Will Ubisoft Return to Always-Online After the uPlay Hack?
Searching for solutions to the piracy problem, Ubisoft eventually settled on always-online, which it was satisfied with — for a time. In 2011, when this DRM was in full force, a Ubisoft representative told PC Gamer that the developer has seen “a clear reduction in piracy of our titles which required a persistent online connection,” adding that “from that point of view the requirement is a success.”
In November 2011, Ghost Recon Online Producer Sébastien Arnoult revealed to PC Gamer that Ghost Recon: Future Solider didn’t ship on PC because of piracy, hence the always-online version his team produced. He said:
“When we started Ghost Recon Online we were thinking about Ghost Recon: Future Solider; having something ported in the classical way without any deep development, because we know that 95 percent of our consumers will pirate the game. So we said okay, we have to change our mind.
“We have to adapt, we have to embrace this instead of pushing it away. That’s the main reflection behind Ghost Recon Online and the choice we’ve made to go in this direction.”
It was in 2012 that Ubisoft flip-flopped on its position. This was when Guillemot told GI International that piracy rates on PC were between 93 and 95 percent. The company later reneged on that number when RPS spoke to Stephanie Perotti, Ubi’s worldwide director for online games, who said, “Research showed that it can reach that rate for some specific or popular PC games, and that number often varies depending on the territory.”
Perotti further clarified that, based on feedback, Ubisoft backed down from its aggressive always-online DRM policy, stating that “since June last year our policy for all of PC games is that we only require a one-time online activation when you first install the game, and from then you are free to play the game offline.” The “feedback” Perotti alluded to was likely the same feedback that resulted in a slackening of From Dust’s and Driver: San Francisco’s DRM. However, Corporate Communications Manager Michael Burk flat out refused to acknowledge that always-online was a mistake.
Thus, the door was left open for Ubisoft to one day return to the always-online scheme. Now that Blizzard and EA have each taken a bullet for the always-online cause, the option may seem all the more inviting. Speaking with Eurogamer in 2011, Christian Svensson of the PC Gaming Alliance and Capcom explained his belief that a given DRM scheme will only work if enough publishers employ it. He said:
“Through the use of DRM, a publisher can meaningfully improve profitability on a project. But I would also argue that it has as much to do with an ecosystem where content is not unilaterally available, which means that DRM is really only effective if a broad number of participants are actually employing it. The reason being that the habitual PC pirate, or pirate of any platform, if there’s one piece of content that they can’t pirate, that’s OK, they’re going to move on to the next piece of content they can.”
Will Ubisoft return to always-online now that other big names have dipped their toe in it? Time will tell — but more specifically, Blood Dragon’s sales figures will.