Ubisoft Activations Monitor Hardware Change

By John Walker on January 16th, 2012 at 1:35 pm.

Um, how do people get into this town?

Ubisoft have managed to go a month or so without anyone loudly throwing their hands in the air and despairing at their DRM ways. They’ll be relieved to know the drought is over, with tech wizards Guru3D discovering that Ubisoft’s limited activations of their games are not just limited to specific machines, but specific graphics cards.

Tying activations to hardware is not that unusual. Windows does the same. Much like a boat that’s had every plank of wood replaced, it’s a question for philosophers whether a PC with its guts exchanged is still the same PC, and you can’t really license a product to a case. If you change enough of your machine’s insides, Windows will eventually speak up and ask if something’s up. But Ubisoft’s Anno 2070 will refuse to reinstall if you just swap out something as simple as a graphics card.

That’s what Guru3D discovered when trying to run some benchmarking tests on the game, across three of their machines. Knowing the game had only three activations (a pretty controversial practice in itself), they kept it to a trio of boxes, and then switched cards. And the game stopped working. And refused to activate. They then contacted Ubisoft (this was four days ago) as instructed, but have had no reply.

To me this sounds more like a bug in their activation code than a defining principle of their anti-piracy measures. But then, this is Ubisoft whose DRM has previously outdone even the most outlandish parodies of the ineffective customer-baiting nonsense. We’ve got in touch with them to find out if it’s meant to be happening, and if they plan to fix it so people can change basic hardware without losing the right to play their games.

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122 Comments »

  1. Robin says:

    Never buy Ubisoft games.

    • Lionmaruu says:

      lots os wisdom in your words pal… Never caredo to buy or play anyway, the last game I bought from ubisoft was assassins creed 1 and that’s it…

      But that was cool!

      “Ubisoft: We don’t allow you to upgrade your system”

    • Khemm says:

      ROTFL. Haters gonna hate.

    • Premium User Badge WombatDeath says:

      Yes, I agree with Robin. I’d like to expand on that a bit because such comments are sometimes interpreted as “I’m going to throw my toys out of the pram in a pointless gesture which hurts only myself”.

      My gaming time is very limited and I don’t have time to play all of the games I’ve bought, let alone those which I haven’t. I’m a few hours into Skyrim, The Witcher 2 has still barely been started, I’ve completed some of the Shogun 2 tutorial and my main character in SWTOR is level 19. God help me when Diablo 3 finally appears.

      I need to prioritise! Obviously, the first step is to focus on games which have some personal interest and which are well-reviewed. That leaves far too many games remaining on the list, so what then? I need more criteria to narrow the candidates down further – and a publisher that fucks with its paying customers gives me an excellent criterion for excising a large chunk from my list.

      By pulling this sort of stunt Ubisoft are simply making my gaming decisions easier. They lose a sale, I lose nothing: the time that I might have spent stabbing guards in Venice will instead be spent shouting at dragons in Skyrim. There are of course millions of people with enough time to play all of the decent games that are released, and they have more of a dilemma if they care about the DRM issue. But the number of gamers with jobs and families and other commitments continues to grow and I suspect that a significant number of people are in a similar position to mine, where the “boycott company X” approach is both practical and personally beneficial.

    • Arcanon says:

      Ubisoft might as well write “PIRATE ME” on their next release…man, they truly have no concept.

    • Utnac says:

      I havn’t bought a Ubisoft game since Far Cry 2, sadly gamers are generally terrible at actually making a stand against anything, plenty of knashing of teeth but when it comes down to it they’ll still hand over their money when told to.

    • Triangulon says:

      I am the same a Utnac. I have not bought one since Far Cry 2 and I will not buy another until they cease these ridiculous practices (although I do understand that this may merely be a bug their other DRM attempts have certainly not been).

    • SnoozeFest says:

      Wise words indeed. I have only bought 1 game from Ubisoft in the recent history and I couldn’t even play it online with my brother. I contacted the customer services, but I don’t think I have ever seen or heard of more incompetent service. First email I got from them 2 days after I fired my question asked only one question, which was something I had already included the answer to in my original email. I also quite liked their disclaimer that if I don’t get back to them in 2 days they will close my ticket and think of it as resolved.

      Well when I did answer that one question they kept coming back with answers to things I did not ask or just ignore the actual question I had asked them. After 2 weeks of this I gave up and promised my self never to buy a Ubisoft game again.

    • subedii says:

      I have enough things to spend time and money on that Ubisoft happily does me a favour, and moves itself to the bottom of my priorities list.

