Stolen Pixels #175: Ubisoft!

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 9, 2010

Filed under: Column 87 comments

Levels of failure:

5) I laugh at you.
4) Everyone laughs at you.
3) I make a joke about you.
2) I make a series of jokes about you.
1) You transcend joke made about your failure and become a joke yourself.

Nice one, Ubi.


From The Archives:

87 thoughts on “Stolen Pixels #175: Ubisoft!

  1. Zerotime says:

    To be (strictly) correct, lemmings go over cliffs because once, in 1958, a Disney film crew flung them off one with a turntable.

    1. Binks says:

      Yeah, it always kind of bugs me when someone talks about lemmings going over a cliff. It’s a complete urban legend, the fact that so many people take it as a fact is a sad result of media either not caring about the truth or accepting the lie as a fact. The fact that the movie it was depicted in (White Wilderness) won an academy award despite completely lying to the audience is just plain sad.

      1. Shamus says:

        It’s spread because it’s so incredibly handy. The word “lemming” can act as a package for:

        “Individual or group which acts in self destructive way regardless of clear signs of danger, often making the mistake again and again.”

        That’s a massive payload for one word. Even if everyone in the English-speaking world understood about lemmings, they’d still use the phrase because it’s so dang useful and there’s nothing to take its place.

        1. Mari says:

          An alternate single word for that description might be “teenager.” ;-)

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            “Human” works perfectly well.Just look at the darwin awards.

            1. Shamus says:

              “Oh wow, what a bunch of Humans.”

              I don’t think it has quite the same payload of meaning.

              1. Ramsus says:

                You’re right, that implies something worse. =P

        2. Steve C says:

          My favorite word is [url=]schadenfreude[/url]. Nothing like it in English and that’s exactly what we are all feeling for Ubisoft right now.

      2. NeilD says:

        Well, if we’re going to be pedantic about it, then let’s go all the way. Lemmings going over a cliff is not a complete urban legend. It actually does happen during migrations. They just don’t do it on purpose — the ones on the edge of the herd get shoved off by the surging mass.

        Disney’s shame in White Wilderness is far more in how they went about creating the footage then about the spreading of a myth that was already well-established, and not that far off from the truth.

        (Besides, Shamus is right — true or not, the metaphor and the imagery is a part of the language now, and a darned useful one at that.)

        1. Adam says:

          Much like the story of the frog in the slowly heating pot of water.

          1. Zaghadka says:

            Or manbearpig?

  2. SolkaTruesilver says:

    You know Shamus, I remember you telling that we now buy games made by a huge faceless corporation, and not a single designer.

    It’s funny that you bring Daikatana into the topic, because, well, it was promoted as Romero’s game. It was the final commercial failure that made it so that designers are no longer the “rock stars” of the gaming industry.

    Except Wright, off course.

    1. acronix says:

      And Molyneux, and that one guy that makes the Metal Gear games.

      1. Robyrt says:

        And Miyamoto, and Chris Taylor, and CliffyB, and Suda 51, and the guy from Ninja Gaiden…

        Oddly enough, the most profitable studios don’t have that auteur style. Who’s the Single Creative Vision behind Guitar Hero, World of Warcraft, or FarmVille?

        1. SolkaTruesilver says:

          It’s not about popularity of the game.

          It’s about piracy rate (%). Which are the most pirated? The ones with a known dev or not?

          1. Adeon says:

            On the other hand the most popular games are generally the most pirated ones regardless of the developer’s notoriety.

          2. Alex says:

            It's about piracy rate (%). Which are the most pirated? The ones with a known dev or not?

            I would be absolutely amazed if any correlation between those two factors were discovered. As has been shown in this very comment thread, both games with an identifiable author and games without become smash hits.

  3. wtrmute says:

    Ion Storm attempted to set the world record at diving and failed when they smacked their face off the diving board. Ubisoft set out to hit their face on the diving board, and succeeded.

