Ubisoft's New DRM: Vuvuzelas

from the Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz dept

Well, give Ubisoft points for humor, I guess.  The videogame company that has made a habit of using DRM that fails and annoys has unleashed its latest effort at being irritating.  According to The Escapist, the company has incorporated "the horror of the vuvuzela" into the DRM for their Nintendo DS offering, Michael Jackson: The Experience.  You can see the DRM in all its horrific action and glory on YouTube below:

However, efforts like this cause me to ask a couple of questions.

  1. How big is Nintendo DS piracy that you need to actually spend the time and effort to evolve DRM strategies around it?
  2. How can a company that shows that it's creative through annoyingly humorous efforts like vuvuzela DRM not come up with equally creative ways to do business that don't require this nonsense?
  3. How long do you think it'll be before this DRM, like every other that has preceeded it, will be undone?
We've already had an instance of crackers breaking Ubisoft's DRM and subsequently issuing a message to the company, thanking them for the challenge.  I imagine that those same folks would consider it their esteemed duty to avail downloaders of the headbangingly annoying aural attack known as the vuvuzela.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 1:24pm

    That was a vuvuzela? It sounded like normal techno to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 1:38pm

    Re:

    Just because both of them make you want to immediately stick large pointy objects in odd places so as to alleviate the pain in your ears does NOT make them the same thing....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    David (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

    Re:

    That is what I was thinking!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 1:40pm

    1. Nintendo DS piracy is a massive issue and its trivial to do. Several publishers are scaling back their commitment to the platform or abandoning it altogether as a result. Admittedly, there are a LOT of bad games on the DS that wouldn't sell anyway but piracy is out of control.

    2. I disagree vehemently with Ubisoft's always-on PC DRM but sometimes the pirates are just entitled scumbag thieves who feel they deserve whatever they want without paying for it. I love how you always feel that if companies just engaged fans more, that piracy would somehow magically vanish. There is a not-at-all insignificant portion of the population who just steal things because they can and no other reason. A certain amount of that should be considered a cost of doing business because it is unavoidable but that doesn't mean they shouldn't try to come up with ways to deal with it. This particular DRM (unlike their PC DRM) does nothing whatsoever to harm legitimate consumers. The only people put off by it are those that steal the product.

    3. This DRM will likely be undone, I think that's probably why they chose to take this humorous approach to it. But altering Nintendo DS ROMs isn't quite as easy as hacking a PC EXE file and it will likely take a while before this is figured out.

    In short, I don't like DRM as a whole and I don't think it's worth using. But sometimes (in fact a lot of the time), pirates are just idiots who want things for free and no amount of "connecting with fans" will help. Sometimes Mike, the pirates actually ARE to blame.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 1:43pm

    I used to think that DS piracy was a minor niche problem, until I heard a mom in target telling their little kid not to buy a game cause they could just get it for their R4 at home.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 1:51pm

    Re:

    Totally great flame bait, or sarcasm. Which ever it was it doesn't matter it amused me and made me smile. Thanks ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 1:53pm

    Re:

    Er, I'm actually the one that wrote the article, so you can also feel free to direct comments to me if you wish.

    "Nintendo DS piracy is a massive issue and its trivial to do."

    Double citation needed. Why is it an issue? Where is the evidence that it's causing major harm? Not saying it doesn't exist, but maybe you can point to it? It always seemed to me that the DS's dual screen and touch capability made emulation of it less attractive an option, so where is all the pirating going on?

    "I disagree vehemently with Ubisoft's always-on PC DRM but sometimes the pirates are just entitled scumbag thieves..."

    Where in that rant is anything resembling a fact? This was more a humorous story than anything else, but Ubisoft employing such a hugely hated annoyance within their DRM doesn't seem like a solution, particularly when we know the DRM will be cracked. What's the point of all this?

    "This DRM will likely be undone, I think that's probably why they chose to take this humorous approach to it."

    Meh, I guess. It seems to me that the humor mostly comes from how insignicantly irritating the company is apparently attempting to be. That ain't going to be good for them, I don't think....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Ron (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:04pm

    Improvement

    A vuvuzela could only improve the Michael Jackson experience on any platform. Kudos to Ubisoft for being the first.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    PRMan, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Re:

    "It always seemed to me that the DS's dual screen and touch capability made emulation of it less attractive an option, so where is all the pirating going on?"

