Ubisoft's notorious "uncrackable" unfair game DRM falls in less than 24h

Games maker Ubisoft drew global ire when it announced that all its new titles, starting with Silent Hunter 5 and Assassin's Creed 2, would henceforth be crippled with a DRM that would kick you off the game and wipe out your play if your Internet connection dropped for even a moment. From soldiers on forward-fire bases to people who just don't want to have to be online to play a single-player game, gamers all over the world treated Ubisoft's announcement as a declaration of war on the rights of game-buyers to enjoy their property in legitimate ways.

Now comes the news that Ubisoft's DRM was broken less than 24 hours after release, which isn't such a surprise, really. After all, these are gamers: Ubisoft set them a challenge. Solving challenges is what gamers do. And the bragging rights are monster.

ßßß  ° Û 1. Unpack release                                              Û Û
± Û 2. Mount image or burn it                                      Û Û
Û Û 3. Install                                                     Û Û
Û Û 4. Copy the content from the SKIDROW folder on the DVD to your Û Û
Û Û    installation directory and overwrite                        Û Û
Û Û 5. Play the game                                              Û Û
Ubisoft's New DRM Cracked in Under 24-Hours - Updated! (via /.)


  1. I mean, Ubisoft can use the argument that “Well, we need stricter anti-piracy measures so this doesn’t happen again”… but we all know how that ends. They gimp functionality of their own product, and the people who didn’t even pay for it get a better version without the copy-crippling DRM.

    They know it doesn’t work, so why do they do this? To appease the shareholders? Just make shit up. They probably think DRM is some kind of household cleaner.

  2. People will rant about pirating, however I think this crack is great for a different reason. For the same reason that I loved the no-cd/no-dvd cracks back when I was a gamer. Back then, after I installed a game I didn’t want the hassle of having to keep the disc in the drive each time I wanted to play it. So I bought the game, installed it… and immediately headed to gamecopyworld to find the latest no-dvd.exe to use.

    I think this new breed of no-internet.exe is just the natural progression. If there are stupid restrictions, hinderances or annoyances, there will be easy bypasses. Always.

  3. I love B^2, but I find Cory’s anti-DRM stuff a little hard to swallow.

    Yeah, DRM sucks. “Nobody wakes up and wants to do less with their music.” But nobody wants to stop at stop signs, or pay taxes, or be nice to old people. But we do things because they keep our civilization functioning. I can’t help feeling like there’s something amiss with people who seem to really relish piracy. Yes: The internet enables you to download any content anytime for free. But should you? Does a car and a handgun equally enable you to liberate money from a bank?

    1. I may be crazy, or the exception, but I doubt it: I want to stop at stop signs, pay taxes and be nice to old people. I’m happy to do all those things. I also want to play to whatever game I paid for when I’m at my cabin in the woods with no Internet. What’s next? all softwares will need to have you online to take your pulse to make sure you’re really the one supposed to be there. Pffft. I’m OK with rules when they make sense.

    2. First of all, the reason people stop at stop signs has nothing to do with the law. That’s just a dumb thing to say. 99% of the time, people could *not* stop at stop-signs and not get arrested. The reason people stop at stop signs is that stopping at stop signs is a reasonable social contract.

      As to being nice to old people: if you believe that the reason people are nice to old people is that the law compels them to:

      a) You are making reference to a nonexistent law

      b) You are possibly a sociopath

      The reason people are nice to old people is that people are generally nice to one another.

      DRM has no connection with preventing piracy. Pirates download the DRM-cracked versions. DRM on music is there to reduce the rights that you get in copyright — the right to play your music on a competitor’s device, the right to sell or give away your music, and so on. These rights are enshrined in law, but DRM is a loophole to copyright law, since breaking DRM is prohibited even for people who are making otherwise lawful uses.

      The reason people break DRM is that is makes unreasonable, unilateral incursions on your property rights: your right to lawfully enjoy the products you purchase, in lawful ways. The reason I celebrate breaks to DRM is that they show:

      1. That the technical hypothesis that DRM will prevent piracy is ridiculous

      2. That the public has the capacity to reassert its rights under law and practice and restore the reasonable social contract between creators and audiences

      1. Ubisoft is lying through their teeth when they claim the crack is ineffective. I’m staring right at the thing on a private tracker that would have nuked it long ago if it was a bad crack.

        Luckily for them I don’t plan on pirating or buying either game. I can’t see the benefit of heaping more evidence behind their quixotic rampage.

      2. Cory, I often get annoyed by your sensationalism, and I often grumble… but thank you. Thank you for fighting the good fight, for keeping us informed, for talking with the LibDems, and for that beautifully worded comment.