    Pure gold, sir. Pure gold. It’s this sort of crap from the industry that puts me off gaming as a whole, these days. I just don’t have the heart anymore…

    1. Jordi says:

      While I liked the strip (even though I didn’t know of the epic fail that was Daikatana), I felt that sentence somehow didn’t do justice to how bad Ubisoft failed (since it basically says they succeeded at what they set out to do). To me it seems more accurate to say that Ubisoft took a spectacular “plunge” into a pool with no water, since everyone but Ubisoft saw the failure coming a mile away.

      1. Nawyria says:

        Why am I suddenly reminded of Gimli falling off a horse while yelling “That was deliberate! That was deliberate!”?

    2. Johannes says:

      Seconded. It’s jokes like Ubisoft that keep me from even putting such games on my wish list (as my current PC wouldn’t be able to run it anyway…).

      OTOH, it’s companies like Valve that make me want to buy Steam products, so I’m not put off gaming entirely. Yet.

    3. Bryan says:

      Actually, they did aim for the end of the board, they just didn’t know that the board was the high dive 30′ up and that it would break on impact dumping them into a 20′ empty pool, despite the 1″ fracture across the middle of the board. They also didn’t expect the board fragments to impale them once they hit bottom.

  4. kikito says:

    I was so waiting for this one. Thanks, Shamus.

  5. Dev Null says:

    Well now to be fair, not EVERYONE predicted it. Expected it as by far the most likely, but I was willing to entertain the possibility that it could work.

    I still think its an interesting hypothetical question though: Assume they _do_ come up with some form of horribly intrusive DRM that actually works to at least some degree. Is it any less worthy of scorn at that point?

  6. Volatar says:

    Awesome comic Shamus, I was laughing so hard I blew stuff out of my nose!

    1. Shamus says:

      Stolen Pixels: As funny as a head cold!

      1. Heron says:

        I have a head cold right now. Not funny.

        But Stolen Pixels is funny :)

  7. Meredith says:

    Nice. I hope Thursday’s comic covers their complete head-up-ass denial that piracy happened anyway. That’s even funnier than knowing it would be a disaster beforehand. I wonder if they’ll actually learn anything from all this mess? Probably not.

    1. Jordi says:

      Perhaps it should feature that Iraqi Minister of “Information”. :)

    2. Kalil says:

      Actually, I’ve been poking around the NoCD sites, and it looks like the usual suspects are pretty well stumped – which is very disappointing. I enjoyed the first game, but I won’t be able to buy this one. I spend way too much time in the middle of the ocean to spend money on a game that requires an internet connection.

      Still, it’s only a matter of time. My impression is, they’ve figured out what they /need/ to do, it’s just a matter of reverse-engineering it. I have more faith in the fine folks who operate RLD than I do in the dweebs at Ubisoft’s DRM division, that’s for sure…

  8. Eldiran says:

    Obligatory comment regarding inconsequential grammar errors/typos: “1) You transcend joke”

    This comic was excellent (as per usual). I expected the comments to be filled with Concerned references, but I guess the DRM debates distracted from that.

    1. Catiff says:

      obligatory: In Soviet Russia, joke transcends you!

      ETA: Yeah, senseless and unnecessary… but it needed to be said.

      1. TehShrike says:

        Well, which was it? Was that joke unnecessary, or did it need to be said?

        You can’t just say [truth], but [falsehood] (or vice versa) ;-P

  9. Ciennas says:

    Thank God this happened. I find it encouraging that this scheme blew up exactly as predicted.

    I wonder who exactly invests in Ubisoft, and whether or not they check the rest of the CivCom Network.

    Or if they make investments over a glass of brandy while adjusting their monocles or what have you.

  10. Nawyria says:

    It’s bittersweet to see that after all those years of you talking about DRM, you get proved right. But at the same time it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that the DRM-monkeys won’t be able to touch the retrogames and tabletops I spend most of my spare time playing.

