Interview: Ubisoft On DRM, Piracy And PC Games

By John Walker on September 5th, 2012 at 10:00 am.

Faints.

For a couple of years we have been petitioning Ubisoft for an interview with those involved in their DRM decisions. We’re very pleased to report that this has finally happened, as we spoke to Stephanie Perotti, Ubi’s worldwide director for online games, accompanied by corporate communications manager, Michael Burk. Perotti is involved in all online technologies at Ubisoft, and works with many different studios and teams, with DRM part of her remit. We asked about the evidence for the various figures that have been quoted in the past, whether they have any proof for the efficacy of their extreme DRM, and whether Ubisoft has any regrets with how the matter has been handled in the last few years. And we also learn the rather enormous news that Ubi have abandoned always-on DRM, and will now only use one-time activation for all their PC games.

RPS: Last month, on the 21st, Yves Guillemot said Ubisoft’s piracy rates were 90 to 95%, hence the move toward online gaming. But in July last year your DRM was described as being “a success”, and as having shown a clear reduction in piracy. Can you talk about how those two statements square up?

Perotti: With regard to the numbers, the numbers are coming from both internal and external research. Research showed that it can reach that rate for some specific or popular PC games, and that number often varies depending on the territory. So we are not saying that it applies to all PC games for all territories, and we’re not saying that the same situation would apply for any game.

RPS: But last year it was said that the so-called “always-on” DRM had shown a clear reduction in piracy. The quote was, “A clear reduction in piracy from our titles, which required a persistent online connection, and from that point of view the requirement is a success.” Have you any data to evidence this, and if so, are you going to publish it?

Perotti: I’m not going to comment on data. That was an unfortunate comment. We have listened to feedback, and since June last year our policy for all of PC games is that we only require a one-time online activation when you first install the game, and from then you are free to play the game offline.

RPS: That’s excellent news. So do you have any regrets about the always-on DRM that you had been using?

Perotti: We’ve listened to feedback, we will continue to listen to feedback, we will continue to make sure that we deliver great games and great services, and are now operating under this policy.

RPS: Do you acknowledge that always-on DRM has been extremely damaging to Ubisoft’s reputation?

Burk: I think that, as Stephanie said, I think this is where that feedback comes in. We’ve obviously heard from PC customers that they were unhappy with some of the policies that we had in place, and that’s why we’re looking to make these changes – why we have been implementing these changes, as Stephanie says.

RPS: Would you be willing to say that it was a mistake?

Burk: No, I wouldn’t say that. I’ll let Stephanie say what she thinks, but I wouldn’t use those words. This is a process, and we listened to feedback.

Perotti: I would say the same.

RPS: So you say you’re not talking about data. I find that quite interesting bearing in mind data is the one thing that’s lacking in this entire discussion, across all publishers, the whole spectrum. The one thing no one’s ever shown is any data whatsoever to show DRM’s efficacy. Why do you think that is?

Perotti: I think they are complex topics, and as a company we do not disclose this kind of data for confidentiality reasons. As I said earlier, the situation can be very different, from different games, from different territories.

RPS: Whose confidentiality is being broken by publishing piracy rates?

Burk: It’s internally confidential meaning competitive, not necessarily that we’re breaking anyone’s confidentiality. It’s competitive information and therefore confidential.

RPS: Do you think that’s why no publishers publish such data?

Burk: It’s hard to say. I think as Stephanie said it varies, from game to game, region to region, and so the example that you gave – like Stephanie said, we’ve seen internal and external data to show that it can reach that high. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is that high for all PC games, or that it is that high for all companies, or across all regions. I think that’s one reason why companies are not necessarily broadly publishing this, because we’re trying to get a handle on what it means for different games, different titles.

RPS: But do you understand how damaging it’s been to your argument to never actually say these numbers?

Perotti: Yes.

RPS: Would Ubisoft now acknowledge that DRM only affects legitimate customers, and doesn’t affect people who pirate games?

Perotti: I wouldn’t say that, actually. I think the fact that you activate your game when you install it is a pretty industry standard process that we’ve seen in our industry. That can allow you as well to link your game ownership to your account, which means you can re-download the game for whatever reason, it’s not just for one PC any more. You can accept it from other PCs, etc, so I wouldn’t say it’s something that affects PC gamers.

RPS: With these one-time activations, earlier this year there were the issues with the Anno game, where the DRM meant changing your graphics card would remove one of the activations, and you only had three. Will there be limits to activations, and will there be such strict rules like that again?

Perotti: Anno was a very isolated case, and we reacted and increased the limit in that case. Whereas now when you purchase a game, we’re uplifting those limits in terms of how activations you can have, and how many installs you can have on the game, and that’s something we’re planning to continue to support.

RPS: In fairness, it was Bluebyte who changed the rules on Anno, and when we asked Ubisoft for a statement in January this year, you told us that it was working “exactly as intended”.

Perotti: That was again an unfortunate comment, that was also made by someone who was more on the technical development side. The fact is the changes on your graphics card, on your PC configuration, was not intended to count as an activation. And that was the reason we reacted very quickly in fixing that, and making sure that a very limited number of players could reach that unfortunate limit.

RPS: So, with Assassin’s Creed III, and other forthcoming releases, we’re going to see a one-time activation, and there won’t be limits on that activation. Is that correct?

Perotti: It’s correct. And then you’ll be able to play offline on PC. Whenever you want to reach any online service, multiplayer, you will have to be connected, and obviously for online games you will also need to be online to play. But if you want to enjoy Assassin’s Creed III single player, you will be able to do that without being connected. And you will be able to activate the game on as many machines as you want.

RPS: It’s been pretty routine over the last few years for Ubisoft to announce the PC release to be the same as the console release dates, and then with as little as a week before release to announce a significant delay. Can you explain why that’s happened, and will that continue to happen?

Perotti: We need to improve our communication, and make sure we provide better visibility to the PC community on our release dates for PC. We are really working hard to make sure that each game is really tailored for each platform, and sometimes unfortunately we need more time for some platforms. And that has been the case on PC – we’re committed to continue to improve on that front and continue to release PC games as close as possible to console releases. We know we haven’t always been clear and consistent on that front. This year you will be able to enjoy Far Cry 3 at the same time as the console version. Assassin’s Creed III, which is a huge game, is coming just a few weeks after the console version, while in the past it was – what – months after. So we’re really focusing on making sure that at the same time we provide a really good PC experience, and really as close as possible to the other versions.

RPS: Do you know what percentage of your sales are on PC? I know Activision have said things like Call Of Duty sell 5% on PC, do you know if it’s similar numbers for you guys?

Burk: We don’t break it down specifically game by game. Before our last financial statement I want to say that PC sales – I think it was right around 10%. [Burk got back to us soon after the interview to say that in the last full fiscal year PCs made up 7% of revenue, and in the last quarter it’s been 12%.]

RPS: That’s a significant proportion of your sales, but obviously 90% is on console. Would you say console is still a priority?

Perotti: I think all platforms are important. We’re also trying to adapt to each of these platforms. What we’ve been announcing at Gamescom for instance, is a large portfolio of varied online PC games, games that are exclusively designed for the PC. [This shows] that we are really committing to that platform. We’re working hard to find the right approach, the right games, the right genres, the right model, for each of the platforms.

RPS: Can you see that from our perspective, that we’ve been asking for some proof, some evidence, that DRM is effective at preventing piracy, or increases sales, or anything like that, and we’ve never seen any. And now as the publisher that’s always gone the furthest with this, you’re backing right off. Do you think it’s a fair conclusion to say that more extreme DRM has been a failure?

