DRMogeddon, Part 2

By Alec Meer on February 19th, 2010 at 4:34 pm.

Time to crack open the lid of this frightening Pandora’s box again… PC Gamer have arranged a follow-up interview with Ubisoft about their monstrous constant-connection DRM system. You know, the one that nearly 800 RPS readers have said understandably upset things about. While it clarifies and confirms how the horrid thing works, frankly it’s unclear why Ubisoft agreed to do the interview, given they pointedly fail to address gamers’ concerns in it. Instead, they repeatedly confirm the various everyday situations in which the game you’ve paid for will be denied to you, roundly proving that yes, it is as bad as everyone fears. But it’s okay, because they say they love PC gaming. Well, maybe they do, but they’ve got a bloody funny way of showing it.

I’ve been boring everyone I’ve spoken to about this nasty mess with this little observation, but it seems to me one of the (many) essential flaws with Ubisoft’s plan is that it’s adding online requirement to something that isn’t intrinsically an online product. We don’t have this problem with an MMO, with a browser game such as EA’S Tiger Woods Online project, or even to some extent (the offline mode can’t be trusted) with Steam, because they are innately products of the internet. We expect them to require us to be online, and moreover the fact they are online is why we like them.

They make a virtue of it, and they are easy to obtain, play and update because of it. Ubisoft, by contrast, are simply employing the internet as shackles around the wrists of something that isn’t otherwise of the internet. The sustained online check has been built as an ugly addition, not a natural spine, to these games. If Assassin’s Creed 2 was a streaming game, if there were visible leaderboards or player-made content throughout it (I’m just shouting totally random examples there), this wouldn’t seem so disproportionate and unnecessary a system. And no, the cloud saving system isn’t anything like justification enough for the game to be constantly talking to a server. That’s not a convenience anyone realistically needs.

Personally (i.e. my take is certainly not the RPS Group Consensus), I can at least understand why publishers are flailing for a response to what they blame for declining brick and mortar PC game sales. A developer is interested in making the best game they can; a publisher is not. Big publishers do not care about games, no matter how breezy their slogans or exclamation mark-packed their press releases. They only care about the bottom line that games can earn; that is, after all, their raison d’etre. That’s fair enough. Right now, in PC gaming, that bottom line is endangered, and so they’re trying to protect it. We’re foolish to expect anything else; appealing to principle or sympathy is all but pointless. Calling them names is pointless. But we do have to stop them crossing a certain line, and to do so we need to prove that expensive investment in DRM is not increasing their profits.

Which makes this a fascinating, potentially landmark event in gaming history. In this case, Ubisoft have not simply been excessive . They’ve made a mistake, an error of judgement (or so the interview’s resounding failure to address how unrealistic it is to expect 100% reliable net connections suggests) which steps over a fundamental line of convenience that prior DRM heavy-handedness hasn’t come anywhere near.

This isn’t only going to upset the people who turn a funny colour whenever DRM is mentioned, those admirably principled few who are, alas, easily dismissed by businessmen because they’re just a few thousand guys shouting at the internet. It’s going to affect *anyone* from that much larger world beyond ours who buys the game and tries to play it on the move, has a flaky ISP or sub-optimal wifi. It’s going to be returned en masse, retailers are going to be complained to, angry middle-aged men are going to ring up magazines and vent…

At least, that’s what should happen, and that’s where you merry band of heroes come in. The key is not to purely be furious, and it’s not simply even to vow you’ll never buy these games (especially if you weren’t going to anyway), but rather to ensure that people are fully aware of the restrictions this system means.

That energy you’re intending to spend on leaving a comment about how much you despise Ubisoft for this? Don’t waste it here, squandered on hate that goes nowhere but your keyboard. Go spend it on calmly explaining what it really means to someone who might unwittingly buy one of these games. Let those potential customers who don’t instantly pick up online scandal, or who aren’t web- or tech-savvy enough to know how to comb through the surface screaming and find the meat of the argument know why this system will prevent them from enjoying something they’ve paid for. That’s what this is about.

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337 Comments »

  1. jsutcliffe says:

    That energy you’re intending to spend on leaving a comment about how much you hate Ubisoft for this? Don’t waste it here. Go spend it on warning someone else that this system means they may be forbidden from using something they’ve paid for.

    At your behest, I just talked an ear off the poor freelancer guy next to me about the new DRM. I don’t think he’s a gamer, but he was polite about it. One person: edumacated.

  2. Lucky Main Street says:

    This image is about movies, but the logic is the same: http://i.imgur.com/GxzeV.jpg. DRM is part of a feedback loop that leads to more piracy.

    • Demon Beaver says:

      Nice picture!

    • jonfitt says:

      That picture fits well with their supposed benefits:
      The first: you don’t need a disc. The second: that you can install the game on as many PCs as you like, as many times as you like. And the third: the automatic uploading of savegames to Ubisoft’s servers.
      I hate game pirates as much as the next rational adult, but it doesn’t take a genius to spot which two of those are not really customer benefits so much as removing pre-existing customer hating.

