Observation: Apparently there has not yet been released a working Crack for Assassin's Creed 2. I know this because where I live currently (Bangladesh) only pirated games are sold.
While I do not LIKE the method of DRM put in place on Assassin's Creed 2, what would you say if this method of DRM provided Publishers with an effective means to prevent piracy. I still maintain my belief that crackers and hackers will eventually crack/hack the game, but… what if they don't? Would you take this method of DRM (always being connected to the Internet) as “acceptable” if it allowed PC gaming to flourish without fear of piracy?
Some have claimed to have seen the game running. Others claim that it does not work at all. It’s possible the former are pirates trying to save face and claiming they have a crack that does not exist. It’s possible the people who claim the game remains un-cracked just had a bad version or lacked some technical secret to make the thing go. Rather than call one a liar by endorsing the other, I’ll just pull a Gandalf and admit ignorance by naming it caution.
But let’s play “what if” and assume the Assassin’s Creed 2 DRM remains un-cracked.
I’ve made the case that it’s impossible to create foolproof DRM for a single-player game. If the game is playable on your local machine, then it’s possible to make a playable copy. In that article I left a loophole, stating that this only applied to single-player games, and that it was easy to protect an MMO with a simple login. It’s entirely possible this new DRM simply moves key in-game functionality or data to the remote server.
Regardless of how it was done, what if the system really is airtight? I think that there would actually be good and bad things about that.
In the short term, we’d at last find out just how much damage piracy really does. There should be known ratios of console-to-PC sales. Particularly in this case, where we’re dealing with a sequel. We should be able to look at the performance of these games and look for unexpected sales numbers for the PC version.
If this system holds up, then I’d expect a lot of publishers to jump on this bandwagon. We would lose control of the games we buy and find ourselves at the mercy of publishers.
This isn’t like Steam, where you’re trading your rights for a bunch of convenience and goodies. This a system where you trade away rights and convenience. This is all downside for the end user.
I wouldn’t pay for games under this system. If I was just a gamer looking for a some entertainment, I certainly wouldn’t plonk down money for this. So it would be sort of odd to review these games. (I have a review copy of AC2 here. I haven’t tried yet.) Then again, I’ve often faulted the gaming press for not including DRM in the review process. Maybe the right thing to do is to just review these games as normal, but make people aware of the DRM? I don’t know. In the long term, I’d have to make some hard choices about what my review policies will be regarding this stuff.
Several possible outcomes. Let’s ignore the fact that publishers play their numbers close to the vest. We’ll just pretend that we in the community will be able to see what they see:
- If AC2 on the PC does much better than trends suggest, then we know that pirates actually went out and bought the game and that DRM is a valid defense against piracy. The question will remain: Is the gain in sales worth the expense of implementing the system? But at least we’ll know how many people are out there that would pay for a game if they had to.
- If the game has a 1000% increase in sales, then we know that the publishers have been right all along and every download really is a lost sale. (I would not put money on this.)
- If sales are flat? I don’t know what they’ll think. It will probably mean that the pirates turned into customers were canceled out by the customers turned into protesters. They would probably see it as a public relations problem, and try to convince us that the hassle we’re bearing is for our own good. Which would only enrage me more. But people might get used to this business.
- If sales are down by a lot? A company as big as Ubisoft simply is not nimble or dynamic enough to pull off the change in direction required to take advantage of that information. They would have a very hard time accepting this truth. Some leaders brought the company in this ruinous direction, and such people are not likely to be willing to admit that they were completely wrong. Excuses will be made (internally and externally) and the machinery that brought us always-connected single player gaming will roll onward. Change could happen down the road, but they wouldn’t just drop the new system.
For further consideration: EA has jumped on this bandwagon as well.
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