Ubisoft cans activation limits, always-on DRM

Talk about an unexpected turnaround. On the heels of its CEO’s weirdly implausible allegations about PC game piracy, Ubisoft has announced that it’s officially scrapped two of the most annoying features from its PC game DRM: activation limits and the requirement for an always-on Internet connection.

Stephanie Perotti, Ubisoft’s Worldwide Director for Online Games, broke the news to the folks at Rock, Paper, Shotgun earlier today. The strict always-on requirement was actually lifted last year—we reported on the change back then—but it’s now clear this is a wide-ranging policy change for the game publisher. Upcoming Ubisoft titles aren’t going to be saddled with activation limits, either, as Perotti explained in her interview with RPS:

RPS: So, with Assassin’s Creed III, and other forthcoming releases, we’re going to see a one-time activation, and there won’t be limits on that activation. Is that correct?
Perotti: It’s correct. And then you’ll be able to play offline on PC. Whenever you want to reach any online service, multiplayer, you will have to be connected, and obviously for online games you will also need to be online to play. But if you want to enjoy Assassin’s Creed III single player, you will be able to do that without being connected. And you will be able to activate the game on as many machines as you want.

Activation limits have been a particularly frustrating problem here at TR, since our game benchmarks require us to install and test any given title on a multitude of configs, often through multiple hardware generations. The limitation poses problems even for more typical gamers, though. Being able to upgrade one’s machine is a key selling point of the PC as a gaming platform, and having to worry about your next hardware purchase making games unplayable runs entirely counter to that.

In any case, kudos to Ubisoft for turning over a new leaf—even if it comes after years of aggravating legimitate customers while doing little to thwart pirates.

Comments closed
    • provoko
    • 7 years ago

    When will Blizzard follow Ubisoft’s footsteps? Or should I say, Blizzard’s own footsteps from the past.

      • superjawes
      • 7 years ago

      Unlikely, I’m afraid. Blizzard’s development has been in online environments. WoW, D3, and SC2 are all examples. They want the online functionality, so that limits their ability to sever the online ties.

      Unfortunately, they also haven’t really made strides with Battle Net over the past couple years. If they had more functionality from the system, it might be a better trade, but the last major change we got was BattleTags…nice, yes, but hardly a groundbreaking feature.

    • destroy.all.monsters
    • 7 years ago

    Short of Ubi releasing all their games on day 1 on Gog for a year nothing will change my attitude towards them.

    • oldog
    • 7 years ago

    My money says this was a pragmatic decision on the part of UBI and is not a change in the basic philosophy of UBI or a nod to their detractors.

    I have been playing Heroes of Might and Magic and it is very clear UBI does not possess the infrastructure to support a major title like Assassins Creed with always on DRM.

    Rather than suffer a huge backlash of the community and loose sales they chose to use a DRM scheme that requires less resources on the part of UBI. If that situation should change the DRM rules will likely change again.

    I also believe that they do not want to license the Games for Windows or Steam systems. I suspect this is due to financial considerations.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 7 years ago

      Ubisoft already uses Steam.

        • destroy.all.monsters
        • 7 years ago

        I think he means Steamworks in this particular instance, which is free, making his point slightly nonsensical (the optional Steam distribution does but as you pointed out they already use Steam).

        Using GFWL would just be salt in the wound.

      • Jason181
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]Rather than suffer a huge backlash of the community and loose sales[/quote<] I like my sales like I like my women...

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 7 years ago

    It seems that this is a good thing. Sad thing is how long it took them to realize.

    • Washer
    • 7 years ago

    It’ll be fun to revisit this and see how nothings changed.

    • albundy
    • 7 years ago

    for past games too? lol, didnt think so,.

    • faramir
    • 7 years ago

    Who cares … They lost this customer some time ago and he’s not crawling back. There is a multitude of GOOD games WITHOUT dumbass “protection” schemes out there, including many older ones that can be had via Good Old Games store very cheap and without harassment.

    • yogibbear
    • 7 years ago

    Ubisuck: selling you games you can’t play that you paid for since 1876.

    • vince
    • 7 years ago

    Here’s me hoping EA follows…

    (lol, please don’t choke in your laughter)

      • Narishma
      • 7 years ago

      Hah, keep hoping. They just said in an interview that they were proud to not have released any singleplayer game in recent years.

      • drfish
      • 7 years ago

      For that sake of SimCity I hope you are right.

    • bthylafh
    • 7 years ago

    I’ll consider forgiving you if you remove it from all the older games, even the ones you’re no longer patching.

    There’ve been a couple of your games I’ve wanted to buy and might have were it not for this DRM crap.

