The way that Paradox has implemented copy protection reflects the way that they build their games. If you don't have access to the patch forum (which you have to posess a legitimate CD key to access), or if you don't buy the latest expansion, your game rapidly becomes tiring, and then boring, and then agonizing, as all of your friends are off somewhere playing with the new subsystem and you're left with a product which is clearly incomplete.
Compare this to a game like Company of Heroes, where the opposite situation is in effect: people frequently talk about how they only wish they could go back to a time before the expansions, when the Brits and PE were not in the game and all multiplayer ladder games could only be between what are considered the most balanced, interesting sides: Americans and Wehrmacht.
In both cases the question is complexity: Paradox games can't possibly have enough of it, and Company of Heroes would probably benefit from the simplification of a situation that was made more complex. In the case of CoH the additional sides would have been more welcome if they'd been better designed... but the point stands, the game was 'good enough' back in the day. Nobody has ever said that about a Paradox game. Even if a new system isn't designed exactly correctly, it's still a welcome addition (I'm leaving the worst Paradox game, Hearts of Iron, out of the equation entirely cos it's lame).Which situation is better? I think Relic has made the better game, overall. Most of the time when Paradox fixes or upgrades something, like the colonial system in the new Victoria II expansion A Heart of Darkness (finally, a Conrad reference in video games that's actually appropriate!) it just gives you something else to worry about. Now you need to build a navy and micromanage your colonies more intensely to do what you were able to do in a simpler way in the last expansion, to basically no effect. The aspect of 'colonial competition' is still there, the Scramble for Africa in-game is still crazy and highly competetive, it's just more busywork. And gradually, like the enhanced factory system in Victoria II which vastly improved on its predecessor by featuring actual supply and demand, it will become part of the background noise that seasoned mapgamers take for granted.
So there's nothing wrong with increased complexity, but when that's all that's being added to your game- more endless popups for trivial election issue debates that modify one tenth of your pops in one state on one issue, more time clicking 'upgrade railroad' (the most recent patch fixes this!), more newspapers with five cut-and-paste event descriptions from countries you don't care about, etc. the fatigue sets in quicker and quicker. People frequently play the "new" Paradox game, expansion, patch, whatever, continuously for days and then quit entirely. It's been literally years since I've played Europa Universalis. The Anno games are like this too. Totally engrossing once the new material arrives, grating once it's been assimilated. The relationship to addiction ("Ich bin ein Anno-holic!") is clear- and as I mentioned in the first paragraph, it's what Paradox has built its business on.
Meanwhile CoH has remained relatively unchanged for years and still draws a consistently high rate of interest. Part of that is the fact that multiplayer is the main draw of the game, and the community and its strategic camps (called the "metagame") have kept things fresh for the better part of a decade now, with new 'styles' of play becoming dominant and fading away, and the sheer variety of human thought and action, as compressed into build orders, teching strats and micro, standing in for computer opponents and busywork augmented by unweidly interfaces and lists of percentage modifiers that would actually be easier to understand if they were in a literal spreadsheet.
I like these games a lot and to be fair Paradox does what nobody else even thinks about doing, I'm just saying that maybe the Relic approach, as embodied in the early Company of Heroes game, of selecting complexity instead of amplifying it across the board, and maybe going back to basics and designing a new game from principles other than those that guided the first Europa Universalis (when there were 8 playable countries or something and everything outside of Europe was a complete black hole) way back in the day, might be a better approach than emulating Dwarf Fortress and trying to smother boredom by ever-greater applications of shit to worry about.