EA Allows 3 "Activations" Of Mass Effect And That's It? Period?

Reader jk writes in to let us know that EA’s sci-fi epic Mass Effect is still having DRM issues on the PC platform. This time, instead of requiring gamers to maintain an internet connection and activate their game every few weeks, paying customers (allegedly) get three “activations” of the game and that’s it. Uninstalling the game doesn’t “give back” an activation.

jk writes:

You reported the initial DRM problems on this title but it’s back…

Apparently the game Mass Effect PC version can only be installed 3 times, there are NO credits given back when you completely uninstall it..

They have been very dishonest about this. The consumer is crud at EA. Every single used disc for sale on ebay/amazon could be empty of installs and the buyer wouldn’t know til they got it home..

He pointed us to a forum thread on Bioware’s message board where one customer posted his attempt to get a straight answer of out EA’s customer service reps.

As it been said in the Mass Effect tweakguide that if you uninstall Mass Effect you get an activation back. I decided to ask EA Support if that is true. The exact question is:

When uninstalling Mass Effect do I regain a activation?

Here is one reply from a Chris P.:

Quote: Disc based authentication required authentication every time you launched the game. Online authentication is more flexible and for Mass Effect, game authentication is needed only at the initial launch of the game on a particular machine. Re-authentication is required if the game is re-installed on a previously authorized machine for any reason.

I did not ask about authenication or what is required. I asked if I get an activation back if I uninstalled. This reply does not answer my question. In fact the only 3 possible answers should be Yes, No, or I Don’t Know.

I asked again, trying to be clear to exactly what I wanted to know. A Chester responds:

Quote: Thank you for updating on us, Electronic Arts Technical Support. I do apologize for the inconvenience. If you just reinstall the game, you do not need to re-activate the game again.

Again, that is not what I am asking. I am not trying to be rude. I am not trying to be a jerk. I am trying to get a straight forward answer to my question and EA Support continues to fail to understand SIMPLE ENGLISH!

Yes, No, or I Don’t Know. How hard can it be?!?!?!

Allegedly, an official answer was eventually wrested from EA–confirming that 3 activations was the limit:

Unfortunately, you will not gain an activation by uninstalling the game.

Any other EA customers running into this wall? Or is this just bad communication? Any luck getting new activations by contacting EA?

The Obliviousness of EA support [Bioware]


Edit Your Comment

  1. donkeyjote says:

    Just pirate. Fuck them. If they want to screw legit buyers and owners… Well, you reap what you sow….

  2. azntg says:

    What an odd coincidence! The number of EA games that I have personally purchased is at 3 (not including Maxis games, which I have back when they were independent and after their absoprtion into EA)!

    I think I’ll keep it there until this issue gets sorted out.

  3. MustyBuckets says:

    This will be a gateway game for many people. It starts with cracking a legit game to actually be able to use it. Then, when you see how easy that is, you use the no-cd patch. When that is super easy, you go ahead and install a friends game, crack it, and use the no cd patch so you can play whenever.

    Then you decide you want a game that your friends don’t have. Torrents away.

    Pirates are caused by the people who make it a pain to play the games you paid for. Why pay to be treated like a pirate, when for free, you can be a pirate and not treated like one?

  4. Gilbert Tang, Jr. says:

    I know a lot of people are going to be upset about this–and rightfully so. If you purchase something, software or otherwise, you should be purchasing the right to use it at will, not the right to install it three times and three times only.

    If their system can detect an install, it should be able to detect an uninstall. Barring that, does anyone else have any solutions?

  5. DeadlySinz says:

    so what about people that continuely upgrade their computers with new parts to stay current ?. so after 3 active installs the player is basically screwed, this is clearly unfair to thebuyer of the game. I know piracy is high for games but 3 game install DRM is nuts.

  6. Gilbert Tang, Jr. says:

    @MustyBuckets: Not for nothing, Musty, but pirates are also created by the greed induced by a desire to obtain something they didn’t ethically earn.

    I’m not saying EA is in the right here (nor am I interested in a debate on the definition of ethics, because I think we all agree stealing a game isn’t the same as stealing bread for a starving family), but I think your rationale behind why people steal is only very partially true.

    On the other hand, you highlight the problem at its very core. The same thing happens when we travel does it not? We’re all presumed a threat until we’re searched, scanned and questioned until they believe otherwise–and once again, we’re paying for that privilege.

  7. Rippleeffect says:

    Well, there’s one more EA game I wont purchase. I was seriously considering getting it, but if I’m treated like a criminal, I won’t.

    So when I chose to reload my OS like I need to do everyone once in a while, I wont be able to install it a few years from now. GJ EA.

  8. Corydon says:

    Such a shame. I generally like Bioware’s games. I enjoyed Star Wars KOTOR and Neverwinter Nights. I was kind of toying with buying Mass Effect, but I wanted to see how this whole debacle turned out. Looks like I have my answer.

    I’m also pissed that now I won’t get to play Spore because it will be using the same kind of crippleware.