      • tay
      • 7 years ago

      I am interested in this as well. Older as in 2010 onwards.

    • paulWTAMU
    • 7 years ago

    is this real? holy shit, if so awesome and amazing.

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    :O

    Hallelujah?

    [quote<]if you want to enjoy Assassin's Creed III single player, you will be able to do that without being connected.[/quote<] About time! One of the main reasons I play single-player games is because I'm on the road and don't have network access for online gaming (or refusing to pay extortionate hotel wifi access fees). [i<]edit: In fact, in the last few years, the main reason for downloading pirate copies of things has changed; It used to be "because I ain't paying money for this sh*t", and now it's mostly "to circumvent always-on DRM when I'm not online"[/i<]

    • Rand
    • 7 years ago

    Last year when it was “changed” it was only changed so that you could be offline while playing, you still needed to be online to start the game itself… which was a spectacularly useless and misleading change. Are we certain offline actually means offline now?

    They’ve been caught lying about their DRM on three separate occasions so far, so I’m inclined to disbelieve them until it’s proven that they are being honest this time.

      • RedAdmiral
      • 7 years ago

      I agree. If they are telling the whole truth, this is great. But I can’t get rid of the feeling that there is something they aren’t telling us about. Hopefully this move is because they have seen the light and not because they’ve come up with another draconian scheme.

        • l33t-g4m3r
        • 7 years ago

        I’m wondering what technology they’re using to do the activations. Will it be some sort of always on background service that spies on you? Sure the activation policy may change, but that’s only part of the equation. I don’t want another Origins floating around.

      • kvndoom
      • 7 years ago

      USB dongle in the box. At least it’ll have some cool AC3 graphics on it. 🙂

    • flip-mode
    • 7 years ago

    It’s a big step in the right direction.

    • sschaem
    • 7 years ago

    Cant wait for Microsoft and Apple to do the same.

    I’m tired of Microsoft treating like I’m scum and a Pirate!

    Plus all this DRM is making it hard to share my software with my friends and family,
    I need to use torrents to get the cracked version. I paid for your software, I’m a loyal customer ! why do you make it hard to share with others !?
    Shame on you software industry !

    But will I be able to ‘backup’ my Assassin’s Creed III xbox360 copy ? if not, EPIC FAIL UBI soft!

    … yes, this is how most of you (<the anti PC DRM crowd) sound like.

      • Grigory
      • 7 years ago

      Haha, nice. You had me for a second! 🙂

      • destroy.all.monsters
      • 7 years ago

      I don’t think most of us use broken english so that’s ad hominem.

      Apple doesn’t use drm – they just lock it to their machines (which are fairly easily emulated since they’re standard industry parts). MS does and yet Windows is consistently one of the most pirated pieces of software of all time. It’s trivially easy.

      It’s also very easy to get console backups unless you’ve been living under a rock.

      The overarching point is that non-buyers shouldn’t have it easier than actual customers. Treating customers poorly will come back and hurt you and finally Ubi begins to realize this.

      Gog has made its name selling games that were previously abandonware and newer games as drm-free. They’re doing very well as a result and have won customer loyalty to the degree that Ubi has won enmity.

      But hey, don’t let facts interfere with your world view.

    • StashTheVampede
    • 7 years ago

    DRM has many flavors. Ubi’s choices in DRM made life difficult for paying customers. Ultimately, they can save money and time (more money) by focusing on the customer and not the pirates.

      • sschaem
      • 7 years ago

      The sad part is that the wheel been re-invested so many times.
      DRM went overboard a long time ago… but its been with us since gaming in the ZX Spectrum days.

      Back then there was some drastic thing, like printing manuals in two similar shade of red so photocopy didn’t work. etc… That was lame for the paying customer because this was hard to read.

      But this was nothing compare to ‘securom’ . ABOBINATION

        • StashTheVampede
        • 7 years ago

        The old days of reading a manual or having a specific disc in the drive are really more copy protection than DRM.

        While they were annoying for paying customers (as DRM is today), they were also easily defeat able. Paying customers were affected by these mechanisms, but it was also one of the only methods to stop piracy back then.

        Ubi’s DRM mechanisms were far more punishing for paying customers. There are other less intrusive DRM systems in place that don’t draw the heaviest ire of paying customers and I’ll put my money in those locations.

    • Arclight
    • 7 years ago

    I salute their decision and hope their image will change soon so they get full support from the fans, thus validating the “trust” they so generously put on the great unwashed.

    • odizzido
    • 7 years ago

    I guess they saw that AC1 did well on gog so they were like “Oh shit guys, treating our customers like scum might not have been the best idea”.