    • Bhazor says:

      Do I hate pirates? No.
      Do I hate self righteous pirates who use minor inconveniences, like animated menus or having to fast forward, to legitimise what they do? Hell yes.

      This is an issue because it could actually stop you using the product. But that picture just makes me want to kick in Cory Doctorow’s window.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      @bhazor

      If you want help breaking Doctorow’s window, let me know. I’d be happy to help.

    • Nalano says:

      You paid for that inconvenience.

      That’s insult piled on top of injury.

      You paid for it. With your money!

      Like you gave a guy a fiver to scuff your shoes.

      How does that make you feel?

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Like Modern Warfare 2: If you are gonna boycott it, don’t pirate it. Ignore it. I know, I know, this means self control. But honestly? There’s better games out.

      I regularly buy a legitimate copy then get the pirated version, because the pirated version is better. Don’t support Ubisoft in any way. Don’t play the game. As said before (was it Kieron?), word of mouth will make people want to buy those games.

      There isn’t a such thing as consumer rights, obviously. Or Ubisoft wouldn’t be able to do this. And don’t let your friends play it either. Have some dignity. Friends don’t let friends play Ubisoft games.

    • bill says:

      Nice picture. Someone should email it to ubisoft.
      I don’t think it justifies piracy, but it does point out the idiocy of the publisher’s approach.

      I remember going to watch the first Narnia movie at the cinema. I had to sit through almost 30 minutes of adverts and trailers because it was a highly anticipated release. At least half of those adverts were Narnia-tie-ins, so i’d already seen most of the good parts before the movie started.
      At the end of the adverts we got a very obnoxious and loud “don’t pirate!!” advert that honestly gave me a headache. then more trailers. Then we got the trailer which started with a small video and went “some people will be watching this on a small screen with people walking infront of the camera, while some will watch it on the BIG SCREEN!” just as lots of people were walking infront of me. At that point I seriously WANTED to be one of those people watching it on the small screen at home.
      Then the movie sucked anyway.
      And I won’t even start on the DVD series of 24 that had full volume unskippable anti-piracy ads before EVERY episode!

  3. Adz says:

    See, what they completely fail to realise is that people WANT to be able to play offline, and will find ways to do it. Just like every other DRM, it will be broken by pirates and cracks will be released.
    Genuine paying customers will look for ways to play offline and will come across cracks for the game. Sure, getting one or two cracks for games they’ve bought is (arguably) fair enough, but once you open the door to piracy, principles don’t provide much resistance against the ease of getting an entire game for free.
    Ubisoft hasn’t just opened the door. They’ve knocked it down with a steamroller.

  4. Ian says:

    DRM doesn’t get me frothing at the mouth like many. Indeed, much of it doesn’t bother me at all, but this one is clearly brainstupid and I shall be telling folks about it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Riaktion says:

      I mirror this stand point… no if only all my friends hadn’t migrated away from the PC to consoles already… sigh…

  5. int says:

    As someone with a really unstable Internet connection, this saddens me. I liked AC, repetitive but fun.

    I doubt I will buy the sequel.

  6. Mr_Day says:

    It is begining to look like the anti piracy methods Ubisoft are employing will have a knock on effect when it comes to their game being reviewed – if I were a journalist reviewing AC2, and dodgy internet connection kept me from enjoying the game, you can bet your pirate hat I’d mention it in the text.

    Between “We were promised a Leonardo DaVinci flying contraption to pootle in, and not just for one mission” and “My main problem would be that this isn’t Thief. A problem, I might add, most games suffer from. Except Thief, obviously.”*

    Bioshock 2 has, what, 3 different DRM systems in place when you play (according to Penny Arcade) but I didn’t notice them, so I really don’t care. When it becomes either obtrusive to the game, or as it sounds here detrimental to the experience, they should probably take a look at what they are doing and consider if it is worth it. Let’s face it, a lot of PC owners probably already own AC2 on a console of some description, which will surely account for a measure of the low PC sales.

    * Again, here, I am just being a dick.

  7. Lucky Main Street says:

    Not to mention that things like this have the potential to CREATE pirates, because people will need to find workarounds for using the product in the manner they want (i.e. offline). If people need to scour the net to find cracks for products they’ve legitimately purchased, they’ll find those websites that offer cracks and games that don’t need these kind of workarounds.

    • Mr_Day says:

      *puts hand up*

      I get nocd cracks for games NOT because I pirate them, but because I like the convenience of not having to dig out a disc for a game which doesn’t really need the disc in to be played.

      I sure as hell would, in the event of wanting an ubisoft game, look for the workaround to this internet only gameplay, if at any point it became a noticeable hindrance.

    • bill says:

      so you’re saying DRM is a gateway drug to Piracy?

  8. Premium User Badge

    HermitUK says:

    My favourite part of the PCG Interview is their attempt to dodge the question about patching out DRM should the servers ever go offline for good. “That’s written into the goal of the overall plan of the thing” may be the greatest bit of fluffy, question dodging nonsense ever.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      I’m totally going to use that line in the future to try to justify myself – what could possibly go wrong?

