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Businesses DRM The Almighty Buck Games

Ubisoft Revokes Digital Keys For Games Purchased Via Unauthorised Retailers 468

RogueyWon writes: For the last several days, some users of Ubisoft's uPlay system have been complaining that copies of games they purchased have been removed from their libraries. According to a statement issued to a number of gaming websites, Ubisoft believes that the digital keys revoked have been "fraudulently obtained." What this means in practice is unclear; while some of the keys may have been obtained using stolen credit card details, others appear to have been purchased from unofficial third-party resellers, who often undercut official stores by purchasing cheaper boxed retail copies of games and selling their key-codes online, or by exploiting regional price differences, buying codes in regions where games are cheaper to sell them elsewhere in the world. The latest round of revocations appears to have triggered an overdue debate into the fragility of customer rights in respect of digital games stores.
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Ubisoft Revokes Digital Keys For Games Purchased Via Unauthorised Retailers

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  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @08:27PM (#48909959)
    “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” ok, i don't understand this.
    • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @08:44PM (#48910073)

      ok, i don't understand this.

      Ubisoft sold keys ad different prices. Some of the "cheap" keys were activated in "expensive" areas. Rather than identifying the resellers and shutting them down (though they may have done nothing wrong), Ubisoft identified the keys, and revoked them.

      Note, Ubisoft made a profit selling these keys to authorized distributors, and the users paid for a (at the time) valid key. But Ubisoft thinks they could have extracted greater profit with a different sales plan, so they revoked them all to try again. Too many "save, restart" games played by Ubisoft.

      • by sg_oneill ( 159032 ) on Tuesday January 27, 2015 @02:43AM (#48911917)

        Ubisoft sold keys ad different prices. Some of the "cheap" keys were activated in "expensive" areas. Rather than identifying the resellers and shutting them down (though they may have done nothing wrong), Ubisoft identified the keys, and revoked them.

        Note, Ubisoft made a profit selling these keys to authorized distributors, and the users paid for a (at the time) valid key. But Ubisoft thinks they could have extracted greater profit with a different sales plan, so they revoked them all to try again. Too many "save, restart" games played by Ubisoft.

        I hope they didn't try this stunt on Australian customers. We have "parallel importation" legislation forbidding retailers from trying to prevent people monopolizing sales channels againt people who import cheaper from overseas. Back in the day, the ACCC actually forced retailers to stop supplying DVD players that where not multiregion, although the bloody conservatives put a stop to THOSE shenanigans. Hell back then the ACCC even sued Sony for going after mod-chippers.

        • by rdnetto ( 955205 )

          I hope they didn't try this stunt on Australian customers. We have "parallel importation" legislation

          For now, anyway. There have been attempts to put provisions blocking parallel legislation into the TPP and other treaties, although thankfully they've been unsuccessful so far.

    • by pla ( 258480 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @09:35PM (#48910479) Journal
      Simple, really:

      Ubisoft just taught another generation of paying customers that piracy provides a superior product, regardless of price.

      Congrats, Ubi! We haven't had a good DRM fuckup like this in a while - Without all your hard work, people might eventually forget how much it (and you) sucks. Keep up the good work!
      • by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @09:50PM (#48910601)

        Except in this era of increasing server-side reliance, game piracy is becoming less of an issue. It will eventually get to the point where you're not actually buying the game, you're buying an account with which you can then play the game. Since the majority of people don't think twice about needing to be always connected this trend will only continue.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I've been on an anti-account binge for a while. If your game requires me to make a new account, I'll never play it.

          It hasn't really affected the quality of my gaming experience. Turns out companies that spend heaps of time making elaborate anti-piracy mechanisms make shit games, who knew?

          As a side note, I haven't bought a Ubisoft game for about 4 years, ever since this incident:

          Speaking to IncGamers, creative director Stanislas Mettra stated that there are currently no plans to bring the game to PC because of fears that only Pirates will steal the game, and the last thing he wants to hear is any of your incessant ‘bitching’ over the issue.

