Trust in the Software Market

Sunday 9th November, 2008

So it seems that Spore’s creators are on the receiving end of a couple of law suits for secretly installing unremovable software on customers computers.

While I don’t know exactly what chance these suits have, I wish them the best of luck. Why? Because markets depend on trust, a point that the people who decided to quietly install SecuRom with Spore seem to have missed.

Trust is required between vendors and customers; trust that the price will be fair, trust that the goods will be as described, trust that the payment will be valid, and trust that privacy will be respected. Electronic Arts’ decision to ship this DRM payload breaks that trust because they try to hide it, and because they take the liberty of making dangerous and irreversible modifications to your property.

As George Akerlof highlighted in his seminal 1970 paper ‘The Market for Lemons‘, markets without trust (he describes a car vendor’s hidden knowledge of a vehicle’s state as “information asymmetry“) can be difficult and dysfunctional, with the whole market affected by a few bad eggs.

If trust deteriorates between software vendors and software consumers, the software market will become a worse place for everybody.

Spore: most pirated game ever

Sunday 14th September, 2008

Apparently (despite their DRM efforts) Spore is now the most pirated game ever. It’s a shame they didn’t pay attention to Cory Doctorow’s clearly argued explanation of how DRM is a waste of time and money for everyone but DRM vendors.

Spore ruined by DRM?

Tuesday 9th September, 2008

I’ve been waiting to play Spore for years, literally. I even paid £5 a few months back for the creature creator demo, even though charging for a demo feels a little weird to me. But now it’s been released, I’m not going to buy it.

Why? Because I’d rather vote with my feet and make a point to computer game distributors that I don’t want DRM. I’d rather sacrifice a little bit of fun by spending my money on something else (lets face it, it might not even be a sacrifice). It seems like I’m not alone, the Amazon review page for Spore (via ZDNet) is filled with complaints about the DRM they’ve bundled with it, pushing the rating down to a rather weak ‘one star’.

A few years ago when Half Life 2 was released, I bought it straight away, then spent ages waiting for the game to phone home every time I wanted to play it because Steam’s DRM servers were under strain. I haven’t tried playing it recently, but if the DRM provider have switched off their servers for any reason then I’ll be unable to play my own game.

I don’t want games to phone home whenever I play them, it’s creepy, it’s a potential point of failure, and it’s downright rude.

The PC game market (at least the grumpy older gamer segment) is pissed off. Lets see if the industry is listening.