31 Mar 2009

The Sims Free (of DRM)

I was greeted by big news this morning as I logged on to the BBC News website and scanned through the usual bleak headlines. The thing that caught my eye was sitting right at the front of the Technology section:

EA 'dumps DRM' for next Sims game

And so I discovered that EA has reportedly backtracked from their usual stance on the use of digital rights management with their games. The Sims 3, they say, will come bundled with no such thing.

Shock and awe followed. Then a question formed in my mind: Has the company finally realised that their piracy deterrents are less effective than a fart in the ocean when it comes to combating crooks on the internet? Has last year's bungled Spore release and subsequent backlash finally penetrated some skulls within the EA stronghold?

Stating that they are planning to revert to good old-fashioned serial codes with no online activation at all, a spokesperson from EA is quoted by the Beeb as saying "there is always going to be a level of protection for games and this solution [DRM free] is right for The Sims 3."

Considering how likely The Sims 3 is to be EA's money-maker for a good chunk of the next decade (if its predecessors are anything to go by), it's certainly a brave first step towards relieving the proposterous amount of shit that PC gamers have to wade through these days in order to get games up and running. That quote also begs the response: Is DRM appropriate for any games? And if so, which ones?

The spokesperson goes on to say that the way in which "these things roll out in the future will be down to the developers". When we've seen it so often proclaimed by game-makers during restrictive security debacles that the Big Bad Men from the publishing company made them do it, could it be that the power now lay in their hands and that they'll put an end to the madness?

My guess is that EA are treading very careful around the subject matter in case they need to hurriedly retreat to the safety of their DRM fortress. Either that or they are lying about the omission of online activation.

Regardless of any cynical speculation, this can only be perceived as a major change in attitude towards copy protection from one of the big industry players. It seems as if the people have spoken and EA - the pantomime villain of PC gaming - has responded, not so much to the shouts of "it's behind you!" but to the blood-curdling yells of "it's right there in front of your fucking eyes, you idiots! DRM isn't the answer!".

The Dead Pixel can only hope that this leads to a deluge of game reviews on Amazon that are about the actual game rather than the wrongdoings of overprotective corporations.

My eyeballs are now firmly glued to this space.

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