Monday, October 20, 2008

DRM And Sweating

The guy who is supposed to follow EA CEO John Riccitiello with a roll of duct tape for his mouth has been taking some vacation days lately.

First, he said this at the Dow Jones/Nielsen Media and Money Conference:
We implemented a form of DRM and it's something that 99.8 percent of users wouldn't notice. But for the other .2 percent, it became an issue and a number of them launched a cabal online to protest against it.

Dude! Maybe it was The Brotherhood of the Bell!

Then, in an interview with Gamasutra, he said this:
‘I'm guessing that half of them were pirates, and the other half were people caught up in something that they didn’t understand.

It seems like I have to say this every month, but people who make millions of dollars a year should always remember the cardinal rule about giving interviews: don't be a dick.

What these statements reveal, though, is something that surprises me very much: Electronic Arts is worried.

Remember how the original meme about the Spore DRM protest was that it was a popular uprising? EA is worried enough about that perception that John Riccitiello is clearly desperate to change it. It's not a popular uprising--it's a cabal, it's pirates, it's dark forces who are secretly controlling world events.

I don't think he made these statements casually, either. I think it was planned and defined in advance as part of a tactical initiative.

I'm stunned that the protests in the last year have been so effective, because clearly, they have been. EA has changed their DRM method several times in the last year in response, and every time, they've moved to something less restrictive.

Plus, it's not just EA. Two years ago, a publisher wouldn't have felt it necessary to talk about the DRM method that would be used in an upcoming game. Now, though, it happens all the time, Fallout 3 being the most recent example. A copy protection method is, at times, just as much a topic for discussion as a game's features or hardware requirements.

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