Bioware's highly acclaimed and formerly XBox 360 exclusive RPG Mass Effect is fast approaching its release on the PC. Most PC gamers were undoubtedly pleased to hear about enhanced graphics, faster load times, and a re-designed menu system; but it's likely that fewer were happy to hear about the evil digital rights management that will be unscrupulously bundled with the game.

Like an increasing number of PC games nowadays, Mass Effect will require an online activation when it is installed. This has been common practice ever since Half-Life 2. But Mass Effect will also "phone home" every 10 days to make sure the key is valid, and it will carry a three-install limit. This has set many message boards afire with rants about "draconian" DRM and people threatening to pirate the game precisely because of the DRM.

It's times like this that I wonder why people are so adamantly opposed to DRM. It's worth noting that piracy came first; if people didn't steal their games, there would be no need for DRM. But the argument is something like this: the game will be pirated anyway, and DRM just inconveniences those who legitimately purchased their game.

But let's shift gears for a moment. The music industry has been similarly ravaged by piracy. It's easy enough to avoid any DRM simply by purchasing a CD. But that's not what most people do. The number one retailer of music is none other than Apple's iTunes. That's right – the same iTunes that gives you songs at 128kbps AAC and won't let you burn any song to CD more than five times. Apple has tried to appease the DRM-haters with iTunes plus, but it's a pretty small percentage of iTunes songs that use the "plus" format.

How has Apple managed to become the number one music retailer with such evil DRM? It's simple: most people don't care about DRM. I mean really, when you buy a CD, do you make ten copies? Twenty? Why on earth wouldn't five copies be enough? And the vast majority of people cannot tell the difference between a 128kbps AAC song and an uncompressed song on a CD. It's hard to imagine how iTunes songs would really inconvenience anyone.

So let's look again at Mass Effect. Is it really draconian to expect gamers to be connected to the internet? Sure, some people may want to play offline for some arbitrary reason, but is that really going to comprise a significant percentage of players? And what about the three-activation limit? How many times do you plan on re-installing the game? How many friends are you going to "loan" it to?

Here's the thing: due to various upgrades and reformats, I've passed the activation limits on one or two of my games. I simply contact the support with a request code given by the game, and they activate the game for me. Big. Deal.

The resistance to DRM like that seen in Mass Effect does not, in my view, come from a real belief that gamers are being inconvenienced in any significant way; rather, it comes from the belief that if you buy a piece of software, it's your property and you should be able to do whatever you want with it. But here's the thing: it's not your property. You are paying for the privilege of using the software, not ownership of the intellectual property.

But to the larger question: Does DRM really inconvenience legit gamers while utterly failing to combat piracy? Sometimes, yes, it has. But as long as piracy remains rampant, developers have every right to try to protect their software as best they can. Online authentication is perhaps the most promising form of piracy protection, and it's likely that more and more developers will use it, particularly as PC games move from the retail shelf to digital distribution.

Futhermore, I always have to cast a skeptical eye at those who claim that copy protection such as SecuROM causes bugs and glitches, because in the two and a half years that I've been a PC-only gamer, of all the 30 or so games I own, not a single one has caused me any problems at all due to copy protection. While it's not impossible that some users have legitimate problems, I feel that it's more probable that copy protection is often erroneously blamed other system issues.

Ultimately I feel that those who raise hell about DRM are in a minority. The alleged inconveniences are incredibly trivial, and if DRM can reduce piracy, it's good both for developers and gamers. And those who threaten piracy because of DRM? Well, those schmucks are probably already familiar with getting the five-finger discount. I challenge these irate gamers to offer their own solutions. PC piracy numbers are staggering, and causing many developers to leave the platform. If gamers don't like DRM, what other solutions might there be? What are these gamers accomplishing by throwing a fit and threatening more piracy, aside from egging developers to develop even stricter DRM?

DRM is not going anywhere. It's here to stay and until our society becomes a utopia where everyone is honest and nobody steals, gamers are just going to have to suck up the horrible inconvenience of plugging in their ethernet cable.

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ZippyDSMlee
9 years ago

DRM dose 2 things it makes harder to jump in and out of a game and it it adds extra levels of bugs.

