Ubisoft Scrapping Always-On DRM For PC Games


In an interview on RPS today, Ubisoft tells us that they will no longer use their controversial “always-on” DRM. In fact, they quietly scrapped it months ago, but haven’t made that official until now. In what is a really remarkable turnaround, the publisher pledges that from now on they will only require a single online activation after installing, with no activation limits, nor limits on how many PCs it may be activated.

Ubisoft’s worldwide director for online games, Stephanie Perotti, explained that always-on has actually been gone for quite a while.

“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.”

Ubisoft’s DRM had previously meant that you could not launch games without an internet connection, and if your connection dropped at any point the game you were playing would instantly stop, often losing progress you may have made. It was widely derided, and the bane of many gamers, but Ubisoft seemed defiant in response. Until now. Clarifying the new position, Perotti summarises it, using Assassin’s Creed III as an example:

“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.”

In the rest of the interview, coming up in a couple of hours, we discuss Ubisoft’s plans to decrease delays for PC releases, try to find out why the publisher doesn’t publish the numbers behind its claims about piracy, and which of the statements they’ve made in recent years that they now find unfortunate.


  1. LionsPhil says:

    Yes, I certainly trust Ubisoft to stick to their word.


    Honestly, though, “details at 10”? This isn’t television news, RPS.

    • Was Neurotic says:

      :D I was thinking much the same thing. But hey, as far as single player PC offline news goes, this is pretty big.

    • John Walker says:

      We agreed with Ubi to wait until 8am before announcing this news. But we thought having the full interview at a more amenable hour made sense.

    • Hardlylikely says:

      There really should have been an FMV trailer announcing this post, which 2 hours before the interview goes online, tells us the interview will be online in 2 hours. And maybe an ARG.

      I will need to see games released under the terms promised before I trust anything out of Ubisoft. Simultaneous worldwide releases at the same time as consoles would be nice too. As would no more last minute release delays.

      edit: ninjaed by John, but letting it stand.

      • povu says:

        There should’ve been a 24 hour countdown, which when reaching zero crashes the site for a full hour before the actual article can be seen, half of the site’s images still broken.

    • JoeGuy says:

      Offline Single Player games should always be an option to consumers, considering Always-Online offered no benefit to anyone and didn’t detour piracy, probably even increased it tbh. I am glad they realized single player has a home offline at last. Just convenient for a start.

    • Meneth says:

      I think having this as a separate story makes the most sense, because if not, the interview would likely be drowned in comments about always-on DRM, rather than other parts of the interview.

    • ulix says:

      As they’ve said:
      Not requiring “Always-On” has been Ubisoft’s policy for almost a year now. So it’s not a question of trusting them to keep their promise or anything. They’ve already done it.

      Driver SF: No “Always-On” DRM
      Anno 2070: No “Always-On” DRM
      Ghost Recon: Future Soldier: No “Always-On” DRM
      Rayman Origins: No “Always-On” DRM

      Granted, some of them had more intrusive DRM than the one described in the interview, but they did not require you to be online at all times.

      • Hardlylikely says:

        I stopped paying attention after a while, I don’t like getting angry on the internet too often, life is short. This will be good for people like me who don’t hopefully follow every game announcement to see if this time they will treat me like an honest customer.

      • WLF62 says:

        Ok, so Uplay has an offline mode. Driver:SF and From Dust work offline, but HAWX 2 still doesn’t. That makes lots of sense.

      • Milky1985 says:

        Driver had always on at launch for some of its features, i think the kick you out due to drops was patched out. But still reared its head during the steam sale because it apparently still checked with drm servers every couple of minutes (just nto doing anythign with the data), and the steam sale broke them so was causing game hitches until they fixed that.

        A few of their recent gams have had the awlasy on at launch but it gets patched out, except rayman which has no Uplay at all from what i have played of it.

        [EDIT} From my own experience the features such as uplay stuff and exclusives are iffy if they work online or off, i have some of the extra maps and races for that but they never appeared.

        I also don’t have my uplay points for finishing the game even tho i was online.

