Ubisoft, You’re Wrong

I loved the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time games. I played all three of them and enjoyed them immensely. I also bought and played Prince of Persia 4 and found it to be fantastic as well. Assassin’s Creed is also in my collection and while I didn’t enjoy the repetitive gameplay, I did find the story very engaging. So it was quite exciting for me to hear about both Assassin’s Creed 2 and Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands. Unfortunately Ubisoft has deemed that meeting – of me with AC2 and PoP:FS – to be of unimport and wishes it to never occur. Wondering what I’m talking about? Read on.

What got this whole post started was when I logged in to Steam a few days ago and saw that they were running a special for the pre-release of Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands. $60 gets you a copy of the game along with some free extras and you get PoP: Sands of Time. On top of that, if you pre-purchase you get PoP: Warrior Within for free as well. I no longer have my copies of either and on Steam they cost $10 each, so take $20 off of the selling price and you get $40 for Forgotten Sands with some extras. That’s quite a deal! Alas, scrolling down and reading past the required specifications revealed this:

3rd-party DRM: Ubisoft’s Online Services Platform. Ubisoft requires a permanent Internet connection to play this video game at all times.

Ah yes, DRM. Except that this is DRM from hell. This DRM says that you need to be connected to the Internet on permanently when playing the game. If your connection drops, the game will kick you out – it might save your progress before it does, or it might not. Without the connection, you can’t play at all.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand why a certain amount of DRM could be necessary. It doesn’t prevent pirates from cracking the game, but it makes it harder – it’s like having locks on your doors and fencing around your yard – it won’t stop a persevering criminal, but he’ll think twice about if it’s really worth it. So I’m not against DRM as a concept, but I am against a variety of implementations thereof. This one is probably the worst one yet.

I live in South Africa, a country that has only recently been getting semi-affordable uncapped Internet options. On top of that our fastest publicly-available line is 4096 kbps. That’s it, 4 Mbps. We don’t have 10 Mbps lines (rumoured, but not yet publically available) and certainly we don’t have anything faster (Like what Google has announced). To round off this picture, our international Internet connection is not exactly rock-solid, and we don’t have many fallback options between our two(at present) international cables – SAT3/Safe and Seacom. For the most part, we can’t game online outside of our country – the ping is just to high for it to be an enjoyable experience.

Basically what this means is that we could buy the game, we might even be able to play it if we’re lucky enough to have the speed and the cap to do so. But it’s going to happen that you time out or that your connection just gets a little jittery, and you get kicked out of your game – and you’re going to get angry about it.

I don’t understand why this is necessary in the first place. Why do you have to be online – permanently – for a single player game? Besides that, you have to buy the game over Steam (in this case at least) which is DRM in itself already. Now they go and slap even more restrictive DRM on it which just makes me, as an honest customer, feel like a criminal. The fact here is that it’s not stopping the pirates. I’m not even sure that it’s making it that much harder for them. But it’s certainly making it harder and much less enjoyable for the honest customer. It’s made me stop and think if I really want to play this game. Quite honestly, from this point where I’m standing, the juice is not worth the squeeze.

So my options are as follows:

  1. Pirate the game and get counted as a lost sale, which will more than likely only reinforce the idea of ever more restrictive DRM.
  2. Buy the game and make it seem as though I support the restrictive DRM, when in fact I want to support the developers of a great product and not the morons that made it so hard to actually play.
  3. Buy the game and then download the cracked version (when it’s out 12-hours after the game has been released) which will either null my input as a customer or make it twice as (un)effective – making it seem that I support the crappy DRM and counting me as a lost sale to reinforce the idea of more restrictive DRM.
  4. Don’t buy the game, don’t pirate the game, don’t play the game – which makes a difference to my life but doesn’t phase Ubisoft even a little, yay for the moral victory.

What am I going to do? I don’t know. I’ll make that up as I go along. But I’m going to say what needs to be said and I can only hope that enough people say it for the message to get across to Ubisoft. Ubisoft, your new DRM policy is wrong. Wrong on so many different levels. You are taking the Internet for the beautiful tool that it is and turning the freedom it grants us into a cage, a trap. You make great games, but not great enough for this to be allowed.

Reaching the end of this post now, I realise what I’ll do. I won’t buy or play any new Ubisoft games until they change their forsaking policy. I don’t expect anyone to do the same, but I do want you to think carefully about what it is that you’re supporting when you casually hand out your money. Think about what that money says about what you think of this product. Think about it.

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About HawkiesZA

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