New Ubisoft Games Must Always Be Online

By John Walker on January 27th, 2010 at 1:09 am.

Ubisoft are watching you, always.

Why not? Everyone loves it when our crazy comments page numbers thing kicks in. Ubisoft have taken their senses and posted them into outer space. Responding to the public outcry for more draconian, inconveniencing copyright management, they have replaced Starforce and announced their new PC-only DRM system. One that requires you be permanently online in order to be able to play.

The attempt to sell this new system begins with what it doesn’t do. There’s no CD check, and there’s no installation limits. A good start. And then, GameSpy reports enthusiastically, it will support cloud saving. Well, I love cloud saving – it’s something Valve promised ages ago (although with sadly little movement since). When I choose to use it. Which with this DRM, the current reports suggest, you cannot.

The price we pay for not requiring the CD in the drive, and for being able to install a game we’ve legally bought on as many machines as we want, is to be permanently online when playing Ubi games. It will authenticate itself online each time you load it, and then save remotely every time you save. This is, to stress, a game perhaps bought in a shop. So from now on, beginning with Settlers 7, potentially all Ubi PC games will require you to check in with them to let them know you’ve started playing their game, and then tell them every time you save, send them all the data in doing so, and then say bye-bye when you’re done playing for that day.

Shack News received some clarifying information from Ubisoft. They explain that they will apply patches should they ever remove the servers behind the games. They also explain that if your connection drops while playing, the game will pause while it tries to reconnect, and then will apparently allow you to carry on without the internet. They don’t say whether it will be impossible to save if you do, however. They also say in the same notes that, “you will need to have an active Internet connection to play the game, for all game modes.” So this is a little unclear.

This seems like such a bizarre, bewildering backward step. Of course we haven’t experienced it yet, but based on Ubi’s own description of the system so many concerns arise. Yes, certainly, most people have the internet all the time on their PCs. But not all people. So already a percentage of the audience is lost. Then comes those who own gaming laptops, who now will not be able to play games on trains, buses, in the park, or anywhere they may not be able to find a wifi connection (something that’s rarely free in the UK, of course – fancy paying the £10/hour in the airport to play your Ubisoft game?). Then there’s the day your internet is down, and the engineers can’t come out to fix it until tomorrow. No game for you. Or any of the dozens of other situations when the internet is not available to a player.

But further, there are people who do not wish to let a publisher know their private gaming habits. People who do not wish to report in to a company they’ve no affiliation with, nor accountability to, whenever they play a game they’ve legally bought. People who don’t want their save data stored remotely. This new system renders all customers beholden to Ubisoft in perpetuity whenever they buy their games.

Clearly publishers are terrified by piracy. While none of the major publishers has ever produced any evidence to support the claims that piracy decreases their sales, they clearly think it does, and are trying to do anything they can to prevent it. Their ultimate goal – to make more money from sales – is in our favour too, of course. We want more PC games, and we want them now. So if publishers aren’t willing to invest in the medium because of piracy fears, we’ll lose out in a big way. But sadly these peculiar, Big Brother-esque approaches do not seem close to the right way to go about it.

Perhaps Ubi will react to public outcry. Perhaps a more sensible version can be created, one that offers an offline mode for those who play games offline, as with Steam. A solution that’s designed to make games accessible to those who legally purchase them. I really hope so.

Update: Just noticed two other things.

Firstly, this new DRM also prevents the option to resell your game. There are implications here.

Secondly, this rather remarkable wording in the FAQ:

Why is Ubisoft forcing their loyal customers to sign up for a Ubisoft account when they don’t want to give their private data and only play single player games?

We hope that customers will feel as we do, that signing up for an account will offer them exceptional gameplay and services that are not available otherwise.

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428 Comments »

  1. Vinraith says:

    Vinraith said:
    Actually they removed the limited install nonsense from the boxed version of Anno 1404 back in October, so if Venice is structured the same way it should just have a straight disc-check and nothing else.

    I’m very glad to hear this won’t be on Venice, that’s at least one game I was looking forward to not ruined by Ubi’s idiocy. Thanks for the info.

