Consumer Revolt Convinces EA & BioWare to Rethink Mass Effect DRM Scheme

May 11, 2008 -
Last week GamePolitics reported on a controversial copyright protection scheme which Electronic Arts was planning to institute on the upcoming PC version of Mass Effect as well as on Will Wright's long-awaited Spore.

The proposed SecuROM scheme would require periodic re-validations following initial activation. PC gamers were not happy, to say the least. Apparently that consumer discontent got some attention, at least at BioWare. In a message posted on a BioWare forum, community manager Jay Watamaniuk announced the good news:
There has been a lot of discussion in the past few days on how the security requirements for Mass Effect for PC will work. BioWare, a division of EA, wants to let fans know that Mass Effect will not require 10-day periodic re-authentication.

BioWare has always listened very closely to its fans and we made this decision to ensure we are delivering the best possible experience to them. To all the fans including our many friends in the armed services and internationally who expressed concerns that they would not be able re-authenticate as often as required, EA and BioWare want you to know that your feedback is important to us.

The solution being implemented for Mass Effect for the PC changes copy protection from being key disc based, which requires authentication every time you play the game by requiring a disc in the drive, to a one time online authentication. This system has an added benefit of allowing players to seamlessly play the game without needing the DVD in the drive.

UPDATE: Mike Doolittle of GameCritics wonders why PC gamers hate DRM.

Via: GameDaily

GP: Thanks to longtime GamePolitics reader Black Manta for the heads-up!


I have to ask, am I the only one who feels that companies only do things like this just so that they can get away with the lesser evil?

Like they are just testing the waters as to what they can get away with, while keeping it safe with a not that good or much better "DRM solution."

I have not been doing any PC gaming for a while, but schemes like Half-Life and this "you have to connect online to activate your legally bought software purchase" just piss me off. Not going into a long rant, but like others said it makes me feel like I am a criminal and it removes my right to do as I please with such LEGALLY BOUGHT software(i.e. resell it, remove & re-install it as much as I please/need... *cough*Windows-OSes*cough*...)

Then there is these current gen consoles, with their mico-transactions and other such content I can't make a backup of for storage and safety...... Plus I did like previous console generation's 3rd party software/dongles that allowed me to backup my console saves, or download someone's unlocks and "2,000% complete-BS for the REAL ending" saves.

This sorta confusing shit is why I don't play PC games.


I agree it does seem to smell of,

'Oh all right, we won't treat you like shit, we'll treat you like crap instead...'

"Buying media: For chumps since 1986!"

my biggest complaints against DRM comes from another SecuROM experience, i used to play Neverwinter Nights online, and did for several years, after about a year i started getting SecuROM messages when trying to start up the game telling me to put in the original disk and not a copy, i of course was shocked because i was using the original disk but SecuROM couldn't read it (would eventually get through it often after 5 or 6 trys) at any rate, i take this issue to Biowares customer support (and i was not the only one having this issue mind you) and Bioware tells us to take it up with SecuROM, we go to SecuROM and they tell us to talk to Bioware

in the end it just left a very foul taste in my mouth everytime i hear the name SecuROM (Bioware actually released the programming allowing the game to be played without the CD, thus fixing this issue)

Fuck I hate EA. They just keep acting like such such assholes over this shit.

The cynic in me tells me that EA knew all along that the 10-day activation was totally unacceptable to pc gamers, and just included it so they could remove it when the protests started as part of some warped PR stunt.

I'm still extremely skeptical to both SecuROM and the 3 install limit, since i upgrade my PC fairly often, at least twice a year, so the 3 installs would be gone quite fast, and i have absolutely zero faith in EA's tech support helping me get more installs beyond the initial 3.

Not to mention years down the road if i want to install the game again, what happens then if the tech support isnt available because EA has gone bankrupt from treating their customers like criminals.

Also, i'm very sceptical towards SecuROM because of the reports that people's PC's have broken down because of it, as well as general skepticism to a company telling me if i have certain software installed, i'm not allowed to install or use their program even after paying for the damn thing. That kind of thing makes me want to simply steer clear of games that include such invasive DRM schemes.

At this point, i trust the pirates several magnitudes more than i do EA to deliver software that doesn't mess up or damage my PC, and i might actually just pirate the game in order to not risk said damage, although i had originally planned on buying it.

