Game publisher Electronic Arts has been catching a great deal of flak over its decision to saddle Spore with SecuROM inspired DRM. What was to be a hotly anticipated creature creator game now stands as a product to be made an example of by angry PC gamers who have the nerve to want to be treated like a consumer rather than a potential thief. Well over 2,000 Amazon 'customer reviews' have Spore pegged with a 1.5 star rating, most of which feature angry rhetoric over Spore's DRM, which limits users to three activations As one reviewer put it, "this basically means that you are actually RENTING the game, instead of owning it."
But is EA being unreasonable? The publisher claims the three PC limit essentially represents a balance of meeting the needs of the largest portion of its user base while still limiting piracy. EA notes that, according to its own stats, less than 25 percent of its customers ever activate a game on more than one machine, and those that wish to activate on more than three accounts fall into the under one percentile.
"EA has not changed our basic DRM copy protection system," said Mariam Sughayer of EA's corporate communications in a statement to Gamasutra.com. "We simply changed the copy protection method from using the physical media, which requires authentication every time you play the game by requiring a disc in the drive, to one which uses a one-time online authentication.
Sughayer went on to note that of the 453,048 activations for Spore, 77 percent activated on a single PC, 23 percent activated on more than one, and just 1 percent of users tried to activate on more than three machines (yes, 77 + 23 + 1 = 101).
Assuming EA's numbers are valid, an argument could be made that the hoopla surrounding Spore's DRM scheme is being blown way out of proportion. After all, if hardly anyone even cares to install a game on more than three PCs, than what's the big deal?
On the other hand, how many copies has EA prevented from being pirated due to its DRM scheme? Not only has Spore been cracked since day one, but as Maximum PC's guru of Gaming Roundups Nathan Grayson points out, some users are encouraging the practice of pirating Spore as a way to send a message to EA. It's a tired song and dance that publishers seem unwilling to acknowledge - no matter what copy protection scheme is implemented, pirates will find a way around it, and paying customers will be the ones to pay the penalty.
What are your thoughts - is Spore's DRM scheme being blown out of proportion?