        • thelongshot says:

          While uPlay didn’t register my completing the tutorial (because it had dropped out) it later credited me for it when it was online. It may do the same for you if you run the game with your completed save.

          Course, Ubisoft still has bigger issues to deal with. Installing Driver through uPlay was a PITA, and support was useless in helping me. (and saying in the forums that you should contact support is not helpful.)

      • battles_atlas says:

        I bought Driver SF in the Steam sale and online-activation or not, Uplay has been nothing but a pain in the ass. Failing to launch, failing to launch the game, pointlessly locking out some game content until I’d earned the required number of points, at which point I’d have to go outside the game to redeem.

        Best of all the ‘cloud syncing save games’. This is a complete mystery to me. It runs everytime you launch and quit Driver, but when I reinstalled my system a few weeks back it did not recover my saves as I assumed it would – it did nothing. I had a backup of the file and used that lucky. For 24 hours. Then I had to do a second reinstall, at which point the cloud sync appeared to write over my backup.

        ‘always-on’ DRM is not even half the story.

      • koriar says:

        In Anno, they don’t completely kick you out if you aren’t connected to their servers, but they do take away the ability to customize your home base.

        Their authentication servers were down for weeks when I bought the game, making some of the levels nearly impossible. (for me at least)

      • MattM says:

        Anno 2070’s required you to be online or it would disable features that didn’t really need you to be online. It felt like the same thing and it allowed ubisoft to hide behind the excuse that you could still play when they got lazy/cheap about server uptime.

        • Archonsod says:

          The only disabled feature that would work offline is the Ark customisation. Senate votes wouldn’t really work too well offline …

      • LintMan says:

        So always-on DRM hasn’t been their policy for almost a year? What about all their older games that were stuck with it – have they removed the requirement from all those games?

  2. caddyB says:

    Curious. I wonder if there’re problems with the new gen consoles, considering the sudden surge of love PC is getting.

    • mondomau says:

      If by ‘problem’, you mean they’re at least 1-2 years from launch and the big publishers need something to fill in the gap, then yes.

    • Screamer says:

      Naah don’t think its that, might be more that the console are 10 years old.

      All this we love PC boohaa from all the publishers will end as soon as the Next “Next-Gen” Gen consoles are released. We’ll be back to being the red headed step children again.

    • Fumarole says:

      Console gaming is dead!

  3. Badly Browned says:


  4. Angel Dust says:

    This is great news. I’ll be getting Far Cry 3 now!

    • BobbyDylan says:

      This. and Ass Cred 2.

      • Edawan says:

        Unless you meant AssCreed 3, I doubt they’ll go back and change the DRM in their old games.

        • povu says:

          Probably not. At least not again. They already replaced the always online DRM from AC2 with a ‘online on launch’ requirement right?

          • KenTWOu says:

            They already replaced the always online DRM from AC2 with a ‘online on launch’ requirement right?

            AC2 works offline since february!

        • MattM says:

          Considering it costs them some money to maintain the always online servers (more than authentication servers) there is hope they will patch it all out. Or they might just end of life the games so afflicted.
          You know I was mad when spore first introduced authentication checks. Now I am happy about Ubi announcing them. Well played Ubisoft.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        Let’s not forget Anno 2070!

  5. Wodge says:


    • Torgen says:

      Dammit, you just reminded me that I haven’t finished Recettear.

  6. gschmidl says:


  7. Lars Westergren says:

    Some claim that if big companies were to be judged by the same standards as individuals, they would be diagnosed as being sociopathic. Ubisoft seem more like sufferers of bipolar disorder to me.

    Anyway: Thank you for this Ubisoft. I think it will be good both for you and consumers in the long run.

  8. JoeGuy says:

    Good job. A positive decision deserves a positive response. I appreciate that change in strategy.

  9. jplayer01 says:

    Could it be? Have we won? I’ll believe it when I see it. And if it is true, I’ll finally start buying their games again.