        I agree with other comments that Steam has Got It Right. Steam doesn’t need DRM (in fact, there are Steam-like services starting with a “100% DRM free” guarantee, like Good Old Games (gog.com) which just rely on the value-add to sell it). The point is, it’s the value-add of the online service that makes piracy not worth while. Automatic software updates, the ability to play from anywhere even if your disk gets destroyed, the ability to download instead of have to go out and buy a physical disk, the ability to play online with friends, etc etc. Like iTunes, Steam beats Pirate Bay in that it Just Works, and it gives a value-add rather than a detraction, and especially with its deals, it’s massively cheaper than brick&mortar.

        From a quick Googling, other online distribution systems include Direct2drive.com (unknown DRM, can play offline); Impulsedriven.com (apparently lighter DRM than steam); g2play.net, gamersgate.com, and probably many others.

  4. Lets face it, this is just a lame attempt by Ubisoft to limit gamers. If DRM were really about stopping piracy then they wouldn’t be trying to keep you online in single player. Seriously, what’s the point of that? I’m not saying piracy is good or bad or in between, however if you’re really trying to prevent that then you don’t do something lame like this.

  5. I’m with PA’s Tycho: nobody wins.

    I used to pirate and crack games – then I grew up. Game developers have my support, they make possible the hobby that I love. That said, greedy publishers who region-lock their games so I can’t get them in Japan over Steam drive me nuts and jerk-moves like this one by Ubisoft make me really see red.

    Maybe they had the best of intentions – I don’t imagine they were happy about taking this measure, but this kind of DRM is flatly abusive towards paying customers. I’ll never buy or play another of their games as long as this crap is present. It’s just not worth it to me.

    Cracking it was inevitable, and isn’t a cause for celebration. Just another step on the path to the death of PC gaming. Nobody wins. *sigh*

    1. I’m with you, @13tales. I too used to only play pirated games when I was younger. Now I’m older I prefer to buy my games (and play on a console on the couch, but that’s another fanboy discussion for another time) in order to support the developers. I avoid buying second-hand for the same reason.

      But fucked if I’ll bend over to publisher’s demands like this. I received a PC game as a gift around 18 months ago; when I went to install the game it wanted to install some DRM crapware and check in with servers to validate it was a legit copy. Thus, I’ve never installed the game and it’s been on the shelf ever since. Like #3 I too get NoCD cracks for games I buy legitimately.

  6. I always wonder if the anti DRM’ers in many forums are actually astroturfers. I cant in my admittedly geeky, Linuxy, and sadly rarely video gamey world see why anyone would want or even consider paying for disabled software. I suppose this corporate mindset is what leads to the inevitable rise of the DIY movement, which is a positive result.

    1. There are an unusually high number of loquacious, first-time (and often six-comments-on-only-one-post) commenters in threads about DRM/copyright/IP. Professional industry astroturfers are hard to catch.

  7. would henceforth be crippled with a DRM that would kick you off the game and wipe out your play if your Internet connection dropped for even a moment.

    Heh, Charter has issues here that can give you 5-15 dropouts a day lasting up to 5 minutes each. Must make gameplay real fun for people running their Disasterware DRM.

    I’d have to crack it to avoid the frustration of their arbitrary penalties. Or just not buy it and learn to love the competition which is a better use of my time.

  8. Comparing data sharing with rape, grand theft, and violence is just absurd, but I think Mr. Doctorow said it well enough him.

    The problem is the economic model no longer works. Here’s the quick and dirty process of how things like video games get made and consumed.

    Create Data
    Create Storage Medium
    Put Data Onto Medium
    Sell Medium

    Let’s take music for an example. The difference between recordings from the 20s and those of today is in the medium. Records had their costs based on several factors – materials, manufacturing labor and technology, distribution, and non-replicability.

    Compare that to digital data – no materials, no manufacturing, nearly unlimited distribution, nearly unlimited replication. The only cost is the electricity consumed and the computer hardware which it runs through.

    Why could record companies charge $20 for a CD fifteen or so years ago? Because you couldn’t copy them, or make them yourself. Then people found ways to rewrite discs and to burn their own. Suddenly a CD of music costs mere cents for the discs themselves and the electricity to put data on them.

    The costs of artists actually making art hasn’t changed. The cost of distribution has dropped. The total cost of producing art has dropped as a result. Consumers simply will not continue to pay the old prices which no longer reflect current costs.

    My proposed solution? Artists return to patronage systems. Video game developers are directly paid by gamers to develop their games. Musicians are directly paid to create new music. Cut out the corporate middle-men, send them packing. I’m sure they can find equally underhanded and money-grubbing employment elsewhere. Such as Wall Street.

    ~D. Walker

    1. Hear hear Mr. Walker. What we’re seeing now are the last thrashing struggles of an industry (publishing) which is on its last legs. They’ve been taking the lion’s share of the profit from sales of creative people’s work for decades claiming the material costs of distribution and marketing as their excuse.

