There’s a war raging over at Amazon right now as a loosely organized group of frustrated users are using the Amazon rating system as a way to voice their deep disappointment with the DRM that’s being used on Spore.
If you haven’t been following along, the “copy protection” that was implemented on the product doesn’t allow more than one user to play the game, and won’t let you install the game more than three times before you have to start calling up EA and asking for permission to reinstall a game that you bought.
While they may be well within their rights to do that, it’s also a clearly a swipe aimed at limiting the games function for legitimate users, and not about stopping people from playing the game without paying for it. DRM mostly inconveniences legitimate users most of the time, so to go to the next level and do that intentionally is mind boggling. At the end of the day they’re saying that their solution to a world where everyone can easily copy everything is to let you own nothing at all.
With negative comments being deleted by Amazon, it’s becoming a high profile street battle over one of the most hyped games of the year. Although looking through the ratings it’s clear that there’s some thinking going into the comments beyond a simple “DRM sucks” response. And you don’t have to have more than a passing understanding of how social media works on the web to know that any attempt to shut it down through brute force are only going to give the issue more attention.
While arguments can be made about the effectiveness of this kind of protest, at the end of the day EA is attempting to use a Shock Doctrine tactic of limiting the user experience under the umbrella of piracy. And that’s a damn shame, because on some level the product itself already has a lot of organic anti-piracy features built into it. There’s a great deal of shared user content, and it would be easy enough to simply lock out the pirates from getting the tastiest morsels of gameplay, turning the copied product into a hobbled demo that leaves the pirates on the outside looking in.
EA has claimed that long-term they’re thinking of Spore as a platform that will allow for other gamers. But the whole idea of the platform model is getting the software into the hands of the players, and then charging them for a variety of experiences. Giving someone a razor and telling them they’ll need to beg for permission to use more blades after the first three is absolutely not the way to make that model work.