Ubisoft scraps always-on DRM, favors one-time activation

By on September 5, 2012, 2:00 PM

In an interview with RPS, Ubisoft worldwide games director Stephanie Perotti divulged that the company is dropping its infamous always-on DRM strategy. In fact, Ubisoft already quietly euthanized the program a few months ago -- probably following the From Dust fiasco -- but now it is official.

Ubisoft has perhaps been the largest proponent of always-on DRM, incorporating it into many high-profile games. The company has gone on record stating that always-on DRM schemes have shown a clear reduction in piracy, but Perotti said she considers that an "unfortunate" comment, alluding the fact that Ubisoft has always refused to publish any substantive data.

While Perotti and corporate communications manager Michael Burk managed to deftly skirt around most DRM-related questions, but they did assure RPS that always-on DRM is buried and gone. From now on, Ubisoft will rely on simple, one-time activation methods. Cited as an example, Assassin's Creed 3 will require a one-time activation, but may be installed on an unlimited number of computers. And, in an unusual twist for the company, the game will allow single-player action without an Internet connection.

Always-on DRM has frequently been criticized as an unnecessarily draconian form of digital rights management, namely due to its burdensome nature for legitimate, paying customers. When conditions aren't ideal (e.g. poor internet service, PC upgrades and server issues), most always-online solutions break down -- even in single player -- and quickly convert what would otherwise be joyous fun into utter frustration. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of readers who responded to our poll claim DRM-related issues have spoiled their fun on at least one occasion.

Additionally, the efficacy of always-on DRM continues to be questioned. While it may curb casual copying, studies have shown inconvenient DRM measures may actually increase piracy. Meanwhile, hackers and crackers seem to always find a way to circumvent even the toughest DRM mechanisms and have even exploited such schemes in dangerous ways. 

Although PC games account for only 7 percent of Ubisoft's sales, Perotti said that Ubisoft is working hard to close the gaps between PC and console games. The company has been criticized by PC gamers for not adequately tailoring cross-platform games, leaving PC ports too "consolified" for PC-gaming tastes. Also, console releases frequently ship months ahead of their PC counterparts -- another issue Ubisoft is aiming to address.




User Comments: 13

Got something to say? Post a comment
1 person liked this | ikesmasher said:

No worries, EA will be stepping "up" to always on DRM soon anyway.

Timonius Timonius said:

"While it may curb casual copying, studies have shown inconvenient DRM measures may actually increase piracy." - Nooooo, really?!

slamscaper slamscaper said:

Maybe I'll actually buy another Ubisoft game after all... I always wanted to play the AC series, but didn't want to drop the cash on any games infected with their "always on" malware.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Glad to see it. Ubisoft puts out some of the best games and this has been a major detractor for them for quite a while now.

Now EA needs to do the same. It is a royal pain in the rear when playing Mass Effect 3 or BF3 to have to log-on to their stupid Orion client, then wait for a connection to the EA servers (which fails about 1/3 of the time and you have to start again). It's literally a several minute start-up time just to get to the damn game.

I don't begrudge gaming companies from trying to protect their products - and curse the jerks who steal games which forces the companies into doing this kind of stuff hurting us legitimate purchasers. But if you're going to have DRM, then do it smart.

TekGun TekGun said:

Well it's too little to late for me, I doubt very much I will ever buy another Ubisoft title. In fact I bought a Ubi game in the last Steam sale without realising it was from Ubisoft, as soon as I installed it and seen their logo I deleted from my hard drive.

howzz1854 said:

AC 1 was a joke and boring. AC 2 was the best. AC brotherhood was alright. and by the time you get to AC Revelation you already lost interest in the series. I am not sure how much positive impact AC 3 will have. the AC series is starting to turn into COD I feel.

Renrew Renrew said:

Maybe just maybe, Ubisoft has seen the future and found their game sales dwindling.

Good on you, Ubi.

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

AC 1 was a joke and boring. AC 2 was the best. AC brotherhood was alright. and by the time you get to AC Revelation you already lost interest in the series. I am not sure how much positive impact AC 3 will have. the AC series is starting to turn into COD I feel.

But those other ones probably wouldn't exist without the first one :T

H3llion H3llion, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Maybe I'll actually buy another Ubisoft game after all... I always wanted to play the AC series, but didn't want to drop the cash on any games infected with their "always on" malware.

How is that a malware, explain to me. Yes I hate DRM, oh well actually It never bothered me but it botheres others so that is respectable but honestly how is it a malware.

*.*

DanUK DanUK said:

At long last..

bytehakr bytehakr said:

Until I can buy Ubisoft games DRM-Free and purchase through Steam... WITHOUT an additional activation (Steam should be enough!!), Ubisoft titles continue to be banned in my household. I personally spend more than a thousand $'s on gaming each year, none of which has gone to Ubisoft since Assassin's Creed 1.

backo said:

I was going to skip AC3, but now I am definitely going to get it. Step in the right direction for Ubisoft.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I don't really see that the always on DRM is curbing piracy. With a quick search on a decent torrent or usenet site you and find all the Assassin's Creed games, Mass Effect games, and Battle Field games. Most of them found there way on there withing a couple days of the game being released.

Sounds like another approach needs to be taken to curbing piracy.

And as the article says "studies have shown inconvenient DRM measures may actually increase piracy."

Spore anyone?

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.