    Easy. Just buy an R4 card (or equivalent) for $29 and download any .NDS game from any ROM site. You're now playing the pirated versions of any DS game for free on the DS itself.

    I bought one for my daughter, but we only use it for the following purposes:

    1. Playing music that we own.
    2. Playing games that we own 1 copy of on 2 DS machines. Why should I have to buy it twice? I already own it!
    3. Playing homebrew games.

    While we may be the only family that purchased an R4 card and DIDN'T pirate games, the reality is that it would be super easy for us to do.

    (As an aside, the vuvuzelas make #2 impossible for 3-5 weeks until somebody cracks it. Not that we would ever buy a Michael Jackson game anyway.)

     

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  10.  
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    drewmerc (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re:

    1st citation r4 cards can be bought for as little as $3.09
    with free delivery http://www.priceangels.com/R4_Revolution_MicroSD_TF_Multimedia_Flash_Cart_for_NDS_and_DS_Lite__Compa ct_Pack__p2074.html (spam filters gonna kill me for that one)
    2nd citation read a forum like http://gbatemp.net/ there are hundreds of people who to be honest are to stupid to pirate (e.g asking for roms on a public forum and getting banned for it)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Re:

    IDK about his other points but piracy on the DS is piss easy. After installing custom firmware, you can just stick downloaded games unto the flash card and you're done. You can even bypass the DS entirely and just use an emulator.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:13pm

    Re: Re:

    define massive and major? i doubt your request for citation can ever be satisfied. google yourself for claims that it is massive or not massive either way.

    regarding trivial--it just is. cards can be got for $20 depending on whether theyre legal where you live (or not depending, as the case may be) and the roms are easy to find.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:14pm

    Re:

    i've been listening for that in the US and haven't heard it yet. i'm told it is endemic in some other countries though.

    the closest I've seen in the US are craigslist users offering to sell flash cards with 10000 games.

     

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  14.  
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    Hotblack, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:16pm

    i consider it an improvement to the original songs by MJ.
    quite a cool mash up.
    =)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "there are hundreds of people who to be honest are to stupid to pirate"

    That's kind of my point. Is the audience for this game really going to be going around looking for pirated copies, buying R4 cards, and all the rest?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    cc (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:18pm

    Re:

    "Nintendo DS piracy is a massive issue and its trivial to do. Several publishers are scaling back their commitment to the platform or abandoning it altogether as a result. Admittedly, there are a LOT of bad games on the DS that wouldn't sell anyway but piracy is out of control."

    Can you really blame the market for changing, instead of the publishers who are running away from adapting to that changed market? If they can't monetise games by "selling a bunch of bits", and they can't turn back time with DRM, then they have to sell something else that people actually want to buy.

    "I love how you always feel that if companies just engaged fans more, that piracy would somehow magically vanish."

    Shows how much you've been paying attention. It's actually "CwF + RtB = PROFIT".

    "altering Nintendo DS ROMs isn't quite as easy as hacking a PC EXE file and it will likely take a while before this is figured out."

    Not my area of interest by any means, but the NDS can be emulated more or less completely, making code a lot easier to trace. Also, the DS probably doesn't have the memory or CPU power to decrypt an encrypted executable like a lot of PC DRM does, and it's impossible to install any stupid DRM services on the system...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Prashanth (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:24pm

    From what I've read, the DS is pretty easy to crack, meaning that I don't think it'll be too long before even this gets worked around. That said, I do agree that Ubisoft could be using its creativity towards more productive (and usually more lucrative) ends that don't involve DRM.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Huph, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:44pm

    Easy?

    I just thought I'd jump in and say that, yes, piracy on the DS is absolutely brain dead easy, ubiquitous, and almost endorsed by some retailers. I know all this because I bought one only because I heard how easy it was to play ROMs--which I suppose is still a win for Nintendo as long as they profit from each DS unit sold. And the same store I bought the DS from also sold me my (illegal) flash card reader and my (illegal) black market memory card and USB t-flash reader. And this wasn't some small, unscrupulous "electronics store" with some non-descript name, it was a fairly large boutique store that has booths at conventions and such.