    Oh well, I guess I’ll just go back through my library of older games and save the money.

  9. dry-roasted-peanuts says:

    @MustyBuckets: Bullshit. People pirate because they are lazy, cheap and selfish. And yes, I fully admit to being the pot.

    I can remember one single instance where I cracked a legit game I bought (Draken).

  10. RedSonSuperDave says:

    I think it’s incredible that consumers are willing to accept that a game has to be “authenticated” online to play a single-player offline game with NO multiplayer component whatsoever. Not that I’m blaming the consumer here, I’m just wondering why there’s not more of an outcry. After the company has your money, it’s a little late for them to be telling you how many times you can install the game in your lifetime. I sure as Hell don’t get to tell EA that they can spend my $64.49 on food or gasoline but not booze or the services of transvestite hookers. If they’re going to limit your use of your game, they need to have these limitations clearly displayed on the box so that you can make an informed decision about whether to buy it.

    This sort of crap in Half-Life 2 pissed me off so badly that I will NEVER purchase another game from Valve as long as their software is infected with Steam. I didn’t buy Mass Effect for the PC, I bought it for the 360, and that version doesn’t have this idiotic DRM scheme. You can play the same copy of Mass Effect 360 on twenty different 360s if you want, and none of them need to be connected to the Internet to work, either. The minute an EA game pulls this crap on me, I’ll happily stop buying from them, too.

    Oh, and please note that I didn’t say I’d stop playing games from EA or Valve. The minute it’s more trouble to get a legitimate copy working properly than it is to find a torrent link, I take that as a signal that the company WANTS me to pirate their games and is fine with me procuring a free copy of any of their titles that catch my interest. If they’re going to treat me like a pirate, I’m happy to go ahead and act like one.

  11. MustyBuckets says:

    @Gilbert: Agreed, there are many people who pirate songs, movies, software, and games; with no reason but to save some money.

    Personally, I feel I fall into another category – sick of buying things that don’t live up to their expectations. I do download games and movies, and listen to albums, but anything I don’t like, I delete, and anything I do like I buy. Many things get deleted, and I feel better for not wasting my money. Although, I’ll be the first to say that I am still stealing.

  12. Parting says:

    @Gilbert: This type of DMR, just penalizes legit customers, like me. Their crap software slows down my computer, I’ve even had crashes due to crappy DMR. I just stopped buying games with DMR. Too much headache for me.

    The funny part, there are several cracks to games, which basically allows you to run pirated copies WITHOUT any DMR attached. So right now, pirates are offering BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE, for the same games company cripples.

    That’s kind of funny.

  13. foreo says:

    This will just encourage pirating. I for one wouldn’t feel guilty cheating a sleazy company like EA. If they try to pull the same thing with Spore I’ll be much happier not giving them my $50 for a game I can only reinstall 3 times. Yay for torrents!

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    Electronic Arts: Pirate Recruiters’ Best Friend.

  15. @RedSonSuperDave: This sort of crap in Half-Life 2 pissed me off so badly that I will NEVER purchase another game from Valve as long as their software is infected with Steam.

    I don’t understand. You can install Half-Life 2 via steam on any computer you want as many times as you want and play it on any computer you want and uninstall it as many times as you want.

    How is Steam doing what EA is doing?

  16. parad0x360 says:

    So buy the game and get the no cd crack from any number of places. Or…dont buy them game and vote with your $$$

  17. SahuaritaSam says:

    Bioware’s probably bummed right now.

  18. Master Wolfe says:

    More DRM issues… I had so many problems with BioShock I swore to stay away from such games. You’d think they would learn. I do appreciate the need to get paid for one’s product, but as someone else said, you reap what you sow. I personally am always testing new hardware and software, and sometimes do several clean installs in a week. Almost picked up Mass effect last week, glad now I did not.

  19. Gilbert Tang, Jr. says:

    @MustyBuckets: I can absolutely identify with your sentiment here, especially with respect to products not living up to our expectations. I guess your route is one way to live to parad0x360’s (above) statement…

    @Victo: I totally agree (though I’m curious if your reference to “DMR” is “DRM”, but from another country’s perspective).

    One thing I’d like to mention is that a lot of crack software in and of itself contains even worse malware than most DRM. So, the old paradox: your damned if you do…

  20. darksunfox says:

    Not to play Devil’s advocate here, but if you don’t have to re-authenticate the game after uninstalling/reinstalling it, why do you need to re-authenticate so much? I understand if this is 3 years down the road, but the game came out a month ago.

  21. donkeyjote says:

    @Phillip M. Vector: It’s the verification/authentication process. That, requiring to go online every two weeks to reauthenticate, and the constant threat, that if for whatever reason, Valve decides you were cheating in game X, they ban you from game X,Y,Z,Thetha, even if game Y, Z, and Thetha are single player offline games (Think, PORTAL). OH, and if they don’t like where you bought a copy from, they will ban you as well.

  22. donkeyjote says:

    @Gilbert: I think DMR means Digital Media Restrictions.

