Amazon reviewers clobber Spore DRM

Fred sez, "I just discovered that dozens of Amazon users have given Spore 1-star ratings because of it's aggressive DRM. The game's average review is now around 2-stars. Are users acting in concert as a centrally organized boycott, or are the ratings a natural market-based reaction that proves DRM is an 'anti-feature'?" Spore losing the DRM Fight (Thanks, Fred and everyone else who suggested this!)


  1. As any small independent publisher can attest to, early reviews on Amazon are hugely important for raising awareness at the long tail end of products. Books have been written about how to promote your self-published tome by eliciting good reviews. Do these strategies matter for big sellers at the head of the curve as well? The game did immediately capture the #1 sales spot in games, so folks are clearly still buying.

    More screenshots of Spore DRM-anger:

  2. Folks are buying, but nevertheless, the reviews aren’t planted – if, as I understand it to be, you have to be an Amazon purchaser of the product to write one.

  3. Has anyone had any experience uninstalling SecureROM? I googled the uninstall process, but I don’t know if what I’m reading is just hate posting from people (justifiably) angry about DRM or if it’s really a pain in the ass to uninstall. Since I’d be installing Spore on a computer that is borrowed, I don’t want to infect a machine that I’ll have to turn around and give back in 6 months.

    I WAS really looking forward to going down to Frys and picking this up tomorrow but now I’m wondering. I got a laptop that I’m using, but since I’m only “borrowing” it, I’d like to be able to give it back as clean as I got it….

    Unlike EA I still believe int he golden rule.

  4. I bought it, Iv got a slew of stuff on my machine, off all varieties, and everything still works just fine, as of today. So, putting aside all the innards of the issue, on the surface it CAN still be a pleasant experience.

    And the game just rocks.

  5. I know that the SecureROM DRM is used on the PC version – is it the same on the Mac version that I just installed? If not, what is it and how does it work?

  6. EA & DRM -1 vs Piracy +1, the cracked versions have all that stuff removed and supposedly works without a problem… I don’t know, cracked or real my system wouldn’t be able to run it…

  7. You don’t have to buy something from Amazon to write a review of it there, you just need an Amazon account, so this could be the work of one person which would make it entirely meaningless.

  8. Well, it’s now the work of at least two people, because I just added my 1-star review.

    I know a good bandwagon to jump on when I see one.

  9. Early reviews on Amazon are often like this. Everyone that has heard about a product and hates what they heard come on and flame it. Often on principle over something they THINK that the product represents. It takes longer for actual owners and users to start posting reviews.

    That is what happened when the Kindle came out. A bunch of people who had never seen the kindle and hadn’t actually read the press release or the product description very closely posted “reviews” with 1 star. That kept the star-rating down for a while. Then the actual users started posting and now the start-rating is 4/5.

    (Doesn’t mean that I like an overly aggressive DRM. just a comment on the review system.)

  10. This will inevitably turn out like what happened with Bioshock. SuckurRAM + Highly anticipated game = PR storm = more activations, etc. Don’t sweat it. 2, 3 days, and if it’s not fixed, then the guns on the bay always need to be RELOADED.

  11. Wowsers. Since being Posted on Boing Boing (and various other blogs) the rating has now dropped another 1.5 stars.

    Who wants to take bets on how low it’ll go before it starts to eventually work its way back up?

  12. I thought they made some big deal about how they changed it so it was going to be not as bad? Was that just hot air? I’m really disappointed in EA.

    I think the people who get the cracked version should send a check to EA with some kind of note like “I got the cracked version because it’s DRM free.” (Obviously anonymously since you may be still technically charged with piracy even though you’re paying for it.), Maybe when EA gets enough checks and notes vs. their sales with the “real” product they will realize how stupid DRM is. (Plus, that way those buying the cracked version pay for the game, and get what they want.). I’m thinking about doing this myself.

  13. Meep. 100 one-star reviews as of now (vs 7 when this all started). We’re thoroughly slashdotting it.

  14. #9, this is worse.

    #14, The biggest thing is that the copy protection prevents you from taking your saved games and playing on a friends PC (which was activated under a different serial)
    This is openly hostile to their customers and an unbelievably stupid move.

    #15, I really don’t think sending your checking account details to EA is a bright move. It’s well known that they don’t pay their employees well.

  15. I was gonna buy this for myself as a reward for completing a project. But if its DRM’ed up the wazoo (and from what I’ve heard, a system-pervasive one), I’ll just grab a dodgy copy with all that crap removed.

    Well done EA, you’ve successfully lost yourself a sale.

  16. The Mac version is done with Cider, so it’s the exact same executable and has similar copy protection. Although the major complaints about SecuROM screwing up your hardware won’t apply since it all works through a WINE-like layer. Interestingly enough, the crack that’s out for the PC version works just as well for the Mac version, you just need to know where to find the executable in the app bundle.

  17. Securom balks if it sees certain CD/DVD copying programs and sometimes won’t let you load the software it’s protecting and it has been claimed that it can even disable your hardware.

    There are several versions of Securom and some are worse than others. EA was originally going to use a version that had to call home every 10 days or the software would become inoperable until you followed some convoluted process to reactivate it. Now, that’s simply ridiculous, especially for a game that does not require an internet connection to play.

