Published in Games

PC owners get BioShocked by copy protection

by on23 August 2007


Locked to two PCs installs?

PC users that
opted to purchase the new 2K Games title, “BioShock,” at the retail level on DVD were in for quite a surprise after learning that the game features a new version of Sony DADC’s SecuROM technology that features product activation using SecuROM’s activation servers. Part of this new technology creates a “hash” value from the install that only allows the user to install and use the game on the hardware that it was initially installed it on -- or so game owners are now claiming.

This means that if a game owner gets a new computer or even changes the configuration of the current PC system, it is likely that “BioShock” will not reauthorize the use of the game under the PC’s new configuration, nor on any new PC system.

The concept of locking software to one PC is not a new idea. In fact, the technology has been around for some time and is best known for being present in Microsoft Windows XP and Vista; although these don’t use the SecuROM technology from Sony, but instead rely on a very similar process to authorize the use of the OS on a user’s PC.

Initial testing has gone without a problem so far, as users have claimed to be able to get the game installed twice on two different computers. After that, a dialog box appears indicating that no additional installations of the software are available and to contact for additional information. What users do not know is whether the game can only be activated twice in the same day, in the same week, in the same month -- or is it only two times activation ever?

Additionally, PC users are also complaining about problems with compatibility with certain DVD Rom drives and SecuROM. For those who are thinking that the version of BioShock that is distributed via Steam might not have the SecuROM protection, they should think again; it also has this protection. 2K Games has stated in their support forum that uninstalling the game from the system prior to changes should resolve the issue, but again users claim that the problem is still there. An update has already been pushed out to the Steam distributed version of the game, but we are not clear on what the update does or what it effects.

While it is understandable that software publishers want to protect their work from being pirated, in the end it seems that many of the software protection schemes like this do nothing but penalize the paying end user from being able to use the software in a legal manner that is consistent with accepted use standards. Unlike console users, PC gamers are always making changes to their systems and often reloading their systems, as well. 2K Games had better think hard about this and deal with it quickly, or they could wind up with a lot of unhappy gamers.

Unhappy gamers could create a PR nightmare for 2K Games that may translate into thousands of returns and far lower than expected sales. It is too bad that this has protection issue/inability to use the game on a PC in a normal use matter has come to light as an obstacle for an otherwise stellar title. It is likewise a shame that “BioShock” may be better known for its copy protection and ‘use prevention’ than its great game play on the PC.

Last modified on 23 August 2007
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