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

Idiots.

@ Jeff

What do you mean, "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?"

I do not even understand what you are asking. Why were we not fighting against piracy then? Why were we not defending the CD keys then? Or did we not experience it? For the record, back then there were no ways to easily dl games (torrents) and internet connections were slower and made it harder. Hell, I think I had just gotten the internet 10 years ago...Dial up. It took me days to download a three megabyte song.

As for your contention that the game is your property, not theirs, after you buy it... the CD is your property. The game on the CD is not. That is like saying after you buy a DVD or music CD the songs are yours to copy and do with as you like....for instance, copying and selling bootleg copies. Please tell my that wasn't what you were arguing?

@Jeff: Copy protection schemes have been ramped up because the means of distributing pirated, copied, and cracked software has escalated greatly. The internet wasn't as ubiquitous or as fast then as it is now, and things like bittorrents and dedicated warez sites mean that a pirate can easily find ten thousand people who want a copy where he probably couldn't find twenty people a decade or two ago.

I won't argue with your second point, though. In fact I think that's one provision a lot of people want in the new DMCA - making it legal to circumvent DRM if the end purpose of doing so is legal.

@ Kobra Scum. Thats why we have to deal with this shit in the first place.

@Illiad

I not up on pirate communities, but I wouldn't bet that there's a thriving TF2 pirate community with all the newest content. Maybe there was a HUGE diablo 2 pirate community with a ladder ranked server? I don't know.

Hamachi might be fine for a group of friends. But vs. playing with/against a world of opponents/allies, it's not really an option.

It's harder with single player games to provide that carrot. I believe it can be done.

@Tristram

As for your contention that the game is your property, not theirs, after you buy it… the CD is your property. The game on the CD is not. That is like saying after you buy a DVD or music CD the songs are yours to copy and do with as you like….for instance, copying and selling bootleg copies. Please tell my that wasn’t what you were arguing?


So in the case of a game CD/DVD or a music CD I've pretty much spent $50+ on only the piece of plastic and other materials that the actual product is stored on? If that's the case then why bother to purchase it at all? I can easily go to Staples and get 10 or 15 of those same pieces of plastic for roughly $20 or $30. Why am I paying so much for something that I truly do not own?

I'm not implying that I support, or condone, piracy. If I'm spending that kind of money on a product it belongs to me and I should have the ability to USE that product without hassle or restrictions.

Do you not consider the 3 install limit a restriction or hassle? I certainly do. It's like restricting a console game to only the first three consoles it's played on. It makes absolutely no sense.

Do you not consider the necessity to verify your ownership of something you purchased every 5 - 10 days a hassle? Not everyone who is possibly going to play this game will be getting on the internet that often. Small portion of the consumer base? Yes. But there are definitely people who use the internet very seldom and this would affect them. I object on the principle of the matter.

A game's installation should be locked to its CD key -- kind of like Blizzard's games (Starcraft, Warcraft II, and Warcraft III) are restricted to use on the computer with the CD key registered. If I have to reformat my computer or if I purchase a new one at least I'm safe in the knowledge that if I need to reinstall the game I just need to have my CD key handy to notify Blizzard that I'm not playing some pirated copy.

The defenders of this DRM are assuming that piracy will one day go away... As software pirates continue to become more sophisticated they'll continue to crack DRMs. DRMs really do NOT deter piracy. It's naive to believe it does. I am willing to bet that it encourages it. This is my opinion and you can contend it if you want but there really is no reason to shaft customers like this.

@Tristram

If Kobra is scum, you're sheep. Seriously. I'll pirate the damn thing (which I never do) just for the mere fact that I don't want my computer connecting to EA's servers EVER. I don't trust them, I don't like them, and I'm sure as hell not installing their crappy DRM on my computer.

If DRM was actually working, there would be LESS piracy going on.

Guess what? I'd guess there was more.

We, the gamers, successfully killed Starforce through boycott. We could do it to secuROM too.

I think some interesting questions are: Would killing secuROM kill PC gaming and finally cede the entire industry to consoles? If it did, would you care?

3 installs? This is a joke. I reference my system every 2-3 months, complete back-up and reinstalls to make sure it is running as fast as possible.

Limiting me to 3 installs is beyond annoying. It is already bad enough I have to call MS every time I make upgrades to my rig, and have to re-authenticate a legally purcahsed copy of XP.

Do they not understand that these ridiculous measures actually push people towards becoming pirates?

Looks like I won't be buying spore now....