    Notice that the fifth comment to the Escapist news post reads:

    “I smell more DRM hate! And a Shamus Young rant!”

  11. Zeta Kai says:

    Well, in Ubisoft’s defense, research shows that as the industry moves toward increasing levels of DRM, the amount of piracy tends to…

    Ah hell, I can’t keep spewing out that kind of ridiculous made-up crap. Ubisoft’s all-server-all-the-time piracy “solution” is the most inexcusable mistake that has been committed in this industry since the Virtual Boy. No rational informed mind could have honestly believed that this would’ve worked well, & it’s probably a Good Thing for the industry that it has failed so quickly & so spectacularly.

    Although I think that this is ample evidence that the corporate core of Ubisoft is inattentive, ill-informed, & willfully ignorant about the logistics of piracy & how to combat it effectively (maybe Penny Arcade could give them some pointers?), I truly hope that this fiasco sends a strong message to other game publishers about the perils of treating your entire customer base like shameless criminals.

    I find it perversely amusing that the only people who could play Ubisoft games during the outage were the very pirates the DRM was meant (somehow) to exclude, while every paying customer was left out in the cold. Way to go, guys.

    1. acronix says:

      We can be optimistic and think that they´ll learn from this experience. However, I´m one of those that would bet on them trying to come with something even more strict.

  12. Tim Skirvin says:

    …I still liked the Virtual Boy. Of course, I only paid $20 for mine, brand new.

  13. Christian says:

    Thank you Shamous. I got to admit I’ve been waiting for your comment on thos whole show since yesterday :)

  14. JB says:

    Next DRM version from Ubisoft will only allow you to play the game on certain weekdays, different for every owner of the game, to reduce the load on their DRM servers.

    Remember, when you buy a game, you only buy the media it is on, and a license to play the game. You don’t actually own the game itself, that is still the property of the distributer. You should be THANKFUL every time they allow you to play.

    1. Alex says:

      (My kingdom for a “preview” button! ^^; )

      Remember, when you buy a game, you only buy the media it is on, and a license to play the game. You don't actually own the game itself, that is still the property of the distributer. You should be THANKFUL every time they allow you to play.

      The thing is, that COULD be a perfectly viable business model, and in fact would have some benefits for both the producer and the consumer, especially if coupled with digital distribution. The issue is that the industry changed from one to the other without checking with, or even telling, anyone on the consumer side of the house.

      Considering how hit-driven mainstream gaming is and how much risk the profit model for the big-league games has, something’s going to change sooner rather than later, I would imagine. Video games might wind up more like what the more forward-thinking elements of the music industry are moving toward, with more of the revenue coming from bonus material and other fan-oriented extras rather than the core product…

      (bahgh, my avatar thingie changed now that I’m using my blog email addy instead of my personal email – oh well…)

  15. Yar Kramer says:

    All I can really say is: “ahahahaha. Oh wow …”

  16. The cynic in me wonders if developers are TRYING to kill PC games by implementing such draconian DRM measures.

    Maybe they believe that if they alienated enough PC users, those users will eventually migrate to consoles.

    It’s the only theory that makes ANY sense (to me).


    1. JB says:

      Another theory is that they try to stop the used games marked, and stop friends from borrowing games from each others.

      1. acronix says:

        That´s sort of a “cospiracy theory”, taking into account that all developers say they want to stop piracy, not game-burrowing.

        1. JB says:

          Since DRM has never stopped piracy, it is hard to believe they are honest in their spoken intentions.

        2. Sekundaari says:

          Also, I remember reading an EA statement that second-hand sales are a “critical situation” in an interview. Probably on The Escapist.

    2. Nick says:

      If they really wanted to do this, wouldn’t they just stop making the game for PC? It would save them a heap of dev money.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Nah,its better like this:”Here,taste our game.And then,if you want to continue playing,buy a console.”Its like a demo,only you dish out money for it.And console makers pay them to port the game to pc.Its a perfect conspiracy.