Perotti: We’ve heard you. We’ve heard customers. We want to find a balanced way to protect our IPs and our games, and at the same time trade off frustrations or issues for PC gamers, and improve the policies of our games and services. But I guess the answer is, we’re still discussing it.

RPS: These changes sound like exactly what we’ve been petitioning for for a long time. So does Ubisoft have any regrets about what it’s done in the past.

Perotti: Again I would just say that we listened to feedback, we adapt, we will continue to listen and adapt, and hopefully we will continue to prove to the PC gaming community that we listen.

RPS: Thank you for your time.

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285 Comments »

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  1. Laffles says:

    Great interview, I love you guys for not holding back with the questions. You guys are like PC gamings very own Paxman!

    ‘We’re working hard to find the right approach, the right games, the right genres, the right model’ = F2P

    • povu says:

      Indeed, thanks for asking the hard questions RPS and not giving up on them. Or giving up on trying to get that interview with Ubi.

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      Eh, I find the interview kind of dissapointing, not through RPS’ fault though. They tried, but Ubi were pretty unwilling to commit to anything that didn’t leave them miles of room to maneuver in any direction.

      Also, I wouldn’t encourage anyone at RPS aim to be Paxman, being ultra-belligerent isn’t a way to get many future interviews unless you’re already a national institution. Nor would his particular brand of verbal abuse/interogation work to unsettle unhelpful interviewees without being delivered in person and in front of cameras. Oh, and he’s not a nice man, whilst I’m sure John’s lovely.

      • Vorphalack says:

        ”Also, I wouldn’t encourage anyone at RPS aim to be Paxman, being ultra-belligerent isn’t a way to get many future interviews unless you’re already a national institution.”

        Are future interviews worthwhile if the interviewer refrains from asking difficult questions, and doggedly pursuing answers in the face of overwhelming PR speak? Interviews are not designed for two groups to have a cordial chat while avoiding all the elephants lining the walls of the room. Guys like Ubi PR will not comment on anything remotely controversial unless pressured.

        • Droopy The Dog says:

          Pressure is entirely my point. Without the live studio audiance, the cameras and physical effect of being questioned in person there is no “pressure” no matter how awkward the questions are. It’s the need to control their body language and rapidly formulate answers to avoid looking hesitant that makes people slip up occasionally with the “rephrase the same question again if they give a bollocks answer” general method Paxman uses.

          Asking a question that everyone knows a straight answer to is going to embarass the intervewee (E.G. Did you make a mistake?!) in private for transcription later isn’t going to make a PR rep sweat like that, it’s just going to make them roll their eyes and carry on. The PR guys are perfectly aware they have no obligation to give you any information they don’t want to, and if it’s clear they can’t swing the interview to focus on what they wanted to they’ll just formulate some platitudes and nonsense and write it off as a none event.

          Asking hard questions is of course a valuable part of getting the most interesting things to report, you’ll never get an answer about whether Ubi regrets their DRM follies unless you at least ask. I’m only expressing concern about espousing the virtue of “doggedly pursuing answers” that is so integral to Paxman’s particular sensational style. There is no reason at all it would be effective in these circumstances (see lack of pressure above), at best it might provide a little satisfaction to the readers but no actual useful information and at worst it loses you future interviews because of bad relations. Effort would be better spent seeking interviews with a number of people searching for one willing to be candid rather than trying to force answers out of an unwilling participant.

          I’d choose John’s current style over Paxman any day, he asks an interesting, albeit uncomfortable, question and maybe tries once for clarification if he’s got some previous conflicting statement to work with, or they’re being too evasive, then moves on. He gives no reason to offend, but gets as much as they’re willing to give upfront. It’s just unfortunate that it’s very little.

          If anything I’d lean the way towards more subtlety and less doggedness, asking if something was a failure when everything points to “yes” seems like an obvious verbal mantrap to a PR rep and clearly put them on the defensive to the point of just saying something unrelated as a response. Perhaps starting off with “did you see any benefits from the always online DRM?” followed by the implicit “so [everything else] had little effect?” might have got something more from them before they got defensive. It’s slightly underhanded, but in the world of PR it’s nothing taboo.

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            tl;dr version –

            I don’t want John to be gaming’s Paxman, I want him to be gaming’s Columbo.

      • LionsPhil says:

        There’s a lot to be said for actually persuing an answer, though, as RPS do here, rather than the standard level of “journalism” where the interviewer reads down his list of questions, the interviewee answers some different questions he wanted to be asked with nice platitudes, and then everyone smiles and leaves the room.

        Not “I’m a hard journalist, so that means trying to show you up and generally be a huge arse (rather than pursue actual information)”, either. Firm, but polite.

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          particlese says:

          “Firm, but polite.” That does sum it up nicely.

          Hats off to you, John, for that interview. And hats off to Ubisoft for backing off from the awful DRM. I can see always-on being used strategically to make new — but still bad — DRM look good in comparison, but it sounds like Ubisoft’s really back to a modern version of CD keys, which I have no problem with. Now I’m really looking forward to playing Watch Dogs instead of just reading about it.

          I do have one lingering question, though: Will they remove the always-on or other overly strict DRM from their games that already have it? Admittedly, I haven’t kept track of whether they’ve alrady done so, but I remember them making several interesting games that I ignored upon release because of their choice of DRM. There are always other games to play that respect the player, after all.

          • Ragnar says:

            I believe they already have. I know they removed it from the early Assassin’s Creed titles, in any case, requiring just the online activation.

          • JarinArenos says:

            Wrong reply *snipp’d*

          • Premium User Badge

            particlese says:

            Ooo, good to know!

      • frightlever says:

        Good interview questions. Weasel answers.

        • djbriandamage says:

          Exceptional questions, predictable answers. This is pretty much EXACTLY the line Ubisoft gave its customers when it ditched Starforce, tried a couple of games without copy protection, and then developed its own in-house DRM. I have no doubt that something worse is on the horizon and that we’ll learn about it from someone other than Ubisoft.

          To Ubisoft’s credit they are indeed trying all their options to find a balance between fairness and convenience. Unfortunately they should be testing these options in focus groups or something first. All this experimentation has given them the worst reputation in the industry – lies, inconvenience, unreliability, all with zero effect on piracy.

        • MattM says:

          Who do these answers serve? The PR bot isn’t going to impress anyone reading his content free, everything is and always has been perfect shtick. Is he really worried that some polite but honest answers about the DRM problems are going to hurt his company? Perhaps he just has a boss who is out of touch and will seize on any negativity as “disloyal” or “anti-team.”

          • Ragnar says:

            After the way that dev got lynched for referring to a skill tree as “girlfriend mode”, are you really surprised? If you try to speak honestly, instead of blatantly reciting the prepared PR spiel, it’s far too easy to slip up and say something you’ll regret.

          • JarinArenos says:

            Gotta agree with Ragnar. The gaming community is ridiculously volatile right now. Sometimes legitimately (Lara Croft idiocy), and sometimes a bit less so (Girlfriend mode blowup). But the line between those two is pretty damn fuzzy from a lot of perspectives.

            Put simply, the industry is growing up, and puberty sucks.

      • Cooper says:

        Journalists should not be following the line and fearing to ‘upset’ interviewess for fear of net getting further interviews.

        It’s that kind of PR blacklisting that happens in games that means we rarely get any kind of proper representation from critics and have interviews filled with questions that don’t illuminate.

