Ubisoft's New DRM: Must Be Online To Play

from the yeah-that'll-make-people-like-you-more dept

Ubisoft has this bizarre and misguided obsession with DRM. Rather than focusing on providing value, it’s always looking to take it away in a fruitless battle to “stop piracy.” The company doesn’t seem to understand that if it gives people a reason to buy, they will. But limiting value doesn’t help anyone. In the past, the company has made a series of bad choices about DRM and suffered because of it. The company also seems to misunderstand how unauthorized file distribution occurs and what it means. In cases where it finally came around to scaling back its DRM, it seemed to do so petulantly, with a passive-aggressive “open letter” about it.

The latest move, sent in by a whole bunch of you, is to require copies of games to call back home to Ubisoft every time they’re used. Yes, you will need to be online, and the game will need to phone home before you can use it. Of course, if Ubisoft actually thinks this is going to hold back those getting unauthorized copies of the game, it’s mistaken. The Ars Technica article above quotes one file-sharing gamer:

“This is fine. I only have to access the Internet once to get Ubisoft games. You’re the ones paying for a broken copy.”

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Companies: ubisoft

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Comments on “Ubisoft's New DRM: Must Be Online To Play”

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thublihnk (profile) says:

The one part of the DRM I like is the remote save games, though I’d like it a lot better if they were merely backups that could be accessed after a player has to reinstall a game. I hate having to start a game over because of a reinstall/reformat HDD, etc.

Other than that, the platform is Steam with all of the good parts of Steam sucked out.

IronM@sk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“The one part of the DRM I like is the remote save games…”

Which is all well and good until the Publisher decides to discontinue online suport for the game, like Codemasters did with DiRT 1, then you can no longer play the game at all (or just online in DiRT’s case).

Also this is a rather strange move considering the deal Ubisoft made to sell their games on Good Old Games, which as you know make available old games, updated to run properly on modern operating systems, and DRM-free.


diode (profile) says:

“The latest move, sent in by a whole bunch of you, is to require copies of games to call back home to Ubisoft every time they’re used. Yes, you will need to be online, and the game will need to phone home before you can use it.”

It’s actually worse than it sounds. It constantly communicates with the service WHILE you are playing. If the connection is interrupted for any reason, the whole game comes to a screeching halt.

Ubisoft: “If you lose your Internet connection the game will pause while it tries to reconnect”.
Source: http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/62098

Anonymous Coward says:

Seppuku performed in public.

As a 15+ year game developer I honestly understand all the desires behind such an idea. It is most definately in defense of an “old model” instead of trying to adapt. And, I suspect that this Ubisoft inititive will backfire horribly.

If even 25% of the way this system is described is true, the backlash is going to be huge. It describes a rental system, not a purchase system. When Ubisoft is dead and buried I may have the desire to play retro and boot up one of their games. Oops, can’t play it since the auth servers are off line..

They say they will patch things as they degrade support. Wonderfull, but what if they simply dissapear? Not as unlikely as they may suggest, it is a fickel market. I have a disk with all this DRM on it, I paid money and all the servers are down. I can’t play my legally purchased game anymore.

I hate my bosses sometimes because they think things like what Ubisoft is proposing are some form of savior. I then remind them that 20 years ago I was their most hated person on BBS’s when I was cracking all of their software on C64 withing days of release. Encryption is much more viable now yet even Blue Ray can be broken fairly quickly.

Ubisoft is being very stupid. They are pushing the “really wanted” envelope way too far with this suggested DRM. I “want” to actually play through GTA 4, yet I refuse to make yet another account on yet another service which will have all my data subjected to data breach, since I don’t have an account, I can’t save, can’t play the game through, and I will never touch one of their games ever again. I hardly trust my bank, why in the hell should I trust a game developer?

I make games for a living and have done so for a long time. I’m pretty damned clever, or I’d be unemployed after all these years, yet there are easilly 10 folks out there just as clever as I am with lots of free time to undo any cleverness I code up and break any DRM I dream up. I have no illusions about this, I really really really wish I could explain it to the suits in some buisness speak that they will listen to. No argument I’ve come up with has ever really sunk into their thick skulls.


Buisness as usual – don’t adapt, screw yourself over by stupidity.

