Coming to Terms With UbiSoft

I have an insane theory about the airline industry — I think they genuinely want me to stop flying on their airplanes.

I think that when major air-carriers tuck into their silk sheets at night, they dream of a hyper-efficient fleet filled with steely-eyed business class flyers with practiced methods of travel and corporate expense accounts. Never again would they be burdened with a bunch of pesky amateur flyers with screaming kids and an over-inflated sense of entitlement just because the family managed to scrounge up a few hundred dollars to fly to Omaha.

Were I to write to Delta airlines and tell them of how I chose to spend three days driving across the country with my two boys rather than endure ten hours under their thumb, would the response be a curt but genuine, “Thank you?”

Sometimes it very much seems like certain companies are entirely comfortable with the idea of just annoying a certain segment of consumers away. You know, companies like Ubisoft.

Is it insanity to imagine that a game company would seed the foundation for catastrophic PC numbers so they can justify ending support for a customer base they neither like nor trust? Is that nutjob conspiracy theory territory, because every time I look at the evidence the slippery slope gets greased just a little more.

I had been looking forward to buying Assassin’s Creed 2 for the PC. As friends raved about the experience on the consoles, I decided to hold off for a release on my platform of choice: the trusty Personal Computer. But as Ubisoft slowly revealed worse terms than Lando Calrissian got from Vader in Empire, I realized that for me, a line had been crossed.

Historically my reaction would have been histrionics, but for a lot of reasons that I don’t want to explore right now, I have been thinking hard about learning to accept the things I can not change. It is a distressingly voluminous list, to which I must now grudgingly add the schemes and machinations of multi-national game publishing companies. Unless I’m willing to become a mid-80’s Sally Field movie, the only question left is how mad I am willing to let the whole thing get me.

Rather than take this to the next level of a broad and meaningless call to social action — Boycott Ubi, yo! — I have chosen instead to realize this is a very personal choice where no available option seems particularly desirable. Do I reward Ubi with my money in the hope that they might be grudgingly forced to create more PC games with even tighter restrictions? Do I deny myself the experience of playing a game I had been looking forward to? Do I build flimsy self-justifications for piracy, choosing to contribute to the problem out of an overwhelming sense of self-entitlement and convenient moral flexibility?

Ok, obviously not that last one. Whatever moral subjectivity it is that endows people with the latitude to pretend like rules don’t apply if they are sufficiently mad at the victim just doesn’t work for me. So, for me, the choice is only one of buy or sit out.

Why is this such an emotionally charged dichotomy for me and for that matter so many other people? Ubi and its ilk have presented a product and presented their terms. I can either take part, or I can abstain. That I am disgusted by the terms offered should be the point where I get the luxury of keeping my $50. I mean, it’s not like when some guy comes to the door asking if I’d like to let him fertilize my lawn for a hundred bucks, I suddenly have the urge to punch him in the face.

I recognize in a very rational way that the internet’s response to Ubisoft’s decision to make all PC gamers maintain constant internet connectivity to play their games is one of breathless hysterics. Three Stooges movies show more moderated self-control than message board discussions in response to this issue, and yet I am drawn to the furious debate like a moth drawn to a flame if that flame were the burning singularity of a super-massive black hole.

I hate the corporate policy of Ubisoft for this. I hate the precedent it entrenches for PC games, and I hate that I have no recourse to protest save a few hundred futile words and a well practiced glower. Therein lies my real problem, and the point this all draws back to.

I don’t get a vote, not even with my dollar. Choose to buy and I am supporting something I believe undermines the rights that should be afforded to PC gamers. Choose not to buy and Ubisoft is free to interpret diminished sales as evidence of the impact of piracy and the antipathy of the consumer base. Check and mate.

I must learn to accept that which can not be changed. It is a bitter lesson.

I choose not to buy, and I choose not to pirate if for no other reason than it would provide publishers with one drop of additional proof that PC games aren’t worth the trouble.

