'Spore' DRM Update - EA Loosening One Restriction In 'Near Future,' Offers Defense

'Spore'Since "Spore" launched on PC earlier this month it's been the subject of thousands of complaints about the Digital Rights Management (DRM) measures implemented by EA to stave off piracy of the blockbuster game.

With so many issues swirling about restrictions and spyware and whatnot, I checked in with EA about the big ones and got several updates.

The bottom line shared to me by EA spokesperson Mariam Sughayer today is that "EA has no intentions -- nor will they ever -- to make it easier for people to play a pirated game… than to play an authentic retail copy."

Specifically, here's how the company replies to four major DRM and ownership issues surrounding the game:

  • Complaint: A legitimately bought copy of "Spore" can't be activated on more than three different computers -- ever.

EA Response: That will be changed, according to the EA spokesperson, who told Multiplayer that the current limit on the number of computers that can be associated with a single copy of "Spore" is "very similar to a solution that iTunes has. The difference is that with iTunes you can de-authorize a computer [that you no longer want associated with your iTunes content]. Right now, with our solution, you can't. But there is a patch coming for that." The official timeframe for that patch is "near future."

*Some stats regarding this issue -- EA provided Multiplayer with updated information indicating that it is rare for consumers to perform installations of recent EA PC games on more than one PC, let alone three (these figures, incidentally, offer a window into "Spore"'s current rate of sale):

Mass Effect

• Total activations: 183313

• Users activating on only 1 machine: 77%

• Users activating on more than 1 machine: 23%

• User trying to activate on more than 3 machines: 0.9%

Spore Creature Creator

• Total activations: 453048

• Users activating on only 1 machine: 77%

• Users activating on more than 1 machine: 23%

• Users trying to activate on more than 3 machines: 1%

Spore (main game)

• Total activations: 437138

• Users activating on only 1 machine: 86%

• Users activating on more than 1 machine: 14%

• User trying to activate on more than 3 machines: 0.4%

UPDATE - An EA representative has clarified that the above numbers cover a sampling of the people who have bought "Spore" and should not be interpreted as a representation of sales data for the game.

  • Complaint: Consumers fear there is spyware being installed by the SecurROM copy-protection software incorporated into the game.

EA Response: "There's no viruses, no spyware and no malware…We have located a download off of one of the Torrent sites that is a virus. The thing I would say to the consumer audience is that, if you're concerned with a virus on your computer, the chances of that are infinitely higher when you're downloading off of a hacked version than it would be downloading the authentic game. We would never put any spyware on anyone's computers. That's not going to happen."

  • Complaint: The "Spore" instruction manual claims that a purchaser of "Spore" can allow multiple users to create online accounts with a single copy of the game. The game does not allow this.

EA Response: The company has already stated this is a misprint in the manual and referred Multiplayer back to a statement issued by "Spore" executive producer Lucy Bradshaw apologizing for "the confusion." But EA has not replied to Multiplayer follow-up questions regarding why the company implemented this restriction and what EA makes of complaints from households that include multiple people who want to have separate "Spore" accounts associated with a single copy of the game.

  • Complaint: The requirement for a "Spore" user to have their ownership of the game automatically authenticated every time they access the game's online features threatens to render the game useless if EA someday turns the "Spore" servers off.

EA Response: "If we were to ever turn off the servers on the game, we would put through a patch before that to basically make the DRM null and void. We're never walking away from the game and making it into a situation where people aren't going to be able to play it."


EA declined to address more general questions about the company's views on all the DRM complaints -- are they legit or mostly from pirates? The company is also passing on talking about why the DRM restrictions for "Spore" appear to differ from other EA PC titles, a distinction that some have viewed as a sign of EA considering modifying its policies. If and when EA addresses those questions, we'll let you know.

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