Its really surprising I haven’t talked about Ubisoft before now. But a look through my blog stuff has shown me that I have not…odd. So here goes, my thoughts on Ubisoft and why they have earned a permanent spot in the Tower of Darkness…
Ubisoft is a prominent PC gaming developer. I first ran into Ubisoft during the first Christmas Steam sale I was involved with several years ago. (Hard to imagine its been that long). Amongst all the games for sale, Assassin’s Creed caught my eye. The game had a interesting sci-fi fantasy blend with a mystery element plus plenty of stabby-stabby so I was intrigued. After completing the game, I found it to be rather repetitive and the stealth area to be a little lacking. Especially when you could do a lot of murdering and successfully fight a lot of guards at the same time. I felt more like a Ninja than an Assassin. But I found the game at least somewhat enjoyable and the universe intriguing so I kept my eyes out for Assassin’s Creed 2. It came out about a year later.
It also came with a DRM known as Online Services Platform. This DRM was different than most that used to install software that tended to break computers. Instead, it used a new system where it required your game to connect to a server all the time even in single-player mode. It was just a program that came with the game that required checks which I will give kudos to Ubisoft, this DRM didn’t break any computers. It just broke the games’ play-ability it came with. The justification is that it would stop piracy. The pirates broke it within a month of release.
Suffice it to say, this stirred the hornets nest in the PC gaming community. Since DRM was only harming legitimate customers and the servers were constantly down, the experience of AC2 was really poor. Especially since even a minor disconnect from their servers would cause you to lose your game progress. It was a very unpopular move and caused me to avoid the Assassin’s Creed franchise after 1.
Ubisoft has been a controversial publisher in the past, particularly on the PC side of things. They have tried DRM tricks in the past to no success and in some cases outright lied to their customers. In the past they used StarForce, which was a technology that installed drivers onto a system and causing several varying issues with the Operating System and hardware. It was stopped after many complaints.
Ubisoft even went so far as to threaten legal consequences on “pirate” gamers three years ago if they didn’t pay for the game. They had since stopped but…even other companies still practice this today through methods they claim are 100% reliable. Which if such methods do exist, they sure as heck aren’t legal…I mean, disregarding the fact that piracy is up to the authorities, not companies to deal with.
Assassin’s Creed 2 DRM stuck around for a while but hackers were hard at work while the outrage spilled out against Ubisoft for implementing such a terrible DRM system. It was then completely hacked and games were fully functional despite the DRM “Always On” system. The DRM in Assassin’s Creed 2 was much later removed. Driver: San Francisco had the same DRM despite “listening” to its customers and it had various issues. It was later removed after they found out people still didn’t like it and it was cracked anyway. Ubisoft does it time and again, they constantly fight with their customers to put this DRM in, only to have it removed later due to the outcry. I’ll give Ubisoft credit for sticking to their guns on this issue, but when you have to fight with the customer on each game that comes out, the constant server problems and the very bad PR, I have to wonder if its really worth it to fight the “ebil bad piwates”. While I know there is a saying out there that there is no such thing as bad publicity, (and that is true to a point), this has been on-going for the past several years and it really wouldn’t surprise me if their loss of sales was coming from all the bad press and broken DRM decisions. It really wouldn’t.
A recent example was a game they published called From Dust which Ubisoft said would not have DRM in the game. It arrived on Steam and others with DRM in the game and the customer was not informed of the DRM before purchase and as such, Steam and other services were forced to refund customers for the DRM and the incredibly poor condition the game was released. Plenty of bugs, poor porting from console and things like that. The DRM was later removed due to the outcry from customers.
The most recent example of Ubisoft and DRM is not good. Ubisoft decided to change it up by adding an activation limit counter on Anno 2070. However, this DRM was so sensitive that if you changed just the Video card in your PC, it would require you to register your computer as a “new” computer. And it only allowed for three activations. Yeah, good going there Ubisoft…the DRM still exists in this game as far as I know, though it no longer tracks Videocard changes and Ubisoft still defends its decision. Just other hardware changes.