      The curtian has finally been pulled back on these leeches now that distribution and manufacturing costs are reduced to nigh on zero. There is still marketing to think about but in an online world the advertising market is increasingly competetive and getting your work publicised is getting cheaper too. Especially as the internet allows said marketing to be more finely targeted. No longer is it necessary to blanket the world with advertising in order to sell stuff, you can point your advertising at the people who are likely to be interested in your product, generating more return on initial investment.

      Publishing is undergoing a paradigm shift and the men who’ve had their hands in the cookie jar all this time (when they haven’t been the ones making the cookies) are understandably scared.

  9. @alexstein: Analogies are the refuge of a weak mind, analogies to rape are the refuge of a weak and psychotic mind.

    The point here is that they’re abusing people that obey the law. If you insist on analogies to understand this, it’s as if you are issued a ticket .. for stopping at a stop sign. Or as if every time you stopped at a stop sign, a police officer would tase you. But the people that run it? He steps aside and lets them go.

    But on to more concrete examples. The Playstation Network was down on Sunday night. I get about one night per week where I play video games. Well, that one night happened to be Sunday, and since my machine could not connect, I could not play my game, despite only wanting to play offline. I spent some time futzing with it and gave up in frustration. Is that really the right result for someone that has $800 wrapped up in a console, accessories, games, etc?

    Oh, now I see your more psychotic post is gone.. so my second sentence doesn’t make as much sense. I’ll leave it anyway.

  10. Well let’s see.

    I could further support the development of crapsoft DRM solutions like Ubisoft supplies OR I could just… not!

    It’s obvious to me that if I want to play games and not further support DRM bullshit, that I should pirate it, and I will!

    And I definitely won’t lose sleep over it. Unless that involves staying up late playing games, I guess.

  11. I think the big problem with DRM strategies like this is that they’re all stick and no carrot.

    You get to pay £30, for a game you can only play as long as ubi’s servers work, your internet works, your router behaves, etc. etc.

    Of course, if I wanted to act like the DRM supporting companies, I’d claim that the £30 is just the startup cost, to continue to use my game, I have to pay another £20+ a month to maintain my internet access* etc.

    Assuming a game usually lasts me 6 months or so, Silent Hunter 5 actually costs £150.

    What do I get in exchange? Saves I can’t backup, Loss of game progress if my internet goes down (I live in a semi-rural area, so that can be 5 times a day)

    Yeah, no. I’ll just buy 5 games with DRM that I can accept.

    Personally, I like steam as far as DRM goes, for me it has more advantages than disadvantages, sure, it likes to be online. but it doesn’t need to be. updates games for me, allows me to reinstall over 100 games by simply copying my steam folder onto a new machine.

    *I dunno about anyone else, but certainly when money’s tight for me, the internet is one of those things that goes away, I can survive with offline games and email from my mobile.

  12. I make a decent salary, have no kids, and work very strange hours that leave lots of spare time. I spend a crap-ton of money on PC games. I never pirate anything.

    I also pass up games with crippling DRM.

    Limited number of installs are bad enough. I wipe my computer often enough, and play old games often enough that I am not going to pay for self-destruct-ware until it is at self-destruct-ware prices (<$10). The recent lunacy with the always connected DRM? Ha, screw that. I spend a ton of money on video games, but I am hardly a slave to them. I really like Assassin's Creed. I would have happily plopped down full price for the game. Yet, due to their DRM lunacy that DOESN'T FUCKING STOP PIRATES, I am going to pass up on Assassin's Creed 2, just like I passed on Spore and Red Alert 3. These are all games that I would have happily paid full price for on the day they came out, and all games that I didn't. I seriously don't fucking understand where these video game execs come from. Their games get cracked, every-single-fucking-time. Even if they some how magically made a game that didn't get cracked, it wouldn't make the pirates buy the damned game. They would just go without. The DRM isn't increasing sales. On the contrary, people like me look at the insanity that they are shoving on PAYING users and wash their hands of it, by either pirating a game they would have normally paid for, or simply doing without (like I do). I frankly just don't get it. How hard is it see that more brutal DRM = fewer sales?

    1. I am not going to pay for self-destruct-ware until it is at self-destruct-ware prices

      I’m with you. I enjoyed the first Assassins’ Creed and was excited about the second. I probably would have payed full price to get it shortly after release. But if it’s this crippled, I’ll wait until it’s a $5 or $10 game.

  13. I can see a scenario in the future where I might buy a DRMed game from Ubisoft and then turn around immediately and download the cracked version to play without ever installing or using the one I purchased. I want to know though, would that be wrong for me to do that? Assuming I never sold my copy of the game?

