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DRM: Power & Responsibility

By Shamus
on Tuesday Sep 23, 2008
Filed under:
Video Games


Game companies are big on the idea that they’re just providing us with a “license”. Or lately, they’re trying to turn software into a “service”. The addition of the internet has made it possible for someone else to administrate your software. Setting aside the morality and legality of this deal, how do these various schemes work out? Assuming the user doesn’t resort to piracy, what’s expected of them, and what do they get in return?

  1. The original Model: You buy a disc and install the software wherever you like. As the user, you have all the power. You also have all the responsibility. It’s your job to take are of the disk and whatever accouterments accompany it. If the disk is lost or scratched, it’s your fault and your problem. Buy another one.
  2. The Steam Model: Valve has all the power. They decide if you own the game. They decide where you can run it. You can’t sell it, or even give it away. You can’t run it in more than one place at a time. If the Steam servers go down, your game will vanish and you will have nothing. On the other hand, Valve also takes on all the responsibility. Once you register your game, you don’t need to care for it at all. You can throw the disks away. All you need is your login and a ‘net connection. No matter where you go or how many times your computer gets wiped or how often you reinstall or upgrade, Valve will always let you download the game.
  3. The Online Activation Model: The publisher – 2kGames or EA – has all the power. They decide when and where you run it, etc. But you bear all the responsibility. You take care of the disc, the manual, and the serial number. If you need to re-install later, the publisher will demand proof that you posses one or all of these objects before granting permission. If you lose the disc or the proof, you lose the ability to play the game.

When the publishers complain the online activation is “just a slight change” from earlier schemes, they are missing the fact that they have taken all of the power from the user and left them with all the responsibility. Upping the install limit from three to five does not change this. Neither does “relaxing” the install limits. Or allowing unlimited installs. As long as the user must ask to play the game, and as long as it’s their job to take care of the physical media, this is a raw deal for the consumer.

Me, I always prefer #1. I’ll grudgingly accept #2. But #3 is a scam and I want no part of it.

EA Games president and God of Mountebanks Frank Gibeau recently said:

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.

As far as I’m concerned, you have already done so. And I think everyone understands what a huge problem piracy is. I’d even go so far as to say it’s the second largest problem facing the PC platform today.

Comments (67)

1 2

  1. Kevin says:

    Might be a good thing if games weren’t expected to make so much money. Drive the big investors off. Good riddance. Bring back the small developers who don’t need to make a zillion bucks to recoup their investment and time. Lower the bar for entry, and we’ll have more games to choose from!

    Oh, I almost forgot. I just got my Beta into GOG, that online game service you were talking about a couple of weeks ago. I’ll try it out later and let you know how it goes.

  2. Cybron says:

    An excellent demonstration of why online activation is the place to draw the line.

    And no, the second biggest problem is bleeding edge mentality, I think.

  3. qrter says:

    So EA seems to have backed down a bit on the Spore DRM:


    “From three installs ever and one account per copy of the game, they're switching to as many re-installs as you want on a maximum of five computers, with a patch for multiple accounts for one machine on the way.”

  4. Zukhramm says:

    Piracy is the third largest problem.

    The biggest problem is that games today are required to take years of development time and large amounts of money.

  5. Eric says:

    I haven’t bought a pc game in like 2 years, nor do I feel compelled to.

  6. Lain says:

    addition to #3 from qrter:

    (…) EA Games' President Frank Gibeau saying:
    “We've received complaints from a lot of customers who we recognize and respect. We need to adapt our policy to accommodate our legitimate consumers.”

    So, when he doesn’t know us, we are not respected? Even if we are Customers?

  7. Anonymous says:

    What’s really funny about that quote is the fact that Spore was out on torrents, fully cracked, almost a week before the official release date.

  8. T-Boy says:

    It gets my hackles up when game publishers bleat about “software as a service” like they own the goddamn term.

    Where I come from, “software as a service” meant that you got the software for free, and you got the source code for free as well. But if you had problems, you were really expected to fix the problem yourself, or risk talking to the “community”, who would then tell you to RTFM.

