Edge Online has assembled a look at some of the most irritating, aggravating and enraging ideas dreamed up by software companies to keep people from copying their games, from old school methods like manual checks and "Lenslok" to the more familiar and intensely hated methods of today, like the infamous SecuROM software used in games like BioShock, Mass Effect and Spore. Specific episodes of DRM-created headaches are also cited, such as the failure of Steam during the launch of Half-Life 2, an intensely frustrating experience for thousands of gamers.
And while PC games are far and away the most common source of DRM headaches, it's a console-based system that's probably the most cruelly creative of them all. "Perhaps the most prominent example of cartridge-based DRM was in the SNES classic Earthbound," the article says. "Those that had Super Nintendo disc copiers would find that their illegal copy of Earthbound seemed to play fine. What they didn't know was that the game was spawning way more enemies than normal, making the entire game an endless annoyance. And to those intrepid pirates who slogged their way through anyway, Earthbound had a special treat for them - the game would freeze in the middle of the battle with the final boss, taking the time to instead delete whatever saved games it could find."
My personal choice for best copy protection of all time is found in the EA classic Starflight, which used a rotating code wheel to verify ownership of the game. You were given two chances to enter a correct answer; if you got both chances wrong, after a few days of game time the Interstel Police would show up to give you a third and final chance, and if you screwed it up they blew up your ship. Check the Top Ten Most Annoying DRM Methods to see if your own favorite made the list, then tell us about it.