  9. tapanister says:

    Holy shit, I’ve never seen a respected journalist on a respected gaming blog actually call for the boycott of a game. Well said, Meer.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    I concur with Ian here. I’ve not found myself inconvenienced by DRM in the past but this is clearly a ridiculously heavy handed effort.

    It’s almost the kind of thing you could imagine ending up on watchdog when what will be desribed as “an angry parent” buys something for their kid that doesn’t work 100% of the time.

  11. Alexander says:

    As much as I would like to remain positive I get this nauseating feeling that no matter what action the angry internet crowds take privately this will simply be a matter of the uneducated masses not noticing their rectal enlargement procedure touted as the next big win, leaving us no other options than to bite our lip or take a stance ourselves.

    This issue seriously brings me into a perpetual state of not so happy; the only short term solution would be for this to bomb virally into the real world in order to have any practical consequences.

  12. the wiseass says:

    Two things:

    1. I do not wish game publishers to monitor my gaming habits, how many hours I play a certain game, what games I play and how I play them. My privacy is sacrosanct, goddammit!

    2. More and more PC games that I’m playing are coming from the indie corner. At least these guys don’t screw with you, their games have no intrusive DRM and usually feature a greater creative value. I admit, there may be some rough edges sometimes and they may be a little short, but most of them are perfectly fine for my daily gaming fix.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Flimgoblin says:

    Assuming no massive turn-around from Ubisoft, probably need to up the ‘Children eaten by DRM today’ counter a bit.

    I guess they’re out there pushing the boundaries: what level of absurd inconvenience will gamers put up with before they just stop buying the games: CD check – Not too much rage, limited installs – some rage, online check – a bit more rage, online over the shoulder nanny – *snap*.

    Maybe they’re playing the %ages, maybe only 20% of their customers will realise about the DRM and be sensible enough to give the game a wide berth, and they’re hoping that they’ll manage to prevent enough pirates that the 1/1000 of them* that decide to buy the game when unable to get a free copy will translate to more than that 20%… or perhaps they’ve just believed their own rhetoric that every pirate copy prevented is a sale regained…

    * estimate as per 2dBoy’s experience with World of Goo. Though some empirical research on file sharing for mp3s estimated approxmiately 1/5000.

  14. wat says:

    This was never about piracy – Remember, pirates just install a crack and be done with it.
    This was always about complete control over the distribution chain, and about ruining what little was left of the used PC games market.

    • destroy.all.monsters says:

      This a thousand times this. How the typical knee jerk anti-pirate (who are in effect actually anti-consumer) folks continue to miss this very fact is either a testimony to their myopia or their insistence that capitalism is a form of religion.

    • Nalano says:

      Indeed.

      To repost what I wrote on Shamus Young’s article on this topic:

      These publishers are so invested in making sure pirates don’t win that they’ve lost all sight of making sure customers do. This scorched-earth policy underlies how much they miss the point: They’re exploiting the customers and the customers react by exploiting them back.

      The message was heard loud and clear for years: “Console gamers are more gullible a market than you. You will accept our crappy console ports and you will buy them six months late and you will pay full price for inefficient code. We do this because you have supported us and made us the big companies we are.”

      How RIAA of them. Sounds like Metallica’s infamous argument.

      The fanboys that accept the official word and blame this sort of action on pirates are not working in their own self-interest – they’re practically unwitting collaborators.

      The ‘principled’ customers who say that we should all shoot ourselves in the foot by simply not partaking at all are fooling nobody, least of all themselves, that such will make a difference in the publishers’ eyes.

      It’s not a moral issue. It’s an economic one. Ubisoft is poisoning the well it drinks from. Just because they as a business wrap themselves in the flag of moral righteousness does not mean they’re not really bad at business.

  15. Llama says:

    I just thought of something. Anyone with a botnet can now prevent every PC gamer in the world from playing AC2. If someone would do a denial of service attack on the ubi servers the game would be unplayable for everyone.

    And that’s just if someone wants to be a dick about it. Just think of steam for instance. That collapses under its own weight every time a big game launch comes around. What if the ubi server cant handle the legitimate traffic.

    DOESNT UBISOFT SEE THIS IS MADNESS

    • dadioflex says:

      Brilliant point.

      I almost hope someone decides to be a dick and does it.

    • Blackberries says:

      I’ve said previously that I’m wondering what the launch for this game will be like. Haven’t games which require online activation had trouble with systems being overwhelmed at launch in the past? Will Assassin’s Creed 2 be unplayable for the first week after it’s released?

  16. Jad says:

    On the “not of the internet” observation, I wrote up an analogy yesterday that I’d like to share. I do intend to use this around more mainstream gamers if possible:

    If you are listening to music on the radio, you need a radio signal. If you go underground and lose your radio signal, you cannot continue listening to that music. This makes sense.
    If you are listening to your own music on your iPod, you do not need a radio signal. If Apple required you to have a radio signal to listen to your iPod, people would be angry, because that would make no sense.

    If you are watching a movie on HBO, you need cable TV service. If you lose your cable TV service, you cannot continue watching that movie. This make sense.
    If you are watching a movie on a DVD, you do not need cable TV service. If the DVD manufacturer required you to have a cable TV service to watch a DVD, people would be angry, because that would make no sense.

