Oh no! Remember how, when online activations were in their infancy, we were assured that the servers responsible for authenticating your game would live on forever? Or that they would at least be removed from the process entirely with a timely, liberating patch? Well Redditor thelordkoala is reporting that his retail version of BioShock is failing to install due to 2K shutting down the game’s DRM servers. And he’s not the only one.
“I cannot stress this enough,” writes an indignant thelordkoala, “DO NOT BUY IT. 2K has taken down the ‘autopatching’ servers, and the install must autopatch the game before you can play. If you cancel the autopatch, the game deletes all the files, preventing you from playing. I’m now down $20, and I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistake I did.”
A post on the Facepunch forums dating back to late 2010 – three years after the release of BioShock – suggests that the problem has been floating around for some time, presumably undetected given the relatively scarcity of retail copies of the game. I don’t own a physical copy of BioShock, so I can’t verify that at some point in the last 18 months they’ve all become useless tubs of plastic, staples and cardboard. There’s every chance these problems aren’t widespread but confined to individual, needlessly unfortunate customers.
But worrying nonetheless are reports of the function of the game’s mandatory autopatcher: that it deletes the installation if it can’t connect to the 2K mothership, preventing would-be BioShockers from installing the required no-CD patch before the roving eye of the DRM server can evaluate your moral standing. It’s a destructive, nuke-it-from-orbit anti-piracy measure that would make it difficult for even 2K to issue a DRM-scrubbing patch.
A concerning majority of boxed games are still clutching to these invisible DRM umbilical cords. Digital baby-ropes are threading their way out of your desk drawer, spooling out the window and off to their respective publisher headquarters where, hopefully, an attentive digi-mother sits in a virtual rocking chair happily authenticating installations. But what happens when, as appears to be the case now, 2K cut the cord? Well, it seems we run perilously close to a misjudged dead baby analogy is what. We’re at constant risk of libraries of games becoming junk at the flick of a switch in a distant server room.
The end-game of any DRM setup should be one in which our games are permanently and automatically unmoored from publisher activations – not one in which confusion reigns and legitimate installations become clandestine. BioShock is still available to download and play on Steam, with no reported problems with anything other than the retail PC version. We’ll keep sniffing this one until some niceclues pop out.