    SHIT.

    http://www.impulsedriven.com/dodvenice

    It looks like Venice won’t be free of this crap after all. From the site:

    A PERMANENT HIGH SPEED INTERNET CONNECTION AND CREATION OF A UBISOFT ACCOUNT ARE REQUIRED TO PLAY THIS VIDEO GAME AT ALL TIMES AND TO UNLOCK EXCLUSIVE CONTENT. SUCH CONTENT MAY ONLY BE UNLOCKED ONE SINGLE TIME WITH A UNIQUE KEY. YOU MUST BE AT LEAST 13 TO CREATE A UBISOFT ACCOUNT WITHOUT PARENTAL CONSENT. UBISOFT MAY CANCEL ACCESS TO ONLINE FEATURES UPON A 30-DAY PRIOR NOTICE PUBLISHED AT http://dawnofdiscoverygame.com/

  2. KindredPhantom says:

    409 Comments. Wow, that is the most I’ve seen on RPS.

    Though it is a pity that they are about DRM.

  3. redrain85 says:

    So this was the great “workable plan” Ubisoft talked about last year, which they said they had come up with to “combat piracy”?

    Not that I’ve ever believed this was primarily about piracy. It’s a factor, sure. But that’s just the convenient scapegoat the publishers keep using time and time again. It’s about control. Controlling resale, and controlling how and what you can do with the title you’ve purchased. That’s what this is all about. So they can keep you from modding the game, and perpetually sell you additional content instead. Then pull the plug on the game in a couple of years, trying to force you to buy the next version of the title. And finally, have the cycle continue. This is their wet dream, what they drool over.

    I really hope there’s enough outcry that this latest idea backfires horribly. Perhaps there’s still some hope for companies like Take-Two/2K and Ubisoft. That they’ll finally learn, and get the message. After all, apparently EA learned from their mistake with Mass Effect 2 vs. Mass Effect 1 and the similar “always phone home” DRM they had proposed. If the “evil” EA can learn, maybe the rest can too.

  4. The Reaper says:

    Vote with your wallets people. JUST SAY NO, just say no to this outrageous form of copy protection. I know that I will be and that’s a down right shame because I love the settlers series, however I will not be held hostage to Ubisoft and their outrageous copyright protection schemes. They can bite me, they won’t get any of my gaming money as long as any games they produce that I want contain this protection system that treats every customer as a possible criminal.

  5. sk4r says:

    It’s funny that this system will have better chances of actually working if less people buy it. Is Ubisoft aiming for that?

  6. Reality_Check says:

    The protection will be cracked within days of the first game with it coming out.
    If not, then it will be eventually, just like Safedisc, Tages, Securom, Laserlok, Starforce, FADE and custom checks.

    Just listing up how many products failed and were cracked should make it clear the only crowd that will be affected by this 100% is the PAYING “idiot”, not the pirate.

    What is far worse however, is that I can see the REAL idiots out there already: they will pay these Ubisoft monkeys their real money, Ubisoft will think they WANT this DRM and that it helps, THEN the very SAME people who BOUGHT it will download the CRACK so they can actually USE THEIR OWN GAME AS THEY ORIGINALLY INTENDED: at their own leisure.

    So paying customers are actually creating this mess. If you are going to end up using a crack to have the product you wanted, just be damned honest.
    You do not want the DRM product the way it ships? Then frickin act like it.

    DO NOT BUY SOMETHING YOU DO NOT WANT IN THIS STATE!!!!

    Instead you should either ignore it, or, and this is ethically fine by me, since the only vote the consumer has left IS the wallet, go ahead and pirate it until this DRM madness disappears again.

    I don’t see a thing wrong with piracy. It’s a modern way of competition. De facto we have a quasi monopoly of producers and big corps running things and shoving DRM down our throat; it’s only very few small more indie-feelish labels and startups that say look guys, no DRM, decent price, let’s be honest here. The only other real pressure block actually is piracy.
    And what the publishers fail to realize is that the alternative is not a lost sale vs the DRM product with piracy, but simply that if THEY do not want to sell and give someone a “cracked”, hassle free product, then the OTHER marketplace that piracy is will.

