Since Spore was available on the pirate sites days before release, it's hard to make the case that the online activation prevented a single act of piracy, anywhere. On the other hand, thousands of gamers were outraged that they were being asked to pay $50 to not own a game, and they vowed to either pirate Spore or go without. It seems the online activation was all cost and no benefit. For both parties.
So EA has now come forward and - without really making any effort to reconcile with irate Spore customers - announced that in the upcoming Red Alert game the install limit will be raised from three to five. I'm pretty sure this maneuver is going to land them the gold at the missing-the-point Olympics. Five installs is indeed more than three, but it's still less than infinity, which is how many times other games can be installed. It doesn't change the fact that you don't own the game, and ignores the fact that the entire hassle and cost of the system is borne by customers without affecting pirates. Customers will still have their operating systems spiked with the zesty flavor of SecuROM, they will still have to go online and ask for permission to play their game, and they will still be stuck with a $50 coaster after the fifth install.
Chris Corry, producer of the upcoming Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, has said, "I think it would be a shame if people decided to not play a great game simply because it came with DRM[...]" Yes, indeed. It would also be a shame if a delicious popsicle went to waste because some idiot had dipped the thing in a flowing river of human excrement. But perhaps the blame should go to the people who did the dipping, not the person who refused to wipe it off and chow down. EA's main selling point now is that its upcoming popsicle will have "40% less human waste."
I'm not expert, but that does not sound like the formula for a killer marketing campaign.
Shamus Young is a programmer and writer by trade, videogame nitpicker by inclination. If you have the patience for more of his ramblings, they can be found at ShamusYoung.com.