Digital media producers hold two crucial - and at times competing - priorities in the modern marketplace: Delivering rewarding experiences to legitimate customers and defending protected works against would-be pirates. The complicated relationship between these two objectives was on display earlier this week as video game developer Electronic Arts (EA) weathered a considerable consumer backlash as a result of its digital rights management (DRM) strategy.
The latest iteration of EA's popular SimCity franchise arrived this month to much fanfare, but excitement soon turned to anger. According to Slate, the company's decision to host this version of the video game exclusively online quickly backfired during its debut week as overloaded servers denied access to thousands of paying customers attempting to play the game.
This online hosting strategy marks a first for the SimCity franchise, and it was authorized in direct consideration of digital piracy risks. According to Slate, the fact that gamers can no longer access content offline also means they cannot create and distribute illegal copies. EA now maintains centralized control over all gameplay components.
While this responsibility ultimately overwhelmed the SimCity support staff, ExtremeTech suggested that EA had little choice but to explore this new DRM tactic. In fact, this "always-on" approach actually represents significant innovation for a DRM-based approach. As a result, the true target of consumer outrage ought to be EA's unfortunate technical oversights, not its guiding enforcement philosophy.