      • Madman
      • 7 years ago

      Yep, I even brought it on GOG even though I already had a Directors Cut DVD.

      It was in a bundle, so I decided to reinforce the point, DRM free games – the only good games.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    December 21st 2012 is 107 days away. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!

    • derFunkenstein
    • 7 years ago

    Well if their piracy rates really ARE that high, this was money in the toilet to maintain, and dumping it to save money makes sense.

    OTOH, everyone hates them, so dumping it due to that also makes sense.

      • designerfx
      • 7 years ago

      proof is in the pudding: treat your fans like pirates, and they will pirate.

      treat your fans like fans, and they will act like fans.

      It really is that simple, and ubisoft has been in denial for years – along with a majority of technology companies. Let’s see EA stop their always on-drm, because that’s what origin is. Steam too – it may be convenient but it is DRM. If they really wanted to do things right I imagine they’d go back to all the old games and provide patches to disable the DRM off of all of them that had it.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        So very true!

        • willmore
        • 7 years ago

        Fortunately, you can use Steam offline. I think you can stay offline for 30 days before it wants to phone home. Not quite ‘always on’.

        • Jason181
        • 7 years ago

        I disagree. Customers don’t “become” pirates because of a company. They [i<]are[/i<] pirates. Pirating is something that some people are will to do, and others are not, for legal, moral or practical reasons.

          • destroy.all.monsters
          • 7 years ago

          I love your in depth analysis of this “piracy” phenomenon.

          Where, pray tell, may I find out more?

          By any chance do you sell artificial grass?

          • travbrad
          • 7 years ago

          What a lot of people seem to forget/ignore is that even most pirates actually BUY a lot of stuff too. Just because someone pirates something once doesn’t mean they will never buy something again. There have been studies showing people who pirate music actually buy MORE music than those who don’t pirate music, for example.

          In other words, if Ubisoft actually respects their customers and makes good games then a lot of those pirates would be willing to buy their games. Of course there will be a certain group of people who are never going to buy anything, but they aren’t going to buy anything whether a game has DRM or not, and the DRM doesn’t actually prevent piracy at all since hackers can crack it so easily.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 7 years ago

          Right people are either born pirates or moral upstanding citizens, and there is no gray area or any wiggle room.

            • Madman
            • 7 years ago

            Oh, the word of whites and blacks… Where in every situation everything is clear.

          • Diplomacy42
          • 7 years ago

          I disagree more. Its economics. Piracy has costs and deficits in time, risk of being arrested, risk of missing out on new content, risk of ubisoft borking your pirated install, social implications, etc, etc. nobody “is” a pirate or “wants” to pirate.

          I don’t play Ubisoft or Microsoft games because of the attitude they have towards DRM. Its not worth it to me.

        • Grape Flavor
        • 7 years ago

        This is nonsense and has been debunked countless times. The piracy rate on the indie, DRM-free, pay-what-you-want Humble Bundles remained very high, and they did absolutely everything “right”.

        People pirate because they want free stuff. Period. Everything else is a rationalization to make themselves feel better.

          • Krogoth
          • 7 years ago

          Piracy is going to be always be a problem unless the hardware and software is completely locked down. It is also a large problem for gaming consoles. Not even the “uncrackable” PS3 is safe from it.

          The major beer that gamers have with certain publishers who push forth more and more asinine DRM schemes is that they keep using piracy as a scapegoat for any product failure.

          “OMFG NOBODY IS USING OUR PRODUCT! IT MUST BE THOSE FILTHY PIRATES!”

          Rather than stomaching more plausible reasons.

          A.) The market thinks your product just sucks.

          B.) It went up against too much competition at launch.

            • Madman
            • 7 years ago

            Piracy is never a problem!

            You either have a customer or you don’t. Period.

            Everything else is a scapegoat.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 7 years ago

          More to the point, who really cares? The point isn’t to prevent people from having access to your product is it? The point is to get as many people as possible to pay as much as possible.

    • superjawes
    • 7 years ago

    Sounds good…maybe too good to be true.

    Let’s just hope our backdoors are safe.

    • south side sammy
    • 7 years ago

    FarCry2 started off with limited installs and deactivation. it was soon stopped from what I remember. I did multiple installs with no problems. I also almost always played it while not connected to the net. Not really something entirely new but perhaps a “friendly” reminder to bring thoughts their way.

    • timaeus
    • 7 years ago

    About time. Now will they be patching older games to remove these asinine restrictions?

      • Scrotos
      • 7 years ago

      Really? Why bother asking this question. You know the answer already!

      (it’s no)

    • BloodSoul
    • 7 years ago

    I second the Kudos to Ubisoft. Better late than never! (Also FIRST :-]!)

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This