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DRM Games

Ubisoft Has Windows-Style Hardware-Based DRM For Games 473

Posted by Soulskill
from the must-biopsy-left-kidney-to-activate dept.
New submitter Man Eating Duck writes "Guru3D describes how the activation system in Ubisoft's RTS game Anno 2070 also tracks hardware changes: 'So yesterday I started working on a performance review. We know (well, at least we figured we knew), that the game key can be used on three systems. That's fair; the first activation is used on my personal game rig. The second we installed on the AMD Radeon graphics test PC and the 3rd on our NVIDIA graphics test PC. ... For the NVIDIA setup I take out the GTX 580, and insert a GTX 590. When I now startup the game, 'BAM', again an activation is required. Once again I fill out the key, and now Ubisoft is thanking me with the message that I ran out of activations.' Guru3D subsequently discovered that Ubisoft was less than helpful: 'Sorry to disappoint you — the game is indeed restricted to 3 hardware changes and there simply is no way to bypass that.' I, and many with me, will never buy games with such a draconian DRM scheme, as it's very likely that I'll swap out enough components to run into this issue. Even the Steam version includes this nice 'feature.' It's probably a good idea to let Ubisoft know why we'll pass on this title."
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Ubisoft Has Windows-Style Hardware-Based DRM For Games

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  • Is it in the terms? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:13PM (#38728056)

    If this isn't made clear to consumers before purchasing -- or licensing, I guess -- the game, this is a great opportunity to make DRM even less profitable for Ubisoft:

    1) Buy game. Keep receipt and copy of terms.
    2) (Legitimately) Update/change your hardware more than 3 times over the course of a a year or two
    3) When the game stops working, ask for an activation
    4) When they decline, ask for a refund
    5) When they decline, sue in your local small claims court. It's usually free to do
    6) Let Ubisoft either issue thousands of refunds or defend thousands of small claims cases

    (Note that if the issue is described but is buried in fine print or displayed as grey-on-black, it's likely still arguable as such a material condition that hiding it is itself deceptive).

  • by MetricT (128876) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:15PM (#38728096) Homepage

    These guys are walking billboards highlighting the value of Steam vs the crap DRM-ware of Ubi, Origin, MS Games, etc.

    I was stuck at the office very, very late one night. Nothing to do. So I logged into Steam, downloaded a game I owned ("Bloody Good Time", excellent FWIW), and played a while until I could get of there.

    The MBA's at Ubu/EA/MS would explode at the very concept. And it is why I will be spending my money at Steam.

    (And Gabe, if you read this, I can haz HL2e3/HL3 now plz?)

  • Wow, you are stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:17PM (#38728118) Journal

    So rather then dealing with the easily cracked DRM of the PC, you accept the complete and total DRM of the console? That is like saying you hate the eroding freedom in the west and move to North-Korea.

    Ah but you are trolling because you suddenly draw in drivers which have nothing to do with DRM anyway. Oh and if consoles are PC's now, you don't mind donating your PC and reading the net from your console from now on do you? Oh, thought so.

  • Re:so glad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:19PM (#38728148)

    I'm surprised that Steam allows the additional DRM scheme on top of the Steam system. It totally wrecks the value of Steam. Now we have to research which titles are draconian before a Steam purchase. I haven't really worried about it up to this point.

  • by Ameryll (2390886) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:19PM (#38728164)
    The worst is they never seem to respond to the customers needs. I have Heroes VI (one of the games with the always networked DRM of horribleness). I bought it for christmas and there was a period of 36 hours straight where the server was down. There were three separate days where it was down for at least an hour. And this primarily a single player game. The reviews for Heroes VI on Amazon almost all complain about the DRM and it has 2.5 stars as a result. At this point, there seems to be nothing to do except to refrain from purchasing from them until they go belly up.
  • by FalleStar (847778) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:22PM (#38728212) Homepage

    It's getting to the consoles now as well. I was fully intent on purchasing Battlefield 3 for PC, but I'd already gone well over my gaming budget due to good Steam deals. Some friends and I went out and rented a copy of BF3 on Xbox 360 instead just to find out that you need to enter a one-time use code that comes with the game to access the multiplayer. I fully understand the used game market hurts the developers; however, would it really have been unreasonable to include a 3-7 day trial for renters like myself.