  23. RedSonSuperDave says:

    @Victo: Good point. I’d also like to state that even if you don’t mind intrusive Big-Brotherish DRM telling you what you can and can’t do with software you bought, even if you want to be totally honest and not pirate anything, it’s worth your time to download cracked pirate versions of software you legitimately bought, just so you can see how much your enjoyment is hindered by malware that comes with the store-bought version.

    Use Fraps to see how many FPS you are getting in a particular section of a legitimate (DRM-infected) copy of a game. Then boot up a cracked DRM-free version and see how much faster it runs. On a P4 1.6ghz computer with a GeForce FX 5600 and 1 gig of RAM, Half-Life 2 runs about 5FPS faster when you’re using a Steamless version.

    But don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself.

    @Phillip M. Vector: I don’t know what Steam’s like NOW, but back when HL2 came out, it prevented you from installing HL2 without connecting to the Internet and downloading 80mb worth of files. As I had a dial-up connection, it was a major inconvenience to have to spend several hours “authenticating” software that I had just purchased, and there was no disclaimer on the box that said, “Warning, in order to use this single-player game with no online component, you will have to connect to our servers and prove to our satisfaction that you bought it, even though you might have your receipt sitting there next to your computer”.

    And this isn’t a one-time thing. Any time you ever installed HL2, you had to do this. Maybe you don’t mind a company telling you that you have to be connected to their server to play a game, I do. I bought that game, I didn’t rent it.

  24. donkeyjote says:

    @Gilbert: I have about 42 purchased EA games. 29 of them have been purchased AFTER I had pirated the game. The other 13 were purchased before I found out about emulators.

  25. Parting says:

    @Gilbert: You can scan cracks with anti virus, and eliminate those who are infected.

    And I’ve noticed that a lot of Russian pirates sites offer ”no-hassle” cracks and key generators.


  26. mycroft2000 says:

    I’m old enough to have regularly bought vinyl records in high school. I still enjoy them today, having owned about 6 turntables in the interim. All the records sound just as good now as they did then. I’m also quite the gamer, and, for the life of me, I can’t really see the difference in spirit between an LP record and a PC game — both are pieces of software that I own — and if I want to play Mass Effect 25 years from now on some compatible down-the-road PC, it seems like theft on the part of EA for them to say that I won’t be able to, if I’ve played it on 3 other PC’s between now and then. That’s why I won’t be buying any new EA games until this fiasco is cleared up. Which is a shame, because I had really wanted to buy a copy of Mass Effect, which I hear is quite good.

  27. Zanpakuto says:

    One would have to be insane to trust anything from a russian pirate, or even visit their website without disabling scripts first. There’s one aspect about software piracy people don’t think about and that is some cracks or copied software may contain viruses, trojans, botnet clients or all other sorts of nasty crap. Think you’re virus scanner can find something buried in a cab file? Not necessarily.

  28. RedSonSuperDave says:

    The reason I brought up Steam in the first place is not because it was doing the same thing EA is doing here (it’s not), but because both situations are examples of malware squandering YOUR system resources without your consent to tell you what you can and cannot do with software YOU bought, and in neither situation are there disclaimers warning you of this before you buy the software. You only find out after you’ve paid your money, opened the package, and started the installation process.

    Of course, as the *ptoo* EULA says, you have the option to choose not to be bound by these restrictions. You can always return it to the store where you bought it for a full refund. (By “return it to the store”, I mean “throw it out the window” or “use it for a coaster”.)

    By all means, go in Wal-Mart or GameStop and tell them that this PC game that you just bought works perfectly, but you don’t agree with the restrictions on its use, and therefore you would like a refund. Tell them that despite what their store policy says (in big red letters on a sign directly behind the cash register), they’ll just have to take your word for it that the game’s licensing agreement says that they should give you a cash refund on an opened PC game, and that that third-party licensing agreement trumps their written store policy. Do me a favor and get a friend to make a video of this exchange and then post it here so that I can see how that works for you.

    I myself don’t consider myself bound by *ptoo* EULAs. I don’t buy licenses, I buy games, and I’m not bound by any agreement except “I get your game and I get to do whatever I want with it and you get my money and you get to do whatever you want with that.” If they feel differently, they need to put the entire set of terms on the back of the game box so that I can know what restrictions exist on my use of a game before I buy it. A EULA is just so much digital wind that is literally worth the paper it’s printed on.

  29. Belgain_Roffles says:


    Steam is the best thing to happen to PC gaming in years. Truthfully, it has gotten a hell of a lot better over the years and is well past the point where I would prefer buying something over steam instead of dealing with boxed retail copies. HL2 activation was pretty terrible on launch, I had to wait an hour before it would validate myself. Since that though, I haven’t had any issues past a slight quirk of a couple seconds where it looked online for an update that wasn’t there.

    I have not bought anything from EA over the past 6 or so years, and will continue my boycott. They plowed many of my favorite developers into the ground, and despite their recent leniency of developers, they’re a prime proponent of crippling DRM. Screw them.