        Or,they are just idiots and had no long term plan for this(like sony when they got burned).

  17. rbtroj says:

    Here’s the thing we gamers continually fail to understand about the grown-up world of business: EA, Activision, UBI, Nabisco, whoever … they don’t give a shit about you or your game, whether or not you can actually play it, what you think of their employment practices, or what you think of their DRM. The only thing they care about is their stock price. And the only thing that matters with regard to their stock price is how much shit they sell. We gamers, for all our threats of “never buying from Publisher X ever again” … well, we never follow through with that threat. Sure, a few individuals do, but the rest of us — we may grumble and complain and act all outraged, but as soon as that next hot title hits the streets, we’re on it like a crackhead. I know I am.

    To the idealists out there: You have to quit believing that a big money-making machine could possibly “care” about anything other than making money.

    The customer-corporation relationship is a lot like the employee-employer relationship. As an employee, you may be loyal to your employer, working the factory hours for the factory wage to the benefit of the company’s bottom line, but the company cannot be loyal to you – it is a thing, not a person.

    Same with the game publishers – as a customer you may fee loyalty toward a publisher that has delivered so many games that you’ve enjoyed. The publisher doesn’t care about you. It can’t. It’s a thing, not a person.

    These companies will not change the way they conduct business unless their choices have a materially adverse affect on the bottom line. And since most of us continue to give them our money in spite of our distaste for their practices, their bottom line will continue to thrive.

    In other words, it’s our fault they are the way they are.

    1. Alex says:

      Here's the thing we gamers continually fail to understand about the grown-up world of business:

      You’d be surprised how many gamers are grown-ups who participate in the business world.

      The only thing they care about is their stock price. And the only thing that matters with regard to their stock price is how much shit they sell.

      Not remotely true – the multibillion-dollar financial services industry is proof aplenty of that.

      … we may grumble and complain and act all outraged, but as soon as that next hot title hits the streets, we're on it like a crackhead. I know I am.

      As Lewis Grizzard once said, “Damn, brother, don’t believe I’d’a told that!” But plenty of people do act on their beliefs about corporate behavior – maybe not a majority, but a significant and growing number.

      To the idealists out there: You have to quit believing that a big money-making machine could possibly “care” about anything other than making money…
      …but the company cannot be loyal to you ““ it is a thing, not a person.

      Corporations are composed of people. Managers, executives, board members, stockholders – they’re all people. Just because it’s a corporation’s name on the stationary and paychecks instead of a person, that doesn’t mean that everything done in the corporation’s name isn’t actually the result of human actions and human thought processes that are open, over the long term, to change and influence. Demonizing corporations as inhuman and malevolent a priori is unworthy of cartoon villains, let alone serious commentators.

      These companies will not change the way they conduct business unless their choices have a materially adverse affect on the bottom line. And since most of us continue to give them our money in spite of our distaste for their practices, their bottom line will continue to thrive.

      Now this, I can agree with, and while the average consumer is maturing slower and slower these days, eventually people DO wake up and vote with their pocketbooks, if only because real life eventually intrudes and throws the quality differences of various entertainment choices into sharp relief. I, for instance, have gone from 10 console games a year to none, because WoW gives me more bang for my very limited entertainment buck and available gaming time.

      In other words, it's our fault they are the way they are.

      Well, ours (assuming “ours” refers to the people who play games), Wall Street’s, the FCC’s, the FTC’s, that of various aspects of the legal profession, that of indie developers who are still working on how to reach a mass audience, etc. etc.

      Bottom line: the situation is neither simple nor hopeless. There are always options, there’s always an angle, and especially in the technology world, nothing stays static for long. The very concept of DRM has only been around for an eyeblink in terms of the history of popular culture as a whole, after all.

