Hal Halpin: Spore DRM Fiasco is Pirate Training Ground

In his GameDaily column, Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin labels the Spore DRM situation a "travesty" and blames the mess for prompting otherwise upstanding gamers to learn piracy work-arounds.

After all, legit owners get just three installs of Spore. Pirates? Unlimited.

Legit users can only have one account per copy. Pirates? Just make more copies, as many as they need.

Hal writes:

One of the year’s most highly-anticipated titles, Spore… may prove to be more notable for the fact that it marks the first time a major publisher defied the wishes of its own customers… The damage is done and the delay in responding has been significant.


The debate here isn’t, assuredly, about piracy. This DRM did nothing to combat the cracking of the game. In fact, it essentially helped in training legions of customers how to become pirates and legitimized their rationalization in the process. With each additional negative story – which seem to be released hourly – you can almost hear the collective cringing of anti-piracy executives who know that they have all been forced to take a giant leap backwards due to this fiasco…


Here’s hoping that EA does the right thing and makes amends with their customers before it gets much worse.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

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  1. Spartan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The issue at hand here is about far more then "preventing piracy" it is about control of media after purchase. With these kind of DRM systems the publisher effectively kills the right of first sale. They could not kill it the legal route so now they invent these draconian systems and do an end run around consumer protection laws in the name of protecting IPR.


    Moreover it is one step close to what I like to call the pay per play per person paradigm (P5P) or simply the P5 system. This is the real goal of such systems.

  2. Anonymous says:

    EA won’t freak they will blame piracy for the loss of sales and show it as proof why they need to do more to combat it. In their mind DRM works and they just enter this cycle. Unfortantly the end of the cycle means no more PC games as they will just publish console games.

  3. Chadius ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I can’t wait to see sales figures. If it’s below estimates EA is going to freak out.


    I also can’t wait for the DRM on Sims 3…it’s gonna be so good.

  4. Anonymous says:

    "the first time a major publisher defied the wishes of its own customers"  Hal, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard all week.  And I am following two national elections.

  5. mogbert says:

    I would like to take a minute, and thank EA for introducing thousands of Sims loving soccer moms to the idea of cracking games. This is a concept that would never have occured to them if they weren’t pointed in the right direction.

    I’m sure if you put your heads together, you can find a way to teach all of them about torrents, and then your work will be done.

  6. NovaBlack says:



    but you can access the sporepedia on the website and download any creatures you want by downloading the png thumbnail and dropping it into the spore creatures directory.


    I own the game legit, n thats how i do it! Pirates have no prob doing this AND there are packs containing THOUSANDS of creatures available for them to download anyway.


    As for their mates creatures, a couple of png thumbnails takes seconds to email, and all the data for the creature is embedded there..


    Pirates pretty much get the same creature access legit users do.


    Totally agree on the idea on the installs && accounts etc that you propose though.

  7. Godmil says:

    I’m not entirely sure that intro is correct… when you say paying customers only get one account, while pirates can have as many as they like… I think it’s actually the case that pirates dont have any account… so they can’t log into Sporepedia and share their creatures with their friends (Although I hear there are torrents with massive collections of creatures for pirate users).

    I think the game should work like this: No install limit, CD check to play game (or login), and 3 accounts per game.

  8. Lost Question ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    whats whrong with that saying for the situation is that the law isnt treating those without guns as outlaws while giving the outlaws free reign 

  9. FlashnFuse ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Here’s a saying: "If you outlaw guns than only outlaws will have guns" In short, cut the crap EA

  10. JustChris says:

    Work-arounds in technology know no bounds. Fighting off piracy is essentially putting yourself in an arms race where the other side is relentless to keep up.

  11. C. Aaron Browbowski Jr. says:

    here’s my bottom line…………………………. chances of EA (Emasculating Arts [yeah, im still calling them that, they almost cut the balls off the GTA monster]) making right out of this wrong. "nil to slim"

    Jesus Jack Jones Thompson told me to do it!

  12. C. Aaron Browbowski Jr. says:

    the more people try to fight off piracy, the more piracy seems to spawn, almost like a challenge, ne? ever notice that? btw i do enjoy the suffering off assholes that think they can stop pirating by DRM cheap ass tactics of only allowing people to install there copy of the game only 3 TIMES!

    Jesus Jack Jones Thompson told me to do it!