  30. BPorche says:

    I play games on my PC and Wii.

    I never abide to any games that has DRM in it because I often find myself moving from one computer to another.

    No money from them if they are gonna stick it to me by making me play to my limits.

  31. Giolon says:

    This is the exact same DRM used in Bioshock. When you uninstall the game you DO NOT get an activation credit back. 2K put a bandage on the issue after much public outcry by releasing an “Activation Revocation Tool” that the user must run BEFORE uninstalling the game in order to deactivate it and reclaim the activation token. Bioware/EA has not done the same

  32. RedSonSuperDave says:

    Ah yes, BioShock. Anybody remember when that guy contacted 2K’s customer service and the customer service technician told him that if his brother wanted to play the same game on the same computer that he should have to buy another copy of the game?

    According to 2K, they fired that technician, but mark my words, GECs would LOVE to change the entire model of gaming as we know it. They don’t want you buying games, they want you to rent the right to use their games as they see fit.

  33. henrygates says:

    You can contact the maker of the game and return it to them for a refund. Just send in a copy of your receipt and the game and they’ll send you a check in a blazing fast 6-8 weeks. I’ve done that before.

  34. str1cken says:

    Is it any wonder that piracy is on the rise?

    Why do they insist on punishing legit customers with nonsense like this? I’m pretty sure there’s already a crack up on the pirate bay…

  35. Hoboman725 says:

    I was on the fence about buying this game to begin with, leaning slightly towards getting it. After Kotaku ran the story about EA’s original plan for activation I decided against getting it.

    EA screwed themselves out of a sale

  36. Rctdaemon says:

    Could’ve sworn I tipped this a week or so after ME came out…

    Thank hackers for run-time debuggers!

  37. Swervo says:

    @RedSonSuperDave: They don’t want you buying games, they want you to rent the right to use their games as they see fit

    This is true, but the exceedingly frustrating part of that is that they’re also then charging you out the wazoo for the ownership of the plastic disc as well. Say you spend $60 on a game but, thanks to the license, you’re essentially paying a $60 fee to play the game. Given that, it seems like you should be entitled to unlimited replacement discs in the event of a scratched or broken disc.

    I know you’re not a fan of Steam from reading your messages, but at least that’s one thing they did right on that front. You’re paying for the right to play the game, and you can download it as many times as you want. I’ve built two computers since I first started buying stuff on Steam, it’s really nice to just get the machine online, hook up to Steam, and tell it to start downloading all of the games I own. No complaints, no muss, no fuss, just waiting for downloads (which, even without the fastest computer in the world, is still usually quicker than it would take me to find the old discs lying around somewhere). Never have to worry about a scratched disc either…Steam is the only medium so far where I’ve never had to buy a game twice.

  38. buyer5 says:

    As if “PC” gaming wasn’t dead enough, they strangle PC gamers even more.

  39. Pro-Pain says:

    Thanks for treating me like a criminal EA! I’m almost ready to root for the pirates now.

  40. Pro-Pain says:

    @buyer5: That’s what I was just thinking too. I stopped gaming on my PC years ago. The game market is so stagnent now too. NVidia should start worrying about that. No more $700 video card purchases from me anyway.

  41. PurplePuppy says:

    I tend to agree. Just last week I downloaded my first cracked game. Why? A scratched CD.
    I looked for a legitimate way to replace it before installing torrent software and downloading all 3 GB of it, but no dice.
    I’m totally happy with my cracked version right now, and there’s no more pesky game disk to insert in order to play it.
    I’m not saying I WILL download games I don’t own, but now that I know I CAN, easily, it’s more of a temptation.

  42. S3CT says:

    PC gaming isn’t going anywhere. Nobody wants to play crippled versions of games on xbox or ps3. I have a xbox 360 for games that play best on a console like fighting games, racing games, and unique games that just wont make it on the pc. PC trumps consoles for FPS and always will. No clunky controlers, full keyboard and easy interaction with other players.

  43. sleze69 says:

    I generally buy games that I am interested in playing and pirate games I would never have bought anyway.

    Ironically, I almost always download the no cd cracks for my legit games because it is a pain in the ass to always have to put the stupid CD in everytime I play a game.

  44. jackal676 says:

    I think the whole idea of having to activate a game you’ve legally purchased is lame, but given the situation, how many activations would be a more “reasonable” number? Who wouldn’t have already beaten the game way before they’d reach a point where they’ve done a complete format/clean install three times or have gone through three new computers? I doubt they’d even still have a server set up years from now for authenticating new installations, so the point would be moot. Anyway, by then technology will have probably advanced so much that you’d need some kind of emulator for the game to run at all, much like I had to use to bust out some original Oregon Trail a few months back.

  45. This sounds to me like the same Verification that is in most of Microsofts software. Windows and Office.

    You install it and activate it. And if you reinstall it on the same machine the activation still goes through as the same. (It wouldnt use a new activation.)