    If you are playing an online multiplayer game like WoW, you need a working internet connection. If you lose your internet connection, you cannot continue playing that game. This makes sense.
    If you are playing a singleplayer game like Assassin’s Creed 2, you should not need an internet connection. Since Ubisoft is requiring you to have an internet connection to play AC2, people are angry, because that makes no sense.

    • John Peat says:

      Thumbs up for Jad there :)

    • arqueturus says:

      Unless Ubisoft consider use of their software a service which is probably what the EULA will state.

      It’s their choice how they interpret their own goods.

      I’m not going to be buying it because I don’t consider them a service though.

  17. Dean says:

    Perhaps, don’t boycott it. Buy it, then return it. Far more effective.

    Still, this DRM is so draconion you have to assume Ubisoft are not such complete idiots that it will at least *work*. If enough stuff is kept server side then, while it will be cracked, it may take a good while longer. An uncrackable game for a few months.

    That’s where the sales figures come in. Because if the suits see that it wasn’t pirated, but the sales figures didn’t go up (or even went down) then they won’t waste money on developing something like this again.

    • Dean says:

      Oh and this is almost tolerable for people with always-on net connections for AC2, which checkpoints on a fairly regular basis, so you won’t lose too much progress. If I really wanted to play it, I might put up with it. But how the hell will this work with The Settlers?

    • Blather Blob says:

      @Dean: There is no server-side processing, it’s just an authentication check. If anything, this might make it easier to crack, since any calls to the service will go across a bright line to a stand-alone DLL, showing exactly what needs to be cracked. Though presumably the response from the service won’t be a yes/no, but a value which is then calculated upon in the game itself, in the usual obfuscated manner like the results of a disc check’s DLL.

      As to how the saving will work for Settlers 7, all saves are local and then synced to the server when you quit (just like Steam Cloud). In the original article, Tom Francis added an addendum that the syncing is optional and can be turned off in the options (which Steam Cloud doesn’t allow). So if you lose your connection, Settlers 7 saves like usual to your hard drive and quits, and the syncing just doesn’t occur (since you’ve lost your connection). But the save game is still there locally for next time your internet is working and you try to play.

      AC2 can’t save at random, so it instead does the best it can and saves your nearest checkpoint, again, to your hard drive, before quitting. I find it humorous that because the system was designed “by guys who love PC games. They play PC games, they are your friends”, they forgot about checkpoint saves, because what kind of PC game would have those?

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      Steam Cloud allows you to not sync with it, it just has to have support for that option in-game.

      I’m pretty sure both L4D2 and TF2 have options to not sync to Cloud. Torchlight doesn’t, as far as I’ve seen.

      It’s also fault-tolerant, in that it only tries to do it at the end rather than while you’re playing, and (at least in the case of Torchlight) if it fails for some reason, you get a notice on next startup and it asks whether you want to continue with your local copy or use the Cloud copy (each one overwriting the other).

    • Nalano says:

      Refunds?

      For a computer game?

      Have you been in a store in the last decade?

    • Blather Blob says:

      @Wisq: Yeah, but Ubisoft’s method is the same, only trying to sync before launch and after you quit.

      The only real difference is that there’s a system-wide on/off switch on ubi’s instead of per-game options, and they’ve gone and tied it into a DRM system with non-stop online authentication checks that kick you out of your game if you lose your connection. But the saving really has nothing to do with the requirement for non-stop connectivity, and isn’t what’s stopping them from implementing an offline mode (since it’s optional even when online).

    • Dean says:

      @Nalano if it don’t work you can get your money back.

      And unless they are going to make you sign an EULA when you buy it, you can be sure that the EULA you have to click to agree to when installing the game (that gives them the ‘right’ to pull shit like this) will say “If you don’t agree, please take the game back to the store for a refund”).

    • Nalano says:

      Until Gamestop, EB, Fry’s and Best Buy collectively tell you that they don’t accept refunds of opened games because you had the opportunity to copy the DVD the game came on.

      You can stomp and whine and say how much you think that’s illegal, and they’ll stare at you with the blank look they have for all customers, and you’ll walk out with no money. Like it’s been for the past decade.

    • Papageno says:

      What you do is you buy it but don’t open it. You’ve taken it out of commercial circulation for a few days, still get your money back, and give the reason you’re returning it to the retailer. I know it’s a pain, but I think it makes the point.

    • tssk says:

      It’s totally illegal not to refund you for a product that isn’t up to scratch but most game stores thumb their nose up at that because they know that

      a) Most people won’t waste their time and money on an appearance at small claims court.

      b) Those that might would probably find a very unimpressed judge annoyed that said gamer is wasting court time over ‘a toy’.

  18. SheffieldSteel says:

    Pirates can no longer compete with Ubisoft. They are already way behind on revenue, and now they’re losing ground in terms of customer dissatisfaction too.

  19. Duck says:

    And thanks, Alexander, that pleasant metaphor has made me completely disgusted.