    • best_jeppe says:

      I agree. I think it is awesome that you put them against the wall and asks them the hard questions and doesn’t let them off easy. There are so many game journalists and sites that are pushovers and don’t ask the tough and good questions. Kudos to Rock, Paper, Shotgun for doing this and I really hope you continue to do it!

    • srsbsns says:

      It’s fantastic to see no soft-ball PR questions.

      That’s a rare enough occurence that it fully justifies my subscription by itself!

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      SpakAttack says:

      This article alone is worth my entire subscription fees to RPS. Kudos to you guys for asking the questions that needed asking, and then asking again when you didn’t get a good enough answer.

      I will consider buying Ubisoft games again now.

    • Chmilz says:

      The questions were good. Too bad the answers were just gurgles from a PR team drowning in bullshit, with a bag of dicks in their mouths.

    • Ronin says:

      Did they threaten to overrule him though?

    • Tollaw says:

      Downlaod doodle jump here : http://softwaregeneration.org/doodle-jump

  2. lizzardborn says:

    The most pathetic employees of the Ministry of truth … Ubisoft

    • Mrs Columbo says:

      Calm down, dear.

      • Gozuu says:

        I’d really wish you could see this from Ubisofts point of view rather than your own egocentric desire.

        There is no way that Ubisoft would publicly show their data records on piracy / DRM-effectiveness, not even if they could legitimately say that their DRM had a positive effect.

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          Hidden_7 says:

          Why show a particular abundance of sympathy to a corporate position/set of goals when it runs directly counter to your own? I know corporations are legally people, but I’m not sure that makes them particularly deserving of empathy.

          In this particular case, even if it were a person, they are telling you something you believe to be false, or at the very least, suspicious, and when you ask for proof they tell you that they cannot provide any (though they do have some, trust them!). Accepting that at face value in a non-judgemental way seems a very odd thing to do with anyone other than people very close to you, and pressing for more information than “trust us” doesn’t seem overly selfish in any way other than your bog standard “it is often reasonable to look out for your own interests” way.

          • baby snot says:

            I know corporations are legally people…

            Haha. Only in one country afaik.

          • hemmingjay says:

            Releasing this kind of information has an impact on stock prices, which affect quarterly earnings, which affect jobs, which affect human beings. THIS is why information like piracy rates is considered “competitive” and private.

          • YogSo says:

            @hemmingjay:

            Do you know what else has an impact on “stock prices, quarterly earnings, jobs and human beings”? People not buying Ubisoft’s games because they are fed up of receiving a worse product than the one released by other companies (or pirates).

          • hemmingjay says:

            @YogSo Which is why I would guess they are addressing the issue of always on DRM?

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            jezcentral says:

            @hemmingjay:

            And if I was a shareholder, I’d damn sure want to see that data.

          • The Random One says:

            Sycophantically defending a heartless corporation for whom you are a statistic at best is horrible, but attacking it because its employees are acting the way they are expected to act, forgetting that they are beholden to investors as well as costumers, is just as bad.

          • sophof says:

            I think people are saying that you should empathize with the PR-guy, since he is just doing his/her job. However, since with these kind of answers they have at best, imo of course, reached a net result of zero, they might’ve done an objectively better job with some more truth.
            I’m sure their boss doesn’t agree however, someone needs to be stupid enough to believe their ‘statistics’.

        • lizzardborn says:

          Well we have in one day 2 articles that try so say it isn’t so. Cliffy at least had the balls/chutzpah to flatout reject reality and tell us we were hallucinating about Epic stance on PC gaming.

          The whole problem is that suddenly the PC gaming is the nerdy guy who become web 2.0 billionaire and currently the publishers are playing the gold digger that says she always loved you since high school, can we go out sometimes.

          Ubi don’t even try to be serious. Actually AC3 can come on PC a month before consoles, because PC don’t have certification process, so the least that they could do is simultaneous release dates.

          And after being showered with disdain, insulted as a pirate, entitled jerk etc for years, harassed with insane DRM – change of stance without admitting guilt is not going to work. Until I see executives heads on a pikes or silver plates, I am not going to believe them.

          The PC community is very supportive – see the huge amount of goodwill towards the dark souls port. We can forgive a lot of things when there is honesty on the other side.

        • aepervius says:

          “I’d really wish you could see this from Ubisofts point of view rather than your own egocentric desire.

          There is no way that Ubisoft would publicly show their data records on piracy / DRM-effectiveness, not even if they could legitimately say that their DRM had a positive effect.”

          Why should we believe them if they are unwilling to give the evidence ? Why should we even give them an inch if they are unwilling demonstrate their point of view ? We are not being egocentric we are being rational. If somebody bring up a claim, then it is up to THEM to provide evidence for the claim otherwise we can ignore the claim as being BS. That’s how it works in real life with science, and other domain, why should ubi get a free pass ? Ever heard of that teapot orbiting between earth and mars ? Or that invisible dragon in my garage ? There are good reason to require evidence, especially when the firm which refuse to provide the evidence try to influence the governemental policy on copyright and the law fighting infringement.

        • battles_atlas says:

          If Ubisoft could show data supporting DRM why wouldn’t they show it? Even the most cretinous of corporates must understand, at least in principle, that branding is about ‘hearts and minds’. And that winning those would be much easier if you could show that the bitter pill you were feeding them actually had a beneficial effect.

          In fact now I think about it Ubi’s whole approach to piracy over the last few years has mirrored the anglo-US ‘war on terror’ pretty nicely. First the ‘shock and awe’ of draconian DRM; then years of head in the sand denial, and quoting ‘confidentiality’ (cf ‘national security’) any time anyone asks difficult questions; followed by an unacknowledged recognition that they’ve fucked up big time and that you can’t kill piracy any more than you can kill terror. What you can do is win the trust and favour of those who might become pirates/terrorists, rather than follow policies that actually create them.

          Of course the US/UK military were entirely incapable of this role, and so have instead resorted to murdering people with drones. Lets hope Ubi doesn’t follow that step. “SIX ACTIVATIONS! MISSILE LAUNCHED”.

          • doho7744 says:

            Maybe the data was not collected legally. I would be hesitant to show information I had collected questionably.

        • djbriandamage says:

          Don’t you think the consumers who paid for a crippled product deserve some explanation about why they must be inconvenienced every time they use it?

        • tetracycloide says:

          I wish we could see it from their side too but unfortunately they’re not willing to show us their side.

          Egocentric? Gamers sticking up for other gamers is literally the opposite of egocentric. Everyone’s not selfish just because they disagree with Ubisoft. I mean seriously, what the hell is up with that? Ubisoft ignores their own customers to selfishly pursue their own profit and you accuse the fucking customers of being ‘egocentric?’ Come the fuck on.

        • ShadowLeague says:

          Why should I care about them? If they expect me to give them my money they should be bending over backwards to offer a decent service and treat their consumers with respect. If you’re unwilling to show the data then just don’t talk about it. They put their own foot in their mouth when they brought up those 95% piracy rates. Are you telling me it’s alright for them to make baseless justification simply because they don’t have the guts to own up to their mistakes (as clearly evident in the interview)?

    • Victuz says:

      Hey if they believe it’s truth it IS truth!

      Also I’m going to tell on you to the thought police!

  3. Mrs Columbo says:

    Good interview, John. Properly Paxo-esque in not letting them wriggle away from direct questions. Well done.

    • Scythe says:

      Yes. Well done to John for trying to wring out as much actual information as possible.