Now I must choose to accept my own decision, and that, so far, has been the hardest choice of all.

Comments

Well, I think a game that stops working because your Internet connection is down or the servers were taken down is insane. We in XBox Live land are being increasingly exposed to this. Witness EA and their day-1 DLC that always checks the EA servers to make sure you get to play the whole game you paid for. That's potentially bad.

I think the idea of disabling DRM after X months is the most reasonable idea in this thread.

@AcidCat, it doesn't matter what connection you have, even if it's perfect if their servers go down for whatever reason you won't be able to play your game. The game you paid them 50$/EUR for.

DSGamer wrote:

Well, I think a game that stops working because your Internet connection is down or the servers were taken down is insane. We in XBox Live land are being increasingly exposed to this. Witness EA and their day-1 DLC that always checks the EA servers to make sure you get to play the whole game you paid for. That's potentially bad.

I think the idea of disabling DRM after X months is the most reasonable idea in this thread.

Can't argue with that. And from what I understand, even after a month the majority of the sales have occurred. I guess after two or three months wouldn't be unreasonable. I suspect the pirates are the type to jump on things on day one when things are all shiny and steal worthy. They're the instant gratification type.

I buy a pretty small % of the games that I assume I would enjoy playing - there are just too many great games and I have too little time. A DRM scheme this idiotic & intrusive simply makes it easy for me to cross it off my list of potential purchases.

I'm inclined to believe that the suits at Ubisoft will interpret the data to benefit their own purposes. All the letter-writing, internet petitions & Amazon review bombing can be ignored as just a few teenage pirates if they want to justify a particular point of view in a corporate conference room.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:

I don't like the idea of Ubisoft being able to one day pull the plug on their server (which they will) and turning my $60 investment into a coaster.

I believe that Ubisoft has said if they shut down the server, they will patch the game to run offline. Pretty sure I read that somewhere.

DSGamer wrote:

Well, I think a game that stops working because your Internet connection is down or the servers were taken down is insane.

MMOGs (WoW), browser games, online matches in any game, and Steam games that haven't had offline mode enabled all fall into this category.

DSGamer wrote:

I think the idea of disabling DRM after X months is the most reasonable idea in this thread.

Actually, that IS a good idea, or at least switch over to a Steam-style system. With the advent of digital download, companies are seeing $$$ well beyond the first month they have traditionally made money. You can get 5 year old games on Steam, and 10 year old games on GoG.

Arclite wrote:
Parallax Abstraction wrote:

I don't like the idea of Ubisoft being able to one day pull the plug on their server (which they will) and turning my $60 investment into a coaster.

I believe that Ubisoft has said if they shut down the server, they will patch the game to run offline. Pretty sure I read that somewhere.

I've never read that, nor to be honest do I have any reason to trust their verbal commitment to it, given that executives and the decisions they make are constantly in flux. If it's not in the EULA, it's only lip service and if they don't do it, you have no recourse. This DRM is a business decision and from a business point of view, their shareholders will not see the time and money spent in patching out the DRM to be worthwhile. Ubisoft's shareholders care about you buying the next game, not about hanging on to the ones you've already bought because the latter makes them no further revenue. If they were serious about it, they'd have made it part of the legal agreement they make you accept to use their products.

AcidCat wrote:
Elysium wrote:

I don't think the "what is the big deal" angle is anything but noise, at this point.

Well, maybe I'm retarded - I see a lot of folks upset, but I don't really get the why of it all. I don't see how having to be online affects me in any way if I choose to play their games, because I have an always-on broadband connection, like I would assume most gamers would have.

Maybe someone would explain why they feel this is such a "line in the sand" issue, because most discussion about it, like this article and the comments, seems to take the outrage as a given.

You and me both AcidCat. I think we are just LTTP. There was a thread that covered this, but I didn't partake in any of the discussion there.

I don't think that opposing the DRM and being vocal about it is anything but noise at this point either. Isn't that a good portion of what we do here? Make noise.