Why do I oppose DRM? Shouldn’t I want piracy to stop? Yes, I do want piracy to stop. But DRM is completely ineffective against piracy. And it always will be as long as its made by humans. There has yet to be a DRM (except MMO-DRM, but that doesn’t count) that hasn’t been broken by pirates. So who are gaming publishers really hurting? The legitimate customers who bought the product. Boy, that’s a great way to treat your customers, worse than the pirates who got it for free.
And another thing. Apparently companies like Ubisoft believe that everyone lives right by an internet hub and that there is no way you will lose an internet connection no matter where you live. Ha…ha…ha. Good joke there guys. I don’t really even need to point out how many people live with a slow, unstable and unreliable internet area just in the US alone, not even including the rest of the world. I lived in such an area for over 20 years. If this sort of DRM existed in every game I own, I wouldn’t have been able to play videogames until my recent move.
On a side note, console piracy is still alive and well from the sources I hear from. So clearly, even on consoles DRM is completely ineffective. So quit pushing it on the PC crowd. >=(
At the end of the day, I just want to play videogames and enjoy them. I don’t want to have to worry about my internet connection suddenly dying and getting kicked out of my game despite paying for it. I strongly oppose such DRM solutions and Steam is the only DRM I’ve tolerated because it hasn’t interfered with my gaming experience so far. And usually if any servers of Steam’s go down, its the chat system, the games will still launch. The offline mode helps too which does not exist in any Ubisoft DRM. These games are supposed to be fun, not frustrating due to technical problems. And that’s how I like to keep it.
Companies that practice such forms of DRM and blatant disregard for their customers just don’t deserve my money or anyone else’s for that matter. After Assassin’s Creed 2, I haven’t touched a single Ubisoft or Gameloft game as my protest against their draconian DRM. (Gameloft is the mobile dev version of Ubisoft). And apparently those who still support them still get burned with DRM server issues. I just cannot support a company that simply treats its customers like their a bunch of criminals. And that is basically what these kinds of DRM are. Your only punishing the legitimate customers while the pirates giggle gleefully, playing a better experience for free. Its unethical, its ineffective and just wrong. Which is why Ubisoft earned its place in the Tower of Darkness and a permanent never-buy-from-again.
Ubisoft Website: http://www.ubi.com/US/
Gameloft Website: http://www.gameloft.com/
Wiki about Ubisoft: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubisoft
Other interesting articles for your reading pleasure about Ubisoft, piracy and DRM in general:
Ubisoft “Always On” DRM completely hacked: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/04/21/here-we-go-again-ubi-drm-really-cracked/
Ubisoft’s DRM servers have been down multiple times over the past couple years: (one such article about it from 2010): http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/03/08/ubisofts-drm-servers-broken-all-day/
Valve’s CEO says that piracy is an issue of service, not just simple theft: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/7.327539-Valves-Gabe-Newell-Says-Piracy-Is-a-Service-Problem
Paradox CEO says DRM is a waste of money: http://uk.pc.gamespy.com/pc/magicka/1216907p1.html
RPS reports on DRM-Server being taken down and the problems that occur: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/02/02/legitimate-ubisoft-games-wont-work-tues/ & http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/02/08/driver-san-francisco-anno-2070-affected-by-ubi-drm/
From Dust has issues with DRM, Steam offers refunds: http://www.gamebreakers.co/news/pc/from-dust-has-drm-steam-offers-refunds/
Ubisoft DRM Server downtime locked out players from their games: http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/02/08/ubisoft-drm-server-downtime-locks-players-out-of-anno-2070-driver-san-francisco-and-more/
Ubisoft Defends, Then Changes Anno 2070 DRM: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/115375-Ubisoft-Defends-Then-Changes-Anno-DRM
So there you go. That’s why I have a lot of problems with Ubisoft and DRM in general. Agree? Disagree? Thoughts? Leave a comment! Until next time, keep your swords sharp and your shields strong.