Stolen Pixels

Stolen Pixels #20: Not All Change is Progress




Tracking the development of DRM involves watching a single bad idea grow and evolve into breathtakingly hideous new forms. This online activation business is just the latest in the menagerie of anti-piracy grotesquery, although it is hard to imagine where they could go from here without harvesting body parts from the user or implying unflattering things about their mother.

It seems fans remembered how the DRM of Mass Effect and BioShock treated them. Perhaps caught unawares the first time around, gamers are slowly realizing that asking for permission to play a game you’ve bought sort of makes you wonder if you really bought anything at all. The three install limit in Spore transforms a game purchase into a sort of extended rental.

The added hassle of registration seems particularly absurd when you realize that the game was cracked and available on the pirate sites several days before release. Which means that every single legit customer has installed SercuROM and authorized their copy online, and not one single pirate, anywhere, has had to do the same. The system obviously isn’t having any effect on piracy, unless you count the thousands of people who were going to buy the game but vowed to pirate the thing when they found out what was involved with attempting to conduct honest commerce with the likes of EA.

There are now over a thousand negative reviews of the game at, nearly all of which fault the game for the onerous DRM. Most of the reviewers didn’t even play the game, they’re just bitter fans who don’t know where else to hurl their rhetorical bricks.

This might seem petty, but this seems to be the only way gamers have of connecting with the people who make these decisions. They want to send a message that they’re skipping the game not because they’re filthy pirates, but because they don’t like being treated like filthy pirates. There doesn’t seem to be any other way to communicate with the people at the helm of EA, and indeed it often seems like those people inhabit an entirely different dimension.

Oh right: This text is usually supposed to be funny. Um…

Boobies Wii knickers Daikatana fart ha ha.

Shamus Young is a programmer and writer by trade, videogame nitpicker by inclination. If you have the patience for more of his ramblings, they can be found at

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