It simply is not worth the cost of operation but publishers are more interested in their peer groups than real world facts.

Activation requirements are the worest, get rid of them and check keys,user names and IPs you can mitigate things much more effectively but at the end of the day its not worth the cost, put more effort into protecting the online components from cheating/double logins,ect than anythign else.

Madk
Madk
9 years ago

DRM is a horrible inconvenience and sometimes a fraudulent device for legitimate customers and a very minor obstacle to pirates. > This has been common practice ever since Half-Life 2. But Mass Effect will also “phone home” every 10 days to make sure the key is valid, and it will carry a three-install limit. This has set many message boards afire with rants about “draconian” DRM and people threatening to pirate the game precisely because of the DRM. Many times, people want to be able to play the games they purchased without being connected to the internet. This isn’t some… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 years ago

We are not a minority. You are just sucking up. We all hate that bullshit. How much could it possibly effect game makers anyway?

Look at FFXI. That has to be the most frustrating installation ever made. If you don’t know what im talking about just Google it and you’ll see.

We buy the game, we want to play it ASAP. No one wants to be bothered by stupid bullshit like this…

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

[quote=Chris L]Every console game is DRM protected, and they’re selling pretty well, don’t you think?[/quote] Console games are NOT protected by DRM. They just have simple copy protection that prevents the console from playing anything but original copies. There’s no requirement to authenticate with an online server – not at install nor at 10 day intervals, discs can be used on unlimited numbers of machines, running a game won’t install extra software into the system that effects performance of other programs. You just need the original disc in the drive, pure and simple. Which is just how PC games often… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

This article is terrible. It is not even worth to spend 5 minutes explaining why. It should be deleted.

Hellhound
Hellhound
11 years ago

Mr. Dolittle, your arguments fall flat because of some fatally wrong assumptions you make. Piracy will always be there, no matter how elaborate the measures to protect a product. The only thing that software producers hope for is getting the most out of the first two weeks after a game goes on shelves. Producers do not leave the PC because of piracy, but because it is cheaper to develop for standardized consoles. Two of the biggest players on the market, Electronic Arts and Activision, stem back from the time when copying games was as or even more rampant than now,… Read more »

Lord Metzen
Lord Metzen
12 years ago

[quote=Tristram Draper] To the people who regularly reformat: seriously, I am curious exactly why you need to do this. I assume legitimate reasons, but you might want to keep your gaming confined to a machine that isn’t constantly being wiped. I have reformatted twice. In 8 years. Owning and playing the game is not a right, it is a privilege that you get by paying for it. You have a right to choose to buy or not buy the game, nothing more. If you want the game badly enough then you accept the software. If you don’t want it badly… Read more »

Mike89
Mike89
12 years ago

No matter what one thinks of DRM like what’s in Mass Effect, the way EA is doing this is what bugs me. From what I understand, installing a game patch or even video card drivers will use up an activation. If this is true, it’s going to be quite easy to get to the 3 activation limit. Also from what I understand and contrary to the first post, EA is NOT going to give out another activation code if the 3 are used up. They are going to require purchasing the game again. DRM is one thing but this is… Read more »

Mike
Mike
12 years ago

I don’t have the internet.
I live in South Africa, where our internet prices are outrageously bad. Prices are about 800% above the world average last I checked.

nothing
nothing
12 years ago

I think that in the end this will only hurt the game. I was planning to buy the it but i wont do it after reading this. Something is really wrong if piracy makes the game experience better, wich it probably will in this case.

We want the game on the pc, not EA and Bioware.