I'm glad they lessened the DRM crap a little bit, but I still refuse to buy any games with an install limit. I only have so much space on my pc, and to this day I still install Diablo II once in awhile, play it a couple weeks, then uninstall again. Like i said in the other thread, it's hard enough dealing with the CD key, I'm not dealing with other crap for the sake of "security"

Would seem that they are not listening all the closely of they might have noticed the rumbling of discontent over the limited install bit. They are asking they customers to shell out money and niot even bothering to guarantee that their product will work or considering that Very few are going to shell out money a 2nd or 3rd blah blah time when they cannot install the game anymore. Maybe they are been taking lessons in arrogance (and stupidity) from Sony

Spore is going back to the must buy list. 3 Installs is not good though. Wish they'd get rid of it.

I agree, they only put in that 10-day-check-in thing so they could remove it and try to make their limited installs bullshit look better.

You are lying scumbags EA, you don't give a crap about your customers.

I still have to buy a new copy, every time that I install 3 times???

This is all to make selling of used games impossible... and to annoy paying customers who have more than one PC and can therefore afford another copy or those that get a virus and can therefore go screw themselves... also the computer savvy which format their drives regularly to improve performance are all seen as pirates by the industry...

I am happy that they are taking out some of the restrictions but unless I have unlimited installs or at the very least an decent amount, I will not go through the annoyance of pre-ordering this game(again, I canceled the first one), nor will I be buying it after it is out....

Why can't EA trust their goddamn customers? This is rediculous to say that this was gonna do anything other than piss off and insult customers. Is EA fucking retarded or something? I'm not a mean person, but damn!

Further, the 3 install BS is terrible, and should be easily bypassed. Just packet sniff the back-and-forth between server and client when you authenticate the first time. Then write a quicky program that sends that exact information to the client when queried. Finally, re-direct (via your operating system) all queries to the authentication server to (localhost), where you're running your mockup server. Assuming they didn't do something really far out there, that should be all you need to bypass that particular DRM scheme.

Uh-oh! I've just published a method of to bypass DRM!! I'm in violation of the DMCA! Nevermind that a tech-savvy ten year old could have come up with the same solution.

UPDATE: Mike Doolittle of GameCritics wonders why PC gamers hate DRM.

Ever heard of Steam?

Papa Midnight

I think the backed down position is a fair compromise in the overall scheme of things, with two exceptions.

1. Give users with no internet connection (they are still out there) the ability to free call in their code and get an unlock code. This removes the requirement for an internet connection.

2. Make it so the user can deauthenticate their software, either via internet or phone, or make it part of the uninstaller.

eg. a prompt comes up, "You are uninstalling your software, click OK and I will attempt to release your license".

If you click OK, and don't have an internet connection, the software prompts you if you would like an uninstall code to use the phone system.

TAADAAA, problem solved with multiple copies. This is minimally intrusive to anyone with an internet connection. Obviously the connection should not transmit any personal data.

I think a move away from hardcopy DRM (eg. the disc being checked every time) is excellent because wear and tear is the number one cause of disc check failure. Most people happily rename their original .exe and get a crack to avoid constant checking, which can be slow, faulty and occasional will just not work out of the box.

Corrupt bastards.

I'm with Black Ice,boycott EA!

I read about this on another site, yesterday or the day before..
I think the toning down the DRM fixes a lot of the problems I had with it. (Mostly the calling home)
Although I would still appreciate being able to install a game which I purchased as many times as I can, (I tend to uninstall and reinstall things a lot)
I'm still not a fan of DRMs on a whole, but this is less intrusive than others.

Ya know... anyone else here remember when "copy protection" was a single dark red/brown page in the instruction manual with black text and the game asked you to input the word located at Column 4 row 12?

I miss those days...

Namrepus221, that brings back memories. Mainly of Sierra forgetting to add the copy protection/medicine ingredients pages to the Freddy Pharkas manual.

I learned at a young age not to trust large game companies. I remember being stuck on Quest for Glory 4 and when I called the Sierra 1-900 hint line there was an option that suggested there was some kind of secret scroll. So, being young and stupid I pressed the number. I then proceeded to listen to the recording, writing down everything it said, then at the end it stated the whole thing was a joke and the scroll didn't actually exist. So Sierra suckered me out of an extra couple of bucks.


Dude...that's fucked up...

i just learned something bout the EA downloader, which is where this "activate online and only 3 installs" thing for them is comming from basicly...

after 10 total installations they cut you off completely, and want you to buy a new copy... hmmm
wonder why piracy is so high... enthusiasts like to upgrade a LOT, which means a LOT of REINSTALLS...... hmmmm

The interesting part is that a lot of reinstalls are caused by system instabilities created by programs mucking around with your system set-up. Now what sort of programs do that? Oh yes, the very fucking ones that are trying to limit you to three installs....