I saw this DRM thing mentioned on Steam when I was looking at a game the other day (can't remember the name, but a new submarine game). I was pretty interested in the game, but when I saw the part about the DRM needing a constant online connection, I just said, "nope."

This is not some ideological point. I think that Ubisoft should be able to do what they want to protect their game. Is this move good for PC games, or bad for PC games? I don't know and don't care. My only concern was that it seems like this requirement to always be online is sure to trip me up at some point (ISP issues, server issues, issues I never figure out). And as interesting as that game looked (it did look cool), I assume it will fail on me when I don't want it to, so I'm not going to buy it.

Maybe some day they'll release a version without this specific DRM requirement, and maybe then I'll want to get it. But there are so many other interesting things in the world, I never even thought about getting mad at Ubisoft for this. They don't owe me a game. I am totally fine with them going this route if they think it is a good idea.

I am not standing on principle. I just don't trust that it will work, so I'm not buying it.

OH my God! I've just spent the best part of the day without Internet thanks to server side issues. While I could have played games that don't require an internet connection I didn't. instead I spring cleaned the house and rearranged the loungeroom, took the dog for a 4.5km (about 3 mile) jog, spent an hour on hte phone to my ISP and about 3 hours fiddling with my router and modem settings. I guess that's what life without the internet is like. Not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing.

Arclite wrote:
DSGamer wrote:

Well, I think a game that stops working because your Internet connection is down or the servers were taken down is insane.

MMOGs (WoW), browser games, online matches in any game, and Steam games that haven't had offline mode enabled all fall into this category.

Apples to oranges. No one here expects to be able to play an MMO or browser game or online matches if their internet is down. They do however expect to play the single-player game that they purchased without having to connect to the internet. And that is a perfectly reasonable expectation.

I've been against Ubi's decisions and motives for other things in the past, but this one crossed the line for me. To treat all us customers as potential thieves is insulting. One of the times I play these sort of single player games is when I don't have access to the internet for extended periods of time. No more cash from me Ubi... I've given you far more chances than you've ever deserved, and this is the last straw.

edit: If it helps clarify my dislike for the company, I used to work for them. I have my reasons.

TheCounselor wrote:

Just a question for you guys that aren't buying the game because of the DRM:

Ubisoft released Prince of Persia in 2008 without any DRM. Did any of you buy that game?

Yes, I bought it, and felt good about supporting a stance I agree with. The result? Ubisoft spat in my face by not releasing the DLC on PC.

Never again.

We pretty much had this debate already with Spore.

Now I learn that there's a line, and that it has been crossed.

The DRM supporters/don't care crowd is now marginalized, while the "won't buy" crowd doesn't get labelled with being a bunch of romantic civil disobedient yarring pirates.

For a fleeting moment, goodjers don't ramble about gamer sense of entitlement and we wonder if we have to play every game.

Funny thing these lines.

PS: In the meantime, I'll be waiting for a steam sale (if you were wondering how I'm coming to terms with Ubisoft)

TheWanderer wrote:

After looking at the numbers of how piracy effected Crysis when it came out I've stopped blaming publishers in any way for their DRM schemes. They are loosing real money to pirates, and to publish anything that is compatible with PC is more of a risk than, frankly, not to.

Please. Crysis was a boring game that at release date required a machine that less than 2% of the people had, just to move it. Despite that, it sold more than 1 million copies.

Are we going to believe now Cevat Yerli when he says that it was pirated 20 times that?. MW2 has sold 25 million copies, and that's including Xbox 360 and PS3 (which can't be pirated). Are we to believe that Crysis would have sold 20 million copies on just the PC if it couldn't be pirated?. Sorry, but that's a huge load of BS.

As for Ubi, I'm done with them. If they're no longer treating us as thieves, but as thieves, rapists, murderers and pedophiles, I say f*ck them, and good riddance when they leave the PC market. They obviously don't want us as customers, so they are not getting my money.