    However, what may have made it through is that you can only install the software a certain number of times on a certain number of machines (I think the magic number for both is 3), after which you have to jump through hoops to get “permission” to install it again. This idea is anathema to Sims 2 players because most like to do clean installs periodically.

    Securom caused a lot of havoc with The Sims 2 expansion and stuff packs. The message boards were on fire for several months after the release of Free Time – not only because of Securom, but because it was so buggy it practically broke the game.

    EA is destroying every property it owns, either by releasing buggy software or with their DRM. They’ve alienated half the people who love their franchises and the DRM has already been cracked. EA will be the loser in the long term even though they’re still raking in the bucks right now.

    EA won’t listen, so I guess we gotta approach it indirectly – by panning their games wherever we can. Is it a one-man conspiracy at Amazon – probably not – but I’ll betcha a lot of Sims 2 players are involved.

  18. Its sh*t anyway.
    Its a creature creator with very little gameplay and what gameplay there is, is very very easy, even on “hard” setting.

  19. So is there a place I can go to, to see the exact details of the DRM’s limits and policies?

    EA made a point not to post a definitive guide to that information AT ALL for Mass Effect. People inquired about the limitations and restrictions which would 1- make the DRM stop you from playing and 2- make the DRM use another activation and EA directly refused to comment.

    Customers were literally expected to obey rules that they were not allowed to know about. It was HORRIBLY disturbing.

    P.S. BoingBoing also completely missed coverage of that game’s DRM fiasco… and it was the same SecuROM too. There were hundreds upon hundreds of pages of discussion about the DRM on the developer’s website (game-related discussion which they actually banned from the game forums and banished to the company’s obscure off-topic forum, presumably to make it harder to see all the criticism since that forum is much less visited).

  20. Funny. This exact same thing happened when Mass Effect hit PC. All some people could say was “Well, I hope they don’t slap this DRM onto SPORE or I’ll be pissed!”

    I am also disappointed. I was looking forward to buying the game, but this is just a good excuse not to since I don’t have the money anyway.

    My biggest problem is that the install limits/server authentication doesn’t stop piracy nearly as much as it hurts legitimate customers. Mass Effect was cracked within 24 hours by two independent groups. Spore was leaked. Others have already explained the problems with Securom in much better detail, so this comment is basically a long “I agree.”

    Sadly, I doubt they’re going to respond to any of this negative feedback and I either don’t get to enjoy an awesome game (I saw the panel at comic-con and the game is truly win), or I inadvertently support the use of DRM. Sigh.

  21. Most of these reviews deserve to be deleted from Amazon immediately, as they are from people who readily admit in their reviews that they have not purchased the game and are only GUESSING that Spore’s DRM scheme will be similar to that of Mass Effect.

    Pure speculation is not an honest review. It’s heresay.

  22. As much as the DRM protection measures may be problematic for many users, it is rather disappointing for me to see the Amazon review forum used in this way to protest it. I had always thought that you had to purchase the item if you wanted to post a review. I’m just not very compelled by someone (however sincere) who says “I was going to buy it and now I’m not because of this bad thing”. That’s not a review.

  23. It was one of few software titles I was looking forward to playing (and buying).
    I copy what I want and buy what I really want. I pay for expensive software and I pay for cheap software. I also pay for regular CDs, limited editio music and downloads. On top of that I copy music.
    If my favourite band puts DRM on their disc I WILL NOT PAY FOR IT.
    Iron Maiden tried that, I ignored that one.

    Most of the music industry is waking up and realizing that copy protection is bad for customers and ultimately bad for business. The movie biz has not realized that yet.

    Almost EVERYONE in the game industry have realized that DRM is not a good solution if it annnoys the user in any way.
    Playstation type DRM works (makes it a little bit more of a hassle to copy), DRM which tries to dictate how you can or cannot use your general purpose home (tool) computer is obviously stupid.
    EA has lawyers and suits who probably don’t PLAY games calling the shots.
    Now there’s your problem!

  24. @ 29: Yes it is. “Defective by design” isn’t just a pretty slogan, it also sums up nicely my concerns with this game. This is one of features you actually know about even before you have it. I was about to buy two copies of Spore – one for me and one for my girlfriends son. Since I am also the one responsible for keeping both systems running, this purchase is not going to happen. Once I had to kill my XP to get rid of a copy protection gone wild. I will not make this mistake twice.

  25. As someone who’s all for the abolition of DRM, it struck me that the Amazon reviews were coming across as slightly hysterical. Not being very technical, I decided to ask a friend who was if the whole thing was a black and white as the reviews were making out.

    My interview with him is posted here:

    I like that EA are getting roasted, don’t get me wrong, but I also worry about the credibility of the anti-DRM brigade. The facts about the 3-install seem to be particularly fuzzy.

  26. Scooter,

    How else do you warn other customers about what is bundled with the game? If you’ve played other games that include the same DRM scheme, then you already know the potential hassles and hazards that attach to any products using a similar scheme.

    It is, admittedly, not a review of the gameplay, but it seems to me that it is a review of the product, since it focuses on one feature of the product.

    Also, if this is, as some people have called it, a protest, then don’t be surprised if it’s a bit annoying. Protests are annoying – that’s how they work to get your attention.

  27. What’s funny is I downloaded this a few days before it was even on sale. My point is that the DRM does NOTHING for piracy and only hurts the consumer. When will they learn?

  28. #32:
    “The facts about the 3-install seem to be particularly fuzzy.”

