"Bioshock" Comes With Nasty DRM That Sets Off Anti-Virus Software, Ruins Everyone's Day

We’ve been hearing all this fantastic sh*t about how we omg, totally have to get Bioshock right now. Well, it seems that although the game is cool, the DRM is a huge pain in the ass.

From boingboing:

The PC version of the game is packaged with SecuROM copy protection, a piece of third party anti-copying software that phones home and prevents installation on more than 2 PCs.

The PC demo of BioShock causes AVG to go nuts at it for containing trojans. It wouldn’t install or load on a winXP partition until AVG antivirus was completely uninstalled. *Presumably* this is due to SecuROM, which also demands that other perfectly legit processes stopped

Fun. Kotaku has been following the issue as well. It seems that 2K’s response is to contact SecuRom and SecuRom’s reply is that you should contact 2K.

What a mess!

Reader Andrew writes:

I’ve been looking forward to this game for ages, it finally came out this week. I went to lunch and picked it up, of course. When I got back to work I just had to install it on my laptop, couldnt resist. I got home and installed it on my main PC for the second install, only to find out that you can only activate this game twice. One, two already gone. Everything seemed fine after 2K Games commented that uninstalling the game for a PC would deactivate the install, allowing it to be installed and activated again.

Apparently, this doesn’t work. I payed $50 for this game, and I unknowingly reached my activation limit. There was no warning anywhere in the documentation or anything that I would be limited to two activations. Nobody knew there was an activation limit when they bought the game, if they ever knew there was forced activation needed to play the game in the first place. This is supposed to stop piracy, instead it punishes only paying customer.

Thank you,

BioShock CP Hassles Continue [Kotaku]
BioShock game bundled with DRMalware [boingboing]
Angry Thread Of Bioshock Customers [2K]


Edit Your Comment

  1. mrjimbo19 says:

    Sad, I have been playing the game since release day (love the pre-order). Have not had any issues, game activated and has been running fine. Of course I am running it only on one system and don’t have plans on reselling the game or giving it to a friend.

  2. HeyThereKiller says:

    Thats why I play console games on consoles

  3. timmus says:

    I think market forces will work savagely against this kind of DRM. I operate a small publishing company and we have shelved Adobe InDesign CS and reverted to the latest PageMaker, because of no assurance that we will be able to open our documents if we have one too many hard drive crashes. Hopefully the same kind of attitudes will prevail and this will go the way of the dongle.

  4. bravo369 says:

    eh, i hate this stuff. I have about 5 pc’s at home. Some are desktops, some laptops. Regardless of what they say, I still think I should be able to install the game i bought on my laptop for when I am traveling and on my desktop for when I am home. I know i’ll never win this argument but I figure i’d throw it out there.

  5. Nytmare says:

    Why would the demo also have DRM in it? I thought the purpose of the demo was to try the game for free; share with your friends.

  6. IndyJaws says:

    @bravo369: Actually, you can. Unlike some other games (Half-Life 2 comes to mind), you are permitted to install the game on 2 computers, rather than having to buy two copies for two licenses. Some are reporting that the uninstall does indeed free up a license, but the only ones who I’ve heard this is successful for is those who purchased it thru Steam. Steam may be a pain for some, but I prefer the electronic distribution method much more. That way, I don’t have to worry about losing or scratching a disc. Of course, it’s not much good if you don’t have broadband…

  7. Jaysyn was banned for: https://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    I recently stopped buying games with DRM like SecurROM & StarFORCE on them. Instead, I intend to support companies like StarDock that make great games & don’t punish thier customers & treat them like criminals by hobbling their games with DRM (which we end up paying more for) that make your computer unstable or that *refuse* to allow you to play the game if you have CD mastering software installed on your computer.

    Also, keep in mind that some of these DRM systems are basically rootkits & can offer yet another vector for virus infections.

