Ubisoft Cuts Off Legit Players With DRM Server Migration; Pirates Play On

from the of-things-to-come dept

When it comes to DRM, nothing is more annoying and hated than DRM that requires a constant internet connection. This DRM regularly pings a server controlled by the creator of the game in order to prove that you, the paying customer who paid money to buy the game, are not a dirty pirate. One of the loudest critiques of this type of DRM is what happens when the DRM cannot make the connection to the server. We have already seen what happens to Ubisoft games when there is an unexpected server crash. Gamers weren’t too thrilled about that. Now we learn that Ubisoft is looking to give its paying customers another look into why such DRM systems are a real bad idea. Ubisoft will be taking its authentication servers down on Tuesday, February 7th for an unspecified amount of time.

While Ubisoft takes its servers down to migrate them, gamers who paid good money in order to play DRM’ed games will be unable to do so. What makes this worse is that all those pirates that this DRM was supposedly going to stop will be able to play those games all they want during the migration. This is the thanks that paying customers get. This is the thanks that fans that want to support Ubisoft in its PC gaming endeavors get for their loyalty. When it comes time for Ubisoft to go to bat for them, the fans get slapped in the face.

To top things off, Ubisoft seems to not be all that concerned with how this affects paying customers. In the announcement of the downtime, it states:

We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience. This move ultimately will help us improve the maintenance of our infrastructure and deliver better uptime and greatly improved services for our customers.

Hey, thanks for the sympathy. Unfortunately, Ubisoft has not apologized for the inconvenience of having to prove you are not a criminal every few seconds while playing legally purchased games. Too bad Ubisoft is not improving its services by not forcing paying customers to prove they are not dirty pirates. Ubisoft could really go above and beyond in thanking its customers but is instead continuing on the same path of DRM.

This server migration is merely an example of what happens when content creators rely on these types of DRM in their fight against piracy. This is a taste of what will happen when Ubisoft decides it is just not worth it to support these authentication servers any more. When these servers go dark permanently, all those paying customers will never legally be able to play their games again. Yet, the pirates will be able to continue playing as this DRM never stopped them to begin with.

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Companies: ubisoft

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Comments on “Ubisoft Cuts Off Legit Players With DRM Server Migration; Pirates Play On”

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blaktron (profile) says:

It actually does more than ping a DRM server Mike, and thats an important distinction. It actually authenticates with an encrypted handshake, which means you can’t play under lots of network conditions outside of the player’s control. For example, you wouldn’t be able to play on any connection only allowing port 80, like many public internet connections like hotels and libraries.

Also by even setting up such a service, Ubisoft most likely has another internet-facing server with access to a database containing customer information, which would be just another place where hackers could potentially steal data.

blaktron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Ummmm no? If my reply comes across as angry to you, you are missing the actual target of that anger, which is Ubisoft. I thought it was a good article when I wrote my first response, I was highlighting the fact that always on DRM is a bigger problem than just requiring a pingable connection to Ubisoft, but needing a robust, open connection to even work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:


It isn’t critical of the op, just pointing out an additional detail often missed/ignored in discussions about this type of copy protection.

When playing online multi-player it doesn’t really matter anyway since you already need a good connection, but when it prevents you playing your favourite game solo while wasting time at the hotel, that’s a problem.

John Doe says:

This plays in with the article about saving old software

A few days ago there was an article here about people trying to save old copies of 20 and 30 year old software before the disks they came on go bad. I guess it will be up to the pirates to break the DRM in order to save old games when the DRM servers are turned off for good.

Sean T Henry (profile) says:

Re: Re: This plays in with the article about saving old software

I Still have a few games like that that I saved from win 95 like Castle In The Wind and several others. That reminds me i should dig that flash drive out and give some of them a play again. The only problem is getting it to work on Vista, its a good thing I still have the DLLs needed from the win95.

