(This is the very first .exe, a weekly PC-gaming focused opinion column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)
Lately, the computer gaming space has become incredibly exciting, as consoles begin to show their age and a resurgence of independent development provides unique experiences that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Just try selling E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy to the Xbox 360 crowd! As far as I’m concerned, PC gaming is where it’s at right now, and it’s hardly surprising that companies like EA are falling over themselves trying to carve off a slice of the market. However, while all but the most blinkered of console defenders would agree that PC gaming has never been better, one company proves time and time again that it just doesn’t “get” it. I am, of course, talking about Ubisoft, a company that apparently can’t go a week without pissing off PC gamers in some way, shape or form.
While other developers have learned that DRM-free content is a selling point, and that DRM itself doesn’t even work, Ubisoft stubbornly persists in using it. Not only that, it uses some of the worst DRM imaginable, forcing users to stay online at all times, even while playing single-player games. We recently had a situation where paying customers were unable to play a number of solo Ubisoft games because the publisher was migrating its servers. Meanwhile, those who illegally downloaded the games could happily play them for free. To any consumer with a brain, that looks just a little bit f**ked up.
To add insult to injury, a number of Ubisoft’s thralls have continued to criticize piracy on PC, despite the European company’s claims that its DRM is successful. A while back, I Am Alive creative director Stanislas Mettra stated that he didn’t want to put his game on PC because it would get stolen.
“We’ve heard loud and clear that PC gamers are bitching about there being no version for them,” he told IncGamers.com. “But are these people just making noise just because there’s no version or because it’s a game they actually want to play? Would they buy it if we made it?
“It’s hard because there’s so much piracy and so few people are paying for PC games that we have to precisely weigh it up against the cost of making it. Perhaps it will only take 12 guys three months to port the game to PC, it’s not a massive cost but it’s still a cost. If only 50,000 people buy the game then it’s not worth it.”
So few people are paying for PC games, he says. Try telling that to the folk who paid for Alan Wake and helped Remedy recoup its porting costs within 48 hours. Try telling that to Tim Schafer, whose studio has made over two million dollars from customers contributing to its next game. Try telling that to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, E.Y.E, or any other game that’s become a damn fine success on PC, simply by appealing to what PC gamers are looking for. This kind of bullshit attitude just proves how little Ubisoft and its developers understand PC gaming. And while Mettra would later go on to pull a U-turn on his statements, there’s no escaping the fact that his perspective on how many paying customers exist on the platform is utterly skewed.
It’s not Mettra’s fault though. He works for a company that just doesn’t get it. No publisher that understands PC gaming would use the kind of DRM that’s in Anno 2070, which recognizes updated graphics cards as whole new computers and will demand a reinstallation – for a game with a three-installation limit. When called out on this kind of bullsh*t, Ubisoft callously brushes it off, stating that its DRM works and it doesn’t need to change a thing. Well, Ubisoft, if it works, why the f**k are your developers complaining about piracy? It f**king works, right? It just f**king works! So nobody’s stealing your games. They can’t be, if your precious DRM has been such a rollercoaster ride of rousing success. Either your developers are lying, or you are.
I lost my temper there, and that’s because I am part of the problem. We all are part of the problem, because you can almost set your watch by Ubisoft’s regular f**k-ups, yet we get furious at the company every single time, as if this is the first we’ve ever heard of it. There comes a time when we need to stop acting so surprised by Ubisoft’s behavior. There comes a time when we must accept the simple truth — Ubisoft is not a PC publisher.
Once you accept that, the chances of you getting mad decrease dramatically. After all, no PC gamer is particularly mad at Nintendo, because Nintendo doesn’t make PC games. At this point, Ubisoft’s impact on the PC realm needs to be treated with as much respect as Nintendo’s — in other words, we need to see it as a complete non-entity. Just ignore Ubisoft’s games, get them on console or not at all, and Ubisoft will either be forced to change its business model entirely, or f**k off. At this rate, we all have very little to lose, and plenty of rage dollars saved so we can spend them being mad at something else.
I think it would be better if we all agreed, right now, that Ubisoft isn’t a publisher of PC games. You’ll feel so much better when you accept that. After all, we’re not mad at a child for not understanding calculus, so why should we be mad at a console publisher failing to understand PC gaming? I’m not saying this to get Ubisoft off the hook, I’m just trying to save YOU, the PC gamer, a whole bunch of heartache. It’s a practical solution to a problem we can’t do much else about. If Ubisoft wants to be taken seriously as a computer publisher, it should be forced to make some actual effort and to get into the mindset of the customers it hopes to appeal to. Blindly f**king about and then later insisting you did everything right is not behavior we should reward with purchases or intellectual validation.
So stop it. You’ll make PC gaming better if you do.
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