  8. shertzerj says:

    I noticed the issue with AVG as well. It was putting temp install files in a temp directory and AVG kept saying that they were generic trojans. Definitely took me by surprise! I didn’t have to completely uninstall AVG, however, I just had to disable the Resident Shield during the installation. I turned AVG back on afterwards and it was fine.

  9. Lazlo Nibble says:

    I don’t think the activation limits here are targeting piracy as much as they’re targeting the used-game market. The harder it is to be sure a used copy of the game is actually usable, the more likely it is that people who want to play it will buy a new shrinkwrapped copy. Or so the game companies hope, anyway.

  10. Synaptic Reload says:

    @nytmare: There’s no DRM in the demo, just problems with AVG not liking it.

  11. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    *hugs Xbox 360*

    *Xbox 360 overheats and locks up*


  12. Synaptic Reload says:

    One thing that people don’t seem to be picking up on, in the 2k Forums at least, is that the game allows for two simultaneous installs on two different computers. Should you want to put it on a different (or a heavily upgraded) system, you need to uninstall the game (before you upgrade/format) and it should hopefully deactivate that install from their servers so you can put it on again. That doesn’t seem to be working 100% right now.

  13. B says:

    The Steam version does not have these problems, as is my understanding, for people who don’t have 360s and/or have PCs beefy enough to handle the game.

  14. OminousG says:

    The best part about SecuRom (the SONY owned DRm on this game) is that you can not uninstall it. Even after you uninstall the game. Sony has even gone on record saying they will provide no support to remove SecuRom from personal computers.
    Securom is a rootkit, and to think Sony might have learned their lesson when they got in trouble for all those music CDs.

  15. Synaptic Reload says:

    @B: Actually steam does have the same problem, it’s just that you go through steam instead of 2k/securerom

  16. soldierblue says:

    Even after its uninstalled the SecureROM stuff still shows up as a rootkit.

  17. JohnMc says:

    DRM as a concept is toast long term. Two major content distributors have already stated that they will discontinue the practice.

  18. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @timmus: You said “dongle.” Hee.

    Actually I think I saw one of those on a software package the other day. They may be making a comeback…

    @Snapjak: If your hard drive crashes and you need to do an emergency reformat, will their servers detect that, too? In that case you might just be screwed.

  19. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Also…just gotta say…its a great game! I can’t wait to get home tonight and play some more of it.

  20. dmartinez says:

    The story with SecurROM is extremely difficult to pursue.

    1. They are owned by Sony
    2. They are based in Germany which prevents you from suing them even though Sony owns them.
    3. They only provide email support no other form of communication is supported or accepted.
    4. Any type of aggression in your emails to them and they will simply cut you off.

    I had an issue with Emptire at War from LucasArts where the game would run fine but I had to click on the icon about 45 minutes straight till SecuROM decided the CD was legit and I could play the game. After being run around by LucasArts tech support and SecuROM emails as they sent me in never ending circles and wanting me to shut down every process on my PC (which I did and still had the problem) in the end I filed a complaint with the Maryland State Attorney Generals office since LucasArts never replied to the BBB complaint I filed against them in California. Since they now received an actual legal complaint from the State Attorney Generals office Lucasarts had their legal department contact me. We spoke for a while and they freely admited that SecuROM was their #1 cause for peoples complaints but their hands where tied and there was nothing they could realy do.

    In the end he sent me a free T-Shirt and Star Wars Lego Wars for my daughter to play. The bad part was the SecuROM was on that game to and I had the same exact problem. After playing with my hardware (I have a top of the line PC) I discovered that SecuROM does not like to work with SATA DVD drives and when I used an IDE one it worked fine.

    Still think someone has to go after Sony though since they have this off shore setup on purpose to prevent lawsuits against their DRM.

