“Bioshock 2” following in “Modern Warfare 2’s” footsteps for multiplayer.

It looks like the folks at Infinity Ward may have started a trend among developers of first person shooters on the PC. Word now comes from a Q&A about Bioshock 2‘s multiplayer mode over at The Cult of Rapture that it will not have dedicated server support, LAN play, or the ability to kick troublemakers from the game:

Do you support LAN play on consoles or PC? Do you support dedicated servers?
Short answer, no and no. There is always a finite amount of time for the development of a game. Bringing Multiplayer to BioShock was a daunting task between the tech (there was no multiplayer support in the codebase from the first game) and the expectations of the community. Either you try to do everything and so nothing feels finished or you focus your efforts to do a smaller number of things really well like an accessible online experience. We chose to spend the time we had creating a solid game foundation and unfortunately that did not include LAN play or dedicated servers.

How does your matchmaking system work and how do you make sure there isn’t lag or bad match ups?
The matchmaking system takes a couple of things into account. We try to get you into a game as quickly as possible (since we know how much waiting really stinks), but match you up to people who are as close to your rank and skill as possible, with a certain amount of weighting to each factor, as well as requiring a low ping for those matched players.

How do you deal with people who grief or cheat or are otherwise not making a good ranked experience? Can you kick them?
Even though we are doing everything we can to try to find exploits in our own game, there will always be people who will find a way to grief a game. There is no kick option as we felt like it often leads to more unfair kicking than fair kicking. We hope that because there are a variety of player goals and a multitude of options for ranking up and killing, the player will always feel like he or she is gaining something in a match with mean people and griefers. If you do get matched up with one of those people, please report it, leave that game, and we’ll try to smooth out the online experience as best as we can.

It sounds more or less just like the multiplayer system in Modern Warfare 2 which a lot of fans, including myself, weren’t happy about. This is disappointing to say the least and I expect it’ll be plagued with similar problems as a result. No word on what ant-cheat system they’ll be using, MW2 uses Valve’s VAC system, and that could go a long way to determining how much of a problem cheaters end up being.

Back when I wrote my rant discouraging folks from buying the PC version of MW2 the number of people using aimbots/wallhacks was simply ridiculous and, combined with how long it takes a ban in VAC to be enforced, was making the multiplayer almost pointless. These days it’s settled down quite a bit and I can only assume that someone must be banning cheaters more often as it’s possible to go through a number of sessions with nary a cheater in sight, but the damage has been done and now legitimate players are accused of cheating simply for having a high kill/death ratio. It’s even happened to me and I’m hardly a great player.

I never bought the first Bioshock due to the ridiculously restrictive SecuROM DRM it had and it was looking like BS2 was going in a similar direction, but they recently announced they were scaling back the restrictions for BS2 at least somewhat:

There will be no SecuROM install limits for either the retail or digital editions of BioShock 2, and SecuROM will be used only to verify the game’s executable and check the date. Beyond that, we are only using standard Games for Windows Live non-SSA guidelines, which, per Microsoft, comes with 15 activations (after that, you can reset them with a call to Microsoft.)

What does that mean for your gameplay experience? This means that BioShock 2’s new DRM is now similar to many popular games you advised had better DRM through both digital and retail channels. Many of you have used Batman: Arkham Asylum as an example to me, which uses the exact same Games for Windows Live guidelines as us as well as SecuROM on retail discs, and now our SecuROM is less restrictive on Steam.

This is better than the first game, but still not fabulous. It was loose enough to make me consider buying the sequel along with perhaps the original – seeing as they’ve since dropped the DRM from the first game altogether – but the fact that they’re using a similar matchmaking system as MW2 has dropped my enthusiasm back down to zero.

Amazon gives me another reason not to buy a Kindle. (#Blogathon)

It’s a bit old news by now, but perhaps some of you haven’t heard about it. About a week ago the folks at Amazon had a problem with a couple of George Orwell’s novels they were selling in e-book form. News reports vary with some saying the publisher changed it’s mind about letting them be published in that format and others that Amazon had mistakenly assumed they had the rights to do so, but either way they were asked to stop. Amazon immediately removed said novels from their online store and then went a step further and deleted already sold copies from owner’s Kindle devices with no warning they were going to do so. Needless to say this once again spawned a debate over whether or not we actually “own” digital media:

It’s a provocative question explored in an article Thursday by the WSJ’s Geoffrey Fowler. The issue came up last week when Amazon.com reached into customers’ Kindle e-readers and deleted some e-books written — ironically — by George Orwell. Amazon, which returned the cost of the e-books, said it made the move when it realized that the publisher didn’t have the proper rights to sell the books in the U.S.

