Spore, Will Wright’s opus that puts you in control of a whole species from birth the death, is a game that has split opinion right down the middle, at least in terms of the game itself. But while some argue it’s too simple, and their opponents argue it is genius, everyone seems to agree on one thing: the DRM sucks.
In its wisdom, Electronic Arts decided to release Spore with a draconian DRM limit in place which means every purchaser of an official copy of the game is restricted to three activations. This is intended to prevent one copy being shared by friends and installed on multiple computers. In tandem with the disc needing to be in the computer to be playable, and the online activation requirements, this should have made the game piracy-free. Except it hasn’t. In fact, Spore is the most pirated game ever.
The problem that EA faces is that by including such draconian DRM limitations, it gives the pirates an excuse to legitimise their activities. The argument being that with such intrusive DRM included, why the hell shouldn’t we all download the game illegally and stick one to the huge corporate machine.
This virtual punch in the face for EA is made possible by the fact that the DRM is removed from the game when it’s pirated. So rather than harming the pirates and their activities, stupid decisions such as the one taken by EA only harms the customers willing to pay full price for the game, and not the people who want a copy for free.
TorrentFreak reports that Spore has been the most downloaded torrent on The Pirate Bay, the largest and most notorious BitTorrent site, for over a week now. Which is a rarity. The game has been downloaded over 500,000 times over the various torrent sites since it was released on September 2nd.
This backlash to the DRM is in addition to the Amazon review carpet-bombing which saw Spore receive a large majority of one star reviews on the online retailer purely because of the draconian install limits.
If Spore had been released without any of these stupid limitations in place then it would likely be selling in larger numbers on Amazon due to the review scores being more accurate. It would also likely have been pirated much less than it has due to no-one feeling the need to send a message to EA.
Spore DRM = A huge own goal for Electronic Arts. A lesson for other games developers?