      This is very good news, I’m going to buy the assassin’s creed games now. I had abstained as a protest.

    • Dobleclick says:

      +1

      This is why we love RPS, this is why RPS is a small but important piece of the PC gaming world!

    • The Random One says:

      +2. RPS is a candle in a Gamespot-haunted world.

  4. Hoaxfish says:

    Ubisoft has been training its evasion stats again.

    • Drayk says:

      They still missed on dodge check:

      “RPS: But do you understand how damaging it’s been to your argument to never actually say these numbers?

      Perotti: Yes.”

      • LionsPhil says:

        I wonder if that was the resigned “yes” of “I really wish corporate policy would let me try to support the argument I am required to put forward”.

      • ShadowLeague says:

        Guess they’re not as good at quick time events.

    • Gynsu2000 says:

      These are nice doublespeak answers, indeed.

      • Victuz says:

        Because as we all know every corporate speaker is well versed in the ways of doublespeak and blackwhite.

        I still think Ubisoft likes to organize a Hate week every so often for PC games because for them we’re just proles.

        • montorsi says:

          I don’t know if it’s “doublespeak” so much as “I still have to work here tomorrow, guys”. Everyone can read into those answers that yes, Ubisoft is backpedaling because DRM didn’t increase sales enough to justify the number of people upset over said DRM.

      • Nesetalis says:

        I was about to comment the same thing. Doublespeak indeed.

    • empyrion says:

      So many words, so little substance. No one ever told me gaming was like politics.

      • Mattressi says:

        Almost anyone that wants something from you (money, votes, etc) will talk the same way. In retail it’s “customer service”, in business it’s “public relations” and in politics it’s…well, politics. Unfortunately the masses tend to go for the person who speaks nicely to them and bad-mouths the competition, refraining from ever admitting to their own faults (for an example, look at every political system ever – two sides of the same coin pointing out minor differences between each other, while idiots treat it like football, picking “their” team).

  5. Gesadt says:

    Again I would just say that we listened to feedback.Again I would just say that we listened to feedback.Again I would just say that we listened to feedback. Again..

    • Saldek says:

      I would just like to say, as Stephanie said …

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        Hardlylikely says:

        I’ll let Stephanie say what she thinks, but I wouldn’t use those words.

    • lokimotive says:

      The feedback loops in this interview rival a Sonic Youth concert.

      • The Random One says:

        They listened to so much feedback they wanted to create some of their own.

    • Jenks says:

      They used the same answer over and over, as if someone was asking the same question over and over.

  6. Yosharian says:

    Wow, you grilled them pretty hard. Kudos to both parties for this. We’ll see if this is a new leaf for Ubi.

  7. Premium User Badge

    MonkeyMonster says:

    Only have time to read this later but so very happy. I had noticed something different when I had finally installed brotherhood the other day and it offered me an offline mode that alerted it needed only a single one off signon and then I could forever run offline… I was happy at that – didn’t offer that for ass creed 2.

  8. Hroppa says:

    Hard hitting journalism from RPS. Good to see.

  9. Rangerage says:

    What a joke, they just continue to acknowledge that they made a mistake.
    Well it’s not like they’ve released a great game in years anyway so it’s not like we missed out on anything.

    • Premium User Badge

      AmateurScience says:

      ‘they just continue to acknowledge that they made a mistake’

      Isn’t that a positive thing though? ‘We made a mistake, we’ve made changes, please buy our stuff again’

    • Optimaximal says:

      Subjective opinion is subjective.

      I happen to think that Assassin’s Creed went ‘good’ right at the time when uPlay was released. I don’t necessarily like where Splinter Cell has gone, but its still a good enough game. Driver: San Fran, Anno 2070 and other titles are different enough to fall outside the yearly updated dross from their US rivals. I havent’ played Rayman Origins but its almost universally praised.

      Ubisoft are a good games company that lost their way because someone high up tried to blame piracy for other problems.

    • skinlo says:

      Assassins Creeds are good, the new Driver game is good, Anno is good.

    • djbriandamage says:

      They didn’t admit to any mistake – they just said they’re experimenting and some of the company’s previous comments were “unfortunate”. Their answers admit no regret.

    • Gnarf says:

      You PC guys, with your XCOM shooters and what not, might not think that much of him, but personally I rather enjoy the work that Julian Gollop has been doing at Ubisoft.

  10. Wolvaroo says:

    Wow, that entire dialogue taught me nothing but Ubisoft really love their ambiguous canned responses and still wont own up to their mistakes.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      We”ve listened to your comment, but can’t reveal what we think about it due to confidentiality.

    • Galcius says:

      Sadly that’s what you get when they have investors who do not understand the industries or companies they invest in.

      There are, out there, people to whom Ubisoft is a row on a spreadsheet with a number of shares and their current share price, with dividends, profit/loss projections etc.. These investors have a lot of money and a lot of power, and they don’t care about the health of PC gaming, they care about what the spreadsheet says. And if Ubisoft release a statement, or if they say in an interview “We made a mistake”, and this gets back to the shareholders, then alarm bells ring in this investor’s head. Are they going to research what the fuss is about? No. Ubisoft is just one row in a probably several hundred or several thousand row spreadsheet representing this person/company’s share portfolio, and they don’t care about the specifics; after all they’ve probably got their Rolls Royce waiting to take them to the airport so they can make their lunch meeting in Paris.

      What they care about is a company that they invested in has just issued what sounds like an apology, and that might mean law suits and loss of reputation/loss of sales. So they immediately sell their stock.

      Multiply this situation out and there’s a run on Ubisoft stock, the share price plummets as the market loses confidence, this makes it harder for Ubisoft to stay afloat, so the senior management get the golden parachute and new people are brought in to “turn things round”.

      Or at least, this is potentially what happens. Remember what happened with the famous “People ask me how I can sell this stuff so cheap?” It’s all a confidence game and if the shareholders lose confidence, ubisoft goes down the toilet.

      TL;DR: They have to try and appease us, their customers, whilst not giving their investors anything to panic about. Hence the doublespeak and evasiveness.

      • hemmingjay says:

        Galcius, you made a clear, concise and wise statement. This is indeed the entirety of the situation.

        • Premium User Badge

          jezcentral says:

          Exactly, I think a lot of people want a mea culpa from the very people who can’t give them one, for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent to someone who only thinks about the consuming of videogames. (Mmmmm, videogames……*drool*)

        • Galcius says:

          Thank you. :)

      • Nemrod says:

        Ah… if only they could make more money, so they don’t have to rely on high stock price to avoid sinking to the depths.

        My answer is that they could just stop giving all these marketing and resource managing and accounting and stuff so f****** much money. The budget of a AAA games publishers these days is what? 50%marketing 30% accounting and managing and then 20% to the guys making it and dying making it?

        • Galcius says:

          And then who buys a game that they’ve never heard of?

          Do you think we’re the majority of gamers? All statistics point to the majority of (non-social) gamers being the average joe who has an XBOX sitting at home. He buys games based on “what everyone is talking about”. He has Modern Warfare and Black Ops and Assassin’s Creed and maybe Fable. He does not have and has never heard of World of Goo, or To the Moon, or probably even Guild Wars 2.

          The ‘mainstream’ is the big market, and it’s the mainstream which coughs up enough revenue to make AAA games and keep the money flowing.

          Or at least that’s one way of looking at it.