The move annoyed some consumers. “I love my Kindle, but if they can take back a book after I buy it, that bothers me,” said one. Amazon later promised to change its system and “not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” according to a spokesman.

Regardless, according to Fowler, the incident raises some difficult questions about what it means to “own” books in the digital age. Some experts are saying that these matters might best be remedied by passing new laws that clearly define digital ownership.

“What this incident shows is that the law gives radically more control to the company than the system ought to,” says Harvard’s Lawrence Lessig.

It’s bad enough that the books all have DRM on them and there are unspecified limits on how many times you’re allowed to download them to your devices be they your Kindle or your iPhone or PC. Said limits vary from publisher to publisher and book to book and there’s no way to found out what the limits are for a particular book before you buy it because Amazon won’t tell you, but when they also have the ability and right to reach into your collection and remove books you’ve already purchased, well, that’s just beyond the pale. Sure they gave everyone a refund, but this sort of thing would never happen with a paper book and when you’re done reading it you can sell it or give it to a friend.

DRM sucks and it only punishes the legitimate consumers. So long as the Kindle makes use of it I won’t be buying one. No matter how many times Jeff Bezos apologizes.

Retail PC version of next “Prince of Persia” totally DRM free.

Kudos to Ubisoft for listening to customers and taking a chance. They’ve announced that the retail release of the PC version of Prince of Persia will have no DRM at all:

“A lot of people complain that DRM is what forces people to pirate games but as PoP PC has no DRM we’ll see how truthful people actually are,” said Easton in a post on the Ubisoft forums. “Not very, I imagine.”

Easton later clarified that only the retail copies will be devoid of DRM: “I was purely talking about store-bought copies of PoP which have no copy protection.”

So the digital download still has DRM, but the disc version doesn’t. Keep that in mind when deciding which one to buy. I’d be happy as a clam except that I won’t be buying the PC version of PoP because it’s a platformer and I prefer to play those on a console. I’ll still be buying PoP for the PS3 so it’s not like they won’t get some money out of me, assuming I don’t get it for Christmas, but at least they’re giving a DRM free PC version a shot. If you’re thinking of buying the game for the PC then you now have an excellent reason to do so. Plus I hear the game is pretty good.

Updated: The folks at GoGamer.com have PoP on sale for $30. Even more reason to buy it.

“Spore” most heavily pirated game of 2008 despite draconian DRM.

Remember when EA Games Label President Frank Gibeau said the following about why using SecuROM on Spore was a necessary evil:

We assumed that consumers understand piracy is a huge problem – and that if games that take 1-4 years to develop are effectively stolen the day they launch, developers and publishers will simply stop investing in PC games.

We already know that the SecuROM DRM didn’t stop Spore from being cracked and pirated five days before it was released, but surely the inclusion of such heavy-handed copy protection kept the piracy to a minimum, right? Right?

Not according to the folks at Kotaku and TorrentFreak:

TorrentFreak put up a list of the top 10 games copied and shared over BitTorrent for the year 2008, and Spore, quite unsurprisingly, leads them all by a country mile.

[…] TorrentFreak insists its stats don’t include downloads of malicious or malfunctioning torrents (a figure it puts at 1 percent of all available torrents). Spore’s 1.7 million has it well in first. The Sims 2 was No. 2 with 1.15 million. The Sims 2 was released in 2004. Fallout 3’s 645,000 downloads was the next highest among any 2008 game, good for eighth.

See the original article for the full list, but it should go without saying that the only people impacted by the SecuROM DRM are the people who bought legitimate copies. It’s worth noting that five of the top 10 most pirated games of 2008 were all SecuROM protected titles. But if you listen to Electronic Arts they’ll go on about how SecuROM is all about successfully stopping piracy and how it’s doing such a great job of it.

Blu-ray DRM is officially dead. Chinese pirates selling Blu-ray movies for $7 each.

It took a bit longer than I expected, but the Chinese are ripping Blu-ray movies, cracking the DRM, and burning them to disc so they can sell them for next to nothing. The quality drops, but is still technically High Def and the movie industry is not happy:

Law enforcement in Shenzhen, China, raided a warehouse last month that contained HD copies of a number of popular movies. There were over 800 discs (so, what is that, like eight spindles?) that were packaged in faux Blu-ray boxes, complete with holograms to make them appear legitimate. According to the Motion Picture Association International, this is the “first ever” seizure of these types of discs in China.

