So, according to this article
(and a series of them) at Rock, Paper, Shotgun
, Ubisoft made a decision to move some of their servers, which involves, of course, turning them off for a time. These, of course, are the servers that do things like, oh, say, provide vital support for Ubisoft's handy-dandy DRM (that requires you to be constantly logged on to play their games, even for single-player titles.) So you can guess what happens to your games when they turn that off, right? Right. You can't play them.
Shamus Young of Twenty-Sided fame tweeted this:
"Man, I bet these folks are feeling really good about themselves for not pirating the game."
Of course he wasn't encouraging piracy, but was pointing out directly the idiocy of many -- if not most -- of the DRM schemes out there: people who pirate games have less problems and a better product than those who actually shell out the money to buy it. That's wrong on so very many levels that it isn't funny.
So, let's think about the future of Ubisoft games. If Ubisoft ever goes under, the servers will go offline and your games will go dark. Think that it can't happen to them? KODAK went bankrupt. For anyone of my age, that was utterly unthinkable, and yet it happened, and it may well happen to Ubisoft as well ... and may be even more likely to happen if they keep screwing up this DRM thing. They aren't going to have the time, money, or even permissions to patch their DRM out (if they even remember how). But imagine that their servers are just getting full, and they decide that they'd rather save money by just removing the old games from the server instead of adding new ones, leaving those games unusable. There might be an outcry from the people who are still playing that game, but the company may well simply ignore it if there aren't a lot of users. We've seen in the past companies killing MMOs that some people were still playing because it was too expensive, and so I don't see any reason why this couldn't happen here. So, again, say goodbye to what might be one of your favorite games that you paid for because it's completely in the control of the company whether you can play it or not. Nice.
That's really the underlying issue with the more invasive forms of DRM: they put too much control of the product that you paid for in the hands of the company. For MMOs, that's a necessary trade-off. It's not necessary for any other type of game. For any other type of game, once I've bought it I should be able to play it as long as I have the ability to play it, whether that's a separate machine that I lovingly maintain or a separate software program/emulator that will translate between the old and new functions or whatever. If I don't back up the CD and it becomes unreadable and so I can't play it anymore, that's my fault. If I lose the code disk or manual or serial number, that's my fault. But even forcing an activation on-line means that if the company decides they don't care if people play that game anymore I might not be able to reinstall and play it anymore, let alone the "always on" type of Internet interaction. That shouldn't be in the hands of the company for anything other than MMOs, and even that only because there's really no other choice; if you want the benefits of an MMO, you have to accept that it might go away on you.
I bought a new PS2 a while ago and then another one used recently just to make sure that I could play Persona 3 and Persona 4 long into the future. I also bought new copies of them -- that are still in shrinkwrap -- in case my disks go bad. That's because these are my favourite games ever and I want to play them for as long as I possibly can. I think I'd rightly be annoyed if my being able to play them 1, 2, 5 , 10 years down the line was subject to the whim of the company that made them. And this situation proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the kind of DRM that Ubisoft and others are pushing does, in fact, do just that.
Unless I get the pirated version, of course. Then it's only subject to my whims, as it should be. This does not seem to be the way to encourage people to actually buy your product.
Allan C. — Feb 9th 2012