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Sunday, 26 August 2007 09:51

2K Games hears ?BioShocked? customer gripes

Written by David Stellmack

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2K resolution seems acceptable


2K Games must have heard an earful and read the negative press and customer complaints over the SecuROM copy protection that is protecting the PC version of “BioShock,” as they have made some major revisions to the policies surround the SecuROM copy protection.  While the changes do not eliminate the copy protection, the changes make it more manageable by loosening the maximum install requirement and by providing a new utility to assist with the removal of the product from your PC system. Here are the details:

* Effective as of 8/23/07 they are upping the number of installs to a maximum of 5.

* A new tool called “revoke” is being put together that will remove a BioShock installation and return the installation back to the server. While the tool is not available yet, it will be released shortly. This should allow for a complete uninstall of the game and then return your installation authorization back to the server. This is a big step in the right direction, short of the removal of the copy protection altogether.

* 2K Games has given the SecuROM customer more latitude in solving customer problems. In addition, 2K Games has pledged to work with any customer who is having problems, and to see their issues through until the problem is resolved. I don’t claim to be an expert, but isn’t this what customer service is already supposed to do?

* 2K Games is aware that the activation server did go down on 8/22/07 and that it was down for quite some time. They have put in place safeguards to prevent this from happening again. According to 2K Games, BioShock only needs to contact the SecuROM activation server once over the Internet to activate the game, and while the DVD will be required to run the game, BioShock does not require an Internet connection to be played.

* The same restrictions for the SecuROM copy protection apply to Steam and Direct2Drive versions of BioShock for the PC. They will get the install increases, as well. The only exception to this is the fact that Steam uses is own authentication system, in addition to what SecuROM uses.

* According to 2K Games, the SecuROM copy protection that BioShock uses does NOT fingerprint your hardware and transmit a hardware inventory back to them. It does create an ID (or hash) value based on the hardware that it installed in your computer, but only this data is transmitted to the activation server and it is how they keep track of the five installations. 2K Games claims that the SecuROM copy protection that they are using is not a “Root Kit” of any kind and that all virus/spyware protection software that is reporting it as a threat is generating a “false positive;” and you need to contact not only 2K Games, but the makers of your antivirus software to let them know about this so it can be resolved in the future.

With these six points above covered, 2K Games hopes to undo the damage and negative press that the SecuROM copy protection has caused. Many customers are saying that their retail stores have a “no return” policy for software, thus they are stuck with BioShock under terms that were not clearly posted on the package before it was purchased and installed. Also, many gamers (based on messages in a variety of forums) have said that they will not purchase the game just because of the heavy handed copy protection that 2K Games has put into BioShock.

I have written about copy protection in the past and I can see both sides of the problem. Copy protection or DRM (Digital Rights Management) has become a big issue with consumers, and all you have to do is look at the music and movie industry to know that. Let’s face it: software publishers do have a right to be paid for the work/software that they produce, and software piracy is a huge problem.

With the soaring costs of the development of titles these days it is easy to understand why software publishers need to generate revenue for the titles that they publish. On the other hand, the copy protection should be transparent enough to the user so that they are not hampered with issues such as hardware failure. It is understandable that some consumers were unhappy with the method that 2K initially employed with BioShock, as it does not offer users enough flexibility.

To 2K’s credit, they have responded quickly to customers and have tried to make changes to the copy protection to address the needs of the consumer, while at the same time providing a level of protection that helps them avoid what we refer to as “casual piracy.” We encourage all software publishers to take the time to start posting conspicuous notices on their software packaging that indicates the software inside is protected, and to also list what kind of restrictions the software employs. This, and this alone, will inform consumers what they purchasing and its potential limitations before they decide to buy the title.

We predict that this will not be the last time that you hear users complain about the kind or type of copy protection being used. It is sad that BioShock has received a “black eye” over its copy protection issue. This is something that this exceptional title should not have been saddled with. While in the end this may have hurt some potential sales of BioShock on the PC platform, it is a fact that it was the best selling game on the PC platform last week. Sales figures say it all.

While some may suggest that the media rang the bell to call attention to this issue, we remain convinced that the issue of very restrictive copy protection/DRM is a recurring consumer concern that will not simply go away, and it does deserve press coverage. The bottom line is that if you don’t agree with the type of copy protection employed in this title the only choice you have is to make your displeasure known to the publisher by voting with your wallet and not purchasing it.

In the end, however, it all comes down to users not engaging in piracy because it ultimately hurts everyone. While we know that hacks and cracks are already appearing that defeat 2K’s copy protection on BioShock, use of these does nothing more than encourage publishers to institute even harsher copy protection/DRM measures and makes publishers question development on the PC platform due to piracy concerns. It just seems to be a vicious circle with no clear solution that allows everyone to feel they are being treated fairly.

Last modified on Monday, 27 August 2007 07:29
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