      1. James Pope says:

        Honestly I think the way this will change is when some company like Ubi gets caught substantially enough with an offensive DRM that they prompt a class action suit from a shark who smells money and GUTS them with something like $5 from every game copy sold for a given title or series of titles. Something that would signal to the stockholders: Abandon ship!

        Hell, it wouldn’t even need to be a successful suit. It would just have to inject enough risk into the equation where people stopped thinking Company X and the people involved with it were good investments any longer.

        Barring that, a large enough nation could make adjustments to its IP laws that make some of these DRM schemes illegal. It’s not likely, because the corporate lobby of the US is powerful, but every so often countries like France, Germany, and China get pretty stubborn.

        1. Alex says:

          I don’t think it’s possible to make the value proposition of any given big, corporately-developed game much riskier than it already is. A more likely outcome of a high-profile lawsuit would be for a developer to be driven out of the business entirely, either through bankruptcy or simply deciding it’s not worth it. Other publishers would then just snap up their IP and market share and continue on the same path with a few cosmetic/PR modifications. Like a lot of social/political issues, I think it’s going to take a generational turnover for the dominant attitudes about how to sell games and other entertainment to change.

      2. Mechakisc says:

        Corporations are composed of people.

        Corporations are composed of people who are not at fault.

        “It was Bob’s idea.” “It is company policy.” “We can’t just give up and let the pirates win. We had to do something.”

        1. Alex says:

          That’s what often happens, and what often makes headlines, but it’s not a defining characteristic of a corporation. It’s a defining characteristic of a corrupt organization, which may or may not be a corporation.

          1. Mechakisc says:

            Ok, I will add that this is a defining characteristic of everything I’ve ever been employed by, so perhaps my attitude is skewed in one direction. No matter how much interest individuals might have taken (and I tried to push things in various directions at various places), “the customers do not like this feature” was met by “that’s not what we’re doing”, or any of the above.

            My favorite was a software dev that makes accounting/management software for copier dealers/etc. Customer needs were completely ignored in favor of the direction that the dev team felt we needed to go. Reminds me of Fallout 3 and [insert your favorite sample here].

            There are places to work where this is not the case? The mind boggles.

    2. Mari says:

      Even voting with your pocketbook is a risky proposition. Sure, my husband and I keep up with the business practices of these developers and publishers and keep OUR money away from them. But then the kids announce to grandma that they desperately NEED Ubisoft’s latest shaft title and mom and dad won’t buy it. So grandma, without talking to Mom or Dad buys the game in question, feeding Ubisoft. Even when Mom and Dad won’t let the game get installed on a box under their roof, Ubisoft got the money. The only thing that prevents that from becoming epidemic around our house is the fact that grandma balks at spending new game prices more than a couple of times a year.

  18. Inwards says:

    The worst thing about this DRM is that it guarantees problems. As much as I hate DRM in principle, I rarely encounter actual problems in the wild with disk-based or single activation or Steam-style systems. Sure, things can, and sometimes do go wrong, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule; most of the time, DRM is invisible.

    Ubisoft’s system has so many possible points of failure (DDOSing, player ISP problems, Ubisoft ASP issues, company restructuring, etc) that it virtually guarantees that each and every legitimate customer will be unable to use the product at some point. I wonder what the odds are that this will change the consumer’s largely ignorant/agnostic views on DRM? It’s one thing to not be able to install a game on two different PC’s, it’s quite another to be told that you can’t play your game right now because the publisher is bone-head.

  19. acronix says:

    You know, we should be thankful to Ubisoft. They set stupidity´s standard so low, that now we can get away with any stupidity without looking that dumb!

    1. ehlijen says:

      Oh dear!

      Are you suggesting that maybe Ubisoft was thrown to the wolves so that the rest of the world wouldn’t complain about the remaining companies’ only slightly less boneheaded schemes?