          The other way of looking at it is that the company is run by business people – they probably have about 5-10 people on their board of directors, and this board probably earns more than entire divisions of the company. Not only that, these people don’t have to by in all day, or even every day, so they probably sit on the boards of multiple companies and draw multiple 6 figure salaries. Now if you’re earning a 6 figure salary, you probably think you’re pretty important; You’re a leader; You make things happen; Those plebs in programming would just be staring out the window all day if you weren’t there to boss them around; That’s why they pay you so much!

          Naturally these business people who are earning the highest wages believe they’re doing the most important job. And if you’re doing the most important job, why settle for a modest wage and a decent income when you could vote to give yourself a bonus that’ll pay for that holiday home in Monaco? Therefore, who gives a damn about these ‘computer game’ things? ‘Artistic integrity?’ Pah! Why have that when you can have a freaking speedboat made of diamonds!? Make more money, I want a bigger bonus!

      • Saldek says:

        I’m always surprised that admitting a mistake is supposed to be more damaging to stock prices than cocking things up for years on end.

    • Gnarf says:

      Eh. Bad questions tend to lead to bad answers.

      “RPS: Would Ubisoft now acknowledge that DRM only affects legitimate customers, and doesn’t affect people who pirate games?”

      Very nuanced.

      • tetracycloide says:

        What is there to gain from adding fake nuance to an issue that’s not nuanced? We’re not subscribing to the absurd fiction that there’s always more than one side on any issue that deserve equal coverage even though there’s often only one right answer are we? If someone asked a ‘vaccine causes autism’ proponent who had recently change their position to vaccines are safe : “Will you now acknowledge that vaccines do not cause autism, and that movement creates real health risks?” would you find that it ‘lacked nuance?’

        • Hmm-Hmm. says:

          Well, it is possible to ask the same (or a very similar) question but rephrased a bit so it comes across a bit less offensive (as in you versus me).

        • Gnarf says:

          “If someone asked a ‘vaccine causes autism’ proponent who had recently change their position to vaccines are safe : “Will you now acknowledge that vaccines do not cause autism, and that movement creates real health risks?” would you find that it ‘lacked nuance?’”

          Ugh. If you change your position from “vaccine causes autism” to “vaccines are safe” then that sort of kind of possibly follows and it might be a reasonable question to ask in order to clear things up.

          Here someone changed their position on a particular form of DRM, presumably from “it does more good than bad” to “it does more bad than good”. Acknowledging that the only thing DRM in general does is hurting legitimate customers and that it in no way affects pirates doesn’t follow from that.

  11. Shivoa says:

    Wow, I read that and felt like the PR people had almost been mugged. Of course, that’s nonsense but it really underlines how softball the vast majority of interviews are (never questioning to voracity of statements, moving on when given standard language like “we aren’t discussing that right now”, etc) and how coming in with a critical/confrontational angle makes for a piece rather unlike most of the stuff we read.

    It’s great news that they’re evolving their DRM concerns to make products enthusiast PC gamers (on their expensive boxes of owned hardware / open platforms) will want to pay for, although a shame no one will say the previous always-on was a mistake or give us any details about numbers (not sure why other publishers knowing Ubisoft’s piracy rates and analysis methods to finding those rates would be an issue – surely if you’re releasing games on PC and you see this as a massive issue then you need to pool together and discuss what your date is saying in the wider pool, maybe even standardise or cofund some larger research work).

  12. V. Profane says:

    How do people sleep at night knowing that they bullshit and lie for a living?

    • Andrigaar says:

      Politicians, lawyers, PR departments, sales departments, marketing teams.

      It they’re good at it, on a giant fucking pile of money and sex. And a few nightcaps unless they’re 12-stepping it, these are high-stress jobs.

    • hemmingjay says:

      Someday when you grow up and need to advance your business career you will understand that protecting your employer, and hence your job, with cautious and carefully crafted statements is not lying. It is vital.

      Point in case, the damaging comments made over the last two years by asshats at UBI most certainly cost more jobs than their own. Kudos to these two letting you know they are changing what you complain about while not damaging the company reputation further. This allows them to hopefully keep their current employees and maybe even hire new as well.

      Grow up people. You are old enough to use the internet and be consumers, you are old enough to understand how business works.

      • eks says:

        There is no rule that says you have to lie and treat your customers like shit to run a successful business. People make excuses like “that’s how the world/business works” so they can feel better about doing things they know are wrong. Some have even told themselves it their entire life and surround themselves with people that think the same to the point they convince themselves it’s fact.

        You are right about one thing though, we are “old enough to use the Internet and be consumers” and have obviously made a loud enough noise to make one of the worst corporations in the industry back pedal on one part of their bullshitery. It’s a start I guess.

        • hemmingjay says:

          You are 100% right and those who do lie and treat their customers poorly lose business and their jobs as customers vote with their wallets. To paraphrase, “that is working as intended”. I just made my statement because people seem to misconstrue their caution in bad-mouthing their employer’s strategy WHILE announcing a move away from their mistake.
          This interview was as clear as a RESPONSIBLE executive can be about a sensitive topic if they want to avoid recklessly damaging their already tarnished image.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            I suspect most people understand how it works but just simply don’t like it and still find it conflicts with their moral outlook.

      • Ertard says:

        Obviously UBIs lying (which is a clear violation of the golden rule of PR by the way, that actually almost always serves your company in the long term unless we’re talking military) has hurt their brand severly, and I would guess that they have lost sales to piracy due to their complete lack of competence in the field of public relations and communication. Granted, PC is still a small market segment for them, but they’re obviously desperate to make it profitable in any way possible as they do see a strong future for the platform.

        They have handled this situation in the absolute worst way possible. You can’t go out and publish a lie like that – this is extremely basic media training everyone with a somewhat mid-level plus position will receive in a decent company for an interview – and then try to make it go away with the damage control of “well i dunno man”. The correct path is of course not to lie at all – obviously – and be honest. Then, if you lied like now, you own the mistake, fire the person responsible (probably someone in PR unless Yves himself said he’d say what he wants, ego CEOs are a PR nightmare), ditch the DRM scheme saying yes, we acknowledge it’s not effective, and voila, you’ve saved the day.

        I love and adore RPS for doing this interview and being so harsh. PR in this business are generally amateurs with way too much power, thinking they can get away with everything they do. This needs to change and the standard needs to be set much, much higher.

      • Emeraude says:

        Someday when you grow up and need to advance your business career you will understand that protecting your employer, and hence your job, with cautious and carefully crafted statements is not lying. It is vital.

        You’re making it sound like the two are mutually exclusive. “I’m not lying, I’m protecting my employer and my job” does sound like rather shallow defense to me – a defense one will only be willing to accept to a point.

        Not to say I find anything more than disappointment for a missed opportunity in this interview myself (certainly no disgust, nor indignation). But from a purely informative standpoint, it might as well not have been made – an announcement would have amounted to same.

      • V. Profane says:

        I’m “grown-up” enough to know that my integrity is not worth a job defending the risible business practises of a games developer. I’m “grown-up” enough not to be patronised by you. This cringe worthy display has actually worsened Ubisoft’s reputation in my eyes. If they had simply said “We thought our previous DRM scheme was the right thing to do but it turns out in hindsight that it wasn’t. We won’t be using it any more” it would have been far better. This isn’t even the ‘mistakes were made (but not by me)’ which even politicians can usually manage.

      • Saldek says:

        Understanding how business works does not imply condoning any and all business practices.

        And do feel free to drop the ‘grow up’ rhetoric. It might come across as a tad condescending.

      • kud13 says:

        just because it’s how business works doesn’t mean it’s not lying.

