Electronic Arts still doesn’t get it. Responds to DRM controversy in “Spore.”

On the one hand I suppose I should be impressed that Electronic Arts bothered to respond to all the complaints about the SecuROM DRM at all, but the responses they gave to MTV Multiplayer show they still don’t get it:

Complaint: A legitimately bought copy of “Spore” can’t be activated on more than three different computers — ever.

EA Response: That will be changed, according to the EA spokesperson, who told Multiplayer that the current limit on the number of computers that can be associated with a single copy of “Spore” is “very similar to a solution that iTunes has. The difference is that with iTunes you can de-authorize a computer [that you no longer want associated with your iTunes content]. Right now, with our solution, you can’t. But there is a patch coming for that.” The official timeframe for that patch is “near future.”

*Some stats regarding this issue — EA provided Multiplayer with updated information indicating that it is rare for consumers to perform installations of recent EA PC games on more than one PC, let alone three

They then go on to show that the vast majority of purchases of Mass Effect, Spore Creature Creator, and Spore are only authenticated on one PC and very few ever do three PCs. However this completely misses the point. Very few of us are worried about being able to use Spore, or any other SecuROM protected title, on more than one PC as much as what happens after the third restage or upgrade causes us to hit the three install limit. Yes we can call EA and request a new license and perhaps it’s as easy as pie to do, but we shouldn’t have to do that. I don’t have to do it with Red Alert 2, but I will if I buy Red Alert 3 and there’s no valid justification as to why. It doesn’t stop the pirates in any way as they had Spore five days before it was available in stores.

If your restrictions don’t actually prevent piracy then all they do is inconvenience legitimate customers. If you continue to insist on them after a game has already been broken then I can only assume there is an unstated ulterior motive for requiring the online activation and install limit. My guess would be A) to gather usage information and B) try to squeeze extra sales out of gamer families. The latter of which is likely to purchase multiple copies of the game anyway.

Complaint: Consumers fear there is spyware being installed by the SecurROM copy-protection software incorporated into the game.

EA Response: “There’s no viruses, no spyware and no malware…We have located a download off of one of the Torrent sites that is a virus. The thing I would say to the consumer audience is that, if you’re concerned with a virus on your computer, the chances of that are infinitely higher when you’re downloading off of a hacked version than it would be downloading the authentic game. We would never put any spyware on anyone’s computers. That’s not going to happen.”

This falls to address exactly what it is SecuROM is phoning home about, which it is known to do. Exactly what information is it gathering and sending off across the net? If you refuse to tell us then it’s exactly like Spyware in terms of spying on us without revealing what info it’s communicating. If SecuROM interferes with the operation of legitimate software and hardware, which it has also been known to do, then it also fits the definition of Malware.

Pretty much everyone knows that downloading a hacked copy is risky, but there’s plenty of virus-free hacked copies that don’t spy on folks out there for the taking. The response also assumes that people who don’t buy the legit version will turn to the hacked copy and that’s not necessarily the case. A lot of us will just refuse to buy the game costing you sales because we don’t appreciate being treated like criminals.

Complaint: The “Spore” instruction manual claims that a purchaser of “Spore” can allow multiple users to create online accounts with a single copy of the game. The game does not allow this.

EA Response: The company has already stated this is a misprint in the manual and referred Multiplayer back to a statement issued by “Spore” executive producer Lucy Bradshaw apologizing for “the confusion.” But EA has not replied to Multiplayer follow-up questions regarding why the company implemented this restriction and what EA makes of complaints from households that include multiple people who want to have separate “Spore” accounts associated with a single copy of the game.

Of all the issues raised, this one is probably the lowest concern of most of the complainers, but I can see how it would affect households who only have one PC. It’s telling that EA would choose to address this over some of the more substantial complaints. It also says a lot about the restrictive nature of SecuROM that they had to drop this feature as a result.

Complaint: The requirement for a “Spore” user to have their ownership of the game automatically authenticated every time they access the game’s online features threatens to render the game useless if EA someday turns the “Spore” servers off.

EA Response: “If we were to ever turn off the servers on the game, we would put through a patch before that to basically make the DRM null and void. We’re never walking away from the game and making it into a situation where people aren’t going to be able to play it.”

At last they finally address one of the more meatier complaints. It’s great to hear that they’ll patch the game to remove the DRM if they should ever decide to walk away from it, but the pirates don’t have to worry about that right now. My response to EA is this: Good. Call me when you decide to release that patch and I’ll consider picking up a copy of the game. It’ll probably be quite cheap by that point in time and you’ll likely never see the revenue because it’ll probably be a second-hand sale so you still lose out on getting my money.

