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back to article Amazon flash mob mauls Spore DRM

For software that appeals to a wide audience like EA's latest sim game Spore, it's sometimes the first time the average person gets a good taste of how digital rights management (DRM) puts the screw on legitimate users. Spore's DRM limits customers to only three activations after the game is installed. That number isn't restored …

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Stop

Another one to avoid...

I've already specifically not bought Bioshock and Mass Effect because of the DRM. I re-install windows every six months or so. Sometimes it's a hardware upgrade, sometimes it's just to clear the various glitches and slowdowns XP eventually develops... oh, hang on - why am I explaining? It's my machine, I do what I damn well please with it! Same goes for any software I buy for it.

Anyone who tries to interfere with that, does not get my money.

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Gates Halo

The weird thing is...

MS's activation cycle on Windows XP & up is probably worse with Windows Genuine Advantage (for Microsoft sucking on your wallet), but for once the ire and pure wrath is worse on a non-MS than I can ever remember seeing MS getting so quickly after a launch.

Then again if they made products people actually *wanted* and shipped them on time, maybe it'd happen then too. (I'm wondering if Spore was on time, but it can't have slipped as late as BillG's LongHorn did.)

BillG with a halo, as this time he's not the bad guy according to the users.

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This was predicted.

http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20080511

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Why?

Can someone please explain to me why this level of DRM is necessary. For a game like BioShock, with no on-line component, I can see the rationale. I can see it, even though BioShock may turn out to be the last game I ever get at release that has DRM. I will now wait for the restrictions to be toned down first. I haven’t been closely following the development of Spore, but my understanding from the reviews is that it’s going to be the content sharing and social networking that will determine whether Spore is a dud or a phenomenon. Those aspects need Internet connectivity. If you need an active Internet connection, why is an install limit necessary?

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Anonymous Coward

Personally...

...if I have a problem with DRM on a game I buy, I'll download the crack / warez version when it's an issue.

That said, in this case it's odd that they didn't do what Live For Speed (an indie-developed racing sim - not to be confused with the awful Need For Speed) does: They issue three unlocks, and one more gets issued each month. If you need more, you can ask the devs politely. This gets around the major issues with reinstalls / etc, while allowing EA to keep the pretense of security. :P

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Coat

Easy as cake

"...then swab lighting on the tray.

Step 4: Place the tray in your EA B10S3CURE Owner Validity Device (Amazon.com - $69.95) and close.

Note: Remove gloves before using keyboard or mouse again.

Step 5: Agree to the ULA and wait for your data to be transmitted. Click here to see how EA protects your precious DNA information!

Step 6: You're almost ready to install your game. Place the tray..."

The future is so bright I'm putting my own eyes out now.

Coat because my heart keeps the office 5 degrees colder than the rest of the apartment.

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I blame EA entirely.

Spore is... well, it's good. But for the game I've been waiting so anxiously for, it should be great.

Methinks EA's involvement has, shall we say, watered down the result.

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Thumb Up

Awesome!

Okay, I lied.

THIS is the only other Spore article I want to read.

The Amazon reviews are gold!

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Problem is, it's quite a tedious game after the first few hours

Does not live up to the hype and expectation, and turns into a really boring space trader game. Very dissapointed. Had to delete Conan to make space for spore, but think I'll roll back from Spore.

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Flame

Outrage not overstated

We, the consumers, have watched as misguided companies have treated us worse and worse. I think it entirely appropriate that a game have 1000 or 2000+ 1-Star comments to vent the outrage at this practice. Why should downloaders have a superior version whilst the paying customers are treated as suspects?

Anything that loads software on my computer that can destabilize the system for the purpose of limiting my fair use of it is justly rubbished in the reviews. I just wished it happened more often.

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Paris Hilton

Game isnt that good to begin with

To be honest, I got spore and it it has about as much depth as Paris.

Whatever actions you take, it has little or no effect on the end game.

Cell fase is a bad rip of flow.

After playing for about 3 h I was bored.

Paris, cause she has more depth then spore

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MGJ
Thumb Up

EA Will Be Loving This

Gives them every excuse to drop the PC platform as piracy inflicted and to focus on those platforms with the real chokehold on users (Xbox, PS, Wii), which also quite handily allows significant price inflation on games (£40 as opposed to £30 for a new release).

@Dave H, if you reinstall XP every 6 months, so you would be affected by this in 18 months to 2 years; do you really think that either a) this game will have that lifespan that it will affect you or b) that if it really does still have you addicted, you won't make a two minute phone call...

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Stop

Please stop this crap EA.

