Ubisoft Using 'Always On' DRM for Driver: San Francisco PC

July 28, 2011 -

Ubisoft announced that it has decided to use an "always on" digital rights management (DRM) scheme for the Windows PC version of its upcoming action racing game, Driver: San Francisco. The publishers has gone back and forth on its DRM schemes - mostly because PC gamers hate the "always on" DRM scheme because it requires them to always be connected to a server in order to play a game.

"I can confirm that the PC version of Driver San Francisco will require an online connection to play in both single player and multiplayer modes," said Ubisoft public relations representative Dominic DiSanti told Giant Bomb.

Some past Ubisoft games that used the much hated scheme included Assassin's Creed II and Splinter Cell: Conviction. Inevitably the company got rid of the DRM with subsequent patches. The company also used a similar method for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, which required a login.

Meanwhile, the console versions of Driver: San Francisco will require users to activate Uplay in order to access the multiplayer. This is Ubisoft's method for an "online pass," which adds (we would guess) an additional cost if you buy the game used because you'll have to purchase a code to play multiplayer.

"When we first introduced the connection requirement last year, we stated that our decision to implement it into our PC titles would be considered on a case by case basis and this remains true," said DiSanti. "We will assess each future PC title and strive to offer the best gameplay experience possible while also ensuring that we are protecting the amazing work and effort of our talented creative teams."

Source: Giant Bomb

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Re: Ubisoft Using 'Always On' DRM for Driver: San Francisco PC

Sure, it pissed off customers and failed to actually stop piracy before, but hey, third time's the charm, right?

Re: Ubisoft Using 'Always On' DRM for Driver: San Francisco PC

"[...] our decision to implement it into our PC titles would be considered on a case by case basis [...]"

And our decision to purchase your PC titles will be considered similarly. I honestly just don't trust this stuff. It's only a short step for that DRM to become monitoring, or something worse. I'm sure it uses almost no bandwidth right now, but with bandwidth caps common in Canada and spreading in US, it's something that could become a minor issue.

And of course, this is on top of all the other problems with DRM. Ultimately all of that is moot; as a customer, I have no interest in being treated like a criminal.

Re: Ubisoft Using 'Always On' DRM for Driver: San Francisco PC

I've said this before. If you can think of a way to prevent piracy altogether, at the same time giving zero inconvenience to legitimate buyers, I'm sure we'd all love to hear it.

I've always been of the mind that if it wasn't for piracy, there wouldn't be any DRM measures like that in the first place.

Re: Ubisoft Using 'Always On' DRM for Driver: San Francisco PC

The best you can do is make the purchased product a far more attractive option than the pirated one. For example, if you have to go "always online", then have a good reason for it other than "IP Protection". For example, have dynamic content generated by the server which may change each week or other bonuses that paid customers get alongside their product. Having a single player game with multiplayer-like requirements of being online all the time is silly (and not feasible for some people). Adding unwanted DRM does the complete opposite of what customers desire and may turn legit buyers towards using cracks if their game does not work as intended.

 

On the other hand, it "delays" piracy past the street date (and possibly a few weeks more) all of which would be the peak time for sales. This is pretty much what Ubisoft liked (AC2 and that new Prince of Persia game weren't fully cracked until about a month later). However, after a crack is released, the DRM has run its course and really should be stripped or at least toned down.

Re: Ubisoft Using 'Always On' DRM for Driver: San Francisco PC

You know, I could probably get behind some of the more byzantine DRM practices out there (like the 'always on' verification) if there was a promise that, should the DRM be hacked, retail versions will be patched to reduce the intrusion of the DRM to a level equivalent to that of the cracked versions of the game.

I doubt any company would agree to that, but it would be an excellent good-will gesture, reflecting on the idea that DRM isn't meant to inconvenience legitimate customers.

Re: Ubisoft Using 'Always On' DRM for Driver: San Francisco PC

That's all well and good, and on the surface it makes sense. If rats are eating your food, set rat traps; it has a 'if A, then B' kind of logic to it.

But the reality is, piracy cannot be prevented, because data is not a physical object. All of the platforms which have avoided piracy for any length of time have always been for physical reasons, and they've always been overcome eventually -- just sometimes after the product life was up.

Yes, it's a problem, and I *do* feel for Ubisoft. But I am also a game developer, and I'm aware of this problem in the business. The practical reality is, you can't stop it outright, so don't. Put an obstacle in the way (like CD keys or Steam Authentication, or Disc Verification, or whatever), so that users can't just copy everything out of the box -- and the bulk of them won't.

You can also explore OTHER working models that sidestep the problem, like account-linked gaming (such as WoW) or micro-transactions, or ad-supported gaming, or sponsered productions. Yes, these can all be done badly too, but you have to pick your evil.

What you're missing here is that DRM like what Ubisoft is using here is the Big Brother approach. Some people commit crimes, so we're just watch EVERYBODY to make sure no one does anything wrong. It makes sense on the surface, but it's a gross violation of privacy, and makes things worse for your legitimate customers.

Ultimately, it will not stop pirates from getting your game; I'd be surprised if the DRM wasn't cracked within 24 hours of the game's launch. And then you're pissing on your customers, while the Pirates walk away with your game, no strings attached -- then what was the point?

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