    Yes, they were pretty fuzzy for Mass Effect too. This was because the actual facts were witheld or ambiguously stated, either through intent or negligence.

    What is really helpful to customers (and potential ones) right now is if we can find a place where EA has actually deigned to bother explaining the system that they expect everyone to use and obey and spelling out specific facts.

  29. Spore was on my long-awaited must have list. Now, thanks to EA its not. This isn’t the first time I’ve put up with this crap with EA’s gawd-awful horrendous DRM garbage. In the future I think we should just consider anything with an EA logo on as do not pass at the check-out counter. I’ve officially given up on EA.

  30. It’s funny, I’d already decided to just download it after the last EA DRM fiasco, but then I started reading actual gameplay reviews (both from companies that won’t mention DRM and from friends whose gaming opinions align with mine) and now this game that I’ve been waiting for for years… just doesn’t sound that good. I’m not even motivated enough to torrent it.

    So the sale was lost indirectly because of DRM (because I wouldn’t have bothered reading reviews before buying had I not been worried about it eating my system alive), but really, in this case it came down to being an educated consumer. If the Amazon protest stops people from wasting their cash on a sub-par product, that’s probably ok. (And if it does sound good to some folks, there’s nothing actively STOPPING them from buying it – this “protest” isn’t even as disruptive as a picket line. So I can’t get too worked up about it.)

  31. On all the reviews have be removed and angry customers have been forced to use the forum to voice their concerns

  32. As a designer, I use Adobe products for all my work. They have a strict two-install policy to prevent rampant piracy of their software.

    If creative pros can understand why a $1500 product has a two-install “DRM” policy, why are people getting this upset about not being able to install a $49 game on as many machines as they want to? There’s reasons the protections are in place. Three installs of a $49 game is pretty generous, seems to me.

  33. #32 – From the link / your “anonymous source”
    “EA will do this as on a case to case basis.”

    The thing is… “case by case” means “if they want to”. That doesn’t work for me. If I buy something, I do expect to be able to use it.

    That aside, EA’s support is really bad. Terrible in fact – If you do a google search on “ea customer support” you get pages and pages of people raging on EA. There are a couple people of just giving up in frustration because EA won’t deal with their CD Key issues.

    EA’s email support is all but useless – canned responses are the only ones you’ll get, over and over again – and it will take at least a day to get a response.
    If you want to talk to someone, you’ll have to find the number first – then, you’re usually stuck on hold for 30 minutes before getting someone..
    Let me make this easy – Call their switchboard at (800) 959-733 and get them to transfer you to support ;)

    All that aside, it looks like you have exactly one post here on BB.
    Your blog has a whole 13 items, most from the last week. It says there was more but it got deleted – The wayback machine at shows virtually no history, which is odd if your blog was as popular as you claim – no 2008 history either, although that isn’t too surprising for the wayback machine (they take a while to index and put up content)*/

    Most of your links go to what appears to be default wordpress sites. Some other links in previous posts don’t work. Apparently you “can’t see the ads on the stations’ official sites for some mysterious reason” and are re-hosting them on your very own server.

    Your “DRM aint so bad, here I have an anonymous source” article reads like a press release and is, by far, the longest and best written post on the site. Nice graphic too.

    I’ll let other people decide for themselves, but you sound like a shill to me.

  34. When I saw the first previews for Spore, I was foaming at the mouth to get it. I started loosing enthusiasm as time went by and the creatures started looking less like creatures and more like some cutesy-poo Pixar characters. That there seemed to change the nature of the design end of the game and make it look flexible. What fun is design, when the aesthetic is totally imposed on you.

    Then, as the creature editor download didn’t run on my Mac, and I started to hear from the folks who had purchased it that you need the absolute latest operating system to run it, I realized I would be postponing my purchase until such time as I needed to get a new computer.

    Now I’m wondering if I will bother. There’s this DRM thing and the icky Disneyesque aesthetic and it seems less like the creative environment and tools that I thought it would be and more like product.

    I’m so bored and annoyed with product.

    Thanks Will, but no thanks.

  35. I’ve been happily playing my storebought copy since the day before launch (neener neener). Not only have I had zero headaches due to DRM (I can play unobstructed, with all online features enabled, with no disc in the drive), but my wife can also play my same copy at the same time on her PC as long as she doesn’t use the online features.

    Spore’s DRM is among the least obtrusive and most generous I’ve used, as far as I’ve seen.

  36. P.s., I have Daemon Tools Lite 4.30.1 installed with 4 virtual Blu-RAY drives and have had zero issues installing or running the game.

    HOWEVER!! I forgot to mention that my wife has a Plextor DVDRW drive and she’s had trouble having many EA games (like Spore and Sims) recognize that she has a disc in the drive! I had to put my Spore disc in my DVD drive and share it over the network. There might be a problem with her drive, but it’s only SecuROM discs that won’t read.

  37. @39 I don’t think Adobe institutes an install limit mainly to prevent piracy in the common Internet definition of piracy. Rather, it is to prevent institutional sharing of licenses. Without an install limit, an institution could purchase one copy and install it on all of their systems in opposition of the license. In other words, the install limit is designed to force adherence to a strict user license.

    EA is doing something similar with Spore. While they don’t have the ridiculously onerous licensing of Adobe, they do have a problem similar to it: the used game market. They don’t make money off of used game sales. As a result, the install limit, phoning home, and one-time keys exist.