    If you wanted professionals working on your problem rather than the rank unwashed amateur masses, you ponied up the monies for support from people who knew the software, who provided you support of a certain agreed-upon level of quality, and called you “sir” throughout the whole exchange.

    That was what I always thought “software as a service” was. Not this frickin’ scam.

  9. Duoae says:

    I’m pretty sure that with Steam you can gift your games to other people quite easily – or you can pay a transfer fee (which is not ideal) and give them away to another account.

    The problem with Steam is that it’s an open platform. Valve has not set standard for publishers/developers using their programme – hence why things like Bioshock and Mass Effect have the same stupid DRM on Steam as in retail boxed copies…

    Also, the user has full responsibility for their account. According to the FAQ if your account is hacked and your games are lost or banned for online use then it’s your fault. Most banks would be sued out of business if this model was prevalent: imagine if my account was ‘hacked’ and i lost some money. Would my account then be banned as it is stated on Steam? WoW players accounts are hacked all the time and yet you don’t see Blizzard stating that ‘tough sh*t, you’re responsible for it’. Valve need to man up on the customer protection for their service… and they need to standardise the experience as well. It should be Steam DRM and nothing else on top.

    All that being said: Good rant :)

    I received Crysis Warhead in the post today after preordering it for my dad. I didn’t find out until today that it has the same DRM as Spore and Mass Effect etc. because i didn’t see it anywhere…. I feel cheated because it’s not stated at the point of sale. If they started doing this then i suspect that DRM would die off pretty quickly because no right-minded customer would pay full price for a rental.

  10. Robert says:

    Where does “today’s games suck” fall on the problem list?

    I used to write game reviews for Computer Gaming World, back when it existed and also didn’t suck – the Emrich era. I reviewed ten, maybe twenty games for them – I forget, it was a long time ago. That’s right, bitches, daddy is old skool :) And of those games, one – ONE – wasn’t very good. And in fact, a lot of other people thought it was great, it just wasn’t a game I connected with. All the others ranged from a bare minimum of “pretty good” up through “eternal classic”. Bad games were the exception. Stupid games were aberrations.

    Today if I go into the game store, I might be able to find one new game on the shelf that I’m interested in. Maybe. There’ll be three or four on the shelf that are good games, but that are old – games I already have. And if I take that one game home – the one that I can’t tell just from looking at the BOX that it’s garbage – the odds are pretty good that it’ll turn out to be garbage as well. Just garbage with a slightly less stupid cover.

    So what do I end up playing? Dwarf Fortress. No graphics, crap interface, bizarre design philosophy – but FUN. All the things that are alleged to make a game great are completely absent – yet I find myself putting up with all kinds of annoyances just to peer at ASCII graphics to see when the stupid mason will finish the auxiliary well.

    I think the corporate giants are going to die, because for whatever reason they have completely lost touch with the things that make computer games fun. And they will be replaced by the Stardocks and the lunatic two-man teams coding in unheated garages, because those guys actually know how to make a game that isn’t a steaming pile of crap.

  11. Ingvar says:

    I am honestly starting to wonder if “the street performer protocol” may, possibly, be an option for computer games. At least in some less-generally-loved genres…

  12. Danath says:

    A sad state of affairs, theres many games out that id play, even with their hassles and problems, but I see on the back “This software is protected by DRM/Securom” and I have to put it back down, so I lost my chance to play Mass Effect or Assassins Creed or many other games. This has me worried for things like Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space, as these are two amazing looking titles (Spore never interested me unfortunately).

  13. Kizer says:

    Last PC game I bought was an update for Myst, Riven and Exile so I could have the latter two on only one disc, rather than spread over multiple. :)

  14. Reluctant DM says:

    As far as steam not helping with hacked accounts I have experience with that. Two friends on seperate occasions had their accounts stolen (someone got in and changed the password). After verifying they were the original account holders (partially by email, partially by credit card), Valve returned the accounts to their rightful owners. This took a few days but my friends were satisfied. One of them had steam create a new account with a new name and counter-strike:source installed so he could continue to play while they resolved the issue.

    Bottom line: Steam isn’t perfect but they are interested in actually helping their customers.

