According to GamePolitics, DRM awareness group Reclaim Your Game has found that the recently released Mass Effect 3 has included SecuROM in the PC version. The primary culprit lies with Origin and how it checks online to ensure the game is not playable until release date and after. This release date checker is not commonly used by other DRM products.
The original SecuROM platform was created by Sony DADC. Initially there were severe limitations to this DRM, such as how activations limited to hardware wouldn’t detect the game disc in some DVD drives; how many DVD drives faced hardware problems after it was installed; and, most popularly, how it didn’t like DVD emulators that allowed individuals to load up a DVD/CD image without having to burn it. There are many legit reasons to have it installed, but it’s popular with those who download those games through torrent sites.
Lisa Pham, CEO of Reclaim Your Game, explained that the file they tracked this back to was “dsspacker_launcher.exe.” That file’s own information gave them this: “Sony DADC through its file details/properties.” The group suspects that many other exclusive titles released through the Origin platform, like Battlefield 3 and Kingdoms of Amalur, have the same type of protection incorporated into them. Lisa Pham is aware that many will dispute their findings and stresses her company focuses on “the process, methodology, planning and execution behind how games and DRMs are made for consumers/gamers.”
The person who found this was Martin Pham, Consumer-Experience Strategist at Reclaim Your Game. This is the same person who was responsible for uncovering that Dragon Age II was using undisclosed DRM features for the PC platform. There has been no official comment from Electronic Arts or Bioware in regarding this matter.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The full RYG report on the DRM found in Mass Effect 3 can be found here. In it, it’s noted that EA failed to mention anything about SecuROM or a release-date checker, but they did make sure to note that anyone who used the game waived their right to litigation – CEB)
Analysis: This is obviously a case of the individuals watching the watchmen. While I haven’t directly heard of this organization before, I’ve heard of their work through other news sites, especially on the Dragon Age II DRM. At the time, I didn’t do much research into this because I own the Steam version of the game. After I read it was confirmed that it wasn’t in the Steam version, I quit looking into it. I see them this way: they’re ensuring that these companies aren’t trying to install invasive software that conflicts with legitimate third-party software or the normal operation of the operating system without our knowledge or consent.
It sure as hell would’ve been nice to have had them back when StarForce was around. I know that it isn’t widely used anymore, but when it was included with the physical copy of X3: Reunion, it almost bricked my TDK DVD drive. I was lucky enough to be able to update the firmware of the drive and bring it back to life, but others weren’t as fortunate. This kind of oversight has changed how many companies use DRM; some don’t use it at all or won’t ever again, like The Witcher 2 developer CD Projekt RED.
I said before that EA was going to do something shady with Origin. While this isn’t as massive as banning accounts for forum violations just by talking smack about EA or the developer, or requiring you to pay extra for future game downloads with their first online service, this is still pretty damn big for PC gamers. It’s especially big for those who have lived through DRM hell because these publishers keep believing that they can install whatever DRM they want without your consent. This doesn’t even mention the lack of support from these same publishers and the finger pointing that goes on when it doesn’t work right.
I’m outraged by this and am currently beside myself as to what to say or do in regards to this development aside from spreading the word. I do actually own Battlefield 3 and Mass Effect 3 on the PC, and the fact that EA will outright ban accounts for speaking out against them or their games is all that holds me back from expressing it directly to them. If you know anyone who has bought or is planning to buy a game through Origin, remember this and let them know. Recently, Gaming Bus staff members gave their impressions of Origin through our Monday ‘Joe segment, and I suggest you read it if you’re curious about how we see it.