    1. That’s the ethical way of doing it, IMO.

      I do that fairly regularly, I also pirate games I’m not sure about, if I play them, I buy them, even if I’ll never even take the cellophane off. And pirating games that I’ve already paid for, but have to wait an extra week to get because of region based idiocy.

      Everyone gets paid, I get the product on my terms.

      Course, if you asked Ubisoft, no doubt they’d tell you that breaks their EULA, isn’t supported, and that you are in fact a criminal.

    2. I read a lot of people did that with Bioshock 2. Bought the game to support the programmers and then downloaded the cracked copy to actually play since they didn’t need the multiplayer things.

  14. I’d argue that there’s essentially zero bragging rights for cracking the DRM of a modern game. Back in the day, sure. Apple ][ and Commodore 64 games have huge splash screens that say “Cracked by Mr. Xerox” and so forth. I haven’t seen such a splash screen outside of emulators in close to twenty years. That just isn’t what post Generation-X kids are into.

    1. Bragging rights are still a big thing in the Scene, especially when it comes to getting copies of games out and cracked before the streetdate. You’ll find that the splash screens sort of split off and evolved into the very vibrant demoscene.

      Given the scene standards for releases and what they are today there’s a lot of bragging rights to be claimed not just for being first, but for being consistent and having the best quality in your releases.

      It’s all still there, just not as visible.

    2. One small area where that lives on is in key generators: Those still tend to come with background music, wavy banners, and all that. (Still, my favourite was one I used once that copied the key into the appropriate fields in the installer for you.

    3. The serial generator programs are where the programmers like to show off now… as a later comment states, it’s just not as obvious these days…

      Also, I remember seeing cracked games (way back when I had a TRS-80!) where the cracker would add his name to the game, and it was quite impressive to me at the time.

  15. When I heard about AC2 I was kind of excited. When I heard of yet another DRM-battle, I said “Well, whatever.” Out loud. In the middle of the break room.

    This whole DRM and copyright issue has driven me into a world of nostalgia and low-level data crimes. Yes, used games and emulators. I figured I don’t want to pay around 50$ for a game I can’t properly play without giving a blood sample and filling out six forms, I’d rather buy a couple of games I wanted to play as a kid and never could afford. Yes, I know that makes me seem like one of those ancient, nagging old gamers who clutch their Nintendo power glove and mutter about the good old times.

    But I also simply do what others have already mentioned: Flip the big players the bird and move on to different outlets every now and then. Independent developers are there, when you look for them, and they make fun games as well. This extends beyond games, for me at least, and into music. Sure, the fact that I was always into underground electronic garbage helps, but hey, you take what you can get.

    And I know I wont take the opportunity to get AC2, cracked or not. And if enough people do that, and sales plummet far enough, maybe the suits above the designers will wise up. Or fire everybody, sue the hell out of the fan base and laugh like a sinister caricature of 19th-century moguls while snorting coke on a tropical island. Oh Cynicism, how I missed thee.

  16. The main issue with buying the game and then playing the cracked version is that Ubisoft still gets your money, and every person who pays for this anti-feature encourages them to go further down the DRM path. The right anwer is always not to buy the game, and to send them a letter explaining why so that they have every chance to understand. If they don’t get it they’ll go out of business. The corporate types need to fundamentally understand that DRM = no sale, and until we enforce that as a market, they will keep doing it.

  17. Oh, us poor game designers. I know of people who make their own copies of board games. That used to be considered a production hurdle, too. Except when it wasn’t, which was always.

    Making and copying are very elemental parts of human nature. Elemental to the point where trying to circumvent it in the name of law, ethics and morality put the trust in law, ethics and morality into question.

    There’s an unwritten rule about power and authority. The top military brass knows it. My gf reminded me that schoolteachers all know this rule as well.

    You cannot give an order that will not be obeyed.

    If you do, you undermine the very authority you require to get your plans realized. This includes respect for the rule of law. I am made increasingly angry by those who are eroding respect for the law by passing unenforceable ones. My fellow designers who use stupid little tricks to reinforce this self-destruction of culture would do well to rethink the actual consequences of their actions.

    1. For clarity:

      “You must not give an order that will not be obeyed.”

      Obviously, everyone from here to Ubisoft “can”.

    2. Smart parents know that rule too.

      I’m always amazed how many parents I see out in public telling their kids “Stop doing that!” and then ignoring that the kids don’t. Way to completely undermine your own authority!

      Re DRM: I’ve never been particularly interested in cracking DRM, but the schemes are just so dumb!

      I remember when Quake 3 came out with much touted copy protection; I was at a friend’s party where they spontaneously decided to have a LAN party, and one of my friends of course didn’t have his CD or his computer with the install. It took me all of about 15 minutes to figure out how to clone one of the installs they had to a different computer. DRM implementers are trying to solve a problem which is unsolvable almost by definition.