  15. Almathea Toes says:

    PC gaming is a dying market. Especially now with the DRM stuff happening, but the main impetuous is the console market. Before anyone screams at me, for most people consoles are just a better price option. The thing will last four to five years period. No video cards, no sound cards, no RAM concerns, no upgrades until the whole new console comes out for the price of a medium end laptop. For this slightly annoying upgrade cycle(but in my experience much less annoying than the expensive 12-month minimum upgrade cycle for a PC in order to continue running new games) you get the original deal on software. A disk that I can take anywhere on any console of the appropriate type and play it. I can lend it to friends, sell it and whatnot. So far except for spore and the allusion to galactic civilizations (if I missed one other my apologies) all of the games mentioned could have been played on the 360 or PS3.
    Even better it’s isolated from my main systems, do I really care if my box goes down to a virus, well yes, but at least no sensitive documents or data is compromised. Well, they can pretend to be me on xbox live.

  16. Carra says:

    Yes, EA seems to back down a bit:

    The good news is this: EA are taking a big step back on Spore's DRM. From three installs ever and one account per copy of the game, they're switching to as many re-installs as you want on a maximum of five computers, with a patch for multiple accounts for one machine on the way.

    As many installs as you want. That actually sounds reasonable to me.

  17. Eric says:

    I thought we’ve already established that Pc gaming isn’t dead, it’s just never going to reach the peaks it once held. The age of the consoles has pretty much overshadowed the former.

  18. lowlymarine says:

    As many installs as you want. That actually sounds reasonable to me.

    Well, it sounds reasonable until you dig a little more. They don’t really mean as many reinstalls as you want. It’s like BioShock – uninstall first and we’ll grant you an install back. So if your computer gets FUBARed – say, by a certain rootkit-like DRM scheme – and you can’t uninstall before a reformat, you burn an install. Also, upgrades still burn installs no matter what – it’s considered a “different computer” if you change your video card, for example.

    Bother that nonsense. I’ll keep playing GoG games and my 360, thank you very much.

  19. TA says:

    I'm pretty sure that with Steam you can gift your games to other people quite easily – or you can pay a transfer fee (which is not ideal) and give them away to another account.

    Are you sure about that? How, praytell?

    My understanding of it is that your games are locked to your account, which is nontransferable according to the EULA. The whole thing is a flagrant violation of the first sale doctrine, which is why I’m boycotting their games. If they added that functionality, that’d change everything.

  20. Vextra says:

    I find it ironic that the plotlines to late 80s/early 90s slacker films like Wayne’s World have become the most likely predicted outcomes for the future of PC Gaming. One wonders where today’s CEOs were when these anti-corporate morality tales were being made. Probably losing money on the stockmarket. Nothing changes, then.

  21. Carra says:

    As for steam gifts:

    When you purchase a game on Steam, we offer the option to “gift” the item to anyone you choose, whether or not the recipient is a current Steam user. The recipient will receive the gift as an attractive e-mail card with a personal message from you and instructions to redeem the game.

    A Steam gift purchase is a one-time transfer””after the recipient has activated and installed the game, it is a non-refundable game in his or her Steam games collection. Also note that you may only gift new purchases””you may not transfer games you already own. That'd be like wrapping up and presenting the toaster you've used every morning for the past year.

  22. The Lone Duck says:

    I won’t say much in response, because I agree with your premise and conclusions.
    As a DRM sidenote, Penny Arcade is doing three DRM related strips and posts. So you may wanna stop by there and take a peek. Hopefully, this will get the word out a bit better.

  23. GeneAngel says:

    …Or like giving away a book that you’ve read a dozen times and you think that the recipient would love as well. Is it as NICE as if you went out and bought them a new book? Can both you and the recipient read the book at the same time? Can you even read it again unless you go out and get another copy? In all cases ‘No’, but as long as only one person has access to the book at a time I don’t see the problem.

  24. Yonder says:

    Re Post 21:

    God Bless Steam for saving us from tacky regifts! I would gladly abandon my rights to the first sale doctrine for such a service! Their rule is firm, but fair!