Edit: grammar.

Quick question: Would you say you're feeling positive or negative towards ubisoft's PC games?

One of the things Gabe Newell said at GDC yesterday was that DRM wraps negativity around products. Another illustration of the polar opposite attitudes to getting the most out of your potential customer base that exist at the moment.

I'd say I'm feeling rather negative toward their products. Not a big fan of annoying DRM and so any news on that affects my view on a product. For example, Spore. Seemed like and interesting game, but a lot of the stuff I read about the DRM at the time kinda turned me off. Another example would be Stardock games, which have no DRM and so I will buy those if I'm interested (and I usually am).

I have a negative feeling towards Ubisoft, but that's mostly because they haven't made a decent video game since the second Splinter Cell.

(duck)

Scratched wrote:

Quick question: Would you say you're feeling positive or negative towards ubisoft's PC games?

One of the things Gabe Newell said at GDC yesterday was that DRM wraps negativity around products. Another illustration of the polar opposite attitudes to getting the most out of your potential customer base that exist at the moment.

Absolutely negative, and completely agree with Newell. Whether or not your DRM scheme is actually successful in deterring piracy, the DRM discussion completely overwhelms any other aspect of the game. I know way more about AC2's DRM then I do about the actual game - that's bad.

You have more than 3 options, and in point of fact, you exercised your 4th. You stated in a highly visible place your displeasure over its DRM. Your dollar is the exclamation point at the end.

The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that perhaps this new DRM scheme is meant to be so unappealing that when they pull it back and institute something else, it will be welcomed with open arms -- when otherwise, it would just be some other dreadful DRM scheme that people would complain about.

I guess playing MMO's for so long has conditioned me to accept that once in a while I won't be able to access a game I'm playing due to server downtime. Of course I understand a single player game shouldn't be subject to these issues (and thinking back to the recent PS3 problem, I was displeased that I couldn't play Heavy Rain for a day).

All the same I guess I just have a different mindset about the whole issue. If I want to play an Ubi single player game on PC in the future, it just wouldn't deter me that once in a while I might be locked out of the game due to server issues. Because I would just ... do something else and come back to the game when the issue was resolved. A minor annoyance like that wouldn't stop me from purchasing, nor the possibility that the servers might shut down someday because I pretty much never go back to old games. I guess I don't feel any "principle" has been violated, maybe as much of a gamer as I am, I just don't take the whole hobby as seriously as other folks.

What really sometimes become the most interesting part of watching a conversation like this one, is how a segment of people on every side of the issue begin allowing entrenchment to become of badge of superiority.

I have outlook X, so I guess I'm just kind of better than people who look at it differently.

Not to get all Rodney King on this, but was it so wrong of me to take the angle of saying "it's a personal decision, and yours, whatever it may be, is as valid as mine?" That was ultimately the core point I was trying to get across.

TheCounselor wrote:

I know the games are different, but you can't exactly have a controlled experiment in this context.

I strongly disagree. If they really wanted to have a controlled experiment, they could easily contrive one.

I will assume that the premise of the experiment is to establish how paying customers react to different levels of DRM. As a consequence of your paying customer reactions, you will make more or less money. Therefore "pirates" do not play into the picture. International publishers like Ubisoft have established and separate distribution channels in different parts of the world. They also have reams of data on how well those parts of the world react to certain types of titles, and release dates. Given a type of a title, and release dates around the world, you should be able to predict, with a certain level of confidence how well the title would sell in a particular market, relative to other markets. Would you grant me that much?

If so, then we can proceed to the actual experiment. By releasing DRM-free version of the game in some regions, and DRM-heavy version of the game in others, you can compare the amount of sales in those regions, relative to each other, and how they compare to the base line relative amount of sales you expected to get. The experiment would need to run over multiple releases, where the regions that are DRM controlled or free would be alternated. You would also have to make sure that you alternate the quality and types of releases to remove any regional biases based on quality and types of games.

