Spore DRM could kill PC gaming

Spore DRM could kill PC gaming

Summary: Up until now, I've considered DRM (Digital Rights Management) to be an evil, but a benign sort of evil. But the DRM built into Spore by EA changes all that and threatens PC gaming as we know it.


Up until now, I've considered DRM (Digital Rights Management) to be an evil, but a benign sort of evil. But the DRM built into Spore by EA changes all that and threatens PC gaming as we know it.

DRM is and always has been a big deal for people who knew about it, but as far as the average user was concerned, most really never got up close and personal with DRM. Yes, it was there, but under the surface and the hassle factor of the DRM wasn't enough to overcome the activation energy of doing something about it. So people live with their music tied to certain hardware and software players and their games being tied to CD keys and discs.

[poll id=352]

But Spore changed all that. First, EA made the DRM far more draconian than it needed to be. Three activations and you're out and one account per CD key (something that EA seems to have misled customers about initially) is really just squezing the buyer too much. These are limitations that even basic users can hit up against pretty quickly so it's something that every buyer should care about.

Spore DRM could kill PC gamingIt also seems that the anti-DRM movement has latched onto Spore as a symbol of DRM and evil and has chosen to use it as an example to educate users about the dangers of DRM and how DRM-ladened products are defective by design.

But how could Spore kill PC gaming? Well, already Spore has become the most pirated game in history.

Note: I'm not in any way condoning piracy. I'm a firm believer in paying for what you want and in my opinion if you don't like the DRM, forget about the game. Looting a free copy isn't justified.

Spore rising to the top of the pirated charts isn't good for EA, isn't good for the future of Will Wright games, and isn't good for PC gaming industry as a whole. I've personally seen how quickly people embrace the idea of something for nothing. With games it starts off at the "having to have this CD in the drive is a pain, I wonder if there's some way around that?" After a couple of minutes using Google that's changed to "hey, I don't need the CD after all!". Problem is, people don't stop there, and after a few more minutes of Googling it's become "hey, I need never buy another game!" The ripped off have become the rippers off. The truth is that given the current state of the Internet, people need never pay for any digital content ever again.

Note: Again, I'm not in any way condoning piracy. I'm just stating a fact.

What keeps people in line is a sense of honesty and fair play, and an unconscious incompetence about what's available for nothing. Not only has the DRM in Spore put people off buying the game, it's exposed a wider audience to, well, the fact that you can get pretty much anything that's in digital form for nothing in a few clicks of the mouse. 

Note: You can also get viruses, Trojans, keyloggers and so on, but that's beside the point.

Increased piracy in the games sector isn't going to bode well for future games. What's worse, DRM will have killed off the very thing that it was designed to protect.


Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • 4 votes; the tally reads "No: 25%, Yes: 100%"

    That adds to 125%. I think the calculator behind the poll is crackers.

    I'm sure Spore will kill gaming. Most people prefer set-top boxes anyway. :)
    • "most people prefer set-top boxes"

      you are not most people, and while I'm sure there are more people playing $400 consoles (that are dropping drasticly in price) than there are people playing $2000+ computers (duh) consoles are not the same gaming style and probrably will never be. Computer gaming will never loose ground, they'll prob just eventually become the same thing.
  • The publishers need to trust the consumer again

    This is showing how there is a disconnect between the consumers and publishers/creators of this content. If they made it easier to use (IE> remove the DRM), yes they possibly could make it easier for the game to be pirated..but its [b]obviously[/b] not stopping it and only encouraging it. Step up, trust the consumer a little bit more and you'll have a lot more paying customers. Unfortunately you will not stop pirating.

    I'll be the first to say I stopped buying music because of the DRM but giving it a second look due to the release of non-DRM tracks.
    • Also, lower the prices

      They should also lower the prices. The fact is that the biggest thing that is driving people to piracy: high prices for games that are NOT worth $60 dollars or anywhere near that.
      • people pay it

        people pay it, so OBVIOUSLY its worth it to SOMEBODY! Maybe it's just not worth it to you... but if it were cheaper there would be somebody else saying it cost too much...
        • SOME people pay it, yes

          But if dropping the price would get more people to pay
          it, they could make more money, and the users would be
          more happy with it and more likely to stay on the
          "light side". Win-win for everyone.
    • agreed

      A cd-key is enough. Its like having a cheap lock on your door, it won't keep out anybody who wants to get in, but it keeps honest people honest. A cd-key says in a simple obvious statement "DON'T PIRATE THIS!". But there is NO WAY to keep digital content 100% secure and it's ridiculous to spend so much time and effort (and money) trying. (besides, most people that pirate software won't buy it. I ran linux until a friend gave me a pirated copy of win 98, it wasn't until five years later and I had a job and could AFFORD to pay for an OS that I did. I still pirate software all the time to evaluate it, and if I don't like it I don't buy it.)
  • Publishers fault...

    that Spore is being pirated. DRM is the reason file-sharing exists. Every time I play Company of Heroes it forces me to put in my DVD and connect to their server to verify the copy. This takes 2 minutes, depending. Am I going to buy the new expansion coming out? Maybe, but having all this extra work for no reason is pure BS. It's easier to get the free version that's DRM free.