    • Barnaby says:

      Yesterday I decided I wanted to try to finish AssCreed 2, only to be super annoyed by having to login to play the (singleplayer!) game. The only positive that came of it was they had my save game backed up, which I would have lost. Then again, I’d rather have to restart the game than have to login for a SP game… but if it had been easy to find my save file before I formatted this wouldn’t be a problem either. I honestly just forgot about some of the games.

      People say “oh people will talk trash about the DRM and then buy it anyway”, but for a title like this I’m not so sure. We aren’t talking about BF3, or SC2, MW17, or Diablo3, games that people definitely would buy regardless. We are talking about a game that plenty of people probably will never touch without some sort of recommendation. All in all, I can’t imagine this helps their sales in any way.

    • His Dudeness says:

      @ Khemm:

      It’s hardly haters…just smart-asses who learned that in a supply & demand economy there’s just no need to reward mediocrity when faced with superior choices.

      I don’t hate Ubisoft for their ham-fisted DRM or EA for their felching Origin. I just don’t put any coinage their way, simple really. My gaming time is to precious to me to be frustrated by some publishers greed and paranoia over a wee bit of pirating. So, when folks who get suckered in every time by the latest PR hustle start bitching over draconian DRM baloney again, I’ll just wear a smug smile whilst blasting away in game made by folks that can manifestly make a living and appreciate my custom. What a novel concept.

    • Draega says:

      I just finished From Dust, the only Ubi game to peek my interest in quite awhile. No, time traveling or holo-deck assassin’s hold no interest for me whatsoever. And I have to say I did enjoy the game, it was worth the $7.49 i paid on Steam to get it. The browser it launches before the game disturbed me as much as Rockstar’s did when trying to launch GTA 4 but at least Ubi didn’t tie me into GFWL too. Anno 2070 looked interesting, I didn’t realize it was an Ubi title, but either way I wasn’t going to pay $50 for a SimCity ripoff… or for SimCity for that matter, but I would have picked it up on sale. Would have before I realized it was Ubi. 10 years ago, hell I’ll even say 5, Ubi was at the top of my development house favorites list. But they have squarely fallen into bad territory for me, a spot only occupied by EA and Sony (I’m old enough to puke a little in the back of my throat, still, when I think of Trammel and Smedley, respectively). What it comes down to is the simple fact that the DRM in place from Ubi is hurting us, their customer base. And supporting them is supporting their bad choices and mistrust of us. The sooner they lose money because of this, the sooner we start holding our money back, the sooner this will end.
      As for Steam, give me DRM that does not interfere with me playing the game I just purchased, even if I am required to use a launching program, as much as it will annoy me, and I’ll deal. Even when I need one for every fricking development house out there, yes your’s too EA, if it will actually work.

  2. Velvetmeds says:

    Ubi, this is why i divorced years ago

    • The Greatness says:

      You couldn’t reactivate your spouse when you changed graphics card?

  3. Axyl says:

    Jesus christ..
    What the hell is WRONG with these people at Ubisoft?

    The mind boggles at the raw, unmitigated stupidity displayed by this company at each and every single turn.

    Ubi pull shit like this… yet it’s THQ that are allegedly “going under”.

    I don’t want to live on this planet anymore. Someone wake me up when Planetside 2 is released.

    • Underwhelmed says:

      It is almost as if they are conducting some sort of scientific testing of the old saying “there is no such thing as bad publicity”

  4. rocketman71 says:

    Boy, they never stop thinking of ways to fuck their customers, do they?.

    Let me guess: pirates don’t have this problem.

    • mr.ioes says:

      Pirates suffer from not being able to use ark upgrades (without using a workaround, which may or may not work).
      But then again, offline players who legally own ANNO 2070 are having the same problem. (given that Ubisoft had (or still have?) sever server issues, this kind of DRM even affected legal owners who went online).
      Out of the many useless DRMs enforced upon legal users, this DRM in particular kind of works.
      HOMM VI is the other game which has the exact same issue/behaviour.
      Other than that, there are no games AFAIK who have even the slightest working copy right protection.

      So there you go.

    • talon03 says:

      They can’t use Ark upgrades

      BUT they can:
      1) Play the game offline
      2) Change their machine’s hardware as much as they like and still be able to play the game

    • Khemm says:

      @mr ioes

      By the way, there’s no crack for the latest version of Anno, so the argument “pirates get everything the legit players do” is even sillier.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      Even legit owners lose their ark upgrades the second their internet connection burps. Then we have to reload from a previous save (while connected again) to resume with them. It became such a pain in the ass for me I cracked the game and was done with it all together. I don’t play multiplayer so it really wasn’t a big deal, and made the missions more challenging.

    • Kdansky says:

      @Kehmm Yeah, and there will surely never be such a crack! 1.02 is just two weeks old. 1.01 seems to be cracked. Pirates get the better product.