    Doesn’t anyone have any decency anymore? That was totally unnecessary. I am now more angry about your post than this entire DRM thing.

  20. Po0py says:

    I worry that Ubisoft sees this as the last chance for their PC gaming efforts. If and when AS2 bombs they are gonna use that as an excuse to go console only. Which will be sad because I like Ubisoft games.

    • John Peat says:

      I don’t think the PC needs these multiplatform releases a much as you think. The total decline of PC retail means the PC can now focus on more specialist titles.

      If you want a console game – a 360 is £99, buy one of those.

      If you want a deeper, more complex game with a properly expansive online experience (not just head to head shootyshit) buy a PC and use services like Steam or dedicated MMOs to get your fix.

      I wouldn’t mourn companies like Ubisoft, all they know how to do is milk franchises to death

    • jonfitt says:

      Yeah, I already have AC2 on 360. I buy games to play games, and the 360 pad IMHO was perfect in AC1 so should be in AC2. Plus I have the benefit of not having compatibility problems or he inevitable slowdown on my less than stellar PC.

      And now, added bonus: I don’t have to deal with this DRM! My 360 version of AC2 is now even better!

    • Po0py says:

      I already have a 360. I just prefer to play my games on the PC. I haven’t touched my 360 in months, actually. I kind of like the the PC playing environment.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      nice theory, slighty undermined by thefact the two most innovative big-budget releases of recent times (Demon’s Souls and hard Rain) are console exclusives.

    • bill says:

      @FunkyBadger : I’ll give you hard rain, but what was innovative about Demon Soul’s? (other than the apostrophe usage?)

      Innovative console titles will play to the console’s strength. Innovative PC titles will play to it’s strengths. I’d say that over the last few years the PC is pretty far ahead in terms of innovative titles. (excluding wii sports)

  21. Taillefer says:

    I told my Mum.

  22. qrter says:

    Ubisoft: The system is made by guys who love PC games. They play PC games, they are your friends.

    That bit made me laugh and creeped me out.

    Reminds me of OMM in THX 1138 – “Let us be thankful we have commerce. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy. And be happy.”.. ;)

    • Meatloaf says:

      Aha! Someone else actually saw that movie!

      Indeed, it’s a bit unsettling.

    • redrain85 says:

      The amount of weasel words and non-answers in that follow-up interview is staggering.

      And that quote from the Ubi rep sounds like it came straight out of George Orwell’s 1984.

      “Our new DRM telescreens are not doubleplusungood. Big Brother Ubisoft is your friend. Big Brother loves you, the PC gamer. Everything Big Brother does is for your benefit! Cease your crimethink when you say DRM is doubleplusungood.”

  23. Shodan says:

    Maybe we need an RPS PC only game community project. Has absolutely no chance of success. Oh well.

    They’re bastards for this. Make a console game, cant really be bothered with a PC port, so they use the most expensive and bloated way of killing it off.

  24. Dean says:

    Theoretically if this did work, and it did reduce piracy, leading to a huge increase in sales…

    Question:
    Would you put up with this shit if it meant the RRP for a new PC game was £15 rather than £30?

    • Demon Beaver says:

      Assuming that would happen (it won’t… why, for example, are PS3 games still $60?)…
      I personally will not put up with it either way, for three reasons:

      1. I will not buy a game I cannot play while travelling, or simply out of Wifi-reach.
      2. I will not buy a game which is unplayable in a few years from now (guaranteed, they will shut it down at some point). Or which is vulnerable to a remote server’s downtime or to the whims of my ISP.
      3. I will not buy a game which sends its publisher data about my gaming habits. Even Steam I play in Offline mode on Single Player.

  25. Demon Beaver says:

    First, I have to admit, I like the idea of a DDoS on those servers… it would cause an outcry like no other, if suddenly millions of gamers couldn’t play a game they legitimately bought (and the pirates keep playing, obviously).
    But the only thing which will really change Ubisoft’s attitude would be a constant low review score of any game that includes this. Imagine both AC2 and Settlers 7 getting a Metascore of 35. I believe that is something they do care about, since it would seem to them a direct obstacle in the way of their profit.
    Also, I do wonder, what will they blame if there are low sales of the games? Piracy again?

    • Taillefer says:

      “We feel too much intimacy and lack of couches probably affected the overall sales of the game.”

  26. unaco says:

    So… What is Dave Tosser’s take on this situation? I’m certain his input would be measured, rational, insightful, and perhaps tapped out from beyond the grave… He is dead, isn’t he?

    Also…

    …OUTRAGE!!!
    (I’ve been reading the Daily Mail too much).

    • Brumisator says:

      Yes! Bring back Dave Tosser!
      Dave Tosser for president of the internet!

      Hey, how about this:
      You buy the game, then find pirate ways to play it offline?
      People have speculated that it will take quite a while to crack, but once it’s done, what will stop us from playing any Ubisoft game the way we want?
      That’s probably illegal too, but morally, I don’t see anything wrong with it. (Of course, morality is subjective)

  27. A-Scale says:

    The people at Ubi will listen two only two voices- neither of them are ours. They will listen to review scores, and they will listen to sales numbers. If we don’t keep the vitriol we have for this scheme up and apparent, reviewers will probably not mention it in their review because they have to see a sea change to make them do anything but a straight, safe review.