    This allows you to install it on up to three machines. Or to activate up to three times in the event of MAJOR hardware upgrades (motherboard and processor).

  46. timmus says:

    This kind of tight-knit DRM is why I quit using Adobe Indesign CS3 and downgraded to PageMaker. You can transfer your registration off a computer and onto another one, but there’s no explanation of what happens if there’s a hard drive failure. NO DAMN WAY am I going to find myself without access to my layouts because of a hard drive error.

    I’d like to see a list somewhere listing the DRM scheme for each software product that there is so I know what to avoid.

  47. Decaye says:

    Will pirate this on principle. I own it for 360, but this is ridiculous. Same reason I pirated Bioshock. It’s a magnificent game, but I won’t pay them to be told how to use my software. Cost isn’t so much my concern as availability a convenience. I hope they lose a boatload on this venture.

  48. Techno Viking says:

    Guys, do you know that a Russian version of the game is actually free of DRM, and Internet requirements. Meaning that you can do install, reinstall, uninstall and install it again and it will never ask you for the internet connection. I bought English version from EB Games to show support to Bioware, but also downloaded Russian version of the game and enjoying it a lot more because apparently, Russian version has less bugs in it compared to the DRM messed up English version. Same thing for Russian PC version of the Assassin’s Creed.

  49. nuton2wheels says:

    @donkeyjote: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Valve’s Steam system (commonly associated with Halflife 2, TF2, Counterstrike Source, and a myriad of other titles) functions more fairly than this, at least in my experience with HL2, HL2DM, and TF2. I purchased HL2 legitimately, activated it with the serial #, and played for awhile. When I decided to do a full reformat/reinstall of my system, I merely reinstalled Steam, entered the serial, and downloaded all 4GB of game files. No CD swapping headaches. I’ve done this at least 5 times starting in 2005 with no warnings about limitations. When TF2 came out, I bought it without any qualms because overall, I am satisfied with the system. They make their $, and everything still functions conveniently for me.

  50. dakotad555 says:

    More Valve love here. I’ve had steam purchased game on three different computers in the last 3 years. I’m about to make majot upgrades to my current computer, and will again, download every game I’ve purchased through steam in the past easily and without headaches. (As long as Comcast doesn’t bandwidth throtle me).

    Steam and Valve, while frustrating in some ways, have at least as many benefits and failings. EAs DRM on this game has ZERO benefits to the consumer.

  51. Rajio says:

    Lol who buys in to crap like this? forget this anti-customer behaviour. clearly they don’t want your business.

  52. Well shit if I have to go through all that to play it on the PC when I get a new laptop, I might as well download it. That’s ridiculous. I know I reformat constantly. I’d be fucked if Blizzard did this.

  53. TMurphy says:

    I’m just waiting for Spore here… let’s hope Will Wright can force EA’s hand if need be. He was given the time he wanted, instead of handed a deadline, so if anyone can overrule EA it’d be Wright, not that I’m going to be optimistic about that happening.

  54. riftguy says:

    I’ve installed the game on one PC after two days of successful playing:

    Activation 1 — original install of my newly purchased game

    Activation 2 — replaced Vista with XP to troubleshoot video issue

    Activation 3 — upgraded video card to fix video issue

    Activation 4 &Locked out of my game — either installing a new case fan or changing the user logged into XP

    Now whenever I try to run the game I get a cute little popup saying “The game can not start. For security reasons, only a limited number of machines can ever be licensed by a single purchase. This limit has been reached. Please purchase another registration code, reinstall, and then try again.”

    I’ve been struggling with EA support since Friday with no luck.

  55. RedSonSuperDave says:

    @Swervo: @nuton2wheels: @dakotad555:

    I can see why people would like Steam and I have no problem with those that do, it’s just not for me. I don’t contend that it’s not convenient to be able to quickly play any game you “own” on any connected computer. If I had high-speed Internet and a beastly gaming computer, I wouldn’t mind it as much.

    1. I find it offensive that I buy a new game in the store, and it requires that I go through a “validation” process, as if I were some kind of ex-con reporting to my probation officer. I’ve already gone on at sufficient length about this, so, moving on…

    2. I find it deceptive that the box for HL2 only says “Steampowered”. It does not say, “Warning, for this game to properly function, you must install an instant messenger/online matchmaking service and agree to its terms and conditions, which are far more extensive and restrictive than the terms of use of the actual HL2 game.”

    3. I find it downright criminal that Steam modifies other files on my hard drive without my consent. When I installed Half-Life 2 for the first time, Steam took it upon itself to Steamify my old copy of Half-Life 1 that was still installed, and I never did find a way to deSteam it, if such exists. It didn’t ask me if I wanted to link all my old Valve games with Steam, it went ahead and did it and provided me no way to stop it.

    4. The EULA for Steam is/was downright scary. The version that shipped with HL2 on release stated that Valve could modify the agreement that I was bound by at any time, and it was MY responsibility to keep checking their website to see if it changed, not their responsibility to inform me if they decided to change it. Maybe they’ve changed it by now, I don’t know. I still have a copy of that old EULA around if anybody doesn’t believe me.