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

[quote=nighstalker160] BioShock was available on torrent sites with 24 hours and yes Mass Effect and Spore will be too. There are people, thousands of people, who probably don’t even play these games but who love the challenge of beating the DRM. [/quote] And the Parade of the Poorly Informed continues….. Yes, a file called “BioShock” was available on torrents right away. Was it a working crack? NO! LOL!!! BioShock, despite being one of the most anticipated games of last year, and getting the full attention of most of the cracker community, took and unprecedented ELEVEN FULL DAYS TO CRACK. Let… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

Lets pretend you’re not an idiot for saying that…..sorry, I can’t! So you can only play Mass Effect 3 times? Bull. Let’s change your stupid, tired analogy to, “You can go back to the dealership, tell them you ‘lost’ your new car, and they will give you a new one, free of charge. But after the third time you ‘lose’ your car, they ask you to please show your receipt before you get a fourth one.” THAT is a better analogy. 95% of users will only install a game once. Some, due to system crashes or upgrades, may legitimately install… Read more »

Number Yellow
Number Yellow
12 years ago

well congrats on never having had a problem with DRM. i, unfortunately, haven’t been that lucky. I purchased Command $ Conquer 3 some time ago, and played all the way thorough with no issue…then i wanted to play online. An update was necessary to do so, so i updated, and because of the update to secuROM, i can no longer play. You see, secuROM is a really lousy DRM, it mistook Process Explorer (a legitimate windows tool, distributed by microsoft) for a virtual CDROM drive, and would not allow me to even start the game, because it thought my copy… Read more »

Cyde Weys
12 years ago

What a shame this article is. We do not need any apologists for Digital Restrictions Management amongst videogame fans. I’ve already been bitten by DRM badly enough – it refusing to allow me to play games that I legitimately purchased – that I’m incredibly wary of it. I don’t accept that I should have to give up my convenience, and even my ability to play the game in some cases, because there are “pirates” out there. Hell, that just makes me more inclined to become a “pirate”.

Thefremen
Thefremen
12 years ago

It kind of also shows that he’s still using Windows ME or has always done upgrade installs.

Enjoy your low FPS while DooingLittle to speed things up.

rta
rta
12 years ago

“To the people who regularly reformat: seriously, I am curious exactly why you need to do this. I assume legitimate reasons, but you might want to keep your gaming confined to a machine that isn’t constantly being wiped. I have reformatted twice. In 8 years.”

Ya know what? That’s a dumbass question not worth answering.

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

Here’s a quick example of what a poorly executed DRM does. I went on lauch day and paid full price for Master of Orion 3. I installed it with much anticipation only to have it dump to the desktop each time I launched it. Fortunately I know more than my fair share about computers and was able to isolate the problem. The copy protection included code which looked for virtual drives and would not execute if the game was being ran from it. My high performance hard drive used a virtual SCSI driver. I waited 2 weeks for someone to… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

People hates DRM because it only hurts paying consumers. Oh yes, it will annoy one brilliant genius pirate for a couple of days who’ll have fun breaking it, and then, it will be hassle-free for everybody. About online activation specifically, the problem is that once you’ve paid the FULL price, you still have nothing. You have to regularly ask for permission to use what you have just bought. And they might answer – yes, – no because of some changing “normal usage” rules, – or not being there anymore to answer. And I say regularly as there is no such… Read more »

Mars
Mars
12 years ago

I simply refuse to agree–whether by clicking OK, breaking a seal, or reading a EULA before proceeding–to cede my customary rights as the owner of a purchased item to use it as I please. I do not care if that product is a banana, an automobile, or a digital product. Furthermore, I simply refuse to recognize any regulation that claims to remove that right. Catch me if you can.

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

i guess you dont use steam or ever have. that was the biggest load of retarded nonsense ive ever seen anyone write. so what you have to register an account to use steam, its an online store what did you expect? anonymity? i dont have any glitch that disables offline play. no **** certain titles cant be played offline. these are called multiplayer games and require other people from the internet to play against. the statistical spyware as you call it is a survey that they ask you to take every month or 3. its not mandatory, a little box… Read more »

voort
voort
12 years ago

30 games, wow, that is like a years worth of gaming to a heavy gamer, so is that enough experience to be worth putting your great opinion out. Heavy gamers have hundred of games on their sheves, and likely have played thousands in their gaming life. The games on the shelves, mostly are classics from 10-20 yeats ago and get reinstalled dozens of times, especially after a new upgrade or new OS. A pc upgrade is a common occurrance to the heavy pc gamer. Alot of games that are played, but are forgetable, are resold and the funds used to… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

Or hell, what about internet 2.0 ? Even if EA is still around the game would be like “OMG what happened to the IP addresses?!”.

