I figure Electronic Arts (EA) is by far one of the most interesting companies out there today. Make no mistake -- I'm not equating the word 'interesting' with positive things here, as I'd say it's about even both ways. Speaking during a Q&A at the Dow Jones/Nielsen Media and Money Conference recently, company boss John Riccitiello discussed piracy and in-game ads, saying, "Those areas have a lot of hurdles and they aren't small hurdles either."
On the topic of Digital Rights Management (DRM), he says the opposition to what was implemented in Spore was overblown. Nevertheless, he does have some concession in him:
"We're still working out the kinks. We implemented a form of DRM and it's something that 99.8 percent of users wouldn't notice. But for the other .2 percent, it became an issue and a number of them launched a cabal online to protest against it. I personally don't like DRM. It interrupts the user experience. We would like to get around that. But there is this problem called piracy out there."
I personally don't mind so much if they think of it as a necessary evil, as long as the word 'evil' is in there. Regarding the 99.8 percent figure, this seems awfully unlikely, judging by the amount of attention paid to DRM by journalists and readers alike, and the huge fuss that was made over BioShock (ex. 1, 2, 3), for example. Also, isn't the main reason maybe many of us don't notice the DRM is because we're told nothing about it? Isn't there something a little off about that? If you think about it, it sounds like EA doesn't want people to notice it. Seriously guys, you can't distrust your customers and just hope they don't notice. Now, about SecuROM, (the main source of the 'cabal') many gamers point out it does little or nothing to prevent piracy, and does more damage than it prevents by irritating paying customers, citing Spore's piracy as a prime example.
As for in-game advertising, when asked which sort of people EA would like to work with on this, Riccitiello said, "We would partner with anyone who writes a check." See, I can't really hold it against a person or company for selling out when they blatantly admit it. Good on him. He continued:
"[T]here are large hurdles to doing it successfully. Some companies don't recognize that consumers paid $60 for a game. That said, we believe in in-game ads. We just ran one for Barack Obama's campaign, not the typical sort of ad for a game."
As for Google's In-Game AdSense program...
"I always pay attention to what Google is doing. Right now, the In-Game AdSense initiative isn't something that large. But when they want to take a meeting, we'll be willing to listen."