PC Gamers Angered by EA's New Copy Protection System

May 8, 2008 -
Hotly-anticipated PC titles Spore and Mass Effect will be among the first wave of PC games from EA to employ a controversial form of copy protection.

Techdirt reports that publisher Electronic Arts will use SecuROM protection, a scheme that has caused technical problems with some past titles. From the Techdirt story:
This new version is causing controversy due to an online verification system connected to its CD key. The system requires a connection to the internet during installation... After this the game will try to re-check the CD key every 5-10 days... If the game can't verify the key... it will continue to try for a further 10 days, after which it will stop working... The protection will also only allow the game to be installed three times.

So what's the beef? According to Techdirt:
A lot of gamers consider this intrusive and inconvenient, and that the publishers are effectively assuming their customers are pirates... Other concerns have been raised over users who don't play with machines permanently connected to the internet... or how the system will work in regards to resale.

These potential problems combined with SecuROM's past have made some call for a boycott of the titles and others to declare an intention to pirate the game out of spite.

Cnet's Daniel Terdiman weighs in on the brewing controversy:
Systems like this are never going to be winners for companies like EA. For every copy of one of its games that it successfully keeps from being illegally copied, it's going to lose a good customer who's beyond annoyed at the way the system works and the way they feel they're being treated.

To be sure, software companies feel they have to fight tooth and nail to avoid being robbed... [but] as the Sony rootkit scandal and other DRM PR nightmares have shown, users do not want to be controlled in this way. And they vote with their wallets.

Comments

Ok, well it looks like I'm going to be going out on a limb again on this one. I have been looking forward to getting Mass Effect on PC, even though I'll be buying an Xbox360 soon; the gameplay and graphic qulaity will be superior to that of the 360.

This little tidbit of news, while annoying, will not affect my purchasing decision and i will still get it when it comes out on the 27th. I have both The Orange Box and BioShock for PC and have no problems with them. The only problem I could forsee is if I experienced a service interruption with my internet which would keep me from playing it, but there are plenty of other games I can play offline in the meantime.

So maybe I'm just clueless or a dullard about all this, but to me it doesn't seem like much of a hassle to put up with.

I hereby propose we all pirate Spore, and then send $50 each to the developers directly.

We get the game, the developers get the money, and EA gets a good lesson.

You know, it is funny. There are people, in many industries, that have decided that piracy is nowhere near the problem that other companies have made it. As an example, the music industry is apparently the most problematic with piracy concerns. And yet, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails actually freely gives his stuff away, putting his music under a Creative Commons license even, and he sells the music as well. Did he get hit negatively with piracy? Nope. In fact, it seems that when people have the freedom to hand the music around, it attract more fans, and people are willing to support him.

The thing is, piracy will exist. The nature of software is such that making a big deal over piracy is somewhat counter-intuitive to software, where the whole system is based around making copies. Rather than thinking of piracy as something negative and to be stomped out (this effectively making it happen a lot more frequently), the developers should realize it is effectively a form of advertisement -- free advertisement at that. People who really like something will be willing to pay for it. But attempting to stranglehold the process just gets a lot of those who might be willing to pay for a good product to not be as interested in the product.

In other words, don't tick off your customer base, don't treat them like children or criminals, don't assume they all are criminals. EA apparently, in this move has decided that all of their customers are inherently criminals and thieves.

Well I guess I won't be buying that. I have never been able to get a securom game to install on my computer. I've got two dvd drives in it from different manufacturers and every securom game I've ever tried to install has crapped out.

So I give up, go online and download a hacked pirate version. Securom only prevents me the paying customer from actually playing the game I paid for and not the pirates who aren't going to pay for it any way.

I just skip the middle step now when it comes to games with Securom on them.

Note: I am not promoting piracy, I am just saying that companies like EA need to figure out a better way of handling/dealing with it, rather than taking measures that penalize all of their customers for the actions of a few.

@Black Manta ...Are you black? Sorry, Aquaman joke...

Anyway... Referring you up to the clusterfuck that was apparently Bioshock's launch when it comes to DRM.

Secondly, what if I want to play this game again in 5 years?

Thirdly, what if I have to do system rebuilds etc? (I reinstall windows twice a year, on average, I think...)

I'm either not going to buy it now...and I've been looking forward to it since news of it first came out....or I'm going to wait until someone hacks it so this 3 time installation thing is invalid....what happens when you have to reformat or your comp gets a virus eh? I'm not gonna split my hard drive or buy an external one just for this game. Not to mention there's no real reason to check for the CD-key all the time like that besides paranoia...if you have it the first five times you're gonna have it the next five too.

I really really wanted to buy Mass Effect. I have no intention to do so now. I did not believe that Bioshock's involuntary cd verification system was that bad, until it was implemented and failed miserably.