    Same as the Music and Video industry, the game publishers must realize they can't stop file-sharing. They must embrace it and start publishing all games DRM free. This is the only thing that will curb online file-sharing.
    • re: Publisher's Fault

      [i]Publishers fault... that Spore is being pirated.[/i]

      At this point is where I'd normally start going into... Publisher's fault? So someone steals something and it's the publishers fault?

      But that often goes nowhere. No one wants to take responsibilty for their actions anymore.

      Don't get me wrong, I don't like DRM any more than the next guy... But I just refuse to buy the item instead of stealing it and saying "It's the publisher's fault".
    • Well, If no one was pirating the software

      the publisher would not put in DRM.
      I really do not think that the publisher would want to add meaningless layers of DRM , activation servers, administration, ect for something that is not being stolen.

      Much like a lock on a house house: is it their because of theft, or does the lock encourage theft?
      • And if...

        The developer did not make it so hard for people to use the software they buy, maybe they wouldn't pirate it.

        From what I'm reading, a lot of the people 'pirating' Spore have purchased it and simply don't want to deal with the DRM.
        • re: And if

          [i]The developer did not make it so hard for people to use the software they buy, maybe they wouldn't pirate it.

          From what I'm reading, a lot of the people 'pirating' Spore have purchased it and simply don't want to deal with the DRM.

          I've never thought of circumventing the DRM as pirating if you paid for the software to begin with. I would bet however, that most who pirate Spore... did not pay for it. I'm guessing the people you're seeing posting that they bought the game and then cricumvented the DRM aren't so much afraid of admitting what they did. Those who stole it, may not be so willing to post about their theft.
          • Wrong.

            Thee fact is that most people who download software 'illegally' have either bought the real thing in question and don't want to deal with DRM or cannot afford the thing in question because the price the manufacturer wants to charge for it is way too high.

            Personally, I have 'stolen' some software..... but only games 5 years old or more that are IMPOSSIBLE to get through any legal means anymore. Any other game, I am very willing to buy and have bought on numerous occasions.... when they have gotten down to the 20 dollar price point where I can afford them.
            Unfortunately, most games for the computer disappear of the shelves by the time they get down to that price point, for no good reason that I have been able to figure out.
          • Not Wrong

            Excuse me? You just proved my point. You're willing to go on record saying you bought the software then D/L the cracked version... after all you paid for it. How many others just D/L the cracked version without paying for it?

            Obviously, we don't know because I'm guessing they're not stupid enough to admit it.
          • not at all

            After reading all this and seeing the $50 price tag on the game I'm considering pirating it myself. Being on the internet gives ones self a sense of safety, of anonymity albeit usually false inspite of it being so easy to make true. Do you honestly think that many people are scarred of EA comming after them because they said in an online post that they pirated it? Thats not going to be enough for a warrant, so how is anybody gonna check? People download CRAPLOADS of games and movies and music EVERYDAY. (so do I) But the industry goes on. Almost ENTIRELY across the board, people who pirate music, movies or software would not buy the product retail. But many DO buy a product retail because they pirated it and liked it. (of course these are all assumptions based on my personal experience, but they are fairly logical)
          • I always buy my computer games

            But now i will pirate this game.. just for principle..

            Oh, the excitement! haven't done this since the school days! :)
      • I agree...

        ...that if the DRM is too onerous, don't buy the software. I was on the fence about Spore, but had issues with the (legally) free Creature Creator, and thought that these issues might have been fixed in the final release. But this DRM goes too far. I am fine with having to put in the CD or DVD to play the game (like Seinfeld's reply to Elaine, who refuses to shake drinks anymore: "yeah that is difficult. That's a killer."), and maybe a one-time registration. But only three activations? No thank you.
        Citizen Gkar
      • You must work for EA Games

        So the solution to theft is to abuse the people who are not stealing? Not only abuse them, but DAMAGE THEIR PROPERTY???

        To use your analogy of having locks on doors to because people steal, then EA Games is like police breaking into innocent citizens homes without their permission because they might find a thief there.

        I can't imagine how you can defend a corporation abusing its customers.
        • But of course I do

          and a hefty check do I receive every two weeks!

          Who says I was defending EA Games? I was responding to the post where the person was implying that the pirating is due to DRM, not the other way around.

          I do not support DRM, especially one where you are only allowed to activate the program 3 times, but I understand why it is there, and do not blame the company for the pirating of their software.

          I am sure if there was a less intrusive way of protecting their products from pirating while remaining totally transparent to the end user, no one would have an issue.

          Unfortuneatelly, what should be done until that safeqaurd is found?
        • Just don't buy it.

          ?Capitalism is seen as arrogant, but that is merely the rage of Caliban on
          seeing his reflection. The extraordinary thing about capitalism is its
          humility and refusal to judge. It will give us what we want; it will not
          force on us what it thinks we need. Often we are disgusted by what we
          discover that we want--but that reflects on us, not on the servant who
          brings us our fetish gear and saturated fats. It would bring us organic
          turnips just as happily. If we cease to desire a product, the product
          changes or ceases to exist. There is nothing more powerless than a
          corporation.? Julian Gough, quoted in THE WEEK, 12 July 2008, p. 10.
          Jeff Richardson