I want to buy a game, put the dvd in my drive, have it copy the files it needs to run to a directory of my choosing and *nowhere* else and then, when I'm bored of it or I want to free up some space, I want to be able to uninstall the software and have all the files associated with that install to be removed and my PC to be *exactly* the way it was before the install. Then later if I want to install it again or put it on my laptop or a new PC or this PC again after some upgrades I want to be able to do that too. This is not too much to ask.

A lot of the reviwers on Amazon are saying they don't like the limited install DRM because they reinstall Windows frequently, the irony being that it's backdoor ninja crap like SecuROM that requires one to reinstall Windows frequently because it's buried so deep that's the only reliable way to completely get rid of it.

I don't want software to stop my DVD burner from working, I don't want it to dial home without permission, I don't want it to bypass any security software on my PC and I don't want a game to install software onto my computer that has more access rights to the thing than I do. Sod EA, I hope this balls up stings them hard and that they learn from this valuable lesson that it is they that serve their customers and not the other way around.

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Bronze badge
Flame

Not a good state of affairs

So after you have had to install Windows for the 6th time that year, I reckon you'll have blown your 3 install limit on these games in about 2 months!

Joking aside as usual the only thing these DRM doo-dahs do, is hamper the genuine user. The "pirates" will simply knock it off and put the fruits of their labours up on the torrent trackers. Shouting at Amazon will only make Amazon's rating system look awful, you want change you need lobby the top management at EA with a carefully worded letter.

Although from what I gather if you only have a 3 install limit I can imagine lots of innocent users will be harranging the EA support line very soon, when it won't install again after little Johnny rebuilt the family machine!

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So outraged they bought it.

You missed the hypocricy(sp?) angle - just above the comments on Amazon:

What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing This Item?

87% buy the item featured on this page:

Definitely voting with their feet then.

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Silver badge

Leopards, spots etc. etc.

"EA has recently been attempting to change its image in the gaming community from a project-killing developer sweat shop to something more positive"

Instead of trying to change a negative image, how about changing negative practices and letting the image recover itself?

EA buy up talented and imaginative yet small development teams and appear to fuck them over whilst shitting all over what could have been a good title in a greedy pursuit of cash.

I don't buy EA. I wish I could bypass them and get some cash to deserving developers directly.

EA here is a mantra for you, please repeat it until you learn something, it is capitalised for plain and easy reading:

DRM ONLY HURTS THOSE WHO BUY THE GAME, WHILST RELEASING UNFINISHED WORK HURTS EVERYONE INVOLVED.

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Unhappy

Game is fun but my PC's broken now.

After installing Spore my PC seems to find it really hard to boot up properly, and I have to boot up from one of my other drives (yes I have installed the same version of XP on my normal drive, my RAID0 (for games) and my spanking SSD (just to see :)) which makes things awkward enough for me to see what I can do about it.

My question is - if I was to use a cracked version of the software, but use my legitimate account what problems would I have? .. if it means a working PC then it's worth my while giving it a go before I uninstall Spore and try to get of of the Securom rootkit.

Oh the irony that legitimate customers are driven to the cracking community to get working software that doesn't work properly because of actions taken to stop it being cracked.

Not impressed EA - especially considering that when I come to sell/give away Spore I am going to have big troubles there as well.

Anyway, I'm off to Amazon to add another voice.

ttfn

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DVDs

Don't we face similar problems with DVDs? I buy a DVD, and I have to sit through a ridiculous advert telling me not to steal the bloody film. HELLO!!!! I just bought the fecking DVD. I don't recall a policeman stopping me getting into my car this morning telling me that stealing cars is wrong.

I always download a crack for a game the moment it arrives in the post for the simple reason that I don't want to have to insert the cd/dvd every time I want to play the game. DRM is no different (to me), I just crack it and play away.

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Anonymous Coward

Well......

I have the retail game, but downloaded he cracked version.

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EA? Who?

They've had none of my money since they screwed up Ultima Online. They're on my shitlist along with 3, Orange and Pipex. I have a long memory and I hold a grudge forever. As soon as other companies learn this the world will be a better place. Screw your customers and your customers will screw you.

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Dead Vulture

Alas, no negative stars on Amazon.

Actually, I WANTED to try Spore. When it was being talked about, I'd allocated a little bit of my bank balance to buy it. As far as sure things went, me buying Spore was a "sure thing". Money in the bank for EA.

Until all the DRM came to light. Then, as the quotes go, I voted with my wallet, and that was another chunk of change that EA wouldn't get (Bioshock, Mass Effect, Spore, how long will this go on for?).