    5. If and when Valve gets bought out by another company, what will happen to the Steam games you “own” when EAMegaGamingCorp decides to shut down Valve’s servers? I can still play games like Warcraft and System Shock on my new PC, a decade after I bought them. This ties in to the EA DRM discussed in this article. What about Fair Use, and resale rights? If somebody wants a non-pirate original copy of System Shock badly enough, I can sell my old CD to them no matter how many machines it’s been installed on. This is not the case with HL2 or PC Mass Effect. If you buy a copy of Mass Effect on eBay, you are most likely going to get a coaster.

    I understand that I’m probably not going to change anybody’s mind about Steam, and I don’t expect to. I just want to educate Consumerist readers about the numerous legitimate consumers’ rights issues that DRM schemes like this create, and I believe that I’ve done an acceptable job of presenting five different and distinct problems with this business model. Also, I apologize for going so far off-topic, I know this article isn’t about Valve. All I know about Mass Effect’s DRM is what I read on Consumerist, so if I limited myself to talking about Mass Effect, my sole contribution to this topic would be, “That sucks, glad I didn’t buy the PC version”.

  56. alstein says:

    If you dislike steam- check out some competitors, such as Gamersgate (Paradox’s service) and Impulse (Stardock’s service)

    Both companies deliver very good customer service- and both have a decent selection of games, that have minimal nonintrustive DRM (not DRM-free as you have to online register)

  57. Gilbert Tang, Jr. says:

    @donkeyjote: Couldn’t you accomplish the same thing with a demo?

  58. henwy says:

    I don’t get the complaining about this sort of DRM quite frankly. It seems less horrible than paying a monthly fee to play games like world of warcraft or tons of others in that ilk. In those cases, you’re paying a shitload of a premium in monthly fees compared to the price of the initial software and you pay regardless of your usage of the game since there’s no tiered system. Paying a single lump sum for 3 installs seems practical utopian in comparrison.

  59. dequeued says:

    Any trace of guilt I might have had about downloading and installing a cracked copy of the game is out the window.

  60. Osi says:

    A few things here.

    1. After I buy a game, I download a no-cd crack for it. And any DRM-disabler cracks for the game. It is illegal for the company to add in DRM onto any product that you buy w/o telling you BEFORE you buy the product. .. AKA If it’s not mentioned on the box, then it’s illegal to install.

    2. The EULA is against the law in most states in the USA. First Sale Doctrine. Therefore. whatever is mentioned in the EULA does not apply to most americans.

    3. As far as I am concerned, any companies who use DRM (EA), or illegal EULAs and tries to enforce them (Blizzard), have no rights at all and should be boycotted and destroyed 100%. Warez the hell out of them, they deserve it.

  61. TechnoDestructo says:

    Well, I was considering buying Spore.

    I guess I won’t.

  62. Mr. B says:

    These companies just don’t get it. The best way to combat piracy is to offer a superior product for the paying customer. Here you’re better off with the torrent.

  63. yagisencho says:

    I don’t pirate games. But hell if I’m going to buy software knowing I can only install it thrice…ever.

    Thanks EA, for contributing to the death of PC gaming. =(

  64. donkeyjote says:

    @Gilbert: Since when do genesis and dreamcast games come in demos?

  65. TechnoDestructo says:


    Hahaha…like this isn’t the future of console gaming.

  66. Blahness says:

    You know, the louder we complain, the less companies are likely to do stupid crap like this. Hello, dead-disc e-bay scams.

  67. Zagroseckt says:

    5minuts in the torent sights.
    found 4 difrint versions of the crack.
    no more problem installing
    install it then crack it

  68. ghnvt says:

    And people wonder why we say that PC gaming is dying is not already dead.

  69. InThrees says:

    Even with this in the EULA how is this legal? When you’ve opened the box the game is non-returnable, so even if you disagree with the EULA you’re still out the money you spent on it.

    And speaking of spending money on it – it’s in a box on a shelf next to a bunch of other games in a setting you’ve seen many times before when you went to purchase games. Not quasi-rent like this scenario.

    I understand the motivation behind the addition of DRM to titles. I frequently find the execution ridiculous and invasive and extremely inconvenient… but what I don’t understand is turning ‘Digital Rights Management’ into ‘Digital Rights Revocation’.

    Each side in this transaction has rights, and EA seems to have forgotten that. If ever there was a candidate for a class action suit over DRM, ding ding ding I think we have a winner.

  70. coold8 says:

    I won’t be buying the game, if it ever comes around to me wanting it, pirate it away. Did I mention my steam account has 65 games in it (for all those who don’t know about steam, I bought all of those games)?

  71. IHateYourKids says:

    The game is still unplayable for me. Constant crashes abound for some of us PC users. I’m stuck with some shiny box art until they release a patch.