  21. Domesticon says:

    I too have been waiting for this game 6+ months. picked the PC version over the xbox system because of the graphics and game play (i get motion sickness on the 360)
    As soon as i got home this game made me download beta video drivers, and uninstall AVG because of the alerts it was screaming at me.
    To make matters worse they used a font for the serial number that made the zeros look like o’s and L’s that looked like I’s, it took me about 15-20 tries to get it right.
    It’s such a disappointment to have to deal with these hurdles just to play a game that you’ve already been waiting so long to play!

  22. Morgan says:

    I wish there was some easy way to measure the amount of piracy that’s directly caused by stuff like this. Why buy the retail version when you can download the cracked version and not install a rootkit on your machine? (Ideally, one buys the retail version and THEN downloads a cracked version, but I doubt it happens very much). I probably wasn’t going to get this game anyway, but now it’s definate, and I’m going to be warning a friend who’s a big System Shock fan about this…

  23. fluiddruid says:

    Thanks Consumerist. I was going to buy this game but after being burned in the past (buying a brand new, and thanks to anti-piracy steps, unplayable game) I won’t. I sent a letter to 2k Games — I’m happy to be a boycott of one if it gets the message across that harmful, unremovable DRM costs them money.

  24. R3PUBLIC0N says:


    Same exact thing here. I was readying up to buy Bioshock a couple of days ago when I figured I’d check online for some feedback on the game, when I saw the problems it was having with AVG. Knowing SecurROM for the godawful mess it is – and this is the imporant part –

    BECAUSE of the anti-piracy measures on the disc, they have directly lost my purchase.

    My dollars are my only vote in this industry, and I intend to support the publishers like VALVe who do not punish their customers.

  25. Bryan Price says:

    This is exactly why a lot of people (including me) have bought games, and then downloaded a pirated copy, and installed that instead. Yes, I know about the hidden trojans and what not the pirate’s may or may not add. But when the manufacturer is doing the same thing…

  26. Therion says:

    I think that all forms of copy protection are pointless and serve only to harass legitimate customers.

    Since I started playing games on Commodore 64 I believed in buying original games. Despite that a pirated game compilations were available with 20+ games for 3 Gold Pieces and that my mother didn’t have much money, I bought original games (which were pretty hard to get) for 6 Gold Pieces. When I moved to PC I bought original games too, despite that they were horribly expensive (as much as 165 Gold Pieces for a new title, while minimum monthly wage for a full time worker in Poland is about 900 Gold Pieces – 246 Euro).

    Now I see how grateful are the game distributors. How they reward honesty and dedication, how they reward everyone who supported them for years.

    The thing is that they aren’t. They aren’t grateful towards the honest people like me, who spent a lot of money on their products. They prefer to seek ways to make business with people that are morally inferior – computer pirates.

    The methods of attracting those morally inferior “customers” show that game distributors are morally inferior themselves.

    Some examples of those methods:
    1. Forcing players to write dumb codes from stupid codebooks – I experienced that once when I bought Alien Breed: Tower Assault. For some reason someone very unconsiderate thought that forcing a player to write a code from a black codebook with black letters every time he/she plays the game is a good idea.
    Absolute lack of respect to the buyer.
    2. Responding to stupid questions from game manual during game. No comments.
    3. Having to leave a CD in CD drive. It’s a very harmful method because it leads to deterioration of CD. Many games in my collection have a lot of scratches because someone very selfish and innconsiderate thought that damaging player’s CDs and forcing him/her to swap disks when playing different games will attract pirate customers.
    4. Preventing players from making backup copies of games. Really dumb. Some of my game disks after a year or two of use, look like an ice-rink – I need to make copies of them to make sure that they won’t get damaged, destroyed or lost.
    5. Forcing players to write dumb CD keys. Now that’s stupid. Installation should be as easy as possible. CD keys make sense only when the player registers a shareware program or when one logins into account in multiplayer game.
    6. Installing malware on the buyer’s computer. By malware I mean both intentionally malicious programs, programs that modify system and everything that is unnecessary for my enjoyment of the game. So, for example installing Direct X is necessary, but installing a program/library that allows to check the copy of the game isn’t.
    It’s my computer and I don’t want your malware on it.
    7. Requiring a “validation” through the Internet. There’s no reason why I should “validate” anything that I bought in a store. Also, what will happen when the developer will go bankrupt or will stop supporting the game? I would be left with a game that can’t be played. I’m often playing games that are more than 10 years old. That’s really short sighted.
    8. Making disks incompatible with hardware. One of side effects of the moronic idea of making discs uncopiable is making them incompatible with part of CD/DVD drives. A game that is incompatible with part of hardware is a flawed game – basically they are selling flawed games.