I'm not one of those guys who actually believes that a company protecting its merchandise from being stolen is the equivalent to treating its customers like criminals. I think it's just a ridiculous statement. Does Wal-Mart also treat its customers like criminals by using theft detection units and cameras that monitor the store? No, of course not. Personally, I don't know why game makers wont just make it necessary to run the game off the actual game disk? It's the simplest way to run it and the most effective way to keep people from pirating it. You could even play it on any computer you want!
I'm sure that I'll hear a lot of you complain about how you don't want to go through all that extra effort to take the game out of the box and put it into the computer (sarcasm) and that you have the unalienable consumer right to run it off your hard drive. I'm actually one of those people who gets pissed off that I'm forced to go through an installation process before playing. I should be able to just stick a game in the disk drive and start playing right away. I believe the best way to battle the piracy problem is to simplify the process. Simplification is the reason that most multi-platform titles sell better on consoles than on PCs anyway even when the PC versions are proven to be superior.
I'll tell you what wont work though; faith in mankind's goodness. Many of you seem to think the companies should just trust everyone to do the right thing. That would be like Wal-Mart removing all its security technology and employees from the store then replacing the cashier lanes with self service ones. Once thats done we can all just sit back and watch all the customers come in and see once and for all how trustworthy they all really are. Perhaps most of us here on this site can truthfully say we would not steal under any circumstances, but the only thing that stops most people are the restrictions set in place and the fear of consequences.

@Corey, with Walmart, the protection is gone once you pay for the goods, you don't have to check up with Walmart every ten days to make sure you haven't sold the product on to someone else. This form of protection did.

Secondly, the system only allowed you to install the game 3 times, it still does, if Walmart told you that you could only watch the Video on 3 different DVD players and then it would stop playing, would you accept that? What happens if you DVD player breaks, that's 1/3 of the lifetime of that DVD gone because of something that could have happened to anyone. What happens if you try to contact the company involved because your DVD no longer works through copy-protection, and the company has gone out of business. I'm not prepared to just 'write off' the outlay for a Video Game after 3 installs.

I don't have a problem with online registration, that's common, and I don't see it going away. I do have a problem with (a) having a parole officer when I've done nothing wrong and (b) having the amount of different systems I can play my game on limited by the industry.

So in effect, yes, I'm being treated like a criminal for having a legal version, whereas the real criminals, who have all this stuff hacked out of it, will be laughing their asses off at the the legal owners' problems in 3-5 years time.

Sorry, wanted to add, read this for a more realistic view on the difference in attitudes about copy protection...

You'll note that it was the protection company (Starforce) that were encouraging people to download an illegal version of an unprotected game. That 'lack of morals' is as prevalent in the copy protection industry as it is in the software pirating industry, there is no high ground, as such.

Replace that www with http:/

There is a difference in trying to protect (phone and online activations) and trying to damage the your only real competition the 2nh hand market( install tokens,online accounts,invalidate game after first install).

---------------------And fer the rest of ye lot

Anti consumerism in business
The trouble here is corporate mentalities they are focusing on 2 or 3 angels to try and force blood (IE profits) from stone.
1. No returns saves them money but lower the glut costs associated with the volume buying retail dose, one member of the family makes a profit the head of the family gets their cut.
2. Frcoeing the need to buy new by breaking the game or tieing it to an account.
3. Diminishing the 2nd market with limited reinstalls and tieing it to an account.
4. Ignoreing a released game to focus time and money on a new project.

I wonder if they realize that 10K+ worth of people in the US have no not or on dialup, do they even realize how much sales they are missing buy not making their games playable on them?

BTW..I just had a thought about making a GTA knock off, but replace drug and gun running with games, anime and media(there would still be guns to shoot with FYI), so make it in a parody style focusing on the absurdity of the situation through paradoxical satire.

Just imagine it fighting the big gangs of media families and minior gangs of IP “associations”, you a “lone” upstart CEO or noob suit breaking the trends in industry by beating the snot out of villainous corporate families and righting consumer wrongs while running from the corrupted law enforcement and paid for laws, do the whole bit complete with fair use uses of backups, mod chips and game enhancers…yes we must focus on the assault on game enhancers.

First off, there is no second retail market for pc games, only for console games. Of course you can trade your pc games, but that's another story.

Second, it is not three installs, it is three activations. Once you have installed the game and then acticated the game via the valid cdkey through the internet, you won't have to activate the game ever again.
Not even if you make a new user account or two for Mass Effect for PC.

