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EA Won't Use DRM For The Sims 3 128

Posted by Soulskill
from the learning-from-their-mistakes dept.
After taking heavy criticism for the use of SecuROM in Spore and other games, EA has made the decision to go back to simple serial code authentication for The Sims 3. EA's Rod Humble said simply, "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."
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EA Won't Use DRM For The Sims 3

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  • by iYk6 (1425255) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @12:58AM (#27367883)

    Serial keys are an improvement over more draconian DRM, but it is still DRM. And it is just as effective as other forms of DRM. In other words, the pirates' copies will have been already cracked to not require a serial key, or will come with a serial key generator.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bught_42 (1012499)
      Perhaps they realize that DRM is almost entirely useless and that they shouldn't piss off the people who actually do pay for video games.
    • by Dryesias (1326115) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @01:09AM (#27367917)
      I think serial keys are necessary. They stop casual copying from being prevalent. Many people are not willing or knowledgeable enough to go through the time/effort to download a torrent, mess with keygenerators and/or no-cd cracks, and then possibly still be blocked from online pay. Without serial keys, anyone could just buy say, an RTS like AoE3 and install it on all your friends computers real quick so you can play together online. There has to be a balance, and I feel serial keys are a nice compromise, since it really doesn't require additional effort on my part, and I can even resell my software, because it is truly mine.
      • Is there really that much of a difference between handing my buddy a CD in a jewel case vs handing him a CD in a jewel case that has the key printed on it?
        I don't believe keys matter for casual loaning of single player games, which is what The Sims 3 is. Their best strategy is to discourage loaning, which has been a side-effect of hand-held console cartridges for some time. Carts have a finite amount of space for save game slots, and as a result you don't want to loan your cartridge to someone careless who

        • Their best strategy is to discourage loaning, which has been a side-effect of hand-held console cartridges for some time. Carts have a finite amount of space for save game slots, and as a result you don't want to loan your cartridge to someone careless who will overwrite your "hard work" with their own progress.

          So let me get this straight -- you want to discourage, not copying, but loaning?

          Since these are so often compared to physical objects, let's compare. With a console game, no one really minds loaning them -- the biggest concern is that you won't have it while they're borrowing it, and it might get scratched.

          But if anything, this opens up new markets -- game rentals, and used games. And it does drive up the value of a game, if you know it can be re-sold.

          It's only very recently that content providers have even toyed with the idea of "selling" a book, or a movie, which couldn't be transferred.

          The supposed purpose of DRM is to "keep honest people honest", by preventing things like actual copyright infringement. But your comment does tend to indicate the true purpose of DRM -- to prevent people from doing perfectly honest things (like lending) that you'd rather be able to charge for.

          This could be implemented in a similar fashion by moving storing saves online, and limiting the amount of slots available.

          If you're already forcing them to be online, why do you need to limit the number of saves? Just don't allow more than one person to be online at once.

          The customer loses some flexibility by being unable to save locally,

          and by having a limited number of saves,

          but benefits by not losing progress when reinstalling, or transitioning between different computers.

          That is a benefit. I should point out that it is one of the benefits of Steam.

          And hey, I can lend games on Steam. I just have to lend the whole account at a time, and if I lend my account credentials, I risk losing the account. That's really all the incentive I need -- to limit the number of saves on top of that really serves no purpose, other than to save you disk space. And with all the data Steam gathers about me, disk space clearly isn't an issue.

          • So let me get this straight -- you want to discourage, not copying, but loaning?

            The parent was talking about casual copying. If a game did not implement CD checks, then it could be loaned out, installed, then returned--no copying required. I think it's fairly obvious why game devs prefer users buying their products instead of borrowing them from a friend.

            But if anything, this opens up new markets -- game rentals, and used games. And it does drive up the value of a game, if you know it can be re-sold.

            Used game sales aren't good for the original developer. If a game is bought for $50, then resold four times for $10-30 each time, how much does the original developer make? $50. Epic Games [gamesindustry.biz] has voiced their opinion on the issue, and has

            • by Rich0 (548339) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @02:26PM (#27371577) Homepage

              Used game sales aren't good for the original developer. If a game is bought for $50, then resold four times for $10-30 each time, how much does the original developer make? $50. Epic Games has voiced their opinion on the issue, and has taken measures to discourage the practice (unlocks/DLC).

              Yes, but people are more likely to pay more for it if they know they can turn around and sell it and get some of that money back when they get tired of it.