    DRM is now fighting for the publisher in two different ways. It is both attempting to prevent piracy of game discs and data as well as attempting to stamp out the used games industry and family sharing. Both vectors cost a game company money, and, why not just use their favorite tool, DRM, to try and “fix” both of them.

  38. P.p.s., I played Spore ALL weekend. Like 14 hours in 2 days. It’s that good. Constant oohing and aahing. And just when I thought I’d gotten a hold of the scope of this thing, then came the space stage. Holy freaking frijoles. So enormous. So much to do. This game has so much charm. Go buy it. It’s worth it.

  39. I’ve also had no problems with the DRM at all. I haven’t noticed anything.
    My wife was playing the game for about 5 or 6 hours yesterday.

    I normally run OSX, and I installed the game in Windows under bootcamp.
    Considering that I use it strictly for gaming, there isn’t much it could conflict with.

    I’m more concerned with DRM that makes criminals of all all of us.

  40. #40, Thanks for the clarification, that’s what I wanted: clear arguments against DRM. I’m 100% against it and just want its opposition to be strong.

    (I’ve never claimed my blog was popular, btw. For the record it’s read by family and friends, if I’m lucky.)

    As for using an anonymous source, it’s just a friend of mine who made clear (if arguable) points in an email to me that I wanted to share and who didn’t want his true identity revealed. All I did was give him an arbitrary screen name.

    I can’t deny that #32 was my first, and this is my second, post on a Boing Boing discussion, and, yes, it was getting involved in this conversation that prompted my registration today. Hopefully if I comment on other matters I may seem less like a “shill” in the future. It’s a fair point, though, I suppose, and I can only deny it for what that’s worth.

    Again, I’m not arguing for DRM, or even saying it “ain’t so bad.” I’m just saying that calling it ‘Evil’ repeatedly only gets you so far, even if it’s true. I was lamenting the lack of informed, backed-up arguments on Amazon, and I thank you for yours here.

  41. @39 – Gobo

    I certainly wouldn’t call myself a design professional yet, however I also use most of the Adobe Suite in my work as well as for a lot of recreational use.

    I also am a bit of a nerd and enjoy fucking with my computer opening it up, fiddling around, buying new parts, etc. I also tend to format my operating system fairly often and own a laptop. I know that when you purchase an Adobe Product you buy a ‘single user’ licence which isn’t really true. You purchase a ‘single computer’ install instead. Stupid because clearly I can have as many users as I want using a single machine, yet technically I can’t install it on my laptop. I do anyway of course because that’s bullshit.

    On top of that it certainly is a pain when I have to fucking call Adobe every time I want to format my desktop which I’d say happens every 4 or 5 months. I’m sure one of these days they’ll say I can’t install it again and then I’ll probably start using cracks which is fucked because I’ve already paid for the fucking software.

    Also the amount you pay for a piece of software really shouldn’t dictate how you can use it. The price should be dictated by how good the software is. If you purchased a shitty movie for $2 rather than a good movie for $30 would you expect the $2 to stop working after the 3rd time you watched it?

  42. Welp, looks like I have a reason not to buy another timesink that looks like it might have been fun. Thanks, EA!

  43. If you want example of a good gaming company, that’s truly for the players you need look no further than Valve.

    When I originally bought the original Half-Life set and installed them I thought nothing more of it, until a year later when I realized I had lost all of the discs, I freaked out, found out they now had this Steam service. So I download that, consigned to the fact I’ll have to buy HL again and lo and behold Steam has records of all my previously installed games…and downloaded them for me automatically!

    I don’t even have to go to the store either, they’ve got tons of awesome games (not to mention inline mods), you buy online (some free including demos) or at the store, install then you can trash the disc if you feel like it. You can play from any computer and you don’t need to remember serials. Now thats customer service.

  44. Ah, good old screwUrom SONY made DRM.

    You know SONY will never give up until they have locked the world into their property lock down.

    they now control the hardware, MPAA, RIAA, Blu-Ray consortium, AACS LA and by fear mongering we have pc games filled with their crap to.

    Boycott the turds is the only way to stop them, name and shame the ass hats!


    # Sony BMG Music Entertainment
    # Warner Music Group
    # Universal Music Group
    # EMI


    # Sony Pictures
    # Warner Bros. (Time Warner)
    # Universal Studios (NBC Universal)
    # The Walt Disney Company
    # 20th Century Fox (News Corporation)
    # Paramount Pictures Viacom—(DreamWorks owners since February 2006)

  45. @48 Itsumishi-

    The Adobe Creative Suite does NOT have a “single computer” license. According to its EULA, you are entitled to install it on two computers. I currently have my copy of CS3 Design Premium installed on a desktop and a laptop, entirely legally and with no cracks needed.

    I’m just giving my two cents as someone who had to deal with this exact situation recently. I don’t know why you came in here swearing like a sailor.

  46. Too bad, it’s a pretty fun game, imho. I didn’t have any problems with the DRM because I haven’t bothered to get an official copy. But I’ll probably buy it to assuage the guilt and access the online goodies. My computer doesn’t like some of these DRM schemes though – the game that came with the computer when I bought it couldn’t even install. I usually end up getting the crack even if I buy the game. Or downloading the entire game if it doesn’t install. DRM actually contributes to internet piracy, thanks to jerks like me. :-)

    As for Spore, I don’t know why they bother with DRM when part of the fun is having an online account so users can see all the wonderfully obscene species the internet has to offer. Instead of a 10-page EULA and a dodgy piece of spyware, it seems like it would be easier, more effective, and less aggravating to just restrict pirated copies from accessing their servers.