  25. Steve C says:

    The first instance of online software activation I know of is “Windows Genuine Advantage” (WGA). It kept me from getting WinXP forever because it acted as though it wasn’t mine. While I could pirate it, I refused to do so. I found not using at all was vastly preferable to asking someone else for permission to use my own computer.

    However this official microsoft support page tells you how to disable WGA aka activation. When I found out that info I forgave M$… a little bit. (Might disable some other stuff you care about, but the stuff it disables I personally go out of my way to remove.)

    I drew the line at online activation years ago with WinXP. What made people draw their line NOW with Spore?

    BTW Shamus great Stolen Pixels arc. I can hear those characters.

  26. Robert says:

    Also note that you may only gift new purchases””you may not transfer games you already own. That'd be like wrapping up and presenting the toaster you've used every morning for the past year.

    Rather like the used stuff I give friends when I buy new stuff, then? So far I’ve given away three computers, with their software, to friends for whom my old machine was an upgrade (or a first machine).

  27. Tizzy says:

    OK, so I’m not a specialist, and if this topic has not been done to death already in the many DRM-related posts, it sure should have been…

    From a purely *legal* standpoint, the fact that software is only *licensed* to you has been around for a very long time. I can remember this topic coming up in the early 80’s at the very least. This model was written up by Congress with the help of the big players from the software industry of the time, then exported abroad massively with the subtlety usually associated to steamrollers.

    What I’m driving at is that, as far as I know, the potential for [what we perceive as] abuse that we see now was there all along, it’s just easier to impose on customers now, with the internet and new DRM schemes and so on.

    Bear in mind again that I’m no specialist, so don’t just take my word for it, but software companies do have the (legal, if not moral) right to treat us the way they do, and our biggest problem is that our intuitive notion of software ownership does not match the legal framework out there.

    Conclusion: The real problem is not so much the attitude of software companies as much as the laws that allow them to do it. Complaining about DRM or other things is fighting the symptoms rather than the root of the problem.

  28. Eric says:

    I think why the reaction to Spore was so strong, was the fact that the game has been hyped for over a year, and we didn’t get what we expected. Spore is just a pale imitation of the Civilization, Sim city, Rise of Nations, and other distinguished titles. This I Imagine is the straw that broke the camels back, so to say. As I’ve mentioned before I haven’t bought a game for my Pc in two years, and honestly I was actually looking forward to Spore, it peaked my interests. Then I found out you could beat the game in a day. I was expecting it to be a progressive time game, that synchs up with your pc clock. It would last like 6 months, but alas I was let down. I honestly think that will wright peaked when he made the sims.

  29. RR says:

    And EA have shot themselves in the foot again . . .


    A moderator on the official Spore forum is threatening that discussion of the game’s DRM may result in your Spore game account being banned. Meaning, you would have to buy another copy of the game.

    Truly disgusting.

  30. Illiterate says:

    Geneangel —

    A book which as been read a dozen times is damaged.

    Bits don’t age.

    Still, it does mean the software is a service, not a good, and as such can’t be resold.

  31. LintMan says:

    Post #9 wrote “Most banks would be sued out of business if this model was prevalent: imagine if my account was “˜hacked' and i lost some money.

    I received Crysis Warhead in the post today after preordering it for my dad. I didn't find out until today that it has the same DRM as Spore and Mass Effect etc. because i didn't see it anywhere…. I feel cheated because it's not stated at the point of sale.”

    Re: bank account hacked… If some hacker puts a keylogger on your PC and gets your bank password and uses it to empty your account, I think you’ll be really hard pressed to find any bank that would reimburse you, since it wasn’t their security that was hacked, it was yours.

    Re: Crysis Warhead… The Crytech guys were being really realy cagey about the DRM status in Crysis Warhead. The day before it was released, the CEO was still telling people “Don’t panic” and that the limited install/activation stuff “still hasn’t been decided”. This was *the day before it was released*. It’s too bad, because I have a beefy enough PC to play it reasonably and had been planning to give it a chance even though I didn’t think Crysis was all that good.

  32. GeneAngel says:

    Fair point. Though the same could be said of games in the pre-online age, the bits on a compact disc don’t decay either.