        I’ve worked in sales, I have a bachelor’s in Psychology and i’m in my last year of law school. naturally, I understand why UBI’s corp drones can only toe the party line and can’t actually “talk real talk”

        that doesn’t mean I don’t consider it lying, that i’m not highly irritated by it, that I don’t feel like they think i’m a brainless idiot

        when you work in PR, it’s your job to be hated by a segment of population who don’t appreciate fine nuance and want to hear the truth straight up. it’s what you’re paid for. If you’re good at it, you compensate that by coddling the much larger masses who don’t think as hard about things.

      • Cockles says:

        I would like to also like to call you out on your condescending remarks about “growing up” but instead I’ll lower myself to your level and turn it back on you. Most people are grown up enough to know how business works considering we have to work for them, run them and be exposed to them in some way, some of us have grown up further to realise that there are better ways of conducting your affairs in the world than the accepted solipsistic norms.

        Just because morally dubious things are common-place, that doesn’t mean anyone who has a problem with them should grow up. Ubisoft has certainly shown disdain towards a portion of it’s customer base (or potential customer base, personally I don’t own any of their titles) and this interview was pretty pointless. It would have been nice for them to have made some thorough and open preparations to attempt to heal some of the damage they have caused but instead all I know is that apparently they have “listened to feedback”. Not much about this interview strikes me as showing respect, just covering ass.

    • BoZo says:

      On a soft pile of money.

  13. Premium User Badge

    c-Row says:

    But what about past games that already come with always-on DRM? John, we need to know!

    • John Walker says:

      According to a piece on Gamasutra, they say they’ve removed it from all of them. I haven’t checked this myself.

      • Donkeyfumbler says:

        Are you going to check and confirm for us John? Or can anyone else confirm.

        I’ve not bought any Ubisoft games for a long while because of their stance on DRM and the always on requirement on some titles, plus their apparent disdain for the PC.

        If that’s changing then I’d be willing to reconsider and might even go back and look at some of their recent titles, but I’d really need to see confirmation that the worst DRM they have is single activation on any titles, new or old.

        • Tritagonist says:

          According to it’s Wikipedia page, The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom is the only game that still uses Ubisoft’s most far-reaching always-online DRM.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          That would require someone to buy an UBisoft game, right? I stopped at my impulse buy of FarCry 2 (gah awfulness!).

      • Rei Onryou says:

        If anyone could confirm this, that’d be great. Like Donkeyfumbler, I’d be willing to buy a lot of the Ubi back catalogue games if this stance is retro-active.

        Far Cry 3 is back on the list to buy and I’ll probably get Ass Creed 3 on PC instead of console (due to UbiDRM and poor porting, bought the other AssCreeds on 360).

        • Premium User Badge

          SpakAttack says:

          You do know that buying it on console instead of PC because of the DRM actually encourages use of said DRM?

      • Sic says:

        If that is the case, I’ll probably start acquiring their backlog.

      • SominiTheCommenter says:

        As someone who played most of the catalog, I can say that it has been removed from every game they still support.
        Look here for further proof: http://steamdrm.flibitijibibo.com/index.php?page=DRM_Lists/The_Big_DRM_List#07_account_based_ubisoft_drm.txt
        It applies not just to Steam versions.

        • Premium User Badge

          c-Row says:

          So according to this list Settlers 7 still requires always-on at this point. Pity, still no sale then.

    • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

      Yeah I actually expected that question and was disappointed it was missing. I suspect the older games will stay the same though.

      EDIT: Oh look there.

  14. Premium User Badge

    DarkLiberator says:

    Sounds like half of their reply consists of feedback, feedback, and more feedback!

    • BoZo says:

      Yeah what I got from this interview was “Whine more and louder and we’ll eventually listen.”

      • Optimaximal says:

        Surely that’s better than ‘we don’t care how much you whine because MONEY’

  15. GSGregory says:

    1. They seem scarred to show the “data” they have when makes me question how much of it is either true or legal.

    2. They are trying to flip their image around but are unwilling to say they screwed up which means they are really making any progress at all.

    3. DRM is not the only issue with their pc releases with things like major bugs or missing content/features from the pc versions.

    When they make a game worth buying that works for the customer and not against them maybe people would actually buy their games.

    • aepervius says:

      The most probably reason they don’t want to show the data, is because they probably fear that it is not solid enough and that somebody could deconstruct it. While the data is hidden they can whine and cry to copyright enforcement group and lobby, but once the data get shown, if it is not pretty solid that could backfire.

      It is almost certainly not about competitiveness as they pretend.

      • Grygus says:

        I suspect you are half-right. If the data is disprovable (which seems likely) then it would become clear that they cost themselves sales and spent money on DRM for no good reason. That may well lead to a competitive disadvantage, as investors tend to look sternly upon their money being wasted.

        I also wonder whether the data could be solid but say the exact opposite of what they are claiming. That would neatly explain both the change in policy and the unwillingness to release the data; it helps their business without admitting anything damaging. If this is the case, I would consider it inevitable that we will find out sooner or later.

  16. Maxheadroom says:

    I almost didnt read this because I thought ambitious, pre-rehearsed answers from the Ubisoft Spinbot-o-tron would just make me angry, but you really nailed them with your questions so hats off to you for that.

    Honestly, Jeremy “Did you threaten to overrule him” Paxman could learn a thing or two from you!

  17. Syra says:

    Interviewing what are basically PR trained people – shit one of them is a PR guy. Never gonna get real answers. Atleast you made them squirm a little.

    • John Walker says:

      It’s fairly standard practice when doing an interview like this for a publisher to put a PR person in with the non-PR being interviewed. Obviously I’d prefer they didn’t.

      • hemmingjay says:

        I was elated that the PR rep used a deft touch and didn’t really try to wrangle the other too much. There was a moment where Stephanie allowed the PR rep to answer a delicate question first and merely agreed, but other than that I think it went as well as expected. Great interview, and most importantlym great changes.

        • ItalianPodge says:

          I like it when the PR people have to step in, you know the interviewer is onto something and they feel they have to “protect” the person and the company. You don’t even have to read what the PR people say and you get the true answer.

      • JoeGuy says:

        You seriously didn’t hold back. I couldn’t imagine IGN giving an interview like this and making sure they didn’t wriggle out of the questions without a fight.
        It would have ended up a fluff piece. Good job. I actually feel enlightened and informed after hearing from a game Publisher for once!

      • Nemrod says:

        I think right now RPS readers would commit mass wedding with the mastermind

  18. Drake Sigar says:

    To quote Mr Powers – “Ouch, baby. Very ouch.”

    That was one of the most brutal interviews I’ve ever seen, and I had to keep reminding myself that Ubisoft deserve this, and this is for it’s own good.

  19. Pindie says:

    PR people do not even speak human language anymore. They just mumble unintelligible phrases like “I cannot comment on that”, “confidential” and “I would not use this word”.
    Just a daily remainder Ubisoft is a soulless conglomerate eating good developers and ruining franchises.
    Yes I am exaggerating, maybe.

    Also seems like now it takes two PR persons to face against lone RPS journalist.

    • El_Emmental says:

      One PR (Michael Burk, “community manager”) and one director for online games (Stephanie Perotti).

      Of course both were trained for PR during their stay at Ubisoft and right before the interview and were both given an answers-sheet (only bypassable if both agree on the answer) by the PR department.