Here’s the part, however, that shows just how much Electronic Arts doesn’t get it:

The bottom line shared to me by EA spokesperson Mariam Sughayer today is that “EA has no intentions — nor will they ever — to make it easier for people to play a pirated game… than to play an authentic retail copy.”

You’ve already lost that battle. Legit purchasers of Spore must authenticate the game online at least once before they can play it, the cracked copy doesn’t require authentication, legit owners have an install limit of three PCs max, the cracked copy doesn’t, legit customers may lose the use of legitimate and legal software and hardware on their PCs thanks to SecuROM, the cracked copy doesn’t interfere, legit owners will have to run a special application to “de-authorize” their PCs when they hit the three install limit or they have to call EA and be interrogated by a helpful customer service rep, the cracked copy doesn’t require that, legit customers have to hope EA keeps their promise to release a patch to remove the DRM should they decide to no longer support the game, the cracked copy doesn’t have any such concerns.

Explain to me how it’s not easier to play a pirated game than an authentic retail copy? Better yet, explain to me why I should pay $50 to be treated like a criminal when your DRM doesn’t stop the pirates from getting the game five days before it was officially released?

8 thoughts on “Electronic Arts still doesn’t get it. Responds to DRM controversy in “Spore.”

  1. I don’t think it concerns them at all,  it’s their legal spyware, and they want to know if you own child porn.

  2. I think it could be about the illusion of security, rather than security itself – there’s a group of people who will hear about the DRM (maybe when buying the game), assume that it’s unhackable and cough up for a legit copy. I can’t see that group being very big myself, especially with hacked version being mentioned in the media every time their DRM is, but maybe EA disagrees?

    As an irrelevant aside: “downloading off of a hacked version”? Don’t you need language skills to be in PR any more?

  3. I’m not even convinced that the primary objective of DRM is to curb piracy. It’s obvious that DRM is but a minor irritation to pirates and the game publishers know this. Which leaves me to suspect that it’s the thin edge of the wedge in the battle for the rate payer’s PCs. Sooner or later, the game publishers will push towards an outright rental system—pay monthly or per-activation fees.

    I’m actually surprised that EA hasn’t offered discounted re-activation fees…

  4. It has been mentioned before on various threads and boards. This DRM is primarily meant to kill resale of a game. EA is the most vocal opponent of these sales.

    EA has always been disconnected from their consumers. They have never acted in the best interest the people that play their games, only their own greed.

    On a personal note, they failed me greatly on Battlefield 2142. Instead of fixing the issue, they released a expansion! That was the last straw for me. That is why I will never purchase another game that EA has had anything to do with.

    The way I see it is it is time to start buying guns and ammo people. The capitalistic society we have created will not stop until the Chinese own the streets we drive on. If we want this country back we will have to take it by force.

  5. It has been mentioned before on various threads and boards. This DRM is primarily meant to kill resale of a game. EA is the most vocal opponent of these sales.

    Honestly this makes the most sense as to what they’re doing.

    They don’t address the basics of the issue most of us have with SecuROM, and honestly I think they’re just going to skate around the issue and hope it goes away. I don’t want SecuROM chewing up my resources, blocking legitimate software, and sending unknown information to who knows. The idea, at a fundamental level, is incredibly offensive and ultimately shows that they don’t care about me as a customer. As much as I would love to purchase some of these games I refuse to legitimize their new business model by paying them anything.

  6. I found the above article summed up my thoughts perfectly. I’ve been a long time Maxis, and Will Wright fan since I played Sim City and Sim Ant years and years ago. Wright’s games have always fascinated my mind, and even opened it up a bit, and when I found out about Spore 6 years ago… well, I was excited from day 1, to a few days ago. What Wright demonstrated back in ‘05(?) was a masterpiece. However, three years later, instead of IMPROVING upon what he had shown us, it has been watered down, and a few incredible features have been thrown out all together with (fully changeable skeletons? all I can do is move his spine around…) I’m not even bitching about the DRM yet, but I’m mad as hell about that, too. This just goes to show you what happens when Corporate Suits make video games instead of nerdy programmers.

  7. I dont see how people can be stupid enough to buy the game when u can get the hacked veersion (or cracked which ever you prefer) and not have EA being stupid and not allowing u to use more than 3 computers i believe that we should be aloud to use it as many times as we want for LAN party purposes

  8. Some of us are “so stupid” because we feel that game developers should be compensated for their work, no matter how unpleasant we find their terms of use or even if we later crack the game to remove the DRM. You know, rather than try to make up excuses why we’re not paying for something that we’re legally obliged to.

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