  18. about respect for the law, i’d like to point out that abusive EULAs outside the US could be illegal. in many EU countries you cannot “sign off” your rights even if you sign a contract that says so.

    and circumventing protection on a legally acquired object is considered fair use and not piracy at least in Italy and Greece.

    so abusive DRM and arbitrary EULAs being borderline illegal are not morally defensible.

    our legal system is slightly imbalanced towards the defense of the consumer/client. big corporations are trying to change that. don’t fall for the piracy=theft=terrorism fear mongering.

  19. Draconian DRM protection of games ENCOURAGES piracy and REDUCES sales. That’s just stupid.

  20. Since EA acquired Bioware, I’ve spent about $400 on merchandise from the Bioware store and $0 on their games. I’ve still played them and hope not a penny went to EA.

    Some bands give their music away and make a living off tours and merchandise, it may not be a viable model for video games, but I wish there was a system to compensate developers directly and remove the greedy publishers from the picture altogether.

  21. I work in the game industry as an online architect.

    The single-biggest problem with game companies these days is that they are run by non-gamers and accountants.

    They are too focused on protecting the potential “stolen” profit and that it gets realized in the appropriate fiscal quarter rather than on making a good game well.

    I can guarantee that this DRM was an edict from above, and that the technical team hated it; both the concept, and the implementation.

    Unfortunately, teaching these Powers That Be the somewhat obvious errors of their way is next to impossible. Even when it fails loudly and publicly, the blame invariably gets put on a bad technical implementation rather than a stupid idea in the first place.

    I long for the days when gamers and developers ran game companies.

  22. Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned voting with your feet?

    The problem with internet people is that they want to have their cake and eat it too. I’d bet good money that 99% of the people grousing about the DRM in their copy of Assassin’s Creed 2 will go out and buy Assassin’s Creed 3.

    Here’s a thought: DON’T. Companies aren’t interested in public opinion, or keeping their customers happy, or producing a good product. They are interested in MAKING MONEY. If packing live scorpions in with every box would bump profits by 5%, I guaran-fucking-tee you that you’d see a run on anti-venom.

    Stealing certainly isn’t the answer because a.) it’s unethical, and b.) it gives the company a convenient excuse for falling profits. Push it hard enough, and you’ll see some sort of RIAA-esque cadre of lawyers descending on the internet in a swarm on behalf of the gaming industry.

    The answer is simple: don’t buy crippled products. If you give them money, then you are telling the company that you condone their behavior, regardless of your internet wailing and gnashing of teeth. If you steal the product, you are telling the company that you condone their behavior, but lack the moral fiber to pay for the goods you use. If you don’t approve of DRM, DON’T PLAY THE GAME.

    And stay off of my lawn.

  23. I’ve heard rumors that the “incomplete” claim by Ubisoft is accurate- they are only providing a few levels on the disk and your PC needs to contact their servers at some later point during your playthrough to d/l necessary files for the game’s later stages.

    It was sort of amusing to me, since I’m not sure if the skid row people have any interest in actually playing far enough into the game to see what exactly needs to be downloaded later on. It’s probably just a matter of time anyway.

    As an aside, this system would have been _perfect_ as DRM for Ultima 9. Or 8.

  24. Imagine the man hours and infrastructure invested in developing the technology behind this DRM. What collosal waste of time. Wake up Ubisoft, you just got pwnt by Skid Row! haha

  25. No matter which side of the argument you’re on, there are two immutable facts which you cannot ignore:

    1. All DRM has some negative effect on paying customers.
    2. No DRM has any effect on piracy.

    That being the case, why on earth would any company use it? Why use a system that costs you money to implement, makes your product worse, and does not reduce piracy in any way?

    I think corporations believe in DRM the same way gullible people believe in homeopathy. It doesn’t hold up to any rational examination, but it somehow makes them FEEL better. Piracy is going to happen no matter what, but they feel the need to do SOMETHING, even if it’s completely futile.

    Some people with an incurable, fatal disease will try ANYTHING to stave off the inevitable, no matter how expensive, unpleasant or ridiculous. No amount of reasoning will convince them to just accept their fate and just make the most of what time they have left. That same mechanism is at work in the corporate hive-mind. No matter how irrational, they HAVE to come up with more and more insane DRM schemes. They are simply not capable of accepting the inevitable.

  26. Rob Sawyer teased me because I buy a laptop every couple of years and because I bought a netbook when my laptop needed to be repaired. (My wife is using the netbook on an out-of-town family trip this week.) Then he blogged about having spent $3000 on assorted e-book reading hardware. But when I buy a new laptop, I can run all my old software and, more importantly, all my data files on the new computer.