The pirates are apparently ripping high-def movies (cracking Blu-ray’s AACS and BD+ encryption in the process) and re-encoding them using AVCHD, which offers a 720p picture. Because of the reduction in resolution, file sizes are smaller and can be burned to regular DVDs instead of the more costly Blu-ray discs, netting a tidy profit. Needless to say, the film industry isn’t thrilled by the news. “We are concerned and are assigning priority to this issue,” the MPA’s Asia-Pacific managing director Mike Ellis told the Wall Street Journal.

Movie piracy in China is by no means a new trend, but the proliferation of Blu-ray fakes out of Asia is being viewed as a serious threat that could make its way to other countries quickly. Ellis pointed out that pirates in China can be very enterprising and have exported their wares all over the globe in the past, so there’s nothing stopping them from doing so with this new format. “These syndicates are very quick to spot market opportunities,” he said.

Considering that standard Blu-ray carries an average price of $30 (which is why I only have a few movies on Blu-ray at the moment) the $7 the pirates are asking will probably more than make up for the content “only” being 720P. It won’t be long before those techniques are widespread. Another proof of the adage that if you can make it, they can break it.

EA boss on DRM protesters: Half are pirates and the other half are stupid.

The folks over at Gamasutra.com landed an interview with Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello wherein he claims to hate DRM but says it’s necessary due to piracy. He goes on to address the massive online protest over Spore using SecuROM:

“So far, Spore has outsold Sims 2,” he notes. “Commercially, it’s doing very well.”

“Everyone gets that we need some level of protection, or we’re going to be in business for free,” Riccitiello says. But he sees a lack of understanding among “a minority of people that orchestrated a great PR program. They picked the highest-profile game they could find,” he says. “I respect them for the success of their movement.”

“‘I’m guessing that half of them were pirates, and the other half were people caught up in something that they didn’t understand,” he says. “If I’d had a chance to have a conversation with them, they’d have gotten it.”

Thanks John, for telling us you think we’re either thieves or fucking idiots. But let me give you a clue for free: The pirates were all busy downloading your game off of the torrent sites five fucking days before you even put it on store shelves. Why the hell would they bother protesting your game when it was already cracked and on the Net?

And I would absolutely LOVE to have a conversation with you on the topic. Not that I think I could change your mind with my stunningly persuasive argument, but just so you could hear my stance on why I’m not buying your games straight from me. I’d also love to hear you explain how DRM stops piracy on a title that was being pirated before it was ever released? I’d also love to ask you to man up and admit that this is less to do with piracy and more to do with stopping second-hand sales of your titles because you’re upset at how much money GameStop and other companies are making.

This becomes obvious to anyone who reads the Spore EULA which states that there’s no guarantee that you can transfer the activations over to whomever you sell the game to. It’s also clear by the fact that more and more games are coming with features that will only work for the initial purchaser of the title:

Game publishers and developers have long been frustrated by their inability to get a cut of used game sales at retailers such as GameStop.

Rather than just complain, though, game makers are now starting to provide gamers with incentives to not sell their games at all or, at least, not buy used games.

[…] For example, each copy of Gears of War 2 will ship with a unique, one-time-use code for downloading extra multiplayer levels.

Once the code has been used, subsequent owners of that copy of the game will be unable to download the levels.

And NBA Live 09 will include a similar free, one-time code for accessing daily roster and stat updates.

If you buy a used copy of NBA Live 09 and the previous user has already redeemed the code, you’ll have to pay $20 to get the updates.

Isn’t NBA Live 09 one of your company’s titles, John? Why yes, yes it is. At least have the balls to own up to the fact that what you’re attempting to do is to limit what legitimate customers can do with the games they buy from your company rather than stopping piracy. Because we both know that you’re not going to stop the pirates anytime soon and we both know how pissed off you are at all the money GameStop has been making off of second-hand sales.

I am not the fucking idiot you seem to think I am, John.

another DRM server bites the dust

Walmart… (via BoingBoing).