    All those methods of attracting pirate customers are harmful or disrespectful towards good, honest people that buy computer games.

    I can’t agree with those methods. I don’t want to be forced to do any unnecessary actions like writing codes, CD keys and swapping discs, I don’t want my computer to be infected with malware, I don’t want my games to spy on me and force me to “validate” them, I don’t want my discs to be damaged and I want to be able to back them up.

    I’m a loyal customer, a loyal supporter of gaming industry and I demand respectful treatment. An example of respectful treatment was how Interplay made game installers for games like Fallout, Fallout 2 and Die By The Sword.
    No codes, no CD Keys, no CD checks, no “validation”, no unnecessary incompatibility.
    That’s a good installer, because it’s an installer made for a customer, not to attract pirates

  27. MrEvil says:

    @IndyJaws: Actually, you can install your steam games on as many PCs as you want since you can’t have concurrent logins on your steam account. I have my Steam games installed on 3 different machines and it has NEVER been a problem.

    I just wonder if BioShock purchased via Steam has SecuROM in it. I thought about purchasing it, but I might not if even the Steam copy has it included. Generally, non valve products purchased Via Steam have an Executable that removes the CD Check and adds a check to see if Steam is running and logged in in the background. You also don’t ever need a CD Key for Steam games.

  28. Synaptic Reload says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: No, sadly if you lose the data you have to call it in to get a new activation key. Which sucks, but hopefully they’ll patch the game so you dont need it at all.

  29. Karl says:

    Frankly, the DRM wars have progressed to a point where it’s often much safer to install a pirated copy of a game. There’s no guarantee that the DRM will be compatible with your setup, and if it isn’t, you can’t return the game.

  30. Anjow says:

    Another problem with the SecuROM version this game uses is that it requires that Process Explorer from Sysinternals has not been run since you last reboot, or it complains and won’t let you play the game. So all you folks like me who like to keep an eye on what’s running on their machines will have to search for “SecuROM” on the Sysinternals forums to find the workaround for it. Haven’t tried it myself yet.

  31. ju-ju-eyeball says:

    Hello? Would you like to PURCHASE a piece of software you can install only twice? If I puchased it, I should be able to do anything I want with it as long as I don’t give away copies or decompile it. Here is a game I WILL NOT BUY!

  32. RvLeshrac says:


    This is the spiritual sequel to System Shock 2. That franchise, and style, has always been built for PC gaming.


    Ah, yes. Because the used-PC-games market is HUGE.

    I love purchasing non-shrinkwrapped software that requires a one-off key. Doesn’t everyone?

    Seriously, this is (and has always been) nothing but greed.


    Yes, the Steam-purchased version still has SecureROM in it. A patch was just released via Steam to fix the problem of not getting install-tokens back – only for the Steam-released version, of course. Still no update to fix it on the retail version.

    @A lot of the other people:

    The problem here isn’t necessarily that there IS copy protection of this magnitude, but that it DOESN’T EVEN WORK PROPERLY!

    You can currently install the game twice, and that is *it*. In order to get 2k to acknowledge that you purchased the game and give you back a token/give you a new key, you must send them a scan/photocopy of the game disc and manual. And that’s only after being bounced around between SecureROM and 2k, pointing the finger at each other. For a number of countries, this even requires an international phone call!

