March 31, 2009

EA Not Using DRM For Next Sims Game

The next version of the popular Electronic Arts game "The Sims" will be free of Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Last year, the firm undertook considerable criticism when the copy protection limited users to three installations of the game Spore.

Ron Humble, The Sims division head, said the game would use traditional serial code copy protection as "this is a good, time-proven solution."

DRM was originally introduced to combat game privacy but became unpopular with users.

"The game will have disc-based copy protection - there is a serial code, just like The Sims 2," said Mr Humble in a blog posting.

"To play the game there will not be any online authentication needed."

"We feel like this is a good, time-proven solution, that makes it easy for you to play the game without DRM methods that feel overly invasive or leave you concerned about authorization server access in the distant future," he added.

Software piracy is an issue that has dogged the games industry since its inception.

One of the earliest attempts is a serial code check.  Users have to enter codes printed on the back of the game manual before installation of the game can complete.

Other copy protection methods include CD check, dongles and DRM.

The problem with this method for software developers is that hackers usually crack the copy protection system within a few days of release.

The issue came with the release of Will Wright's Spore in 2008.  The SecuROM DRM restricted users to a maximum of three installs and required online verification before the game could be played.

However, despite the DRM, Spore was cracked within 24 hours of release and consumers felt they were being penalized for buying a legitimate copy of the game, rather than downloading a hacked version.

"It's such a shame that the distributor of the game treats its own customers as criminals and attempts to do their best to prevent you from actually playing the game," one user wrote on Amazon.com.

Tiffany Steckler, a spokesperson for EA, told BBC that a final decision on the future of DRM for the company has yet to be made.

"There is always going to be a level of protection for games and this solution [DRM free] is right for The Sims 3.

"How these things roll out in the future will be down to the developers and we will make announcements in due course."

However developers might make progress on solutions that obviate the need for DRM.

At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this year, the developers of the popular game Half Life unveiled a new set of features for its Steamworks platform, saying its distribution system had "made DRM obsolete."

Steam's new "custom executable generation" technology makes copies of the games for each user, allowing players to access their games on multiple machines without install limits.

The only restriction is that users will have to log onto their account to actually play.


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