EA seeks to remedy its 'Spore' DRM mistake

Game maker liberalizes its digital rights music policy for the new evolution game, by Will Wright--but not nearly enough. It has to learn the difference between users and customers.

Applying a Band-Aid to a gaping head wound, Electronic Arts has decided to apply more liberal protections to its hit game Spore.

As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the game maker plans to expand the number of machines allowed under its digital rights management plan:

In a statement, Frank Gibeau, EA game label president, said the company was "disappointed" by the misunderstanding around its digital rights management software and that it would expand the installation limit from three machines to five. He added that EA is also expediting the development of a system that will allow customers to "deauthorize" computers and move the game to new machines, without the need to call the company.

CNET's Jennifer Guevin had noted that the Spore DRM provisions, instead of protecting against piracy, had actually encouraged it. Consumers rebelled against the restrictions. This new policy may relieve some of this piracy, but I concur with Dave Rosenberg's argument that EA still needs to learn the difference between a user and a customer:

If there is one thing that open source has taught us, it's that there are "users," and there are "customers." Odds are that all of your customers will be users first, taking your software for a test-drive and then deciding if they want to pay for it. It's all about getting people to consume your software.

As such, EA really should be thinking differently, allowing unfettered access to the game itself for users--though likely in a crippled form--and then allowing customers to buy their way into the game to get enhanced functionality. This model has worked in open source. EA should be examining its applicability to gaming, too, rather than simply providing a bigger cage in which to imprison customers.

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