      But you are probably rationalising your purchase, judging from your other posts…

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      the 1.01 crack works fine with the 1.02 update if you use the auto-patcher or download it direct from UBI.

  5. Premium User Badge The Sombrero Kid says:

    I had enough of this shit 12 months ago, who are the people buying ubisoft games and not buying thq games?!

    • Nim says:

      Because the number of Game licenses that Ubisoft has acquired over the years.

    • zaphod42 says:

      @Nim Ubisoft is a publisher not a developer. They do not acquire game licences, they acquire game development studios. Those studios still have the licences over their games.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      @zaphod42 isn’t that a moot point if they are still shackled with Ubisoft DRM? Or am I missing something?

    • Vinraith says:

      *raises hand*

      THQ doesn’t make games i want to play, Ubi does. Navigating the DRM is a pain in the ass, and sometimes involves waiting ages until they remove it (or never buying the game at all if they don’t), but the games themselves are just more interesting than THQ’s offerings of late IMO.

    • Droniac says:

      I’ll have to agree with Vinraith there.

      THQ may not have horrific DRM practices, but neither does it have a whole lot of interesting games. The Dawn of War franchise is superb, and Metro 2033 was great, but other than that they have just a few decent games (Darksiders, Red Faction, Saints Row) and a load of garbage.

      UbiSoft has numerous fantastic franchises and competent game developers under its wings. Not only do they have a monopoly on the city-builder / strategy market with Anno and Settlers, but they also have the most renown TBS/RPG franchise in Heroes of Might & Magic. Then there’s still the very good Assassin’s Creed franchise (the first is easily the weakest out of the four) and the rather decent Splinter Cell franchise. R.U.S.E., Driver: San Fransisco, and Call of Juarez are pretty decent games too, not to mention the Far Cry and Prince of Persia franchises. They also seem to be giving pretty free reign to their development teams, as evidenced by the originality and innovation seen in games like Settlers 7, Anno 2070, R.U.S.E., Driver: San Fransisco, Prince of Persia 2008, and Far Cry 2.

      See where I’m going with this? UbiSoft may be shortsighted in its business practices, but the development teams they’ve got working for them are top-notch and the games they deliver are amongst the very best in the industry. THQ’s comparatively meager games catalog simply cannot compete with that.

      I’m not saying UbiSoft’s DRM practices are fine. They’re not, it’s a stupid thing for them to be doing and it’s certainly ruining their sales in the PC market. But the development teams they employ definitely do know how to make some fine games.

    • Kadayi says:

      Like Vinraith I’m pretty much about the games. If a particular game has obnoxious DRM or activation’s then I say protest about it as much as you like (emailing Ubisoft customer services for example), and swear off buying it until it’s fixed. However don’t be denying yourself other games that are unaffected but simply come from the same publisher. That’s just punishing yourself more than anything else.

  6. MellowKrogoth says:

    Ha ha, sounds like they don’t want to pay for Securom but that their in-house implementation is even worse.

    Here’s an idea for you Ubi: stop spending money and dev time on that crap, make games instead. Good games that we’ll want to pay for.

    • Axyl says:

      This.

      A thousand times, this.

    • Panic says:

      Protip: Anno 2070 is a great game.
      But yes, I agree, they really need to stop this shit.

    • UnravThreads says:

      2070 uses Tagés instead of SecuROM. UPlay/UbiDRM has nothing to do with this.

    • Khemm says:

      They’re making great games. The problem is there’s a bunch of haters who will not buy them because GASP Ubisoft is the publisher /GASP. There was a time when Ubi games were DRM free, but everyone showed gratitude by torrenting them to hell and back. Typical, those who are the most vocal about Ubi’s DRM are usually the same assholes who torrent every game that comes out.

      Valve shove down Steam down everyone’s throat which has its own problems or server hiccups/downtimes, but that of course is perfectly fine, because it’s Valve.

      Tages might not be perfect, but it’s a miles better solution than always-online DRM which was a standard for Ubi games a while ago. That’s an improvement, so give them a break.

    • Chris D says:

      One man’s hate is another man’s shit-they’re-just-not-prepared-to-put-up-with-when-they’re-a-paying-customer

    • rocketman71 says:

      @Khemm: “There was a time when Ubi games were DRM free, but everyone showed gratitude by torrenting them to hell and back. Typical, those who are the most vocal about Ubi’s DRM are usually the same assholes who torrent every game that comes out.”

      Could you point me to wherever you got the numbers proving that Ubi was more pirated when they were DRM free than now?. Because, and I’d like to be wrong, it looks to me that they come from “Out of Your Ass Inc.”

