Ubisoft introduces new anti-piracy PC tools

Company to use alternative to controversial Starforce DRM

Ubisoft is to start using a new system of authentication for its PC titles - a move which it hopes will cut piracy and prove more popular than the controversial StarForce digital rights management application previously implemented.

Using the new authentication measures, users will be required to connect to a account before each play session.

While this means an internet connection is always required, the upshot of the system, according to Ubisoft, is that games can be run without a disc in the drive for authentication and can be installed on an unlimited number of computers while save files are stored remotely on Ubisoft servers, allowing access to them from any machine.

"If you own a hundred PCs, you can install your games on a hundred PCs," Brent Wilkinson, Ubisoft director of customer service and production planning told GameSpy.

He added that the company expected most people to be "fine" with the system's need to be online in order to play games. "Most people are always connected to an internet connection," he said.

Last year, Ubisoft filed a lawsuit against a company hired to produce discs for the PC version of Assassin's Creed, claiming a leak of the code led to 700,000 illegitimate downloads and millions of pounds in lost revenue.

PC piracy is cannibalising the PC market, Ubisoft Shanghai creative director Michael de Plater has claimed previously, citing it as Ubisoft's reason for releasing the PC version of Tom Clancy's EndWar after console versions.

"At the moment, if you release the PC version, essentially what you're doing is letting people have a free version that they rip off instead of a purchased version. Piracy's basically killing PC," he said.

"You know, the level of piracy that you get with the PC just cannibalises the others, because people just steal that version."

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Latest comments (11)

Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University8 years ago
One down side of this if that your network goes down, you can not play the games.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 8 years ago
If you have to use a service, which requires constant connection, then you are not owning anything, as the provider can cut the service anytime he wishes (going out of business, etc). Sounds like a rental...
On the other hand, it only hurts the legitimate purchasers, those using the pirated version wont be affected. They can install the game anytime, anywhere. End result: buyers will end up with a significantly worse consumer experience than pirates. Of course this does not affect console users, as copy protection is transparent.
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Lucas Seuren Freelance, Only Network8 years ago
Again a publisher that doesn't really think about how to best protect their IPs. Why make it harder for consumers to enjoy a product when they buy it opposed to people who play a hacked version. Or does Ubisoft really believe their protection program won't be hacked? End result will probably be less sales and more downloads.
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Show all comments (11)
Otakar Schon Technology editor, Economia8 years ago
i dont have anything against this system, it works well for MMORPGs... it only depends on exact implementation how limiting it will be for legal customers and how fast and how well pirates will be able to defeat such protection
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Stace Harman Freelance Writer 8 years ago
"At the moment, if you release the PC version, essentially what you're doing is letting people have a free version that they rip off instead of a purchased version ... because people just steal that version."

It must be extremely frustrating and something of a slap in the face for publishers and developers to see their IP and work ripped off, and hundreds upon hundreds of hours of work go unrewarded in both a monetary and consumer feedback sense.

However, it can also be extremely frustrating and something of a slap in the face for PC gamers when certain companies bemoan the lack of legitimate, paying consumers or focus so hard on the piracy element of the PC market that a genuine, paying fan base is made to feel that it wasn't worth them spending their money on the products...
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Lance Winter Game Designer, Nordeus8 years ago
First, no matter what sort of copy-protection system you create, it will be cracked.

Second, the more obstacles you put in the way of pirates, the more likely it is that you will annoy your paying customers.

Third, I'd be more than a little cautious in believing that Ubisoft will keep the verification servers running forever. I'm still smarting from not being able to play certain Ubisoft games after they turned off the multiplayer servers (which were the only option for playing online!).

Piracy is obviously a massive problem for a platform as open as the PC. But rather than trying to make life difficult for pirates, why not spend all of that effort and money on making the experience better for honest, paying gamers?

It's an obvious example to cite, but look at what Valve are doing: Steam is fighting piracy by simply being a more attractive alternative. Surely this is the way to go?
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Andrea Montanari8 years ago
Just one word: useless.
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Carlos Massiah Game Developer, UtilityFunction8 years ago
I don't think people are being fair. This method of protecting the game is far better than the previous DRM software we have seen (5 install limits anyone?) and I think they have the right idea in trying to offset the downside of requiring the internet with offering an aditional service of remote saving. Having save files in the cloud is quite usefull. It's certainly a step in the right direction, trying to improve what the paying customer receives over what the pirate gets.
Also worth a mention, this is just how Steam operates.
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Bernd Warter Network Administrator 8 years ago
From the Customers side this might have negative impact on the customer satisfaction. As stated before, the whole game system depends on a stable network, which serves the account. Besides of that privacy might be affected when having such amount of data stored online. The last months there were various problems made public with keeping private data secure, there were even Compact Disks sold with hundreds of Database sets of customer data. So in the End the customer has to decide whether to buy such a game or not. But the dependance of a stable Server (is the server gone all Ubisoft titles with the new systems are gone) and the problem of data security should be taken into a strong consideration before aplying such a system.
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Sergey Galyonkin Marketing Director, EMEA, Nival Network8 years ago
Well, you can't play World of Warcraft if server is down, for example. I don't think that it really turned people off :)
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David Spender Lead Programmer 8 years ago
I don't think you can fairly compare this to MMORPGs Final Fantasy XI was down last night. No worries, I just played Dragon Age. However if FFXI was down and I couldn't play ANYTHING because all my games required internet to even play at all, I would be a little 'turned off'.

This will have to implement seamless saving like mmorpgs to be succesful. I'm ever dumped, my progress is saved automatically. If I'm playing Assassin's Creed II and its been a bit since I've saved and I lose all that progress..... that is definitely not providing me with any additional useful features.

Overall, its pretty clear that forcing saves in the cloud is definitely all about developer control and its just marketing spin to say its providing the customer with useful features. I don't want my saves in the cloud and if I do, I'll just use Live Mesh. Its the forcing part that gives it away - developers are tired of second hand sales, piracy, etc and have reached the point where they will try just about anything to improve revenue - including biting the hand that feeds them. We'll see how it turns out.

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