At the end, a clear picture would emerge, based on relations of sales numbers between DRM-controlled and DRM-free release schedules. You could see how many people are willing to buy DRM-controlled titles, if the DRM-free is already available for purchase. You could see how many people are willing to wait for DRM-free versions. You could see which parts of the world are more willing to tolerate DRM, and which ones are not. In the experiment, you could also control levels of DRM control and get data on where the sweet spot for people is, when it comes to accepting DRM.

P.S. I find it interesting that of all my Steam friends, not a single one is listed as owning AC2 on Steam.

I have two points, and I will take your response off the air.
1. Public domain, under current law is crucified, buried, never to rise again. The Library of Congress, the office of president, the FCC, and bothe legislatures have balked hard at fair use and public domain in the face of lobbyists and corporate intereste. I have zero faith in a rebalancing in my lifetime. The laws are not only draconian, they are vague, and horridly written.
2. Ubisoft does not have Microsoft's balls. For all my himming and hawing on Ensemble and FASA, at least big M admitted they did not want to dedicate resources to PC games, prefering to focus on the console. Ubi is beating a warped and loose drum about piracy and DRM, that the rest of the PC world is abandoning in droves. The GROWTH market that is PC games is stepping away from DRM and ramping up distribution. If CD Projekt and GSC can sell millions in Poland, RussiaN Ukraine, and North America, then the rest of the market is doing it WRONG! Piracy is a response by an under served consumer, plain and simple.

I think, in the particular case of AC2, I wouldn't expect much from the PC version. Therefore I wouldn't be surprised when they botched it. I don't know if this is because it's a 3rd person game, and I associate those with consoles, or what. I just don't feel like this is a let down, because I had no expectations for it to be anything more than a mangled port.

If this happens with the next Crysis, or Relic's next game, then I'll worry.

Elysium wrote:

What really sometimes become the most interesting part of watching a conversation like this one, is how a segment of people on every side of the issue begin allowing entrenchment to become of badge of superiority.

I have outlook X, so I guess I'm just kind of better than people who look at it differently.

Not to get all Rodney King on this, but was it so wrong of me to take the angle of saying "it's a personal decision, and yours, whatever it may be, is as valid as mine?" That was ultimately the core point I was trying to get across.

It's hard enough finding civility outside the internet. Why would you expect better online?

But, for what it's worth, I agree with you. This, like many other things, is a personal decision with valid points on many sides.

I don't think it's a civility issue. I just find it an interesting sociological response.

I'm not trying to call anyone out here. Heck, my article my be rife with that undercurrent, and I don't even recognize it.

Also, I'm really trying hard to keep this debate steered away from all the swirling whirlpools of circular logic that threaten to engulf it at any moment.

I know what you're saying, Elysium. I just think it's inevitable that a DRM conversation would have gone where you didn't want it to. I'm just surprised you're surprised.

Elysium wrote:

I don't think it's a civility issue. I just find it an interesting sociological response.

For many people, they feel that way because for them this is a moral issue rather than a scientific one. It's not surprising to see someone feel they're a bit better than someone who disagrees with them because in this case they're morally superior rather than simply being right about a fact or figure. I think all political conversations eventually trend this way, and that's what this conversation really is about: politics.

Elysium wrote:

I'm not trying to call anyone out here. Heck, my article my be rife with that undercurrent, and I don't even recognize it.

In your article and the comments, you seem a bit baffled as to how someone could not be bothered by this, but you never come across as though you feel morally superior to anyone, if you're worried about that.

Elysium wrote:

I have outlook X, so I guess I'm just kind of better than people who look at it differently.

If my comments came off that way, it was not my intent. Maybe I needed to add some kind of disclaimer, because in general it is hard to take a position on an issue yet still come off as judgementally neutral. I know the situation does not boil down to a wrong/right dichotomy, just different perspectives.