    Also, I realize that Steam is a service, and thus we shouldn’t expect to get all the benefits of using it without some reasonable (REASONABLE) drawbacks. Maybe you have to pay a fee (~$5) to transfer the game from your account to someone else’s, or maybe once you’ve done so the only way that you can re-add it to your account is to buy a whole new copy of the game, and either way if you get a game via transfer like this then you can’t yourself pass it on. This should prevent cases like a ring where each member buys a single copy of a different game and then just passes them around forever.

  33. Lanthanide says:

    “You can't run it in more than one place at a time. If the Steam servers go down, your game will vanish and you will have nothing.”

    Actually this is completely wrong.

    You need to be online at the very least once in order to play your game, either to download it and install it or to activate it if you bought a boxed copy.

    After that, you never need to connect to the steam servers again, and if they go down it still doesn’t affect the game installed on your machine. How do you achieve this? By running Steam in offline-only mode. You still have full access to your games, but it won’t connect to the internet to verify anything. This actually makes piracy very simple, provided you don’t mind sharing your steam account with others – simply use the handy automatic backup tool and move the game to a different machine and install steam and set it to run in offline-only mode. Done. Now you can both play your single copy of the game at the same time.

    Obviously this only works for single player games, but multiplayer games have pretty much always had better piracy protection by their very nature.

    I am unsure exactly how this ties in with the activation scheme – if you make a backup of an activated game, I don’t know if it needs to re-activate itself when you put it onto another machine. If you don’t need to re-activate, then this will let you keep all of your single-player games in perpetuity, even if the main steam servers go offline and never come back, as long as you have a way to install the steam client.

  34. Christian Groff says:

    ~”From three installs ever and one account per copy of the game, they're switching to as many re-installs as you want on a maximum of five computers, with a patch for multiple accounts for one machine on the way.”~

    That’s fine enough for me to purchase the game, but I think Shamus is never going to accept it no matter what deals are broken – he hates DRM of all kinds, no matter what. Me, I don’t care with the fact that SecuROM requires me to have the disc for The Sims 2 in my drive to play it, as long as it’s fair. I do agree that SecuROM is not really going to help if pirates have free copies of the game to download already… it’s already too late.

  35. Duoae says:

    Reading the responses to my post i revisited the valve FAQ and found that they have improved their service considerably. Previously, a banned account ‘would and could not be retrieved’, now however they accept that this can happen.

    My information was out of date and i’m sorry for not checking more recently.

    The gifting and transfer of games from one account to another was also something that used to happen before the new gift system was put in place. I have two friends who had done this and i assumed that it would still be applicable separate from the new gift system. I guess it doesn’t apply anymore.

  36. Deoxy says:


    As far as the law goes, yes, software CAN be a service which you license… assuming you actually agree to the license as part of the sale.

    “shrink-wrap” licenses (sometimes called “click-thru” licenses) are a completely different animal – I pay money, I get product, I take product home, I open product (making it, for all practical purposes, non-refundable), and THEN I am presented with a license? Um, no – the sale was complete before I left the store, and I made no such agreement.

    Imagine buying a new car with cash, taking it home, and then discovering that the company claims it isn’t actually YOURS. Yeah, I think you’d be pretty upset. Same thing here.

    And the courts have agreed – on the few occasions it actually gets that far. The software companies know they are on thin ice (at best) and generally settle before judgement.

  37. folo4 says:

    so, all we need is a very powerful man who’s got pissed off with DRM in order for companies to buckle up?

    This is sad.

  38. Eric says:

    It takes powerful men to change any corporation or government policies.

  39. Mistwraithe says:

    Shamus you are missing a 4th option: The Stardock Model.

    In this model Stardock take all the Responsibility but You have all the Power. So long as you have your login details you can download games from Stardock even if you have lost the disk. However if you keep your disk and/or you archived downloads then you can install them whenever you want.

    In theory anyway – I haven’t had any bad experiences with Stardock and I have purchased a few games, even used the archive facility to transfer one between computers. However I haven’t used Stardock enough to be able to say for sure whether they deliver on my statements above.

  40. Jez says:

    I don’t see why your game would vanish if the steam servers went down. Steam has an offline mode. Besides, you can create backups of Steam games and burn them onto cd/dvd if you really want, giving you that option as well.