I was at a wait and see for the Bioshock PC edition. By Fate, the only copy of the game I could get the SE with was the 360 version. Surely the pc version's copy protection system couldn't have been that bad or intrusive, as I have favorable memories of Steam.

Then they did it, and oh boy it put copy protection back about five years. I would've thought that the complete and utter failure of the system implemented by Bioshock (and securerom) would've made publishers a bit smarter about draconian installation policies. I was wrong.

So now they not only want to do it all over again, but to invite the crash every ten days for every one of its users. I really wanted this game too.

What I'm curious about is, if I buy a legit copy of something but it doesn't work due to crappy DRM, and I then download a cracked version of the same game and install it only on my own machine (the one I would have played the legit version on) - am I breaking copyright law?

I do mostly PC gaming and honestly I don't have a big issue with copy protection as long as it doesn't interfere with me being able to play the game. What makes me worry is that the ability to play the game is entirely contingent on the publisher's authentication server working. Are the Bioshock auth servers going to be on until the end of civilization? What if I want to play it ten years from now - will they keep their servers on and updated so I can? Fortunately I always figure that if all else fails I get a pirated copy of a game I already bought. They have my money, I get to play my game, so who really is wronged in this situation?

My gaming computer doesn't have an internet connection, so no Spore for me :(

I was planning on buying Spore, and thinking of buy Mass Effect's PC version. Now I will be buying neither. I refuse to buy games that require me to "phone home" constantly in order to prove that I purchased them.

@Black Manta

The thing is, the Orange Box and Bioshock (which use different protection schemes/verification systems to my knowledge) only require you to connect to the internet for initial setup. After that you can play offline at your leisure. This more recent version requires you to contantly connect to the internet every few days, which is going to be an annoyance to more than a few people. Sure it doesn't affect you, but for people with more limited internet access (yes some people still have dial-up and lack a home network) it'll be a pain. Then there are those of us that object on principle. It might not be a problem for me from a technical standpoint, but I refuse to put money towards games that assume I'm a pirate and will shut down if I don't constantly prove I'm not.

The petition.. for what it's worth.

http://www.petitiononline.com/copyprot/petition.html

Well, I was planning on getting the PC version... thanks EA. Guess I'm getting it on the 360.

/fail.

If anything this make me more inclined to get a pirated version. You never what these DRM software makers are doing to your system.

Here's the funny bit: I trust the pirates more.

Big Brother is watching you play your games.

Well good work EA you just lost another sale thanks to your "protection".

Well I was really looking forward to spore but after what StarForce did to my computer I'm never touching anything that even remotely looks like a rootkit from EA/Bioware/Ubisoft/whathaveyou.

Blizzard never uses draconian copyright protection that completely fucks up your system and causes instability, why do all these other people feel the need to do that?

I think by far the most hilarious thing is that when they lose sales because of the protection, they will blame it on piracy.

On second thought, I'll buy the game once someone develops a crack for it so it doesn't fuck up my system.

Like many gamers, I'm torn on this one. Despite hearing a raft of bad news about the Bioshock protection, I wanted it badly enough that I bought it, and I honestly had no real problems with the copy protection. (And since the game really isn't good enough to merit a reinstall anytime soon, the limited number of activations isn't a major concern.) But my level of interest in Mass Effect and Spore was significantly lower; definitely there, but not off the charts. And unfortunately, in both cases this kind of intrusive and wholly unnecessary copy protection scheme is enough to drive me away from them. I won't be purchasing either.

But the reality is that those of us who actually refuse to purchase the game, as opposed to people who just make noise about it and then cave in and lay down their money on launch day, represent such a tiny portion of the game's intended audience that we won't even register with EA. When this scheme fails - and it will - major publishers will just come up with something even more outlandish and demanding. Pirates will play their games, the paying public will deal with increasing levels of frustration, and a few of us will just do without.

And for the record, I won't be pirating these things either. I support the industry enough that a refusal to buy the game does not equate to a green light to pirate it. That kind of self-serving thinking is one of the reason the littlebrains at EA think they need to go to these lengths to protect their property.

I've got Mass Effect for 360, and Spore never looked all that interesting, but I was going to keep an eye for it...

Surely they can keep the copy protection in, yet take the '3 Strikes and your out' feature away?

Can't they?

Spore is easily the most anticipated game of all time for me, and this is going to make me pirate it instead of buy it. GG EA, gg.

I guess after I upgrade my PC I'm pirating it and sending the money directly to Maxis.

EA isn't getting a fucking cent.

Not only for this, but also expecting us to defend their game. I'm referring to the Mass Effect sex scene scare. EA did nothing, NOTHING to defend it

Which is why i prefer console gaming.I still need to check out Mass Effect once my 360 gets repaired.