      “Valve shove down Steam down everyone’s throat which has its own problems or server hiccups/downtimes, but that of course is perfectly fine, because it’s Valve.”

      You can play Steam games offline. And yeah, I don’t love Steam, but it’s miles above Origin and UbiDRM, probably because they were thinking about gamers instead of maximizing profit and minimizing piracy (hah!).

      “Tages might not be perfect, but it’s a miles better solution than always-online DRM which was a standard for Ubi games a while ago. That’s an improvement, so give them a break. ”

      Look, I agree with you there. TAGES is much much better than SecuROM, Starforce and many other DRMs. Still, the fact is this is not just TAGES. This is always online, and this is “don’t change your video card or else”, and that’s why many of us will not give a fucking euro to Ubi until they stop smoking whatever they are smoking nowadays.

    • Velvetmeds says:

      “They’re making great games. The problem is there’s a bunch of haters who will not buy them because GASP Ubisoft is the publisher /GASP. There was a time when Ubi games were DRM free, but everyone showed gratitude by torrenting them to hell and back. Typical, those who are the most vocal about Ubi’s DRM are usually the same assholes who torrent every game that comes out”

      Hmmm. Care to turn around so i can see where you took this “info” from?

    • Kdansky says:

      TAGES is a rootkit. There is nothing that could redeem it.

    • Caleb367 says:

      So, either Ubisoft’s proprietary DRM is retardedly faulty – and Ubisoft’s to blame – or Tages DRM is retardedly faulty – and Ubisoft’s to blame again for using such a worthless system. Either way, Ubisoft’s whack.
      Another reason for never buying Ubisoft stuff anymore. I’d love to see a shareholder meeting and listening to the moron advocating DRM trying to blame their declining sales on “pirates”.

    • Khemm says:

      @rocketman
      All latest Ubi games are fully playable offline, so what “always online” are you referring to? If you decide to connect, you get some additional bonus stuff you can live without, nothing’s forced upon you.

    • theleif says:

      @Khemm: I wouldn’t call one Prince of Persia game “a time when Ubi games were DRM free”. And that game did not sell well, not because of piracy, but because it wasn’t perceived as very good.
      I thought it was just fine, though.

    • psyk says:

      Disconnect internet
      Load up steam
      Try and go in to offline mode
      Enjoy not playing any of your games through steam

    • Snargelfargen says:

      “Disconnect internet
      Load up steam
      Try and go in to offline mode
      Enjoy not playing any of your games through steam”

      Or you could figure it out and
      1 Load up steam
      2 Go into offline mode
      3 Disconnect internet
      4 Play all your games offline

      I agree that it’s a stupid detail, but for people like me with unreliable internet connections, steam works fine. I was unable to play a steam game once, whereas with Ubidrm, I would have serious issues since my connection drops multiple times a day, sometimes for hours.

    • psyk says:

      “Or you could figure it out and
      1 Load up steam
      2 Go into offline mode
      3 Disconnect internet
      4 Play all your games offline”

      Let us take a minute silence as we say goodbye to comman sense.

      So the great valve the one we all must love and support decide to make an offline mode require you to be online to activate it and people praise them?

    • Snargelfargen says:

      I don’t see anybody here praising steam.

      However according to my wallet and many others, it is apparently a compromise we are willing to make.

      I think Ubi’s policies are having a tangible effect on their sales. I certainly wouldn’t buy one of their games at this point, while I can cope with steam. I think a lot of people are in the same boat.

    • psyk says:

      Why only make observations based on comments in the thread?

      Give people a little and they will kiss your arse.

    • Caleb367 says:

      psyk, that’s bullshit, Steam freaks out a little when offline but works decently most of the time. I’d know, I had connection problems but not much trouble firing up Steam and any game in it. Except, lo and behold, Assassin’s Creed 2. Which is Ubisoft. Which requires an online check every single time it starts.
      Jeez, what’s the deal with rabid Ubisoft fanboys? You think to be more hip than the others? Hope to get some free stuff if you show Undying Loyalty To The Point Of Making Up Bullshit?
      Ubi DRM’s the worst of the entire industry, and that’s a fact, kids. Unreliable, invasive, punishing… and useless. And that’s why, despite having liked AC2 quite a bit, I’ve decided against buying any of its sequels. Because being locked out of a game I paid for with my money due to Ubisoft activation servers suddenly deciding they’re not in the mood for working, or being overburdened, it’s a scam.

    • MattM says:

      Steam does have server issues occasionally, but its been a year or more since the last time I personally experienced any downtime and I am on steam a lot of the time. When they do have outages, it seems like they are fixed in a few hours. Ubi drm and EA dlc authentication both go down more frequently and take forever to get fixed. When something breaks they don’t bother to communicate that or tell the support people. You end up spending hours and hours trying to work through an issue that you can’t fix on your end and they don’t fix for two weeks.