The difference between Bioshock's drm-scheme and Mass EFFect's is that the DRM for Mass Effect is tied to your hardware configuration, not your user accounts. However, if upgrade your computer a lot, say motherboard, graphics card, Ram or soundcard every year, or buy new computer every 6-12 months, yes, then you may be in trouble. I do think, however, that most people are like me. We use our computers for about 5-6 years, then trade them in for a new one meaning that we buy a new one every 5-6 years. As for our ability to play MEC 5-10 or even 15-20 years, who can say??

Even if I don't condone piracy in any way, shape or form, I do agree that even this DRM-scheme won't stop the pirates...


There may not be a 2nd hand retail industry in the US, I don't know, I live in the UK, and there is certainly one here.

Not to mention Ebay.

Though, thanks for the clarification about the installs, though to be honest, I change my computer setup more often that that, and it is precisely the situation in 5-10 years that worries me. I still play games like Diablo 2 and Dungeon Keeper 2, if they had this kind of DRM, they would be totally unplayable by now.


So lending and buying used = pirating ?

what small lil world do you live in? EBAY AND AMAZON SALE USED PC GAMES, half the stores ont he net sale used PC games even ma and pa retail stores sale used PC titles, no used PC market my god damn ass....

Only the Bigbox chains don't sell used PC games, get your facts right.....

Piracy will never end it with buying used and shearing makes for about 30% of the world wide consumer market and theres not a damn thing you can do about it.

Yes you go after bootleggers but, but things get far more murky in sharing/downloading out of the world wide population most would rather not buy at all than buy what they are selling, you cannot sale to those who are not intended in buying at the bloated prices they are selling...

"you cannot sale to those who are not intended in buying at the bloated prices they are selling…"

you cannot sale to those who are not willing to "buy in" at the bloated prices they are selling…

zippy speak FTW!

uhg yesterdays mothers day party....I think I am sick from the food >

Thats why consumers need to learn to fend for them selfs... it brings to mind the poaching in the kings filed only with thoughts because in the the end thats what data falls down to, by all mean regulate for profit distribution and up the fines on on thos that break thos contacts or skirt them there will always be sheeple to sale to for the rest of use we should be left alone to hunt and mount our data and archive as we see fit.

I've been following this nightmare since the 8th. And I'm sick to the stomach about the whole affair. Finding out that Mass Effect had it was bad enough, the fact that Spore has it (Which I have been waiting for since it was first announced) made things worse.

In my book removing the 10 day re-activation was nothing more then cutting the turd and tossing only half away. Both games will still need to connect to the internet to continue working.

Hell, I'm tired and pissed off. So if any of this comes off as a total grammar/spelling nightmare, I'm sorry.

In closing I hope I live long enough to watch the EA offices burn to the ground so I can piss on the ashes.

ggaaaa zippy speak is in effect >

EA, which is currently lining up to buy out YET ANOTHER of it's competitors (to the tune of a couple 'B is for BILLIONS' no less) want us to believe this is a necessary measure to protect it's products from theft and piracy?

Next time the suit wearing nitwits who think these are good ideas have a meeting, there should be a designated person (Secretary, Intern, Midget in a chicken suit, doesn't matter) who sits in on the meeting, and every time these dipsticks propose one of these stupid systems, this person pulls out a whiffle bat and knocks them into last Thursday.

When EA implements THAT system, maybe I'll give them another chance.


What would you say if Wal-Mart put up one of those scanner things at your front door to make sure you didn't make it home with stolen stuff?

And Target. And K-Mart. And Sears, oh and Nordstrom's does even though you don't shop there, because they had a deal with the home builder.

Your front door is quite the mess now, isn't it?

I too disagree with the current state of DRM for PC games. You realize that even if the game was shipped for the first week with SecureROM, and then, pre-announced and garunteed, a week later a non-protected version would be sent... even THEN there would be a crack made for the games SecureROM version. The people cracking them are doing it for fun, not for money.

I have had need to crack some of my PURCHASED games due to the draconian methods of protection. Here is another kicker, it often made the games start up faster, and in one instance, more stable. Not requiring the DVD to be in the drive is a step in the right direction, at least I won't need a No DVD crack, and if the authorization works, then I won't need anyhting else... maybe. I didn't have a problem with BioShock (although that was before I had gotten a wide screen monitor).

I just think that the companies should realize that the more DRM on their games, the harder it is for the paying consumer, and it doesn't really make it hard for the copyiers.

And that is what they are, let's not mix up the words. These "pirates" that they are alienating their paying customers over aren't costing them billions a year. They are people who liekly wouldn't have paid for the game, and they aren't selling the game to others who would have paid.

They didn't mention SecuROM being taken out. If it's there, I'm not buying it. It's bad enough when games have bugs, but I really don't want them installing something deep into my OS that destabilizes my entire system. And no, my opinion doesn't change even if SecuROM works bug-free.