I subscribe to the "Work hard, play hard" ethic, and when I fancy a night in with a little light entertainment (and I'm not _just_ talking about all the Paris vids and such!), I like something that entertains without giving me grief, and without telling me that I'm a potential thief (I always send messages to the companies that put that "you wouldn't steal a handbag" clip on DVDs, and refuse to buy from them again as that really irritates me no end; They tell you not to do something by actually lying about what it is that other people do and they accuse me of! Bad start.).

Now, given that Spore was looking to be entertaining, and it seems that I'd get a few hours of entertainment out of it even with all the reviews done by disappointed purchasers (maybe more if I'm one of those people who actively think it's great!), by putting DRM on, EA are actively denying me the ability of playing their game (I won't pirate it, and I certainly won't pay to be treated so badly; I redo windows every 6 months to keep it in good condition, and have a hardware upgrade coming soon anyway, so toast those three installs pretty quickly!).

Actively denying me the ability to be entertained by something by sheer stupidity (saying yes, we'll take your money, but to do anything you'll need to subscribe to methods you consider deeply unethical, and I won't sell out my ethics just to be entertained!) makes me irritated. Being irritated, it's less than Amazon's 1 star (which is merely atrocious).

I'd vote a negative 1 for a company that seems actively out to piss people off, not provide entertainment.

Dead bird, as EA's sense has long since gone the way of the Dodo.

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Anonymous Coward

Not sure what all the fuss is about.

I couldn't care less about the DRM. Installed Spore on my Mac, entered the license, played the game.

I've never had to reinstall the OS and I won't be undertaking hardware upgrades. The DRM makes absolutely no difference to me.

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Stop

Will EA listen?

With Mass Effect, there were threads hundreds of posts long on BioWare's forum complaining, the same happened with Spore, now this.

Will EA ever remove their silly glasses, look at reality and realise that DRM does sod all to stop piracy and quite a bit more to stop sales? Regrettably, I doubt it.

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Pirate

EA can take their DRM and shove it where the sun don't shine...

I was curious about Spore and was considering buying it to see what all the fuss is about, but with DRM like that, I'll be staying well away. I find it hard to believe they can seriously get away with limiting the game to three installations. Three. That's criminal. I would love to see them get taken to court to try to test the legality of such DRM systems. Indeed, does it adequately warn you on the box?

At the end of the day it's like those 'You wouldn't steal a car' anti-piracy ads that you have to endure when you fire up a (legally purchased) DVD, they're only inconveniencing the legitimate users - the first thing the pirates do is strip that out of their copy!

I might still try Spore, but I'll not be paying for the priveledge. I wouldn't want to give EA the impression that I endorse their DRM system.

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Anonymous Coward

Game has crippling bugs

A good indication of the problems with the game can be had from the EA Spore forums, where the top item is a 17 page pettition to get the game WORKING!

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Silver badge

Hmmm, Spore...

It's always looked like another Black & White to me. And as much as people raved to me about B&W, when I played it it turned out to be nothing but flawed AI and constant micromanagement of some stupid animal. Spore seemed to be...well...deja vu? That, plus DRM, equals no sale.

That said, I was immune to the last great DRM scourge, Starforce, because it didn't work properly on x64 systems. :-D

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Thumb Down

Overhyped

DRM controversy aside, what you get is a seriously over hyped game that does not revolutionised gaming (like some member of the gaming press seems to think). It is a great toy with plenty of customisation, but as a gaming product it falls far short of great titles like Civilisation or even Maxis's own SimCity.

5/10 at most.

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Thumb Down

CD-checking is annoying but permissable, DRM is not.

I do understand why games publishers feel the need to put anti-piracy measures on their games. I can permit having to have the CD in the drive (it's annoying but at least it's not intrusive), however these DRM systems do nothing but aggravate the user.

I know that the initial sales of a game are probably the most important in terms of revenue, and this is why anti-piracy measures are in place to maximise sales. However, over time the anti-piracy measures are not as important. I believe it was one of the Quake or Unreal Tournament games several years ago that initially had CD-checking anti-piracy in place, but after a year or so, the CD-checking was removed as part of a patch by the developers as it wasn't seen as necessary at that point.

I can see the games industry backing away from such restrictive DRM eventually, but not until it's probably too late and gamers have been driven away.

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Anonymous Coward

Does it really matter ?

Granted, DRM (Denial of Rights Manipulation) is a despicable practice but PC games are usually so dire these days that the likelihood of wanting to replay them in the future is extremely remote.

