Will 'Spore' Become This Year's Biggest Flop Due To DRM?

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Will 'Spore' Become This Year's Biggest Flop Due To DRM?

Mon Sep 15, 2008 @ 10:19PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Every so often, the entertainment industry has a mega-budget product that falls on its face, becoming a symbol of how not to produce a blockbuster. "Heaven's Gate." "Waterworld."

The video game industry hasn't seen a major flop in many years, but it might see one soon thanks to a consumer rebellion over heavy-handed DRM software.

Last week, Electronic Arts introduced "Spore," the much-anticipated and long-delayed video game from "The Sims" creator Will Wright. The game cost $50 million to make, and investment bank analysts went wild, telling everyone how the future of EA depended on it. Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter estimated EA needed to sell 1.6 million copies of "Spore" to recoup its investment while Mike Hickey of investment bank Janco Partners said, ""I think EA is desperate for a hit."

With a game so big and important for the company's future, it had no intention of introducing the product into the marketplace with any chance that "Spore" would be pirated. So it did something potentially more dangerous:

The company loaded the game down with DRM restrictions, including letting consumers play it on only three machines.

Videogamers have reacted angrily, flooding Amazon's website with one-star reviews, and downloading the game more than 500,000 times on BitTorrent, making it the most pirated game ever. Some are now calling this the worst DRM debacle since the Sony rootkit fiasco, for which Sony BMG had to settle several class action lawsuits.

Probably a bit of an overreaction. But the "Spore" DRM backlash could go down as an important turning point.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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