  13. Mech says:

    I love reading more and more about Spore and the horrible train wreck it i. About time DRM bites a company in the ass big time.

  14. Unruly says:

    Yea, right. They’ve already announced that, despite the outrage and protest against it being in Spore, SecuROM will be in RA3 and it will stay as their DRM scheme for a long time coming.

    But the upside is that now it allows a WHOPPING 5 installs! That’s more than enough for me! Just ask my release-year copies of all the Diablo games(including the Sierra-made Hellfire expansion for D1), WC2+expansion, SC+expansion, UT, Quake2, RA2, Age of Empires 1 and 2, Tribes 1 and 2, HL, Guild Wars(up to Nightfall), the list goes on… /sarcasm

    Seriously though, RA2 has one of my favorite DRM/copy protection schemes on it and I’m not being sarcastic about this one. It was easy to make copies or images of the disks that would install and run the game, but it was still able to detect if you were running the original cd or not. If you were running the actual, original cd you were fine and it would let you play for however long you wanted. If you were playing using an image loaded onto a virtual drive or a burned disk, it would kill all of your stuff 30 seconds after you started playing any mission. It didn’t force any kind of software onto your system, it didn’t cause any system instabilities or security risks, and it didn’t affect anything other than RA2, yet it actually worked! What a shocker! Sure, it was eventually broken like the rest, but DRM makers openly state that they don’t try to completely stop piracy, they just try to slow it down so that the game still sells during its peak selling period(the first few months after release).


  15. Anonymous says:

    How can they?  The activation portion of the DRM is only one aspect – it also has that SecuROM thing which is much more difficult to deal with.  Granted, not everyone cares about this, but for those of us that do, EA has only three options:


    1) Release a new version of the game and clearly label it "DRM-free!", effectively taking a loss on all the unsold copies in existance


    2) Install spore, then depend on EA to write a program to remove the SecuROM program – depending on your point of view, you must first contaminate your system, then hope EA’s program can undo the damage.  When this was tried with Bioshock, it wasn’t too successful, from what I remember.


    3) Figure out some way to install Spore via the existing DVDs, but through another installer that bypasses the one on the disc.  For less technical users (and those who leave Autorun on), this isn’t really viable.


    Personally, I’m waiting for option 4 – release it on the 360, I’ll rent it through Gamefly.  EA makes no money off me at all.

  16. Anonymous ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    you do that a lot for EA’s games don’t you?  haha, you seem to be speaking from experience on that some

  17. Anonymous ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    First off, HOLT COW WE CAN POST AGAIN. Okay, I am excited about that…

    Someone put in the shout box a link about EA loosening up the DRM so you will be able to unregister downloads after this next patch.  Though that doesn’t make me much happier, it is a move in the right direction.  I think everyone needs to keep pressing hard, and rape them for what they are worth until they start following moral and ethics of building up consumers by treating them well.

    Pretty much, I want a free expansion pack downloadable online (a real one, not a crappy Sims 2 style stuff pack), and have at least 3 months to download it for free.

  18. Capt. Vake Xeacons ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    We’re devils and black sheep,
    Really bad eggs…

    Drink up, me hearties, YO HO!

  19. Anonymous says:

    see, i pirated spore. i havent played it, i dont intend to, but its the principle of the thing. if ea sees the number of downloads, it can see the number of customers it lost, which i think outweighs the "average joe pirate" they wanted to stop. besides, there drm to stop cd copying, and then theres securom.

  20. Anonymous ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You know I took that for granted but its actually a well established sociological effect, the ‘Self-Fulfilling Prophecy’


    just shows how oblivious EA are to the whole issue in more ways than one, since most major sociological principals are based on common knowledge.

  21. King of Fiji says:

    In short if you treat your customers like pirates the ones that aren’t pirates might eventually become pirates.   Simple as that.  xD


  22. Andrew Eisen says:

    The thing that gets me about DRM is the fact that it does nothing to prevent piracy.

    It’s like those stupid video game laws that would do nothing to prevent kids from playing violent games.


    Andrew Eisen

  23. TJLK says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Hal’s statement.  It is well constructed and expresses the concern of gamers in a honest way.  I always admire honesty.

    Friday is the International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Today (September 17th) is Constitution Day.  Happy Constitution Day GP & ECA.

  24. Shadow Darkman Anti-Thesis of Jack Thompson says:

    Three words. What. The. Hell.



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