back to article Ubisoft insists DRM 'a success'

Ubisoft has responded to backlash over the company's determination to use an Internet-at-all-times DRM policy, insisting it is a success and does protect its products from piracy. A Ubisoft rep, who spoke to PC Gamer, said the developer has seen "a clear reduction in piracy of our titles which required a persistent on-line …


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  1. aphexbr
    Facepalm killing the PC market

    Yes, Ubisoft, you have successfully helped destroy the PC market for me. You have destroyed any hope of me ever buying a PC game from you, and ensured that any console titles I buy with your name on them will only reach me second hand. I will not give a penny to a company that treats its own customers like criminals and supplies a deliberately broken product.

    I'm not sure how this is good for your business, though. You honestly think that there's pirates out there who said "oh well, I might as well pay them £50" due to the DRM? Are you that stupid?

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      I expect they don't look at it that way

      If you were to draw a graph of gamers with 100% pirates on the left and 100% customers on the right that most people would fall some way away from these extremes. The 100% pirates, the lamers obviously would never buy a game, but as you go across to the right the inclination to buy increases. As a publisher, the idea is to move the inclination bar left and scoop up a lot more sales.

      Ways to do that might include:

      * DRM

      * Serial codes for online play

      * Frequent patches that add new content, features.

      * Cheaper store prices

      * Collectible stuff in the box

      * Trial versions which can be unlocked with the purchase of a key

      ... and meanwhile ...

      * Prosecute pirates

      * Release glitched, broken / buggy versions into p2p channels to frustrate people who spend days downloading 9GB games for them to not even work.

      I suppose Ubisoft's "big idea" is to ignore the other ways they could incentivize people to buy and squeeze on the DRM as hard as they can. But DRM is a slippery thing - try to grasp customers too tight and they pop right out of your fingers.

      To me a game which is crippled and does not work on a plane, or a train, or on holiday is a game I don't want to own. I can understand multiplayer not working, but the entire game? Why the hell do I want to bother with that? If anything it wants me to seek out the pirate copy even more than I would have before.

      So I think Ubisoft are being monumentally stupid here. It's not like there are many Ubisoft games worth owning to begin with and this sort of crap is hardly going to help their bottom line.

  2. Shaun 1

    Less pirates != success

    if the DRM means that there's also less people actually paying for the product

    1. Sooty


      If less people buy the game than expected, they'll just blame it on piracy...

    2. Anonymous Coward

      RE: Less pirates != success

      Ubsioft maths disagrees

  3. dotdavid


    ...that a company representative would say that a company policy is working as expected, while completely failing to provide figures with which to back up their assertion! ;-)

    I suspect it's not working at all, but they can't really measure it. After all they don't have DRM-free sales of whatever-title to compare to....

    Alien because whoever thought of this strategy is from another planet.

    1. deegee


      Some companies use stats of downloads from torrents and other pirate havens.

      So they will have some idea of the losses. Dividing those into "who wouldn't have bought it anyway" is another thing.

  4. vmistery

    Listen for a minute Ubisoft

    I didn't buy Settlers 7 until you removed the silly DRM for that, and the same will be for this game too. Fact is I would have paid £30 or whatever for Settlers on release and didn't because of the DRM. Stop bullying your customers and bully the pirates instead. Seriously whoever thought that up truely needs to try it themselves. I live in a rural area with very poor broadband so its not even a starter for me.

    1. Gordon861

      Settlers 7

      Did they remove the DRM from this game?

      I tried the demo version that came with a magazine and even the demo required you to register on their website. So I gave up and just sent a pissed off email to Ubisoft and never looked back.

      (Of course I never recieved a reply)

      1. WorkingFromHome


        I'm not a big gamer but I do quite like the Settlers series. When I do play it is fairly likely to be when I'm away from home, stuck in a hotel somewhere. It's either that or hit the bar again :)

        But in many hotels the internet access is extra and I'm not going to pay the (often ridiculous) fee just to play a game.

        Then of course you've got a rained out holiday in a remote location, after the kids have gone to bed, with no internet at all - or at home when the connection has died.

        Anything which requires a permanent is a non-starter for me - it's just not practical.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Oh FFS....

    "a clear reduction in piracy of our titles which required a persistent on-line connection"

    I bet you a shiny Vietnamese đồng that legitimate sales have gone down too. It is not the DRM that is working; it is the boycott of Ubisoft products by pissed off gamers.

    Perhaps Ubisoft should take this a step further. They can reduce piracy to zero by not making or releasing any more games.

    That would be a big win for everyone.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Don't waste your breath

    Or your money.

    You cannot reason with idiots.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, I know what I need to do...