I will be buying the Wii version of spore than. :)

Back in the day, EA practically built up PC gaming with their own hands. Now, they've basically tearing it down. It'd be fitting if it wasn't so tragic.

What hassle exactly? All you do it have an internet connection when you install it and then log onto the net every 20 days... geeze guys, it isn't like the Bioshock BS. And they are not assuming customers are pirates...they assume pirates are pirates. I know what too many people who never purchase a game.

I'm not saying a lot of this copy protection crap isn't annoying, but this is not nearly as bad as some. Not invasive, and hopefully the servers will be better prepared after the bioshock incident.

You don't like copy protection, next time someone tells you they never buy games, punch them in the gut.

TheEdge
I'd rather hack the game that put up with a easy break oven, also its better to wait and get the game used cheap than to buy it full price with all that crap on it.

It could be worse it could have a 5 token install like Bioshock still has........

NovaBlack
Bioshock didnt have a full working crack for about 1 week,a ton a fakes and buggy ones but nothign solid for about 1 or 2 weeks.

@ Mazinger-Z

Actually, I'm white! Black Manta was and is my favorite all-time DC villain tho. I wlays thought he was one of the coolest-looking villains out there (and BTW, have you been to the stores lately? He's now part of the latest wave of Mattel's DC Universe line! Awesome job the Four Horsemen did on him too!)

Anyway, to you and Gray17, yeah I do remember the initial DRM problems with the PC version of BioShock but later 2K changed the limit to 5 installs and then offered the removal tool some time after. And I seem to remember reading somewhere in an interview that at some point they would greatly increase the limit or remove it altogether.

I could see the same thing happening with the release of these games. So for those asking the question "What if I want to play the game 10 years from now?", considering the presence of emulators and how abandonware is handled, I'm confident that someone somewhere at some point in the future will make it so these games can still work and that their creators will find a way to make them playable for posterity.

Goddamn EA!

@Tristram

Actually, with this system, you need to be logged in during your entire play session, meaning a connection hiccup can set you back several hours

And I don't know about you, but I'd like to be able to reinstall the game as often as I like, especially since one has to account for viruses, data getting corrupted and a host of other problems.

I actually feel that out of all the anti-piracy measures on the market, this is by far the most favorable. Right now its greatest drawback is the dubious quality and technical hiccups that come from SecuRom products.

Why do I favor it? Because when done right its completely transparent. I think you do not have to look farther than Valve's Steam system to see this same sort of verification system working transparently to the user.

Maybe as a bonus this means we won't have to keep a disk in the drive tray to play?

@kurisu7885

"Not only for this, but also expecting us to defend their game. I’m referring to the Mass Effect sex scene scare. EA did nothing, NOTHING to defend it"

Yeh I thought about this too. -_-

@ Kurisu,

From what I read on 1up, that is not the case. It is designed to be friendly to those with both dial up and / or laptops.

@kurisu7885
"Not only for this, but also expecting us to defend their game. I’m referring to the Mass Effect sex scene scare. EA did nothing, NOTHING to defend it"

Actually, that's not true. EA called out fox news before even the ECA.

http://gamepolitics.com/2008/01/24/ea-calls-out-fox-news-over-mass-effec...

From 1up http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3167711

"In the board comments, French explains that the system is designed to be accommodating to users who still connect to the Internet via dial-up or who install their games to laptops where Internet connection is not always guaranteed."

Also, the games "will begin "phoning home" every 10 days to make sure that the activation key is still valid. If for some reason your PC cannot contact the Internet for more than 10 days at a time, the game will still continue to run for an additional 10 day "grace period""

I was thinking about getting Spore, now I can forget about it.

I was going to get spore from wal-mart. Now I'm getting it from The Pirate Bay.

I know I don't comment here much often anymore...what witht eh moving and the being sick and all...

So, I've got to say this, and I've not read a single comment here, so this isn't in responce to anyone.

I think the DRM is stupid, more people are going to get a pirated copy anyway. Why the hell would you require an internet connection for a game you're not even going to play on the internet? Mass Effect shouldn't come with that stupidity.

This is why I play console games instead of PC games outside of WoW.

I've got Mass Effect for the 360...Love the game, I hear the PC's going to be an approvement, I won't pick it up because I already own a copy, but Spore on the otherhand? Yeah, I wanted that for the PC, specifically my laptop so I could have something really fun to play on the go when I'm not at home and away from the internet. Will I now?

If I do, it probably won't be legally, which is the sad part. I don't pirate games like that.

Oh well, looks like I'll be pirating it then.

If Will Wright and everyone else involved in creating the game would care to supply me with PayPal details, I'll be happy to send them the money afterwards.