          Again, it hasn't really affected the quality of my gaming experience. Occasionally, I wonder if I'm missing out on assassins creed,

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ultranova ( 717540 )

          It will eventually get to the point where you're not actually buying the game,

          Eventually? You haven't ever bought a game, merely a license to use it. Ubisoft seems hell-bent on demonstrating why, exactly speaking, this is a bad thing. I honestly can't tell if the whole company is doing some kind of performance art or executing a serious business strategy at this point.

          But it's okay. We're due for another video game crash. Let bullshit burn.

        • by Hamsterdan ( 815291 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @11:10PM (#48911025)

          And that is why It's a bad idea to use software that relies on server side authentication. Case in point, I just reinstalled my security cam software, but it won't accept my *paid-for* license because it doesn't exist anymore. So my legally bought software is now useless.

    • It seems the singularity has been and gone, yet nobody noticed.
    • by Pinhedd ( 1661735 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @09:45PM (#48910561)

      It's a marketing tactic called price discrimination.

      The same product (usually a product with a very low marginal cost) is offered at different prices in different markets with the price tuned appropriately for each market.

      A product may be offered at $60 in the North American market because that's what the market accepts as a fair value. On the other hand, $60 may be too high for a market such as eastern Europe, China, or South Asia where the per-capita income is much lower. Since the marginal cost of the product is very low, the product is sold at a lower price in regions with lower income. However, this opens up opportunities for grey-market activities where third parties purchase the product in the lower priced markets and resell them in the higher priced markets at a price below that of the original manufacturer. The third party then pockets the difference.

      Grey market activities ultimately harm lower-income markets because these markets contribute substantially less to the manufacturer's bottom line. If revenue from the manufacturer's primary markets is threatened, they'll simply end price discrimination or cut off the weaker markets all together.

      • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday January 27, 2015 @02:14AM (#48911769) Homepage Journal

        Or to put it another way, they take advantage of unhealthy markets in North America that fail to push prices down to the marginal cost of production and do their best to defeat any natural market force that might bypass that market.

        • by Pinhedd ( 1661735 ) on Tuesday January 27, 2015 @07:21AM (#48912879)

          Wrong.

          The marginal cost of production is not the same as the total cost of production. The marginal cost of production is the cost to produce one more unit of a product. In the case of easily replicable digital products the marginal cost is negligible, especially when distributed digitally. The total cost of production includes other factors such as the massive amount of capital sunk into developing and marketing the product. Fixed costs need to be recouped for a project to break even and eventually turn a profit. If the price were depressed to the marginal cost of production the company would never recoup any of the fixed cost and hence never break even much less turn a profit.

    • by aliquis ( 678370 )

      G2A and Kinguin are places where either or both of the following happens:

      * Some other sellers list and sell their keys which they have got in whatever way.
      * Physical games are bought in Poland or Russia and a photo is taken of the key and then the games are sold and that photo delivered. Since prices are lower in those regions .. .. There's also the case where games are cheaper in say Russia or Malaysia/Indonesia or whatever on Steam and may not be restricted by region when you add them.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      Ubisoft made the equivalent of a Record Player Juke Box that requires your music player to have a modern equivalent of a telephone line hooked up to it.

      When you want to buy some music, you find a retailer, and you buy the product from the store, who issues you a slip of paper with a single use coupon with a code printed on it, or you call up a retailer and order on the phone, then they give you the coupon code to write down after your credit card is charged.

      The code allows you to go home, turn on your J

    • My grandmothers* are both dead, you insensitive clod!

      * I had two. If you you only had one grandmother, my condolences, all the more so.
  • First Sale (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @08:29PM (#48909969)
    Well, it's final. The Right of First Sale has been revoked. Soap, Ballot, and Jury boxes haven't worked. What's next?
    • You still have the ballot box. Vote against Ubisoft with your euros, dollars, or whatever: stop buying Ubisoft games. Buy games in the same genre from their competitors and email your purchases (and reasoning) to Ubisoft support.

      • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @08:51PM (#48910109)

        You still have the ballot box. Vote against Ubisoft with your euros, dollars, or whatever: stop buying Ubisoft games. Buy games in the same genre from their competitors and email your purchases (and reasoning) to Ubisoft support.

        Yes, buy them from the likes of Microsoft who, after 9 years, changed their Xbox policy so that once you delete local content of a delisted game, you lose that content. They made no announcement, gave no notice of games being delisted, just changed their polices and screwed over their customers.

        Or from Steam, who forces patches on you that can completely change the product you purchased. Bought a GFWL game? It's now a Steam Edition game.

        Or Origins... *giggles*

        They're all just as bad as the other because no one is willing to put up the money to fight them.

        • by OhPlz ( 168413 )

          You can quite easily disable updates in Steam per game. Are you saying they push updates even after you've disabled them?

          • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @09:44PM (#48910555)

            You can quite easily disable updates in Steam per game. Are you saying they push updates even after you've disabled them?

            Steam's current setup is that you can disable automatic updates on a per-game basis, however, only until you try to play it next at which time it forces the update on you. You can run in offline mode for up to 6 months, losing a huge chunk of Steam/some games in the process, but after 6 months you have to go online to re-validate your DRM and bam - updates.

            • Which games specifically become terrible after they change to "New Steam Version"?
              • Which games specifically become terrible after they change to "New Steam Version"?

                What does it matter? The point is that if you buy software for a specific feature and someone patches it out they've fundamentally altered the product you paid for. The car analogy everyone is so fond of: Would you allow a company to change the colour of your car? It's not terrible if they do - it's just a colour after all. What about the body style? The engine?

              • GTA San Andreas update removed several tracks from the game radio.

        • by aliquis ( 678370 )

          Bought a GFWL game? It's now a Steam Edition game.

          "Oh no!" *BOOM* (Lemmings or Worms reference. I'm not sure.)

        • by shione ( 666388 )

          Or from Steam, who forces patches on you that can completely change the product you purchased. Bought a GFWL game? It's now a Steam Edition game.

          And that is horrible how? Instead of having to sign in twice to get into the game, you only have to sign in once. Some games are even worse like GTA where you have to sign into steam AND gfwl AND rockstar just to play single player. Having gfwl fuck off and die is a good thing for everyone. Blame microsoft for making GFWL so shit in the first place and then letting it die a slow death to try and drive pc gamers to the xbox. If it wasnt for the game turning into a steam edition, you wouldnt even be able to

      • That point is brought up every time EA fucks its customers over. I don't see them hurting for business.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          My point is that if you don't buy any Ubisoft products, then there's no way for you to get F'd by Ubisoft's policy. It's not like Ubisoft is a platform gatekeeper or anything.

      • by jonwil ( 467024 )

        The newest game on the Wikipedia "list of Ubisoft games" that I have bought, pirated or played is Riven and that wasn't even a Ubisoft game at the time (Ubisoft bought the company that had the rights some time in the future)

        I haven't purchased, played or pirated anything from Activision Blizzard recently either. (the newest game I can find on Wikipedia that I remember playing was one of the really old Tony Hawks games so before they became the scumbags that they are today)

        My gaming dollars as of late have g

      • The ballot box has nothing to do with euros, dollars, or what...
        Who am I kidding?
    • pirate the games and you get no DRM as well

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by kuzb ( 724081 )

        Except then you have to deal with the fact that every other keygen and crack contains malware and keyloggers.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          LOL! That is the kind of propaganda that the MAFIAA would like people to believe. The truth is, most cracks and keygens are perfectly safe.

          I've been doing this shit since the early days of Fairlight and Razor 1911, even running a TDT/TRSi/SWaT distro BBS for a number of years, and have never had a system get infected.

        • I haven't had malware or keyloggers as a result of a crack or keygen in about 6 years. Believe it or not even in the dirty piracy industry there are reputations to uphold. People who provide torrents etc love to put their name on it and will rather aggressively fight those who use their name incorrectly, especially if they are bundling malware with their otherwise clean installers.