  47. I downloaded and installed the free trial edition of the Spore Creature Creator a few weeks ago. After doing so, I found finding that Windows Explorer (WinXP) would often crash when I right-clicked an executable (.EXE) file. Even after I uninstalled the Creature Creator, the problem remained. Following some Googled forum advice, when I disabled the SecuROM context menu for Windows Explorer (and left everything else the same), this problem went away.

    This serious negative experience with the free trial version of just part of the game was enough to turn me away from Spore as a whole.

  48. I diddnt think about the DRM issues with Spore when I impulsivly rushed out and purchased the special edition, I feel like a prat, expecially owing to my carefully maintained mass effect boycott


  49. Another contrast between Adobe’s DRM and SecuROM is that Adobe allows you to deactivate the software if you’re reformatting or upgrading to a new computer, thus “freeing up” the license key for the reinstall. As far as I can tell, this is not an option with SecuROM: once it’s installed, that’s an activation key wasted.

    Also, Adobe’s DRM doesn’t install any rootkits that futz with the capabilities of your DVD drive.

    I’m not the greatest fan of Adobe’s DRM either, but it’s a whole lot more benign than what I’ve seen of SecuROM.

  50. OK, a slight correction: Apparently *some* implementations of SecuROM actually include a “revoke” feature similar to what I described regarding Adobe’s uninstaller. But this actually had to be released as a separate add-on (!) for Bioshock, and I can’t find anything yet regarding such a feature in Spore.

  51. The irony is that the real anti-piracy tool Spore has is precisely the power of the internet. Playing a pirated version you cannot connect to the site where it downloads all the user generated content that makes this game stands out. Without it, it’s what critics are saying: a dumbed down version of multiple games with a limited set of content.

    If EA wants to enhance their profits they should listen more to innovators like Will Wright and less to their own executive dumbheads.

    Enhance community features -> engage the users -> make them create more kickass content -> profit. Lighten up this DRM thing, it wiil not matter.

    The game rocks thou. I had an economy based on selling eggs of domesticated Charles Darwins…

  52. #17: Doh, yeah I guess a check would be tractable. I did say “Anonymous” but that is a good point. I’m not sure how to send money anonymously except for cash (which is probably not a good idea).

    I agree that Valve is a pretty good model. My one beef with them is you have to log someone into your account (Technically a no-no on their User Agreement) to play a game you own on the same computer, that or have them buy the game again on their account.

  53. This amused me, one of my co-workers found that the “top 5 star review” on amazon, (now no longer the top 5 star review) was by a person named B. Barber
    who also seems to have created the Spore Creature Creator.

  54. I love this stuff – punish a developer who’s been working on something for X number of years, based on five minutes of your time and a decision THEY PROBABLY DIDN’T EVEN MAKE! Lots of these things are passed down from publishers, but you’re punishing a lot of hardworking individuals, who’ve made a game that is completely original – something people on this list complain about all the time – which is a massive, massive financial and creative risk, and the copy protection is the thing you find fault with?

    You guys are pathetic.

  55. #62: I’m sorry but “lots of people worked hard on it” is not a justification for supporting anything. A thousand chimps working as a thousand typewriters will produce absolute gibberish… but they sure did work hard to make it! Oh and you’re not gonna tell me that half of the crap Hollywood puts out is GREAT only because a ton of no-talent hacks “worked hard” to make it.


  56. No, Nick15, I’m saying that you could start by criticizing the content – if you don’t like it, or appreciate it, then fine. But slaggin off an entire project because of something external to the project s bth chldsh nd bnxs – nd mr prf tht th ntrnt s whr th thsnd chmps lv.

  57. Well, at least we have Fallout 3 to play, well, in a month and a half, and knowing Bethesda, it won’t be gently caressed up with DRM.

  58. @ Zeta, 31:

    I’m sorry that copy protection forced you to sacrifice your XP. I don’t doubt that copy protection in general, and EA’s DRM in particular, have caused all sorts of problems for legitimate gamers’ systems. Certainly a few (if not many) of the Amazon posters have experienced this themselves. But as a reader of the reviews (I actually discovered this topic at the site and then found the post here about it), I’d much prefer to hear the opinion of someone who has actually tried SPORE and dealt with its copy protection measures, not those from other games. Is it wrong to think that perhaps EA learned from the mistake of BioShock, and that the current DRM is less of bother? For all I know it could be worse, but I’d like to know the fact of it, not suspicions. I suppose, though, the absence of clarity about the specifics of the DRM from EA ahead of time really is something to get upset about.

    @ sirdook, 33:

    Good point. I understand why the sometimes hysterical posters went to the Amazon site, as it is a great place to get heard. I also completely understand why Amazon might want to keep random people from reviewing a game that they (by their own admission) did not play. I’m somewhat surprised that Amazon has even left them all up on the site. Fortunately they’ve struck a decent compromise.