    I'm glad this happened though, after playing the single-player campaign instead I deemed the game not worthy of a purchase. EA had a definite sale with me and managed to mess it up, my how these DRM schemes save them so much money.

  • by firex726 (1188453) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [627xerif]> on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:24PM (#38728224)

    EULAs are not as binding as many would think.

    In part due to how way the transaction is handled. I am expected to hand over my money and buy the game THEN get to see the terms, if I do not agree to them I am still out my money with no recourse.

    Look at any other agreement and the terms are known up front, even if in legalese.
    Taking out a loan? You'll see the terms before you sign.
    Singing a lease? Again you get to see the terms.

    In both cases you can walk away with no harm done.

  • Seriously? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fallen1 (230220) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:25PM (#38728244) Homepage

    THIS. This shit right here is what _creates_ people who pirate software. Not because it is "free", but because it is FREE OF RESTRICTIONS on what I can do with the software that I (would have) legally paid for and own.

    Hey, Ubisoft employees! Start thanking your bosses now for the loss of your jobs, especially those in the PC gaming section. I have a business idea for you: Start a new gaming company with the best and brightest among you and put out your games for the PC market WITHOUT DRM of any kind. Skip the major distributor route (no EA, no Ubisoft, no Company X). Put it on Steam. Put it out at a good price (_not_ $59.99 US). Put in GOOD game play with replayability. We will fill your coffers with gold and jewels.

    Those that ultimately pirate your title? Well, fuck em because they were never going to pay for it anyway. They aren't a lost sale, they are just lost.

  • Another Sale Lost (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Riddler Sensei (979333) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:27PM (#38728264)

    This game was actually on my radar (on my Steam "Wish List" and all). I was planning on picking it up when the price had gone down a bit or when Steam had a special on it. Now no. Never. You lost a sale. Hell, I'm not even going to pirate it. Fuck. You.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:27PM (#38728266)

    I've downloaded many pirate versions or cracks for games I own and even bought on launch day because the DRM is an annoying piece of shit that interferes with my ability to play, and sometimes with other functions of my machine.
    These other functions have even included being able to make functioning system backups or the ability to burn cds.

    I've never tried to crack a game on Steam, because once it's installed and has had it's activation, I've never been annoyed by any Steam game. With the frequency of changing hardware and the occasional nuke & pave (something that happens when you test beta software), I'm sure I'd hit their fuck you, err, activation limit in 6 to 8 months.

    Am I not what you call a pirate? Doesn't matter, I'm what Ubisoft calls a pirate, and their antics are the exact kind of reasons I use cracks. Not too likely to be doing it with their software now, they really pissed me off last year and I've vowed to not buy their stuff again, until they back off of the screw the customer garbage, because that DRM B.S. doesn't stop the pirates, it only slows them down, often by less than a few hours.

  • by shawn(at)fsu (447153) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:27PM (#38728268) Homepage

    So I had to google search a list of Ubisoft games to find out what the last one I bought was. I had to go all the way to the M's before I found one I owned. Funny enough once i got past the Myst series I didn't see any more games that I bought. So you just keep in spitting in to the wind Ubisoft.

  • We? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cragen (697038) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:38PM (#38728428)
    You keep using this term "We". I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • I know... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MetricT (128876) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:38PM (#38728440) Homepage

    I was talking about games that use Steam DRM, vs just the Steam store. The only two non-Steam games I have are Fallout 3 and Arkham Asylum. Past that, if you don't use Steam DRM, I don't buy it. Respect your customer, or you won't have customers.

  • by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:46PM (#38728518)
    This. Review the games, but make it a short review. "Worked great until we decided to upgrade the video card to benchmark it." Or perhaps alter the listed game price to reflect repurchases. So there is a "initial price tag", a "5 year price tag" and a "10 year price tag" for games with this kind of system. $50 to play for a year. $100 if you want to play it for 5 years, $150-$200 if you want it for 10 (depending on how many times you upgrade).
  • by Baloroth (2370816) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:47PM (#38728536)

    DRM on the console won't interfere with my ability to do other things that aren't related to games.