    [www.pcgamer.com] has a few excellent entries on what happened to Dan Stapleton (One of the editors) after they got the review copies.

    I quote FTL:

    “It’s now been more than 24 hours since I sent 2K tech support a photo of my BioShock disc and manual, and I have yet to hear from them about my code being reactivated.”

  33. racermd says:

    Looks like, as of an update for 8/22, the folks at Steam fixed an install/uninstall bug for Bioshock.

    I haven’t purchased the game (physical or via Steam), but I just signed in tonight to check it out and got the update notice.

  34. Charles Duffy says:

    @Snapjak: Actually, there is DRM in the demo; it (the Steam version, even) wouldn’t start without a reboot on my machine with an error about SecuROM being unhappy.

  35. jeblis says:

    I’d be ok with a steam like setup where the game calls home every time you play it to make sure there’s only one (or two copies) running of a given license. Don’t restrict it to a given computer. Also transfers (resale) should be allowed.

    Steam is nice in that when I install a new computer, I install steam and log into my account, from there I can have it install all of my games in the account as I wish.

  36. Ryuuie says:

    Wow. That’s just SAD.

    Guess I won’t EVER play PC games, I don’t need rootkits (SecROM) on here.

    This DRM crap is getting to be out of hand…

  37. cynon says:

    Gotta say that my first encounter with Steam (HL-2) was my last. It is nothing but a Steaming POS. And securom is far, far worse.

    I hadn’t even heard about bioshock until early this week. I was all set to pick it up this weekend, then I heard and read about all this DRM crap. Now, I will never buy the game, so you can add me to the boycott.

    Oblivion had none of this crap, and I’m willing to be it was a far, far better game then Bioshock.

    Also, I have always supported games that are good. I even bought F.E.A.R. because the game was just insanely good, but I’ve stopped doing that.

    Hey, all you DRM supporters? Here’s a few facts for you:

    1) You are PROMOTING piracy
    2) If I buy your product, YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO SCREW UP MY COMPUTER (please don’t give me the ‘you don’t have to buy it’ whine. These bastards are hiding the fact that they have DRM in their products, so unless you wait, you’ll never know)
    3) You’re killing the last bit of PC gaming that MS hasn’t already killed.
    4) Piss enough users off, and you’re precious profit margin drops.
    5) Say it with me… “Paying Customers Are Not Pirates!”
    6) Say it with me… “Paying Customers Are Not Thieves.”

    Oh and finally (this isn’t a fact, just what I think):
    Steam is a total and complete POS.

  38. compuwarescc says:

    I was going to buy BioShock for PC… until I found out about the asinine DRM.

    Now I’m going to pirate BioShock.

  39. glitterpig says:

    This bums me out to no end. I’d read the reviews, and this was going to be IT, the first shooter I’ve ever bought in 25 years of being a PC gamer, the game that would transcend genre and be worth slogging through all that hand-eye coordination crap because it was Just That Good.

    Then I read about SecuROM. Oh well. Maybe I’ll find a friend with an XBox and watch them play it or something.

  40. IndyJaws says:

    The whole situation is sad because I’ve played the demo (installed before finding out about rootkit) and the game is simply stunning. One of, if not the most, immersive environments I’ve ever experienced in a game. A lot of hard work obviously went into this by the programmers/developers and much of it is all for naught due to a poor corporate decision to use SecuROM.

  41. GuruSteve says:

    I bought Bioshock on Steam. There are more issues besides the SecureROM.

    1. The game impliments widescreen incorrectly on both the PC and 360 versions. For details of this visit the widescreen gaming forums. Luckily for the PC version someone already came up with a hack to fix this. (Basically the issue is that if you use a widescreen monitor or TV it feels like you are playing the game “zoomed in”).

    2. The steam version will not work using Windows Vista with DX10 enabled unless you reinstall the DirectX end-user runtimes. Not a big deal, but it took about a day after the release for people to figure this out (I don’t think 2k has acknowledged this yet).

