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

MoonDragon wrote:
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.

And again, all of the results rely entirely on guesswork (amount of sales you expected to get). And it assumes no one can buy the game from a different region, which isn't the case.

django wrote:
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)


I'd welcome you to point me to a GWJ post that said declining to buy Spore was the same as pirating it.

If my comments came off that way, it was not my intent.

Like I said, really not trying to call any one person out. I think there are also a lot of people, probably at times including myself who can't understand why someone wouldn't be upset.

That's an interesting disconnect to me.

I'm just surprised you're surprised.

Oh, this isn't surprise. This is active participation. Honestly, that we've gotten 5 pages in and are still having a civil discourse is why I feel like I can even bring up a topic like this in the first place.

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.

To tell you the truth, to see any article posted on DRM these days, its pretty clear what the response will be. You put out the bait and all us little mice run loops around the DRM cage. Are you really surprised? (EDIT: I see you already responded to that - must type faster). Don't take this as an antagonistic question/comment, its not meant to discredit you. I don't play that game (most of the time ). Its only an observation about DRM topics and the obvious response to them.

There's nothing wrong in any opinion, as long as you accept that someone may not agree with it. Your opinion isn't as innocuous (is that the word I'm looking for) as you may think since you are putting forth a reaction to DRM that ultimately effects PC sales. And look how many people have responded to your article as a stance you are taking with fists upthrust yelling, "righteous dude, stick it to the man". And if that's their position, great. But that doesn't dissuade me from voicing what I would ultimately like to see which is PC games thrive. I can't tell you how disappointed I am that I can't play Uncharted 2 after hearing all the raving about it. And I'm glad Ubisoft has decided not to completely forgo PCs on titles like Assassins Creed which I'm sure they could have done without shedding a tear. I eventually plan to pick up a PS3 once the Move comes out (does that even play uncharted), but currently there are many games not available on PC because of this constant wrestling between producers and customers. And customers who don't base their purchase decision on artistic effort and work but on producer's DRM decisions. And to make things worse, the decision to "vote with your dollar" just doesn't seem to be interpreted by producers as everyone is hoping it be interpreted.

Your decision may be a personal one but it affects the games I get to play on PC, the artists and programmers funded by these producers (who by the way are taking a lot more risk than the end user who might not have an internet connection 100% of the time).

-Sally

Couldn't you just rent AC2 for the 360? Or even buy it used? I hear from the publisher that's exactly the same as piracy.

Elysium wrote:
As I said in the piece, how they interpret flawed data to support their own assumptions is beyond my control.

Great article, and I tend to share in the disappointment of having bad options to choose from here. As others have said though, my gaming dollar will be going to the myraid of entertainment options on Steam that don't have these type of DRM hoops to jump through.

Part of UbiSoft executives' responsibilities to their shareholders will be to successfully interpret and counter the loss of their market share to other companies (on Steam, or without such aggressive DRM). If they fail in this, it'll be their jobs and compensation that suffers; Frankly, I'll still have plenty of entertainment choices available.

Not only that, but Gamestop flaunts the billions they make on used games, none of which goes to publishers or developers.

No matter how many torrents you track, no matter how many extra support tickets, you cannot get around that. Fun fact from EA(listen to Jeff's interview on the EA podcast), was Dead Space had more than twice as many people play the game as buy it new. That is huge. Renters, lenders, used game buyers and "pirates" are much the same group of people-costs too much, I want to try before I buy, if something ends up sucking, I am up sh*t's creek. So far, only the PC download sites are doing anything about this.

And let me say, I do not blame GS or Best Buy for selling used games, even focussing on them. Every crap game a publisher sells that ends up in the bargain bin, is a game that store took a dive on. Without much recourse to mitigate that.

For what it's worth, Elysium, your article did indeed come across to me as implying that you're morally superior to people who pirate, even if you didn't intend to do so. Don't worry. I have more than enough experience with people jumping to meanings I didn't intend to convey. I can sympathize and overlook the implication.

Your interpretation is accurate.

My comments of moderation were directed to people not engaging in active piracy, whose opinions I value. Frankly, I don't believe pirates should have a voice in this discussion. You've done enough damage already.

Ah. My mistake. Carry on.

Elysium wrote:
Your interpretation is accurate.

My comments of moderation were directed to people not engaging in active piracy, whose opinions I value. Frankly, I don't believe pirates should have a voice in this discussion. You've done enough damage already.

I appreciate your honesty.

I agree with you, but like I said earlier, you had to know this was going to end up being a DRM / piracy debate. Just bear the slings and arrows. Oh, and consider picking it up for a console. There's no shame in coming to terms with the idea that pirates have ruined your gaming platform of choice for you.