    You mean like installing Linux? [wikipedia.org]

  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:07PM (#38728802)
    Try playing a Microsoft Games for Windows Live title. I was right in the middle of a big fight in Batman Arkham City when I got kicked out with a message telling me I had logged in to another PC. Turns out my wife had fired up the Xbox 360 to watch a DVD. It automatically signed me in and BAM!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:26PM (#38729050)

    I think Ubisoft needs to take the rose colored glasses off.

    If I go based on JUST the equipment in my room right now...
    8 PC's. These represent every PC I've used as my primary (excluding two) since 1997. I'm not going to rebuy a game a second time unless I REALLY loved it. I have physical copies of sierra games that don't work, so I bought the steam versions... which don't work(as in they don't work without tinkering.) This is what happens when the naive assumption of the existing hardware and operating system is used as a programming constant. I have physical copies of the Origin/Ultima/Wing Commander games, and I bought digital download versions where available.

    Some of these games I had obtained at some point as a pirated copy, back before CD-ROM, you used to have to make physical copies of everything, this was a behavior instilled by Binary Systems - Starflight, and the early AGI Sierra games. Always play from the play disk, and never the originals. We no longer have the option to backup games, it's all "in the cloud", which means that should that company ever go bankrupt, or in the case of Sierra, all the source code to the game is lost, there is absolutely no way to play a game. At that point, only the pirate copies survive.

    I'm actually rather fond of the "instruction manual" and "activation key" based installations, because you had to own the game at least once to install it. But after installing it, you still need to have the physical game to play it, not necessarily in the drive.

    What's the best form of light-DRM?

    Time-based activation IMO. Install the game with the code, give it 48 hours, and then the game tries to activate "online", or activates once multiplayer is engaged. Once activated, it only checks for simultaneous usage during multiplayer. This gives a wide enough window for people to try/rent a game, benchmarks, and swap out hardware to find the best working combination. As long as the "disc" is in the drive (or for download games, internet connectivity,) it resets the activation countdown to zero. If the game is already "in use" with that key, it just refuses to run without the disc (or until the other copy disconnects.)

    The point of light DRM, as opposed to heavy-handed DRM, is to discourage casual copying (eg borrow from a friend, and then play from the installed copy in perpetuity.)

    Heavy handed DRM assumes the user is a criminal and forces them to buy the software, or contact customer support again. Adobe does this with Photoshop, they write hidden sectors on the hard drive so that you can't casually hack the trial countdown. I've had to call Adobe no less than twice, and it's the only reason why I don't routinely reinstall the Windows OS anymore (I used to reinstall it every 6 months) because I have to call adobe and tell them I'm not running it on more than one PC.

    Let's put this in perspective. If you pay someone minimum wage, eg 10$/hr to just field "I can't activate" calls for your games. You increase your support costs by having this.

    Now I'm not saying that people don't pirate, because I've known more people who pirate PC games than I know people who never pirate. But there's behavior patterns that make it VERY easy to tell who's pirating the game, and that's a lot more cost effective to deny service to pirates. One way is to break the game so that pirate copies are effectively spoiled and useless. Put a timebomb in the game that is only triggered by skipping the activation step. Most "cracked" games simply NOOP instructions for doing the activation, they don't actually reprogram anything. So at some point in the game, something will look like a bug, but not positively identify that it's caused by piracy. The bug is then fixed by putting the original media or network connection in DDL versions back in the drive. Yes I'm aware that people make drive emulators, but that's not the point. It's actually an endless loop of having to install the unmodified game, patch, crack, reinstall, patch, crack to get past the timebomb.

    It doesn't need to prevent the piracy.

  • by Mephistophocles (930357) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:39PM (#38729216) Homepage
    5?? Hell, i've probably had 20. Especially if you count every single hardware change.

    I wonder how deep this protection goes, i.e. we know it works with video cards - how about monitors? What happens if I get a new keyboard (especially one that would require drivers, i.e. high-end gaming keyboards and the like)?