Les
Les
12 years ago

I still occasionally play XCOM, loading it up from the original disc I purchased back, what? 1996? Microprose doesn’t even exist anymore, and in 10 years will the activation servers for Mass Effect still be able to authenticate my game so I can play it? I still throw in Fallout 1 on occasion, what if I had to activate it and the servers were no longer availabe? Did I pay $50 for a shiney coaster? The only thing DRM accomplishes is to limit the rights of legitimit owners. It does absolutely nothing to battle piracy, adds to the cost of… Read more »

Spite
Spite
12 years ago

As DRM is currently used, it’s only to aquire information on a users complete system, surfing habits and every bit of software used on the machine. They in turn sell this info to marketing companies and advertisers to increase revenue. Meanwhile, releasing unfinished glitchy games (100+mb patch for Fear was released BEFORE my pre-order came in – they had to have gone Gold knowing full well it was unfinished.) This was followed up by several other patches, one of which actually helped me, several months and $90 later… Now, i’m about to put in my BF2142 DVD. It’s showing signs… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

It is actually a good security pratice to not have a machine connected to the internet unless needed these days due to all the prevalance of spyware, adware and trojans out there that can infect an un-updated machine without any user interaction. Most PC users dont bother or know how to keep their computers up to date, or dont understand how routers can work as a firewall. I have been an IT Administrator for over 10 yrs now and I cant count the number of times I have fixed peoples home machines that were “Broken” to the point of them… Read more »

ZippyDSMlee
12 years ago

Heres the forum thread for this article if you ant to chime in there
http://www.gamecritics.com/forums/showthread.php?p=149733#post149733

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

sorry for the double post but I had to add one last thought

your opinion on DRM doesn’t bother me, what bothers me is that you can’t understand why people hate it. this is what is so disturbing about the article.

just thought you might want to know why you got flamed so hard in the comments.

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

>> And those who threaten piracy because of DRM? Well, those schmucks are probably already familiar with getting the five-finger discount. WRONG! many legitimate owners (myself included) of games (and applications as well) use cracks to circumvent the DRM on the game they purchased! who wants to deal with it? for the pirate, it’s a minor inconvenience – piracy might be slightly delayed but not prevented in any meaningful way. For the legitimate “owner”, it’s annoying (and sometimes a showstopper) with ABSOLUTELY NO VALUE ADDED! furthermore, you are making a similar over-reaching assumption that DRM advocates make: if you use… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

A pirated version of software is (generally) free, always in stock, and doesn’t have a DRM. That seems to be a lot more consumer friendly. And you can bet your donkeypuncher that this game will be on bittorrent with a DRM hack within a week or two. Now I know piracy is wrong, and I myself don’t pirate work. I’m in the industry, so piracy would just be cutting my own throat. But there’s a few things our industry needs to understand. NOBODY likes it when their computer sends information to a corporate entity, no matter how benign. DRM might… Read more »

unangbangkay
unangbangkay
12 years ago

The issue isn’t so much whether DRM causes issues or causes true inconvenience, it’s the precedent publishers and developers continually attempt to establish in the pursuit of ever more draconian copy protection schemes that are likely ineffective. Look at EA’s decision to couch that hideous system in Mass Effect and Spore, two titles that are virtually guaranteed to see obscenely high sales. It was a blatant attempt for EA to further justify wasting time, money, and effort licensing and implementing a DRM system. Had it gone through, EA would then say “Hey, those two titles sold like gangbusters! That must… Read more »

Lloyd
Lloyd
12 years ago

1)Yes it is too much to expect people to be online. Not everyone has internet access or can log on every day (ex people in the military)

2)What if I upgrade my PC and/or want to play again years later? Well tough luck because I used up all my allowed installs.

3)These are SINGLE player games! Mass Effect has no multiplayer and neither does Spore.

I understand that companies want to protect their assets but there is a fine line between piracy protection and punishing those who honestly pay for something.

