EA get Spored

  bstb3 13:03 09 Sep 2008

an interesting phenomenon appears to be happening around the release of a new game, SPORE, published by Electronic Arts (EA). The software contains some rather restrictive DRM (Digital Rights Management), which effectively limits the game (through online authentication) to 3 installs in its entire lifetime. The utility allowing this is very deeply embedded into the host PC operating system on install, making it almost virus like in operation (it doesnt even show up in task manager but it is running all the time).

There are a number of issues around this DRM, not least the fact that hardware changes can 'use up' an installation as the DRM software (securerom) mistakenly identifies the host machine as being a new machine and therefore uses up one extra installation from the 3 granted at purchase.

Anyway in the week or so since launce SPORE has received approx 1300 reviews on Amazon US almost all of them granting 1 star out of 5, not for the game itself (which apparently is quite good) but on the basis of the DRM it contains. This is being picked up on several sites and media outlets (sorry cant get the links while I'm at work) and even the Telegraph so far, leading to the phrase "being Spored" being coined.

Wether or not the 1300 reviews in 5 days is in reality the actions of a online Flashmob, as has supposedly been claimed by EA, there seems no doubt that EA's latest has lit the Nerd rage fuse.

Personally I wouldnt touch this software with a 10 foot pole - if I buy something I expect to be able to install it a lot more than 3 times. I also expect to be told about the DRM up front, but there appears to be nothing on the packaging informing of the 3 install limit.

As a foot note, the DRM failed miserably to prevent piracy (its stated aim) - cracked DRM free versions were available on torrent sites before the game was officially launched.

It would be nice to think that the huge negative customer reaction to the DRM would make EA wake up and realise that treating paying customers as potential pirate probably isnt the way to go in the future. It is also to be hoped that other publishers, of game and utility software alike, take heed of this, to prevent themselves being spored in the future. Time, and the success of SPORE, will tell.

link to the amazon reviews:
click here

  bstb3 15:21 09 Sep 2008

heres one for the conspiracy theorists - this morning there were 12 reviews on the UK amazon site, the majority of which were critical of the DRM system. At the time I am posting this, all the reviews of SPORE on Amazon UK have been deleted, for reasons unknown (insert your own conspiracy here, but none of the reviews I read could have been construed as libelous)

  Legolas 15:56 09 Sep 2008

In this instance the DRM is so draconian that it may well drive people to d/loading pirated versions of this game. If it does then the makers only have themselves to blame, we all know piracy is a problem but very restrictive measures like this is not the way to win friends and influence people.

Of course most software is not owned by the person who bought it only the licence is, so it gives the makers of the software cart blanche to act in this way.

  interzone55 16:28 09 Sep 2008

There's no conspiracy - sites regularly delete negative reviews if they're "off topic" ie they're just repeating comments made by others, of if they don't actually review the main product.

So a review that states something along the lines of "1 star: this is rubbish - they DRM is far too restrictive" will be deleted.

Whereas a review like "1 star: The game play is no good, the controls are not responsive and the graphics no up to scratch. I would have given it 2 stars but for the DRM" should be OK.

  bstb3 16:38 09 Sep 2008

I agree that deleting repetition / off topic reviews happens, it has to. It wasnt just some of them though, it was every single review. Positive or negative, DRM related or not. Each and every single one. Reading the customer comments forum for the product, its the 3rd time Amazon has wiped the reviews.

The game has been top of the sellers lists since its launch, but has no reviews on Amazon uk and 1400 or so on Amazon US? Seems a little odd to me.

Now I am quite willing to agree theres no large scale conspiracy (that was more to prompt some responses to be honest), but there is something wrong when a site allows customers to review products but then wipes away said reviews at a whim with no explanation, several times over. At a time when media (its on the bbc site now) is picking up on Amazon US customer feedback, for Amazon UK to do this is just odd.

  bstb3 16:54 09 Sep 2008

and then 1 hour 30 mins later 5 reviews come back on, all positive and glowing with no reference to the DRM, bar one which mentions it only very briefly and marks it down to one star accordingly.

I cant trust the Amazon reviews anymore after following this through today. A shame they wish to blow their reputation over one video game.

in the course of writing this a few more reviews have come back on from a day ago, possibly Amazon realising the mistake they have made. Sad for a reputable site to go this route.

  Mr Mistoffelees 17:39 09 Sep 2008

Suddenly I find that I have lost interest in buying Spore.

I'm very disappointed.

  AL47 17:53 09 Sep 2008

bad times when a review site like amazon cacnt be trusted, i usuaslly buy or not on those,

thanks for this, will not be using amazon for reviews anymore

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