    Ubisoft had, until this statement, entered the realm of "I won't even pirate it", so disgusted am I with their DRM policy.

    Evidently this decision aided in the resulting drop in piracy levels.

    I can only apologise to my fellow PC gamers for my mistake and promise to take corrective action forthwith...

  8. DrXym Silver badge

    A success?

    Treating your customers like shit by giving them a second rate experience compared to the same pirate game is not a success. It's a massive failure.

    The reality is not everyone is connected to the internet 24/7 and not everyone wants spyware / DRM running all the time on their box, potentially destabilizing or interfering with the computer's normal operation. Even online services like Steam recognize that and allow you to play offline. Indeed I just spent 2 weeks doing just that.

    The best way to make people buy the game is to actually value their custom and reward them for it with patches, extra content, game servers and so on. I'm sure a company Ubisoft's size could also find some ways to surreptitiously detect cracks and introduce glitches / flaws into that would act as a timesink and put a window between the game coming out in pirate form and it actually being playable.

  9. Stephane Mabille

    No internet = no games, laptop on the move = no games, DRM = Not my £££

    So UBI is pushing so much hassle on legitimate customer that they are pushing them either to competitor or to a cracked version of their product.

    For me it's easy I don't like to be punished and/or bullied, especially when I'm a paying customer, so I would never accept any DRM going further than "Microsoft activation" like process. Providing a one-off serial key for activation is an acceptable solution.

    And of course, while I'm not a big (PC) games consumer any more I'll make a point that no UBI (or related companies) labelled product got into my console and/or iPhone.

    Well done Guillemots brothers, you just lost yourself a customer.

  10. Stumpy Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    You know, it's funny ...

    ... but I buy loads of indie titles that have no DRM at all and am quite happy to fork over cash for them.

    I also buy lots of AAA titles via Steam, Direct2Drive, etc.

    ... however, I haven't bought an Ubisoft title that has this idiotic, overbearing, intrusive and completely pointless DRM embedded, and frankly I never will do so.

    It's a real shame since I was looking forward to Assassins Creed Revelations later this year ... looks like I won't be getting it after all ... unless that is Ubisoft stops treating its paying customers like criminals.

    Utter fuckwits.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    Not that I advocate piracy, but if I want this title I will get the warez copy without the drm. How does that curb piracy?

    The honest people will still buy it, the pirates will still pirate, and the guys on the fence will most likely tend to pirate as well because of the draconian drm.

    1. LaeMing

      You could... the game to be legal*, but run the warez to be free of DRM.

      *Legal from the perspective of licencing and copyright. You have still commited the far greater crime of bypassing DRM to use a product you have paid for.

  12. Weird_George

    Ubisoft is hard of thinking...

    ...don't they realise that stopping pirates copying games is not the same as getting them to pay for said games?

  13. Octopoid

    Less than what?

    So firstly, by saying there are *less* pirates, they are admitting that people do still manage to bypass their fancy pants "always online" DRM and pirate it anyway.

    In which case, are they saying that people who were going to pirate it anyway, don't because of the DRM that isn't going to affect them? Do they mean less copies are pirated as a percentage overall, or as a number of pirate downloads?

    It strikes me it was probably just less popular, not that a DRM method which was stripped off inside 3 hours and not included in the pirated version actually forced less people to download a pirated copy somehow. Or are they suggesting that each pirate cracked the game themselves, and less of them were capable of doing so?!?

    We can be thankful of one thing tho. Ubisoft haven't quite got to Capcoms new anti-piracy measure yet:

    I genuinely never thought I'd see the day. :(

  14. Jess--

    why the need for always-on

    I dont see the need for an always-on protection system, my copy of game xxx is not suddenly going to change from legit to pirate halfway though me playing it.

    a simple check at each start of the game would be far more sensible

    an even better method would be to allow X number of starts without getting a successful check due to no internet connection before the game locks up

    this method would have 3 benefits

    1. it allows gamers with an intermittent connection (or on a laptop while travelling with no connectivity) to continue playing for a while

    2. it allows those that download a pirate copy to get a feel for the game (and hopefully get hooked on it) before forcing them to go legit (of course there will still be ways of playing it without going legit but no amount of drm will ever prevent that)

    3. it allows the gamers (your paying customers) to carry on playing the game if you ever have problems with your servers (servers running games networks have never ever crashed or been taken offline have they...oh wait)

  15. David Perry 2


    If you'll insist on DRM, here is a simple suggestion:

    Make it an occasional random online check - and give you 7 days after a failed check date to get the product back online if your net is broken that day or similar genuine reason for connection being down.

