EA releases Crysis Warhead with DRM

When I first came across it Crysis became one of my favourite games of all time – atmospheric, immersive and striking realism and beauty; the CryEngine was formidable. Once I completed Crysis I began to miss it greatly but soon after I was overjoyed to hear that Crytek were working on yet another game based on the original called Crysis Warhead. About two weeks ago this was released in stores and also on Steam.

Today I was comparing the prices on Steam and Amazon when I came across something I found to be rather shocking. On Amazon I was expecting a rating close to 5 stars; instead it had 1.5 stars across 58 reviews. I couldn’t believe it. As I read on it turned out that the message was consistent across all 58 reviews: “great game but bad drm”. It turns out that EA have limited this game to five installations and this has annoyed everyone a great deal. Even on Steam this appears to be the case along with the usual Steam based DRM. Doesn’t this defeat one of the main objectives of Steam – that one can (re-)install games that are stored server side from scratch at the click of a button?

I’m on the side of the gamers. If they have paid for a game they should be able to install it as many times as they wish and with Windows it’s inevitable that you’ll have to reinstall periodically anyway. So in essence what this restriction is saying is that you have to extract your user experience from the game by the time that you have reinstalled it five times. What if you want to take your time and preserve your saved games across reinstalls? Isn’t the whole point of gaming to take a break, entertain oneself and to drop into a world that is inviting and gives you full autonomy?

Of course there is the converse view that although DRM is bad it gives you adequate opportunity to play the game if you are the buyer and that it is not bad enough to put you off buying and playing the game. There are certainly many reviews of this view too. In my case this is one game that will prove impossible to resist – DRM or not. However that doesn’t mean I’m happy with the restrictions.

The direction in which we’re heading with DRM is rather worrying but perhaps the motivation behind it is justified by the widespread piracy. Note that I said the motivation is justified and not the actual measures that we are seeing. Operating systems like Vista need reactivation on hardware changes and when reinstalling and this is now becoming the case with games. It has not achieved the desired effect anyway – the peer to peer networks have already been circulating a cracked version for some time now. EA’s choice is resulting in a rebellion from the game’s loyal fan base and it needs to think harder on how to achieve what it wants.

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