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Developers Differ On Need For Ubisoft DRM Schemes
Developers Differ On Need For Ubisoft DRM Schemes
September 2, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

September 2, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
More: Console/PC, Production, Business/Marketing

Developers at Driver: San Francisco studio Ubisoft Reflections and Just Cause studio Avalanche have offered up starkly different takes on Ubisoft's controversial efforts to protect some PC titles with stringent DRM schemes.

"It's difficult to get away from the fact that... piracy on the PC is utterly unbelievable," Ubisoft Reflections studio founder Martin Edmonson told Eurogamer.

While Edmonson said his studio leaves decisions about DRM to publisher Ubisoft, he said publishers were "quite morally correct" and have "every right" to protect developer and publisher effort against the "incredible rates" of piracy in PC games.

"If there was very little trouble with piracy then we wouldn't need it," he added.

Ubisoft originally said Reflections' upcoming Driver: San Francisco would include DRM that required a persistent internet connection during play. The company has since amended that statement to say the game will require a single online check only the first time the game is played.

But even less intrusive efforts like this are counter-productive, according to Christofer Sundberg, founder of Just Cause developer Avalanche Studios. Speaking to Edge, Sundberg pointed out that piracy will always be present on the PC, and argued the best way to fight it was by engaging the community.

"My solution to the problem is to start designing games for the PC player, and award PC players for being part of the community of your game and for staying connected to you - not forcing them," he said. "If you continuously tell the player that you care about their opinions, and appreciate their investment, you will lower the amount of bootleg copies."

While Sundberg admitted that a publisher could easily force the studio to add intrusive DRM, he said he "can assure you we would go down screaming before anything like this ends up in any Avalanche game."

Ubisoft's recent PC release of From Dust included a DRM scheme that required an internet check every time the game was launched, but the company recently announced it was working on a patch to remove this requirement.

The publisher has defended its DRM efforts in the past, citing "a clear reduction in piracy of our titles which required a persistent online connection."

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Russell Sitka
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TLDR; Avalanche gets it, Reflections doesn't. Its obvious which of the two has put more thought into the problem.

Though a single online check that happens one time is worlds better than the mind blowingly stupid persistent connection check, DRM like this punishes paying customers, period.

Joseph Cook
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It is unbelievable how short-sighted Ubisoft is on this. It is obvious that piracy numbers on PC are incredible, but there is simply no way around that outside of not releasing any PC games at all.

Do they not realize that their DRM is not stopping pirates? "A clear reduction in piracy" they stated could be for any number of reasons - perhaps the fact that millions of people already played their games on other platforms. It's curious how they don't bother to mention if sales actually increased or not. Is it that hard to understand that no level of DRM will ever fully stop pirates?

Literally all they're doing is burdening their legitimate customers.

There is a lot of (sometimes) justified bitching about EA these days and their questionable behaviors, but the fact is that Bad Company 2 was a great PC game, and they were rewarded for it by millions of sales on the PC. It's probably one of the main reasons why BF3 is PC-lead.

Ubisoft, on the other hand, magically delays every single one of their games for PC at the last minute, riddles them with the worst DRM in the industry, and makes them usually shoddy ports at that. They honestly expect their releases to sell well on the PC after they treat PC gamers like dirt?

Dave Kay
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It's clear that Developers and Publishers still don't understand that even the most complicated DRM scheme is simply removed from the product by crackers before distributed to pirates. There has not yet been an unbreakable DRM, and even the best only hold out for a week at best. The only thing heavy DRM does is harm the honest, paying customers. And probably reassures the completely technically ignorant shareholders.

Paul Shirley
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Speaking with my consumer hat on, in one sense DRM is the buyers friend, provided the crack doesn't turn up before launch.

Since I refuse to play any game before the DRM is removed there's an automatic pause before buying and no pre-ordering. That has consequences:

I always have time to read user feedback on a release, that's stopped me buying a lot of lemons. I've in effect opted out of believing the hype. Very dangerous for some of the more careless publishers ;)

The longer the crack takes to arrive the more likely I am to put off purchase even when it does. Result: I buy very few games at full launch price and a surprising proportion have hit budget price before I get round to them. Great for my wallet, not good for the industry.

Intrusive DRM is corrosive in many ways, most of them damaging to the industry.

Nels Anderson
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Wait, how is Avalanche a "Ubisoft developer?" They've never made a game published by Ubisoft (JC/JC2 was Eidos and Renegade Ops is Sega) and unless they were silently acquired by Ubisoft very recently, I'm pretty sure they're still independent owned.

Alex Leighton
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I think the title is misleading, the article doesn't say Avalanche is a Ubi developer, just that they're commenting on Ubi's DRM.

Alex Leighton
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Avalanche certainly does get it. How Ubi thinks that assuming every pc gamer is a criminal will create fans is just beyond me. You can't force people to buy a product, and they're even less likely to do so if they're pissed off because the product's maker assumes they're a criminal. Yeah, there'll be piracy on PC, but there's still money to be made, and if removing DRM and treating customers like people would help to drum up more sales, even if there's more piracy, wouldn't it be better?

Brett Williams
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Does Avalanche have user statistics about their game usage versus their sales statistics? If so, I have no seen it. It's incredibly common for studios to speak out against DRM with no statistical information. It is also common for studios to speak out against piracy and yet go under.

You are allowed to voice your opinion but unless you back it up with usage data your "Facts" it needs to be noted that it is merely an opinion on distribution. Publishers want facts. They want numbers.

Engaging communities is beneficial. This is true regardless of the inclusion of DRM. Everyone can say this without any numbers what so ever. However, if someone can build a comparison showing that engaging the community benefits you more without the inclusion of DRM or reduces the amount of piracy it would go pretty far.

The industry is waiting for someone to collect anonymous usage statistics and tell everyone how it should be. But wait, that would require an internet connection...