    Like how we used to do email in the days of dialup, connect to send/receive.

    I'd also HOPE the verification process uses as little data as possible for the parts of the country/world that have iffy connections even when on. I'm a duke nukem 3d (the ORIGINAL game), doom man so none of this online-DRM malarky is relevant personally, but can see the annoyance value for others.

  16. sisk, it's not...

    I don't have any of the games with that DRM, but I have seen a program that disables the DRM by redirecting the internet check to localhost or something like that. It was on StumbleUpon and I really didn't care so I only glanced at the article. Still, the fact that there's something out there like that screams to me that it's not working.

  17. Thomas 4

    You lot really don't get do you?

    UbiShite is in the business of selling games. Who gives a damn what happens to the game after that point?

  18. Ilsa Loving

    Oh well.

    I used to adore Ubisoft's games, but I've dropped them like a hot potato since they started this crap. Even when they stopped, I took a wait and see approach cause I wasn't convinced they had really learned their lesson.

    And now we see that they haven't, so rightfully they should be permanently be banned. But if there's one thing I've learned from the Sony debacles over the years, is that people at large don't care if a company screws them over. They will still continue to buy the products, for reasons I don't understand.

    So, I've given up trying to encourage people to avoid certain brands. I now prefer to just sit back and enjoy the shaudenfraude when people get all indignant after they've been hurt.

    So please Ubisoft, continue what you're doing. I may not play your games anymore, but you still provide me with different forms of entertainment which just happen to be free.

  19. Jim Carter


    They'll be telling us black is white next!

    And I for one, will not be living in fear of zebra crossings.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Offline gaming

    Oh yes, none of your games were designed for single person off-line gaming. No sir.

    From devil may cry to prince of persia, they are all full online games, only playable with 2 or more gamers.

    Steam at least will check the game once in a while, then leave it be.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      There are exceptions.

      "Oh yes, none of your games were designed for single person off-line gaming. No sir."

      Valve in fact has at least THREE games that insist on a network connection all the time: Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, and Team Fortress 2. Why doesn't anyone complain? All three are designed from the start to be online multiplayer games. They have no real single-player components. You need a net connection to play the games PERIOD. Does anyone happen to know if this new Driver game will also be Online-ONLY?

  21. ArmanX


    I've not bought an Ubisoft game for ages... it seems that most of them are either cheap knock-offs of better games, or a once-popular that's being milked for all its worth. I won't say I'm trying to make a statement by boycotting them, because frankly, I don't care; if they want to commit suicide by DRM, so be it.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "assume a pirated version will appear"

    This isn't an assumption, it's a logical conclusion from looking at what happened to previous games with overly-restrictive DRM. Remember Spore?

  23. Richard 1

    Making life better for the pirates.

    Every game ever written will be pirated. Don't bother pretending that it won't because it will. There are hundreds of eager little bedroom jockeys just itching to break the thing that took your small team of developers months to create. Getting some credit and a minute of fame from 'the scene' is what makes them tick. Once cracked the game will be downloaded by the pirates with almost zero chance of being caught and costing them a few pence for the bandwidth. They will play the game wherever and whenever they want without your DRM giving them a moment of bother.

    On the other hand, honest Joe (who lives just down the road to me) will shell out his hard earned cash for your game and be frustrated when his cable connection is down, his ADSL connection is slow, he is abroad and doesn't want to pay roaming charges, can't get access to wireless connection, the network driver on his computer has stopped working, the cat has knocked his network cable out, etc., etc.

    So, the pirates get it easy and the legits get it hard. Nice one.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      How about this approach?

      Custom game executables compiled and sent online during installation? That way, each copy is unique and signed using strong algorithms (that have implications beyond the software sector if they were broken). You won't be able to run it unsigned, no unsigned copies exist in the wild, and the executable is verified via Internet occasionally when you start it (using an encrypted channel). The game EXE thus has both copy verification and copy identification. Any pirate copy could be found out quickly by its signature, and that particular copy blacklisted without affecting the other copies (which are all different). How would a pirate beat that approach?

  24. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart


    Bollocks to that!!!!! I had the misfortune to by THQ’s DoW II game that used the crappy stream “always on the internet” system of DRM. It is a crock of shit of the highest order.

    First of all the link on the back of the box didn’t exist, so I couldn’t see what this form of DRM actually entailed. The best I could find was a bland comment about “using the internet to verify the authenticity” of the game.

    What the game actually installed was a 60MB run time that was permanently in contact with the stream servers. A quick look at my internet connection showed that instead of the usual 600 packets to get on line that I was now sending over 6,000 packets when I switched my PC on (my internet connection is capped so I tend to monitor these sort of things).

