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Ubisoft Activations Monitor Hardware Change

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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John Walker


Once one of the original co-founders of Rock Paper Shotgun, they killed me out of jealousy. I now run

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