Maybe retitle this "Coming to terms with pirates ruining PC gaming".

DSGamer wrote:
Maybe retitle this "Coming to terms with pirates ruining PC gaming".
(citation needed)
And as already mentioned, ubisoft are doing a great job of it by themselves.

Nelly K wrote:
It really sucks, doesn't it? There are so many honest PC players and they're the ones that have to live with these DRM rules.

I will get way off topic here, but I hope it doeen't matter too much so far into this thread.

This comment reminded me of how I felt during the PBS special by Ken Burns on the National Parks. An interesting story with beautiful photography, which became somewhat ruined for me by the station logo burned into the right corner of the screen throughout the entire series. I know, I know all the networks have been doing this for sometime. But at least some modify the intrusion, such as using the logo occasionally on a timer.

When I wrote to the station, I was told, yes, all the other networks do it and also that is was their needed approach to combat piracy. I always throught public televsion was different...apparently not completely. And who is doing this piracy from their broadcasts, to the extent that they have to make the rest of use settle for this eternal logo? I guess the cheap and easy sledgehammer solution is way too attractive these days in more areas that one.

I don't think the PC is worth it to them anymore. A lot of publishers have switched gears and focussed their attention on the console market. Games take a lot of time and money to make. Maybe the consoles are a safer bet for them?

As a consumer, I welcome the bias, because I feel like the consoles offer a better experience overall than the PC. I know it is a bit sacrilegious to say so, but the PC is not a good gaming machine. That is not what is was designed for. Older gamers like us might feel very comfortable with it as a gaming machine, but the consoles offer a much more streamlined and, I would argue, superior gaming experience.

I know a lot of people prefer to game on the PC. I get it. But, I am really glad that publishers, for whatever reason, will be focusing the majority of their attention and money on making console games. I have enjoyed playing games on the PC for years, but ever since I got an Xbox 360, my PC has been playing second fiddle in my house.

heavyfeul wrote:
I don't think the PC is worth it to them anymore. A lot of publishers have switched gears and focussed their attention on the console market. Games take a lot of time and money to make. Maybe the consoles are a safer bet for them?
They already have, AC2 PC was released 4 months after the console versions.

Oldgoat wrote:
Nelly K wrote:
It really sucks, doesn't it? There are so many honest PC players and they're the ones that have to live with these DRM rules.

I will get way off topic here, but I hope it doeen't matter too much so far into this thread.

This comment reminded me of how I felt during the PBS special by Ken Burns on the National Parks. An interesting story with beautiful photography, which became somewhat ruined for me by the station logo burned into the right corner of the screen throughout the entire series. I know, I know all the networks have been doing this for sometime. But at least some modify the intrusion, such as using the logo occasionally on a timer.

When I wrote to the station, I was told, yes, all the other networks do it and also that is was their needed approach to combat piracy. I always throught public televsion was different...apparently not completely. And who is doing this piracy from their broadcasts, to the extent that they have to make the rest of use settle for this eternal logo? I guess the cheap and easy sledgehammer solution is way too attractive these days in more areas that one.

National Parks rules.

I wonder if this will be a moot point in five years. At the rate Valve is growing, Steam may have total autonomy over the PC platform and this kind of DRM garbage will be irrelevant. Yay for monopolies!

Nelly K wrote:
I wonder if this will be a moot point in five years. At the rate Valve is growing, Steam may have total autonomy over the PC platform and this kind of DRM garbage will be irrelevant. Yay for monopolies!

I believe, but I may be wrong, that publishers have the ability to add their own DRM to a game even if they distribute their game via Steam. Valve would have to make a "our way or the highway" ultimatum to get publishers to eschew their individual DRM schemes. Trying to force the hand of a publisher is not a good way to bring in more distribution deals.

Elysium said: "Your interpretation is accurate.

My comments of moderation were directed to people not engaging in active piracy, whose opinions I value. Frankly, I don't believe pirates should have a voice in this discussion. You've done enough damage already."

In response to which DSGamer said: "I appreciate your honesty.

I agree with you, but like I said earlier, you had to know this was going to end up being a DRM / piracy debate. Just bear the slings and arrows. Oh, and consider picking it up for a console. There's no shame in coming to terms with the idea that pirates have ruined your gaming platform of choice for you.

Maybe retitle this "Coming to terms with pirates ruining PC gaming"."

