Ubisoft's DRM servers crash, games unplayable

By on March 8, 2010, 8:52 AM
It was bound to happen sooner or later -- we just didn't expect it quite so soon. Ubisoft's new and controversial always-online DRM authentication servers crashed over the weekend, preventing customers from playing legally purchased copies of games such as Assassin's Creed 2 and Silent Hunter 5.


The service has apparently been restored by now, but of course furious players had already flooded official forums complaining that they were unable to access games or save any progress, while those using illegally downloaded versions remained unaffected. A Community Manager for Ubisoft agreed that the error was 'unacceptable,' and later gave a statement saying their servers were having difficulty coping with the "exceptional demand."

While it's concerning that they didn't anticipate this exceptional demand for two rather anticipated titles over their launch weeks, or prepared adequately for the first real test of its always-online DRM authentication system, Ubisoft has now changed its tune and is saying the downtime was caused by an attack to its servers.




User Comments: 58

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skitzo_zac skitzo_zac, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Classic DRM, the pirates have a better experience than the paying customers.

Caused by an attack on their servers, possible, not sure if I believe it though.

Xyvis said:

Attack on the servers or not, that is definitely up for debate. But regardless of the cause when Ubisoft is limiting consumers by this DRM service they better damn well be prepared to handle the consequences of such events. Consumers not being able to use a product which they purchased because of a problem on Ubisoft's end is unacceptable.

compdata compdata, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Not sure how true their press release is, but it would not surprise me if they get attacked over this. There is a lot of (misdirected in my opinion) anger out there over their DRM. Maybe there wouldn't have been if they just called referred to their new games as SPOGs (Single Player Online Games) as all the MMORPGs have the same restrictions.

compdata compdata, TechSpot Paladin, said:

justin1278 said:

Attack on the servers or not, that is definitely up for debate. But regardless of the cause when Ubisoft is limiting consumers by this DRM service they better damn well be prepared to handle the consequences of such events. Consumers not being able to use a product which they purchased because of a problem on Ubisoft's end is unacceptable.

I agree they should have been more prepared, but doesn't WoW follow essentially the same DRM scheme? They have had a few outages right?

Recipe7 Recipe7 said:

I'm sure this is just a minor mistake by Ubisoft. No server is perfect, it is bound to happen. If it continually occurs though... I feel bad for those who paid for their games.

Puiu Puiu said:

I do believe that they were attacked. It's a very attractive target for crackers. But they need to make some kind of backup servers so that it won't take so long to repair.

JMMD JMMD, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Well this will certainly highlight the problems with this type of DRM. Glad it happened soon and I hope this makes them re-think their "brilliant" idea.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I guess this was an artificial recreation of a real world possibility, but the point was made.

Not only does the DRM not work, those who purchase the game stand a chance of having a worse game play experience than paying customers.

You can get a new Xbox version for about 30-40 bucks online. As low as 20 used. Its not a new game anymore, its been played and beaten by what hundreds of thousands of people? Why are PC players forced to pay a mark up for essentially an older title?

This is really strike three. Punish PC players more under the presumption of them being thieves. They do make a profit on these games. Its just they have these dreams of billions more if only they could somehow get everyone to buy the games.

natefalk natefalk said:

I don't necessarily disagree with DRM. The only way to verify legit copies of games will require some sort of online registration/verification. A lot of games out there right now require an internet connection to play. Without the online verification, someone will release a "no-cd" hack and someone else will supply the software files, then everyone (who knows where to look) can get the game for free.

It is a problem when DRM servers go down, especially when they say "always-online". Shouldn't a multi-billion dollar software corporation have teams of Network admins working on 100% up time. I don't think DRM would get such a bad rap if it worked as it should.

Guest said:

Sooo... I was thinking of playing Silent Hunter 5.... Oh wait it Ubisoft, i'll give my money to someone else instead until they figure their **** out.

btw, these games are cracked already.... what/who do they think they're helping!??

ARG!

levar said:

I was over at the forums and me being victim I wasn't quiet about first of all it was annoying as hell and the worst thing about is it got cracked in one day, I should've just took the easier way.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Hate to say it (since it detrimentally affected fellow gamers), but a part of me is glad this happened. UbiSoft needs another black eye and attention drawn to how ridiculous and pathetic this new DRM scheme of theirs is. Perhaps a media storm of protests will help them see that the only people they are hurting are their legitimately paying customers. Hey, I could even see some kind of class action suit popping up with failures like this, you know how lawsuit happy many are these days!