    In addition to that this piece of shit of software was constantly in contact with the stream servers even if I never played the game.

    The so called DRM would also occasionally pop up reminders to let me know that a demo of such and such was available and would I like to download it. So its not really a DRM tool, its an advertising tool.

    Needless to say I deleted the game from my PC and, Ubisoft and THQ please note, I have not bought neither of the two DoW II expansion packs.

    So yes, ubisoft are correct, permeant connection to the internet DRM does stop people from playing the game.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Measure customers lost due to DRM while you're at it

    So you say piracy has decreased. How about actualy paying customers?

    For my 2p worth, I haven't nor do I intend to buy a Ubisoft game as long as they insist on this current coure of action. Why? Because it is things like these that are destroying PC gaming.

    When you no longer can buy a physical disc from a physical store, go home, shove it in your dvd drive and start playing without 155 checks to go through, online registration, online login and so on required then something is just plain wrong.

    The PC gaming industry has gone backwards.

    Pirates are not why that is - you are, Ubisoft, and others like you.

  26. Sam 33

    One more idiotic move. . ..

    I've returned to pirate versions over time, just to protect my computer. The stages are interesting to look back on:

    In the beginning: I had no money. Piracy was the only way to play any games.

    next: Once I had money, i bought games. I wasted a lot of money on games I only played once.

    next: Play-testing. To avoid wasted money, I used demo versions and/or *cough* downloaded full versions. I still bought anything I played more than once.

    next: DRM broke my machine for the first time. I think it was some version of securom, but I don't remember exactly. After that, I would only install pirated versions. I still bought the ones I played, but didn't use the disks/installs. I actually have a few dozen games still in the shrink-wrap from this time frame. I think the scariest part of this that the pirated versions were always easier to install, and almost always more stable.

    Last stage: DRM got so bad, I gave up on any publisher that uses it. Back when Stardock was totally anti-DRM, I bought every game they published. Now, the only titles I buy are DRM free indi releases. I won't admit to how many games i actually *play*, but it's safe to say the number is higher than the number I *buy*.

    Bottom line, I'd love to buy the games. I love the shiny manuals and neat artwork on the boxes. There's something special about opening the shrink-wrap in anticipation of a great game. Even so, I can't justify supporting a system that so casually disregards my desires and needs. There were just too many times when the eager anticipation of a great game was followed by a 2 hour repair/removal/fix session after DRM did something stupid to my machine.

  27. John G Imrie

    How this works

    There are two possible ways this can work.

    1) The game connects to an IP address.

    In this scenario you can only play the game while the computer with that IP address is active.

    2) The game connects to a domain name

    In this scenario you can only play the game while Ubi soft can be bothered to pay for the Domain Name.

    Considering that I still play Doom 3 and the web site no longer exists, why should I expect Ubi soft to keep their system for as long as I want to play the game?

  28. Mark #255

    vote with your wallets

    ...and buy a bundle of games from humble indie developers, that are DRM-free, and cross-platform as well.

    Was that too blatant a plug for the Humble Indie Bundle? I hope not.

  29. Gary B.

    Good job Ubi

    Corporate greed is the progenitor of DRM, not the pirates themselves. I can't say I never pirated a piece of software or movie, but I can say that if I found it useful or worth keeping, I went out and bought the thing. Amazingly, I do the same thing if the company releases a legitimate demo (with reasonable restrictions). Has Ubi ever thought that if they released demo versions of their games, they would likely reduce pirating just as much?

    I'll bet that a good number of gamers that pirate do so just because they want to try out the game and see if it's worth forking over $40, $50, $70 for. But then, since they already have the game, why bother paying at all?

    There are MANY ways to reduce pirating, but treating your PAYING customers as the CRIMINALS, while the PIRATES are REWARDED by having the buggy, Stalin-esque features removed from the same game is NOT the way to reduce pirating.

    By the way, it's not just broadband speed where this fails, but the only useful broadband available at my house is DSL, and it sometimes disconnects on incoming or outgoing calls. Most of the time, it reconnects within seconds, but sometimes it's taken a minute or two to reconnect. Long enough for, from what I understand, this always-on DRM to assume you have no connection and just kick you out of the game, potentially without saving...

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Settlers, Assassin's Creed, Et. Al

    Perhapse, here in North America, things are not as bad for those who play Ubi's DRM-encumbered but enjoyable games :

    I bought Settlers 7 six months go. Only once has my ISP inconveniently been on maintenance when I wanted to play. Once! in SIX MONTHS!