      If Ubi doesn’t do that (PR talk) they’ll have a Michael Burk saying “My predecessor never took these problems seriously, and got moved/fired/promoted for that, he’s now in charge of the entire Public Relations Department because he drank mojitos with the CEO while I was organizing our E3 conference”

      or a Stephanie Perotti saying “At the board of directors Mr XXX was attacking me over his bogus made-up piracy figures (that only ignorant shareholders and soon-to-be-retired directors believed) to overthrow me ; the only thing I could do was going the always-on way, even though I knew it was stupid, but the shareholders and CEO were pleased and I kept my position – I wasn’t going to lose my job over a handful of video games that were going to be crippled by always-on DRM by Mr XXX anyway – and let’s not talk about QA budget cuts”.

      Getting the “we listened to feedback” treatment in public is actually giving ammunition to all employees trying to torpedo the “always-on DRM” policy.

      • Pindie says:

        Not a big deal but my points were that they do not speak like human beings and their company is a soulless conglomerate. What you described is part of it.

        This is a standard in many industries but video games are a special case IMO since there is competition from smaller studios and publishers who do PR much, much better. We are entitled to better treatment, the PR talk might be good for investors and stock holders but I am attempting to point out it is not useful for building a fanbase.

        • hemmingjay says:

          You make sense, but when you build your fanbase and your company goes public, you will need a PR team like this in order to maintain investor confidence/bank confidence. You are right, it’s not palatable but it is necessary.

  20. scannerdarkly says:

    Liked the interview!!

    I also think it was quite a sign of more openness respect to the classic ubisoft

  21. John Walker says:

    It’s worth nothing that Ubisoft as a whole aren’t refusing to admit they made mistakes. This piece on Gamasutra is much more humble:

    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/177092/Can_Ubisoft_shed_its_DRM_bad_guy_image.php

    • El_Emmental says:

      Publicly showing signs of weakness is really risky, the next day you’ll have thousands of angry russians customers raging over the ukrainian dubbing, people asking for refunds all around the world, european customers asking for US prices (60€ = $75), etc. It takes a lot of confidences to go ahead and admit you were wrong.

    • Lemming says:

      Brilliant comment from a Maria Jayne in the comments section there:

      “It isn’t anti-piracy its anti-consumer. If you stop a pirate playing one of your games, you don’t actually make money, you just lose the money it took to stop them. “

      • El_Emmental says:

        “If you stop a pirate playing one of your games, you don’t actually make money, you just lose the money it took to stop them”

        At first, but if the pirate really want to play that game (if it’s really good and/or other friends are playing it), he will *perhaps* buy it after all. Hold on, read the whole comment before telling how stupid that assumption is.

        Then, if several good/popular games are not easily crackable, the pirate might think about buying it before immediately trying to pirate it.

        In reality, there’s millions of reasons for pirating (demoing, not wanting to risk money on an uncertain game, not enough money for all games, want to play offline, etc), most games are skippable (at least until the price drops), vast majority of games are cracked within 3 months. So trying to stop a pirate from playing your games is stupid.

        However, most sales (we’re talking about 70-80%) are made during the first 3 weeks, and if the DRM can hold the pirates off for that duration, it “worked” (from the publisher point of view).

        Then why keeping it after a month ? To not teach everyone to wait a month to get a easily-pirated copy – but at the same time it’s teaching people to not wait a few weeks to get a DRM-less copy. Maybe there’s a balanced choice there: 6 months ?

    • Nemrod says:

      well, clearly Gamasutra is more of a professional oriented platform. You risk lower gamers outbreak but you gain reputation with professionals.

      IT’S A TRAP!

  22. El_Emmental says:

    Good interview, John hammered his questions but stayed calm (a little bit too Paxmanish to me, but it was probably needed, at least for the first interview on DRMs), and Ubisoft tried to act decently while not giving out explosive answers.

    I just wish we would have that kind of interviews much more often.

    • JoeGuy says:

      Agreed. I really enjoyed the sheer frankness of this interview.
      If we got an EA rep that isn’t a suit to sit down to a interview like this it would be great.

  23. Gl3n says:

    Very careful corporate replies from Ubisoft there. Shame they didn’t come entirely clean about the whole situation being a huge fuck up on their part.

    I would have liked them much more than I do now.

  24. Premium User Badge

    LTK says:

    What I read in this interview:

    Weasel, weasel weasel, weasel weasel weasel, weasel weasel, unfortunate comment, weasel weasel weasel, a one-time activation and no more always-online DRM for our PC games, weasel weasel weasel, PC provides 10% revenue, weasel weasel.

    So the substance of the interview was good news, very good news even; it was just buried in layers and layers of weaseling around.

  25. Spoit says:

    It seems like this whole interview was just one, huge unfortunate comment

    • Screamer says:

      Yes they seem to not have PR people around when they should, and then have when they shouldn’t (in this interview)

  26. Avish says:

    Very good interview. Excellent questions from a good journalist and expected answers from corporate PR people.

    Bottom line is: No more silly DRM policies for UBIsoft games, which is good news and that’s what’s important.

  27. Zanchito says:

    Congratulations John on a really well conducted interview. You asked the right questions and demanded, time and again, an answer. This is what journalism (of any kind) should be, used to be, instead of the decaffeinated PR parroting we get in newspapers and websites everywhere now.

    Respect to you.

    • Zanchito says:

      Also:

      “Perotti: I’m not going to comment on data.”

      Well, then maybe you should shut the fuck up. The same crap we put up with politicians and think tanks. All dogmatism, 0% reliable, verifiable hard facts.

      • hemmingjay says:

        I think the thousands of employees at Ubi are happy that the comments were careful. It means their chances of having jobs and being able to support their families tomorrow are decent. If you want them to publicly admit that decisions made by the upper echelon were stupid then I hope you have intentions of hiring all of them at a competitive wage.

        The issue is a complex one, hence the complex and careful response. Not everything in the world is there to satisfy entitled neckbeards.

        • Nemrod says:

          Do you work at Ubisoft?

          Joke aside… a company should live and breath by selling things. If the market is saturated and more money is needed for investing in AAA titles than there is in the bank; then maybe you have to audit and revise the working process of your company. Stop wasting so much money on marketing, accounting, managing, banking, whatnots.. whithout them you could still produce high quality games (’cause these are high quality games of sort) while making more profit!

          • hemmingjay says:

            I work freelance in the industry but not(ever) Ubisoft.

            You are right about the industry as a whole needing to re-evaluate the model. Unfortunately, typically the decisions are ultimately up to aging executives who are holding on to their jobs by a thread. Shifts in consumer behavior related to technology is outpacing their ability to learn and adapt, so instead they adopt whatever the general consensus strategy is and hold on to it steadfastly. The problem is these strategies are often flawed to begin with and outdated by the time they propose them as their own.

            This is why the companies all spent $50-200 million dollars on games(most lost major money) in the last 5 years. Then they all tried their hats at the F2P big budget games, which are now the current trend but performing under expectations.

            Next they will chase the Indie and mobile models in earnest with similar results.

            TLDR: They are trying to change, but change and innovation are different animals.

  28. YogSo says:

    So, the only piece of ‘real’ information we can take from this is that PC sales make up about 10% of their revenue. So that’s the percentage of how much care from them we can expect to receive…

  29. Premium User Badge

    Crimsoneer says:

    God, most police interviews are more frank and open than this.

  30. Lemming says:

    It’s just covert DRM now with Uplay. You cannot launch Anno 2070 without going through Uplay first. This is how it’s going to be and, honestly, it’s no different to just straight up DRM offline mode or not. Ludicrous when you buy a game from Steam and are then forced to have a pretend French Steam launch up as well.