      Frightening thought…

  20. Jarenth says:

    Man, I kind of want to make a snarky joke about this situation, but I just can’t. It’s too tragically hilarious, there’s just nothing to add. Locking paying customers out while giving pirates free reign? Touché, Ubisoft, touché. You have well and truly managed to baffle me and for that, in this era of the Internet and omnipresent stupidity, I salute you.

    1. James Pope says:

      If I had bought this game I’d be looking for a crack right now, and feeling quite good about it.

      1. Alex says:

        ZOMG, I just had a bolt-from-the-blue business idea: game publishers sell the cracks themselves! Base price gets you a DRM-laden version of the game; pay extra for a safe, virus-free, guaranteed-to-work DRM removal.

        …Nah, that gives up too much control on their end. It’ll never happen. :-3

      2. (LK) says:

        Unfortunately, I’ve been following Silent Hunter 5, and it seems the missions for the game are tied to the servers during play, and mission progress isn’t saved without a connection to the server.

        So… if a legitimate customer cracks the game, the missions stop working.

        This also adds a hell of a significant nail in the game’s obsolescence coffin. When they decide to shut down the SH5 servers, even on the remote chance that Ubisoft (NYSE: RTRD) actually removes the connection requirement to start the game up, the missions still have to be patched into the game that they were apparently removed and kept separate from.

        I’m pretty sure Ubisoft has elevated the Peter Principle to an established theorem single-handedly. Apparently a few mailroom clerks and janitors were caught saying “pirates suck” and were made senior executives as a result.

        1. 1) Buy the game.

          2) Use some kind of sifting software to capture every bit of data from SH servers, saving it to your hard drive.

          3) Play it through.

          4) Collate the data, organize it, crack the game to read the captured data instead of server-side data.

          5) Zip game, crack and server data into a file; upload to PirateBay.

          6) Don’t profit, since you’ll never, ever get paid.

          Not exactly easy, but it seems to me that it would very likely be cracked pretty soon, by some SH nerd who was raging against the devs but still wanted to play, and to fight the system.

          Note that I’m not advocating this, just trying to illustrate the point that no DRM will ever stop piracy, unless it forces you to physically go to another location, be strip-searched, and then play the game on a black box, with no internet connection and no way to plug in or remove any peripherals.

  21. Disinform says:

    Not that I’m cynical but what are the odds that Ubisoft don’t see the error they’re making and just see 2 separate problems:

    1. Games still being pirated = need more DRM.
    2. Honest customers locked out = need more server power on day one.

    Problem solved…

    1. Jarenth says:

      To which I would reply…

      1. No single form of DRM is uncrackable, ever.
      2. Extra servers are expensive, and there’ll be more problem days than just launch day.

      This kind of DRM will always be a dead end, for reasons a lot of people have put more eloquently than I ever will be able to.

  22. Sean Riley says:

    Schadenfreude much, Shamus? :)

  23. Joshua says:

    What’s also really funny is that in the original Escapist article linked to in this Stolen Pixels, Comment #5 predicts that Shamus Young will go on a rant about it.

  24. (LK) says:

    Want to bet what a number of their legitimate customers did when those servers were down?

    Yeah, they cracked the game.

    Ubisoft backed them into a corner where they either wait around with their thumbs up their ***es for someone at a world-famously inept company to repair their servers, to play a singleplayer game… or download a crack for the game they paid good money to own.

    I really can’t imagine what it feels like to be an executive at Ubisoft right now. This is mostly because I’m not in possession of the kind of pathological psychology that makes such irrational behavior even remotely possible. You have to be WAY gone to do this kind of thing.

    1. acronix says:

      Wait, are you implying they can feel anything at all?

      1. (LK) says:

        Yes, but their brains pass it all through a filter which reduces all feelings to varying degrees of fear and paranoia.