          There have also been plenty of cases of pirates calling each other out on their shit. Again its a reputation game.

          In generally a

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        Last Ubisoft game I bought was Silent Hunter III. The next had DRM, so I passed, even though I liked SH3.
  • It's probably a case of companies buying keys in a cheap region, and selling them to people who otherwise would have to pay more in their region.
    • That's called grey-market operations. There's nothing fraudulent about it, but manufacturers are going to increasingly greater lengths to prevent grey market activities. Games that are sold in low price markets often have limited languages, region-locked multiplayer, sanitized art assets, etc...

  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @08:35PM (#48910003)

    It's not about piracy it's about control, and what you "BOUGHT" isn't really yours.

    In this case UBISOFT has a dispute with gray marketeers and decides to take it out on the customers instead of taking it to the courts with the people they have a problem with they lash out at the customers, taking advantage of the fact the customers will likely have to suck it up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2015 @08:35PM (#48910005)

    Do you want piracy? Because this is how you get piracy.

    • That was the most intelligent post in the entire discussion and I don't have even one mod point to give you.
  • I have an idea.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy.tpno-co@org> on Monday January 26, 2015 @08:43PM (#48910069) Homepage

    STOP FUCKING GIVING UBISOFT MONEY.

    By this point, anyone who gets bitten by this or any future shady behavior from a software house with such a sterling DRM reputation deserves whatever they get.

    What they don't deserve is our pity. Ridicule maybe. I could even be convinced that "Mocking them" is the appropriate response.

  • This is like (Score:5, Informative)

    by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @08:47PM (#48910083) Homepage

    me in BC buying a car from a guy who bought/brought it in from Alberta and sold it through his car dealership in BC. Then Ford comes in and repossesses my car because I didn't get it through a dealer in BC and because the prices are lower in Alberta so it was unfair to the dealer in BC since it wasn't sold through an authorized dealer.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ever tried to buy a new car in the US as a resident of Canada?

      Yeah. Ubisoft learned from the car industry, they're just a bit better at it.

  • by Notabadguy ( 961343 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @09:08PM (#48910255)

    FTFA -

    Ubisoft claims (for what it's worth) that the only digital keys that they revoked were those purchased fraudulently with stolen credit cards.

    No one has a right to keep stolen property. If you buy a watch in a pawn shop, and the police come for it because it's stolen, you forfeit the watch. Don't get me wrong - I absolutely detest Ubisoft, ever since XIII, and will never buy another product of theirs...I hope their corporate building burns down, they lose their IP to someone, and the name Ubisoft becomes a curseword...

    But at the same time, clamoring that the stolen goods you purchased on the black market were taken away from you doesn't garner sympathy.

    • > they lose their IP to someone, and the name Ubisoft becomes a curseword...

      You mean Ubisucks already isn't? :-)

      /me ducks

    • ...But to follow along applying your example to this situation, the police don't reclaim the watch; people from Rolex come knocking on your door. Who would agree to that?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2015 @10:05PM (#48910675)

      You should have read the first link:

      1. a Belgian expat living in Poland buys his game from another country because all the ones sold in Poland are only in Polish language. He wanted the game in French or English language.
      2. Ubisoft says "Fuck him, he's a dodgy motherfucker buying games from where we're making less profit. Off with his key!"
      • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Tuesday January 27, 2015 @05:08AM (#48912427)

        That's not what the second link says is happening though.

        My reading of the second article is that there is the following problem. Website G2A.com allows private re-sale of game keys, whether that's to undercut the retail prices or avoid region locking or whatever is irrelevant. Carders are constantly on the lookout for ways to cash out stolen credit card numbers. Because fraudulent card purchases can be rolled back and because you have to go through ID verification to accept cards, spending them at their own shops doesn't work - craftier schemes are needed.

