I am reminded of the following quote:
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former. – Albert Einstein
Ubisoft has decided that they do not want to learn from the experiences of EA and 2K Games.
PC Gamer has an article about how Ubisoft is requiring an internet connection for Assassins Creed 2 for the PC. That’s not just for registering the game initially, or launching the game, but for the entire time the game is running. So your router goes down, or your 2 year old son unplugs your modem? You get kicked out of your game. When your connection comes back up you’re at the last checkpoint you reached. Hopefully there are a lot of checkpoints in the game.
There’s a follow up at PC Gamer where Ubisoft tries to address their concerns, but the only thing I got from it is that they don’t have a firm grasp on reality.
What it boils down to is that they are trying to combat piracy. They are trying to sell this system as a value add, by saying that you don’t have to have the disc to play, that you can install as many times as you want, and that your save games will be stored on a server. What they don’t seem to understand, though, is that when I buy a single player game, I don’t want to have to worry about launch day player floods of the authentication server. I understand, and expect, that as part of the MMO experience, but I don’t want that in my single player experience. Ubisoft doesn’t even believe that it is unhackable. So, once again, people of rip off the company will be able to play however they want and paying customers get to deal with the hassle.
Let me explain something to Ubisoft. I haven’t played Bioshock. I didn’t buy it for PC because of all of the problems 2k had with their server-based DRM scheme. There were plenty of other games for me to play at the time, so why purchase something that is going to cause me frustration. I also didn’t buy it for Xbox 360, since I didn’t want to encourage bad behavior. Not a big deal, right? That’s just one sale. Well not exactly. I’m not buying Bioshock 2 either. Not because of any DRM of 2k boycott, but because I never played the first one, and I feel I would be missing out on the full experience by not having played the first game.
This whole debacle is very timely. I didn’t play Assassin’s Creed 1 because of some of the reviews it got about repetitiveness, and I was deep into several other games at the time. Generally this means that the window of opportunity for me to get into a franchise is closed. Assassin’s Creed 2 has been getting such good reviews, though that I thought about picking up both games for my 360. I was actually in Best Buy this last weekend and had both games in my hand. I didn’t end of buying them, but only because I decided I should check with friends and see if I really needed to play the first game or I would be better off watching some Youtube cut-scenes. Boy am I glad I didn’t buy those games now. So Ubisoft has cost themselves two sales from me, and likely any additional sales on the franchise since I’ll be so far behind on the story.
As rants go, this one is pretty weak, but I’m not really pissed off so much as exasperated. You would think that gaming companies would look at case studies of what the music industry went through already, or at least what other gaming companies have already tried and failed at.
It reminds me of a corporate reorganization at a former job. We had a full IT department meeting, where the CIO outlined a reorganization we were going to do. Instead of grouping staff by technical skills (team of Java devs, team of Oracle admin, and so on) we were instead going to be grouped by business area/process. This meant that a team in charge of a specific business area would have one or more developers (of different skills sets like Java and Progress), a DBA, a tester, etc. The funny thing about the meeting was the CIO introduced the idea by saying it had been tried at other companies and never worked, but we were going to give it a shot anyway. I left wondering what the heck he was thinking.
So good luck to Ubisoft, trying to do nearly the same thing that EA, 2k, and others have already tried. I’m sure that you won’t have a multitude of issues every time a new game releases and thousands of players try to authenticate against your servers at the same time. I can’t imagine that you’ll have a horde of angry customers calling support wanting to know why they can’t play their offline, single player game because your DRM servers are down for maintenance. I’m sure no one will mind in a couple of years when you decide to decommission the servers for old games, or really care if you decide to patch out the DRM at that time.
If you want to read some more about this, there’s some more good information and opinion over at both Rock, Paper, Shotgun! and Ars Technica.
Personally, I’m not committing myself to a boycott of the company or anything. I’m not going to start rage posting on forums or signing a petition. I’m just not going to buy the game and then move on with my life. I suppose I may be tempted at some point to buy an Ubisoft game despite the DRM, but right now I can’t think of a game that I’m looking forward to enough that I’d be willing to deal with that kind of DRM. Assassin’s Creed certainly isn’t interesting enough for me to bother. I have so many more convenient ways to spend my entertainment time.