    • Vorphalack says:

      It’s hard to call ”win” when you look at the state of some of their recent titles. Heroes 6, for example, still has fairly serious unresolved UI bugs (the flickering cursor is infuriating) and something akin to a memory leak which makes the game choppy after only 20-30 mins. I’ve been able to play that offline since launch, but thanks to the lack of post launch support and the recent farce with the Uplay web plugin, I don’t want it or Uplay back on my computer. They need a general improvement of standards, as well as permanently ditching the DRM, before I start buying their stuff again.

    • alundra says:

      See?? The whole “vocal minority” argument pro drm’ers use again anti drm’ers is pure propaganda. Having your rights as consumers be respected pays off in the long run.

      It’s obvious this won’t be enough for people to magically start loving UBI but it’s a huge win in the war against draconian DRM schemes.

      Grats to RPS as they played an important part on this.

      And to all people that have defended customer defenestrating DRM devices over the years:

  10. NickAbc423 says:

    Sounds like they might be doing something right for a change. Hopefully they stick to their word.

  11. jimbonbon says:

    I actually had to double-check it wasn’t April 1st when I saw the article title This is excellent news, although seems a very strange turnaround given the whole ’93-95% piracy’ statement. Not that i’m complaining…

    • Grim_22 says:

      This. It says a lot about a company that whenever they actually seem to listen to their customers and issue a positive response to their feedback, their customers are so baffled that they have to check if it’s april in the middle of september.

      • KenTWOu says:

        their customers are so baffled that they have to check if it’s april in the middle of september.

        Their customers actually have their games and know that these games already have fully fucntional offline mode! Even very old games like Splinter Cell:Conviction or Assassin’s Creed 2 (always-on DRM and dial home every start later) have full offline mode since February.

        • Grim_22 says:

          Yes, fine, but I was talking about acknowledging feedback which they hadn’t done, seeing as they kept it a “secret”. Some people buy their games legally, but then bypass the DRM. I doubt most of those people even bother to check what protection it has before circumventing it.

          • KenTWOu says:

            True! They need to improve their communication with PC community.

  12. mixvio says:

    Hasn’t been in place since June 2011?

    It was in Anno 2070, which was released in November 2011. It was also certainly in place on all their titles that still use it during the Steam sale a couple months ago, since even RPS reported about people unable to play/activate their games.

    It’s great news if they finally get rid of it for good but I’d rather they didn’t pretend “what, this has been out of our games for aaaaaages you guys!!”

    • ulix says:

      You’re wrong. Anno does not, I repeat DOES NOT require you to be online at all times. You can’t use some features if you aren’t online, but the game is perfectly playable.

      Just like Driver SF, Ghost Recon Future Soldier and Rayman Origins.

      • mondomau says:

        ‘some features’ being the ability use, store or unlock Ark upgrades – a fairly sizable bit of the long term gameplay. Not saying you’re wrong about offline mode, but you’re being a little disingenuous in your assertion.

      • mixvio says:

        Really not sure what you’re talking about, if I don’t have an internet connection I’m prompted that I have to log in simply to get into the game at all. I tested it just now to confirm it was doing exactly what I remembered. In fact I installed it on a freshly-formatted Windows 8 laptop yesterday and I’ve yet to be able to activate it at all on the second machine in the first place because every single time I log in I get an error about being unable to connect to their servers. Just a login prompt that repeats the same error message no matter how many times I try and log in.

    • Shivoa says:

      Agreed, the ‘dial home every time you run the game and refuse to work in single-player if it can’t connect’ DRM is basically always-on without the (potential, what a joke) lag spikes and disconnects as far as being able to play a game is concerned.

      And the lack of openness on this is why I still haven’t pulled the trigger on Anno 2070* despite that looking interesting (note to Ubi: if you actually patch this DRM out of your old games and make it incredibly clear exactly what the post-patch status is then you will drive sales of those titles from people like me who have had to avoid games which are clearly rentals due to their dial-home on execute nature).

      * And other might consider the rather great Driver:SF. The PC port wasn’t special but I recently bit the bullet for $1 on Uplay (which is a reasonable price for a rental and so weakened my resolve, unlike the £5 sales on Steam which still seemed too expensive with the DRM) and that game really is a lot of fun.

      • ulix says:

        Just booted my Desktop and pulled out the internet cable just to prove you wrong. And as it turns out: you’re wrong.