    But nevermind my anecdotal evidence, it's a fairly hot topic in DS circles. I'm sure there are TONS of questionable statistics out there. The touch screen doesn't hamper anything.

    In fact, someone here has a Chrono Trigger avatar; downloaded that for my DS. What's funny is that the method by which you play these ROMs actually offers you the ability to save a game at *any* time, which makes the pirated experience a bit more conducive to portable gaming. That's a win for hacking, but surely it's something Nintendo could integrate into the basic DS (DSi/3DS) operations.

    And to be totally fair, as was intimated above, the homebrew scene for the DS is vibrant and thriving and the only way to play these games is with the card readers. And I absolutely do not doubt that there is a large (LARGE) number of people who primarily buy these cards so they can participate in the scene.

    I do still purchase SOME DS games... I bought the Korg emulator for instance because I thought it was cool that they were branching out to try something different that wasn't a "game"... wait, that was actually a gift from a friend. Nevermind, I guess I don't buy DS games. To be fair though, I don't really play the DS much at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    zegota (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:53pm

    Nintendo DS (and PSP, for that matter) piracy is absolutely rampant. I'm normally 100% against DRM, but I've yet to hear about a legitimate user having problems with any of the DRM that gets put into DS games (that yes, can be broken, but sometimes it's harder than you think. Bowser's Inside Story is still uncracked on some cards, and that game's over a year old). In fact, some companies do use this in creative ways, and allow pirated version to exist as a sort of demo that cuts off after a certain point, instead of just disallowing play all together.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:56pm

    Really annoying music!

    I think this gets a place on The Really Annoying Music Show on NPR. Honestly though, I think bagpipes would have been even more irritating, unless you are a Scotsman/person... :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Christopher (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 3:06pm

    In a few months, there will be a workaround for this thing, where you will be able to play the game totally fine. Hell, not a few months... most likely, a few DAYS!

    Nintendo DS piracy is existent, but like with most piracy: IT IS ONLY DONE BY PEOPLE WHO CANNOT AFFORD THE THING IN QUESTION ANYWAY!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Groki, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 3:30pm

    Question

    Which is more annoying, Michael or the horn? I can't decide :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 3:45pm

    Re: Re:

    I didn't say that I didn't like it. It seemed kinda catchy, actually. My 9-year-old even started snapping and dancing to it when it was playing. :P

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    nasch (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 4:07pm

    Re:

    Not to mention, where was the DRM? That was so out of focus I couldn't even tell it was a video game, let alone what was going on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    nasch (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 4:11pm

    Re: Easy?

    And the same store I bought the DS from also sold me my (illegal) flash card reader and my (illegal) black market memory card and USB t-flash reader.

    What laws ban possession of these devices?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    zegota (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 4:22pm

    Re:

    Most likely untrue on the first count, as it's probably not popular enough for anyone to crack, and many super popular DS games have still not been cracked.

    And the second count, that's absolutely false. Only people who cannot afford it will pirate? That's insanity. If we're going to claim that every downloaded copy = lost sale is a faulty argument, you can't go around espousing stuff like this. DS piracy was very popular in my circle of friends before the DRM started, and we all had no trouble buying plenty of games before the R4 came out, and after its obsolescence.

    Problem is, once you get into pirating, it's hard to justify buying anything to yourself. It's a lot more difficult to pirate the big-budget games now, so I've gotten back into buying, including a lot of the games I downloaded before.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 4:38pm

    Re: Re: Easy?

    DMCA and some other law in Europe.

    Don't blame me you asked.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 5:00pm

    Re:

    IF Ubisoft is, in fact, challenging the crackers I strongly suspect a few black hats out there are at work as we post here cracking the DRM.

    Let's not forget that Ubisoft has become a target of crackers because they up the stakes by saying silly things like "you can't break this" which gets followed up by a crack in short order.

    Between the company and the crackers this has become something of a silly game or, if you like, like the Generals in WW1 who felt that "if I could only throw more soldiers into this meat grinder I'd win the battle".

    I suspect this will be cracked a lot sooner than most people seem to think simply due to the player and after it is then the "pirates" will get into the act.

