Tales From Ubisoft DRM: Latest DRM Goes From Horrible To Slightly Less Horrible

from the digital-rights-mutilation dept

We all know Ubisoft. That company that seems to think that piracy is such a huge problem on the PC and that DRM is the only way to stop it -- even when fans complain about how horrible the DRM is. So it is really no surprise to find out that Ubisoft is still at it. It still thinks that annoying legitimate customers is going to prevent piracy of its games. This latest story of Ubisoft DRM woe comes from Guru3d.

Gurur3d had wanted to do a benchmark test of one of Ubisoft's latest titles, Anno 2070, by installing the game on multiple PCs and switching out graphics cards. Unfortunately, Anno 2070 came with an activation limit of only 3 installs. Guru3d had not thought that would be a problem as they just wanted to see the difference between graphics cards. So they started switching cards. No sooner than they had begun, they hit the activation limit.
So yesterday I started working on a performance review. We know (well at least we figured we knew), that the game key can be used on three systems. That's fair, the first activation is used on my personal game rig. The second we installed on the AMD Radeon graphics test PC and the 3rd on our NVIDIA graphics test PC.

On the AMD Radeon PC we initially test the Radeon HD 7970, then to match the timedemo sequence we install the NVIDIA system, which has a GeForce GTX 580. So far it's all good, we have created a timedemo sequence, defined our image quality settings, took screenshots and the numbers for the first two cards.

For the NVIDIA setup I take out the GTX 580, and insert a GTX 590. When I now startup the game 'BAM', again an activation is required. Once again I fill out the key and now Ubisoft is thanking me with the message that I ran out of activations.
Not only does the Ubisoft DRM monitor the number of installations the game has been used for, but it also monitors changes to your hardware. So if you decide to upgrade your graphics card and nothing else, you just wasted an activation. Needless to say, this didn't make Guru3D very happy. So they called up the Ubisoft marketing department in the Netherlands and were met with indifference.
When contacting Ubisoft marketing here in the Netherlands, their reply goes like this: 'Sorry to disappoint you - the game is indeed restricted to 3 hardware changes and there simply is no way to bypass that. We also do not have 7 copies of the game for you'.
This is not the type of response that gamers would want to get from the people who sold them the game. This response basically reads "Sorry we screwed you over on your game and you can't play it. Feel free to buy another copy in order to keep using it." You know how most people will react to this? They will refuse to do business with that company, and/or they will decide to just download the DRM crack for the game and continue to play it. Neither option helps Ubisoft.

Lucky for Guru3d, they had connections and were able to get in touch with the actual developers of the game and were provided with an unlocked key so they could do their testing. However, this is hardly a solution for the average gamer. Very few will have connections with the developer of the game and very few will be able to get the attention of the larger gaming press. Lucky for us, someone at Ubisoft was paying attention and made a change to the Anno 2070 DRM:
Hi Hilbert,

Just wanted to let you know, that we now remove the graphics hardware from the hash used to identify the PC.
That means everyone should now be able to switch the GFX as many times as he/she wants.

So this is what it takes to get thrown a bone by Ubisoft these days -- have the press complain and raise a big stink for all gamers to see. Of course this isn't really a new thing for Ubisoft. It has always been blind to the will of its fans. There is no sense in thinking that Ubisoft has learned anything from this fiasco other than, "Do what we normally do and if anyone complains, ignore them. If that doesn't work, ease up just a hair." This will not fly for much longer. Gamers will learn to avoid Ubisoft products. Many already have. The question is will Ubisoft ever learn its lesson and provide its fans with the products they want?

Filed Under: drm
Companies: ubisoft

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  1. identicon
    Drizzt, 27 Jan 2012 @ 8:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, it's not really optional because most(!) DLC is the kind "was ready when we shipped, but we cut it out, because we thought we could milk you for more cash", ie. party members, integral story parts, etc. Sure, there is some DLC of the "better item earlier on" sort, which has almost no appeal to me. Still it's annoying to know, that this kind of stuff would have been part of an old-style extension and is no sold for an extra two to five Euros.

    I don't have a problem with extensions per se. But they should really feel like one and not something they ripped out of the game to make more cash (in some instances the content was even shipped with the original game and you just needed to buy a code later on).

    Just as an example: if Diablo 2 would have been a DLC game, you'd have gotten the original game minus one char (e.g. the paladin, because he's cool enough for people to want him) and some of the side quests (e.g. the tower). Then they'd sold you the original game for 40 Euros + n times five Euros for all the cool DLC. The fifth act might have been a real expansion pack but then without the assassin (DLC again) or they might have sold the fifth act as DLC (for more than five Euros) again. Now, you could argue, that e.g. the tower is not an integral part of the game, but it is one of the early places where'd you might get halfway decent runes, so it'd be very tempting to many. And if you're at it: why not sell the more powerful-but-still-common rune words as a DLC pack too?

    No, really, this is not the same as a "one shot" extension like Lord of Destruction.

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