        Starting Anno 2070 with an internet connection is two (2) clicks:
        1. Click the desktop symbol
        2. Click “play” in the uPlay launcher

        Starting Anno 2070 without an internet connection is four (4) clicks:
        1. Click the desktop symbol
        2. Click “start” after uPlay tells you there is no connection
        3. Click “go offline” in the window that appears
        4. Click “play” in the uPlay launcher

        Sure, you could now say “Oh my glob! Two more clicks! What an incredibly intrusive DRM!”, but no-one would take you seriously…

        The only legitimate criticism you could level against this process has absolutely nothing to do with DRM:
        Why would you need two clicks if online, when Steam only requires one?
        And why would you need four clicks if offline, when Steam only requires two?

        • Shivoa says:

          See below post. You are correct on Anno2070 (it is on my don’t buy list because of the 3 installations and you’re done DRM), keeping track of all these different types of unacceptable DRM is tricky.

          Driver:SF was the one where they went from always on to dial home every start and maybe by today they have even added an offline mode to that game but who knows (I can only find the RPS post when it moved from always on to every time you run dialing home).

          Edit: and by the look of the post above Anno removes one of the upgrade systems (which from my reading would otherwise be there in solo games if not offline) from the game to punish you for using the offline mode and giving you less of the solo experience to force you online. So that seems to be a ‘mostly works offline’ solo play (but maybe I’m reading that detail wrong – definitely a sign the DRM policies are confusing as none of that stuff is spelled out on the storepage on Steam).

        • djim says:

          You still need to login to steam first buddy. And it has to be running to be able to play the game. That is also intrusive isn’t it?

          • mixvio says:

            Steam explicitly has an “offline mode.” It’s even called that. This is a bit disingenuous.

  13. Strabo says:

    Since June last year? And why does Anno 2070 still freaks out if it doesn’t have a online connection?

    • ulix says:

      It doesn’t. Since patch 1.05 it works perfectly fine offline.

  14. Arathian says:

    Nice. As someone that has EXTREMELY crappy internet, I can safely now buy their games. I had bought assasin’s creed 2 and couldn’t play due to the always online DRM to the point that I just pirated it while I had ALREADY bought it.

    And then they say pirates do it because we are bad people.

  15. HexagonalBolts says:

    RPS I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that your constant and just criticism of their DRM might have played a part in making this happen. Good job chaps.

  16. The First Door says:

    That’s really good news!

    However, does this mean they are going to fix The Settlers 7? I love that game, but it can be a bit flaky at times!

    • Kazz says:

      Hopefully, I’ve been wanting to pick that up for years but didn’t because of the awful DRM system.

    • c-Row says:

      Oh yes, please!

    • frightlever says:

      I bought Settlers 7 cheap off Amazon but never got round to installing it. Here’s hoping they patch the always on DRM out of it.

  17. Lambchops says:

    Apparently those living on the Isle of Arran wont receive the interview until 12 o’clock. Shame on you RPS! “No oceans” indeed! Can’t even cope with a ferry crossing. Disgraceful.

  18. Bob says:

    And here I was thinking I’d never see the 12th of never.

    Thanks Ubisoft, if this is for reals you’ll have me as a customer again.

  19. Hardlylikely says:

    Yes, congratulations and thanks are due, and to all others who wrote against UbiDRM or refused to buy their games.

  20. varangian says:

    This is a stroke of marketing and PR genius! Ubisoft scraps the thing that has got them lots of hate and, if I’m a guide, caused people who would have paid for a game to spend their money elsewhere. Then they keep it secret for (allegedly) a year so nobody would know.

    Although judging by some of the comments from folks who were lured into buying their product the always on restriction is still up and not running your game. But perhaps this phrase: ‘since June last year our policy for all of PC games is that we only require a one-time online activation’ is the key to explaining that. Having a policy and actually doing something are two different things. For instance since June last year I’ve had a policy of not calling Ubisoft fuckwits. In other news I think Ubisoft are fuckwits.