From: Walmart Music Team
Date: Fri, Sep 26, 2008 at 7:42 PM
Subject: Important Information About Your Walmart.com Digital Music Purchases
To: xxxxxx@gmail.com

Important Information About Your Digital Music Purchases

We hope you are enjoying the increased music quality/bitrate and the improved usability of Walmart’s MP3 music downloads. We began offering MP3s in August 2007 and have offered only DRM (digital rights management) -free MP3s since February 2008. As the final stage of our transition to a full DRM-free MP3 download store, Walmart will be shutting down our digital rights management system that supports protected songs and albums purchased from our site.

If you have purchased protected WMA music files from our site prior to Feb 2008, we strongly recommend that you back up your songs by burning them to a recordable audio CD. By backing up your songs, you will be able to access them from any personal computer. This change does not impact songs or albums purchased after Feb 2008, as those are DRM-free.

Beginning October 9, we will no longer be able to assist with digital rights management issues for protected WMA files purchased from Walmart.com. If you do not back up your files before this date, you will no longer be able to transfer your songs to other computers or access your songs after changing or reinstalling your operating system or in the event of a system crash. Your music and video collections will still play on the originally authorized computer.

Thank you for using Walmart.com for music downloads. We are working hard to make our store better than ever and easier to use.

Walmart Music Team

There’s not much to add, is there…

It’s nice that they’re transitioning to a DRM-free store, but can’t they just give the suckers who music crippled by DRM the unshackled tracks? Just another example that buying anything locked down by DRM is not a long-term investment, but a short- or medium-term rental.

I won’t be buying videos through the PS3 video store.

When Sony launched the video store service on the Playstation Network I took the time to fire up my PS3 and browse through the store to see what they were offering and how much it would cost, but I didn’t buy anything because I hadn’t taken the time to find out what the terms of service currently are. It goes without saying that any videos bought through the service would have some form of DRM on them and therefore would be limited in some way, but I didn’t know what those limitations were.

As it turns out they’re much more limited than I would have guessed. The folks at ArsTechnica.com lay out the rules:

Noise, a forum-goer, sent out a warning after he deleted some video content to make room on his hard drive and then found he couldn’t redownload the content. The PlayStation 3 support page is perfectly clear on this matter. “Purchased content can be downloaded to a single PLAYSTATION 3 or a single PSP system,” it reads. “Content cannot be redownloaded once it has been downloaded to either a PLAYSTATION 3 or PSP system.”

You’re allowed to keep the content on one system, and you can move it to up to three PSP systems, but if you have to delete the content for any reason, it’s gone? Sort of. Lincoln Davis, who handles media relations for the PlayStation Network, told Ars that you are in fact allowed one extra download, but you have to contact Sony. “If a consumer deletes a purchased movie from their PS3, they will not be able to redownload the movie without assistance from SCEA’s consumer services,” he told Ars. “Consumer service can issue a redownload as a one-time courtesy, as provided by our guidelines, for the title to allow the consumer to go back and download the movie from their PSN download list.”

This is especially restrictive when you consider that 1) some games can eat up a couple of gigs of hard drive space with installs so after a few games and some movie purchases you could be low on space, 2) early PS3 models had as small as a 20GB hard drive in them, 3) even though you can swap in a bigger hard drive yourself the backup utility on the PS3 will not move purchased video content over to the new drive, 4) there’s currently no way to get the video off of the PS3 hard drive and onto your PC, and 5) no one knows what happens with your purchased videos when the PS4 comes out. All in all that makes purchasing movies through the PS3 very unattractive, though renting might still be an option. Renting is a few bucks cheaper and gives you access to a movie for 24 hours after which it’s deleted from the hard drive.

I figure it’s only a matter of time before someone comes up with a PC program that’ll read the PS3 hard drive format and/or allow you to backup all your data over the network. Then someone else will eventually break the DRM used on the video store files and perhaps then it’d be worth purchasing them through your PS3, but for the time being I’d recommend avoiding the temptation.

Electronic Arts modifies “Spore” DRM again, but still doesn’t address SecuROM controversy.

EA Games Label President Frank Gibeau sent the folks at Kotaku.com a press release about DRM used on Spore which again demonstrates that they just aren’t getting the message. They continue to think the issue is solely about how many installs the game has and they continue to repeat the lie that DRM stops piracy:

Two weeks ago EA launched SPORE – one of the most innovative games in the history of our industry. We’re extremely pleased with the reception SPORE has received from critics and consumers but we’re disappointed by the misunderstanding surrounding the use of DRM software and the limitation on the number of machines that are authorized to play a single a copy of the game.

We felt that limiting the number of machine authorizations to three wouldn’t be a problem.

