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DRM or How to lose a customer

Mar - 15 - 2013
Nicole C. Engard

Like many of you SimCity was one of the first games I ever played on the computer. I knew that a new version was coming out, but didn’t really keep up with the news about the release – until now. Apparently the newest SimCity was released about a week ago and has been making a splash in the news. Not because it’s an awesome game, but because of horrible DRM and failing servers. EA games has decided that in order to play SimCity (even in single player mode) you have to be on the Internet. While this fan refuses to support software with such insane DRM, many others did and it crashed/slowed the servers to such a point that no one could play the game.

This from ReadWrite:

Server problems wouldn’t normally hamper a video game’s launch, unless that game is developed by EA. In an effort to combat piracy – or something, it’s not quite clear – EA deployed an online-only Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology through its Origin service for SimCity, which came out on March 5. That means in order to play the game, you need to be online at all times and connected to EA’s servers, even when playing the single-player mode. When player demand starting causing the servers to fall, it also brought down nearly every player’s ability to play any aspect of the game.

To apologize EA is offering people effected a free game from their catalog – but why the heck would I want yet another game with DRM that makes it so that I can’t play games when I’m on the road? SimCity was the perfect game to play when on a train or a plane when you don’t want to pay for Wifi … in fact that’s how I still play SimCity 4.

I understand that gaming companies are worried about piracy, but this kind of DRM is not the solution. I’m sure someone will crack it eventually – but more importantly it is stopping loyal fans like me from continuing the buy in to the franchise.

Going forward, the only real solution may come from the most helpful 1-star review on Amazon, from a user named Malor who earned more than 7,700 recommendations. He noted that SimCity is not a typical game with a beginning, middle and end. It’s a toy, and you used to be able to buy that toy and play with it. But now, Malor wrote, “You don’t even get to buy your toy. Rather, you rent a toy from EA, who lets you play with it only in very limited, circumscribed ways, only on their servers.”

Malor’s final recommendation offers perhaps the best approach: “You would be wiser to take three twenties out of your wallet, and light them on fire.” In other words, don’t waste your time or money on products with draconian DRM, no matter how intriguing they might be otherwise. Only when DRM affects sales will EA and other publishers take this situation seriously.


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