Derek Bredensteiner (profile) says:

Re: Seppuku performed in public.

“I really really really wish I could explain it to the suits in some buisness speak that they will listen to. No argument I’ve come up with has ever really sunk into their thick skulls.”

Not that I’ve got any experience dealing with your sort of suit there, but generally speaking I’ve found arguments centered around the benefits of taking advantage of online distribution and the reduced costs of not wasting money on DRM have the greatest appeal with truly business savvy folks. Of course the greatest hurdle to overcome is still a stubborn mindset of “piracy=bad”, but if there’s any place you can truly demonstrate with any sort of evidence saving money and increasing sales, even a half-wit suit will give you the time of day to hear you out before saying no.

Overcast (profile) says:

No, I won’t need to be online to ‘play’ – I just won’t play Ubisoft games.

Then I can play without having to worry about that.
Pretty simple.

I don’t really play a game unless I’m demo-ing it without paying, I understand the fairness in paying for what I use. I don’t mind an activiation, but having to be online all the time? Naaa, last time my internet went out for a while, I was stuck not being able to play Halflife2, via Steam.

After the fact I found I could run Steam in offline mode – but when I went and got ‘Vanguard’ – I had the option of getting it on Steam or just getting a copy off of Amazon – guess which one I went with…. Not steam.

Online games are entirely different of course, and mostly that’s what I play, but if the ‘net is down – then I might play something single player.

Having to be online to play a ‘single player’ game isn’t an option I’ll pay for with the number of games out there.

Doctor Strange says:

Re: Re:

What a stupid idea. That’s like buying a car without motor. They keep it safe for you and everytime you wanna drive somewhere you’ll have to give them a call to bring YOUR motor. Who’s going to pay for that shit?

And yet 11.5+ million WoW players agree exactly to that, at the tune of $15 a month. “Oh” but you say, “they’re paying that because there are other real live people in the game.” No, they’re not. They’re paying that because Blizzard has made it so you can’t play their very attractive game otherwise.

Can you run your own WoW server? Oh, you can’t? That’s very interesting. Is that because nobody except Blizzard has the technical knowhow to run their own WoW server? Or is it just a very, very successful form of DRM?

Doctor Strange says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually, he can run his own WoW-server. Of course, it is not approved by blizzard.

Blizzard makes it fairly difficult for the private WoW servers to continue operating, from a technical perspective. As I understand it, raid boss AIs, for example, run on the server, and these have to be reverse-engineered and coded into the private servers.

But people are after the multiplayer experience in WoW, that is what they pay for. If it hadn’t been multiplayer, then it had been long forgotten by now.

Fine, but why do they keep paying *Blizzard* for that experience? For comparison, why do people pay $14.95 one time to play Counter-Strike 1.6, but pay $14.95 a month to play WoW? Part of the answer is that WoW has better DRM designed-in.

Modplan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Fine, but why do they keep paying *Blizzard* for that experience? For comparison, why do people pay $14.95 one time to play Counter-Strike 1.6, but pay $14.95 a month to play WoW? Part of the answer is that WoW has better DRM designed-in.

No, it’s because WoW is a services based game. You pay for ongoing service. CS is a one time upfront payment for content and online access, not ongoing production of content and high quality servers.

Chris says:


Assassin’s Creed 2 has a feature called uPlay built into it (at least I’ve used it on XBOX it does) which allows you to earn points by playing ubisoft games, and spend them on in game items, and stuff like xbox themes.

Of course you need an account to use this, but you don’t need to be online all the time to play. (lucky, as my xbox isn’t).

It’s kind of sad to see them go further down the DRM path, because uPlay kind of looked like they were going to go down the RTB path.

Anonymous Coward says:

This technique isn’t actually new. In 1994, my geek brother and his friends were fans of some multiplayer computer game, and he delighted in telling everyone how the game had a built-in secret ‘call feature’ connected to the modem, which was supposed to silently activate the modem, sending an AT command to silence the modem speaker, calling up the software company that manufactured the game to alert them to a pirate in the waters.

I can’t recall offhand what the game was, but my fourteen-year-old pot-smoking brother had no problem figuring out how to bypass this security feature. Also, in those days, you’d have to be a moron if you didn’t notice your modem going into dial mode, even with the modem speaker shut off. I think he was more afraid of our parents getting a long-distance phone bill it than he was anything else.