              My concern isn't that killing the used market is better for devs. My concern is that it shouldn't be legal whether it is better or not. There needs to be a balance between consumers and publishers. TPB probably isn't it, but neither is Spore...

            • The parent was talking about casual copying.

              The word used was "loaning". If they meant copying, they should've said copying.

              Used game sales aren't good for the original developer. If a game is bought for $50, then resold four times for $10-30 each time, how much does the original developer make? $50.

              That assumes that the game can be sold at the same price, even when users know they can't resell them. Would you buy a car you couldn't re-sell?

              It also assumes that someone who would buy a game for $10-30 would have bought it for $50 if it wasn't available at the lower price.

              With a book, possession directly implies access. If I loan out a book, I can't read it until it's returned. Software is different; It's dishonest to loan out my copy of Office 2007 to my friends to install, if can still use it.

              Agreed. But this is not always the case.

              Obvious example: Console games.

              Much less obvious example: Steam games, and MMO accounts. These are discouraged by th

        • The customer loses some flexibility by being unable to save locally

          If by "some flexibility" you mean "hundreds of dollars", you're right. Cell phone companies charge $720 per year for mobile access to the Internet.

      • They stop casual copying from being prevalent.

        It seems pretty prevalent anyway.

        Many people are not willing or knowledgeable enough to go through the time/effort to download a torrent

        Even those who don't use a torrent (for whatever reason, "not knowledgeable enough" seems unlikely) are certainly capable of writing the serial number on that burned CD.

        In other words, it's a form of DRM which is easily defeated by a Sharpie.

        it really doesn't require additional effort on my part

        No, what wouldn't require additional effort is selling a digital download which came unlocked and ready to go, whether it was serial-locked or not.

        Typing in 30-40 alphanumeric characters to convince the computer I'm not a pirate is prett

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          The key code stops the most casual of copiers. This is a desirable outcome. It does not represent any substantial hassle.

          • In other words, it stops people who don't know how to use a Sharpie.

            I assert that people who don't know how use a sharpie also won't know how to use a CD burner.

      • by Carrot007 (37198)

        And if it were just the serial key and no DRM, then using the same key would work and you could install it on your friends machine anyway.

        Is this really going to be just a serial, or really remote authorisation?

        Or to put it anotherr way, how DRM FREE is there DRM FREE?

        I'm not even going to bother discussing if they should or should not use DRM, I just wish they would not lie to us about using it.

      • The best part of CD keys is you can ban cheaters.
      • by grumbel (592662)

        Without serial keys, anyone could just buy say, an RTS like AoE3 and install it on all your friends computers real quick so you can play together online.

        Once upon a time, support for doing multiple installations from a single CD for multiplayer was actually provided as a feature in games, not as an illegal thing that needs to be stopped.

      • by Draek (916851)

        Without serial keys, anyone could just buy say, an RTS like AoE3 and install it on all your friends computers real quick so you can play together online.

        Funny you'd say that since AoE1 specifically let you do that with a single copy for up to 3-player LAN games, it required two actual copies for 4-6 players, and three for 7 or 8 players. Pretty nifty feature, and the reason why it still remains as the only RTS where I've tried its multiplayer modes.

    • by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @01:20AM (#27367967)
      I agree with you on a theoretical level. But the reality of the situation is much different. The fact that EA has realized that treating their customers like criminals is not good business practice is a vast improvement and I can only hope that other developers follow suit.
      • by Khyber (864651)

        And you know why they're realizing that treating their customers is not good business practice?

        Because we're about to own their ass in court over their nonsense.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Serial keys aren't all that bad. Are there any activation server overloads you have to worry about (ala: Half-Life 2)? Can you install the game in 10 years? 20 years? Heck, even 250 years if the media lasts that long?

      It only inconveniences casual copiers. Pirates will, of course, have it cracked, but what does it matter to you?

      • Serial keys with an activation server are bad. Serial keys with an offline-verification and an activation server for online play are pretty reasonable.

        If the game still has online value, the online servers are still around. By the time the activation servers are deactivated, either no one cares to play the thing online (10 years from now) OR no one cares if everyone hosts cracked servers for cracked clients (if the company goes bust before that).

    • I understand why companies want some DRM. There really are some people out there who can be foiled by it. Enough to make it worth the money? I dunno, probably not, but there are people for who it is an obstacle they can't overcome.

      The problem is that because of that, they've deluded themselves in to thinking that if they just have better DRM, well then nobody will be able to copy it. Well, no actually. The pros will figure out a way to overcome whatever you throw at them, and they'll share their work. So mo

      • There really are some people out there who can be foiled by it.