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

    I won’t be buying this game & I am putting DRM related reviews for it up on every webstore I can find it being sold at. Please help me out.

  73. ThunderRoad says:

    DRM = Loss of Customer

  74. evslin says:

    Welcome to the 21st century, where buying software really only means you bought a license to the software which can be revoked for any or no reason at all.

    It’s unfortunate, really.

  75. satoru says:

    Personally I think Steam provides a good balance between DRM content and usability. Activations are keyed to your account, not to your computer. Thus you can install your game basically anywhere you want and it doesn’t complain. It does complain when you try to play with the same account in two different places simultaneously, but I mean that’s reasonable. It also provides me with value. Updates are automatically downloaded and applied, no need to search for the latest patch if I haven’t played in a few months. They can also roll out new features to me. This part is the most critical for me, the DRM infrastructure not only suits the company’s anti piracy measures, with true value add to the consumer. DRM and activation just for its own sake doesn’t appeal to me because there’s no benefit to me as a consumer at any meaningful level.

  76. Jbball says:

    EA has a storied history of screwing their customers. I mean, really, their games usually suck and are full of bugs that never get fixed (BF2). What’s the point of supporting a company that consistently releases flawed games?

  77. InThrees says:


    Indeed. I have not purchased an EA game in quite a while. The last title I bought I think was Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2. (which is aaaaages ago.)

    One might have slipped under the radar since then, but that’s the last one I remember buying.

    Couple the DRM issues with EA’s penchant for running ‘coding sweatshops’, and it’s pretty easy to say “I just don’t want to reward that behaviour with money.”

  78. Rock79 says:

    PC gaming is getting ridiculous. Companies know that piracy is rampant on the PC platform, so they do this kind of stuff, but it ends up just hurting those who buy the game. Also, in the process, they’re pushing long time PC gamers (like myself) away, and for good. I’ve given up and moved to console gaming. I’ve had enough. I mean, authenticating online to play or install a single player game? Add that to the steaming heap of other issues, such as worrying about hardware upgrades, compatibility, performance, drivers, operating system, conflicts, codecs, etc.

  79. Xmar says:

    Steam is an acceptable compromise for me. I sometimes install no-cd cracks on games I buy because I hate having to pop the cd into the drive every time I want to play.

  80. Ein2015 says:

    Allegedly, you never get an intelligent person in an online chat “help” session.

  81. tinky XIII says:

    I always install no-CD cracks for PC games and make copies of PS2 games, keeping the original games in a separate location. I’ve had games stolen before, and a few of the games I have now are either impossible to find now or are too expensive to replace.

    While I could care less about Mass Effect, SPORE is a game I’m eagerly looking forward to, and unfortunately it will not be purchased until a reliable crack for the DRM is found. Which is a shame it has to be included at all, as I’m having a blast with just the Creature Creator.

  82. aphexbr says:

    …and then they wonder why the PC gaming market is in decline while the consoles are doing well. No, EA, it’s not “piracy” that’s doing the market in, it’s crap like this.

    It’s bad enough that PC games are often released unfinished so the broken retail disk can be fixed by last-minute patches. It’s bad enough that to keep up with PC gaming, you have to regularly update your machine. It’s bad enough that we have to “phone in” even for offline games, carry our CDs everywhere we go and keep my fingers crossed that the authentication servers never go offline. Now, we have a product that can never be used more than 3 times because they think I’m going to pirate it? Screw you EA, you lost another customer.

    My strategy now: use 360 instead of PC (even though I definitely prefer PC for FPS), buy anything published by EA via eBay or other 2nd hand source so that I can get a legit copy without EA seeing my money. If restrictions come into place to stop me doing this, stop playing EA games altogether.

  83. guymandude says:

    I think it’s interesting that the word BOYCOTT has only appeared once in all these post. STOP BUYING IT and it will stop. Even the DRM morons are smart enough to know that 20% of something is better than 80% of nothing. BOYCOTT ANYTHING WITH DRM!

  84. mavrc says:

    And that’s why I stopped buying software that requires activation.

  85. @RedSonSuperDave:

    Just pointing out that Valve has stated publically several times that if something happens to the company and they go bankrupt or something, there is code already written that will unlock every valve game in existence.

    So you don’t have to worry if they go out of business. Your valve games will remain safe.

  86. Thanatos- says:

    @donkeyjote: Sorry but thats just wrong, they will never ban you from Portal because you were cheating in TF2. Now if you get your Steam User account banned thats a different story and is pretty hard to do without trying to steal someone else’s account or doing something else illegal.

    In the beginning i HATED Steam but now that i have a fast internet connection and probably always will i love it. But this kind of DRM is so stupid, when are company’s going to learn that they are only hurting legitimate consumers with crap like this. Pirates easily get around this and dont have to deal with draconian DRM. Which would you chose to install?

  87. raskolnik says:

    I was on the fence about buying Mass Effect before this, since I take issue with spending $40 to rent a game (and if you believe it’s not a rental when they could take down their authentication servers whenever they feel like, I have a bridge you might be interested in).