The publishers should realise that excessive greed is ultimately self-destructive. Blaming consumers for the decline in the market is self-defeating too.

As for the mass copying of games, well a publisher should be so lucky as to have such a desirable game on the books.

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Flame

Bah

Serves them right. EA are a terrible company. 90% of their games are terrible. This DRM bollocks is a complete backwards step and nobody in their right mind would subject themselves to such nonsense. I only hope those who have been unfortunate enough to have been bitch slapped by this "You're a criminal" system have the sense to not do business with this company again.

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Ash

@AGirlFromVenus

I sincerely hope you backed up the patches; It takes 4 hours on an 8Mb connection to update from Gold now.

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Anonymous Coward

No mention of Amazon.co.uk

Amazon UK stand accused of fiddling the reviews -- lots of people are complaining that their reviews are being censored or withheld. And this includes people *not* involved in flashmobbing.

Is this not worthy of inclusion? Any chance you can ask Amazon about this?

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Pirate

Spore: Limited Edition Bundle...

can you see what they did?

So treat your customer as a pirate, and they wont be your customer. i'm now a convert. not paying, looking for working pirate version....

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Alert

Amazon.co.uk wiped ALL reviews - five times

Amazon.co.uk wiped ALL reviews on Spore, five times over. The first time they let 1 positive review stand and blocked all new reviews for a while. Judging from the outrage this created on the forums I think EA will not be the only one suffering from bad PR.

Right now there are 17 reviews total and a 2,5 star avg rating for Spore.

Amazon.com started removing a number of reviews (no explanation, and including reviews that had 3000/3300 'positive' ) but apparently decided it wasn't worth it redirecting the outrage to themselves and stopped.

Problem is, now that the word is out, the damage is done for EA, (and I'm sure EA put a LOT of pressure on Amazon (.co.uk |.com), new (anti DRM biased) reviews will keep popping up. And if they will be deleted, the same users will simply add a 'regular' negative review.

It was very interesting to follow this development, from the moment I read about it on Boingboing.

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Pirate

Self defeating

The crack's usually out before the game hits the shelves anyway, so all that happens is legit customers are screwed with half arsed copy protections. They just end up losing sales from people who actually pay for software.

Pirate flag, innit.

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Anonymous Coward

FFS EA

The pirated version of Spore, without DRM, was available before launch in most of the world after the Australian release was cracked inside a day.

Is it really worth annoying all of your paying customers to provide the pirates with a (small) bit of a challenge? Are there really people out there so desperate to play the game that a delay of a couple of hours will make them drive to a store and pay for the game instead of pirating it? If so, how about a simultaneous world release - surely that'd help far far more than restricting legitimate users.

Isn't the whole point of the game meant to be the online sharing bit? If thats the compelling aspect of the game, then you don't need DRM, just an account key with each boxed copy - none of the MMOs need DRM protection, or disc-in-drive, or any of this annoying crud.

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Bronze badge

DRM... killed Microsoft...

PC gaming is coming to and end... and with it goes Microsoft...

Console under an HD TV, and a web browsing media playing PC, like say an iNix. (mac/linux)

and Microsoft looses the home share. Nice an easy.

But is it an outcome we want?

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Stop

@CD-checking is annoying but permissable, DRM is not.

CD checking is seriously annoying if, like me, you like to play games on the move on a laptop, and have to:

1) Take the DVD everywhere with you, exposing it to increased risk of damage

2) Take multiple DVD's with you in case you want to play more than one game - again, increasing the risk of damage and also making your bag heavier

3) In the case of Take2's Civilization games, the discs were so cheaply made that multiple clips/unclips from the laptop DVD drive caused the disc to crack from the centre outwards within 6 months. Didn't give me a free replacement though - I had to buy another copy of the game!

4) Use up valuable battery life powering the DVD drive, which in my case *also* prevents me from using the second battery in the modular bay thereby giving me a double whammy on the battery life.

It was Unreal Tournament that removed the CD check after a few months. An example of how it should be done.

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re:Not sure what all the fuss is about.

Not sure how you don't when to not see the fuss you need (in your own words):

"I've never had to reinstall the OS and I won't be undertaking hardware upgrades. The DRM makes absolutely no difference to me."

So what if you DO want to reinstall the OS (maybe it's not a Mac)? What if you DO want to upgrade hardware? What if they aren't YOU?

And you WERE affected: the price of the game was increased to pay for the protection scheme. Unless you think that EA have paid for it out of the profits and executive bonuses dependent thereon...