    As far as I know it’s pretty much always been the case that technically you were only buying a license to use the media in the way described in the EULA. Not that it stops anyone from reselling the game or lending it to a friend, but the minutiae has always been there.

  41. Roy says:

    Geneangel “”

    A book which as been read a dozen times is damaged.

    Bits don't age.

    Neither of those things is necessarily true.

    A book that is read a dozen times isn’t new in the technical sense of the word, but it may not show a single sign of wear and tear. Books, particularly if they’re cared for properly, can last a very long time. The Guttenburg Bible is over 500 years old, and still looks beautiful. Like new? No. But a book can easily be read multiple times with nothing more than superficial damage. Many of the books that you buy “new” have already been flipped through and read or glanced at dozens of times by the time you get them.

    And data does decay. A CD will not last forever- it will eventually decay and degrade, just like a hard drive will. The materials used to create them are not magical everlasting materials. If you’re storing data on a magnetic medium, it’s going to lose data over time. That’s inevitable. Drives become unstable, data decays over time and is lost, creating corrupted files and unusable files, etc.

  42. R4byde says:

    I don't see why your game would vanish if the steam servers went down. Steam has an offline mode. Besides, you can create backups of Steam games and burn them onto cd/dvd if you really want, giving you that option as well.

    And how are you going to install the game with steam down? Heck, they make you update the frickin’ thing before they’ll let you play! Do you have any idea how LONG that takes on a 56k? Even for just Half-life (My first and last Valve product.) it took a good six hours just to update the game so I could play, even though it was nearly ten years old when I bought it! Why was I forced into patching a new version of an old game?

  43. kanthalion says:

    Only obliquely related, but: I finally got my GOG code and am downloading Fallout as I type.

  44. Mark says:

    Shamus, from what I’ve seen of gog.com, their model is that they take the responsibility but you get all the power. Which is sweet indeed.

  45. Inquisitor says:

    They’re trying to heal a wound by picking at it.

    I don’t think I need to say any more.

  46. MuonDecay says:

    It’s amusing that publishers are resorting to DRM as a response to seeing PC gaming’s profits eroding. It shows how little they know about why those profits are eroding.

    DRM will save their profits just like glasnost and perestroika saved the Soviet Union. Ask Gorbachev how well that worked, sometime.

    Publishers are choosing to respond to inflamed, displeased customers by inflaming and displeasing their customers. They have a hard-on for destroying their profits. Good for them, I say. If they’re that stupid we are better off without them making our games. It opens up market share for people with their heads on straight.

  47. EternalMoogle says:

    I agree, but I have one minor nitpick on word choice. “Game companies” is a really generic term, and speaks nothing to the publisher-developer dynamic. I’d be willing to bet most developers aren’t keen on including DRM (They usually have other things on their mind, like making the game the best it can be); but when we as a community lump the entire gaming industry into a single term like that, the line can potentially become blurred in our minds.

    Anyways, I just think semantics are important.

  48. hank says:

    I wonder what piracy is like in countries other than the US? I’m sure it happens, maybe to an even greater extent than it does here (where we are so well-trained to consume), but in the US there’s this epidemic that infects how we deal with everything from video games to foreign policy: we talk a lot about freedom, but we usually don’t talk about responsibility.

    Shamus’ analysis is dead on, as usual. The current schemes put forth by game companies give us none of the rights and all of the responsibilities. If you buy certain video games, you can get carded at the door, every time, for the rest of your life.

    I’m not a big fan of any scheme where I don’t actually own my games… like Shamus, I enjoy pulling out old games every so often, and it’s not totally unrealistic that I might be playing games that are more than a decade old. Valve occupies a sort of middle ground, because they give you something in return: your computer dies? Who cares? They know you own the game, just download it again.

    EA, on the other hand, wants to have its cake and eat it too, all the rights but none of the responsibilities. They don’t even pretend to be doing anything other than screwing you – they just want you to think it’s for your own good. People who buy their software get what they deserve.

