A recent post by our friends at IPKAT on games + DRMs (Digital Rights Management) piqued my curiousity and had me heading towards google for more information on the topic (A few months ago, SpicyIP carried a post on DRMs as well). As it turns out, gamers are reacting very strongly against a move by Electronic Arts to incorporate a new DRM copyright protection system in their new game “Spore” which doesn’t allow more than 3 installations of the game. As can be guessed, this hasn’t been received too well by their customers. A view of the game’s page on Amazon gives us an idea of the kind of reception that the game is getting. Under the “Tags Customers Associate with this product” head, “drm” leads with 968 tags followed by “limited activation” with 590 tags. Add this to the fact that, out of its 2,133 reviews, 1,961 reviews give it a 1 star, and almost all of the ones I (quickly) glanced through seemed say the same thing – great game, drm kills it.
I suppose EA thought out this move carefully, but to me it seems like their strategy is backfiring, leading to them losing customers who would’ve otherwise bought the game legitimately, since while dissuading legit customers from buying it, pirated editions will hit the markets, and if the game itself is as good as it’s made out to be, then I see a lot more pirated copies hitting shelves of potentially legit buyers. Especially in new markets like India, where gaming is just starting to take off, I don’t really see the marketing sense in such a move where hardly anyone would want to pay up for an extremely limited usage of a genuine product when the same, albeit copied, product is bound to be available for a much cheaper cost with no such restrictions.
This is not the first time that games have come with DRMs – “Bioshock” and “Mass Effects” are two more games that came with, and were severely criticized about, DRMs. As an aside, I would also like to point out this forum posting (based on this article) highlighting an interesting reaction by one of the companies responsible.
It’s also interesting to see reports that initially, apparently EA even had plans to dial in to game owner’s computers every ten days to check whether they were running a legitimate version of their software or not! Thankfully, in response to severe criticism, EA decided it wiser not to implement that part of the scheme.