I’m really trying hard not to use the FAIL meme for this one. Just for the kicks, go to Amazon’s Spore page and have a look at the customer reviews. It has a single, shining star out of five possible. Currently 1.281 people – granted, many of them are trolls – raised their opinion of the game, or, well, the DRM on it. This number is still growing by the minute.

So what’s the problem this time? EA managed it again to pack a beautiful game, the metacritic score for the game itself is 86 out of 100 nonetheless, in a monstrous DRM system that eats your child and takes your food. Apparently you only get three activations and can call EA for one additional activation for your proof of purchase. After that, well that’s to be discussed/found out. Are we buying or renting a game? For ~50 bucks it better be buying.

So many of you might ask how this is a problem for EA. First of all, EA has a track record of poorly maintained games. If I remember the recent “Need For Speed” games where even the trailer was stuttering or some of the past “Command & Conquer” versions, which got its tiny list of patches but only solved some of the problems with router configurations and game balance in online matches.

The second and even more important problem concerns all the people who are going to Amazon to find out about the game and see what other people think about it. Seeing only one star and more than a thousand people complaining about something is probably a reason for them not to buy the game.

I’m wondering what the creator of the game, Will Wright, is thinking about this issue. Creating a great game and then seeing how EA manages to dismantle the user experience.

This also is oil to the fire for all the people who are pirating the game. They simply won’t have these problems. They just download, install and “patch” it. (By the way: the downloadable version from the EA store is more expensive than the retail DVD and comes only for the PC. Why’s that, EA? I thought online business would save cost and not make things more expensive?!) The pirates won’t have issues with DRM, limited activations or possibly being unable to play the game without internet access.

The same argument always comes up with DVD rips. If I buy a DVD I have to look at some minutes of cumbersome warning messages saying I’m not allowed to copy the DVD. The rip on the other hand just plays the movie without these kind of hassles.

(I sent out an email to one of the EA guys. I’ll update this post as soon as (read “if”) I get a reply.)

I just got a reply from Electronic Arts: The somewhat expected answer was that they currently do not comment on the DRM issue. He included a link to further information on that DRM issue which basically states, that the used DRM system works like other mechanisms. According to the document you can install Spore on up to 3 computers at a time without the need of the disc. This document also holds one important note:

Q: What happens when I’ve reached the maximum number of computers for my game and I need more? (Due to computer upgrades, theft, crashes, etc.)
A: EA Customer Support is on hand to supply any additional authorizations that are warranted. This will be done on a case-by-case basis by contacting Customer Support.

Does “any additional authorizations” mean there’s more than only one additional auth? It definitely sounds like it to me. If this is actually how it works, I guess the only important reason against this game is the fact that you need an online server to activate the game, just like you need one to activate Windows or your favorite tune in case it has DRM slapped on it. If they turn off this server at some point in the future, the game is useless – unless you patch it, of course.