    I've bought Assassin's creed 2 (retail disc, $9.99CAD still in shrink wrap), and Assassin's Creed : Brotherhood, and having to authenticate via the launcher when I play is not that big a deal.

    Also, I have noticed NO extra background tasks (other than the Ubisoft launcher) running on my system, and I have a habit of keeping close tabs on such things. My computer still very well indeed despite the fact that I have installed at least one Ubi game which is supposedly "encumbered" by "always online" DRM.

    I'm not HAPPY about the always-online requirement, but not enough to cause me to get my panties in a twist. The games are worth it.

  31. marcinski

    I for one support this initiative

    A quick, cheap and easy way to know my interwebs are effed. Woo!

  32. adnim

    How can they tell?

    As anyone with an IQ in double figures would block any attempt by pirated software from connecting to any server over the Internet. I guess because they cannot see it they presume it doesn't exist.

    I wonder if they believe that because gravity cannot be seen it mustn't exist either.

    Big fail.

  33. Inachu

    Imagine the new hell UbiSoft has created! THE HORROR!!!!

    Well now that an ISP is now mandatory Ubisoft has single handedly/more than likely forced users to accept a new batch of AOL CD's in the mail.

  34. heyrick Silver badge

    No thanks, guys.

    Only one of my computers is connected to the internet. The rest are intentionally left out of the loop so I can do "crazy" things like open shares and the like, so the networking and resources are useful to me, and I don't have to fight a heap of security protocols to talk to a drive on the other side of the room.

    While I'm not a big game player, an instant rejection awaits anything that demands always-on internet. Sorry Ubi, you've just guaranteed I won't even consider your products in the future...

  35. Tristan Young
    Thumb Down

    Ubisoft and DRM = Ubisoft boycott

    I've lost all interest in Ubisoft's games.

    Dear Ubisoft,

    I'm a legitimate user that pays for all the games I play. I hate, no, I detest DRM, because it breaks my games, and forces me to do stuff I don't want to do (like being tethered to the internet in order to play games).

    Ubisoft - remember the "soft", because DRM is a software that can and will be circumvented. DRM is soft, in the sense that it can and always will be broken. There's no real point to DRM except to keep honest people honest, and to give hackers something to do (perhaps some day DRM creators will make it challenging for hackers).

    Perhaps we should start calling them Ubisuck.

  36. Adam Azarchs

    I'm annoyed

    Ubisoft has been making some really interesting-looking games lately, and here I am forced to boycott them.

    As a software developer myself, I certainly understand the desire to be paid for your work. I don't pirate software. But neither to I buy software with intrusive measures of the type Ubisoft pursues. They're just insulting.

    That, and they never seem to patch the many, many bugs in their games.

  37. John Tserkezis

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again.

    The more security measures you impose on valid users, the fewer invalidated intrusions you get, along with more irritated valid users.

    I hope Ubisoft is happy with their zero pirate count, and three valid users.

    Don't get me wrong: I've seen a couple of times where heavy DRM is coupled with a reasonably priced, transparent valid user authentication interface. And it works well.

    Number one rule is: Don't piss off your customers. They will NOT come back.

  38. Jeff 11

    Carrots work better than sticks...

    ...especially when you're asking your customers to pay for being shafted by the latter.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    2010's games industry = Music Industry 10 years ago

    EA withdrew Crysis 2 from Steam, Blizzard forces you to play its games via its Battlenet even and will require a similar "always on" even for solo play in Diablo 3, Ubisoft is similarly dumb with its "always on" connection, and Microsoft Windows fails to capitalise on its value as a gaming platform. The PC games industry, with the exception of Steam, is lost and doesn't know its ass from its elbow (I worked within it for years). Whats interesting now is the rise of the truly indie games scene (check out Minecraft, Terraria, Frozen Synapse and many more).

    It reminds me a little of the way the music industry failed to comprehend and adapt to the changes due to digital media. The big names in PC arent "getting it" right now.

    They arent selling games as a thing in itself as they once did, instead they want *your* data, hence the insistance on signing up and logging in for many "services".

    Second, they want a slice of the "micropayment" action too, even if you already paid once or more for the game. Blizzard got greedy with this, and others watched them enviously, including CCP which led to their recent fiasco with online goods in Eve Online. Blizzard will be taking a slice of all transactions in both directions in Diablo 3, in a shared marketplace even for single player. And where Blizzard leads, the money hungry execs of every other "AAA" company follow like sheep.

    Third, they all know store sales are dead, but they cant yet abandon the old ways, they still rely on that store presence, for now, and have a pact with the devil which means they cant move to online distribution just yet. Marrry this with a complete ignorance of their customers (with the exception of Steam), and you get the mess we have now.

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