I'd also like to say that if I buy a music CD the songs on it are mine to copy and do with as I like. If I want to burn a copy of the CD (for personal use mind you), rip them to my PC (again, for personal use), or copy them to my iPod then I should have every right. I'm not pirating anything in this manner, so why shouldn't I have the freedom to use the contents of what I've physically purchased for my own personal use?

Wow, thanks EA for screwing people over who don't have an actice enternet connection, way to go!

Won't be purchasing either of these, then.

Dealing with cracks and torrents is far less troublsome than this DRM bullcrap.

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

I was thinking about the 3 install thing - I've got games from 2000 that i've played again and again, and I must have installed some at least 20 times.

But if i'd had to buy a new copy after 3 installs, i'd have given up a long time ago.

Jeff, thanks for making those points. It is a shame really, this game has been in development for so long and customers are treated to this protection that says you only own a game to install it 3x before you have to buy again?

After seeing EA say there won't be a PC version of their Madden title and blame it on piracy, I wondered what they were going to do to Spore. I didn't think it'd be this bad.

Pirating out of spite does nothing, its like downloading RIAA music. Say you don't want their crap by not touching it, although it seems companies will still blame it on piracy instead of pissing off customers. They won't accept the fact customers hate being abused.


I personally hope EA suffers in some way for this.

Jeff: "So in the case of a game CD/DVD or a music CD I’ve pretty much spent $50+ on only the piece of plastic and other materials that the actual product is stored on?"

And a license to use the software contained on it, possibly according to the terms of agreement. You do not own the software itself.

Thats why we have to deal with this shit in the first place.

No, the reason we have to deal with copy protection is because the publisher decides to put it on there. Pirates don't put it on the software, they just like to remove it.

Well... damn.

September 7, 2008, wasn't it?

Maxis, you have four months to protest SecuROM yourself or else my money will redirect itself into console games. Damn shame; Spore was one of the number one must-get titles out there for me.

@Steve

In that case my money is being wasted. Sure I'm able to use something that brings me entertainment but past that it's essentially paying for a piece of plastic and some legal mumbo jumbo. I can, as I've said before, obtain that same piece of plastic(s) from Staples -- 10 to 15 to be sure -- for less than HALF of what I would pay for the same thing I'm buying from a publisher like EA. On top of that I can get that same piece of legal mumbo jumbo by going on my computer and typing it up myself and subsequently burning it to those very CDs I purchased for less than half of what EA is charging for 1 CD.

What EA is doing in this case is one the one hand ludicrous and on the other hand just shafting their honest customers. And let's be honest... Not all software pirates who actually do the work on cracking games go out and purchase a copy of the game itself. If that were the case then I suppose even pirates put money in the pockets of the publisher. You know that the pirated copy of the game had to come from somewhere.

I would encourage everyone to sign this:

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

@ Jeff

We are not talking about the Bioshock 3 installations...which is a serious issue and the reason I'm waiting to buy an xbox 360 to play it. However, no, I do not call the verification system a hassle because: you do not have to do anything except have a connection to the net every 10 days. Seriously, it does the rest itself. Loque's argument about not trusting them makes a little sense at least. Also, you are paying for the right to play the game, not ownership of the code. If you pirate the game, you are stealing the code. Further more, you are correct you should be able to copy a CD for your own use, but not copy it to sell or share with others. As to your response to steve, you forgot designing, developing, and programing the game. If you do all that you can have it without paying anything.

@ Loque As for you, I fail to see how I am being a sheep. Being a sheep means going with the herd and doing what everyone else is doing. From the looks of it, I am going against the heard. And my calling that ponce scum was a little tongue in cheek; it was a hyperbolic response to his calling us morons.

I am extremely disappointed. I've been looking forward to Spore since it's first announcement.
It's not that there is any personal hassle for me on the subject; I will likely not get the game for some time due to the fact that my current computer couldn't run it. And even if it could, my laptop is always connected to the internet no matter where I go, pretty much. It's the principle of the matter.
They are taking a game that has been massively looked forward to by tons of people and saying "You can only play this as long as we support it."
Not even going into the short-term problems and my personal hatred of DRM software, my largest issue with this is the long-term effects. Spore promises to be an excellent game. Excellent games are quite often played a long time after companies stop supporting them and have moved on to their new products. I still play games like Lords of Magic whose parent company, Sierra, is dead now. With this DRM spore will likely only be playable for, what, five years? Six years? After which time EA will decide to save itself the resources and the ping servers will go down. And suddenly no one can play the game.
No one but the pirates, anyway.
Will Wright probably has one of the most loyal fan bases of any game designer. And EA is spitting in the eye of each and every one of those fans.