@compdata - comparing this to WoW is completely apples to oranges. WoW is an online multi-player subscription game that requires an online connection at all times to be connected to the game servers on which the product is based - you essentially run a client on your machine, with the server handling the world. The UbiSoft games affected are single player games, which have absolutely nothing to do with an online world or persistent server - they are not just clients, but the entire game code, so requiring the constant tether to an online server has nothing to do with actual gameplay.

jjbeard926 said:

This is the primary problem with DRM, what to do when it fails. There's a certain point of balance between preventing piracy and reasonable annoyance for legit customers that the producers of software need to find. So far the best one I've found is actually very old school: find a phrase in the paperwork packaged with the game during install. Without it you can't install. This forces pirates to find the 'secret' phrase along with the software. If you make it a semi-random phrase, with multiple options you actually get some decent security out of a very low tech solution.

EduardsN said:

The games are cracked already.. This stuff just stops players with legal copies from the playing the game It's not helping anyone

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This is actually quite funny, players who bought the game and legally own them were the only affected, on the other hand the cracked ones were unharmed.

This says to me "Ubisoft is spending quite a lot of money on unnecesary servers, systems, and research whily annoying their gamers".

Richy2k9 said:

hello ...

that's too bad that game developers need to put more effort in building a fortress to protect their work, that turns out to be made out of sand after some anarchist would try reverser the situation.

& say that this wouldn't even be necessary if 'most' of use gamers were happy or 'honest' enough to buy originals.

with the main entrance crack open, i hope this DRM thingy will be patched away & people would still (not steal here) go for the game ... let's buy what we like please, thank you!

cheers!

gobbybobby said:

This is funny. Far too funny! Just shows that this kind of DRM FAILS, and puts the Spotlight AGAIN on Ubisofts DRM!

Decimae said:

Now they're saying it's an DDoS attack. I think this kind of DRM is unacceptable, though I don't tend to buy ubisoft games anyway, because none of them seem outstanding.

Compdata, the DRM scheme is part of WoW. It can't give full gameplay without it. This however, only has cloud saving in return, which really doesn't make up for it.

unrealmp3 unrealmp3 said:

But WoW is a Multiplayer Online game, which mean there is no single player. It would not make sense to have a multiplayer-only game to work offline.

However, a single player game that requires you to be online at all time is a bit far stretched.

CMH, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

everyone (who knows where to look) can get the game for free.

If someone had bothered to look, they probably wouldn't have been a paying customer anyway.

I am a firm believer in that there is no way to get rid of piracy. Any protection tool out there can, and will be broken; its just a matter of time. Content producers should look at alternative means to make non-paying users into paying ones.

History has shown over and over again that if a game (or movie) is good (or not so good in the case of CoD:MW2) the producers WILL show a huge profit, irrespective of the level of piracy on their software. In this case, its a matter of greed. Bear in mind that my above comment about pirates not going to pay still stays true here.

Any content producer who thinks that console games cannot be pirated should think again. A quick check online would show that every popular console game is available for download.

Kovach said:

Huh, I was waiting for this king of story, it was just metter of time when it will fall aparat. And probably, it's already on the torrent, cracked and for sure working. Useless losing of time on both sides. WoW, like you guys says, is a multiplayer game and playing online, using servers have sense. But this...?

Neojt said:

Somehow we told you so dosent quite do it !!

Good job

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Why didn't Ubisoft think of having a backup server or something? Deliberate attack or not, they surely should have had a Plan B. I mean there was a lot of attention focused on this new DRM and now they have gone and urinated over their legs and proved to everyone that DRM is BS.

Guest said:

There is a huge difference there. WoW is an online game, if servers go down, yes it sucks. This is a single player game, and I know if I have put aside an afternoon to game, and my MMO is down, I play single player stuff personally, but in this case, you can't even do single player stuff.

If it is hackers DDoS'ing them, they need to fix it, they are now and will be a target for all script kiddies and hackers alike to interrupt the service to prove a point.

cocodel said:

Ubisoft should use DRM for multiplayer game not for single player. No internet connection no game play!? This is bad for bussines and show no desire to atract more customers and finnaly is disrespect for those who pay for game. Hope they learn customers have the money and they are always right!

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I've stopped playing Silent Hunter V and uninstalled it. Not because of DRM, but because it was such a buggy, ill-conceived game. Absolutely nothing like the award winning SHIII and SHIV. But I'm still watching the gamer boards and people are having an absolute coronary over this. I'm talking about loyal fans of the series who shelled out $50-$60 for the game.

DoS attack or not, I think Ubisoft has really stepped on it this time.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The problem is, there is a rather lucrative business entirely centered around using piracy scare tactics to sell DRM schemes. Companies regularly roll out these "statistics" which are heavily skewed or (in some cases) interpolated (a.k.a. made up) to show how piracy is rampant and developers are losing boatloads of cash. Then those same companies whip out their shiny new DRM snake oil scheme that will "save you from piracy" or some such idiocy. Those DRM schemes are always cracked (often before the game even releases), and the only ones suffering under the DRM are legitimate customers.