    As a side note, this whole debate on copy protections seems oddly familiar to the discussion about draconian security measures at airports. “Why do they have to treat me like a terrorist/pirate?” An inconvenience that reasonable people implement in response to the few that take advantage of existing freedom. I don’t blame TSA for strip searching people and I don’t blame software companies for trying hard to keep people from stealing software.

  59. The people ranting and raving about the DRM have no idea what they’re talking about. SecuROM doesn’t install anything on your machine at all. It’s integrated into the game to try to verify it is a legal copy.

    Secondly this has nothing to do with DRM at all. Because if this kids were really pissed about DRM they’d be giving most of their time to bitching about Valve games which works exactly the same way except they check every time you fire up the game. Spore just checks once the first time you install it. This is because EA is the biggest and no one likes the biggest.

    And if you think DRM doesn’t work then go find a cracked version of Mass Effect. I guarantee it won’t be much fun to play.

  60. Lol no one commenting on this has any idea what they’re talking about. Bioshock didn’t even use EA’s DRM system they used their own.

  61. As a designer, I use Adobe products for all my work. They have a strict two-install policy to prevent rampant piracy of their software.

    If creative pros can understand why a $1500 product has a two-install “DRM” policy, why are people getting this upset about not being able to install a $49 game on as many machines as they want to? There’s reasons the protections are in place. Three installs of a $49 game is pretty generous, seems to me.

    Gobo, I don’t want to sound hostile, I know what you’re trying to say… but you might have worded that better. Adobe’s software is indeed rampantly pirated, and that has a lot to do with the aforementioned price tag and very little to do with their licensing enforcement attempts.

    You should also consider that while a professional might accept this kind of limitation for institutional or business-related use of a professional utility suite, an average person has a reasonable precedent to assume that purchasing a simple piece of entertainment software for casual use in a home environment should not be subject to so such stringent restrictions.

    You’re comparing apples to oranges, I’m afraid. It’s misleading to draw comparisons between expensive professional software utilities and simple consumer entertainment software. You stray even more from a reasonable argument when you call their three-activations scheme “generous”, in lieu of the fact that, in the average lifetime of such a piece of software, it is installed far more than three different times on three seemingly distinct computers; which could just be variously upgraded iterations of the same family PC. The typical usage of professional utilities and home entertainment are by definition very distinctly different, and it’s important to remember that before drawing comparisons.

    Back on-topic: I’ve been looking for a while now and I’ve had no luck. Can ANYONE find an official release from EA about the nature of this DRM? Have they even bothered to spell out the facts of what it does? I just want to know more facts about the 3-activation limit and the potential conflicts with certain hardware and software. I’m sure some other potential customers do, too.

    I swear it is tempting to make the accusation they’re deliberately attempting to prey on ignorance of the matter by not releasing facts that might dissuade the unaware.

    It is either that, or they have been negligent in releasing this information… because I’m specifically looking for it and I can’t find it.

    Also, just so I’m contributing something, I really love this particular editorial on what makes DRM such a weird crap chute:

  62. Secondly this has nothing to do with DRM at all. Because if this kids were really pissed about DRM they’d be giving most of their time to bitching about Valve games which works exactly the same way except they check every time you fire up the game.

    Sorry to double-post but I had to nip that in the bud.

    You’re also aware, I’m sure, that Steam does not tell you not to install your games on however many “different” computers you wish to. It simply refuses to let more than one of them be logged into the account at once.

    This allows a much more reasonable and open usage profile that is less likely to constrain the attempts of consumers to enjoy the benefits of their purchase.

    The problem with the Spore activation scheme is that it adds unreasonable hurdles to the usage that many perfectly innocent consumers will give to the product. It can easily obstruct typical usage. It constrains the intended use of the software, far more so than the system used by Steam.

    Steam was also, in my opinion, more resilient to piracy. It is more labor-intensive to crack.

  63. Lol so saying you can install your game on 3 different machines is unreasonable but requiring you to play the game you bought online even if you only want to play single player is just a convenient feature?

    That makes no sense. Both solutions are potentially a pain in the ass to consumers. But for the activation solution the vast majority of users are never bothered at all. But with the online DRM every user is affected.

  64. @ Gobo.

    Alright I probably went a bit overboard. Simply because not a week ago I spent 25 minutes convincing the fools (not the people writing the software they’re brilliant) from Adobe that I had legitimately purchased their software and have every right to re-install it on my machine.

    On another note 900+ bad reviews and down to 1 star on Amazon for Spore

  65. Lol so saying you can install your game on 3 different machines is unreasonable but requiring you to play the game you bought online even if you only want to play single player is just a convenient feature?

    That makes no sense. Both solutions are potentially a pain in the ass to consumers. But for the activation solution the vast majority of users are never bothered at all. But with the online DRM every user is affected.

    Steam does not require you to be online to play your games, actually. It can be used in an offline-mode which does not require a connection to play a game.

    It does, however, make sure that when you -are- online that only one instance of your account is currently logged in.

    I can understand how either system might be preferable to certain different people, it’s a matter of opinion, but in my belief the SecuROM system is more likely to be obstructive to a larger number of customers in the long run.

    Remember that those three “computers” are defined by a hardware profile, the DRM defines “3 computers” differently than you or I do. It cannot tell that oh, yeah, there’s the computer in the Den, and in your daughter’s room, and in your office. It just knows what it can see, the hardware. Changing this hardware sufficiently, for example in a major upgrade, tells it that it’s on a new computer. It then uses another of your activations.

