Well this is weird. Big new game comes out with always-online digital rights management (DRM), stuff goes wrong and nobody can play game for days, company looks bad as a result? A year ago that was Activision Blizzard’s predicament when Diablo III launched, today it’s EA with SimCity.
For those who haven’t heard, EA recently released the latest version of its popular SimCity games, only to find that nobody could actually play the damn game. The reason? EA, in all their wisdom, decided that in order to combat piracy, they would require gamers to be constantly connected to the Internet and their servers in order to make sure the game was a legit copy. Of course, when the game finally launched EA’s servers were unable to actually keep up with the number of people playing the game and as a result, most players were locked out of playing the title they had just paid $60 to play.
That’s right, even if you, the owner of a brand new copy of SimCity wanted to play the single player mode you were unable to do so simply because EA wanted to keep watch on what you’re doing at all times to make sure you’re not a crook.
Again, this brings up the issue of DRM and what the point of it really is. According to the companies employing it, DRM is being used as a way to combat piracy of the games that have had so much time and money spent on their development. Fair enough. However, when all that DRM really does is hinder gamers’ ability to enjoy the legitimate product they’ve purchased, as showcased by both Diablo III and SimCity, then it becomes a problem.
At first, EA tried to brush off the issue, saying that the game required people be connected because of all the calculations done on their servers and the DRM was necessary. However, as the days began adding up, gamers began to dig into the game’s code and found that, actually, the game could run offline just fine. The game’s developer, Maxis then fessed up, saying that the game could run offline but that they felt it wasn’t the right direction for the game, and decided to withhold that option for gamers.
The result? People with enough know-how have already hacked to game to run on its own, offline.
And here we find ourselves again.
Essentially, EA is willing to sacrifice the enjoyment of its actual, paying customers in the off chance that they might convince some people not to pirate the game. The problem though, was that those who would actually be so inclined to pirate the game are likely to be the ones to find a workaround EA’s DRM, which they have.
Now you may be wondering, what then can we do about piracy? Well, I don’t have an answer. I don’t know what publishers and developers should do to deter people from illegally playing their games, but by now, you’d think they’d realize what they shouldn’t.