    • Premium User Badge Devan says:

      @Snargelfargen
      I might be mistaken, but I remember several times when I was offline and still able to launch Steam into offline mode and play my games (ie. without connecting and setting to offline mode beforehand).

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Yeah steam stays in offline mode for subsequent uses. I think it insists upon restarting in online mode to apply patches, but if you were able to download the patch anyways, that shouldn’t be a problem.

    • theleif says:

      AFAIK the problem with steam offline mode is due to a bug in windows, where the OS reports an internet connection even when none is present. To circumvent the problem, disable your network card or wireless, and you should be able to start offline mode even if your internet goes away before you enable it.

    • runtheplacered says:

      @ Psyk,

      “Why only make observations based on comments in the thread?”

      To stay within the context of the conversation. Why not just throw out random statements that have nothing to do with anything?

      Anyway, now that you’ve been shown the reason why Steam does what it does, are you still senselessly finding reasons to bash it, or are you done now? Just curious.

    • zeroskill says:

      I never had any trouble playing any of my steam single player games when my internet outrages. Obviously you can’t install any games if you are not connected and can’t play multiplayer games. All my other, pre installed games, work without any problems unless they use something like GFWL, UbiDRM or some other shitty gimmick.
      This “Steam offline mode doesn’t work” whining is made up by people that for some twisted reason hate Valve because its the only thing they are able to attack. I have been using it since 2004 and never had any problems with it.

    • KenTWOu says:

      @Caleb367 says:
      And that’s why, despite having liked AC2 quite a bit, I’ve decided against buying any of its sequels. Because being locked out of a game I paid for with my money due to Ubisoft activation servers suddenly deciding they’re not in the mood for working, or being overburdened, it’s a scam.

      LOL. Both AC:Brotherhood and AC:Revelations has less intrusive DRM. It requires one-time product registration at first launch. That’s all.

  7. Panic says:

    For god sakes. And I was planning on upgrading my graphics card soon too.

    The one Ubisoft game I decide to buy (staying faithful to the Anno series, and the DRM seemed reasonable) and I get bullshitted around multiple times.

  8. Moni says:

    This feels like Ubisoft are running a competition internally to see who can make the most aggressively botched DRM system.

  9. InternetBatman says:

    A year or two ago I would have been really annoyed by this, but its come to the point where I just don’t buy Ubisoft games anymore. This isn’t 2006, I’m out of school and now there are so many releases that time is the factor, not money. Why would I buy a game that includes something I’m going to have to fight for an hour or two?

  10. Prime says:

    This *could* be a bug, yes. It’s certainly possible. But how likely is that given their past behaviour? I’m currently boycotting anything they publish so in contrast to everyone who has just posted before me I need not leap to outrage – I can afford to await whatever response comes from them.

    If it’s deliberate then targetting a graphics card as a benchmark of which comupter the game is installed to is utterly ludicrous: it’s the most likely thing inside a PC to be changed by a PC gamer!

  11. Robin says:

    This is the same Anno 2070 that has constantly had servers down locking paying customers out of the single player game.

    • Khemm says:

      It’s called offline mode. Use it.

    • sneetch says:

      Actually, offline mode doesn’t work for everyone.

    • ulix says:

      Unless they used the Offline Mode of course.

      While there seem to have been problems with this mode, I had none.

      Still: even besides this crap, Ubi needs to get their shit together. You can really see how they took 3 years for Anno 1404 (which used the same engine as 1701), and only two years for this one. Should have taken anothe half year at least.

      Bugs, missing features, servers down on a daily basis… Annoying as hell.

  12. UnravThreads says:

    Sigh. Nice balance to this story and the comments.

    Anno 2070 uses Tagés for activation – that is what is causing the issue. The UPlay/Ubisoft Game Launcher/Offline Restrctions et al are not the issue, nor are they even linked to it.

    Nice to see the usually balanced RPS misrepresent Ubisoft, Blue Byte and Related Designs by neglecting to mention any of that.

    • Khemm says:

      Don’t try to point out facts here, you’re getting in the way of trendy Ubisoft hate train.

      A day without bashing anything Ubisoft-related is a day lost.

    • Velvetmeds says:

      Does that really matter? This is about Ubisoft, not Ubisoft’s very own DRM. Because, you know, It’s Ubisoft that chose to put this DRM on the game. Therefore, they’re to blame. The Tages people are “just doing their job”

    • electristan says:

      It might well be, but it is a Ubisoft published game so it is there decision and responsibility that these things don’t happen ultimately.

      Ubisofts track record does not help either.