I do recall what really pissed him and his friends off was they’d all paid for the software, walked into Babbage’s or Software ETC and paid for it, and they resented the game maker trying to monitor or control what they did with the software after they’d already paid for it.

Rooker (user link) says:

Ubisoft, hurry up and die would you?

Pardon my French, but these people at Ubisoft can go F* themselves. People like that are what is destroying the PC gaming market. All this does is guarantee that I will never buy anything from this company.

People, use your money to support developers who are good for the PC gaming industry: Stardock and Valve. Let companies run by idiots like Ubisoft die the inevitable death by obscurity that’s coming to them.

CN says:

Way worse...

As a paying customer, I have had my share of issues with Steam that have made me very angry. Ubisoft’s plan seems to be an order of magnitude worse.

I have been avoiding games with intrusive DRM or other ridiculous requirements. I just hope that they can see the loss of a sale as voting with my wallet, and not think “Hey, this game sold poorly, damn pirates! We need more DRM!”

steve foster says:

It's Still DRM!!

Quote From Gamespot article on this:

[ The publisher notes that if it stops supporting its Online Services Platform, a patch will be released so that “the core game play will not be affected.” ]

I’m against DRM in all shapes and forms as it’s primarily about creating new business models and trying to achieve the ultimate goal of “Pay as you Play” and monthly rental fees, if it “happens” to dent piracy in any way (which it DOSEN’T!!) then it’s a distant second in DRM’s aims.

My point is this, as quoted above from gamespot, this claim that should the servers go offline or should they stop supporting online play, then they will release a patch to basically strip the DRM from the games means putting alot of trust in UBISOFT and any company who makes this promise. Which means trusting the same companies who have, in the past, misold us products secretly loaded with rootkits, install limits and uninstallable spyware/drm that at worst can cause a total system failure, meaning i wouldn’t trust them with this as far as i could kick them!!

I’m willing to bet all my DRM’ed media that THIS is how it will all play out:

1. UBISOFT’s servers and website goes offline, meaning games dependant on this type of DRM are unplayable, the internet forums are in meltdown from angry gamers posting every second about not being able to play their games.

2. After 3 weeks it’s still all down and the uproar has reached fever pitch, and with speculation that UBISOFT have gone out of business, the focus now turns to the commitment made years ago stating:

“if we stop supporting our Online Services Platform, a patch will be released so that “the core game play will not be affected.”.

3. A month has passed, and a statement is released through Arstechnica from UBISOFT which reads:

“UBISOFT as a company ceased trading and went into liquidation as of (a month ago say), with the main reasons being rampant piracy of our products resulting in us unable to operate at a profitable level.

Some time ago when we entered into our new DRM business model, we made a commitment to our consumers which would ensure that, should our servers disappear, we would release a patch or software to keep your games playable. Unfortunatley, on reviewing this policy, we came to a conclusion that the release of such software would violate the interests of the Rights Holders on their IP and developers of our games, and it is with regret that we are inable to move any further on this issue.



4.The forums and magazines are in an angry mob like, frothing at the mouth, heads on a pike frenzy now and 10000’s of complaints are made to the FCC, who promise to look into the matter.

5. The FCC find that UBISOFT are in breach of the terms in which they sold their products and are fined $10,000,000. Though as UBISOFT are bankrupt and as such, don’t exist anymore, the fine is unenforceable and is never paid.

6. Every other company (There are probably 100’s of them at this stage) who has made the promise to release a DRM stripping patch for their games if they go out of business are questioned by various Tech Media magazines and websites etc again as to what their stance, especially in light of the UBISOFT situation, is if they stop supporting their online severs for their DRM/Games and what this would mean for their consumers?

All of them avoid the mention of a DRM stripping patch, instead using mealy-mouth replies like “Well we don’t plan on going out of business anytime soon” and “We’re confident that our consumers will get to play their games for as long as anyone would really want to play a game thats X years old”.

Result = With ANY kind of DRM, your handing over control and the lifeline of your products to a multi-million dollar corporation who are in the business of making mega profits, and who’s interest in your ability to play a game thats 10-15 years old is probably right odnw there with saving the children and feeding the needy!

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