Well I'm not supporting the big brother on the internet with a dime, no way I'm gonna buy that spore if it helps the Securom people. We have to fight them as long as we can, if only i could donate money to the crackers every time a copy protected game comes out.

2x post:

Also, instead of pirating it, buy it and then use a crack. That at least is morally honest.

No software company should employ any DRM or copy protection in any way, shape, or form. Piracy is unstoppable. It's not a matter of if a new protection scheme is cracked, but when.

Also, these schemes keep on punishing the legitimate customers, the ones that actually pay for these games, with increasingly restrictive software put on stuff they bought with their money.

Look at the DRM-free iTunes songs. They sell better because consumer don't like being treated as thieves.

Stop punishing your customers for the actions of pirates.

Was there not more... what's the word..... comments on this thread earlier?

Something happened to the comments! I was just about to refer to one of them too elsewhere.

Summary:

Reaction 1: RAR!

Reaction 2: RAR! I will buy a cracked copy!

Reaction 3: It's no big deal. Ur as bad as the pirates!

Woah what happened to the comments?

I was looking forward to Spore too. Oh well, back to console gaming.

This is why warez are so popular. It's not getting it for free, rather it is the convenience of not putting up with DRM crap.

It's nice that they're doing absolutely nothing to make pirating harder while being a pain in the ass to those who actually do buy the games.

Yar. This is a sad move and smacks of EA taking on a RIAA like mentality that all its customers would gladly be pirates or something. I never get the logic. Mass Effect I already have on the 360 so its not so bad but Spore.. spore im iffy on. A big portion of the game seems like its tied up in the sharing and aquiring of other players creatures and content. So its a very online centric game to start with. Im not sure why that makes the verification less annoying in my mind but for some reason it does. But the 3 installs crap? thats just pathetic. What if i get a new computer? What if I lose my HD or any of the other possible reasons I would need to reinstall the game.

Its just.. bad. I mean i have no doubt its going to be cracked real fast but that only makes it worse on spore because a cracked copy aint going online.

meh. Sadly I can see this trend catchin momentum, reguardless of how it effects sales. Makes me wonder what they will attribute bad sales too if it happens to bomb. Piracy again? that gamers arnt on the PC anymore? I dunno.

Thats not even touching upon the problems with if the auth servers go down or EA folds and your game deactivates itself forever... Granted EA isnt likely to go anywhere but its still a kind of scarey possiblity. I know if Valve fell apart and steam died then i would potentialy lose a couple hundred dollars worth of games forever.

Heh. leave it to EA to bring the biggest problem with digital distribution and infect hard copy versions of games with it as well.

EA: AYTTFP?

As much as I love BioWare and Maxis, I hope to jebus that hardcore gamers boycott these games in droves. Requiring a (more-or-less) permanent internet connection and limiting the total number of possible installs severely hampers a regular, law-abiding gamer's ability to just play the game under the circumstances they choose, rather than EA's dictated play environment.

Spore has not been confirmed as incuding the 10-day SecuRom system.
This is just a case of a rumor which has been repeated so many times it has become a supposed fact.
Trace the rumor back to the beginning and you'll see the only source is a single off-hand comment by a Bioware rep. mentioning that Spore will include some kind of activation scheme.

Not too happy about this. I have bought all of Stardock's Galactic Civilisation series (1, 2 and expansions). They all have 0 copy protection and i LOVE it. I played Galciv 1 as a pirated version first. When I realised I quite liked it, I bought it. My legit games i frequently get the cracks for JUST so I don't have to load a disk.
Company of Heroes is a good example of the problems that this sort of plan can cause. I have the disks in the boxes in boxes in the garage (somewhere). When the auth servers went down I couldn't play anymore (without finding the disks). Also I recently moved house and had no net connection. So again ridiculously invonvenient to play a game I paid for.

the pirated have turned into pirates themselves. ironic isnt it?

I was looking forward to buying/playing Mass Effect, but if it launches with this, I'll have to pass.

I'm not bothered by the "assuming every consumer is a pirate" that so many have been up in arms about - at least not so much as two other things:

1) If at any time I lose a connection to the internet (a distinct possibility if I move soon) I will be unable to play the *completely single player* game that I bought. Especially since finances will be tight and an internet connection won't be a high priority.

2) I'm not certain what kind of lasting appeal Mass Effect will have. I haven't played it yet. But I do know that there are computer games that I've owned through 13+ years and 5-6 computers that I STILL play from time to time. With this model, I would no longer be able to play those games.