    Secondly, we need to not buy the game. It doesn’t matter if you pirate it- they will use that as an excuse anyway. But they need to make FAR less than their expected PC profits on this to shock them into realizing that it isn’t just normal blaseness or piracy, but rather a massive desire to behead them for their stupidity.

    That will result in change. That, and talking to people not knowledgeable about it. Don’t let this issue die until the reviews come out. If we do, they will continue this madness.

  28. Radiant says:

    The ‘overall plan’ is for this to become the norm.
    They know Assassin’s Creed 2 is going to sell like crazy regardless and if they can get enough people to swallow this pill now then after the 3rd 4th and 10th game then people will stop caring.

    Essentially it’s up to reviewers and editors to talk about this problem and mark the games down respectively.

    They don’t care about 800 fellas on the internet but they do care about review scores and publicity.
    Niche websites with a few thousand readers a month doesn’t matter it’s the reviews which pull in a few thousand readers a day that count.
    Once the meta critic scores reflect the errors then they’ll get it.

  29. jsutcliffe says:

    Oh my god. I just learned something that makes this DRM nonsense even better. AC2 will be retailing for the inflated price of $60, like MW2.

    Sources: Amazon, Shacknews.

    This might be widely known and I’m late to the party, but my mind is boggled and my jaw is on the floor.

    • PixelCody says:

      Oh wow. News indeed! It’s safe to say that I won’t be purchasing AC2, even though I really wanted to =(

    • Blather Blob says:

      @jsutcliffe: The best part is that the PS3 version, which you’ve been able to buy for 3 months already, and isn’t designed to be broken for non-pirates, is only $40 from amazon. So they make PC gamers wait a third of a year, make legal copies as unpalatable as possible, and jack the price up higher than both other PC games, and higher than console copies of AC2 are selling for. I really don’t understand what Ubisoft are doing.

  30. ZIGS says:

    “The real idea is that if you offer a game that is better when you buy it, then people will actually buy it. We wouldn’t have built it if we thought that it was really going to piss off our customers.”

    Are they delusional or just trolling?

    • Demon Beaver says:

      “If we say it often enough, maybe it will become the truth!”

    • PHeMoX says:

      They are clearly delusional. Most games have been shaped into casual orientated crap and offer barely anything substantially interesting. Not to mention most games are shamefully short and pathetically easy for more experienced gamers.

      Yeah, so console owners tend to pay for games more often according to them, but 60$ for crap doesn’t change the fact that it’s still just that… crap.

  31. nerdometer says:

    nearly 800 rps readers? or the same few (ok quite a few but not almost 800) repeating the same arguments ad nauseum.
    I can barely muster the energy to be bothered about this, I am a consumer with a choice, I just won’t buy. Internet rage is such a waste of energy. Hey start a facebook group?! Just a thought, they’re all the ‘rage’ lately.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      I noted that 800 readers bit as well. The forum topic says 107 voices – but I think it might count anonymous posts as 1 poster; i’d say there’s certainly above the 400 mark in there at least though.

    • Stupoider says:

      There there, Nerdometer. We respect you for being so stolid in this dark and dismal days. However, there aren’t as many people raging about this, just people voicing their concerns and opinions. Which, hey, you just did!

  32. Ricc says:

    The most interesting question in the interview was imo whether Ubi wants to actively harm PC gaming. Maybe not actively harm (kill), but at this point I am rather convinced that they want to drive gamers to the consoles, just like Microsoft.

    They think that improving the PC wouldn’t increase their overall customer base, it would just diminish their more profitable console sales. Thus, milk the PC platform for whatever it’s worth, those negative side-effects might not even be that unwanted after all…

  33. TCM says:

    To sum up, it’s like Steam, or even EA’s DRM system, but worse in every possible way.

  34. Heliosicle says:

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO SPLINTER CELL WHYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!?????

    also, what I really want to know is how much bandwidth it uses.

  35. Evernight says:

    Couple things:

    “We aren’t trying to kill PC Gaming – we love PC gamers”
    Just not as much as you love your console whores…. AC2 comes out six months later and with DRM hell all over it and you say you love us. Tiger did a better job of loving his wife.

    Also, its a sad sad day when I want to pirate a game because of functionality rather than cost.

    Oh and they stated that an advantage was “no install limits”….. um, we are still pissed that you had those in the first place. Why should I praise you for allowing me to do something I did before?

  36. Caleb367 says:

    Anyone remembers when Spore got bombed on Amazon ratings due to users protesting its asinine 3 activations DRM? That sent EA home running and removing the activation limit faster than you can say “rated very bad”.

    Maybe, MAYBE, unleashing hell again on ratings – and possibly adding comments on this moronic DRM too – will get Ubisoft the message.

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      The Amazon page for AssCreed2 PC doesn’t currently mention that it requires an always-on internet connection in orde to play the game. I’m thinking the Amazon people would benefit from some feedback on that issue.