    We’re cleaning up our house and we’re throwing out (literally) tons of stuff we don’t use anymore. I’m looking at boxes of books that I’ve read and thinking that I want to read more, but I don’t want to buy a lot of physical books. But e-readers don’t meet my needs yet.

    I want a couple of things:
    * When I buy new hardware, I would be able to go back and re-read any of my old e-books. Not that I re-read whole books often, but I actually do look up a page or a quote from various books from time to time, especially with non-fiction.
    * I want a reasonable share of the money I pay to go to the content creator. I’d much rather pay more for books and less for hardware than the other way around.

    So I’m leaning more and more towards the pirates, by which I mean, I’d buy a legitimate copy of something, leave it shrinkwrapped, and download a pirated version to actually read. In fact I have done this the other way around, downloaded TV episodes as torrents before they were released on DVD, and then bought the DVD when it became available. This DRM stuff seems like more insidious malware than anything I’m likely to download from a pirate site.

  27. Disinterested witness here, neither connected to the hackers or game producers. I don’t even use no-cd hacks for purchased games. The 100% connection time for single player games is a sea change and seriously limits functionality. I’m a serious gamer but would never buy a Ubisoft game again under this protocol. For example, I spent the entire weekend in Windham sking last weekend with no internet. If I was stupid enough to have purchased this game rather than COD4/2, I would have had nothing to play. Instead of playing the game I just paid $60 bux for, all I would have are thoughts of some idiot games producer patting himlef on the back for supposedly outsmarting the pirates. Those sorts of folks are worse than pirates in my view, certainly in terms of damage they seek to cause to the customer with these sort of paradigm shifts. Ubisoft no longer exists.

  28. Simple copyprot is easily broken; complex tends to malfunction. I actually sorta sympathize with the publishers in wanting to prevent copying, but about the only solution which is both reliable and robust is the dongle approach… which does increase costs considerably, given how cheap it is to crank out CDs.

    Hm. I wonder whether it’s possible to create a CD equivalent of the old “weak bit” systems.

    1. Dongles are pretty dang easy to crack – you just modify the executables to bypass the dongle check. The reason more dongle protected software isn’t cracked is because the demand isn’t there for the download. (ie, it’s usually very low volume, specialized stuff that few pirate kids care about.)

  29. What I don’t understand is how Ubisoft didn’t learn from EA’s problems with Spore. I mean, how much do you want your Amazon review to be at 1 star? Or, to have your game be the most pirated game ever?

    DRM does have an effect on piracy, it makes it go up.

  30. An expected outcome to a historically stupid course of action.

    I will build on chip’s comment (#33) and point out something ever-so-slightly less than obvious related to his two pointed facts: more time spent implementing DRM is less time spent making a good game. (…i.e. it’s causing gamers to lose value even when it is implemented as perfectly/unobtrusively as possible, because in the end it isn’t really going to do any good anyway.)

    The way to make people buy games, is to give them value they appreciate and are willing to pay for. (Again, seems so obvious in black and white, yet it doesn’t happen nearly enough for the vast majority of game developers/publishers to be viewed as anything but loathesome by yours truly.)

    Decent example: Left 4 Dead. Popular game, warez versions exist (I heard thru the grapevine), but why would one ever think of warezing it, when online cooperative play (assumably requiring legitimate copy + steam) is what it’s all about. There may be people out there playing the warez version, but they are missing out on the true experience. The thought of warezing a steam game never even crosses my mind, because I know the online experience is going to be the fun part, and playing by one’s self is not. Online leaderboards, stats, achievements, whatever, all contribute to this desirability, IMO. ()–(On a side note: hate to risk giving too much credit to Valve here, because they have painfully botched the online play / matchmaking / server browsing process in so many ways with both this game and its sequel. But on the whole it’s more fun than not so it serves for my example.)–()

    I’ll leave it there, as I have the feeling that — with the exception of a few misguided individuals — posting these opinions on this particular site is preaching to the converted, and a waste of time.

    Good day, and good gaming!

    (PS Captchas suck. Why does it make me type another captcha after previewing/editing? Ridiculous.)

  31. Congress should do something useful for once, and mandate the single player games not require an internet connection. heck they passed ‘comon sense’ laws for credit card companies, why not protect consumers from game makers?

    I purchased and downloaded Bioshock 2 from steam, and then after installing Bioshock 2 I had to install a 2nd drm, GFWL. seriously? isnt that the point of steam, so that the software is protected, and doesnt need any more nannying?

  32. @joshstein Paying taxes DOES NOT make society function. Federal income taxes pay the interest on the nation’s debt to private banks that print the money out of thin air.


    1. Taxes=Slavery

      Pretty sure the American Revolution ran all kinds of rings around that equation.

      In fact, a tax or VAT structure might have been the only way to reliably monetize creative works in the digital age, like the Canadian tax on blank CDs or the monies libraries pay out to authors on a regular basis in the UK.