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

To fully enjoy the best of the best games on PC, you must upgrade you vid card every 2 years, almost. Most PC gamers have pirated before, also when you favorite game stop working correctly because of vid card driver updates you also feel cheated. Hence I left it all behind bought a next gen console and never looked back, I know the quality of the games will be the same or better with no hardware adjustments/upgrades for at least 5 year, no bad ports of StangleHold for me, no First Person shooters that feel like they had been developed… Read more »

Thefremen
Thefremen
12 years ago

Successful troll is successful.

Matt Clary
Matt Clary
12 years ago

I have legally purchased most games that Bioware has ever created. I will not be purchasing Mass Effect (or pirating it, just so we are clear). I suspect that the 3 activation limit is more about thwarting used game sales than piracy. I disagree with you. When I purchase a game, it is mine to do with as I please, short of copying and redistributing it. One of my rights is to install it 50 times over the next 50 years, if that is what I desire. I will simply be exercising my right not to rent a piece of… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

@CyberSge Jack? Is that you? To be honest, the answer is to let the companies know you are unhappy about what they are doing and suggest they find another way of doing it, after all, THEY are the ones that make billions every year not I. So, yes, what you call ‘whining’ is what got us the few concessions we have got. Maybe you would prefer it if we ‘put up and shut up’, I don’t know, it’s already been suggested that the user could be credited an install when you uninstall the game, so that you can have three… Read more »

Daragon
Daragon
12 years ago

First, the entire article really says, the industry is going to do it, bend over and take it. The rights of the customer be dammed. Second, I’m opposed to DRM that connects to the internet on my music, movies and games, not because I intend to pirate them, but because I don’t know what the information is being used for. It’s a privacy thing. How hard is it to document what UPC has what CD-Key, and who purchased that UPC. Then they can track what games you buy and even how often you play them. Personally, I don’t want BioWare… Read more »

ZippyDSMlee
12 years ago

[quote=CybrSage][quote=*sigh*]The number one selling PC game this year, to date, has been Sins of a Solar Empire.[/quote] Actually, Call of Duty 4 is still beating it, but Sins of a Solar Empire is a close second. The reason Sins is so popular has very little to do with DRM and a LOT to do with filling a very empty genre. You have made a logical fallacy in connecting the lack of DRM to the success of the game. Great game (though I do not like the genre, those who do say the game is great) is what spurs its sales,… Read more »

ZippyDSMlee
12 years ago

[quote=CybrSage]Wow, reading through the replies I am struck by one recurring theme…you all missed one VERY important line: “If gamers don’t like DRM, what other solutions might there be?” The solution is not “stop using DRM”. That does not do anything at all to reduce piracy. Thos who say “make a better game” obviously think Half-Life was a horrible game. You can download it and people definately did pirate it. Yet it was an amazing game. That is not a solution either. Rather than be part of the problem and just while like little children who have no life, come… Read more »

Paco
Paco
12 years ago

One of my biggest complaints about the phone home DRM is that EA has proven over the years it has a very short term memory when it comes to supporting the on-line components of their products. So I am beholden to EA keeping the authentication servers up pretty much indefinitely. I still play games that are 10+ years old, can you tell me that the authentication servers will still be up in 3-5 years or more? SecuROM has a long history of making games unplayable, just because Mike D. hasn’t had any issues does it mean that there is a… Read more »

CybrSage
CybrSage
12 years ago

[quote=*sigh*]The number one selling PC game this year, to date, has been Sins of a Solar Empire.[/quote] Actually, Call of Duty 4 is still beating it, but Sins of a Solar Empire is a close second. The reason Sins is so popular has very little to do with DRM and a LOT to do with filling a very empty genre. You have made a logical fallacy in connecting the lack of DRM to the success of the game. Great game (though I do not like the genre, those who do say the game is great) is what spurs its sales,… Read more »

CybrSage
CybrSage
12 years ago

Wow, reading through the replies I am struck by one recurring theme…you all missed one VERY important line: “If gamers don’t like DRM, what other solutions might there be?” The solution is not “stop using DRM”. That does not do anything at all to reduce piracy. Thos who say “make a better game” obviously think Half-Life was a horrible game. You can download it and people definately did pirate it. Yet it was an amazing game. That is not a solution either. Rather than be part of the problem and just while like little children who have no life, come… Read more »

