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12/23/2008
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EA Offers DRM-Free Option For Spore

In response to heavy criticism, Electronic Arts is allowing "Spore" fans to play the title on an unlimited number of PCs through the online Steam service.

Electronic Arts, which angered gamers by embedding digital rights management software in the highly anticipated "Spore" PC game, has made the title available through a less-restrictive online copyright-protection service.

Starting Monday, EA made "Spore," along with other 2008 titles, available through Steam, a service owned by Valve. Steam allows gamers to play from any PC with the service's client installed.

"Spore," created by Will Wright, the designer of the "Sims" games, takes the concept of evolution into a new level of imagination. Players create their own characters that start out as microscopic water organisms and gradually evolve into complex land creatures. As those creatures meet the creations of other players online, tribes are formed and later whole civilizations. Eventually, the characters blast off into space to build civilizations on other planets.

Gamers' excitement over the game's launch was short-lived because of the DRM technology that limited to three the number of PCs that could be authorized to play the game. The restriction drew heavy criticism from buyers on Amazon and other sites.

By making "Spore" available on Steam, gamers can play it on as many PCs as they want, as long as the computer has the Steam client. The software makes it possible to play the game on Steam's servers.

Other games EA made available through Steam include "Spore Creepy & Cute Parts Pack," "Mass Effect," "Need For Speed Undercover," and "EA Sports FIFA Manager 2009." The games are available in most of Europe, the United States, and Canada.

EA titles that are expected to be added to Steam in the coming weeks include "Mirror's Edge," "Command & Conquer Red Alert 3," and "Dead Space."

EA's willingness to address the DRM controversy only three months after the game's release is a reflection of the intensity of the criticism and the game's importance to the studio. "Spore" is expected to open up a new revenue stream built on millions of microtransactions from players buying virtual clothes and accessories for their creatures.

Those types of small purchases are the fastest-growing revenue generators in online gaming, analysts say. In addition, players can buy "Spore" T-shirts, hats, and posters. EA is even looking to license the television and movie rights to create a "Spore" entertainment franchise.

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