Please do not chime in with the "they'll release a patch to remove the install limit eventually" argument. They might. But I should not have to wait and hope and trust to their good will to uncripple a game that I've purchased. What if, in 15 years, I want to boot the game up and give it another run through, but can't find the patch online anymore? Unlikely, perhaps, but a possibility. At the very least, finding it could be quite the hassle.

Perhaps in the end that's what it boils down to. Hassle. Any company that considers it a good business decision to make it more of a frustration to purchase their product legitimately than to pirate it simply doesn't live in the same reality that I do. I'm a big fan of Bioware, I own most of their games, but I simply cannot support this kind of draconian protection scheme - especially when it's inevitably impotent in preventing piracy.

The saddest thing is the fact that someone will find a way around this, and their software will continue to be pirated. Meanwhile the people buying their copies of these games legally, get the shaft.

Unfortunately all this outcry is probably going to fall on deaf ears. I mean, many large developers don't care about making /games/ for the hardcore market, why would they care about what the hardcore market has to say about copy-protection?

Although it's still daft in every single possible way. Once the game is cracked ONCE, it'll spread through the internet like a virus and any copy-protection measures will be rendered absolutely moot. So who suffers from heavy-handed copy protection? Not the people who crack it, they love a challenge! Not the people that download it, it's already been cracked for them! It's only the people who /buy/ it and want to be legitimate. They're the ones who need to be on the internet to play their single-player game. They're the ones who may not be able to run the game because the copy protection is overly zealous or refuses to recognise a particular brand of DVD drive.

All copy protection does is show us how much easier life is for a pirate.

Now I know I won't be playing Spore.

Who gives a **** anyway. It will be cracked within matter of hours.

@Murray: It doesn't matter if EA isn't going anywhere, it's a matter of if EA keeps the activation servers up for more than 12/24/36 months. Once they take down their activation servers, your install becomes a nice little space filler and your disc becomes a coaster.

I was planning on buying Mass Effect the moment it was released, either on Steam or in a brick-and-mortar store. If it's released like this, though... I dunno. A part of me is saying to pirate it out of spite, another is saying "just buy it, it's not a big deal since you have an always-on connection," and another is saying "don't bother at all."

Either way, their copy protection scheme has turned me from a definite "yes" into a "I *might* get it."

And people WONDER why PC games have such low sales?

Its only going to get worse as more and more people pirate the games.

Well, I don't know what happened to the comments, but I'll just reiterate what I said before in that this news will not affect my decision to purchase Mass Effect for the PC. Other than an internet service interruption, I don't see any other problem with this, and the improvements made in the PC version over the Xbox 360 version I think outweigh what is IMO a minor annoyance. If it's done properly, it'll be transparent. As I have said, I have both BioShock and Steam and haven't had problems with either of those. So I don't anticipate any problems with this either. I'm sure Bioware will release some sort of patch in the future that will do away with the internet validation checks. They're usually good looking out for their fanbase like that.

Copy protection has come a long way from coded wheels and CD keys. Companies do have a right to protect their IP's and ensure revenue. Is this the best way? I can't say. But they have to do something until a better solution comes along. I applaud companies like Stardock who have the bravery to trust their consumers, but even Sins of a Solar Empire has an online registration component. It sounds as if this is being blown just a tad out of proportion.

This reminds me of some real life piracy I read about, (and I mean REAL piracy).

Ye olde Brits taxed the hell out of stuff a long time ago and americans were pissed (we all know that).

Some people boycotted the British products all together.

Some bought their goods from pirates who robbed the british vessels and could sell the goods without the tax.

It seems almost like a repat right now.

Sure blame EA for doing mass effect with DRM but true ones that should be blamed are the ones that pirate it.

@Evangel This is true. Its not like anything online is certain to be forever present. I got MGS3:Substinance out of a pre-used game store today only to find out that they took down the online play servers for it months ago. Not exactly the same but at the same time who isnt to say that down the road EA will keep the servers up.

This is why I feel like if were going to have authorization schemes like this, or even just any sort of digital distribution method like valve has.. It should be under one centralized service that isnt tied to any one company or publisher. Something that can be sure that will stay around and functional even if every company that uses the service to auth their games goes under.

But that isnt likely to ever happen. And if it did somehow i doubt it would work out much better than this system.

I just dont really get it tho. constantly re-authing? Why? Theres got to be better ways to handle things. And the 3 installs? Unless you can revoke and regain some of the install licenses like you can with bioshock thats just.. outragous.

I was going to buy Mass Effect for the PC, but you can keep it.

@Mark S

Don't you have to be connect to the internet to use Steam anyways?

I canceled my pre-order for Mass Effect yesterday for this very reason. Any desire I had to pre-order Spore is gone too.
 
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