Open letter to Ubisoft management

February 17, 2010 | Filed under: business

Hello ubisoft, how are you? It appears from this:

http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=235290&site=pcg

That you are making DRM in your new game (Assassins creed 2) even more inconvenient for paying customers than before. Apparently if your net connection drops slightly, you will get kicked out of the game.

This is madness. Have you not heard that DRM is actually unpopular with paying customers? As a gesture of goodwill, I offer you the most exhaustive consultation on the causes of piracy ever done.

The conclusion is that DRM == net loss in terms of sales. Maybe one day there is flawless, transparent DRM, but that day is not today, and this is not it.

I am not some pirate at slashdot or digg telling you this, but a game developer who makes his living from copyright, and who strongly, passionately, fiercely opposes and hates piracy. DRM like this does not work, and it’s silly to keep using it. Please do not do this to PC gamers.

That is all.

27 Responses to “Open letter to Ubisoft management”

  1. tycoon games says:

    well said. Yesterday had some unknown problem connecting to server in Dragon Age origins, and basically couldn’t play for a few hours. Was pissed, because I wanted to play NOW. After, it worked, but still was annoyed and I even thought of not buying those games in future.

  2. ThePengu says:

    Well said. I hope they listen.
    X

  3. Troika21 says:

    I’ve just had to deal with EA’s stupid Mass Effect activation.

    They want my DOB for goodness sake! Which I was not happy to give them.
    All it’s done, as far as I can see, is make work for them, I had to sign up for EA ‘support’ just to make the damn thing work.

    I already avoid games with StarForce on them, evil colonising thing it is, and am starting to wonder if online activation is something to avoid as well.

    I mean, what happens if the company goes under or something, what happens to games that are ten years old?

    On the other hand, well done Stardock for getting it right!

  4. Ranoka says:

    Surely you’re better off playing console games like this on a console (which are less than the price of a new gaming graphics card). PC games from the larger companies are becoming crippled ports of the console versions…

    I only buy and play indie/no DRM games on PC/Mac now.

  5. Carl says:

    The madness that is DRM has me fairly convinced that I will not be buying any future Adobe software. CS3 was my last, I was holding off on CS4 for a more refined CS5 and I’ll be all the happier to get CS5 without paying for it. DRM punishes those who buy the software, not those who steal it and I’ve had quite enough of the hassles of dealing with Adobe when it comes to reinstalling my CS3 suite.

    I also remember DRM broke Command & Conquer 3, it was “incompatible” with 64 bit operating systems due to the version of SecuROM. However if pirated, the DRM free version would work just fine on 64 bit Windows.

  6. radio_babylon says:

    i was eagerly anticipating AC2 until i learned about this a few weeks ago. no skin off my nose though, theres more games where that one came from.

  7. Andrew says:

    I can’t think of a game, real or imagined, that I would want to play badly enough to submit to online activations, the risk of those servers going away, or the need to be online.

    GSB is an awsome game, and gog.com offers lots of DRM-free classics. Why do people continue to buy games that are written to punish the owners?

  8. Will says:

    Dear Cliffski,

    At the most recent Lan party, my friend and I had a gratuitously epic hot-seat gratuitous space gratuitous battle which was gratuitous using the challenge system and my one account. This would not have been possible if DRM had stopped us from installing my copy on his machine.

    This has enabled my friend to see the awesomeness of the game, and he has subsequently bought it. A win for non-drm, and enough noodles to feed a starving game developer for a few days for you!

    -Will

  9. user@example.com says:

    It’s worse than your post implies, since even if you wait patiently for the game to reconnect you get dumped back to the last save.

  10. jinksy says:

    It seems my boycott of UBISoft continues.

    I really wanted to purchase Anno 1404 when it came out but the ‘Tages’ DRM put me off and now this is just plain wrong.

    No thank you UBISpft I’ll use my purchasing power elsewhere – I hear there’s another GSB expansion on the horizon, so the choice is clear. :)

  11. cliffski says:

    I bought anno 1404 and its awesome. I have no idea how its DRM works, but I havent personally encountered issues with it. YMMV though. With a game that good, it will sell well. They didn’t need Tages.

  12. I have this theory that publishers push all this DRM not because of pirates, but because they want to make it impossible or hard to resell a game.

    They don’t want to admit that, because that’d get people up in arms about it, so they use the anti-piracy excuse.

  13. baz says:

    Does seem odd, since the pirates will hack this on day one. I bet the tech isnt anywhere near as good as Steam, they’ve had years to iron out the glitches/security.

    Makes you wonder how far this can go — one day will every product require a constant internet connection?! You’ll have to register your jacket online to prevent resale at the second-hand shop.

    Other devs are giving up on PC though, like the Alan Wake guys. They gave some reason about the console being ‘better suited’, but not many people believe that. Looks like we’ll see fewer triple-A console titles going to PC.

    Anyway, I’ll pick up AC2 for xbox when its in a sale, it looks pretty good, but not 35-quid good ;) Nowadays I dont have a PC capable of running this stuff anyway.

    Yeah, it could be related to the after-sales market, as previous poster said (Steam etc…).

  14. jinksy says:

    Gee I wish people would refrain from telling me Anno 1404 is awesome. :)

    It was a hard decision to not buckle, but what I don’t like about the Tages DRM is a 3 machine activation limit. Further activations require ringing a tolled number and feels like extortion. To charge for the privilege gives the impression you’re consider a would-be pirate first and a customer second.

