they don't want to pay for them.
Most was probably a poor choice of words, I mean I know more than a small minority who have had to crack or pirate a game they paid for. Several people in this thread and the Spore thread in fact. I've had to do it.

Oh, and I just realized, aside from paying for a SecuROM license, staffing people to develop and maintain it, and paying for authentication servers, customer support time for EA will go to folks calling in for additional licenses, increasing DRM overhead. It doesn't make business sense to me that they're tacking on all of this extra cost for a supposed profit that they can't actually measure. It's not like you can expect consistent sales in these markets. Like movies, video games blame piracy right off the bat if sales are poor, and if sales are good, it's because they've pulled off some remarkable victory over piracy that doesn't actually exist. There's no real way to determine if DRM really increased your sales, and if those increased sales paid for the cost of the protection. It's especially evident with Spore that the DRM certainly didn't even get a chance to pay for itself.

MechaSlinky wrote:

Kuddles, you're a genius.

Bioshock still has to access the activation servers. They just always return a 'positive'. If the servers are taken offline without a patch - one that would require time and resources on a game that would not have made money for some time - i doubt a fresh install would work.

UT and Quake 3 are the only games i know of where there is no activation (though you cannot play online with multiple CD keys AFAIK) and no CD-check. Are there any more like this? Gal Civ 2 comes close but you need CD key for updates... not sure about Sins of a Solar Empire.

WiredAsylum wrote:
Is there any way to stop or diminish day 1 piracy and turn those people in customers?

I, making an assumption, understand that to be ultimate goal.

Probably not completely.. but current DRM certainly diminishes some casual piracy... probably not the extent the publishers want but it probably helps a bit. Certainly its an extremely difficult number to gauge. Blizzard probably knows between the online component and the fact that people have such high demand for their titles that they can be far more lenient with what kind of DRM they employ on Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2. Other titles from other publishers/developers enjoy far less luxury (at similar development costs) thus the DRM.

Is there any way to stop or diminish day 1 piracy and turn those people in customers?

I, making an assumption, understand that to be ultimate goal.

Duoae wrote:
WiredAsylum wrote:
Ulairi wrote:
Am I the only one who really doesn't have a problem with DRM unless it has some negative effect on my machine? They have to protect their IP, and really, how often do you uninstall a game or put i on a 5 unique machines?

No you are not the only one. I honestly do not give a sh*t. It would be irresponsible for any company to not include DRM.

Excuse me if i find that completely unsurprising. You have a conflict of interests in stating the above. That's like saying you disagree with lowering oil prices because you're a stakeholder in the oil cartels. Your opinion in this case is void - just as it is for employees of GWJ to enter the prize draw on the front page - because of your involvement. There is no loss to you for the inclusion of DRM. You have your apple and eat it, let the rest of the world eat s***t.

Sorry for the strong sentiment but your posts make me angry. I'm sure as a consumer in other markets you would be against whatever arbitrary consumer limitations that are imposed that provide no net benefit to either the company or youself.

I am a member of this community and a gamer. Because my investment portfolio contains ERTS I am no longer entitled to an opinion?

nsmike wrote:
Oh, and I just realized, aside from paying for a SecuROM license, staffing people to develop and maintain it, and paying for authentication servers, customer support time for EA will go to folks calling in for additional licenses, increasing DRM overhead. It doesn't make business sense to me that they're tacking on all of this extra cost for a supposed profit that they can't actually measure. It's not like you can expect consistent sales in these markets. Like movies, video games blame piracy right off the bat if sales are poor, and if sales are good, it's because they've pulled off some remarkable victory over piracy that doesn't actually exist. There's no real way to determine if DRM really increased your sales, and if those increased sales paid for the cost of the protection. It's especially evident with Spore that the DRM certainly didn't even get a chance to pay for itself.

Not to mention that each title is a new case and sales numbers cannot be directly linked to any other title previously released due to the subjective nature of consuming media.

Jeez this thread really blew up. I am on the side where I did not notice the DRM at all during the install process. I don't see my hard drive dieing and I doubt I will install it 5 times in a matter of months. So it is a little annoying because it's in the back of my head but it is in no way effecting my time with Spore.

If this is anything like Bioshock the install amounts will be lifted after a couple of months.

EvilDead wrote:
Ulairi wrote:
Am I the only one who really doesn't have a problem with DRM unless it has some negative effect on my machine? They have to protect their IP, and really, how often do you uninstall a game or put i on a 5 unique machines?

I uninstall games that I haven't played for a couple months. I try to keep at least 30% free space on my HD to keep its speed optimal.

Ditto.

And as for the "put up or shut up" comments about those who complain and buy anyway, I'm not buying the game specifically due to the DRM. This is one of the few times that DRM is keeping me away from a game I'm genuinely interested in. I had to stop reading the catch-all thread because I don't need to know what I'm missing.