Ubisoft drops controversial DRM program
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 13:09
A decisive blow was struck for the sanity of PC gamers everywhere yesterday when French video game publisher Ubisoft announced that its infamous “always on” digital rights management (DRM) will be coming to an end.
Fans and journalists have taken issue with Ubisoft’s always-on approach to DRM since its inception, and for good reason. With the company’s old setup, users were unable to play their single-player offline games without a connection to the publisher’s servers. Beyond making it impossible for gamers without an internet connection to play offline components of games, this also meant that even those that had online connections were unable to play Ubisoft’s games, should the company’s servers go down.
From now on, all Ubisoft games on PC will only require a one-time connection to the Internet to activate the product under the new DRM.
What does this mean for gamers? Essentially, all past and future Ubisoft published games on PC (such as the upcoming “Assassin’s Creed 3”) will now only require users to connect to the Internet for the first time they play. After that, anyone is free to play the single-player portions of their purchased products without intrusion. Of course you’ll still have to connect to the company’s servers to use multiplayer functions.
Ubisoft’s draconian DRM has been incredibly damaging the company’s public perception. Since the system’s implementation, fans and media outlets alike have referred to it as a way of punishing legitimate users for the actions of illegal pirates without any data to back up its effectiveness.
Despite being almost universally unpopular, Ubisoft remained incredibly stalwart in its claims that their system was a success. Until now, that is.
In an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, Ubisoft worldwide director for online games Stephanie Perotti said that it has been a part of Ubisoft’s policy to require a one-time, online authorization in all of its games since last June.
“We’ve listened to feedback,” Perotti said, “we will continue to listen to feedback, we will continue to make sure that we deliver great games and great services, and are now operating under this policy.”
However, that statement doesn’t ring entirely true. Some games since that period, like last year’s “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations,” did eschew the always-on DRM. However, other games that were also released after June of last year, “Driver: San Francisco” for example, retained the intrusive DRM structure.
Statements made by Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft’s CEO and chairman, confuse the situation even further.
Last month, Guillemot claimed that piracy rates for Ubisoft PC games were as high as 90 to 95 percent. His claims were, however, not backed up with any statistical evidence -- in fact, they could not be backed up with statistical evidence as there is no way to monitor how many users that pirated the software would have purchased the games had they not had any other option.
It’s also worth noting that an actual piracy rate of 90 percent would likely have resulted in investor’s breaking down Guillemot’s door and calling for his head, which does not seem to have happened.
Both Guillemot’s “statistics” and Perotti’s announcement came after Ubisoft stated that its DRM system had shown a clear reduction in software piracy last year.