    With time this means that a person who does not own three computers may suddenly find that they have somehow “installed the game on three computers”, and reached their activation limit. They are then required to submit to a “case by case” request system to be re-granted the privilege of using their software. Now perhaps you don’t like Steam (I can’t honestly say I love it, but it’s done me no harm), but you’re a lot less likely, it seems, to have to call their support number to be given permission to use their software.

    SecuROM is not an ideal system. It could be, and I feel has been, done more effectively and less intrusively.

    The annoying thing is that SecuROM is a step backward from better systems of content protection, and represents far too demanding an attempt at it, besides. They tried to build a better mousetrap and the damn things are going to be snapping closed on all the wrong fingers.

  66. #62

    The game called “Spore” is a combination of a lot of people’s efforts, and it doesn’t matter in the slightest who made what part. SecuROM is just as much a part of the game as the installer or the cell stage. Its all one big piece that must be judged together. That an otherwise stellar (maybe) game gets the shit knocked out of it in the court of public opinion due to its onerous copy protection system is no different than it being beaten up due to bad graphics or otherwise poor design. Its all one big piece that’s inextricably bound together.

  67. Pardon my pontification.
    Frankly, DRM is here to stay in the movie, music, and games world, however, it is not simply to stop wholesale piracy operations and release groups. All of the industries have accepted that piracy will happen no matter what. This is an assumed given, and they would be stupid to not realize this.

    Then, why are they still using demonized DRM? DRM of this sort still provides two very tangible benefits to the company. In any medium, whether game, music, or movie, DRM serves to prevent casual copying that reduces revenue. John Q Public won’t bother trying too hard to copy his friend’s game. DRM also serves to increase revenue by forcing what I call “overloading”. In the case of music and movies, DRM (in theory) prevents the user from using the media in multiple devices and in multiple ways. Instead, in order to have their movie on their precious iPod’s tiny screen, they must possibly purchase again. This is an overloaded purchase. In the gaming world, this isn’t as much of a problem. Instead, DRM is intended to prevent the used-media market from surviving. As someone said in another post, the angel of anti-DRM crusaders, Stardock, itself does not acknowledge the right for a resale market to exist. Limited installs, phoning home, and download managers are for this purpose. After all, a publisher makes no money on the resale market. They do not desire end users, only first users.

    The piracy aspect of the DRM argument is tired, annoying, and useless by now. It is too contentious on both sides, and no one is willing to compromise. Thus, it is important to look deeper into the real reasons for DRM.

    I would like the public to realize the insidious purpose that DRM is used for now. Piracy is now a reality that is accepted by companies, and their focus has once again returned to resale and media access. Personally, I feel that it is my right to resell products that I have purchased and port my data between devices should I desire. This type of DRM seeks to strip me of this right. In this way, current DRM is far more foul than even the Starforce rootkits of the recent past, at least to me. Stop letting piracy cloud the argument and bring the focus back to anti-competitive and anti-consumer practices.

  68. @68

    SecuROM is not EA, it is Sony if I remember correctly, and as such, it can be used by many developers, like Bioshock’s developers, and Bioshock did in fact use SecuROM.

    Copypasta from GameCopyWorld



    CD Cover : PC
    : Retail: SecuROM v7 (7.34.0007) + SecuROM PA + SDK DFE + Custom + Serial
    Online: STEAM / SecuROM v7
    : Cover Target

  69. I hope this will have an effect on sales. But I doubt it will. Spore is the top seller in the videogame category, all platforms included. The press reviews are ranging from good to very good, with an average score near 90%.
    This game is marketed for the mainstream audience, the same people who made the Sims a huge commercial success. These people dont really care about DRM. Or they care, but they dont know. They will realize there’s a problem when they will want to install the game a 4th time, in a few months or years.

  70. Matthew Walton @8:

    You don’t have to buy something from Amazon to write a review of it there, you just need an Amazon account, so this could be the work of one person which would make it entirely meaningless.

    My experience is that Amazon won’t let me post reviews from my account because I’ve done all my buying from a different one.

    Currently there are 1,345 reviews. No one can type that fast.

    Digging deeper: I went and checked out the negative and positive reviews. Bear in mind that I’ve been an editor and copy editor for decades. Those reviews are being written by multiple authors. I won’t guarantee that some disgruntled customer hasn’t written two, and much of the content in later reviews is just piling-on; but by and large, the ones I’ve looked at have been authentically individuated.

  71. This is a terrible story for 2 parties – legitimate users who simply wanted to play Spore and couldn’t because the activation servers went down and EA because Spore was cracked even before it was released.

    Often developers walk a tightrope with the trade off between protection strength and the degree of impact on legitimate users but this was a failure
    on both dimensions! Is this really what the publisher wants to ‘accomplish’? Why nt s sltn whch s frndly t hnst srs, hs n mpct n dvlpmnt tm nd th strngst vlbl prtctn gnst crckrs – s r whtppr http://www.bytshld.nt/bytshld_whtppr_0005.pdf. Chrstn lssn BytShld, nc. http://www.bytshld.nt

  72. NaughtiusMaximus (#67) claims that

    The people ranting and raving about the DRM have no idea what they’re talking about. SecuROM doesn’t install anything on your machine at all. It’s integrated into the game to try to verify it is a legal copy.