        When Yves Guillemot sees an attractive woman, he has a panic attack, shoves her against a wall, and demands she prove she’s never pirated his games. When given a very considerate gift, he throws a punch at the gift-giver and claims they stole it. When someone steals his wallet, he’s completely oblivious to it and does not respond at all… at least until someone smiles at him and he notices it’s missing, telling the police the smiling person took it.

  25. Well, I’ve got some comments on this. But, before I start writing, here is the obligatory Tweakguides piracy article link (yes, it’s THAT good):

    Now, a few things:

    1. The cause of the outage. Ubisoft has confirmed that the outage was because of a hacker attack. They didn’t suffer a technical glitch – they were attacked. So, not only did the pirates break the DRM, at least someone engaged in active sabotage afterwords. Whether these hackers were pirates or just malicious [expletive deleted] is unknown.

    (Source: )

    2. Considering it’s an attack, at this point I’m not sure this is an arms race anymore – this is really striking me as a shooting war. Perhaps this comparison is just a bit strained – I did watch “Tora! Tora! Tora!” a couple of nights ago – but it seems to me that somebody just pulled a Pearl Harbor on Ubisoft. And, that being the case, I’m wondering what the retaliation will be.

    3. And yes…despite points one and two, it is pretty funny (in a sad way). The number of ways this DRM was lined up to fail was just ridiculous. To proceed with it despite all the potential failings is more than just willful blindness – it’s burning out your eyes with a hot poker, then pouring Tabasco sauce on them, then stitching your eyelids shut, and singing “God Save the Queen!” to drown out somebody trying to warn you that it’s a bad idea.

    The funny thing is…Ubisoft isn’t necessarily onto a bad idea. Just a remarkably bad implementation. It could be that they’ve got an idea for an effective anti-piracy measure, but they didn’t take it far enough.

    Imagine this for a moment – instead of selling the game as a product with a DRM that requires an internet connection to play, they sell the game as a service. So, the customer gets a client with the game engine but without the game data, and pays a one-time fee to have access to the servers, which stream the data (which is not saved on the hard disk). If the game is bought second-hand, the new owner can contact the company for a new account. A duplication of an account is piracy, and easily dealt with. And, once what’s being sold is access to the servers for the content, pirate copies of the client make no difference whatsoever, and can even be used to increase the numbers of legitimate accounts.

    Now, this isn’t something the market would likely be happy with at the beginning – after all, everybody is used to a single player game as a product – but it might just be effective against piracy…

    1. (LK) says:

      Ubisoft claims it was a hacker attack. The fact that there is no repercussion whatsoever for lying, no evidence or information offered regarding the attack, and that this attack happens to coincide with the launch of AC2, leaves that a matter of how much you trust a company with nothing to lose from lying about it.

      It’s a lot easier to claim hackers brought the DRM servers down than admit they failed to support the new DRM adequately, isn’t it?

      Don’t take their claims at face value. They have a lot at stake and have so far been bungling their PR miserably. They are spinning everything to an absurd degree already, lying about the server failure is not at all out of the picture.

    2. Jarenth says:

      Garwulf (you mind if I call you Garwulf?), your idea still has the most crippling flaw of the original Ubisoft system: not everyone has internet access. If I want to play a game on my laptop while on the train (something I do twice daily), I simply can’t connect to the internet to stream in data, as you suggest. In a world where everyone has internet access all the time, everywhere (which will happen at some point) such a scheme might be viable, but right now it just isn’t. If you’re going to force me to connect to your servers every time I want to play, I’m going to spend my money somewhere else.

      Also: servers die, connections get interrupted, and getting people to pay for a ‘service’ instead of an actual physical game might be fairly hard.

      And just because we can’t think of a way to pirate such a game doesn’t mean there isn’t one. ;) Hell, it can’t be that hard to devise a way to capture the data from the server as it streams and save everything locally.

      I understand you’re just offering suggestions, but I really think the internet-access-required solutions like Ubisoft’s DRM are fundamentally a dead end — at least until the Singularity hits.

