SIDEBAR: Digital rights management (DRM) is a thorny issue for publishers, who don't want to unnecessarily hassle paying customers but also don't want to allow piracy of the games they make. It's also something of a hot-button issue for a lot of gamers, as Electronic Arts found out last week. After an employee at the publisher's BioWare studio explained the DRM scheme for the PC edition of sci-fi role-playing game Mass Effect on the developer's official forums, fans started to make their displeasure known. As originally explained, Mass Effect players would need to authenticate the disc and its CD Key on install, and the game's SecuROM DRM software would then need to reauthenticate the game every 10 days in order to check and make sure the CD Key hasn't been banned for becoming public or being used for registering illegal copies.
The thread in which that was revealed went on for 13 pages and more than 180 responses (many of them nonplussed) before being closed, but the issue continued to simmer on message boards and blogs. Last Friday, BioWare did an about-face on the DRM issue, posting the following explanation for removing the 10-day mandatory authentication checks in another thread (which hit 75 pages before being locked):
BioWare has always listened very closely to its fans and we made this decision to ensure we are delivering the best possible experience to them. To all the fans including our many friends in the armed services and internationally who expressed concerns that they would not be able re-authenticate as often as required, EA and BioWare want you to know that your feedback is important to us.
A similar plan for mandatory authentication every 10 days on another anticipated EA PC game, Spore, was also scuttled, according to a statement from the game's producer. Both Mass Effect and Spore will now authenticate whenever users go online to download new content.
This isn't the first time a publisher has altered its DRM plans after gamers raised a stink. Two years ago, Ubisoft dropped Starforce copyright protection entirely while it investigated complaints about the software.