      But the DRM/lawsuit culture has poisoned customer loyalty and trust.

  33. DRM is not about preventing copying, it is typically about DELAYING copying. The entire point of DRM, and the reason why game publishers continue to spend development time and money on it is to try and delay piracy as long as possible after the release date to obtain the greatest alpha sales.

    The longer their version is the only one available, combined with hype and consumer excitement, the more likely people are to purchase the game rather than download a free copy. Sadly for Ubisoft, they talked too much about how their DRM was the best and most innovative piracy prevention, and they are now eating their words as it has been cracked days before release.

    As DRM continues to get more complex and costly, the alpha profit margins will continue to shrink, and publishers will be forced to seek other means of obtaining profit. Hopefully through good business practice and consumer relations, rather than punishing paying customers.

  34. funny that with all of the lip-service to commitments to PC gaming, the PC platform is the only one having to deal with draconian DRM schemes. It’s as if *GASP* they commited to killing gaming on the PC!?!

  35. Ah, that brings back memories. I used to crack games back in the 80’s, lots of fun. Random number generators were the big thing then, and freezing them my specialty.

    No money, but lots of cred, which is the real currency of the internet.

    “Anything built by man can be broken by man.”

  36. One of my favorite words is hubris, for those who forwent the classics, hubris is the trait of the hero that the gods use to destroy him. It’s usually equated with pride. Sounds like Ubisoft heads were swimming in their own hubris.
    As for the philosophical question of philanthropy…well that’s a big one. Why does it pay to be nice? Right now a lot of people are looking into it. Biologically it doesn’t make sense. Our genes should be ‘selfish,’ right? But some theories about group behavior lend credence that an ordered, mutual assistance is better for related gene types. Morality is a personal choice, yes. Recognizing your hubris should not be one. Not recognizing humanity’s group hubris may lead us to all be behind the bars for Dr. Zaius.

  37. Crap-on-a-stick, the “All internet all the time” DRM is like chaning everyone to their bed because…well people will commit crimes if we let ’em loose.

    Why oh why would someone install the game (a known and intentionally offensive application) and then install a crack that is, if possible, more sketchy than the game. Why not just dump a bucket of water on your computer?

    There is no reason to play this game–retail, pirated, or cracked–when there are so very very many underplayed independent games out there. (Or even AAA titles that don’t assume you’re a criminal.)

  38. I’m trying to see this from the game company execs POV. Do they think:

    “OMG! Look at our sales figures! They’re sliding down like nothing on earth! BOING!! LEAP OF LOGIC: We must impose a massive DRM apocalypse on all our customers.”

    Or do they think:

    “Wow! Sales are going strong! But how can we increase them even more and get fatter bonuses and great promotions? BOING!! LEAP OF LOGIC: We must impose a massive DRM apocalypse on all our customers.”

    Or do they think something else? Either way, DRM isn’t something I can even remotely recognise as sound business sense.

  39. The problem I have with DRM is the business model it is designed for.

    Just like the music industry, the principal is this: Create something, then be the sole maker of copies to sell, as a way to print money.

    Back in the days of Mozart, he earned his money on performances and services (Concerts and tutoring)

    The music industry should do the same. Instead of marketing a CD, the CD should be the marketing for the live performances.

    Similarly with software, in this case games, the software should be a tool for generating revenue by providing services, such as multi-player host servers, downloadable add-ons, support, enhancements etc.

    That’s how Open Source works. People provide support services, consulting, books, training etc, based on the software they provide for free, in combination with the work done by other developers, whose technology they incorporated into their product, entirely free, thereby reducing their development effort.

    Any protectionist system, such as DRM should be condemned, because the industry employing such methods are relying on monopolization, instead of innovation.

  40. To #34.
    It is not that simple. Its like food. If someone sells you only expensive food would you suggest not to eat to punnish the sellers?
    Unfortunatley the entire industry has switched to DRM, and all the good games are crippled. If you won’t buy or pirate them, you will not play at all. So piracy becoming the lesser of two evils, you are affecting company profits, while not dying of (mental) starvation.

  41. I’m solidly with the “vote with your feet” crowd. Cripple the software (any software, not just games), impose odious or intrusive monitoring, et cetera, and I’m outta there. And not just with respect to a specific product. If the company earns my wrath, I never, ever do business with them again. NEVER.

    This applies also to other forms of customer abuse. After removing numerous instances of the Sony rootkit from my customers’ systems about four years ago (another one just popped up the other day!), I resolved never to buy another product with the Sony name on it. I’ve kept firmly to that decision, and it’s made for life.

    I have no clue how many people think like me, but obviously there are not nearly enough of us.

    As for piracy, I’ve personally opted out, but nonetheless I quietly applaud the smart, plucky crackers who defeat the best-laid scams of the abusers. May they never go unopposed.