      And finally the sentence “To me this sounds more like a bug in their activation code than a defining principle of their anti-piracy measures.” does give them the benefit of the doubt

    • UnravThreads says:

      Velvetmeds; And yet, when The Witcher 2 had DRM issues, it was all “OMG SecuROM is shit why do they use it eh????” and so forth.

      Sure, Ubisoft are involved, but they’re misrepresented by the article above.

    • Prime says:

      Interesting claim. How can you be sure it’s Tages?

    • UnravThreads says:

      Prime; Because it was announced pre-release that it would use Tagés, and because the box says so.

    • Velvetmeds says:

      “Velvetmeds; And yet, when The Witcher 2 had DRM issues, it was all “OMG SecuROM is shit why do they use it eh????” and so forth.

      Sure, Ubisoft are involved, but they’re misrepresented by the article above.”

      You mean RPS ? Dunno about that, i avoided reading their (or anyone’s) articles about that game, excuse my ignorance then

      And not that it matters, but i dislike CDprojekt (the non-GOG side)

    • Prime says:

      Silly me not being accurate enough with my question on a thread full of quite angry people. How can you be sure it’s Tages that’s causing the problem with the game’s apparent refusal to recognise different graphics cards?

    • UnravThreads says:

      Because this is an activation problem and Tagés is the software used to activate the game, and it’s also what is used for the machine limits.

      UPlay/UbiDRM has NO machine limitations. None at all. It’s Tagés that adds them, just as SecuROM would.

    • Acosta says:

      So what? Táges got there by divine intervention? Who put that there, why the game doesn’t work and what are they doing to solve it?

      They are punishing their legit customers, what answer do you feel they deserve? When CD Projekt faced problems with The Witcher II, they removed the DRM immediately. Let’s see what Ubi does.

    • Premium User Badge frymaster says:

      Tages is a tool, nothing more. When Ubisoft use it they have a choice of e.g. whether it tracks hardware changes, and how many activations you get. I have no idea if they have control over the granularity of hardware changes (ie whether a gfx card counts), but Ubisoft certainly do and can make the choice whether to use the feature or not.

    • malkav11 says:

      Well, I see we’ve officially decided hideously restrictive install limit DRM (over and above any DRM on the digital distribution platform) is a-OK because it’s not always-online DRM. Nevermind that this sort of DRM was more than enough to get people up in arms back in 2008 and 2009. Thanks, Ubisoft!

      And FWIW, not only was Witcher 2 purchaseable sans SecuROM day one (if only from GoG), but SecuROM was patched out of all installs almost immediately and has never returned. So it’s a leeetle bit different, as a situation. Just a bit.

    • psyk says:

      “And FWIW, not only was Witcher 2 purchaseable sans SecuROM day one (if only from GoG), but SecuROM was patched out of all installs almost immediately and has never returned. So it’s a leeetle bit different, as a situation. Just a bit. ”

      So they forced people to buy a digital copy to get a non drm version when they know that they may not be able to keep that download online? sounds great.

    • malkav11 says:

      Alternatively, they went without DRM on the only distribution method they directly controlled. But sure, releasing a game without any DRM whatsoever via limited venues and patching out all DRM on all copies shortly after release is directly equivalent to saddling every major game a company releases with hideous amounts of DRM that is never removed, in every respect. Obviously.

  13. CilindroX says:

    Just to be clear: Windows’ activation is bound to the motherboard so, with a single OEM license you are still able to remove almost all the guts from your case without the OS prompting for a re-arm of the product.

    Ubi seems to be taking a snapshot of the hardware at the moment of the install, and in typical Ubi fashion, going batshit insane when you dare to stare at your RAM the wrong way.

    I just wish they would scrap the PC out of their catalog so we can move on…

    • AbyssUK says:

      I thought Windows activation was locked to CPU not the motherboard ?

    • CilindroX says:

      Nope, it’s bound to the mobo – http://goo.gl/j35Pe

      And even if you replace it, you could rearm the license by just calling MS support. Just a simple consideration you need to keep in mind when deciding for OEM vs retail.

      OEM saves you a few bucks, but if you suffer from that “hardware itch” that makes platform upgrades a necessity a couple of times a year, you will be better off with a retail copy.

    • Sergey Galyonkin says:

      You don’t even need to speak to live person, just enter some code on a phone and then code into computer. Went through this while replacing my old PC, really a small annoyance compared to what we’re used to with last DRM’s.

      OMG, I just realized I’ve said something nice about Microsoft in comparison to game company. It is truly a 2012 :)

    • CilindroX says:

      @Sergey Galyonkin :

      True, just typed the info out of memory. Last time I had to call’em was in ’07 for a Vista rearm. My current build has swapped everything a couple of times, and I keep re-installing (Seven) once a year without issues.

