Last week, the much anticipated game Spore was released. The game has been hyped up for over two years and it looked as if it was going to join the ranks of Sims as one of the best-selling games of all time. Even though I am not much of a gamer, I even considered buying a copy. That was until the news broke that Spore is using SecureROM as a DRM scheme. For those of your who might not remember, SecureROM was at the heart of the Sony Rootkit scandal. The backlash against Electronic Arts started swiftly. Boing Boing broke the story of several rating Spore only 1 star at Amazon. In fact, as of this writing, over 2000 people have marked Spore as a 1 star product. The question still remains if all these reviews have hurt Spore’s sales. It is still ranked #4 in video game sales at Amazon.

There are some important things to note about Spore’s DRM. First, the DRM does not affect Apple users. Second, Electronic Arts claims they are using a modified version of SecureROM that is less intrusive. Here are some of their talking points:

  • We authenticate your game online when you install and launch it the first time.
  • We’ll re-authenticate when a player uses online features, downloads new content or a patch for their game.
  • The new system means you don’t have to play with the disc in your computer. And if you are like me, always losing discs, this will be a huge benefit.
  • You’ll still be able to install and play on multiple computers.
  • You can play offline.

While these are nice changes, it still doesn’t address the main issue. Using this DRM scheme treats honest paying customers as criminals. The people who end up fighting with the DRM are the people who payed for the game. The game SecureROM was hacked a week before the game had been released to the public by crackers. Clearly SecureROM was ineffective at stopping the game from getting stolen.

Software creators should learn from Apple’s example. Apple releases most of their consumer products without so much as a serial number. When I went to my local Apple store to purchase Leopard I was surprised how many people in front of me were buying family packs. Even though they could have saved money and bought a single user license. Most people were honest and paid Apple the money they deserved.

With my background in computers, I find cracking most software to be a trivial matter. However, even with my ability to crack software, I still purchase the software I use. And I think most people are this way. This became clear with the launch of the Apple iTunes store. Before iTunes many people were pirating music. Now that iTunes is around most people find it is not worth the trouble to save $0.99 for a song they want.

I hope Electronic Arts releases a patch to Spore to remove the DRM scheme. Even though I am a Mac user, I myself have decided not to buy the game until the DRM issue is fixed.