    It’s the same with community based music sharing. A lot of people pay for seedboxes to have their ratio be okay and still have the variety. Why not pay the same thing as a sub fee to someone who actually makes the music and be legal?

    But no, they want to criminalize the consumer and cripple him to frick and back.

    Well, good riddance to those corps, publishers and labels I say.

    No idea why they and all the finger wagging reality blind folks can’t see this…

  7. BlackHawk9401 says:

    Is this this going to be free for everyone online or what?

  8. obscurified says:

    Wow…
    Ironically I have a feeling these games will be highly pirated…

  9. oceanclub says:

    There’s no need to buy this game. Or pirate it. There’s plenty of games out there, and plenty of developers who are more deserving of our support. Buy it, and it will prove to Ubisoft that they get away with their scheme. Pirate it, and they’ll point out that this proves even more that they need such a scheme in the first place.

    P.

  10. AdrianWerner says:

    oceanclub said:
    There’s no need to buy this game. Or pirate it. There’s plenty of games out there, and plenty of developers who are more deserving of our support. Buy it, and it will prove to Ubisoft that they get away with their scheme. Pirate it, and they’ll point out that this proves even more that they need such a scheme in the first place.
    P.

    Ubi knows what they’re doing. I mean…if it was just AC2 I could easily boycott the game, the problem is that they’re also releasing Anno: Venice, Settlrs7 and Silent Hunter 5 around the same time. I used to think it was Ubisoft going nuts, releasing bassicaly their whole damn 2010 PC line-up in span of three weeks), but I’m guessing they just want to force this through.
    As much as I hate this DRM system…missing out on Venice, Settlers and Sh5 would just be too much

  11. The Reaper says:

    They thought that piracy was bad for sales, wait until they get the whiff of failure from all the people that refuse to buy UBI games due to this insane DRM.

    They are committing the business suicide themselves and it’s quite obvious that when you combine the people that WILL pirate these games, AND the people that will now, NOT buy their games, it will become quite obvious to their bean counters that PC gaming is just dead and that they had no hand in killing PC Gaming. Pfffft, UBISoft is digging their own grave.

  12. oceanclub says:

    The problem is, even if people _do_ buy their games, they will probably still download a cracked copy anyway, which offer basic functionality (the ability to play offline). That means more people hosting the relevant bittorrent files. So Ubisoft are encouraging legitimate customers to act as uploaders.

    P.

  13. oop says:

    That’s too bad… I guess I won’t be buying Assasins’s Creed II for PC because my net connection sucks…

  14. ORCACommander says:

    So long Ubisoft it is a pleasure to not do business with you.

  15. Kalon Reeves says:

    I will never, ever under any circumstance buy any kind of software whatsoever that employs these type of over extended controls of my legally purchased property regardless of the company or title. And I was a fan of Ubisoft for quite some time.

  16. Galahad says:

    Ok well having read about Ubisoft’s new anti-pirating strategy from multiple sources i am disgusted that the company will be punishing honest gamers for the hundreds of thousands of pirated copies of AC1. I buy all my games from steam or CDWOW and am happy to support quality games and their respective producers.

    But in light of these measures from Ubisoft??? …It pains me to admit but deep down i am actually hoping that the pirates crack AC2 to hell and back even more so than AC1 so that Ubisoft and every other game producer out there gets the message.

    I have cancelled my pre-order for AC2 and have bought Mass effect 2 instead. As for Ubisoft, i was a fan but no longer and will not be purchasing their games while this DRM system is in place.

  17. dallasking says:

    well its a good thought i have to say but some games i just don’t see how they could be maid for online use like Assasins’s Creed.

    http://dallaskinggaming.blogspot.com/

  18. H2SO4 says:

    AC 2 is not ‘only’ for pc version . So, I guess ubi wanted to give a trial of their DRM system in the pc version.

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  20. Spikkelvissie says:

    Ubisoft must realize that they just sent the whole African market down the drain! I am a South African and most of us don’t have a fast permanent internet connection. This means we can’t even play the single player campaigns. They lost me and many other customers due their shortsightedness and not thinking of third world countries. They screwed us and now we will never buy their games!!!

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