(best I can do to indicate who I'm responding to--not able to use code on here yet, as I just joined)

+++++

Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that it's coming to terms with the *overreaction to* piracy ruining PC gaming? I mean, if someone has a warrant out for their arrest, and bounty hunters come crashing through my door because they make a mistake locating him, I don't blame the person with the warrant for what the bounty hunters did.

Especially when the bounty hunters treat everyone with an outstanding warrant as if they were escaped serial murderers, but that and how pirates are less like pirates and more like Vikings is probably too much of a 'how bad is piracy, really' angle for this thread.

On the other hand, to go off on another angle that I don't thing is too unrelated to this thread, have pirates/the overreaction to them *really* ruined PC gaming?

What I mean by that is: would a game like Assassin's Creed 2 have even been developed if not for the consoles catching up to the PC as much as they have? I mean, there was a point where Assassin's Creed was a PlayStation 3 exclusive. In other words: is giving up on getting to play Assassin's Creed on the PC an example of PC gaming being ruined, or is it just a case of PC gamers losing an option that was a 'bonus' they shouldn't have expected in the first place?

It's just hard to accept the idea of PC gaming being ruined by anything when Civ V and StarCraft II are coming out possibly within the year.

The perception of PC gaming being alright in that sense would depend on how much one values StarCraft II and Civ V. Some people simply don't care about strategy gaming.

Of special note here is that Civ V is actually coming, inspite of the fact that Firaxis recently released a no-CD version of Civ IV Complete, presumably to make some kind of profit. Whatever DRM is on that game appears to be working extremely well.

Good article on Techradar about this issue, both for and against.

http://www.techradar.com/news/gaming...

I believe, but I may be wrong, that publishers have the ability to add their own DRM to a game even if they distribute their game via Steam. Valve would have to make a "our way or the highway" ultimatum to get publishers to eschew their individual DRM schemes. Trying to force the hand of a publisher is not a good way to bring in more distribution deals.

That's probably where it's headed. Valve will have way more authority down the road if they continue to put their stamp on the digital market. They'll be able to dictate the terms, not the Ubisofts and EAs.

As digital distribution becomes more prevalent, the need for traditional publishers like EA and Ubisoft becomes less and less until they become functionally redundant. The real guys who are in danger from digital distribution isn't the Brick and Mortar guys - it's traditional publishers.

In copy-sale models of profit generation, publishers provide capital in order to print, distribute, and advertise games, as well as fund development. As digital distribution increases, the need to print, distribute, and even advertise games leans more and more heavily towards the distribution portal - Steam or Impulse, replacing traditional roles for publishers.

EA and Ubisoft may survive the transition, but if they do, it would be as massive development houses holding copyrights as real property. Portals would then take ascendancy as they control the direct access to the customer.

The difference here is that portals are not limited to copy-sale models of profit generation. Steam is a distributor, but more than that, it is a gaming service, adding value to game distribution over and above mere convenience. As a service provider, Steam is about as incentivized to protect copies as Apple is - that is - not very much.

They want to maximize spending at the customer level. Since they don't hold copyright nor care much about copyrights, they will more or less leave it to the copyright holders to fight whatever losing legal battle is left in those hands.

To a certain extent, this is where Ubisoft is trying to go with this scheme, but it's all hassle without the service. It's bad PR, pure and simple.

LarryC, if the perception of PC gaming is simply a function of how the types of games an individual values are doing, then we're not really talking about about the state of PC gaming, we're talking about how good PC gaming is for an individual.

In other words, the people in this thread I don't think are talking about their individual experiences, they're talking about PC gaming as an *institution*. My point was that before we allow the example of a game like Assassin's Creed 2 to be a part of that discussion, shouldn't we check and see if a game like Assassin's Creed is a part of 'PC gaming' to begin with? I mean, the series started as a PS3 exclusive: coming to the PC was always an afterthought. If piracy is ruining gaming because of the DRM it has forced on Assassin's Creed, does that mean first part publishers have *also* ruined PC gaming because God of War III won't be coming to the PC either? Is console gaming being 'ruined' because the Civ franchise is returning to the PC?

In other words, before we start talking about 'PC gaming', we need to define what PC gaming is. If we're talking about what games an individual values, then we're not talking about an institution in the first place, so the whole concept of 'decline' is irrelevant. Hope that clears up what I was trying to say.

heavyfeul wrote:
Nelly K wrote:
I wonder if this will be a moot point in five years. At the rate Valve is growing, Steam may have total autonomy over the PC platform and this kind of DRM garbage will be irrelevant. Yay for monopolies!

I believe, but I may be wrong, that publishers have the ability to add their own DRM to a game even if they distribute their game via Steam. Valve would have to make a "our way or the highway" ultimatum to get publishers to eschew their individual DRM schemes. Trying to force the hand of a publisher is not a good way to bring in more distribution deals.

