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That dirty little secret hiding in your game
Digital rights management (DRM) is a touchy subject for me. Okay, I hate it. It’s not just about the scary stuff that you hear about, like how the evil SecuROM will take over your computer and turn it into a shiny toaster that harbors little gremlins. No, it’s more about the principle of the matter. I’m one of those people who finds DRM to serve more as a hindrance to legitimate consumers while doing little to prevent piracy.
I first discovered DRM with The Sims 2 and an expansion. I didn’t even know SecuROM existed until I ran into problems playing the game a year or so after I had originally played it. Bored waiting on WAR, one new computer and a hot new Sims 2 expansion pack and I was ready to play virtual Barbie. Hmmm. Doesn’t seem to want to work. After digging around and contacting EA Games, I finally discovered that my problem was most likely related to SecuROM. Some nice little CSR asked me if I had installed the game more than three times. Of course at this point, I have no idea how many times I had loaded the game, if I had to do a reinstall or what. It never even entered my mind as I was used to digging up old games and replaying them in moments of boredom without problem. Seriously? I’m limited to how many times I can install a game that I bought and paid for? I call BS on that one.
There’s a whole movement out there to put an end to this practice. Reclaimyourgame.com is completely devoted to rooting out DRM programs. Spore seemed to spearhead this revolution. I know that I personally was interested in Spore but refused to buy it because of SecuROM. I was not alone. Following the Spore fallout, EA released a statement that The Sims 3 would not contain SecuROM. There was great rejoicing amongst the gaming community, followed by one big “Not so fast, my friend”. What they did instead was put in a new program, designed by SecuROM, that requires the disc before you can load the game. The DRM program is contained on the disc and does in fact give you a limit of 5 activations. The thought is that consumers will find this more acceptable without fearing that SecuROM will covertly overtake your computer. But it still limits how many times that a legitimate consumer can install a game. I still don’t find that acceptable. I bought it. I should be able to uninstall and reinstall until my fingers bleed if I want.
Since I’ve pointed out my Darth Vader, I should say Stardock is my new hero in the industry. On a recent episode of the Multiplaying podcast, Brad Wardell, President and CEO of Stardock, essentially agreed that DRM does little to prevent piracy and really just pisses off the legitimate consumer. I wish more of the industry would see it that way. Speaking of Stardock and EA, reclaimyourgame.com brings up another interesting tidbit of information. Stardock’s Impulse Driven started offering some of EA’s titles, including Spore, The Sims 3, Red Alert 3 and Red Alert 3: Uprising. According to the folks at reclaimyourgame.com, these titles offered on Impulse do contain SecuROM while the same titles offered on Steam do not. I don’t understand the logic behind this, unless EA is trying to sneak the DRM in on the consumers.
I should point out that EA is by no means the only company that uses DRM. It just happens to be the company that produces a bunch of the games that I want to play. The reason I’ve gotten my dander up about DRM again is the upcoming release of Dragon Age: Origins. I was looking forward to this game. But when it dawned on me that this was an EA game that would possibly contain SecuROM, I knew that I might have to skip it. The good news is that as of today, BioWare has said that the game will not contain SecuROM. The conspiracy theorist folks will tell you to wait and let a few other suckers, er consumers, buy the game first to see if they have snuck in some DRM. But I have to admit, I want to play this game. I’m still waffling about doing a pre-order on it. They lure me with their shinies, tempting me to toss my principles aside. I’m still not sure what I’ll do, but Dragon Age: Origins is looking to be a pretty big temptation.