    • Blackberries says:

      It’s mentioned discreetly on the Play.com page for the game, under “Special Features”. Ho-ho-ho. They seem to be allowing people to submit reviews already, so I’ve sent one in drawing attention to the constant need for an internet connection for the benefit of anyone who misses or doesn’t fully understand that single line. Wonder if it’ll show up..

  37. Jimbo says:

    So long as it was made clear right from the start that they were obliged to de-activate the online requirement before they ever take the servers offline, I wouldn’t really have a problem with it, regardless of whether the price changes or not. That’s not to say that I think it will increase sales, because I don’t – I would think it is more likely to do the opposite if anything.
    —-

    I think they might actually be better served if they made it clear from the start that the online check would only be required for, say, the first month or two after launch. That’s perhaps short enough for it not to be worth the effort of spoofing the Ubisoft servers, but long enough for *some* of the millions of ‘passive pirates’ to just buy it legit rather than wait a month before they can pirate it.

    You will never stop piracy entirely – eventually the crackers will beat your system – it’s just a question of how much time you can buy yourself during the launch window so that the only possible way to play it ‘right now’ is to buy it legit. Maybe a tacit compromise with the crackers would be more successful than repeatedly trying to stop them indefinitely, and repeatedly failing.

    It also needs to become industry standard for every game to be available digitally on a publishers website at (or even before) retail launch and at (or below) shelf price. A lot of people are pirating games just because it’s often so much more convenient than being a legit customer – which is a ridiculous state of affairs and one that could easily be fixed by the industry. The cost itself doesn’t even come into it for some people.

  38. Bob says:

    So people who have capped internet are going to be happy everytime they play their offline games lol

  39. hoff says:

    2 things:

    First, what is this argument about PC gaming sales declining? Does anyone have actual numbers? None of the statistics include digital downloads, which saw an increase in the mutliple-hundred-percent range on Steam (and still impressive numbers on similar services). Piracy exists since games exist. It was even easier to copy a floppy than a DVD (there’s an informative music video about this fact). The “dramatic” decline supposedly taking place in the past decade might only exist when compared to the frantically marketed console scene, with insane first-weekend-sales such as Halo 3′s and mediocre games like MW2 getting hyped into oblivion while PC gamers look at a trashy 4-hour singleplayer and laggy multiplayer with no mod support and scratch their heads in confusion… What about “The Sims”, “World of Warcraft”, every Valve title… heck, even Bioshock sold as well on the PC as it did on consoles (look up “sales” on the Wikipedia article).

    All I see are publishers making up bogus piracy statistics as an excuse for their crappy games that do not run on any reasonable hardware not selling well. Then they just develop for console and do rushed ports of consolized games and wonder why PC gamer’s don’t get excited about them…

    Secondly, let me repeat what I wrote in the comments of the past article:

    Please, game journalists, support us angry internet me!

    Don’t make fun of us all the time, ffs. We predicted this years ago. We complained about the first baby steps of ridiculous DRM and all you said was “derp herp whining internet people blerp”. It’s not your responsibility to defend game publisher’s decisions! It’s not helping the gaming scene. It’s not helping developers. We all know it. Why do you insist of making fun of us or get all defeatist about it until it’s finally come to this and it’s too late!?

    We’re a few thousand people who actually cared, who saw it coming. The power of the gaming press would be to spread this observation to the mainstream. Without “interviewing Ubisoft to get their side of the story”. DO NOT INTERVIEW UBISOFT ONLY TO GET THE STANDARD MARKETING-SPIN BABBLE WE ALREADY KNOW! Do not publish their lame excuses that do not contain any actual information. Don’t give them the chance! Just look at the facts and maybe any actual changes. But we do not need to negotiate with the PR department of a publishing firm that has no f*** clue!

    If you started to get more aggressive earlier, without the “let’s hear the other side of the story”, CNN-style tactic (“Oh great, a politician messed up, let’s give his PR guru a chance to spin his story around on the evening news until it sounds as if it’s actually a good thing!”). Just say it out loud: “This sucks.” Like now. I wish you started earlier, so it might have never come this far…

    • hoff says:

      Angry internet men. It’s angry internet men. Proud to be one, despite the typo.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      From the PCGA report: “Among the key findings is that PC gaming software revenue was a $12.7 billion
      industry in 2008, up $1.9 billion or nearly 18% from 2007.”

    • Kakksakkamaddafakka says:

      +1

  40. Iain says:

    The one thing I’d like to say about this whole debacle is that if this is an attempt to halt ‘declining brick and mortar PC game sales’ (as Alec puts it), then the whole exercise is doomed to failure anyway.

    PC retail sales on the High Street have been in freefall for a decade thanks to the consoles and websites like Amazon and Play, and with digital distribution methods like Steam and Impulse becoming ever more ubiquitous, I can foresee those few remaining PC games racks in my local GAME disappearing entirely in the next five years or so. The games retailers on the High Street hate PC games (because they can’t resell them at huge margins, like they can with console games), and to a point, I think a lot of PC gamers hate boxed PC games as well – I know I’d much rather buy a digital download version of a game and not be bothered pissing around with DVDs all the time I want to play something. I have even got to the point where I will buy titles I already own on Steam, just so that I don’t have to dig out discs to reinstall or play them.

