I’m sure many of you have heard of Ubisoft’s new DRM(Digital rights management) that has shown up on PC versions of Assassin’s Creed 2, Silent Hunter 5, and will be in all of Ubisoft’s upcoming PC releases. This new DRM forces players to maintain a constant internet connection to Ubisoft’s verification servers in order to install, save and in many cases to even play the game. Even if said game is only single player like Assassin’s Creed 2. Is this the solution to the piracy problem that has plagued the PC for decades? No, it’s far from it. This poorly thought out DRM will only hinder the gaming experience of the actual paying customers while the pirates enjoy the game to it’s full potential.
This DRM would make the game almost impossible to play if you travel a lot. You might think that having to maintain a constant internet connection isn’t so bad if you have the capability to maintain it but it works both ways: just shortly after Assassin’s Creed 2 was released, one of the Ubisoft servers went down. Paying customers who were anxiously awaiting their chance to assassinate conspirators were left with a denial of service error. Many of the customers could not install, save or play the very game they had spent $50 on.
And that isn’t Ubisoft’s first DRM failure. In June of 2008 an update for the PC version of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 added multiplayer tweaks, new ranks, new gameplay modes, and a disc check. The problem with this is that those who chose to buy the game digitally from services like steam or Direct 2 Drive had no discs to be checked and could no longer play the game they had paid for. You’ll never guess how the geniuses at Ubisoft solved this problem. They released another patch that contained a version of the executable that had been modified by pirates. They used a pirate hack, something they had tried to stop by adding the DRM in the first place, to fix their own broken DRM.
Ubisoft isn’t the only company to impose awful DRM onto it’s paying customers. The EA published Command & Conquer 4 requires a constant internet to play. Thankfully (unlike Ubisoft) it appears like this DRM won’t be in all EA published games.
This kind of obtrusive DRM will increase piracy. The reason for this is that it is much more convenient for many to just illegally download games. Which would you choose? A game with DRM that restricts how you play your game that you payed for or a completely DRM free version of the same game. I’ve known people who’ve gone out and purchased their game and then downloaded a pirate hack to remove the DRM related restrictions, and that should not be the solution. The fact is that piracy will happen, pirates aren’t stupid people and no matter what game developers put in their way they will eventually circumvent the DRM. The DRM will only serve to delay them. Sure it might work for a short while but the actual paying customers will be left with the permanent effects of the greed of the company that created the DRM in the first place.
I in no way support piracy, especially on the PC where developers are choosing to simply not release their games for the PC because of piracy issues. Piracy is slowly killing the one gaming platform I truly love. The pirates themselves are just as guilty as the companies that are imposing restrictive DRM.
Despite the rampant piracy on the PC platform there are companies who have successfully prevented piracy without incredibly restrictive DRM. Valve is one of these companies. Valve provides a very convenient service to it’s customers through Steam(a service where people can buy and then download games straight to their hard drive). Gabe Newell (Managing Director of Valve) once said “By focusing on the customer and by doing useful things for the customer, piracy really becomes sort of a non issue for us”. And from what I’ve seen, this is true. Many former pirates (including myself) claim to have stopped pirating video games due to the convenience of Steam and similar services.
So what can Ubisoft and other companies learn from this? Well they could start by having DRM that doesn’t punish those of us who buy their games.