Someone says:

Re: Re: Re: This plays in with the article about saving old software

At worst case, grab a copy of WinXP/Win95 and a copy of VMWare or similar. You should be able to run most things flawlessly =)

That said, I’ve installed SimTower and other (Win3.11) games on WinXP and it worked without tweaking (though the fast mode was a bit too fast)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This plays in with the article about saving old software

I still have a huge collection of the old infocom text games, though I haven’t played them in years. They still worked when I last checked them about five years ago, but now I don’t even have a floppy drive to try them out on. The really sad thing is that according to the new legislation here in Canada I won’t be allowed to make copies even if they are still good. That’s what really picks my bacon.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:3 This plays in with the article about saving old software

I still have a huge collection of the old infocom text games, though I haven’t played them in years. They still worked when I last checked them about five years ago, but now I don’t even have a floppy drive to try them out on. The really sad thing is that according to the new legislation here in Canada I won’t be allowed to make copies even if they are still good.

As I recall, the DOS/Windows versions of Infocom games were distributed as a data file and an interpreter. People have written more modern interpreters, such as WinFrotz, which will read those data files. You just need a way to copy the files to your system. Find someone with a floppy drive and copy the .Zx files to a USB drive.

Also, once you have WinFrotz, you can then access all the Inform/Z-Machine format adventure games at the Interactive Fiction Archive. (you can get WinFrotz there)


AB says:

Re: Re: Re:4 This plays in with the article about saving old software

Hmm, thanks, I’ll have to check that out. The last time I played them I used an emulator (DOSBox, I think) under XP.

I might still have an old floppy tucked away in a drawer, but I’ll probably just ignore the law and find a more convenient source. I’m sure they must be around somewhere. It just bugs me that I’m not ‘legally’ allowed to use what I purchased (several times over since I also purchased some of them for other systems and in multi-packs) just because some politician is too lazy or greedy to do his job properly.

Sorry, it’s hard not to break into a rant these days.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This plays in with the article about saving old software

that’s crazy, they wouldn’t spend however much money (anything more than free is too much money) developing this terrible drm to stop pirates when they already have it broken in less then a week so it only hurts legit customers unless they were just completely stupid. oh, right…

Gothenem (profile) says:

Ubisoft, a company that makes really good games, and then does their absolute best to make sure that no one wants to buy them.

I am still wondering if their business model is based off a suicide bombers.

I do not play Ubisoft games. At all. Period. I don’t illegaly download them. I don’t want Ubisoft to get any of my attention.

Bad Ubisoft. Bad.

vegetaman (profile) says:

Exactly. And, furthermore...

Hey Ubisoft, you know what would improve your service? Legitimate buyers being able to play the games they bought from you whenever the hell they want!


This is why I specifically seek out PC games that do not have DRM for purchase (and no, I do not pirate). Sadly, that is becoming harder and harder to find these days. [And for the record, I am okay with Steam and have no issues using the service.] But secuROM and it’s ilk? Keep that crap off my system, thank you.

And limited amounts of activations? Well a fat lot of good any of that does me once their servers go down. I can only hope that 5 years from now that corporations can look back on this DRM movement and go “man, what were we thinking? We totally tried to fuck ourselves and our customers”.

Oh, that’s right, they don’t seem to give a shit about their legitimate paying customers. Assholes.


Anthony (profile) says:

It's terrible

I no longer buy Ubisoft games, Last one I bought wouldn’t allow me to play it when I was in a hotel. The hotel had Internet but must have blockedvthecports needed.

So I went back to the store and returned it. They didn’t want to accept the return as I had opened it, but did when i mentined the ACCC.

Then I downloaded the game, and that version works perfectly in hotels.

Crashoverride (profile) says:

Microsoft overcame this problem by assuming everyone was legit unless proven otherwise. Basically meaning if it cannot connect to the server for any reason you can still use the said program. But once upon connecting and authentication fails then your deemed unworthy. What this also means is if someday they don’t want to enforce or decide to shutdown the authentication server no one is cutoff.

Anonymous Coward says:

If Ubisoft is so concern for people play their games without paying money...

Why don’t they just drop single player game development and goes online? I think people expects and accepts that if you don’t have internet connection, you can’t play online games.

They get their money, players get less annoyed. A Win-Win situation.

Anonymous Coward says:

I actually love when shit like this happens.

Go Ubisoft. Make people absolutely mad. The more ridiculous shit you force down people’s throats, the more they will notice the smell.