Note to EA: I'm not a criminal, stop treating me like one. I'll buy your games again the day the commercial version is LESS of a hassle than the ones the pirates have.

my problem is not the Copy protection or the install limit, easy fix is to call the company and they well reset the limit no problem, its the call home every ten days thing that i have a problem with, i have cable internet so its wont be a problem, but i have a friend in the boonys who can have internet because the lines out there are so old that 56k dosen't work too well so he only gos online at the library or my house

quicksilverjedi the 10 day thing has been removed.

It has, but only continual and vocal public opposition when this bullshit pops up is the only way we can keep publishers from pulling these stunts.

EA couched this idiocy in guaranteed top selling titles because it was aiming to set a precedent and give the vicious cycle machine a good long whirl. Were we to let this slide the next Mass Effect game would likely require a 3-day reauthentication or maybe a constant connection to EA-Link (their proprietary net-download service). "Voting with your dollar" isn't possible with titles this big for the exact reason that the issue wouldn't affect a whole lot of people.

But just because it doesn't affect you (yet) isn't a reason to let crap like this slide. Publishers will try as hard as they can to get away with things (see EA's attempts to sell cheats to Godfather 360), and it's up to consumers to hold the line. So keep complaining as loudly and forcefully as you can. It's the best way to protect your consumer freedoms and it's what the internet was tailor-made for.

I did not mean to come off in favor of the forced DRM in these newer titles. DRM is actually kind of necessary if you want to be able to copy the game onto your hard drive. However, you should be able to play the game so long as the disk is in your computer. I think the publishers should give you the option of playing the game off the disk in addition to the ability to install it onto your PC.
Games and some other forms of entertainment are more difficult to police than other products. They have a unique situation in which most of the policing must be done after the sale. When a car dealer sells you a car he does not have to worry about you taking it home and duplicating it for all your friends.
Like I said in my last post, I think the answer to the problem is simplification, not the creation of even more complex forms of DRM. My point is that some form of protection is necessary and that trusting consumers is not the answer as we are all potential thieves. They should just have the games run off the disk. Let me do that and I'll be a happy happy gamer.

>>They should just have the games run off the disk. Let me do that and I’ll be a happy happy gamer.

If that were mandatory, I'm sure we'd see consumer revolt from folks who hate having their optical drives running full-burn while they play. :P

Both consumers and publishers can and will try to make off scot-free. That's for the better in the end.

That said, EA's new plan for the two games is not dissimilar to the one Ironclad and Stardock use with Sins of a Solar Empire. Sins plays off the HDD without any DRM, but forces an authentication via online registration of the CD Key when you want a patch or additional game content. It works well and Sins' excellent sales seem to validate it to an extent.

EA's new plan, though it still involves hated SecuROM, only requires a 1-time online authentication, followed by a re-authentication when downloading new content or patching.

I have to add that crackers consider breaking DRM measures as their "game". Many don't even bother to play the games whose schemes they crack, moving on to the next target. The worse the scheme, the more enthusiastic the cracker. SecuROM is a particularly juicy nemesis. This is why they will never be beaten permanently.

Ok here's my question...

DRM is to prevent piracy right? Because pirates are horribly cutting into game company's profits...

...If that's true, then how come EA and the rest are still making video games if they're so horribly unprofitable?

...The hackers must be slacking.

On a serious note I'm boycotting EA. I will no longer be purchasing ANY title that supports this anti-customer bs.

BS and great example of the door-in-the-face technique.

There is no such thing as a one-time activation only as, each time the DRM detects your computer has changed (which could be triggered by simply using a different user accounts with crappy implementation like Bioshock's SecuRom), it will need re-activation. Then the server might or might not be there, and might or might not allow you to play, because of some arbitrary and changing "normal usage" rules implemented on it.
I prefer named this kind of protection "hardware tying" instead, because that's what they really are. Instead of using a CD as a dongle, they used your whole computer.

You can tolerate this kind of protection only if you have a blind trust in the publisher. Yet the reason publishers put these measures is that because they refuse to trust their consumers. So why should they be trustworthy?

Product activation has no place on so-called "purchased" content: activated content can only be rented.

Guys I need information, I found out through wikipedia that Supreme Commander has secuROM I need to know the extent of the secuROM security on this game because I don't want this to destroy my comp is it as bad as this, does it have the three install and phone home, i know that there's no more disk check due to a patch but i really want this game please I need your help.
and if it does point me to a site that can walk me through disabling it
if i disable it will i still be able to play online?
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