Bioware/EA have decided to employ a hugely draconian DRM system on the forthcoming Mass Effect, which rather aggravates me, given that it was a must-have purchase for me until the SecuROM anti-piracy gubbins was revealed this week.

In a nutshell, after the initial Internet activation (fair enough), the game needs to perform further Internet checks every 10 days, otherwise the game will cross its arms and sit in the corner in a huff, refusing to play with you until you do what it says. Ethical and privacy issues aside, the pracctical flaws in this system are pretty self-evident, with the only potential result being a) an increase in piracy and b) a drop in sales. Surely not quite what Bioware/EA wants?

Interestingly, it’s extremely similar to the oooold anti-piracy system we used at FXhome, although ours was only turned up to 8-or-so on the Annoying-O-Meter. It required an Internet check every 6 months-or-so (can’t remember exactly what the time interval was), otherwise it would cease to function.

The results?

1. Our software was pirated almost instantly anyway.

2. Many of our legitimate customers were inconvenienced when the check occurred.

3. Customers without the Internet were simply unable to purchase our products.

4. Many customers simply didn’t purchase because they objected to the system, for various ethical/practical reasons. Reasons that, in retrospect, we agreed with.

There were literally no benefits. At all.

And so we dropped the system. We still have anti-piracy systems in place on our software, but it is much less intrusive and doesn’t do silly timed checks and lock-outs. Piracy of our software hasn’t increased – in fact, it would seem to have reduced a little, if anything, despite our current products being more popular and well-known than our old ones. I suspect this could be because we’re no longer provoking them with a ‘challenge’, and because we’re no longer pissing off potentially legitimate customers.

If there’s one thing more annoying that the bastard pirates that cause this problem in the first place, it’s short-sighted publishers resorting to dubious Orwellian tactics to try and ‘solve’ it. As with most aggressive, retaliatory action, all it tends to do is provoke.

Categories: Writing


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