Spore, one of the most hyped games ever, finally appeared last week and rapidly became the most pirated game in history, apparently having been downloaded over half a million times on BitTorrent since it appeared on 1st September.
For those that don’t know about the game, Spore is a PC game and was heralded as an evolution of game play and ‘genre defying’, winning several awards before it was released. The premise is to take a creature from being a single cell, or spore, to a race of intergalactic travellers offering unrelated creativity to users along the way.
Obviously incredibly complex to code, Spore slipped its shipping date a couple of times but earlier this year EA released the creature creator element as a basic free download or you could buy the full version for $10. All seemed to be going well until the actual release when the EA DRM became apparent.
There are some issues such as you can only run one account per licensed copy. So if you have two people in your household that want to play Spore, you have to share an account, although the game manual actually says that you can run multiply accounts. Apparently that was a ‘typo’. Some typo as it includes instructions on how to set up multiple accounts.
The main thing ppl are shouting about though is that you can only activate the game three times after it is installed, that number does not get reset if you uninstall and re-install the game. After that you have to phone EA and explain why you need to install it again. To a lot of ppl that might not sound like a big deal, but to ppl who game and change their PCs a lot, a dead hard drive, an OS upgrade and installing it on your laptop and you’re out of goes without a begging phone call. This is striking a lot of ppl as not actually buying the game but more like a short term rental agreement.
The idea behind the three strikes and your out is to stop piracy by people sharing activation codes. Which is exactly what has led ppl cracking the game and the huge demand for that cracked version, as beautifully predicted by User Friendly back in May.
What is it about humans that makes us believe that something can never be too secure, even though by attempting to make something too secure you actually weaken it?
A good example I know if, is an investment bank that had a very strict password complexity. The Sys ads there, as sys ads do, had worked out a standard, easy to remember, password that they used when resetting forgotten passwords. Which led to over 60% of staff at that bank having exactly the same password.
Back to Spore, understandably there has been a bit of backlash, most notably on Amazon which seemed to be the only site not vetting negative reviews, though seems to have now changed much to the chagrin of the Amazon reviewers.
This is not the first time that EA has upset the gaming community, and it will be interesting to see how it weathers the media storm as this story starts to tip into the mainstream media.
*Think I’m getting old, totally forgot about the latest Terry Pratchett book until someone bought me a copy, usually I have the release date tattooed to the inside of my eyelids
Update: Seems EA has been listening and has promised that a patch will be available in the ‘near future’ to address the three activations and out rule.
Also posted at Clicking and Screaming