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Customer Review

1,038 of 1,264 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rental versus purchase: Beware, June 18, 2008
This review is from: Mass Effect - PC (DVD-ROM)
I am not reviewing the content of the game except to say that Bioware has previously never disappointed me with its RPG's, and I expect Mass Effect is no different. I was highly excited to buy this game.

However, I like many others, canceled my pre-order when I discovered that I was not actually going to be buying the game, even though I was going to be spending $50 on it.

The truth is that this game comes with a new generation of digital rights management software called SecuROM. This DRM system does many things.

First, if your gaming computer does not have internet access then you cannot activate and play the game at all. Bioware/EA does not want your business.

Second, Bioware allows you three 'activations' only. Activations are tied to your computer's hardware and operating system configuration. If you ever reinstall windows, or upgrade a videocard, or add a new hard-drive, or even a simple cooling fan, you will need to use up another activation to keep playing mass effect on your computer. Several customers used up all three activations within a couple of weeks of buying the game as they tried reinstalling windows, or upgrading hardware, to overcome technical difficulties. Once you run out of activations and try to play the game again, you get a message informing you that you have no more activations left and that you should buy another copy of the game to get more. If you do some searching, you will find out that EA says that they may provide you more activations, on a case by case basis, if you contact them. They refuse to state what circumstances will be considered acceptable to them before allowing you more activations. At a minimum, you may need to provide a copy of your purchase receipt. You do actually keep your purchase receipts for $50 games right?

Third, SecuROM is a highly controversial piece of software. Its existence is not disclosed on the box, nor do you get notified that it is being installed on your machine. SecuROM installs registry keys that are not deleted when you uninstall the game. And these registry keys use illegal characters to prevent the user from being able to delete them manually. You must use third-party software to do so.

Fourth, SecuROM can include a module that provides 'information' to the game publisher. Bioware claims it is not using that module to do so, but there is no way to verify this.

Fifth, Bioware cancelled the re-validate online every 5-10 days policy that they originally stated the game would have. Expect to see this return in future games.

Lastly, Bioware/EA provides no method to de-activate a computer once it has been activated. Uninstalling the game from one computer does not free up that activation. Therefore, your ability to sell your copy of the game second-hand, guaranteed in the Copyright Act (Doctrine of First Sale) has been violated by Bioware/EA. Expect to see some lawsuits before too much longer.

If you think I'm blowing up the DRM issue out of proportion then, by all means, go ahead and buy this game. While you are able to play it I'm sure you'll be very happy with it. However, do not expect to be able to keep playing it years into the future without paying extra for more activations.

The same DRM system is also intended for use on EA games like Spore, and likely also Dragonage, plus many others.

If you are concerned about this kind of practice becoming the industry standard, then I urge you not to spend your money on this game or any other titles from EA until they abandon this DRM fiasco. There are games publishers who take a different approach (for example, the game Sins of a Solar Empire is DRM free) and who are much more appreciative of your custom.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 65 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 29, 2008 10:09:20 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 10, 2015 1:01:55 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 29, 2008 2:11:11 PM PDT
H.Le says:
A.B. Hsieh,

If EA/Bioware, and other publishers, are up-front about informing customers about their DRM schemes, and then let customers make the decision whether to purchase or not, then these 'warning' type reviews are not needed - and probably no one will write it. However, when the DRM infornation is hidden, and the only way customers can be informed is by informing one another, then this review is appropriate - whether you or I agree with it - or not.

As for the DRM not having anything to do with the product, can you play Mass Effect legally WITHOUT installing SecuROM? If there is a way, please let everybody know.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2008 7:34:17 PM PDT
D.L.C says:
Explain to me how legitimate usage of the product you purchased (or the interference and difficulty of using it) has nothing to do with the game itself.

You are saying like the leasing agreement of the car you leased has nothing to do with the car itself. Really.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2008 1:28:12 PM PDT
GarionOrb says:
This DRM issue has EVERYTHING to do with the game! Why pay $50 for merely the RIGHT to play the game?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 3, 2008 9:30:56 PM PDT
Exactly why you feel the need to 'yell' as if you've uncovered some great secret insight into my post I'm not quite sure.

I stated clearly in the first paragraph that the scope of the review did not include gameplay, and I also stated that if you didn't care about the DRM issue then you should go ahead and buy the game. Bioware makes the best RPG's, IMO, bar none. I deliberately put that disclaimer up front specifically so that people who do not care about DRM would not have to wade through the gory details about the DRM that followed looking for a gameplay review.

If that's what passes as 'ranting' in your circles then you must live in a cloistered monastery or something! (although your name-calling and professed hatred for me comes across as something from a far less calming environment)

I do take issue with your idea that the DRM has nothing to do with the game. It is shipped, part and parcel with the game. Part of your money goes to the makers of SecuROM. SecuROM is installed on your computer, and is not removed when the game is uninstalled. You cannot legally buy and play the game without being affected by the DRM.

I believe strongly that customers have the right to know what they are getting into before they spend their money. If they decide they don't mind, then that's their right. I'm not out to convince anyone of anything. I'm just letting people know the facts. I find it curious that you dislike customers being informed about exactly what it is they're purchasing before they part with their money.

If a reader agrees with me that EA is not behaving as a responsible corporate citizen, then I offer a suggestion on how to make EA take notice. No one's arm is getting twisted (although it sounds like a pair of knickers certainly may be)

I might not have taken the time to mention these facts if game magazine/news site reviews actually discussed them. But they tend to gloss over them: in order, I suspect, to ensure continued advertising revenues from EA. Despite your own lack of interest, some of us DO care about owning what we pay money for. If you don't care then that's fine. You're exactly the kind of customer EA is banking on. But when the only way for people to find out what they're actually getting is via word of mouth, customer reviews, etc then you're going to have to get used to that being part of the review process.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 4, 2008 7:01:29 PM PDT
Elliot Cross says:
"I've said it once and I'll say it again."