    This seals it though. Why am I going to pay money for something I don’t actually own?

  88. selectman says:

    @satoru: +1

  89. axiomatic says:

    I’m just barely willing to deal with STEAMS drm. It’s not “in your face” so I can tolerate it.

    This Mass Effect DRM… it’s definitely “IN YOUR FACE, ON YOUR PC, ON YOUR MOM, ON YOUR GIRLFRIEND, etc…”

    Bioware… you guys are better than this. Make it stop please.

  90. I pretty much use steam to launch all of my games, whether i bought it on steam or not. Valve doesn’t monitor the shortcuts that you put into your client as far as I know. May buy this then leave the box unopened and install a pirated version. Maybe I won’t buy it at all. I bought BioShock before finding out about the DRM. Made an ISO of it to try and use Daemon Tools. That didn’t work cause of SecuROM, so I said fuck that and pirated it. Legal copy is sitting on my shelf.

  91. Jmatthew says:

    I’m amazed at the complete lack of accurate information here.

    a) I hate DRM as much as anyone.

    b) Mass Effects DRM isn’t resident, so it’s not taking up any resources.

    c) If you install 3x, and need to install a 4th, you just call them and they credit you more. 3 is plenty for 99.99999% of users, you can use them to install the game on 3 different machines if you want, and the game doesn’t need the CD in the drive. If anything this is one of the LAXEST DRM schemes I’ve seen in a long time. The only thing the “3 installs, then call us” DRM does is keep people from posting their authentication code online for the entire world to use.

    d) You don’t get “credited” for the uninstall because the game doesn’t contact their servers to let them know you uninstalled it, it only contacts it when you first install it.

    e) Windows XP has had this same DRM scheme for a decade, I’ve had to call them once, most of you probably don’t even know you have it.

  92. riftguy says:

    Problem #1: It isn’t “install the game on 3 different machines” before you’re locked out, it’s “install on your machine and make 2 modifications”.

    Problem #2: I’ve been trying to get them to increase my activations since Friday. This is day #5 and there’s still no sign of them doing anything to help me.

    This is the worst DRM I have ever had inflicted on me. No other game in my decades of PC gaming else has ever stopped working just because I’ve reinstalled windows and upgraded my video card to play the game and then had the audacity to log into my machine as a user other than Administrator.

  93. RedSonSuperDave says:

    @Jmatthew: Neither of my copies of Windows XP uses this DRM scheme. One of them is DRM-free(!) and one of them uses some kind of hardware profiling system to determine if I’m using a Gateway, and if my machine is close enough to what it considers a Gateway, then it installs. Neither of them require online authentication or anything of the sort, though the Gateway one does ask me if I want to register online until I check the box that says, “Don’t ask me again”.

    Whenever HL2 came out, I stated, “It’s a dark day when a single-player offline game is harder to install and more restrictive in its conditions of use than an entire operating system.” This still applies.

    I’m not calling you a liar or being adversarial here, I’m just pointing out that there’s a lot of different legitimate versions of Windows XP and they have a variety of protection schemes.

  94. Channing says:

    Yeah, the DRM is pretty janky. What’s worse is there’s no support for people who have problems with this game. (Like me)
    It’s a good game though. =/

  95. Werrick says:

    What’s fucked up about this is that ther’es no way for the average buyer to know.

    I happen to know because I’m a gamer (I got here by way of Kotaku), but the average person doesn’t. You can only find this out if you’re the kind of person that does crazy, obsessive research into what they’re buying or are (ahem) gamers with OCD.

    There’s gonna be a whole lotta real pissed off folks in a few months when they discover that they can’t install the game again to take advantage of the DLC that’s coming for PC in a month or two.

    And I do’nt blame them… I’d be pissed off too.

  96. and then, don’t forget, is the same thing is happening to Spore. Egh.

  97. Android8675 says:

    FYI, if you use the pirated version in Vista you have to run the game as an admin (or disable UAC), no idea what the pirated version is saving in system protected areas, but what can you do.

    Also, my Spore Creature Creator doesn’t have any checks (digital distribution), but what is really funny is if you leave the EA Downloader running and try to play the game, the game crashes. (Vista again).

    I unloaded EA Downloader and the problem went away.

  98. Saboth says:

    And yet again, DRM, malware is slowly eroding PC gaming. The media companies punish honest people buying their games while pirates get the full/clean version of the games. Ridiculous.

  99. Glaar says:

    b) Mass Effects DRM isn’t resident, so it’s not taking up any resources.

    About drm not staying resident isn’t exactly true its often hidden, go into device manager choose show hidden devices then look under non-pnp drivers. I think Mass Effect uses securom so you should have secdrv in there somewhere. Also depending on what drm is used they have a tendency to save data in a hidden folder on your drive which uses a strange name or erronous characters which you can’t open or delete it unless you format or use special software to remove it. I’ve had supposedly non active, non resident drm bsod the computer when not playing the game I was doing something else at the time.