    EternalMoogle has a point about the publisher/developer dynamic, but from the point of view of someone who just wants to play some damn video games, that argument is too much like “he’s a great person, deep down inside, once you get past all of his defenses”. Sure, I might be able to dig down past the BS or evade the guardians at the gate or whatever to get to what I really want to do, but I wanted to play a game, right? Not go spelunking or slaloming through the outer defenses.

    I wish game companies knew how many people, like me, pay for games but then immediately download a cracked EXE to get around the bullshit. I don’t care if the bullshit was put there by the developer or the publisher or anyone, I just don’t want it on my machine. If I’ve read that even with available cracks you can’t completely make a game sane, I simply don’t buy it.

  49. EternalMoogle says:

    “he's a great person, deep down inside, once you get past all of his defenses.”

    I think it’s more like, “He hangs out with gang banging drug dealers because they have all the hook ups… but really, he’s not like them. He’s a great guy!” but yeah, I see your point. :p

    The whole trend is damned unfortunate, whoever the blame lies with. I just get really picky about semantics sometimes is all.

    The saddest part is we seem to be losing the battle. My gut tells me EA had planned all along to “loosen” DRM restrictions, or at least had the contingency plan worked out. Now they can say, “Hey, we’re nice, we care about you! Look at all the wonderful things we’re providing!” and still screw us over in less overt ways.

    I’m still hoping we can all find a middle ground that can be tolerable one of these days. It’s shelved along with my plans for flying pigs and world peace.

  50. WysiWyg says:

    Someone else might already have pointed this out, but I think it bares repeating; online-activation (and Steam-like services) aren’t there to combat piracy (which actually isn’t that big a problem in reality), it’s there to combat the second-hand market. I believe that it was some EA official who actually said that selling your game again was almost as bad as pirating it in the first place, right?

    Oh, and thanks for the tip about GoG, just got Fallout:tactics from it. It’s embarrassingly easy to buy and install the game. I almost wept with joy.

  51. Simplex says:

    “Mark: September 23rd, 2008 at 11:08 pm
    Shamus, from what I've seen of gog.com, their model is that they take the responsibility but you get all the power. Which is sweet indeed.”

    I bear bad news. Apparently, game publishers do not want to join the GoG initiative. Reason: lack of DRM. Cool, huh?

    Here is auto translated page of the news I read today:


  52. beno says:

    Hey this makes me think of how video renting/buying has changed over the years. When I grew up, the norm was to go to the video store and rent a VHS of the movie you want for say $3-5 dollars, and then give it back after a few days or a week when you’re done with it. Now the norm is to buy a DVD for say $20-30, even though you only watch it once maybe twice, and then it sits on your shelf.

    Games seem to be going the other way – we’re going from a buying model to a renting model, or at least something close to it if you have to pay more money after a period of time to keep playing (eg because you used up your 3 installs through dead hard drives and upgrading computers). My question is whether game manufacturers are going to set their “rental” prices at a fraction of their current “buy” prices? That would be fair, right?

  53. Zamalan says:

    @3 Qrter

    So EA seems to have backed down a bit on the Spore DRM:


    “From three installs ever and one account per copy of the game, they're switching to as many re-installs as you want on a maximum of five computers, with a patch for multiple accounts for one machine on the way.”

    That’s pretty much the same. It was 3 installs, but a reinstall on the same pc did not consume one of those. So basically you could install it as much as you wanted on the same pc/windows configuration.
    Now you can “reinstall it as much as you want (omgomg) on 5 pc’s instead of 3”.
    It went from 3 to 5 but nothing else changed allthough the wording is trying to convince you that they lossened the protection A LOT.

    Anyway after being an avid pc gamer for a good dozen years I bought an xbox last week and atm i’m not looking back. Although Interplay has just launched their new site… If they start making pc only games i might have to go insane a bit…

  54. William says:

    I’m pretty sure you’re wrong Zamalan, because i had to uninstall and reinstall Spore on this very machine, and according to it i only have 1 more install. I definitely lost an install reinstalling it (no hardware changes).

