SecuROM Bad

I am a bit of a gamer. One of the games I enjoy playing is The Sims. Right now it is the Sims 2 for PC.

The Sims 3 is set to be released February 2009. When I first heard about The Sims 3 I was very excited, but the more I hear/read about SecuROm the less excited I get.

The New Securom: Why It's Fundamentally Flawed

Postby Secret Jerk on Mon May 12, 2008 1:03 am
Many gamers out there are asking a very important question: What's the big deal?

It's a fair question, and we hope to answer it for you. First, let's give an overview of the new Securom and how it differs from the current Securom:

New Securom:
- CD will not be required to play.
- Game will be authenticated on installation, PC will be "authorized" as one of three you are allowed to install on.
- Reauthentication will be required when patching or downloading game content.

So the new Securom doesn't seem too horrible, right? I won't need the CD anymore? It sounds like a good thing! Not quite... There are some very important things to think about here.

First off, this is basically, more or less, just another form of DRM, and any form of DRM that requires connection with an "Authentication Server" like the new system EA is proposing is something no consumer should agree to.

The Pitfalls of Authentication Servers:

Scenario: You try to install your game, get to the "Online Authentication" step, and discover that the servers that are supposed to authenticate your game have been turned off by the company...
This is not at all an unlikely scenario. In fact, it has happened in the past. Just take the example of what happened to customers of the now defunct MSN Music store:

Customers who have purchased music from Microsoft's now-defunct MSN Music store are now facing a decision they never anticipated making: commit to which computers (and OS) they want to authorize forever, or give up access to the music they paid for. Why? Because Microsoft has decided that it's done supporting the service and will be turning off the MSN Music license servers by the end of this summer.

As shown in the other link above, this is not the first time this has happened. Companies that are pushing DRM systems like this usually insist that they'll keep the systems going forever...

The new system will apparently be used in all future PC releases from EA. In response to concerns that owners of the PC version of the game will not be able to play it once the validation servers are pulled down, French wrote, "It does not take any effort to keep the servers running, because it's not just for Mass Effect, it will be for Spore, and all the other PC titles coming up. In fact, it would take more effort to shut down one PC title than to keep them all going."

But let's face it: nothing is forever...

Scenario: 10 years from now, you're digging through an old box of computer stuff. "Whoa cool! I remember this old game! I should give it a whirl again just for the fun of it!" You stick in the CD, go to install the game, only to find that the Authentication Servers haven't been shut off, they physically no longer exist...

Look at all of your old games and think of all the classics that you can still play: Lemmings, SimCity Classic, Scorched Earth, Doom, Transport Tycoon, Theme Hospital, Starcraft, 1803, Dinosaur Tycoon... the list goes on and on and on... Yet, how many of the companies that made your old games are even still in existence?

Sure, technology changes but nearly any old game can still be played given the right compatibility settings, an emulator, or even WINE, which can run many old games that may have run on DOS or Windows 3.1 but can't be run on XP or newer. But imagine not even being able to INSTALL these games to attempt to play because the company that made the game isn't around anymore, and neither are their authentication servers...

Scenario: You get a shiny new gaming computer and want to have nothing running in the background so that your games run as fast as possible. No anti virus programs, firewalls, chat clients, anything. Then you go to install this new single player game, only to discover that it requires the internet to be installed.

This isn't as likely anymore, but many people still have their gaming computer separated from their "online" computer and therefore would not be able to install without hooking up an internet connection to the gaming PC. There are also many in the world who do not have reliable access to the internet at all, or very slow access. Some I know personally have to go to Internet cafes on laptops to download patches because they are stuck on dialup at home, and now with this new system of activation for installation and reactivation for patches and other content, they will no longer be able to do this.

Other Scenarios: While not nearly as glaring as the first two scenarios, other scenarios exist. The authentication servers could be slammed on release day by all the players trying to authenticate their games, and, if the server is to be shared as French suggested, then any time a major game release is made or when many people receive new games around holidays, you may be waiting and making many attempts to authenticate your game, none of which work.

The "Three Installations" Rule:

There has been a great deal of confusion over this rule, and there still is. Some articles say that it means you can install it on up to three computers at a time. Others say three installations, period, including reinstalls. However, EA has stated that:

Q: Will EA or BioWare take any personal information from my computer during an authentication?

A: Absolutely not. We do not take any personal information from your computer. The system simply verifies that a valid CD key has been provided and assigns that activation to that PC.

Therefore, there is no way for this new SecuROM activation system to know whether or not the computer that the game is being installed on is the same computer that it has been installed on before unless information is saved on the computer that isn't removed when the game is uninstalled. Even if the information is retained after the game is uninstalled, it will not be retained when the computer is reformatted. Finally, EA has given us no information to lead us to believe that we will be able to "deauthorize" a machine if we decide to get rid of it and install the game on a new one instead.

In the end, regardless of how this system will work, it is bad. Period.

Scenario: You install your game on two of your computers. After a few months, you have to reformat one computer and you reinstall the game. Then, your other computer crashes, completely. Time to buy a new one! Only one problem: you've used up all three "installations", and you now can't install the game on your shiny, new computer.

EA says that in the case of a situation like this, you simply have to call customer service and get permission to install the game on the computer. However, as we well know, being on hold with customer service is about as fun as watching paint dry. Additionally, there are no guarantees they'll even GIVE you permission to install the game:

This solution allows gamers to authenticate their game on three different computers with the purchase of one disc. EA Customer Service is on hand to supply any additional authorizations that are warranted. This will be done on a case-by-case basis by contacting customer support.

Historically, when a person has bought games, they've had the right to keep playing and using them for as long as they want, with no restrictions on the number of times they install. Why should this change now?

Scenario: A pirate downloads an illegal copy of the game and uses a keygen to generate a key code for their game that just happens to match yours. Oops! Looks like you just lost one of your installation authorizations...

While the chances of this are slim, it is a genuine risk. And with all the companies telling us that piracy is huge, why shouldn't we expect one of the myriads of pirates out there to generate a key that is the same as ours?

In The End...

In the end, as you can see, this new system does nothing to help the consumer. Those who buy the game legally and put up with the SecuROM system are hit with frustration after frustration and are treated by EA like criminals rather than loyal customers. Nobody should put up with such a system, and we should all vote with our wallets: Don't buy anymore games made by EA or any other company that contain such a restrictive system that is so degrading to actual customers.

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