    I comment from personal experience: after I uninstalled the free (i.e., there wasn’t even a need to protect it!) Spore Creature Creator Trial Edition, and the game directory was gone, there remained a Windows Explorer-crashing context-menu hook in Windows (that had been installed with the game) that gave its own name as “SecuROM context menu for Windows Explorer”. Further, in response to my enquiry about how to remove this SecuROM brand malware, the kind folks at SecuROM pointed me to their uninstaller at

    I’m not a software engineer, but these facts together suggest to me that (i) there is SecuROM element installed that is independent of the game, (ii) the SecuROM malware can remain even upon uninstalling the game that inflicts it, and (iii) the existence of such malware is acknowledged by its publisher, and, fortunately, (iv) it can be removed (assuming the uninstaller is trustworthy).

  73. OK, here’s an additional issue with Spore’s DRM that you folks might not have heard of yet, but is lighting up the EA boards and the negative Amazon reviews. Page 52 of the Spore manual plainly states: “You may have multiple Spore accounts for each installation of the game.” As someone who LEGALLY BOUGHT this game, I can tell you this is a bald-faced lie. In order for my wife to have her own character on the game (get her own achievements, make progress through the game, etc) we are forced to buy another copy of the game! This is not like any MMO under the sun, that lets you have multiple, independent characters, or any other single-player game that lets you have multiple profiles to play the game under. You can’t even go back to a previous game save and have someone else play your same character differently. It flat out won’t let you. You are only allowed 1 game save, which is your current game. If you try to log onto the sporopedia with a different account, it assumes you’re a pirate and says the authentication code is already attached to a different account. The exact opposite to the manual quote above. Yes, you can play offline, but that defeats the purpose of Spore’s main selling point because you have no access to the (6 million and counting) content everybody is putting online!

    As someone who payed good money for the game I can attest that all this does is drive honest customers to pirate games. I might as well start trolling the warez sites to find some way to crack this. Give me a fucking break, EA!!

  74. Christian Olsson @79, I’m sure it would grieve you if you knew how many of our readers have reported your comment as spam. In order to keep any more readers from arriving at that sames unfortunate conclusion, I have disemvowelled the bits at the end that are giving them that impression.

  75. Now, I’m not a business major, but it strikes me that creating a situation where bootleggers can actually offer a superior product does not seem like a good strategy.

  76. Hahaha. Tell that to the major record labels, the major film companies, most game companies, most software engineers, etc, etc.

  77. So… A few days later and we’re up to 1,961 1 star reviews on amazon.

    A couple thoughts…
    1. The number of negative reviews is pretty cool when you think of it – that’s 2000 people who care enough about DRM to spend a few minutes to write a review on Amazon.
    And you can be sure there were a lot more than 2,000 people who agree, but didn’t take the time to post. I forget the exact number, but there is a political rule of thumb “for every angry letter about a policy, there are [number] equally pissed off people who didn’t write a letter”. Not sure if it applies here, but I suspect it does.

    2. 2,000 potential sales is $100,000 at the current selling price of the game.

    3. EA apparently doesn’t have a French language support team available for Canadian customers to resolve activation issues in French. There is talk of legal action against EA up in the great white north because of this.

    4. Interestingly enough, this reaction did cause EA to change policies for Red Alert 3 – You will now be able to install it 5 times instead of only 3.

    Still unacceptable in my book – but perhaps a step in the right direction. Apparently public pressure is working.
    EA’s initial copy protection policy for Mass Effect (and Spore) was to force people to validate their install of Mass Effect every 10 days.
    There was a significant outcry in May and they relented.

    #80 – SecureROM DOES remain, not “may”. I know of no programs that remove SecureROM when the “protected” program is uninstalled. I believe this is intentional (so that uninstalling one program won’t break others). I may be wrong about this, since it’s rather difficult to prove a negative – but if anyone can prove me wrong, please do.

  78. Well, guess how many reviews for Spore (basic game) there are on Amazon? There used to be over 2,000. Now? NONE.

  79. Sorry Jathomas there are, as I’m typing, 2000+ reviews for spore. Over 2000 are 1 star. They were never taken down.

    I get that everyone is freaking out because of SecuRom and DRM. I admit that I could (should) know and care more about them. But honestly, I bought Spore, installed it and love playing it.
    SecuRom (or DRM or both) have been on every game (or every game I’ve bought) for at least a year.

    You can’t use the activation code for Sim City Societies or Creature Creater more than 3 times. Even after you’d uninstalled it. People are just now realizing this?

    And none of these installations have slowed my computer at all.

    But the rating has started going up. I checked yesterday and the day before when it stayed at 1. 1 1/2 stars with a grand total of 2,312 customer reviews.

  80. The whole DRM issue revolves around two issues:

    1) The install counter will not reset when the game is uninstalled. To get authentication for additional installs you have to contact EA-Support via E-Mail or Phone. EA-Support has a long tradition of unresponsiveness and incompetence.

    2) The DRM enforces a “one account per PC” policy.

    To clarify (1): A song bought on iTunes can be played on 5 compatible devices, if you want to play it on a sixth, you have to deauthorize one other, which you can do yourself at any time. There is even a master reset.

    To clarify (2): In a game like World of Warcraft, you have a serial number that gets validated when you create an account, so every player must have a legal copy of the game. They then allow every user to log in from any client and do NOT bind an account to a specific installation.

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