I mean, a pirated product is clearly superior to the original here. Who would have thought. In my country, I can buy the original and legally play the superior pirated version, and that’s exactly what I do when shit like this happens to me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Don’t have a problem with them doing this. I won’t buy a game made by them. I’ve had it right up to the hair on the head with their idea of how to treat paying customers. I’m not a customer of theirs any longer.

At some point in time, these servers will go dead. A year, 10 years, whenever. When they do, those customers that would still like to play the game they bought will be screwed. Any promises they make today isn’t a promise they may keep then.

Anonymous Coward says:

When I become "Malevolent World Dictator" (tm) ... (humour)

When I become malevolent-world-dictator, developers like UBISOFT will still be allowed to put DRM in their games, however it will come with an iron-clad guarantee (as dictated by me, of course):

WE, (the developer, e.g., UBISOFT) guarantee that our DRM server will not be unavailable for any period longer than 4 hours, or more frequently than once in 30 days. In any event wherein we cannot deliver on said promise, the life of our top remaining executive is forfeit. In the event we run out of executives with which to vouchsafe this guarantee, the code will be released into the public domain, etc., etc., ….

Also, don’t be surprised if this rule is enforced retroactively once the Malevolent-World-Dictatorship comes into power.

Now, about those SOPA/PIPA supporters … They’re in for some REAL problems. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anonymous Coward says:

Need to say NO DRM in big letters if they want my money.

I used to buy a lot of games. I don’t any more because of crap like this. I don’t have a lot of time these days, so unless something says “NO DRM” on it, I pretty much assume it has something I won’t like and I don’t buy it. I have had a few titles in my hand recently, and it mentions an internet connection requirement for “updates” or something. I just assume that it could be more than that and don’t buy it.

bob (profile) says:

Big deal. The same thing happens with Spotify and MegaUpload

Yeah, it sucks. But the same thing would happen if Spotify went under. All of the money you poured into it would be gone and you would have nothing to show for it. What happened to those who used MegaUpload? The same thing. When they went under, the music and their files disappeared.

The weird thing is that all of the so-called new business models that are celebrated by this site are usually just like the old fashioned DRM. If you stop putting in the money, the content disappears. If the business goes under, the content disappears.

But we see this again and again. If the The Onion puts up a paywall, you call it a “paywall”. But if Louis the comedian does the same thing, you fall all over yourself to celebrate it as something new.

The biggest difference is that places like Spotify never promise very much. That’s what makes them smart. They rename the DRM and make no long term promises. That means fewer disappointments.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Big deal. The same thing happens with Spotify and MegaUpload

With Spotify, you know that you are renting access to a music stream. You don’t have any physical stuff, only the digital stream.

With Ubisoft games, you buy a physical copy from the store, that gets turned into a rental once you install the game. Which is criminal behaviour, because in essence, Ubisoft is fucking with consumer rights. You buy a product, you own said product.

Austin (profile) says:

This is why I bought C&C4...then Pirated it.

I’m a big fan of the entire Command & Conquer franchise. I bought the first Red Alert when I was 8, and it was the first game I ever played (ok, besides MathRabbit). It’s what got me hooked on the whole RTS genre, and why I now own a copy of every C&C game, as well as both Supreme Commanders and all 3 Warcraft games with expansions. And Starcraft too.

That said, before I uninstalled C&C4 (because it’s not really an RTS game as much as EA would like to claim it is) I bought it. Once I started playing, I rapidly discovered that, even offline in a singleplayer skirmish match, I had to sink 2-3 days into “leveling up” before I could use all the units. And this is supposed to be an RTS game. Seriously.

My normal practice is to pirate a game, try it for no more than 2 weeks (14 day trial, just like everyone used to offer anyway) and either buy it, or make myself uninstall it. However, C&C4 was a very large download, and the series has always been my favorite, so like an idiot I bought it anyway. After the cannot-build-more-than-basic-infantry problem, I pirated it (or rather an offline max-level fake server) and used that to play it for a few days before I finally decided that C&C4 simply isnt an RTS game.

But the moral of the story? Online DRM made me pirate the game, even after I bought it.

(Sorry this is not the best example of the problem, as this was more a feature issue than DRM, but by using the crack it actually dircumvents the DRM too. Go figure.)

