Ubisoft have just got in touch with us to say that as a consequence of the extremely negative reaction to the news that Driver: San Francisco, on top of not supporting wheels and being a month late on PC, would have their disgraceful "always on" DRM, that they have changed their mind about the latter. Hooray! I exclaimed. Until I read it more carefully.
"We've heard your feedback regarding the permanent internet connection requirement for Driver and have made the decision to no longer include it. So this means that Driver PC gamers will only need to sign in at game launch but can subsequently choose to play the game offline."
So, er, what has improved?
Ubi offers a range of DRM choices on its games. They go from the moronic Always On, all the way down to none at all. The happy medium, where the fewest hackles appear to rise, is - as with so many in the industry - a single online activation the first time you launch the game. It proves it's your copy, it locks that particular code to your PC, and is - in my opinion - grotesquely wrong and infringing of basic rights on numerous levels, but seems to be a point where people can at least play the damned game. This is what will be coming with Trackmania, From Dust, etc.
But what Driver's DRM has been reduced to is almost pointlessly different. Before if your internet connection went down while you played, the game would stop, and it wasn't possible to play anywhere without an internet connection at all. Now, er, if your internet connection is down you still can't play, and you still can't play anywhere without an internet connection.
Always On is by far and away the most egregiously stupid and unfair DRM to have ever been included with a game. It is of a level of such punitory idiocy that means if you do something so heinous, so criminal, as to have your internet connection drop while you're playing, you get dumped out of the game. It's something Ubisoft have boasted, without providing any proof whatsoever, has reduced piracy. While the claim without proof is meaningless, it also ignores the rather larger issue that so would locking the only copy of the game in a concrete block buried beneath the sea reduce piracy. It would also make it even more inconvenient for a paying customer.
Unfortunately, threatening the very worst option, and then retracting it for a slightly less awful but still ridiculous option, isn't going to draw the cheers and accolades Ubisoft are presumably after. Instead it's going to make us raise an eyebrow at them, and shake our heads.
But let's take one bit of good news from this. There's a heavy inference in this slightest of backtracks that Ubi at least recognise that people won't put up with Always On. This statement is going to make it a little awkward the next time they try to punish legal customers with the same nonsense. So there's that.
But Ubisoft - if you're genuinely listening to the reaction against your DRM, then please actually hear what's being said. With DRM that requires an internet connection to launch, every time, you are once again mindlessly and needlessly punishing your legitimate customers in a way that will not affect those with pirated copies. You will, once again, be selling a product with a serious and significant defect, that those who download it for free will not be encountering. There's no logic or rationale that makes that okay. By requiring an internet connection for launch, on every launch, you punish anyone whose internet isn't working, who wants to play away from home (on a train, on a plane, on a holiday in Cornwall, at their grandparents' house, in their barracks...), or who cannot afford a broadband internet connection. It is cruel. It is stupid. It doesn't work on any level. If you are listening, really listening, then stop this. Stop treating customers like criminals, and start showing respect to those who pay you significant amounts of money for your products.