  21. AmateurScience says:

    I shall refer to this henceforth as the gog effect. Good news all round. I hope this signals a change in attitudes amongst the larger publishers going forward.

    Edit: Side note: it’s interesting to watch this story filter through the net from this point. Epidemiology!

  22. mbp says:

    I know Ubisoft has been pretty clueless about PC gamers in the past but this is another very positive development. along with the launch of Uplay-PC. Uplay-pc is still rough around the edges and a long way behind Steam (and even behind Origin) but it is a a huge leap forward from the awful awful Ubi-shop (remember the extended download license???).

    It all makes me think that someone in Ubisoft has finally begun to realise what the PC gaming market is all about.

    • Morlock says:

      I think that managment is clueless. How often has Ubisoft changed its DRM-policies in the past few years?

    • wu wei says:

      I’m still not convinced. Ubisoft games you buy through Steam aren’t visible in the Uplay launcher for games that you buy from Ubisoft direct, and vice versa, despite them being tied to the same Uplay account.

      I cannot see my Ubisoft library without starting two Uplay launchers, and since it won’t allow two instances of the launcher to be running, that means I just cannot see my entire library at once.

      (And that’s ignoring the time they mis-registered a half-dozen purchases to a newly created ‘shopSOMERANDOMSTRINGOFNUMBERS’ account, despite my being logged in at the time, and which they refused to re-assign to my main account. Ubisoft are dicks.)

  23. Crows says:

    I just don’t get it! Why are you thanking Ubisoft? You live with the false impression that they care about their consumers? Why didn’t they care when they released Always ON? Why would they be caring now?
    I am sure they had a massive loss since the added always on and now after doing the math they figure out that in sales it was better without it.

  24. AgamemnonV2 says:

    GameSpy: So when’s the PC release date?

    Ubisoft PR: October 30th.

    GameSpy: Yeah, but when’s the real PC release date?

    Ubisoft PR: It’s October 30th.

    GameSpy: Uh huh. And can you say that with a straight face?

    Ubisoft PR: You can ask me as many times as you like, but the answer will be the same.

    GameSpy: Very well, let’s move on. So, when will you announce the delay of the PC version?

    Ubisoft PR: …

    Now, ask me if I believe a word Ubisoft has to say.

    • The Godzilla Hunter says:

      I almost feel sorry for that guy, as he was probably told that he HAS to say this. I can just imagine the look on his face during the interview.

  25. bladedsmoke says:

    If this is true, I’ll start buying Ubisoft games again! I might even stop making fun of them… Maybe. Down the line. Okay, maybe not.

  26. Morlock says:

    They really don’t know what they are doing, do they.

    But yes, this is good news, and will certainly chabge my attitude towards buying their games at full price.

    Will always-on be dismantled from previous titles?

    • ulix says:

      I may buy Settlers 7 if they do…

    • Optimaximal says:

      It’s already gone from AC2 & Splinter Cell: Conviction and has been for about a year now.

  27. Optimaximal says:

    Why do I have a feeling this is less of a ‘customer service’ thing and more a ‘we now have a portal that allows us to sell PC games, but nobody will buy from us because they all hate our DRM. What the hell, we have another way of restricting our customers from playing our games now’.

    News at 11 – Ubisoft to make Assassins Creed 3 a uPlay exclusive.
    News at 12 – Insult a moderator on a Ubisoft forum, lose access to your uPlay account.

    Haven’t we been here before?

  28. Derppy says:

    Whenever you want to reach any online service, multiplayer, you will have to be connected

    Does this mean “Online service OR multiplayer”, or just “Online multiplayer”?

    Multiplayer shouldn’t require internet connection, unless it’s an MMO.

    • Shivoa says:

      I’m pretty confident (but would love to be wrong) that they mean multiplayer.

      RIP LAN play, the sane connectivity system that gave us lag-free gaming for years.

      • Emeraude says:

        The fact that LAN (and, I guess, private servers) started dying the moment I was able to build that LAN room I had so longed dreamed of depresses me.

        Much more importantly, on the long run, SO many games are going to be lot to history because of that. Just saddens me.