        The question is whether these same people would be intelligent enough to use a CD burner, if there was no DRM.

        So something like this could be a fair compromise. It'll still stop anyone that DRM is going to stop, but it isn't a real big deal for legit customers.

        That's a good way of putting it.

        Of course, I still find it kind of offensive, but it is something I can live with.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      It isn't really DRM, in that it does not restrict you in any way. As long as you enter the serial code, you can play the game on any PC, install it as many times as you like, sell it on etc. You can even make backup copies of both the game disc and serial code. Oh, and you don't need the CD in the drive for it to run.

      I'd say this is very good and welcome news. I know people who still love playing the original Sims game (ideal for laptops and older PCs), which wouldn't be possible if there was DRM and an act

    • by rob1980 (941751)
      The only thing "digital" about the "DRM" of serial numbers is the fact that you have to use your fingers to type the serial in when you install the product.
    • by whiledo (1515553)

      In other words, the pirates' copies will have been already cracked to not require a serial key, or will come with a serial key generator.

      Well, considering they said it will work like Sims 2, I believe what they really mean is that it will have a serial key and require the CD/DVD to be in the drive. Even with a legit copy of Sims 2, I hunted around for a crack for it because I didn't like the hassle of always having the CD in the drive. I never could find a good crack. They always only worked with certain version of the games that had bugs that you'd really want patched with later updates, or they screwed up the game in weird and crazy way

    • by garylian (870843)

      Considering that the serial code thing has been around for decades, I'd hardly consider it major DRM.

      Just make it so that you can't download patch updates without connecting to the company's servers and having a valid serial #.

      Sure, the patch will get cracked eventually, but you just made the pirating process a little less hassle free.

    • Serial keys are an improvement over more draconian DRM, but it is still DRM.

      Oh come on, this is just too far. I am as anti-DRM as anybody, but lumping serial numbers in the same basket as securom or other invasive technologies is just total bullshit.

      Next you'll be saying that being required to have a disc in the drive is DRM. Or having to have a computer to play the game is DRM.

      While EA is a pile of crap, we all know this, we are also seeing a change happen - the biggest selling game of all time removes DRM in favour of simple serials, what more can you ask for?

  • by Dryesias (1326115) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @12:59AM (#27367885)
    EA's track record isn't the greatest, but if they go through with it, it's a step in the right direction. Getting everyone pissed off with DRM then suddenly reversing your stance is good PR too.
    • by Starayo (989319) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @02:42AM (#27368289) Homepage
      Damn straight. I put down a preorder for this game as soon as I heard the news - my sister loves these games, but I'll be damned if I install any SecuROM crap on my computer.
      • by ultranova (717540) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @04:13AM (#27368591)

        I put down a preorder for this game as soon as I heard the news - my sister loves these games, but I'll be damned if I install any SecuROM crap on my computer.

        Maybe I'm too cynical, but I'd wait until the game has actually been released and examined before trusting it to not contain malware. The word of someone who has intentionally attempted to cripple its customers computers isn't exactly trustworthy to me...

        • by Starayo (989319)
          By the time I have to go pick it up, there'll be reports on whether or not it does in fact have such DRM - and I can just cancel the preorder and spend the money on another game. ;)
  • Woo! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by somanyrobots (1334451) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @01:00AM (#27367891)

    Could it be that EA's actually listening to their customers? This isn't a cheap publicity stunt like Ubisoft pulled with Prince of Persia; this is (arguably) EA's flagship product.

    • by Cheapy (809643)

      I think it's partly because the target audience is probably not likely to pirate anyways. Perhaps because they don't want to piss off a large group of people with DRM? A much larger group than would normally care.

      Who knows. Just a conspiracy theory.

    • by EvilIdler (21087)

      Considering who works on the Sims team (several people who are not fans of DRM), it may be a rare case of *listening to the developers*.

  • disc-based copy protection
    Does this mean that the program is installed on the computer, but the game cannot be played with the original media present in the DVD drive? I have played The Sims on pretty minimal hardware, and I can imagine playing it on a netbook, with no DVD.
    • Every game money can buy uses disc-based copy-protection nowadays. Everyone and their dog finds a no-cd patch, mounts an ISO file or uses a detachable optical drive.

      Disc-based protection is pretty vulnerable to scratches and the discs themselves are not really scratch-resistant, so I'd rather see them employing USB-dongle based authentication. But whining about disc-based protection is soo 90's, really.

  • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @01:06AM (#27367911)

    ...but good for EA, so long as they follow through with this. I think a simple serial code authorization system has worked just fine for much of the software I own. It's never felt overly onerous to me. I keep the serial code safe right along with the install disk, and I've often (years later) re-installed and replayed those games. Simple, and strikes a reasonable balance between some protection for the publisher / developer and reasonable use for the customer.

    And of course, I see a tag on the article "serialdrm". Seriously, no one is going to get much traction whining about "serial code DRM". At that point, I'm gonna call bullshit and figure you just enjoy complaining.

    • by Dryesias (1326115)
      Only thing I hate about serials is losing them. I cannot for the life of me, figure out why they print it on those paper sleeves. Every serial key should either be on the damned CD itself, or at least use a plastic cd case and put it on there.
      • by Phroggy (441)

        Save a copy of the CD key in an electronic form, the same way you keep track of other important bits of data.

      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        I have a friend who has lots of bought-and-paid-for music software with serial numbers. He keeps the serial numbers neatly written down in a notebook, along with the date he bought them, where he bought them from and any other pertinent details. He's a bit like that.

        He's never lost a serial key yet, though.

        • Sharpie meet disc, disc, meet Sharpie.

          Then: Owner has key when he has disc. Now please report to work safety instruction in Sector-7G.

        • by Unoti (731964)
          I salute your friend. Of course, it's easier to just pirate the music.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Bieeanda (961632)
      Have you seen the kind of people who post in these threads? If they're not complaining about brief inconveniences, then they're claiming that piracy doesn't exist, or whining about Failed MMO X not being open sourced.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by phoenix321 (734987) *

        And then they're whining about losing a serial key which can be written on the CD itself, dead-tree notebooks and in dozens of textfiles dispersed in backup drives and USB sticks.

        How these people manage their lives without losing AND forgetting the phone number of their parents, friends and kids, the phone itself, their workstation passwords and their social security number is beyond my imagination.

    • It's not necessarily 'whining' about it like it shouldn't exist at all, but rather clarification.

      The Title:
      EA Won't Use DRM For The Sims 3

      The Summary:
      EA has made the decision to go back to simple serial code authentication for The Sims 3

      Title != Summary

      • by Dryesias (1326115) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @01:35AM (#27368043)
        I don't feel you can really consider serial keys to be DRM. It doesn't limit your number of installs, no matter how many computers you install it on, you can resell your software, it'll never cease to function, it is yours. I really only consider DRM to be anything that makes so that something I purchase isn't really mine, as if I rented it, when I was led to believe I was purchasing it.
        • Neither do I, but technically it's still DRM, especially since why have a serial if its basically the same as clicking the icon to run the game, if the serial isn't registered somewhere externally, then why not just have "Enter Your Username", thats why offline-only games almost never come with a serial/DRM (although usually an "Insert Proper CD") because it's pointless, and others that have separate executables for Online/Offline, only ask you for the serial when you run the Online one...

          If it's still regi

          • by Kjella (173770)

            (...) if the serial isn't registered somewhere externally, (...) If it's still registering to their main servers,

            RTFA. "To play the game there will not be any online authentication needed," Humble wrote on the Sims 3 website.

        • > I don't feel you can really consider serial keys to be DRM.

          I would understand if people call them DRM, but they're also not a DRM I would get very worked-up over, and I'm very anti-DRM.

          And I would commend them for listening to their customers in this instance. This is far better than computer-damaging crap like SecuROM.

      • by ensignyu (417022)

        Serials have existed long before anyone came up with the term "digital rights management". I wouldn't even call cd/dvd checks "DRM" even if they fit the strict definition. I associate the term "DRM" with the more recent, often insidious copy protection systems that require online activation, won't run if they detect a virtual drive, rootkit into your system, etc.

  • by SupremoMan (912191) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @01:39AM (#27368061)
    that stinks about Spore!
    • When I heard about the activation limit SecuROM I decided I wasn't going to buy it. However I did try a friend's copy to see what I was missing. Answer? Nothing that I can tell. I really fail to see what all the hype is about. Now I only got to the tribal stage, but for a game as supposedly as "great" as that it should have been fun by then. It really wasn't, it was just some little mini-games, all of which I'd seen done better. I really don't get the hype about that game. You could offer it to me for free,

      • Keep in mind that 95% of the hype was generated before anyone got to play the game.