Anonymous Legislator says:

There should be legislation stating that is ok to put DRM on digital sales, but the person or company responsible for the DRM-ed material should be legally bound to provide, at no cost, backups of the material, and guarantee access to the file (again at no cost) AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT, or be liable for damage to private property (that is, the thing that the customer bought).

That is only reasonable, seeing that a judge would never decide otherwise if you bought a physical CD and the salesperson decided to come to your house and snap it in two or prevent you from listening to it for any other reason.

Let’s see how many would use DRM then, when the risk is on the salesperson’s side.

And guess what, people should still be allowed to break DRM, because the DRM-ed thing is their property.

Daemon_ZOGG (profile) says:

"Ubisoft Cuts Off Legit Players... Pirates Play On"

Until the DRMSEC is restored, apply your pirate eye-“patch”, and play on. Or continue to use your pirate patch. I’ve met several gamers that after buying the game, they grew tired of dancing to the tune of DRM and applied a pirated patch anyway. To hell with Ubi$0ft if they can’t grasp the implications of their own cluster-f**k. };P

Sevaver (profile) says:

Ubisoft DRM

Well, to say it simply, I own a lot of Ubisoft games on my PC. Even with the authentication servers down I can still play all of these games. I however cannot access the extra content that comes from having access to the servers. For instance, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood will not allow you to use the investment system without an active connection to the Authentication servers. It was one small insignificant little part of the game that I wanted to work on but didn’t get to because at the time I played the game the Ubisoft servers were down for almost 4 days, in which I finished the game and stopped playing it.

Long story short, you can still play your games; and to the Author of the article, do some fucking research. Ubisoft dialed back their DRM considerably after the release of Assassin’s Creed 2.

PaulT (profile) says:

Big deal. The same thing happens with Spotify and MegaUpload

Ah missing the points raised as ever, and trying to pretend that any paid-for content is a paywall yet again. Nice.

“But the same thing would happen if Spotify went under.”

Nobody is under the delusion that you own music streamed through Spotify. If you stop paying, you lose access to the music you’re RENTING. Nobody has the expectation of keeping content they RENT. Slight difference, and false equivalence.

“The weird thing is that all of the so-called new business models that are celebrated by this site are usually just like the old fashioned DRM. If you stop putting in the money, the content disappears. If the business goes under, the content disappears.”

Bullshit. That happens with rental models and the corporate DRM. If Radiohead, NIN, GOG, the Humble indie guys, Louis CK, Cory Doctorow and archive.org all go out of business tomorrow, I still get to access all the content I *bought*. of course the rental systems wouldn’t work, but I don’t get to keep the VHS tapes from that video store that went out of business either. I’m not sure why you think this is new.

“They rename the DRM and make no long term promises”

No, they make promises they can KEEP. They offer you a rental system, and make it as easy to access the content you rent while you’re doing so, even offline. They don’t promise ownership, and thus can deliver on expectations. They even offer ways to consume the content without direct payment if you prefer (where’s your paywall then?). Their “DRM” is essentially the same as your phone contract. Don’t pay? You don’t get to make calls. According to you, virtually everything is a paywall.

That’s very different to something like Ubisoft, who pretend that you have paid 6 times the amount a Spotify sub would cost you for a single game, then remove your ability to play the game at a whim.

You’re comparing apples the elephants again, and then wondering why we think you’re ridiculous.

btrussell (profile) says:

“Entertainment software giant Ubisoft, who the Ontario government gave $263 million in 2009 to create 80 jobs per year over 10 years (or $328,750 per job), has advised its customers that its games may not work sometime this week due to its reliance on digital locks and the migration of data servers.”

Pretty big handout for a company who is being decimated by piracy.

I’d like to see the numbers shown to investors and Governments enabling this kind of funding for such a risky business.

Honest Truth says:

Ubisoft Is French

You have to remember the Ubisoft is a French founded and French ‘ethos’ company. This basically makes them a useless bunch of worthless shits. As history has proven, the French are shit at pretty much everything that doesn’t involve, wine, cheese & garlic.

I’ve (unfortunately) had to work with these useless pieces of human excrement over the years, and they are persistently crap at whatever they do. Why Oh why did the allies give France back to French, when we should have let the Germans keep it!

If there are any French people reading this and I have offended you… well good, I am better than you and it’s my privilege!

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