    • Premium User Badge Vandelay says:

      I ran into problems installing on a new computer what I soon realised was an upgrade version of Windows 7. I can’t remember the exact process, but a couple of altered registry entries later and everything was all fine. The website I found also had a comment from Microsoft saying to just try the installation as normal, because it sometimes works. They also said a phone call to them will get you a code for a full version.

      It clearly isn’t a very secure form of DRM.

  14. wccrawford says:

    This is natural when locking to a machine. They have to lock it to the hardware because that’s the only unique way to identify the machine.

    Windows does the same thing, though I think they tried to make it handle single-item changes more gracefully. And re-activating Windows is really easy, and there’s no limit on the number of times you can activate it. (If you do it too often, though, you’ll have to call in. Minor hassle. They’ve always been good about activating it for me.)

    Ubi’s problem is that they hit the perfect storm: Limited activations, no change-tolerance, and supreme hassle with customer service when you have a problem. Any one of those 3 would probably be tolerated, but all 3 is unforgivable.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      “Any one of those 3 would probably be tolerated, but all 3 is unforgivable.”

      Why would anybody tolerate any amount of that kind of anti-consumer bullshit? The reason Ubi get away with all that is because people just can’t control their spending habits.

  15. Jams O'Donnell says:

    Surely in cases like this the license is for an individual, not an individual’s computer. At least, it ought to be because the other makes no sense.

    • Archonsod says:

      The problem is uniquely identifying that computer. Usually you utilise the hardware, hashing serial numbers derived from BIOS for example.

      It’s not Ubisoft exclusive either. Most systems which tie the license to the client do this, from Themida (Mount & Blade) to Securom.

  16. Premium User Badge PoulWrist says:

    Hilbert updated the article saying that they got a response from Bluebyte, the developer, and that their key has now been deactivated. Screw Ubisoft, it’s Bluebyte who are suffering :|

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      The developer managed to get their key unlocked somehow through UBI, who still have not replied. However, I’m sure the developer can’t treat every customer like they would a popular tech site :(

    • Premium User Badge c-Row says:

      “unlocked”, not “deactivated”. The latter makes it sound like they won’t be able to use the key at all.

  17. CaLe says:

    I just hope that this style of DRM doesn’t become Ubiquitous.

  18. nasenbluten says:

    Oh noes, pirates offering a better product once again. But hey, seems like this DRM thing is quite effective… for pissing off paying customers and losing some sales, hell yeah.

  19. alundra says:

    Ubisoft?? What’s that??? Ah. yeah.

    Yeah well, maybe they are trying to expand their business and are now expecting review sites to pay a license for every review machine the games are tested on.

    It’s called business practice, and it’s fair when coming from a high profile corporation, ya’hear?

  20. johnpeat says:

    You can tell someone is cultured when they refer to the Ship of Theseus rather than Trigger’s Broom :)

    • Premium User Badge VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      I find it fascinating how referring to the culture of centuries-dead civilisations is considered somehow intrinsically better than referring to the living culture one inhabits.

    • macwarrior says:

      Ancient culture isn’t intrinsically better, but as an academic I can appreciate it when someone is aware of the primary source instead of quoting a quote of a quote of a quote :)

    • johnpeat says:

      It’s more that knowing about the Ship of Perseus suggests at least some education and exposure to literature – wheras knowing about Trigger’s Broom requires a liking for canned laughter and an overuse of stereotypes.

      See also: being impressed that Robbie Williams can rap…

  21. pyjamarama says:

    There is some kind of innate problem in Ubisoft about the PC business, Ubisoft was always as far as I remember more associated with console gaming so the top management there may have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the PC works, they acquired a number of PC developers in the last few years but were probably not seeing a return on investment so they decided that piracy was to blame they invest on pointless DRM that drives away costumers, their reaction? is piracy fault so they double down on DRM until their business collapses or they finally realize how stupid they have been

    • Archonsod says:

      Um, I think Ubi were releasing on the PC before the consoles were invented o.O

    • johnpeat says:

      Yeah, spot the kids and their ‘console vs PC’ mentality – once upon a time there were no consoles and no-one could afford a PC to play games on!!

    • pyjamarama says:

      Yes the very beginning of the company they released for the PC, ZX spectrum Amiga, but since the PlayStation 2 most of there franchises where more for console, and yes most of them were also ported to the PC.
      If you look on Ubisoft on the last years they were very successful on Wii and DS taking advantage of the casual market and succeeding in this markets were other publishers failed. But on the PC market they acquired a number of PC developers and there PC bussinees is not growing according to recent interview and they continue to enforce more strict DRM when other publishers have gone with only Steam DRM or similar to Steam, to me this speaks of misunderstanding of PC business with top management

  22. Icyicy9999 says:

    I feel ashamed for buying Anno 2070.

