Pirates defeat Ubisoft DRM. Are ninjas next?

by on Apr.26, 2010, under games

I hope you like angry verbage.

This week will see the release of Splinter Cell for the PC. On the surface, this seems like an excellent idea. A gaming machine will render Mr. Fisher and his victims beautifully. I heartily welcome rich, cooperative experiences on PC. That’s partly why WoW kept me coming back for two and a half years. And all that moody sneaking being lovingly rendered by your expensive rig will immediately halt if you lose connection to Ubisoft’s servers.

This isn’t the first volley of incendiary equine excrement Ubi has lobbed, they’ve promised it won’t be the last, and I’m certainly not the first to vent my ire in regards to it. The concept of having to ask permission to use something I purchased on a moment to moment basis is enough to incite apoplexy. It is truly horrible to know this is a real thing. And they’re not the only ones doing it.

Enough anti-DRM hate speech for now.

An obvious retort is that most PC gamers have a constant broadband connection. Certainly this is necessary to support the torrents we’re constanly downloading. Folks who live in the sticks who can’t get fancy big city internet are stuck. Even an always on connection might not be good enough: a glitch in your LAN, ISP, or Ubisoft’s servers will interupt your game with prejudice. This means Ubi can literally turn your game off at a whim.

Another rejoinder offered is to blame software pirates, not Ubisoft for this move. Ubi has every right and a fiscal responsibility to prevent the wholesale theft of their goods, and the problem wouldn’t exist if there were no software pirates. They probably know that not every instance of a pirated game represents a lost sale. Many people who torrent games simply don’t have the money to spend or wouldn’t have bothered with a game if they had to pay for it. In rare cases it can result in purchases by gamers who feel guilty or who treat it like an extended demo. Interestingly enough there isn’t a PC demo of Splinter Cell: Conviction.

My objection here isn’t that Ubi is trying to protect its intellectual property, but how they’ve gone about it. Stealing a page from government playbooks everywhere, Ubisoft has implemented an innefectual solution with a high profile for the sake of being seen to be doing something. Predictably, there are already multiple ways to circumvent the system, methods available to legitimate and illegitimate users alike.

My fervent hope from all this is that other companies see how useless this approach is and try to combat piracy by working with gamers, by treating us with respect rather than contempt.

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