Gear Games Viewpoint: The Two Sides of DRM

If you have Dragon Age: Origins with loads of DLC like I do and have tried to play in the past week, one of four thing has happened:
* You have been unable to use your DLC, and therefore unable to play your saved games.
* You were offline and had no issues.
* You bought a retail copy but have a ‘cracked’ executable and have had no issues.
* You pirated the game and DLC and have had no issues.

We’ll return to that list in a second, but yes – for nearly a week PC (and Mac) gamers were unable to properly access their game accounts, as admitted by BioWare’s Rob Bartel on their forums:

Over the April 9, 2011 weekend, some of our Dragon Age: Origins content servers experienced an as yet unidentified failure. As a result, users began to experience error messages when attempting to access their downloadable content, indicating that the DLC was unauthorized.

We apologize for the inconvenience and are currently investigating and working to resolve the issue on our end. We will update this thread once we know more.

UPDATE – Tuesday, April 12, 5:40 PM

We’re continuing to investigate, both here and at EA. We have some theories about what is occurring but no firm fix at this time. We apologize for the inconvenience and request your patience while our engineers continue working towards a solution.

Thank you.

UPDATE – Tues, Apr 12, 22:16 MST

This should now be fixed – please login and retry.

Later in the same thread, user RaenImrahl makes this wonderfully thought out post:


Thank you for the update. I hope, once the immediate issue is resolved, Bioware/EA will consider one final patch for Origins. Ultimately, the best way to prevent this again is to make changes on the client side, to insure DLC needs to be authorized once.

It is a shame it’s taken an event like this to get an official response in this forum. Setting aside the server error, DLC-related issues are the number one complaint gamers try to assist each other with on these forums. The actual installation and authorization was poorly designed and executed– a fact also evidenced by the changes in how DLC is handled for DA2.

I still hold out hope that Bioware, and by extension EA, are companies of good character. Once the immediate issue has past, the larger, looming issue should be addressed professionally and with finality.

At the same time, in an interview on Bit-Tech, Lukasz Kukawski who is the PR and marketing manager for Good Old Games had this to say about DRM:

‘What I will say isn’t popular in the gaming industry,’ says Kukawski, ‘but in my opinion DRM drives people to pirate games rather than prevent them from doing that. Would you rather spend $50 on a game that requires installing malware on your system, or to stay online all the time and crashes every time the connection goes down, or would you rather download a cracked version without all that hassle?’

That doesn’t mean he is supportive or sympathetic of pirates, though:

‘Piracy is evil,’ he says. ‘By pirating a game, a movie, or a song you’re stealing from people who put a lot of hard work into creating something for your enjoyment. That’s disrespecting the creator who’s providing you with something that adds joy to your day.’

Kukawski also reflects upon how he has seen an increasingly disturbing trend where gamers wanting to support developers but hating intrusive DRM will buy the game and then download a ‘cracked’ version to remove the DRM:

‘I know people that buy an original copy of the game just so they don’t feel guilty,’ says Kukawski, ‘and then they will play a pirated version which is stripped of all DRM. That’s not how it should be. Let’s treat legitimate customers with respect and they will give that back.’

I mention the interview with Kukawski in conjunction with the Dragon Age DLC issues for a specific reason. Let’s recall my earlier list of how various people were impacted by the Dragon Age issue:

* You have been unable to use your DLC, and therefore unable to play your saved games.
* You were offline and had no issues.
* You bought a retail copy but have a ‘cracked’ executable and have had no issues.
* You pirated the game and DLC and have had no issues.

So if you are a pirate, playing a cracked version of the game, or avoided online authentication you would never have seen the issue. If you were like me and were playing Dragon Age for any reason last week (for me, I was going back through to remind myself of how much better it was than the sequel in EVERY WAY), and using a normal copy of the game and connected to the internet, you were unable to play.

Doesn’t something seem wrong with this?

The only one punished is the one who follows the rules – it again treats legitimate customers as potential criminals rather than as allies in the fight against piracy. You want to know why the music, movie and gaming industry finds it so hard to get sympathy? It isn’t because we think that piracy is acceptable, but rather because these industries treat their customers in ways that would put other companies out of business … and have.

Does Bioware really want the ‘lesson learned’ to be ‘pirate EA/Bioware games, it is the only way to avoid being screwed over on a regular basis’? Of course not. So they need to take some advice from their customers – folks like RaenImrahl – and address these issues head-on. Bioware removed the CD-check from Neverwinter Nights a few years after release, other companies have pulled DRM from their games after a while … the pattern is pretty obvious: protect the game from the ‘day one’ piracy that has been shown to have a huge impact, then reward customers by pulling the DRM and per-use authentication in a patch three or six months later.

Or … let lessons like this tell remind customers that game companies like EA will treat them how they allow themselves to be treated … and act accordingly.

Categories: Editorials, Gaming

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