The restrictive DRM found in Bioware's PC version of Mass Effect is making many owners of the game angry, and is probably turning off a great many of others from buying the game. Over a 130 pages of posts from angry users complaining and protesting the game's DRM have been piling up on Bioware's forums. Forum moderators have been quick to lock down or delete threads on the topic, unless they are in the non-Mass Effect, 'Off Topic' forum. Some would suggest that posts about the host of problems caused by the DRM should rightly be in Mass Effect PC Technical Support or Mass Effect PC General Discussion forums, but apparently, this Bioware does not agree.
Mass Effect features a similar sort of DRM as the SecuROM system in Bioshock -- but even more restrictive. For Bioshock, the game had a total of 5 allowed activations. You could not originally gain back a re-installation 'credit' without having to call telephone number and plead your case. After substantial backlash from the gaming community, Take Two responded by released a program that could reissue you more installations of the game.
With Mass Effect, the game can be only be activated three times. While you can install and then re-install the game multiple times on your computer, if your hardware changes, this costs an additional 'activation.' This can lead to heart-ache and ulcers.
Let's consider an example. Say you had unlucky week: you had a bad virus, had to reformat your hard drive , and had to re-install the game -- this would be your second activation. To cheer yourself up, you then bought a new video card, and some new RAM. The DRM guesses that this means the game has been installed on a new machine, and takes another activation. From this point in, you'd be walking on glass: want to upgrade your OS? Your out of luck. Hard drive crash? Sorry, buy another copy. Sold the game to someone? They'd be upset because they would not be able to install it.
A real kick in the face also occurs once you reach the three activation limit. A screen pops up telling you that you've reached the activation limit, and it recommends that you buy another copy of the game.
For many, this seems to be going far to far. A few recent games, and especially Mass Effect, mark a precedent: in the history of PC gaming you bought, and then owned, a singe-player PC game. With DRM such as this, this is no longer the case. When you buy Mass Effect, you need an Internet connection to play this single-player game, and you are at the whims of EA still supporting the activation servers (which they've shutdown in the past, for other games.) With Mass Effect, you are no longer paying to purchase the game; you are paying for a temporary license to play the game. This is a very important distinction.
Personally, I've being playing on games on a PC since ... well, since PC's were even around -- and in my lifetime experience of playing PC games, the anti-piracy measures found in Mass Effect are the most limiting, and the most extreme, that I've ever seen. And the thing that bothers me the most about this DRM isn't the problems it has caused me personally -- the real shame here is that although Mass Effect is one of the best PC games I've played in years, I can't recommend to anyone that they play it. This ill-conceived and asinine, drastic DRM should not be supported by anyone who wants to own full access to a game that they purchase.