    • Optimaximal says:

      Of course, you can’t launch a Steamworks game without Steam.

      Yes, it’s extra clicks/launcher within a launcher, but you’re essentially complaining about a launcher, of which Steam is one. Did you check whether you can launch the exe from the steamapps folder when Steam is closed?

      Double Standards?

      • Lemming says:

        There’s always one…

        You must think I was born yesterday to trot out that old illogical argument.

        I chose to purchase the game via Steam. That means I’m happy having to launch Steam to play the game. I did not choose Uplay – it is forced upon me no matter which version of the game I buy.

        One makes the other irrelevant. Uplay and other publisher specific storefront garbage have no place on Steam, for the same reason I wouldn’t expect to buy something direct from Uplay and have it insist on launching Steam first. It’s madness and needlessly annoying.

        If you can’t see the distinction I can’t help you.

        • Emeraude says:

          I chose to purchase the game via Steam. That means I’m happy having to launch Steam to play the game. I did not choose Uplay – it is forced upon me no matter which version of the game I buy.

          What about all those of us that chose to buy retail and are forced to use Steam though ?

          Same difference to us.

          • Lemming says:

            1. There are like, 2 games that do that.

            2. You telling me these people didn’t already have a Steam account? PC Gaming must be rather barren for them.

          • pmh says:

            1. Every Valve game, all Bethesda games since Fallout New Vegas, and a laundry list of other AAA games that use Steamworks. Here’s a thread for 2012: http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1712878

            2. Because I have a Steam account I should be forced to launch most of my games from it? What should I do since I also have a uplay, Origin, Gamefly, Impulse, GoG, Amazon, and Greenman account?

          • Emeraude says:

            @Lemming:

            As pointed out, there are loads of games that do that – you even tacitly acknowledged it yourself by commenting how “barren” PC gaming must be for one that does not use Steam.

            Which is exactly what I reproaches it with: as the line I’m not willing to cross (online activation), it marks the frontier of an on-going desertification of the PC gaming market for me.

            And believe it or not, but I’m far from alone in that. Most people who share my distaste don’t argue, they just don’t bother and abandon ship, so you just never hear from them.

  31. greenbananas says:

    “We need to improve our communication”

    You sure do. Internally as well as externally. As a start, try answering Walker’s “Would Ubisoft now acknowledge that DRM only affects legitimate customers, and doesn’t affect people who pirate games?” question with something that actually makes the least bit of sense.

  32. Alexandros says:

    Great interview. I expect to see Ubisoft’s PC revenue rise steadily if they keep their promise.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Once people stop talking about DRM, they start talking about Uplay.

  33. Addict7 says:

    Yeah that’s what I call Journalism

  34. The Infamous Woodchuck says:

    About. Damn. Time.

  35. Nallen says:

    John Walker you are my hero. You are a blessing, be it embarrassing the hell out of these idiots or your relentless pursuit of accuracy in reporting on matters of video games and violence. I wish we could get you on the news so can you could talk sense in to more people’s heads on these issues. Thank you.

  36. Snegletiss says:

    We listened to the feedback and the feedback gave back some feed on what was more appropriate to do.

    This guy is programmed.

  37. Hatsworth says:

    They don’t seem to be conversing like homosapiens. Are we sure they aren’t lizards?

    I guess it’s to be expected, given how easily Ubisoft seems to exude “unfortunate comments”.

  38. bladedsmoke says:

    whoops, I posted this on the other article by mistake, so I’ll repost it here. Hope no-one minds.

    I did some maths and I figured out that if the “95% of our games are pirated” thing was true, and the “12% of our sales are PC” is true, then doesn’t that mean that, if you take pirating into account, Ubisoft PC games are actually 2.4 times more popular than console versions? Seeing as the 12% sold on PC would account for just 5% of the Ubi games being played on PC overall.

    Is my maths wrong there?

    It sort of proves how silly that “95%” statistic is, anyway.

    • El_Emmental says:

      The piracy rates are mostly calculated like that:

      Go on torrent websites, see how many people (if that number is publicly displayed) downloaded the torrents/magnets related to your games, download these torrents/magnets link and use an automatic script to count the different IPs.

      After a week or two, or a month, you get X IP addresses. Then, they roughly calculate an average of unique IPs per day, then extrapolate it over several months (using shoddy graphs of piracy rates over time from other games, made years ago), then multiply it randomly to match all the piracy ways they couldn’t cover (direct download, private torrents, etc) based on decades old sources, round it up to a nice number, and release that to the press.

      They really have no idea how the piracy market is evolving, this why they are foolishly trying nuke it with draconian DRMs, to no avail.

    • Pindie says:

      I believe the 95% claimed piracy rates include console games.
      Piracy is not PC specific.

    • thealienamongus says:

      pretty much

  39. Premium User Badge

    Goodtwist says:

    Hats off to RPS! You really stand out in terms of journalistic professionalism!

    Also, cudos to UBI Soft for being courageous enaugh to be confronted in this interview. Although, one can only get depressed when reading such corporate non-information sentences.

  40. Premium User Badge

    el_murph says:

    10% on PC is actually pretty good for a company that has been alienating their PC customers for the last few years. If you take it that the other 90% is divided between the other 3 consoles and the handheld/phone market then it is a rather large percent.

  41. Premium User Badge

    Goodtwist says:

    Also:
    Feed of the Back: FEEDFACE!

  42. Rapzid says:

    John, there are definitely some articles you’ve written that I didn’t agree with but I have to hand it to you; you did good here. The trouble here for me though is that Ubisoft really needs to eat some humble pie. Maybe even all the humble pies. But they aren’t. They are playing this off as “We made a business decision, listened to feedback, and now we are making another business decision. We did nothing wrong. We have numbers to show our decisions were sound, that we can’t show anybody less the universe collapse, but feedback is unpredictable and now we are adjusting to account for it.”

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason they can’t share these mythical numbers is because they have an agreement with some DRM company that would sue them back to 1999 if they ever told a sole about them. Competitive advantage? Everybody knows your DRM failed you hard enough to flip-flop on it! Also: “We don’t break it down specifically game by game”. I find that hard to believe…

  43. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Punches Pulled : Zero

  44. Tilaton says:

    Are they taking it off the old games? If Settlers wouldn’t be shackled with this system I’d buy it…

  45. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Ubisoft were aiming for damage limitation with RPS, given that RPS readers are out for their blood, they were more candid with Gamasutra, they do seem like they’ve finally realised what’s been happening to their image the last few years.

  46. thealienamongus says:

    I wish they would cite the ‘Research’ because without at least some of the external papers all we have is their word. At least with 2Dboy they provided the methodology, flawed as it was but that is (partly) the point.

  47. Core says:

    Great interview. Shame they won’t release their piracy data, having that data out in the open, would really help the piracy debate move forward.

  48. Jon Tetrino says:

    The comment about June is bupkiss, there were games that came out after the fact that had the always-on DRM applied. From Dust for example.

    Good to see they woke up and smelled the roses. Shame to see they have not admitted they fucked up.

    • benkc says:

      Aha, and here I was thinking I was misremembering what year that came out.

  49. phenom_x8 says:

    Just want to know : what is being a paxman means?? (sorry, for not being a british)

    Btw, that’s a naughty interview, John! Very, very naughty you are! :D

  50. RegisteredUser says:

    This going from always-on to activate-once feels like the success of a cunning scheme to make gamers thankful for “only” getting “normal” DRM forced into their games.