  55. Ludovsky says:

    Now exactly related Shamus, but perhaps you’d be interested to learn EA just got a global class action lawsuit thrown at them over Spore and the version of Securom used inside it, particularly because of how the software never uninstalls itself alongside the games it cam with once they are uninstalled.

    http://www.courthousenews.com/2008/09/23/Spore.pdf for the actual lawsuit itself.

  56. Factoid says:

    I am really glad I diversified my gaming. I’d be supremely pissed off if the PC was all I had for my gaming needs.

    I buy at least one game a month, except during the summer, which is a seasonal wasteland for games.

    It used to be that I bought about 10-12 games per year for the PC. Thinking back to last year, after I did a 1200 dollar update on my PC…basically gutting it and starting from scratch…I bought 4 games. Bioshock, Crysis, Quake Wars, and Sins of a Solar Empire. Quake Wars and Sins were both OK, but didn’t really enthrall me. Crysis was a beautiful tech demo and had an awesome interface, but the story was basically trash. Bioshock was the only awesome one.

    On the other hand I bet I’ve bought at least 12 games for my 360 and Wii in that timeframe, and enjoyed the hell out of at least 8 of them.

    Piracy is not the problem with PC…it’s the selection.

  57. Graham says:

    Just to note, I believe Steam does let you give games away. A friend of mine for HL2 from a friend this way.

  58. krellen says:

    Two notes:

    No EULA has ever been held up by a US court.

    Spore isn’t worth the time even without DRM. Get the creature creator; that’s the only good part.

  59. Ermel says:


    sseing as you probably won’t succeed in talking game software companies out of online activation entirely, and that the only worthwhile argument from their point of view seems to be revenue, what would you think of the following idea:

    Once the newness starts to wear off, sales go down, and virtually everyone who wanted the game has either bought or pirated it months ago, the producers re-release the game, without online activation (or, ideally, without any DRM at all). They pack all the accumulated patches and additional downloads onto the DVD, package it nicely, call it the “Collector’s Edition” (since it’s worthwhile being collected, unlike the online-activation version) — and charge more for it.

    They’d only sell relatively few of these, to activists as yourself (who didn’t buy the original release) and probably also to die-hard completist fans (who did), but I think the prospect of making more money with relatively little work required might get them hooked to the idea nonetheless.

    My question is, would you accept this as a (far from ideal, I grant you, but still far better than nothing) solution to the online-activation dilemma?

  60. Steve C says:

    @58 krellen:
    That is not correct.

    EULAs have been held up by US courts, even the shrinkwrap ones. EULAs are enforceable in Virginia and Maryland specifically due to the UCITA. Certain court districts have also enforced EULAs through shit rulings like Blizzard v. BnetD and ProCD v. Zeidenberg. (The ProCD one was particularly stupid.)

    HOWEVER it is correct to state most of USA’s courts (both by geography and by represented population) have shot down shrinkwrap EULAs. Other countries I’m aware of have also shot down EULAs without the silliness of ruling both ways.

  61. Shamus says:

    Ermel: In principle, yes. I wouldn’t have any firm objections, anyway. I’m not sure I’d have the money to pay more, but for a few must-have titles (Mass Effect) this would be a welcome deal.

  62. Eric says:

    http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3170131 Ea is getting hit with a class action lawsuit. Enjoy!!!!

  63. Vacca says:

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I would put up with the draconian DRM of Spore if they made one change: Release a patch that completely removes the DRM and makes the software MINE after the game has reached bargain basement status. How could they lose in this situation? Hell, I’d even put up with the non-damaging versions of Starforce if they did this.

    I suggested this to Brad at Stardock and he dismissed me as a hacker, so I stopped buying his games. It was a perfect demonstration of the customer just NOT being listened to.

  64. Toby says:

    @Vacca – I suggested to stardock earlier this year that they should release a patch for their games when they have finished with the support period that removes the stupid requiremnt to use STC or Impsule to patch and then activate the patches on the game.

    I was accused (By stardock) of being the type of “customer” that they don’t want to ever deal with as I had unrealistic expectations of what software is (and should be) and that I shoud take mtself out of their sight and never bother them again.

    I must say I was quite shocked by this attitude and have resolved to never buy a product from them again, if thats the kind of crap I have to put up with when I make a suggestion!

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