        So what they do is go online and buy game activation keys in bulk with stolen cards. They know it will take time for the legit owners of the cards to notice and charge back the purchase. Then they go to G2A.com and sell the keys at cut-down prices to people who know they are obtaining keys from a dodgy backstreet source, either they sell for hard-to-reverse payment methods like Western Union or they just bet that nobody wants to file a complaint with PayPal saying they got ripped off trying to buy a $60 game for $5 on a forum known for piracy and unauthorised distribution.

        Then what happens? Well, the game reseller gets delivered a list of card chargebacks by their banks and are told they have a limited amount of time to get the chargeback problem under control. Otherwise they will get cut off and not be able to accept credit card payments any more. The only available route to Ubisoft or whoever at this point is to revoke the stolen keys to try and kill the demand for the carded keys.

        If that reading is correct then Ubisoft aren't to blame here. They can't just let this trade continue or it threatens their ability to accept legitimate card payments.

  • "WE would never do that . . ." -- Amazon.

  • I bought some Ubisoft games at Big Lots on clearance for $5 in CD/DVD form.

    One of the games had a discount code for half off the Ubisoft web store. I bought a few titles and applied the discount code to get half off my order. I entered my debit card and paid and waited for the software to ship. Two weeks later my order was canceled, out of stock on every item I ordered. My money was refunded. I tried the discount code again but now it doesn't work.

    The games I bought for $5 at Big Lots, the keys were no longer valid.

  • by Xian97 ( 714198 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @09:47PM (#48910579)

    One problem is that how does the consumer know who are authorized resellers? Ubisoft doesn't have a list that I can find, so how do you know if a site is legitimate or not? It's hard to go by the old adage "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is" anymore, with so many sites having sales at cut rate prices on digital goods. I picked up a few "too good to be true" bargains last month during the Steam sales.

  • Nonsense, this is just market efficiency. The real threat to gaming is the possibility of some woman blowing a guy to get a few $K in sales of a lousy game. Here, Ubisoft, take my money [thedailypixel.com]!

  • Autodesk (makers of Autocad) tried to block resale of their products on ebay. They lost horribly in court. The end.
  • Congrats! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @11:52PM (#48911205) Homepage

    Dear UbiSoft,

    You've just entered the same realm as Sony as a completely assbackwards company with no respect for your customers whom I will never do business with again, no matter what.

    (not that I had a very high opinion of UbiSoft as it was, but this kind of shenanigan just brought it to the bottom.)

    • Dear duke_cheetah2003,

      Thankyou for your kind feedback, but we are having difficulty understanding what you mean with "You've just entered". I can assure you our business practices have remained unchanged for years.

      Kind Regards
      Ubisoft support teams.

  • Didn't Swatch try this same ploy with Costco, trying to go after them for buying their junk from one country to resell it else where? And they're losing every court battle over it, too.

    Sadly, doubt anyone will try to drag UbiSoft into court over video game key revocations.. but yeah.. what they are doing has set precedent against them having a leg to stand on in a court.

  • by Schnapple ( 262314 ) <tomkidd@NOsPaM.viatexas.com> on Tuesday January 27, 2015 @10:48AM (#48914361) Homepage
    Valve did this same thing in 2007 [consumerist.com] with keys to The Orange Box bought from Thailand, which were considerably cheaper. They were very up front about it, they showed the Thai box packaging which clearly stated in English that this was not to be used outside of Thailand, etc.

    There was a bit of blowback, and some hemming and hawing like we're seeing here, but ultimately it wasn't a big deal. Whether or not you agree with it, most people knew they were basically cheating by buying a cheap key from a shady foreign website, and they got busted for it (although they weren't out much money because, you know, cheap)

    Honestly, when you're buying software you have to agree to the terms or else you don't buy it and you don't get to have it. Yes, if you think this is a dick move from Ubisoft then you're perfectly within your rights to avoid buying their products anymore. But don't think that they're the only ones who do this. Or have the right/ability to do this. And don't think this gives you some sort of right to pirate their games. Or that they had better give you what you want or else you'll pirate their games. You're wrong.

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