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.

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Companies: ubisoft

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Comments on “Ubisoft's New DRM: Vuvuzelas”

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Anonymous Coward says:

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.

cc (profile) says:

Re: 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…

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Huph says:


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.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

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.

zegota (profile) says:

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.

zegota (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

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