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Dragon Age 2, DRM, and Lack of Publisher Clarity

Say what you want about Dragon Age 2, but it’s clear that it isn’t the same kind of game that the original was. There has been many an editorial circulating the web commenting upon this fact, some lamenting and some extolling it. It’s rather astounding just how divisive the game appears to be off the bat with some going so far as to refer to it as “Dragon Effect.”

Yeah, they went there.

But the undercurrent of all the discussion about the game seems to be focusing on Electronic Arts, BioWare and the decision to use something very much like SecuROM but apparently not quite SecuROM. Depending on where you’re coming from, anyway.

It’s all a bit convoluted and intertwined to really be definitive about any one thing. Essentially, there are claims that Electronic Arts included the much-despised form of digital rights management without informing customers. BioWare continues to insist that it isn’t SecuROM, but merely a product from the same company. Whether you believe the party line or not is inconsequential really; whatever it is, it’s still a problem.

But then, the concern doesn’t really revolve around whether it’s actually SecuROM or SecuROM Release Control or just some other product from the same folks. It has instead morphed into being about the lack of clarity from both the publisher and developer. In what’s amounted to a public relations nightmare, Electronic Arts seems to be saying one thing while BioWare appears to be saying another and concerned third parties are attempting to prove a third conclusion.

The funny thing about the argument is that the “Release Control” is entirely worthless now considering that the game has been released in all regions. That’s all it looks like it was ever meant to stop; unauthorized access prior to launch. Hopefully, EA learns a lesson from this and makes sure to change their policy accordingly in the future in terms of DRM awareness–not that previous uproars and even legal action has managed to curb their behavior up to this point.

The worst part about the whole thing is that, at this point, there’s really no winner. The lapse in communication between EA, BioWare and the general public has already happened. There are some things you just can’t take back. Removing “Release Control,” as pointed out, would be an entirely useless gesture now.

So what now? To the average consumer, it’s probably a headache waiting to happen if they ever attempt to wade through most of the articles out there. Clearly, there exists a vocal contingent of players who are not pleased to find out that there’s something related—even remotely—to a form of DRM that needs to be nuked from orbit to make sure it’s not still lurking underneath the surface.

If I were in BioWare’s shoes, and, for once, I am glad I’m not, I would make sure to push Fernando Melo’s post on the subject and go even further in trying to be entirely transparent about the issue. I’d admit that there was some unneeded confusion and apologize. Beyond that, there’s no real tangible way to mend the fences that they’ve torn down. Trust is just one of those things: Once it’s gone, it tends to remain gone.

It certainly doesn’t help that the game itself, as previously mentioned, is as divisive as it is. If it were both a critical and commercial success, it’d be easier to convince those who had been turned off to give the developer a second chance at doing it right. But then again, gamers have given the publisher, Electronic Arts, more chances than it likely deserves.

At the end of the day, however, it is only a subsection of an already niche audience that remains displeased. Nobody in any position of power is ever going to express that sentiment, but it’s rather clear that it’s how they feel after releasing both Dead Space 2 and Dragon Age 2 with the same kind of DRM issue.

That leaves unsettling thoughts on the future in my head and a bad taste in my mouth.

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