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Game companies have to answer to the suits at the publishers whose first, second, and third concerns are how the fast the game will recoup them money with very little thought to the long haul, and likely no thought to user's systems. So, if a game publisher can get a release out that doesn't install some Draconian copy-protection system, its almost a miracle.
The NWN serial number and connection to the Gamespy servers offers a lot more than just running the game. It allows you to connect with persistant worlds, provides updates and a way of communication, and the ability to download hundreds of very high quality NWN modules, modules which are commercial quality.