Click on the Amazon.com page for the new vidgame “Spore” and there’s plenty for publisher Electronic Arts to be pleased about: No. 5 bestseller in PC games, No. 2 in Mac games.
Then there’s the customer feedback: 2,816 reviews and an average rating of just 1.5 stars.
It’s not that everyone hates the game. Critical response has been mixed and the high sales ranks indicate that a lot of people must be hearing good things.
The brutal Amazon reviews basically boil down to three letters: DRM.
A small but loud contingent of gamers are outraged at the restrictions EA has placed on “Spore,” allegedly to prevent piracy: Players can only install the game on three computers without special permission and must connect to the Internet each time to start playing.
“Don’t treat me like a thief,” “Customers blocked, pirates unhindered,” and “DRM is the worst thing ever!!!” proclaim the headlines on just a few of the negative reviews, most of which say little to nothing about actual gameplay.
Fans didn’t only complain on Amazon. They also used the game’s creature creator to protest, making new animals with “DRM sux” carved on their bodies.
Critics argue that EA is not only punishing legitimate customers but also incentivizing people to illegally download the game. P2P research firm BigChampagne estimates that “Spore” has already been pirated more than 170,000 times.
EA counters that fewer than 1% of users have tried to activate the game on more than three computers and that its restrictions are in line with those of iTunes.