    Never again, Ubisoft.

  23. ZX k1cka55 48K says:

    Stopped buying Ubi’s stuff since their jolly Star-force time (weren’t they the first ones to use and support this horrid crap outside russia?). Anyway, can’t say that i missing much so far.
    Tried their Madden games, sorry, their AssCreed games and didn’t like em…Maybe ill reconsider when Beyound Good and evil 2 comes out, IF they stop their moronic DRM lunacy by that time.

  24. macwarrior says:

    I don’t know why this is such a surprise. These hardware-based activations can be extremely finicky. Try the Eagle Dynamics flight sims, for instance — my copy of Flaming Cliffs 2 decides my system has been modified too much to run and requires a reactivation if I do so much as plug in a tiny little $8 USB bluetooth adapter. Yes, really.

    Ubisoft has made a lot of questionable decisions but they’re far from the first people to have this particular issue, so I don’t see why it should reflect specifically on them.

    • psyk says:

      Doubt we will get a article on that though.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      It reflects specifically on Ubisoft because they have a long and well-documented history of implementing horrible anti-consumer DRM schemes. The article is about Ubi, not some other publisher or developer.

  25. Monchberter says:

    For those of you who want to know, Windows ties activations specifically to your motherboard.

    You can still change pretty much every component, including the CPU and continue on happily so long as you don’t swap out the motherboard.

    *Tried and tested as recently as last November with Windows 7*

  26. Pointless Puppies says:

    Well, this isn’t particularly surprising, considering how Ubisoft seems to have a real desire to have every single piece of restrictive DRM on their games at the same time. Wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually release games with the old Starforce DRM that wrecks your optical drive.

    Although the comments here are starting to get more entertaining, with random people nonsensically whiteknighting the inexcusable. Goes to show the old adage of “people will defend anything on the internet” is true.

    • malkav11 says:

      Ubisoft was one of the main publishers using Starforce in the past, yes. I don’t think it’s likely to return, however.

  27. Hoaxfish says:

    With the rate at which Ubisoft changes their DRM strategy they’re obviously using some sort of virtualised evolution. Different breeds of DRM fighting it out, tooth and nail, until only the strong survives. Then the meteors come from the sky, and the fight begins anew!

  28. aircool says:

    I’ve got two dongles hanging out the back of my PC that are used for top-banana professional software… Surely they could bother their arse to give me the option of using on of those systems (as many publilshers of pro-software do) instead of all this stupid software crap that’s usually cracked within a week of a game being released.

    I’m no skript-kiddie-pirate who’s interested in downloading dodgy copies of games. I buy them ffs, so stop pissing me about.

    In other news; everyone has been put in jail on the off chance that someone might rob a post office ><

  29. craigdolphin says:

    Gave up on Ubisoft games a while back because of issues like this.

    Even if this is a bug in the DRM, the bug wouldn’t be impacting customers if the unnecessary and ineffective DRM weren;t there to begin with. Games are already complicated software. DRM just increases that complexity. And like any machine, the more complicated it is, the more likely it is that it’s going to break down.

    I’ll pay more attention to Ubisoft games when they go back to a simple disk check. Or not. Whatever.

  30. Premium User Badge Carra says:

    Mmm, if I had known that my copy has a 3 activation limit I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. I was under the impression that Steam told us when there is a 3 activation limit, it does on the Riddick game which is why I didn’t buy it.

  31. MythArcana says:

    Ubi$oft doesn’t monitor anything on my computers. Of course, the last thing I even messed with was Heroes V…that was Ubi$oft, right? It’s hard to believe it’s the same company from back then. Goddamn, they suck now.

  32. Navagon says:

    It’s a harsh lesson but one that people must learn.

  33. vecordae says:

    Awesome! I’m so tired of games that stop working after a hardware upgrade do to programming and driver bugs. To find a game that stops working because it has somehow deduced that I am inherently untrustworthy is rather refreshing. Good show, Ubisoft. Please, have all of my monies.

  34. alilsneaky says:

    I recently upgraded my graphics card to a HD6870.
    Anno 2070 didn’t use up an activation for me.

    Where’s that gif of DRM bus ramming into customer car while pirate pedestrian walks out of it’s path when I need it.

  35. overburning says:

    Ubisoft continues to impress

  36. Jonith says:

    I’m going to guess that Ubisoft have just looked behind them and seen that both Activision and EA are catching up in the Dicks of Gaming race so wanted one last push to the finish

  37. netizensmith says:

    Ubisoft don’t need to use DRM to stop me from playing their games.