    Whilst my small amount of revenue won’t affect Ubisoft and like companies from going broke, its a matter of principle.

  15. toby says:

    PC gaming is dieing all because these companies continue to abuse the people who effectively pay their wages .. the customers.

    Cliff is totally correct, these games are big and sought after enough to offset the inevitable tards who never buy etc.

    They would win customers and sell far more. but have we reached the tipping point already? Big companies no longer want to develop/port to PC because the quick money on consoles is more attractive than this hassle of PC development (despite the PC being the ONLY platform RTS and FPS can be played/modded properly on)

    lets just hope that these gametypes continue to keep PC gaming afloat until these idiots see sense

  16. Chris says:

    Boo Ubisoft Boo,

    to annoy them…If you have to play AC2, just buy it second hand from Ebay on PS3 or Xbox, play it, then sell it on Ebay, (trust me, you’ll finish it 100% in three days tops)

    Sit back and smile that you’re sticking it to the Frenchies. Perhaps e-mailing them listing your Ebay auction number

    Obviously, if you’re a PC player, you’re up swanny pass without a propulsion method. (but then, if you’re a PC player, save yourself 100 quid and buy an Xbox Arcade)

    The future big publishers and developers will say “we’re not doing PC games till 18 months after the console release” and even further down the line, they’ll say “we’re not doing the PC version because we hate pirates / they don’t sell”

    The big publishers will all move off and leave a big gap – Then the better times will come and bedroom programmers will stop making casual games for quick cash and start making genuninely inventive games like Elite back in the day, and we can all laugh and smile because the world of computer games has come full circle. Then these bedroom legends will go out into the world and set up “real world companies” and most will fall flat on their arses… But some will survive and turn into global publishers, who want to protect their games…

    Hopefully by that time I’ll be dead…

    Cliff, hopefully you realise that you’re one of the pioneer’s of the new PC era, keep making those fantastically complicated (but inspired) games. :)

  17. Andrew says:

    Sander van Rossen, I believe you are correct – the used/resale market pushed by retail stores (at the expense of publishers) is probably hurting devs more, and the real target of these new “features”.

    I wish they would just offer DRM-free digital downloads at a reduced price, with up-front acknowledgment that a mechanism exists to block resale.

    I don’t know if I can resell my gog.com games, or GSB, in any legal manner, but I don’t care – the price is right, and the lack of DRM is fantastic.

  18. Bluebreaker says:

    So lets guess,

    legal paying customer:
    – go buy the game for 60€ (expensive for pc game)
    – install
    – activate it (hope the server is not down)
    – play it, and hope your internet connection for whatever reason doesn’t go down while playing
    – hope that ubisoft drm server doesn’t go down

    pirate player:
    – wait for download, its a popular game (with the stamp, “pirate me please!”) so it will be fast.
    – install
    – copy the crack and play without worries.

    Don’t they see something wrong here?
    They could have skipped that draconian DRM, and they would have saved money and bad reputation.

  19. Hardy25 says:

    It’s like banging your head against a brick wall sometimes, I’ve long maintained that developers focus should be on making the experience for the paying user as good as possible, this is what stops piracy.

  20. Watsong says:

    Let’s not forget all those factories around the world manufacturing various Mod chips, ‘Tool’ maintenance batteries, Flash ROM cartridges, HDCP Rippers and whatever else they make for the purpose of piracy.

    None of these multi billion dollar software companies make any attempt to close down microchip factories producing devices designed for bypassing content protection and to aid in the committing of piracy.

    It’s all passive defence and it simply doesn’t work. Even the hardest suit of armour can be cut through when someone can take it away and spend as much time as they like breaking it open.

  21. […] it is not even funny. I wished the big wigs at UBI would take a minute and take a look at what Cliff Harris said in his open letter to UBI or any of his other posts about piracy and DRM. Would honestly approach the issue and learn a […]

  22. LewieP says:

    Here is my idea for a retail protest that might actually work, instead of useless boycotts/internet petitions:

    http://savygamer.co.uk/2010/02/19/drm-assassination-lets-send-a-message-to-ubisoft/

  23. Benji says:

    Here here! this is why I love sites like gog.com. Thanks for a great post Cliff

  24. Freman says:

    It annoys the crap out of legitimate paying customers, and those who crack it don’t have to deal with it – how’s DRM a plus?

    My mate’s friend purchased a recent game and it gave him nothing but trouble with stability and crashing, it wasn’t until my mate downloaded a cracked version of that game and gave it to his friend that the troubles went away, in fact he played the game start to end with no crashes – the difference? the crack removed all of the DRM and background processes

  25. […] the other hand, like awesome indie master Cliffski, I believe that DRM is less than useless.  It actively penalizes the people who buy your game, and does nothing to inconvenience the people […]

  26. n00bsh0t says:

    I don’t mind DRM for online games like Battlefield which pretty much are geared towards online play Only now with BadCompany2 they are making it single player for all the COD noobs, but really multiplayer is where it’s at.
    But to have DRM for a game that is a single player only game? Utter ridiculous considering most console owers do not connect their consoles to the net.

  27. […] ends up doing with this. Despite suggestions from the indie community that DRM-free leads to higher sales and better performance, Ubisoft tried that already with the 2008 release of Prince of Persia, sales of which were lower […]