Sadly, even things like boycotting games with horrid DRM don't work. The DRM companies just point to lackluster sales and say "see, piracy killed that product" and try to get more sales. Developers and publishers would rather blame piracy for a poor showing on a title, than taking the blame for poor judgment or just plain crap game development. So, the DRM companies continue to win, and the paying customers continue to be the ones punished. It's a horrid vicious cycle.

Regenweald said:

One more fail and i think Ubisoft will come to their senses. Someone is going to leak their server side, someone will make a soft installation for it, and they they're fracked.

Guest said:

That takes about five minutes to crack, and is essentially just a more contrived and akward version of a CD Key. The music industry finally realised DRM doesn't work, the games industry needs to too.

Guest said:

This is the primary problem with DRM, what to do when it fails. There's a certain point of balance between preventing piracy and reasonable annoyance for legit customers that the producers of software need to find. So far the best one I've found is actually very old school: find a phrase in the paperwork packaged with the game during install. Without it you can't install. This forces pirates to find the 'secret' phrase along with the software. If you make it a semi-random phrase, with multiple options you actually get some decent security out of a very low tech solution.

That takes about five minutes to crack, and is essentially just a more contrived and akward version of a CD Key. The music industry finally realised DRM doesn't work, the games industry needs to too.

Guest said:

Umm, WOW's online connection is contant because you are playing a game with other people on thier server. It is not calling up WOW simply to verify your copy. You are correct in a sense in that WOW gets the online verification, but that is not the point of thier system. The real difference here (and I'm sad someone who comes to this sight would need to be told this) is in intent - one connection is to send game data back and forth so you can interect with a remote world and several thousands of other players; the ubi connection is using is to check up (you could say spy and you wouldn't be incorrect) on you. It's a slap to paying customers and a small nuisance for pirates.

Ubi needs to get the signal this is a terribly stupid move and all of you apologists out there piss me off.

fref said:

I think this is unfortunate. Companies need a way to protect their work and it looks like this is yet another failed attempt. I'm not saying this system is without fault, but I'm not blaming Ubisoft for trying something like that either. Maybe a future version will be a bit more forgiving though. Maybe access the server once a week to validate a copy or something like that?

alexandrionel said:

I am curious on how the sales for this game are going at this moment and how this incident will influence them.

Rasta211 said:

A large reason people buy games is because they want to play multiplayer. I've found these DRM tactics only delay the release of pirated games. Do they not realize there are about 100,000 hackers/crackers out there working 24hrs 7 days a week for free just to be the first group to make a pirated copy? What is the best DRM strategy out there?

-Multiplayer with online stats & achievements

-Downloadable extra content.

-Montly subscription fee

-Make a great game that its worth its value

-Make the game cheap enfough that people will just buy it than go through the hacks to play a pirate game.

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

alexandrionel said:

I am curious on how the sales for this game are going at this moment and how this incident will influence them.

Well according to GAME's sales chart, AC II is about 15th in the PC games list, just behind Sim City 4 Deluxe... Hmmm

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

"-Make the game cheap enfough that people will just buy it than go through the hacks to play a pirate game."

It doesn't make any difference what a game costs - people will steal it. Case in point - two of the most downloaded (stolen) games in 2008-2009 were the Indie games "World of Goo" and "Plants vs. Zombies." Those two games sold for $9.95 and Steam and D2D regularly have sales of these two for five dollars. That's FIVE BUCKS, yet they are still heavily downloaded.

People steal because it's easy and they have anonymity with zero chance of repercussion. Doesn't make any difference if the game has DRM or not, whether it's cheap or not, whether it has a demo or not, whether it has DLC or not. The only real determining factor in how many copies are stolen is it's popularity. The more popular the game, the more it's stolen.

MarkHughes said:

RE: An earlier post about WoW...

I have been playing WoW for 3 years or so (Since 60 was the cap) And I really cant recall any kind of serious outtage of the system in all that time... And of course, Being an MMO you have to be connected for every second of play.

Im certain others such as Starcraft and maybe Eve online have also had acceptable uptimes.

I would be reluctant to buy from Ubisoft if they make you have a connection for games that normally wouldnt need one.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Read this and just couldn't stop laughing. Really an always online DRM setup? Ubisoft was just asking for this to happen.

Nic Nic, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This is game rental ... don't even think about digging your game out again in 5 years time ...

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Been reading about this since yesterday day and all I can say is HA! I think everyone expected this was going to happen, but so soon is shocking. First reports indicated that they couldn't cope with the demand, which honestly as a gamer scares me to think that it only took two single player oriented games to do that. What's going to happen when they have dozens of games with several high profile titles? And now they are blaming it on an attack? I feel a ruse (pun intended) coming about unless they come out with some proof, same as them claiming there game hasn't been cracked when some reports show otherwise.