    Otherwise this game is a real work of art. I feel bad for the artists and game programmers who made such a great game but got screwed by management and were forced to impliment such a lowsy DRM scheme.

    Also, are you sure that the Steam version contains SecureROM? The way Steam works for the other steam games is that you can install it on as many PCs as you want, but you can only be “logged in” and playing on 1 at a time. This is reasonable to me. That way if your hardrive crashes it is no big deal.

  42. chromaphobic says:

    Another nail in the coffin of PC gaming.

    As a once hardcore PC gamer, it pains me to say that. But after dealing with ugly DRM issues, buggy games that don’t work with a lot of current hardware, and the endless expensive upgrade cycle, I’m done. I bought a console a few months back, and I’m not looking back. I buy the game, stick it in the drive, and play it. Novel concept, eh?

    Reading about this BioShock mess and all the people unable to play the game, while I’m enjoying the hell out of it, problem free, only reinforces that decision.

  43. jeff303 says:

    @nytmare: Supposedly it has to do with trying to stop pirates from creating a modified binary from the demo version that can then be applied to the full version. At least, that’s what some guy said on Slashdot :)

  44. oldhat says:


    Yes, I agree. PC gaming, at least on this level is painful.

    Better to play games dedicated to specialized consoles where it’s all locked down and controlled. Like an appliance. I don’t want my toaster to do anything but that, but goddammit it better toast the hell of my bread.

    The problem is that I want—NEED—my PC to do far more productive things (hehe, like post here) and I cannot have some stupid game jeopardize that, especially if it’s bullshit DRM imbedded in the game.

    What’s the compelling reason to compromise my sturdy, reliable PC again? Nah, what with keyboards and mouses able to connect to consoles, and better online play, not to mention kick ass graphics and exclusive titles….PC gaming is a niche market, y’all can have it.

    (that niche being games like those from Stardock…they rock)

  45. oldhat says:

    oh, did i mention being able to simply power on, pick up the sticks and play together when friends come over? My and my son were battling in ping pong last night…good fun. Good riddance.

  46. Skoll says:

    I won’t be buying Bioshock either until they remove Securom from it.

    It’s baffling that they have chosen to leave Securom in the Steam version of the game. Steam’s copy protection scheme is far superior, and far less intrusive, than Securom’s. Removing Securom from the Steam version would go a long way towards giving consumers a choice as to what trade offs they are willing to make.

  47. Trai_Dep says:

    One of the few pangs I have over owning a Mac is Half-Life 2 (etc.) doesn’t play on my OS. Then I read things like this and thank the gods…

    Have to wonder why the PC game publishers seem so hell-bent on continuing to be a niche, though. You’d think that they’d like to make money.

  48. CapitalC says:

    Looks like Sony fvcked up again … it’s amazing that they keep getting contracts with business practices like this.

  49. @CapitalC: Sony, what the fuck? Where did you get the idea that Sony had anything to do with this? Sony is in no part related to BioShock or 2K (More over, Take Two) – with the exception of things released on the PS2/PS3/PSP. This ain’t one of those exceptions.

    @trai_dep: They are making money. The majority of users use PC so publishers and developers make games for PC.

    @Skoll: Even STEAM’s version has SecuROM in it? Wow…

    Well, on that note, I sense a disturbance in the force, it was as if SecuROM affected thousands if not millions, and was suddenly silenced by a third-party patch. I sense something wonderful will happen…

  50. monkeyboy says:


    Sony owns SecurRom, so yes, they have EVERYTHING to do with this. Research before you post comments like that

    LOL, you also think that Sony only releases games on the Playstation…

  51. MutantBunny says:

    I just lost a new dvd rom to Securom that came with Sims 2 Bon Voyage.

    I’ve read so many complaints from several gaming communities. Where do we sign up for the calss action lawsuit?