    Oh, and Ubisoft made themselves a target many, many years ago by releasing crappy, expensive games with early forms of DRM and being incredibly smug about it all.

    On the topic of the content of the game, I'd want to know about the emotional stability of someone wanting a game built around a man who used to hang his children out of hotel room windows.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 5:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It's pretty simple to use though. Although my previous flash card required extra software to use, firmware updating, and all that, newer ones are really simple to use. Basically drag and drop into the card and done.

    Looking for pirated copies is a non-issue, since google search takes care of it for you pretty much. The only big deterrent is the knowledge of the existence of them.

    Sure, maybe the audience for this particular game is not that type, but who's to say this is the only game they put it in?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 7:19pm

    Re: Re:

    As a ds pirate, I can assure you it IS trivial. A $10 flash cart and an even cheaper micro Sd card and you can play anything you want on the ds itself. Hell, you can even copy legit games using the very same flash cart. Piracy on the ds is trivial, just as it is on the wii.

    That said, this drm is just silly, and like all drm before it, it will be overcome. Time heals all wounds, as they say.

    Sure, some people will pirate just to pirate. In the case of the ds and the wii, I bought them BECAUSE I could pirate. But I've also bought a decent amount of hardware as a result. And I've also purchased some games when the prices were right. Had I not been able to pirate games, none of those sales would have happened. Just saying.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 7:29pm

    Re: Re:

    What games don't work? I haven't had a problem with anything on my M3 or R4, including the greatness that is super scribblenauts and the ongoing english translation of pokemon black/white. You need to keep up! Wood r4 man, google it...

    And if you're too lazy to keep up on the r4, go spend the $25 on a cyclods.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2010 @ 12:11am

    Well I won't be buying it. I refuse to buy anything with DRM.

    The only 2 PC games I've bought in the last 12 months have no DRM. I would have bought most of the 10 I downloaded had they be DRM free - also no stupid CD check. I install the game, I don't want to get the CD out everytime I play it. The 2 games I bought don't have that stupid restriction.

    The only 8 music CDs I've bought the past 12 months have been DRM free - the digital versions. Artists that offer 100% DRM free high-quality MP3 files. I would have bought at least 50 more if you could get high-quality DRM free versions. I want to go to a website, download the music after paying for it. That's it. No need to install any crappy software to get songs that will only work with 1 particular MP3 player and no need to authenticate any music you download, with an Internet connected device everytime you buy a new computer.

    All 8 artists and both games publishers are smaller companies + artists. It's the larger companies that refuse to sell non-DRM protected stuff. That's why they don't my business.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    techflaws.org (profile), Dec 9th, 2010 @ 3:46am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Don't upload this on Youtube unless you wanna get sued.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    tc, Dec 9th, 2010 @ 7:07am

    Now I want it!

    I would not have bothered one way or another, nor do I condone piracy.

    However...

    Reading the article makes me want to get the pirated copy just to check otu the vuvuzelas!

    Sounds like a laugh!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Dec 9th, 2010 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Easy?

    DMCA and some other law in Europe.

    DMCA does not outlaw possession of flash card readers or memory cards.

    Companies may chose to indiscriminately threaten to sue all persons who buy flash card readers from a particular vendor because they may feel that those who are using those flash card readers are using them to pirate (i.e. DirectTV suing all those folks who bought smart card readers) unless they pay some $3,000 extortion fee, but that can happen whether or not the DMCA existed.

    I am sure that if the DMCA never came into being, they would still be doing what they are doing regardless. Unfortunately, these companies don't believe in goodwill or honest dealings, and eventually the tides will turn and they will find themselves in the same happy place that xSCO currently lives in....Just wish it would happen sooner so that the rest of us can move on with our lives.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    David Sanger (profile), Dec 10th, 2010 @ 4:05pm

    So who has the copyright on the vuvu sounds. Surely they are creative, with beat and rhythm?

    Did Ubisoft get licenses from the copyright holders, the vuvu players, or did they just take the recordings and use them?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    Alexander, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:15pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    While we may be the only family that purchased an R4 card and DIDN'T pirate games, the reality is that it would be super easy for us to do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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