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Coat

DRM schmee-are-em

First time I installed a game with Starforce. BSOD's ensued and PC-reload followed. Since this lovely happenstance I will NOT install a DRM manipulated game unless on a VM. Crack it and then copy it over.

Mine's the one with the bugzapper in the backpocket

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re:EA Will Be Loving This

MS won't.

What's the one mom & pop reason for why Linux isn't ready for the home? Games.

When there are no games, what reason to have that broken piece of shite installed? None.

This is not good for microsoft.

It may be why they bought a few companies: not to ensure the XBox gets "must have" titles (Halo. Bungie Bastards) but to ensure there are games that will only run on the Blessed OS.

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Bronze badge
Stop

Perfect installs...

Anyone have an install not take on the first try. Ohhhh of course that never ever happens. Computers and software always do EXACTLY what they are supposed to every time...

When things work all is paradise. When things don't it can take multiples of attempts to install something as you diagnose the possible reasons. DRM is a joke. It's not compatible with the computer world. The arrogance of Corporate Executives is such that they think they can do as they please and ignore the very forces of nature itself never mind their customers needs!

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re: CD-checking is annoying but permissable, DRM is not.

But if I have to dig out the game CD to play it, I won't bother. I mostly play either the "game of the moment" that I'm running in the CD (one out of MANY games) or play one of the ones I've got the no-CD crack for.

Why?

Because the 500GB hard drive is plenty for a LOT of games to remain installed. However, I only have two DVD drives. So the CD/DVD is left on a shelf and I have to look for the game to pop it in (and maybe remove one of the other ones). So it's not worth it. But just play without the CD? I can change and play a game for a day or an hour. Just clicking the icon will play it.

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Go

Just another reason

Why I won't be using my PC for games. I haven't installed a game on my PC for years (the last one that I installed was a football management game, and I can't even remember its official name). I simply got fed up getting screwed over too many times by DRM \ crappy installs or the need to upgrade all my hardware just to play the damn game.

If I want to play a game I'll use a dedicated machine such as a console, and until the PC gaming situation changes I have no intention of changing.

No-one has mentioned whether the number you have to to call to get another activation code is a premium rate number? Now that *would* be low.

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Silver badge

Any advance on three tries? Oh hello Sony!

The Sony/Waterstones eBook store for the Sony PRS Reader allows you to download a title precisely ONCE. All titles are locking into the horrible Adobe Digital Edition software which makes no allowance for backing titles up on to CD or external disk. If your machine dies, ADE goes tits-up or you upgrade to a new machine you've had it.

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Stop

Resale rights

As far as I'm concerned, quite apart from limiting your own opportunity to use the software, you're also pretty well refusing the purchaser the right to buy a 2nd-hand copy of the software, because nobody's going to know whether they're going to be able to install it.

While EA certainly doesn't care about the resale market, I'd have thought the authorities might have something to say about it given that the view seems to be that boxed software IS a product, not a licence to use a product, and as such is not allowed to be restricted from being sold on.

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Whoever keeps convincing EA/etc. to use DRM need sacking

This is yet another happy tail in the epic. DRM is causing inconvenience to legitimate customers in exchange for a minor hiccough to pirates all over the place.

Get a grip, EA, etc. DRM is not the way forward. Make good products, hold back on the enormous marketing spend and have a decent pricing policy and everyone, including your shareholders, will be happy.

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Puzzled

Why did'nt they distribute it on a system like Valve's "Steam" platform if they wanted to keep down piracy.

Install game from DVD, create a user account, tie that DVD to the account , and play

If I hose this PC, then at the price of downloading a few gigs of data, I get all my games back, no fuss.

Boris

except if Steam is playing up again grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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Is this legal?

Ok, I've bought the game and its in a box on my shelf.

If I download the cracked version, install that and play it as i want am I breaking the law? After all I have bought it. I'd prefer that to installing the DRM (as I dont believe it would go 100% when uninstalling)

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Anonymous Coward

How do the publishers not get this?

Why is it that publishers seem to insist on pissing of their source of revenue? Did no other publisher notice that one of the most successful games of recent times - Oblivion - had *NO* DRM on it at all. DRM for the most part DOES NOT WORK! Pirates - who it is aimed at - take about a day to crack every scheme currently in use on games software and then just go and play the game. In contrast probably 90% of the time legitimate buyers have *issues* in the early days (overloaded servers at release), and an uncertain future (what if the publisher goes tits up?)

Spore is an OK, game, but that's about it. It's not a *great* game, and it's nowhere near what was originally promised a couple of years ago which looked superb.

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