How EA crushed my enthusiam for Spore

September 17, 2008

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A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation with another geek friend about the merits of buying the full-version of Spore rather then downloading it via BitTorrent. I was so excited about the games release that not only was I willing to buck the P2P trend and purchase the full $79 version but I was insisting that my friends do it to. Sure you could get it for free, I’d argue, but then you would have to get a crack for it and hope the crack still worked in a week or two mode. When Spore hit stores I was ready to buy into the shrink-wrapped goodness of the retail version, alas that was not to be.

“Dumbed down experience and draconian DRM”

That was the title of the very first review posted on Amazon for the full retail version of Spore by a poster going by the name of Erich Maria Remarque. The review goes on to outline a complaint that will be echoed in over 2,000 other reviewers, namely that the Sony/BMG styled DRM, effectively punishes the purchaser of legitimate versions of Spore. After 2,595 reviews fewer than 200 rated the game 4 or more stars (one can imagine that most of these reviews are from EA staffers).

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A quick look on MiniNova shows 10 well seeded Spore torrents (>50 seeds + >100 leeches) of 76 available. Another 86 torrents where listed of various cracks and patches to the game to ensure gameplay. Clearly EA’s DRM efforts have had little impact on the ability of people to get the game without paying, nor has it limited the playability of the game, as several posters on the Mininova boards have pointed out. Everyone seems to be asking is asking is; Is this of the of

When you treat paying customers like thieves and make the purchased product less functional and more cumbersome the the free alternatives you will lose your customers. The US traditional music industry has be a shining example of this process and should function as an object lesson to other industries. Alas, EA seems not to have gotten the message and has managed to convert Spore from the most anticipated game of 208 to the most derided. So rather then a post about how awesome Spore is and how elated I am to finally have played the game, I am instead posting a missive on how I went from Promoter to detractor.

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Auto makers reducing spending and switching to digital

July 29, 2008

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With gas prices through the roof and sales of gas guzzlers in free fall it really shouldnt come as a surprise that the big auto makers are readjusting plans and making changes. Besides blue-collar layoffs and office cut-backs, it seems that even the folks on Madison avenue may also have to worry a bit as auto-makers shift their spending to Digital or reduce spending altogether.

A couple of days ago Ad Age ran a story about Ford taking $20 million off the table as it reduced it’s ad spending from $300 million to only $100 million due to the free fall in truck sales. Another article that caught my eye, also on Ad Age, highlighted that GM has shifted close to 25% of its advertising from traditional platforms to digital media venues. Thats everything from SEO strategies to CRM implementations slated to get a 25% chunk of GM’s multi-billion dollar ad largess.

If you’re a traditional advertising agency this is the point where you get to quaking in your boots and if you’re a digital shop, my resume is up-to-date and ready to send.


With shipments down another 18%, labels sue music promotion website

April 29, 2008

Last week the RIAA was cheering the destruction of million CD and DVD taken from flea market vendors and church swap meets across the country. This week it put out the numbers of CD’s shipped from its client record labels to music stores and they arent good. The ailing music industry shipped 17.5% fewer CD’s to record stores in ’07 than it did in ’06. Of course, much of what was shipped to the stores is still sitting in discount bins so the actual sales decline is surely much worse. Across all physical formats, CD singles (up 50%),  Cassettes (down 41%), LP’s (up 36%) etc… shipments were down 16.9% Y/Y.

Playlist.com sued by label ludditesDespite this news, record labels still seem intent are keen on destroying any company, site or individual foolish enough to build a service that makes online music discovery and playback simple and painless. The four major labels, though nine of their subsidiary companies, have filed suit against Project Playlist, a site that aggregates music from around the web into one simple interface. According to the label’s, Playlist.com enables “massive copyright infringement” by pointing to files on other websites (ie blogs, artist pages, fan pages etc…). Despite common sense and the generally accepted business maxim that your customer can not be your enemy, the luddites at the major labels seem to relish finding novel ways to destroy shareholder value and drive customers away.

I’m not the sharpest tack in the marble box but if I wwas an exec in a failing $10 billion industry that had shrunk by more then $2 billion in the last year with shipments down 19%, the last thing I’d do is sue a company that lets my customers discover and buy my product. Call me crazy.