    If this means that the big publishers either abandon the PC entirely for their multiplatform ‘AAA’ titles, or go for digital distribution via something like Steam instead, I won’t be too displeased. After all, I’d much rather play something like Sins of a Solar Empire on my PC than Assassins Creed 2.

  41. bookwormat says:

    I still think the biggest problem with DRM/service oriented games is transparency: It is not clear to most consumers what is really offered to them. That’s why I like the “always online” service more than the “three activation limit” service. For the general consumer it is probably even better than Steam-DRM. It is simply easier to understand what it means.

    Also, I do not get the argument that “single player game must not require online access”. As a consumer I don’t care why the limitations are there. All I need to know is what I get for what price.

    Of course I know that Ubisoft will probably sell their games for 50 Euros and couple them with other DRM systems like Steam or GfWL. I’m just saying that I would totally subscribe to this online Assassin’s Creed 2 service for 15 euro.

    PS: I really like the last question in the PCG Interview “Will Ubi make a firm commitment to removing the DRM if the servers are to be taken offline? “. Every company is fast with promises, but these are meaningless until you find them in a license agreement.

  42. neolith says:

    After taking a look at the interview I must say Ubisoft sounds like a guy who has just been beating up his girl and then telling her that it’s only because he loves her so much.

  43. Twigg says:

    Thats pretty harsh, its only £26 on Amazon.co.uk ($40)

  44. Nalano says:

    What gets me is that Ubisoft thinks that online backups of savegames is an important benefit to gamers.

    I have never in all my time playing computer games thought, “Gee, I wish I could back up my saves to a server owned by the company!” Who the hell needs something like that? I find the whole “log in, get one set of savegames, log out, get another set of savegames” to be counterproductive!

    • neolith says:

      They don’t think that – they want us to think that it is a benefit.

    • Premium User Badge

      Carra says:

      I would find it useful. If my pc fails one of the only things I have to try and save are my savegames. And those damn things are usually thrown all over your hard disk. Some in the games map, some in your documents, some in your save games… It’s hell to get these from a dozen of games.

    • Nalano says:

      You can’t do that yourself, Carra?

    • Premium User Badge

      Carra says:

      Sure I can. But it would be way more convenient to store them online. Steamworks promised this years ago.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Cloud saving would be a great thing.

      Ubisoft ruins it by providing only cloud saving.

  45. Shodan says:

    The other reason this makes me angry is that I’m really looking forward to Splinter Cell conviction. I can see that having the same shite. Not good.

  46. Bluebreaker says:

    They should also print in the retail box:
    “Don’t bother buying this game, better pirate it. Its going to be easier to play and cheaper too.”

    Then they will come to us crying on how bad piracy is on PC.
    Yeah sure, and who’s fault is?

    • Uhm says:

      “Then they will come to us crying on how bad piracy is on PC.
      Yeah sure, and who’s fault is?”

      The pirate. It’s the pirate’s fault. Piracy is the fault of pirates. If you’re a pirate, it’s your fault. People who chose to pirate have caused piracy to be high. If you made that choice, it’s partially your fault. Christ.

    • Bluebreaker says:

      they can sell shit on a stick, and blame pirates for not selling it.

    • Uhm says:

      Quite. But it’s not the publisher’s fault piracy is high. That’s the fault of people choosing to pirate. Whether it sells or not is a different matter.

    • Bluebreaker says:

      The problem here, is that they are making the game more attractive for pirates than paying customers, punishing customers is not the way to fight piracy.

  47. Ricc says:

    You know what would be a hundred times more useful than cloud-based savegames? If just everybody would agree to store the damned things in My Documents already…

  48. Doofmite says:

    “But Ubisoft have the ability to patch the DRM out of their games. [...] “we can release a patch so that the game can be played in single-player without an online connection. “

    Replace “Ubisoft” and “we” with “pirates”.

    Yarrrrrrr! Avast me ‘arties! Man the harpoons!

    Oh yeah, and er, fuck Ubisoft. Fuck them in the ear.

  49. Skusey says:

    I promise I will tell my only PC friend who doesn’t read RPS about this.

  50. PHeMoX says:

    “Personally (i.e. my take is certainly not the RPS Group Consensus), I can at least understand why publishers are flailing for a response to what they blame for declining brick and mortar PC game sales.”

    Regardless of feeling the need to protect anything… It’s clearly the wrong cure for the wrong disease though.

    PC gaming isn’t dead or dying (unless developers and publishers continue this madness), nor is piracy even relevant in the whole DRM discussion, as customers now get games that are rigged with explosives. No internet connection? BoOoM!

    You can bet people will avoid games because of such DRMs, even if they DID have the intention of legally purchasing a copy at first.

    A lot of PC gamers are very devoted fans of certain developers, but many developers and publishers are stubbornly losing touch with reality.

    • Nalano says:

      Screw brick and mortars. Brick and mortars are not the gaming industry. PHeMoX has it right: They’re afraid of losing control.