Everybody else wishes you wouldn't.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 7, 2008 9:59:02 PM PDT
Ordinarily I would take issue with a review of this type, where the product itself is not really even reviewed except obliquely. But I understand where the original poster is coming from. I had intent to purchase this game for my PC at some point in the future as I played enough of the 360 version to get me hooked. I have not checked with BioWare, but if what the OP is saying is true and I only have 3 installs total for a $50 game, well that's just not cool at all.

If you have as many PC games as I do, collected over the years from the early 90's, then you'll agree that at some point or another a lot of these games end up getting uninstalled and then reinstalled at a later time. Sometimes I get a hankering to play Tron 2.0, Far Cry, or some of the older games from my collection. I can't imagine the frustration I would feel upon discovering that my 10 year old copy of Mechwarrior 3 wouldn't load because it had a 3-install limit on it, and of course few people keep a game receipt for *that* long. This is what may end up happening with some of these games that are coming out now with the SecuRom system installed on it.

I hate that the console weenies don't get to experience this kind of "fun". Game companies are starting to slowly edge the PC folks out of the door and I'm beginning to wonder if crap like this is part of the methods they're using to do it. Imagine the furor that companies like BioWare would face if a similar problem occurred on an X-Box 360 system...they'd be in a world of hurt. Unfortunately there's a shrinking number of PC gamers and we just don't make the same difference we once did. And the sad thing is I'm not sure that that's going to change anytime soon, if ever. And now that I know that this game has this SecuRom crap in it I will probably now never get it, unless for some unforseen circumstance I come into possession of a 360. Sad.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2008 8:10:15 PM PDT
Jon R says:
A.B Hsieh, normally I would be inclined to agree. But the DRM has everything to do with this game as has been pointed out. Since its included whether you want it or not, it is perfectically ok to rate it poorly because you don't like DRM.

Posted on Jan 5, 2009 12:56:39 PM PST
James Jouver says:
SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION in the DRM discussion.

I'm glad this reviewer was upfront that his review is entirely about the delivery of the game and not its content. Unfortunately, like 99% of the SecuROM posts I see, it contains some gross factual errors. Yes, DRM can be a hassle. But rampant piracy has forced game publishers into a corner. You would take steps, too, to prevent the loss of your livelihood.

Two biggest objections I have are the oft-misquoted data about activations and the Doctrine of First Sale comment. First off, activations are not used up when you replace a system fan. That is utterly ridiculous. Only major hardware changes significantly change your system profile enough to trigger SecuROM into thinking you have installed it on a new machine. Second, your comments about EA forcing you buy the game again after 3 installs is PURE GARBAGE. I admit I haven't hit the install limit for Mass Effect (nor have about 98% of users), but for similar games additional install credits can be obtained easily. In the past, this has involved nothing more than snapping a photo of your DVD and game manual. I've heard hundreds of horror stories about how activations are impossible to get....yet when pressed for details I've learned in 100% of cases that they are all fiction born out of hysteria and ignorance. Don't join that crowd, okay?

Finally....Doctrine of First Sale. If you do your research, you'll find that there is no clear legal precedent for your claim. Software has always been sold as a license to use, not an actual product. It was never an issue in the past because illegal distribution wasn't so easy and so widespread. But legally, there is no right to resell.

SecuROM has become a focus for the internet mob recently, but it has been around for a long time and is likely on a great many users' computers already (which makes so many of the rants ridiculously ironic). I'm not happy that I have to deal with it, but it's been completely transparent and painless for me so far. If you object to it, you have every right. But parroting bad info and stating opinion as fact does not help or your argument.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2009 5:19:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 6, 2009 6:06:48 PM PST
H.Le says:
James Jouver,

Regarding your assumption that the First Sale Doctrine does not apply to software ("But legally, there is no right to resell"), please have a look at this article :

http://educationalsoftware.blogspot.com/2008/05/judge-allows-lawsuit-regarding-software.html

Here are some quotes from the article:

(Quote)

"WASHINGTON, D.C. - A California software company's "license agreement" it includes with copies of its products does not prohibit buyers from reselling the software on sites such as eBay or anywhere else, a federal judge ruled today...

...Jones' ruling, filed in the U.S. District Court Western District of Washington at Seattle, stated that Vernor is entitled to protection under the First Sale Doctrine, which allows a person who owns a lawfully-made copy of a copyrighted work to sell or dispose of the copy.

This sends a clear message to copyright owners that once they sell a copy of their products, they have no right to control subsequent sales," said Public Citizen attorney Greg Beck. "Consumers deserve protection against these types of abusive tactics that can force consumers to pay higher prices."

(End quote)

This is just one example. There are also similar articles and court cases if you "research".

As for the limited activations issues, either you have not follow the numerous discussion threads, or you have not been to the numerous EA forums, to see what some Customers are going through.

Concerning piracy, it is a well known fact that Mass Effect is cracked and is availbale for free download with 24 hours of release - if not sooner. Publishers need to find a DRM system that: 1) Does not abuse/insult Customers. 2) Is effective.

Finally, regarding your statement, "SecuROM has become a focus for the internet mob recently, but it has been around for a long time and is likely on a great many users' computers already."

My questions: Is SecuROM information properly disclosed prior to installation ? If not, then, is SecuROM being installed with or without the Customers' permission ?
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