Let me put this simply: You were wrong, but this is only one of many issues you are wrong about. The limited number of installs may not have been as big an issue had the utility to revoke an authorization been available from the get go, but it would still have been an issue. The claim that the limit is to prevent piracy is ludicrous given that the game was, as has been said many times previously, cracked and on the P2P networks five days before it hit store shelves. Even if you’d managed to keep it under wraps up until launch day the likelihood of it being cracked within a day or so of launch is very high so the DRM and install limit does nothing to prevent piracy.

The only other obvious conclusion to draw from the install limit is that you’re attempting to eliminate the secondhand sale market which the folks at Gamestop have been making millions off of. One of the big draws of digital distribution is that it would effectively negate the ability to turn in a game to Gamespot when you get tired of it and an install limit would seem like the best of both worlds. Sell them a disc, but eliminate the resale possibility.

* We assumed that consumers understand piracy is a huge problem – and that if games that take 1-4 years to develop are effectively stolen the day they launch, developers and publishers will simply stop investing in PC games.

We know it’s a problem, but it’s not one that we – your legitimate paying customers – should be punished for. Which is effectively what you are doing. As a reminder: Spore was effectively stolen five days before launch so your solution to piracy was ineffective. That means the only people being affected by the DRM are those people who paid you for the game. The pirates have already stolen it and will continue to do so.

* We have found that 75 percent of our consumers install and play any particular game on only one machine and less than 1 percent every try to play on more than three different machines.
* We assured consumers that if special circumstances warranted more than three machines, they could contact our customer service team and request additional authorizations.

That’s nice, but it’s irrelevant. Most of us who have concerns over the number of installations we’re allowed are probably part of that 1% that will put it on a single PC. It’s not how many PCs we can put it on so much as how many times we can put it on a particular PC that’s the issue. Some of us restage and upgrade our PCs on a regular basis and could use up a three install limit in the course of a single year. Bumping the installs to five only delays the inevitable. Providing a utility to deauthorize one of the installs helps, but is still a pain in the ass that shouldn’t be necessary. Sure we can call your nice support people and ask for additional authorizations, but we shouldn’t have to be interrogated just to install a game we bought and paid for. I have tons of EA games that I bought years ago that I still install and play every so often, some of them on a computing platform (the Commodore Amiga) that no longer exists as an active platform as far as Electronic Arts is concerned. I don’t have to call your customer service people to install and play those games so why should I have to do it for this or any other game?

But we’ve received complaints from a lot of customers who we recognize and respect. And while it’s easy to discount the noise from those who only want to post or transfer thousands of copies of the game on the Internet, I believe we need to adapt our policy to accommodate our legitimate consumers.

Going forward, we will amend the DRM policy on Spore to:

* Expand the number of eligible machines from three to five.
* Continue to offer channels to request additional activations where warranted.
* Expedite our development of a system that will allow consumers to de-authorize machines and move authorizations to new machines. When this system goes online, it will effectively give players direct control to manage their authorizations between an unlimited number of machines.

Sorry, that’s not good enough to get me to plunk down the $50 you’re asking for. You haven’t addressed the fact that SecuROM itself is part of the problem as it is known to cause issues with some legitimate hardware and software people may have installed in their machines. It’s also known to update itself without notifying or getting consent from the owner of the computer and even if it was working previously those future updates could potentially introduce problems. Additionally it’s known to send encrypted data back to a server without informing the owner of the PC what info it’s sending or why and that falls under the definition of spyware.

We’re willing to evolve our policy to accommodate our consumers. But we’re hoping that everyone understands that DRM policy is essential to the economic structure we use to fund our games and as well as to the rights of people who create them. Without the ability to protect our work from piracy, developers across the entire game industry will eventually stop investing time and money in PC titles.

This argument doesn’t wash because SecuROM hasn’t protected your work from piracy and it’s probably a good bet your insistence on it has less to do with stopping piracy as it does stopping secondhand sales of your game. You’re not stopping the pirates, but you are fomenting a lot of ill will from your long-time dedicated customer base made up of people such as myself. I refuse to spend good money to be treated like a criminal, but that’s what you are insisting you must do for the sake of your “economic structure.” There are plenty of other equally ineffective copy protection schemes out there that you’ve used for years that were less of a problem than SecuROM is so if you insist on putting worthless copy protection into your software at least go back to one that is less of a burden on your legit customers. Otherwise the sales you lose won’t be solely due to piracy.

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?