The Needles

The Needles
EA: Making DRM Disappear in One Easy Step

Andy Chalk | 23 Mar 2010 21:00
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A couple months back, when Take-Two started yapping about how it was doing PC gamers a big solid by removing the installation limits in BioShock 2 (which of course it never actually did; it just changed them from SecuROM limits to Games for Windows Live limits), I wondered aloud whether anyone at the company actually thought that we, the semi-informed gaming community, were stupid enough to fall for such obvious bullshit. The sheer brazenness of that ham-handed ploy left me outraged and appalled, but, boy, was I behind the curve on that one. At least Take-Two actually changed something.

EA's version of the ol' switcheroo, on the other hand, is something more akin to being strung up naked in an interrogation room and yelled at by David Warner. The "always on" internet requirement is quite obviously DRM, there's no rational way to argue otherwise, but EA is arguing it anyway, and with time and persistence I think there's a very good chance it will win that argument.

Why? Chew on this: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." And, to tempt Mr. Godwin even further, "The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over." And that, more or less, is exactly what EA is doing: Saying, emphatically and unreservedly, that this is not DRM.

After making a point of stepping away from DRM following the Spore debacle, EA appears poised to rejoin the battle by redefining the battlefield. This may or may not be a matter of concern: Last time out, a lot of readers got their panties in a twist when I suggested that people who buy Ubisoft's games are complicit in the proliferation of its online DRM, telling me that consumers have the right to be as blissfully ignorant as they want to be. From that perspective, it's not worth a second thought.

But if, on the other hand, you think that this is a conversation that needs to continue, then it's important to impose a consistency on the terms of the discussion. It's up to us - the aforementioned semi-informed gaming community - to make that happen, and to not let EA simply semanticize it out of existence. When game publishers say, "There is no DRM," we must say, "Yes, there is." Maybe it's futile, maybe it feels like signing an internet petition, but those of us in a position to know and to speak up no longer have the luxury of simply burying our heads in the sand and pretending it doesn't matter.

Otherwise, who knows? After a couple of years of EA saying, "This is not DRM," maybe it won't be.

Andy Chalk isn't buying C&C4 either, but that's okay, because the last one he bought was the first one.

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