  29. Hatsworth says:

    Will they still limit content? Such as Heroes VI having stuff only available while online, and incompatible offlline\online savegames? My guess would be yes, but they don’t call it DRM, they’ll call it “bonus online features”.

  30. Col says:

    It’s likely I did something wrong, but I remember not being able to play Driver SF single player due to connection problems around the time of the Steam summer sale which was end of July, right? I suppose July is technically ‘months ago’, but I could have sworn I experienced this problem in August…?

    Well, if always-on DRM really is gone – well done Ubisoft, it shows they’ve been open-minded enough to listen to their userbase and stop punishing the very people who actually buy their games.

    • wu wei says:

      I believe that was a problem with their authentication servers not dealing with the additional load from the Steam sale. What you hit there was an inability to do the once-off online activation.

  31. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Just in time for Ass Greed 3. Although I wont be buying that game, there are an awful lot of ubisoft games I’ve not bought due to this drm and will take them off my ‘no buy’ list going forward.

  32. JackDandy says:

    That’s a very nice peace offering from them. I appreciate that.

  33. AlexV says:

    Cool. Let me know when uPlay launcher gets patched out of Prince of Persia, and I’ll buy it :-)

  34. MrPo0py says:

    This is because the PC isn’t ‘dead’ anymore. Just wait until three or four years when the next gen consoles catch up and suddenly it’s dying again. We’ll see if they stick to their word.

  35. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Well, it’s good they dialed their drm back a bit. It remains to be seen what drm they will be using instead and whether, for instance, they’ll force the customer to use uPlay.

  36. Cytrom says:

    I might actually buy ubisoft games again… been a long while.

  37. Nexozable says:

    Now let’s see if they can make the ports decent.

  38. Emeraude says:

    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

    In other words: “we’ve been so far up on the DRM front that what was unacceptable when we started is now considered tolerable, so we’ll just roll back with that AND try to garner good-will for it.”

    This whole mess is killing me.

  39. KenTWOu says:

    What does Ubisoft think about ‘I Am Alive’ leak?

  40. Alexandros says:

    Yay! Now please remove that thing from your previous games Ubi, I want to buy Anno!

  41. bladedsmoke says:

    haha 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.

    • montorsi says:

      I know it’s fun to take out of context and all, but the 95% figure is for specific markets where piracy is much more rampant.

  42. Victuz says:

    Well Ubisoft you are taking a step in the right direction.

    I still won’t buy your products, you fucked me over too many times.
    Yes I still remember how you told me I can go fuck myself if I want to get the “actual ending” DLC for the cel-shaded Prince of Persia on PC.
    Not to mention the fact that I always have to wait ages for your games to release on this platform and that usually you still find some other way to piss me off.

    Yeah good luck and all but I got hit with a stick too many times to get close again.

  43. RegisteredUser says:

    If they’re realizing DRM doesn’t help or solve problems, why not get rid of the online unlock requirement as well?

    Halfway doesn’t impress me much, nor should it others.

    I still don’t like them.

  44. mr.ioes says:

    Is this retroactive for their games? Can I buy Anno 2070 now with one time activation? Can I use arch upgrades without online connectivity?

  45. montorsi says:

    Thanks, Ubisoft. :)

  46. malkav11 says:

    Cool. Now if they’d just drop server activation, we’d be in business. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not anywhere near as egregious as the always-on stuff was, but it still forces games to rely on external servers to be playable, and we can’t count on them being there forever.

  47. fyro11 says:

    Ubi boycott lifted.

  48. mrmalodor says:

    Does anyone know if this policy is retro-active? Is Hawx 2 now playable offline? I’ve been wanting to buy it, but have waited for a very low price due to DRM.

    Also, provided Ubi keep their word, they have just won my Watch Dogs per-order. Congratulations.

  49. Slinkyboy says:

    Ubiscum. Always.

  50. Premium User Badge

    Buzko says:

    FUCKING YES. Ahem.

    Surely if you’ve changed a hated policy because it was hated, you’d tell people? So that they’d stop hating you? Here’s hoping that this change is permanent, rather than a From Dust-style ‘No! Yes! No!’ deal.