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.

Cheers,
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
    MAFIAA Shill, 28 Jan 2012 @ 1:13am

    Why is it that big companies always get the blame? Oh right, because they have more money, so people think it's fine to steal from them.

    So many things wrong with this story... 3 activations is 3 times more than some gamers need!

    I don't work for Ubisoft but here's how I see it:
    1) First, not every gamer does testing. And in fact if you do test and review a game, well you should pay a commercial license because as we all know, game reviewing is a lucrative business that makes billions of dollars of profit off the back of video games developed by other people. Commercial licenses are more costly licenses for private use, so don't be surprised to have to buy the game twice if you want to make a review. But if you really want to pay the game only once well I have good news for you: you can! You just need to play the game and not review it, which is what the game was intended for before you violated it's purpose.

    2) A small percentage of gamers install the game on multiple machines. Well I have an answer to that too:
    - If the machines you install it on are in the same building, well not only is this completely unnecessary (you only need to install the game on 1 device per building) but you're also wasting resources.
    You waste time, which you could use to do something useful (e.g. working and earning more money to buy our games). But you also waste hard disk space, which forces hardware manufacturers to build more hard disks and this contributes to polluting the planet; in fact if you're going to pollute, you should pay an environmental tax. Think of buying the game a second time as that tax and you'll find it's only fair.
    - If you install the games on multiple machines located in different buildings (e.g. one machine at home, the other at work), well let me ask you this: is it fair that in order to play OUR game in two different places, you buy two computers from Dell or HP (i.e. you pay them twice for the same thing) and yet you pay us only ONCE for our game?
    Let me repeat that: WE make the game and in order to play it, you pay Dell TWICE but you pay US only ONCE. OUR GAME.
    The answer is no, it's not fair. If you agree to buy two computers to play our game, it's only just to also buy our game twice too. I think there's something in the Constitution about equal rights and discrimination (but you've probably never heard of that as you're spending all your time stealing games on Napster).
    Also, if your computers are in separate buildings, you're paying 2 Internet connections (so that you can connect to our servers while you play and our DRM lets you access the game). You're fine paying 2 computers and 2 internet accounts in order to play but you only want to pay us once even though we made the game to begin with? When you go to McDonald's and decide you want fries with your burger, do you expect to pay the extra money to Ford?
    This is why we need more laws to protect copyright, clearly people just want stuff for free!

    3) A tiny percentage of players upgrade their hardware from time to time. But let's be honest here: most gamers don't know anything about PC hardware and do not do any upgrades whatsoever. If gamers knew about hardware, we wouldn't need to make consoles like the Playstation 360.
    As it is, gamers can't even read the system requirements on the back of a game's box and constantly get it wrong. So don't try to tell me more than 1/1000 upgrade their RAM, much less their video card. So this problem is really not a problem at all, it affects way too little gamers to be important.
    But for those who do upgrade their hardware: when you buy a game, you agree to play it with the current hardware you have. If you suddenly want to get more from our game by upgrading your hardware, I think it's only fair that you pay us a little extra for the new functionalities you get, such as better graphics.
    Now before you tell me that the better graphics are already in the game (i.e. on the disc) when you buy it and you're just enabling them by upgrading your PC: I know that. But there's a matter of license and Terms of Use. When you buy and install our game the first time, you agree to play with your current hardware. This is a legal agreement and if you want to make changes to it, then you should pay a fee. If you pay for plastic surgery and after signing the contract with the Doctor you decide that you want him to use a laser instead of a scalpel, he'll tell you that you need to pay extra. Why would it be different for games?
    Also, there's the same problem as with installing a game on multiple computers: apparently, in order to get better graphics, you're fine with paying nVidia or AMD twice (once for the old card, once for the new one) but you don't want to pay the makers of said game more than once. So hardware makers can make a double profit on our game, but we should be limited to profiting once on our own game. Makes perfect sense... /sarcasm

    4) DRM works. If you don't understand how, then that's because you're a pirate. You need to have faith in copyright and DRM to be able to understand.

    You people just want free stuff. Free, free, free, that's the only word you know. You want to play at work, at home, on vacation, at your in-law's and in your car, but this option should be free. You want to be able to improve the graphics by upgrading your video card, but that should also be free (besides the price of the video card). You want to play on Mac, Windows and Linux but that also should be free. You want multiple resolutions to be supported so that the game works with your monitor, but once again we should do that for free.
    How exactly do you expect us to make money? Talk about entitlement...

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