Timmay!
Timmay!
12 years ago

The DRM wasn’t pulled, it was just modified to take out the “connect to the internet every 10 days” stipulation. You still have to connect to the internet to activate the product, and you still only have 3 activations, that is, if you remove SecuROM after you uninstall the game, which you’d have to do with third party tools. That’s another point about DRM, some forms of DRM, like SescuROM and Starforce, require you to download a separate tool, sometimes third party, just to take it off your system, they do NOT remove themselves when you uninstall the game, and… Read more »

*sigh*
*sigh*
12 years ago

The number one selling PC game this year, to date, has been Sins of a Solar Empire. It has no copy protection whatsoever. It has a serial key which is used only for online play, not game activation, and even then allows two people to play from one copy on their LAN. You may install it as often as you wish, on as many machines as you wish. You lose your CD, they let you download it from their site again, free. You lose your serial, you can contact support. Stardock (the publisher of Sins of a Solar Empire) gets… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

Exactly! This is about killing the resale market for games which is far more lucrative for retailers than selling original titles. Check out Gamespot’s profits in a down market and see how much was derived from used game sales.

ZippyDSMlee
12 years ago

Mildly broken argument. By Anonymous on May 12, 2008 – 6:24am. Forcing a token system or anything that would break the game after 5years (and closed servers) assumes everyone is guilty. Sorry there is not balance here, balance makes it so a phone option is always a option, that you can return crappy games in 14 days to get your money back let retail tack and black list abusers (if I can not return a crappy product then I will work that much harder to ensure my investment is well spent),that the net is not required for play but may… Read more »

Anonymous
12 years ago

We spent a long time as a society obtaining the right to be innocent until proven guilty. DRM assumes that you are guilty, that you will abuse the software, until you can prove yourself innocent.

For that alone it should be reviled.

There will always be people who’ll do whatever it takes to get something for nothing. This is fact. But if the product is a good one, and priced reasonably, people will buy the real thing.

I would like to suggest that people visit
http://www.defectivebydesign.org/
for more information on why DRM is undesirable.

ZippyDSMlee
12 years ago

OK, let’s by honest about By Karsten on May 12, 2008 – 5:35am. The net is not everywhere, one time activation for a new install is not bad, if I can install it and pop it offline and only put it online as I need that would be great. Tokens is just a backhanded method to damage the 2nd hand market but I will welcome it it makes the used games cheaper and I can always crack it to play it. I wont be buying it new because it diminishing consumers rights that much more, publishers are protected by law… Read more »

Karsten
Karsten
12 years ago

OK, let’s by honest about this. Don Moar, a Lead Programmer at Bioware was surprised when Bioware said that they had decided not to go ahead with the 10 day activation thing. I was sort of too. However, 99% percent of the about 12-1500 posts on the subject where negative and about 90% percent of these 1500 posts said that they wouldn’t buy it – just because of the 10 day re- authentication thing. I’m pretty sure this was the main reason for EA and Bioware changing their minds, not some tactic etc. Money, plain and simple. They were worried… Read more »

Frosty
Frosty
12 years ago

DRM doesn’t work – professional scene groups get a hold of the games executatble usualy before it’s available in retail and have cracked it before the game is actually released. Often this means that a complete scene release is out before the retail version is widely available. DRM is known to cause problems for legitimate users, such as limited installs, number of concurrent installs, security issues, performance issues, and in some circumstances it can slow down and even break hardware (see the problem with some optical drives with early versions of starforce) People using pirated copies don’t have any of… Read more »

ZippyDSMlee
12 years ago

Value added content is the
By Anonymous on May 11, 2008 – 8:35pm.

Heh
By Asmo on May 11, 2008 – 8:33pm.

one thing steam has yet to do right is install it register it and play it fully offline after that, it has to many hooks and requirements, they need to ensure that its fully updateable and playable offline IE pop it online to update it go back offline.

Steam is TOO intrusive thus why I do not use it for their games.