        Also keep in mind that the game the Wil Wright wanted to make was fairly different from the one that EA forced him to release.

  • Remember the days when games would ask you the word on page 14, paragraph 2? Lol

    I had this one game I loved, 4 colors, played on an Apple IIc, played it over and over, some AD&D game, it was truly great. Every once and awhile it would pop up these questions, and I'd lost the manual at some point! But, I loved the game so much I remember some and the others I just kept guessing and eventually learned 'em, until there was only like 2 questions I could never get, but it was still worth it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The island of Dr.Brain... I never owned the manual, and the at the beginning it asked you for the coordinates to the island, which are given in the manual. Eventually you just figured it out.

      People will continue to figure out workarounds. It doesn't matter what form the hurdle is in, someone will jump it, and teach others to.

  • by Bonker (243350) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @01:56AM (#27368131)

    After the Mrs. got stung with the various SecureROM trojans fubaring her system, she made the hard decision not to buy any more EA titles.

    I was excited about Spore, but refused to buy either it or the creature creator pack.

    Apparently there were quite enough people (who also spammed Amazon.com feedback, perhaps?) who made the same decisions that EA felt a bit of monetary sting.

    • You do know that the spore version on steam has no securerom, right?

      • by matazar (1104563)

        Are you sure?
        I had gotten Crysis wars or whatever it was called through Steam. It installed all right, then right before I launched it, it briefly showed another install window. I can't remember it it said "Sony", "SecureRom" or I just checked to see what the last thing installed was, but sure enough it had installed SecureRom.
        So, unfortunatly, I can't install and play that game. Since then I have refused to buy anything from EA.
        If this story is true, then I will go back to EA.

        • Crysis on steam does have SecureROM - but Spore doesn't. It's listed on the product page - check there before you buy.

  • by Blue Shifted (1078715) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @02:21AM (#27368209) Journal

    they probably recognized that the DRM actually encouraged us to seek out and download cracked versions....

    • Yes, I've actually grabbed cracked versions of games I bought in order to play them from DVD image instead of having to insert a CD or DVD. I always considered that kind of requirement unreasonable.
    • by Bazar (778572)

      they probably recognized that the DRM actually encouraged us to seek out and download cracked versions....

      They wouldn't have cared the slightest about that. The only reason they will have done this will be because of money. Plain and simple.

      Now perhaps they have realised that their DRM efforts are repelling people from buying their games. I know i refused to purchase RA3 the moment i heard it had super restrictive DRM put on it

      It could also be a ploy to get cheaper licensing deals with the makers of securerom.

      Or perhaps its just an experiment to see what less DRM does to sales.

      If you purchased the game and got

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I will believe it when I see it. Until then, Fuck EA. Just a money grubbing corporation. They don't care about their customer.

  • Well I will applaud EA for this decision - even though I hate the Sims and its add ons - this decision is a step in the right direction. EA has produced some classic games over the years. Personally I was seriously considering buying Spore - but didn't because of the limit on installs - that for me was a deal breaker - as I cannot count the number of times I end up rebuilding / reformatting my pc. I hope EA has really learnt to listen to their customer base - and that all future products from them will foll

  • This is great news, I don't have a problem with serial codes as long as I don't need to activate the code and I don't get some sort of crapware installed on my Computer.

    BUT WHY THE SIMS?!?!?!?

    I would have bought your game just to support the serial code only design but I can not spend my money on The Sims, sorry.

    I guess the reason is that the average adult The Sims player can not pirate the game or will fuck up their PC so badly in the process that they will never try again.

    Anyway, great move. This will mak

    • Re:ohhh come on! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by oberondarksoul (723118) on Saturday March 28, 2009 @08:17AM (#27369353) Homepage

      BUT WHY THE SIMS?!?!?!?

      Because it's one of their biggest-selling franchises. If it sells poorly than hoped, they can play the piracy card and ramp up DRM on all future titles with a smug "We told you so". If it sells well, it may encourage them to relax DRM on other games in the future. It's a game that's likely to sell well even with piracy, so relatively low-risk.

  • My wife loves the Sims games, but there was no way in hell I was going to buy anything from EA after their crusade to screw customers who legally bought their game.

    If Sims 3 looks good I might splash out on a copy for her, so EA have already increased their potential sales base. About time they saw sense.
  • This is the best thing that EA could have done. Of course I don't actually believe it. EA must be pretty confident in the technological advances made in DRM in the past few months to try this.

    If they get caught, it's gonna be the mother of all backfires.

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