  26. Axle says:

    The big problem with computer gaming is that each game is unique (there is only one publusher for AC2) and this allows the publisher to do cruel, unusual and very very stupid things, that other companies in other industries wouldn’t dream of doing.
    Can someone think of any other industry that has the nerve to stand up and proudly say, that their product is working fine for 95% of the customers and everything is OK?
    That there is a probability of 5% that the game, you fully paid for, might not work all the time. And if you live outside the US, the numbers are even bigger than 5%… I woonder if the game comes with a warning that it might not work properly under certain conditions that has nothing to do with your hardware (meaning that you might have the recommended hardware requirements, but your internet connection is not stable or fast enought to run this single player game properly).

    Well… Since I don’t live in the US or even in north America, there is no way I am going to spend 60$ just find out I can’t play it on certain time of the day. Its a shame because I waited for AC2 to come out for the PC…. sorry UBI…

    And by the way, console gamers – Don’t think that if this BS will work fine on PC (No drop in sales and low piracy numbers), Ubisoft will not hesitate to apply it into AC3 in the future (and all of their titles).

  27. Simplex says:

    In the comic it says the drm was cracked on day one – that (sadly) is not true. The “cracked” games (SH5 and AC2) are not completable, in fact they only allow you to begin the game, but not proceed further (from what I read in the comments, you can only run around the first city in AC2 and in SH5 you cannot complete the mission because the tonnage [or some such] of the ships you sink is not being registered by the game).

    I hope that Ubisoft’s DRM will be cracked soon, and for good, but currently whowever is claiming that it was cracked is misleading the unwashed masses.

  28. Samopsa says:

    Shamus, awesome way of making exceptionally clear how completely idiotic this DRM scheme is. This post in the Escapist thread really sums it up:

    Wow, really? Isn’t that hurting the people who actually buy the game more than the pirates?

    Yay, another person who understands!

  29. MikhailBorg says:

    By the way, awesome shout-out there to Gordon Frohman and “Concerned”.

  30. Deoxy says:

    The only problem I have with your commentary on this hilarity is that you will have nothing left to say when they outdo this stupidity (and they will). You have used the greatest possible superlative*, leaving nothing for later.

    * The greatest possible superlative is “this exceeds all the superlatives I have” – and you said that is such a delightfully amazing way. The emperor’s new clothes rendition was particularly wonderful.

    Edit: OK, I thought of one way to exceed it for next time: It’s like the Emporer’s new clothes where everyone is telling the emperor he’s naked, AND he’s the one who “made” the non-existent clothing! But really, that’s not MUCH worse… and it might really apply this time.

    1. Jarenth says:

      Maybe the next time the Emperor’s clothes could be made out of flesh eating beetles. And the Emperor is aggressively pushing away anyone who wants to warn or help him, and will only listen to the flesh eating beetle merchants.

      I have no idea where I’m going with this. Ubisoft executives are silly, I think.

  31. Zaghadka says:

    Yeah. Laughed out loud at this one (your comic, not the ongoing Ubisoft tragedy). It’s like some inverted Cassandra story, where everyone is telling Cassandra that she is doomed if she eats lunch at a particular restaurant, and she refuses to listen and eats there, meeting her doom.

    Inconvenience doesn’t even begin to describe it. Flagpole moron is close, though.

  32. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Well,lets give ubisoft a bit of credit though.They did manage to postopone a working easy to find crack with their scheme.So while legal buyers werent able to play for a while,lazy downloaders couldnt play as well.So they did achieve their goal,at least.

  33. Terrible says:

    *sigh* I wanted to get the new Settlers game…

  34. Johannes says:

    Hey Shamus, don’t know if you’ve already seen this (didn’t scan all comments to see if it was already posted :->), but GameSpot actually talks about UbiSofts copy protection in the first part of their ACII PC’s review, and they aren’t positive about it. Quite unique, for a site like that:

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