Totally agree that forcing hand of publisher is definitely not recommended, but at the risk of their game not getting maximum exposure on the 800 lb. Steam gorilla (assuming they are THE way to get games online over the next decade), they have to go along. Then again, Steam became successful because it is publisher friendly, at least to the big companies.

CheezePavilion:

As far as I can tell, this thread is about Elysium coming to terms with Ubisoft DRMing the bejeezus out of AC2 for PC.

More broadly, it could be about primarily console-centric publishers making gimped PC versions, or about how a certain segment of the American PC Gaming market is being stiffed on console versions.

GoG sells great PC games without DRM. None of MMOs have DRM because authentication is central to account-creation. It's just not necessary. Many indie games don't have powerful DRMs not only because they can't afford it but also because obscurity is a greater enemy than lost sales through piracy.

We're not even talking about PC gaming culture in Ukraine, South Central China, or India.

In other words, I agree that this thread isn't about PC Gaming. It's about one guy (or several guys, perhaps) coming to terms with Ubisoft's DRM.

It really sucks, doesn't it? There are so many honest PC players and they're the ones that have to live with these DRM rules.

It just goes to show how desperate these companies are to stop piracy. They'll go so far as to alienate the legit, paying customers. It's the way of the world, isn't it? Aren't the legit, honest customers always the ones who have to live with the inconvenience of radical measures? Airlines (aptly mentioned in the opening paragraph) are a fitting comparison. We have to take our shoes off because a couple of dumb sh*ts ruined it for everyone. I am NOT comparing game piracy to terrorism. Only showing a few bad apples can spoil a bunch.

It's pretty obvious PC gaming is still a considerable slice of the revenue pie, otherwise there wouldn't be a PC version of AC2 to begin with. There wouldn't be this kind of new experimental measure if there wasn't serious money to be had. But sadly, I'm not sure the piracy dilemma will ever be solved. The very freedom that makes the PC great is also the biggest crutch. This is why we don't hear about prevalent Xbox pirating. You can mod your Xbox, but Microsoft can ban you from Live. There's no such bargaining chip for PC because there is no one entity controlling everything. PC -- with the exception of Steam -- is the wild west. The honest ones always get stuck with the tab.

LarryC, I would say that dealing with the issue of PC Gaming *is an essential part* of "Elysium coming to terms with Ubisoft DRMing the bejeezus out of AC2 for PC"--check out these parts of the article:

"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?"

"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."

"Choose to buy and I am supporting something I believe undermines the rights that should be afforded to PC gamers."

"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."

I think having to forgo the opportunity to play Assassin's Creed 2 is a very small part of the issue: I think what Elysium is saying has been added to the "distressingly voluminous list" of things he accepts as unchangeable is not the opportunity to play the Jazz Hands Assassin DRM free on the PC, but rather "the schemes and machinations of multi-national game publishing companies."

It's interpretative. All I see is one man seeing the breadth of the PC Gaming landscape through the peephole of AC2, or whatever other games his preferences drive him to patronize.

It's an interesting point bringing up GOG, because they sell (or republish) on their terms, one of which is no DRM. I was about to mention that valve seem reasonably 'hands off' with regards to 3rd party content on steam, not to the extent that they can do anything they want (which could lead to them doing bad things and breaking steam) but that they seem to have reasonably wide allowances for how a game can operate on their service. They've got extra layers of copy protections, other gaming services (GFWL, gamespy, etc), MMOs with their own updating service, and so on.

Valve's involvement seems to end at making sure the game works when bought through steam, they're not setting themselves up as a certification shop so you have to go by their standards (and there are a few low quality games on steam), or insisting that a game published on steam uses all the features of steam, but they make those features available if a developer wants them.

GOG/CD projekt seems to have the clout to get publishers to let them tinker with their games and bring them up to their quality standards for compatibility with modern computers, DRM and bonus material. If they continue their 'benevolent overlord' stance, I hope valve at some time sees fit to do something similar and put some quality mark on games that they and the 3rd party developers and publishers stand behind.

For quite a while the console certification process has likely had a net positive effect on the (technical) quality of titles released compared to if it wasn't there. It has to for the experience of putting a disc in the drive and it working, every time. This is a big draw to consoles for a lot of people who can't be bothered with the more technical PC (and mac) platforms.

I believe one aspect of the xbox certification is that every game (or at least every singleplayer game) has to work fully offline. It can't rely on updates, talking to servers, or anything outside of the xbox. A scheme like ubisoft's would not fly on the console at all.