    Fortunately haven't bought this game (and now never will), but if I had I'd be demanding money back. Bad move, Ubisoft. Makes me not want to buy any of your products again, ever.
  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:47PM (#38729308)

    Sony put Linux on the PS3 solely to avoid EU taxes that apply to consoles [kotaku.com], by pretending that it's a general computing device.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOspaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:32PM (#38730030) Journal

    Shouldn't we really just call TFA "Hey guess what? Ubisoft is again proving they are douchebags" and call it a day though? Lets face it whenever we hear of a company leading the way in assraping the customers it is ALWAYS Ubisoft. They destroyed DVD burners with Starforce, they were the first that i know of to burn customers by making their games have an always on internet connection, now they are the first to have NASTY hardware based customer screwing. When it comes to being giant pricks ALWAYS count on Ubisoft.

    BTW if any of the Valve guys are reading this? We need to talk bro. I want, nay DEMAND that you put an easy to see mark that lets me know without clicking on the main page and scrolling to the bottom some sort of sign that a game contains DRM above what Steam has so i can avoid it. The whole point of Steam is ease of use yet you are letting the publishers fuck that up by hiding the "this game contains extra DRM" shit at the bottom of the main page. i don't want to go to the main page when I'm browsing sales, okay? So far in the past month and a half i got stuck with GFWL and TAGES by not having an easy way to spot that shit when browsing the sales. if I have to go click on every. single. link with NO way to open new tabs in your client? my purchases are gonna go waaaay down dudes. So fix that shit, come up with an icon that says "This has extra DRM, maybe a red and white stop sign looking thing, just to let your customers know. I'm sure the publishers will bitch but you know what? let 'em. Remember these same douchenozzles would be happy to see you go under and just go to Origin and its your CUSTOMERS you need to be watching out for, not pricks like Ubisoft.

    Also make a way for me to "ban" publishers from my view. There were several games during the Steam sale i got excited about only to click on it and find out its a Ubisoft game with extra DRM shit so I wasted my time, time i could have been looking at titles that i would actually buy. I don't want any Ubisoft, i won't buy any Ubisoft, so why not make a simple preference page that lets me banhammer them from my purchasing pages? Remember Valve the ONLY reason you are rolling in swimming pools filled with cash is that you made Steam easier than piracy, but if you make it a royal PITA to buy games there its not like we don't have PTB where we don't have to deal with phone home and other horseshit.

    BTW for all the complaints and comparisons to Windows activation? I have NEVER had MSFT refuse an activation on a legit key EVAR. Hell the machine I'm typing this on is a Win 7 HP I installed in OCT 09 when i built the thing and I have changed out every. single. piece. of the hardware, and I do mean EVERY piece. the HDDs, the RAM, the graphics card,the PSU, the motherboard, and the CPU. The ONLY original piece left is the case yet I've only had to reactivate ONE time and that was when i switched out the ECS motherboard and quad CPU for an Asrock and 6 core Thuban. it took less than 5 seconds and went without a hitch. Working at my little shop I've had to call MSFT plenty of times when someone royally boned their PC and installed multiple times trying to "fix it" (Lord save us from those that know just enough to be dangerous) and it took me less than 5 minutes in every case. i'd say "The guy messed up his install and kept trying to fix it himself before bringing it to the shop" and the person on the line would be "Okay,put in this code" and that was it. No hassles, no bullshit, no muss nor fuss.

    But I won't have a game that i can't switch hardware with so i don't care if this game is the second coming it won't be coming anywhere near my PC.How much you want to bet this will be in the top five of PTB downloads, along with Diablo III? After all Ubisoft thought that they'd have piracy stopped cold with the always on Assassins Creed and it took the Fairlight guys less than a month to have a 100% functional version. just more proof that often the pirate version is the better version as they don't have to deal with this horseshit.

  • by xded (1046894) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:46PM (#38730262)

    paying full price for a game and only getting a temporary license for it.

    I remember a game development manager of Ubisoft being asked about piracy some years back during a talk at my university. He said something along the lines of:

    The 70% of sales of a single game are made during the first week after the release. The current goal of copy protection mechanisms is not to prevent piracy forever but to gain time.

    That made sense.

    Now this DRM scheme does absolutely nothing to gain time but only harms legitimate owners on the long run. What is the logic behind this?

  • by DanielRavenNest (107550) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @06:33PM (#38730948)

    This game will be on pirate bay within a week of release and the version of pirate bay will have the DRM as severed as charlie sheens tv career..

    It already is: http://thepiratebay.org/search/Anno%202070/0/99/400 [thepiratebay.org]

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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