@Mark S

Not quite, while the game is connected to the internet, and I believed verified through said connection, the option is always there after installation to run in "offline mode". With this you no longer are required to have this connection, however you won't receive the patches for the game. Also, while I'm not 100% sure about this, you can download the games as much as you want. I know I've downloaded a couple of my games over a friends house so we could all play.

@TheFremen: "Blizzard never uses draconian copyright protection that completely fucks up your system and causes instability, why do all these other people feel the need to do that?"

What's Warden then, chopped liver?

I have two requirements for PC (single player) games, if something doesn't meet these requirements, it doesn't get bought. All these requirements are is simple security best practices, so they're not all that unreasonable.

1) No direct network connections
2) No admin access required, either to install or run.

Very, very little actually meets this, so I've only been console gaming for a while.

Fricking assholes. I was so looking forward to those games, but I dont think i want any of that shit on my computer.

All you people who are going ti pirate it are the problem. Yeah, pirate it, that will show them. Klokwurk at least is willing to give money but thew rest of you...belg. If you refuse to buy it because of the copy protection, good for you. but if you pirate it because you still want to play...shame on you, hypocrites. Your point or demonstration is rendered moot and becomes an act of selfishness.

@ Mazinger-Z

BTW, like your username too. Great anime! Though I'd love to see them do a straight translation uncut on DVD like ADV did with Gatchaman a couple years ago and what they're doing with GoLion (the original name of the Lion Voltron series) now. Any chance that'll happen? Or for Armored Vehicle Fleet Dairugger (Vehicle Voltron) for that matter?

The cost to produce games is rising at a significant rate, while the number of people paying for games is dropping thanks to the growth of the internet and the increasing ease of sharing warez. It doesn't take an expert to realize that's not sustainable. So what should the videogame companies do? They can raise the price of their games so that they make more money off the legitimate buyers, or they can put on copy protection to try to discourage pirates, or they can just stop making games with several-year development cycles and top-of-the-line graphics and go back to churning out uninnovative first-person shooters with four-year-old graphics based on old and cheap engines.

This "I don't approve of copy protection, so I'll pirate" mentality just hurts matters - companies need money to make games, and anyway they can't distinguish the self-righteous people who use idiotic statements to justify their piracy from the old-style pirates who admit that they just want to play games for free. They've got to stop piracy SOMEHOW, and pirating instead of buying the game just encourages them to try that much harder. You shouldn't need to install a game more than 3-5 times anyway.

@ Gelmax

Finally some sanity in this place.

I was thinking about buying Mass Effect... I guess not. Thanks EA for giving me a reason to spend money elsewhere.

Steam is what any type of DRM should be. Steam isn't intrusive, hell its a convience nowadays. I understand when Steam was new it sucked, but VALVe got its shit together with Steam and now its a very good distribution platform.

If EA either 1) Distributed its games through Steam without its SecuROM bullshit, or 2) Developed a steam-like service that didn't use SecuROM more PC games would be happy.

@Gelmax

Actually, some people running games on older systems might have to, especially on a small hard drive if they wish to paly one game a while then play another.

I've no interest in these games to begin with but I'm in agreement with everyone who is upset about these security measures.

It DOES NOT matter what security measures you put on a game. At some point, somewhere, someone is going to break through them and they're going to get a pirated version up regardless. If someone wants to crack it bad enough, they will, nothing the publisher can do to stop it.

@Those defending this security measure...

Where were you in the early days of PC gaming when security measures like this weren't available or even a remote idea to publishers? The internet was around then, much like it is still today, and I don't recall piracy being any worse then than it is now. There were CD keys to be sure but there weren't draconian measures to ensure your paying customers got the shaft. You defend the publisher but forget the consumers who -- despite what you might want to believe -- may NEED to reinstall this game several times in a short period are going to be shafted. Is it fair to the consumer? Hell no.

I don't think piracy is helpful to anyone but neither is paranoia and shafting your customers. They'll make less money with security measures like this than they would have if they weren't so damn paranoid. Piracy will persist as long as pirates continue to become better at what they do. Why should the honest consumer suffer for this though? I still play games from 10 years ago, and I would NOT be happy if measures like this were put in place back then because those games that I continue to enjoy would no longer be working today.

if they go through with this draconian DRM, not only will they lose me as a customer but they will get a monthly update as to why.

Also... Once that money has left my pocket, and purchased a copy of that game, I am of the opinion that that is no longer property of the corporation that is selling it. It belongs to me. I've given my money to the appropriate entity and I'm entitled to use it (or not use it) at me leisure. I shouldn't be forced to inform them on what I'm doing with MY property past that point.

MORONS! All you have to do is set up IIS and edit your HOSTS file and you can make it think it verified the key when in actuality it just looped back.
 
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