Ubisoft DRM: Was it really a failure?

When I first wrote about the AC2 fiasco I thought it would actually serve as an example against annoying, anti-consumer DRM. It made perfect sense. Ubisoft seemed to dig it’s own grave by making their single player game require constant internet connection. Even the mainstream gaming publications who usually never mention DRM thought it was a bad idea. As expected, soon after the game was released the AC2 activation servers went down making the it unplayable for more than 10 hours. What do you call this? I call it an epic failure. Your legitimate customers got locked out of the game, while the pirates were sitting on the sidelines laughing at you. What more proof do you need to show that clearly this is not the way to do business.

Unfortunately it seems that Ubisoft has not learned anything from this disaster. In fact they don’t even acknowledge it as a failure viewing it just as a minor hiccup. They are not going to remove the DRM from AC2 and have no intention of dropping it. To the contrary, it seems that they are planing to use it for several upcoming titles. The sad, sad truth is that some high powered Ubisoft VIP probably came up with this system and pushed for it to be implemented. This person (or a group of people) actually signed their name under this project which involved a lot of overhead – such as development and testing of the DRM system itself, purchasing and setting up the activation servers, hiring people to maintain them and etc. This is a lot of costs and risks involved here. You can’t just go and say “Oops, I fucked up. I thought this would work, but I guess it doesn’t. My bad. Let’s take the servers down.” No one is going to step forward and admit this was a fiasco. Even if the game would bomb completely (which it hasn’t) and perform lower than their worst case expectations no one is going to admit it was due to the DRM. Think about it – if you were the guy who singed off on the DRM project what would you do? Me? I would whatever humanly possible to show my decision was not actually that bad, and that the game tanked for a different reason – like poor marketing for example. Which would probably be somewhat true, because when a project this size fails miserably, it is usually due to compound clusterfuck of issues rather than just one specific reason. Of course this is assuming that the game was a failure – and I don’t think it was.

What surprises and scares me is that no one has cracked the game yet. At least as of yet, I haven’t seen a working rip of the game anywhere. I didn’t really think this crazy scheme would work, but it seems that so far Ubisoft has managed to thwart piracy by making AC2 into a Massive Single Player Online game. If there is a cracked version out there I would love to hear about it. It’s not like I want to play the game or anything (AC1 sucked ass IMHO) – but I would sleep better at night knowing Ubisoft DRM is a failure. If not, we may see more publishers taking this route. You doubtlessly already heard that the new Command and Conquer game is going to use the same DRM scheme. Could this be a new trend?

I mean, I know that I keep joking about video game publishers wanting to eventually stream all their PC content online on a pay by play basis but, damn it, I do not want to be right about this!

I mean, why do I have to be treated like a criminal just because I like to play games at my desk, using a keyboard and a mouse instead of sitting on my couch and fumbling around with a controller. Apparently if you don’t own an Xbox or PS3 you must be a criminal. After all, everyone knows that there are no pirate games for consoles. It’s not like I can link to a torrent page where you can download pirate console games, right?

Fortunately, not everyone in the video game industry is on a DRM kick. Some folks actually get it. For example, Gabe Newell of Valve shows a refreshing amount of insight into the topic. Here is a video game studio exec who actually understands that excessive DRM not only does not help sales, but may actually hurt them. Just listed to him talk about the Ubisoft scheme:

Of course this interview is a little bit ironic, because Steam is a DRM scheme. On the other hand though it is much more than that. It offers the users a trade-off. In exchange for surrendering the control of the game to the publisher you get an online distribution platform, a social network and bunch of other goodies. Unfortunately, so far this is the minority opinion, and if Ubisoft DRM experiment proves to be effective in thwarting piracy we may be in for quite a bit of suck down the road. So please, someone fucking tell me there is a working pirate rip out there. Please!

Ok, now that I ranted for several minutes about a rather depressing topic, let me ask you a question. Did I get you? If you haven’t noticed yet this is an April fools post. Unfortunately the rant itself is quite serious, but I hope that the silliness will help to brighten your mood after reading the depressing DRM discussion.

Happy April Fools folks.

In this comment thread we post best April Fools hoaxes and jokes from the interwebs. Oh, and we can also talk about the crappy DRM stuff if you want.

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7 Responses to Ubisoft DRM: Was it really a failure?

  1. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Great laugh. Thanks mate.

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  2. SapientIdiot UNITED STATES Mozilla Linux says:

    There is a cracked version of AC2 on torrentleech and I’ve seen it on IRC for a while too. I’m downloading it to see for sure if it works, but i’ve never known those sources to be bad.

    Oh yeah and great links!

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  3. Agammamon UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    I wonder how the total sales gained from this DRM scheme will measure up against sales lost because of it.

    I never had any intention of buying AC2, but Silent Hunter and Settlers I would have. Basically they’ve lost two sales already and who knows how many in the future. Heck, I was going to buy CNC on a whim until I saw that it requires an always on connection. There’s another one that won’t get bought.

    Stuff like this is probably the death knell for PC gaming. I’ve been playing games exclusively on the computer for over 2 decades but with the increasing capabilities of the hardware and “goodness” of the titles coupled with this crap means I’ll most likeley be migrating over in a couple of years.

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ SapientIdiot:

    Let me know how that works out. I’m curious whether or not it is actually crackable.

    @ Agammamon:

    I’m pretty sure we will never hear a word about the sales figures unless they are overwhelmingly spectacular – as in, using this new DRM increased their sales 100% as compared to their non-protected titles or something.

    As for the death kneel for PC gaming – perhaps not. As I said – there are still companies out there which refuse to drink the cool-aid. Valve is one example. Stardock is another.

    Besides, there are some game genres like RTS, turn based strategies and sim-whatever type games that have never picked up on consoles. There will always be market for those on the PC.

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  5. Marc NORWAY Opera Mini says:

    There is a 100% working crack. Ubisoft really got me upset with this drm as i have a unreliable internet connection. Is it just me or is rewarding original game buyers instead of hating them a good idea?

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Marc:

    Nice. Good to know. I was concerned that maybe Ubisoft found a way to create unbreakable DRM. Fortunately they didn’t. :)

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  7. Andrew Zimmerman UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    Steam is a really great idea. I think in order to convert pirates into customers you make it IMPOSSIBLE to play without going online, and then use something like steam. Of course the prices are a bit much.

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