#2. BioShock Locks You Out of Your Game With No Recourse
In 2007, the PC version of BioShock became 2K Games' first attempt at using SecuROM, a state-of-the-art security system that attempted to thwart file sharing efforts by allowing each legitimate copy of the game to be downloaded to a computer only twice -- ever. Deleted the game to make more space for porn? Reformatted your computer to get rid of all the viruses that came with the porn? No more BioShock for you, then.
Yes, we have reached the point where paying customers can't even install the game, let alone play it.
Game Central Network
2K Games assured players that uninstalling the game before trying again would solve the problem, but nope -- anyone who tried this found themselves thrown into a twisted nightmare that makes BioShock's plot seem straightforward in comparison. Say you've accidentally used up your two installations and you do exactly what 2K said, but then you find out it's not that simple: You're prompted to call SecuROM to reactivate your game. OK, you do that, but after your third call to that laundromat in New Jersey, you realize that the company printed the wrong number in the manual. It's as if they knew they didn't want people calling them.
So now you research the actual number and call it, even if you're outside the U.S. and that means making an expensive international call. Or you simply email SecuROM asking them to resolve the issue, which seems like the most convenient option, until you get this reply:
"We won't do shit, but you can still ask them."
What the ass? The program told you to call the company responsible for the DRM, but the company is telling you to contact the game's publisher? Right, fuck it. You do that, too ... but it turns out that the people at 2K Games are about as versed in the specifics of SecuROM copy protection as you, so calling them just ends with everyone crying. As a result, two months after the game had been released, 2K released a specially made uninstallation tool to dig themselves out of the mountain of customer complaints they received.
Less than a year later, they all but ditched SecuROM. And then all the other game companies learned from 2K's mistakes and never used that system again.
#1. Anti-Piracy Protection Makes Spore the Most Pirated Game of the Year
Haha, just kidding. In the same year that 2K dropped SecuROM and ran away screaming, EA picked it right up and used it on their highly anticipated digital penis-monster creator, Spore. The result? Spore became the most pirated game of 2008 in one week.
EA Games, via Gamespy
And the 10th most pirated 3D dick maker overall.
Having learned absolutely squat from the BioShock disaster, EA not only used the same SecuROM protection on Spore, but actually beefed it up. Once you logged in to your game and it verified that you owned a legal copy, you had to remain online at all times so that it could constantly check back to make sure you didn't suddenly start using a pirated one. Because apparently you could be stealing and playing other copies of Spore, like, for the thrill of it, or something. It's as if the TSA didn't just check you before boarding the plane, but followed you all through your vacation and frisked you as you stood in line at Disney World.
The worst part is that it's not like this is one of those games where staying online adds a whole new dimension of interactivity -- the only way to interact with other players over this mandatory Internet connection was from a handful of creatures from others' single player games that would cross over into yours. Even then, we're pretty sure most people would willingly trade having to endure the dong-footed mutant hellspawn of other players for an offline single player mode.
EA Games, via Something Awful
At the end of the day, were all these measures worth it for EA? Considering that, as a direct result of the backlash, Spore was downloaded half a million times on BitTorrent in its first week, and that five years later it still has a shitty rating on Amazon due to the avalanche of one-star "fuck DRM" reviews it got back then, we're guessing "no." Just a month after release, EA apologized and dialed back the DRM restrictions ... and then used even more strict ones on SimCity, with well-known results. Because not learning shit is kind of their thing.
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Related Reading: Hollywood isn't great at turning folks against piracy either. Teaching children to monetize everything isn't exactly a great way to get sympathy. That isn't to say there's no good way to fight piracy: turning pirate bullets into chickens is a pretty smart move. All this panic over piracy didn't start with the Internet though. Here's our proof.