I'm also seeing a lot of comparisons to WoW, here and elsewhere. And while from a glance similar, they are in reality two completely different things as most above me pointed out. And I honestly wouldn't be so frustrated with Ubi IF they actually came forth with a SERVICE like WoW. Something you subscribe to and then gain access to all of Ubisoft's games. Of course I would then expect my monthly dues to cover patches, game updates & DLC, customer service 24/7 and anything that I might have missed that WoW provides. Of course this would cost them way more then just bringing out a game for $60 which is $10 ABOVE normal simply cause of greed (Thanks Activision for starting this non-sense!), and slapping on this horrible DRM, promise it'll work then have it offline for 10+ hours...

"-Make the game cheap enfough that people will just buy it than go through the hacks to play a pirate game."

It doesn't make any difference what a game costs - people will steal it. Case in point - two of the most downloaded (stolen) games in 2008-2009 were the Indie games "World of Goo" and "Plants vs. Zombies." Those two games sold for $9.95 and Steam and D2D regularly have sales of these two for five dollars. That's FIVE BUCKS, yet they are still heavily downloaded.

People steal because it's easy and they have anonymity with zero chance of repercussion. Doesn't make any difference if the game has DRM or not, whether it's cheap or not, whether it has a demo or not, whether it has DLC or not. The only real determining factor in how many copies are stolen is it's popularity. The more popular the game, the more it's stolen.

You're right no matter what the situation/price at one point or another it's going to be downloaded illegally. But DRM and other negative decisions do inflate piracy numbers even higher then normal (Spore and MW2 for example).

Guest said:

This sort of solution is always prone to connectivity problems. DoS attacks, server crashes, ISP issues are a threat to legitimate owners and, as such, should be weighted when people buy products.

If you choose not to support intrusive/obtuse solutions, do not even resort to 'piracy'. Show the manufacturers your discontentment.

DryIce said:

This is just more proof that this kind of DRM is a bad idea. I can understand wanting to make the most profit possible on their investment, but this is not the way they should go about it. It's more work for them, it's less enjoyment from the gamers, and it will still get hacked and pirated.

AfricanTech said:

Must confess is was rather irritating to not be able to play - in fact, what was worse was being interrupted while playing by that infernal message "establishing connection blah blah" - talk about destroying the immersiveness - so now I'm going to hold off playing until they iron out all the issues. Aargh!

AfricanTech said:

Must confess is was rather irritating to not be able to play - in fact, what was worse was being interrupted while playing by that infernal message "establishing connection blah blah" - talk about destroying the immersiveness - so now I'm going to hold off playing until they iron out all the issues. Aargh!

AfricanTech said:

Don't know why the double posting is occuring???

drasho said:

this is pretty bad... they made it so that you need a permanent connection to the internet (which is really stupid for a single player game) but their server arent fool proof... This is one of the worst drm to date

seefizzle said:

Are these DRM'ed games up on torrent sites with cracks? I usually don't torrent video games because I honestly like to give them my money. I want video game makers to keep making awesome games. But stories like this make me want to rip these games off.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

TomSEA said:

"-Make the game cheap enfough that people will just buy it than go through the hacks to play a pirate game."

It doesn't make any difference what a game costs - people will steal it. Case in point - two of the most downloaded (stolen) games in 2008-2009 were the Indie games "World of Goo" and "Plants vs. Zombies." Those two games sold for $9.95 and Steam and D2D regularly have sales of these two for five dollars. That's FIVE BUCKS, yet they are still heavily downloaded.

People steal because it's easy and they have anonymity with zero chance of repercussion. Doesn't make any difference if the game has DRM or not, whether it's cheap or not, whether it has a demo or not, whether it has DLC or not. The only real determining factor in how many copies are stolen is it's popularity. The more popular the game, the more it's stolen.

Thats not entirely true...

I will admit that I have stolen a game in the past and got a copy from torrenting (well the game has no DRM but you know what I mean). I still have it to this day, and to this day its still rather good game I like to call world of Goo. but I didn't feel it was worth the 10 - 15 pounds or even 20 pounds I had seen it going for.

A week later I checked on there site and they were selling it for any price you wanted. So I signed up for paypal. put £3 pound in there and made the transaction on the same day. a few days later I recieved the email to download my copy.

Moral of the story is. Game was cheaper so I brought it.

Before anyone thinks "yeah whatever" this really is a true story.

And I Know it won't fix the problem but it will help reduce it. So TomSEA

TomSEA said:

It doesn't make any difference what a game costs - people will steal it.

This is utter rubbish!

Deso said:

Hahahahaha, who honestly didn't expect this to happen? I'm 100 % certain it was hackers that did it just to teach Ubisoft a lesson.

rufio said:

i can understand the need to protect copyright softwares... but this just utter failure. i remember the good old days when all you just needed to do was just install the game...

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