Outgoing MuleSource CEO Dave Rosenberg commented over the weekend on what gaming vendor EA could learn from open source. (It appears 451Group analyst Matthew Aslett was right when he surmised Rosenberg was moving into the gaming sphere.) Rosenberg says that EA didn't build customer loyalty with the copyright protections that its newest release, Spore, included. (Actually, his words were "EA royally botched the launch...")
In an effort to limit the number of machines onto which each customer downloads the game to three, the DRM mechanism apparently renders the game useless once it is downloaded a fourth time. Rosenberg says:
The Spore "self-destruct" mechanism is just plain, old offensive. I can't think of a scenario in the last few years when I wasn't reinstalling, changing hardware, or otherwise altering my computer system. To render an application unusable is ludicrous -- and pointless.
So ludicrous, in fact, that potential customers are making a point to download the game illegally from file-sharing sites, according to TorrentFreak, which calls Spore "the most pirated game ever."
Rosenberg emphasizes that the point of any software company is to convince more people to buy your product, not force them to choose to get it illegally. He suggests that EA certainly would have saved money if it had instead decided on "community" and "user" versions of the game, "where it's usable but not good until you pay."
Yes, gaming is a consumer-driven segment of the software market, but the lesson bears repeating in a business context. If the rest of the software world is moving to an "open" environment, it's probably time to catch up.