  42. I can tell you why the execs do crap like this. They assume that everyone wants to steal from them because that is precisely what they would do. An old boss of mine used to think everyone who worked for her was trying to steal from the company. I finally realized that she thought this way because she was fundamentally dishonest and therefore thought everyone else was dishonest as well.

  43. …Thank you, Ubisoft, for once again adding proof that OM’s Law #0 is still valid 25 years after it was first coined:

    OM’s Law #0: For every method of copy protection, there’ll at least one crack that works within one week after the program is released.

    Note: I may need to revise this to 24 hours, based on the track records of the h@kk3r groups over the past few years…:-P

  44. DRM , (Dumb Ridiculous and Moronic)

    I’ve long ago given up on DRM hobbled materials.
    Way back when digital music players came out , fully
    hobbled , I would spend hours getting my music on them
    only to have changes in technology and hardware failures
    put me back at square one.

    OS installation media that would eventually for the
    same reasons leave me in a position whre I had to get out the credit card and pay again.

    Dumb software dongles , whose ports today don’t even exist
    on the latest computers.

    If I’m buying something , I’m buying it , I’m not letting
    some DRM make it effectively a rental.

    I’ve been using computers since before PC’s came with screens and keyboards, and DRM in all it’s forms has been a costly pain in the dark side, costing many hundreds of lost hours over the years
    that nobody is paying me for.

    Nah, If your product wants to be DRM (Dumb Ridiculous and Moronic) , you can do it without my dollars.


  45. It’s not just the DRM, but the valuable data on customer activity that Ubisoft are harvesting.

    1. It’s possible that they are interested in harvesting activity data – but surely Ubisoft knows customer’s playing habits already.

      I think Ubisoft are testing the water — the are seeing if the gaming world is ready for games being moved entirely to the cloud. After all, you can’t pirate a game if it is running on Ubisoft’s servers. Moving critical components of their games’ operational stucture OFF your machine is seeing whether the market is ready for cloud based gaming. Hell, it’s what I would do before I invest millions of dollars in huge game servers….

  46. The most decent variety of DRM is simply to release the game and require a valid license for official releases whether they be patches or additional content from developers, but otherwise don’t hobble the program. Thus there’s a simple and obvious benefit to buying the game while not really offering incentive to pirate it, plus it’s so goddamn simple it doesn’t waste developers time implementing it but rather gives them more reason to continue to produce good content for distribution after the initial release.

  47. I am away from home a lot. Enough that I purchased a 3g connection from my cell phone company. Now when I am away from home I have a capped connection, meaning if I go over my original agreed upon data usage I have to pay per Megabyte. Does Ubisoft plan on compensating me for internet overages? I will gladly purchase the game but I plan on using a crack to disable the DRM.

  48. Ethical discussions of piracy aside. Ubisoft’s actions are really disturbing. Increasingly ‘priacy protection’ is being used as an excuse to treat legitimate customers like criminals. Why are you kicked off a game for breifly dropping connection? ‘Cause Ubisoft, on that basis alone, reckons you’re trying to rip them off. It is so far from reasonable it’s almost funny.

    Sadly, while governments fall all over themselves to enact harsher and harsher Intellectual Property protection laws, they are not so keen on passing consumer protection laws. We really should find a way of shifting the balance back a bit. The place we have got to now is f*cking stupid, and as consumers we should be entitled to protection from this kind of corporate harassment.

  49. Since this DRM is clearly way beyond acceptable, if you can, pick up a used copy for PS3 or 360. It’s been out a couple of months and if you buy used, Ubi gets nothing.

    Shame about the DRM because the game is awesome.

  50. to #73
    Knowing my playing habbits? that is a huge invasion to privacy. I would never comply with that.

  51. Jeez when will they learn. I hope every game that uses this idiotic DRM generates a loss, because apparently that’s the only language they understand. I’m so not buying anything with this DRM. **** you Ubisoft when I buy a game I bought it, not rented it to play while you feel like maintaining your servers occasionally.

  52. I would strongly encourage any who like video games to pass up any game that has the Ubisoft or EA logo on it. Do not buy it. I only buy games I can keep and do with as I please, with no limited activations or online requirements. I don’t want to have to be online to play a non-MMO-online game. I don’t trust a game that has hidden DRM or SecuRom in it that are really just viruses that run in the background, and can harm your computer, and send private information to the companies. There is nothing stopping these programs from sending your surfing habits, or forwarding documents on your computer, or recording your passwords or anything else that is private. I don’t pirate games. I buy them. I Unfortunately got burned on Spore, another game with DRM. Installed it played it and was disappointed on how horrible the game was, then I find out that it actually installed a DRM securom Virus on my computer. I will never buy another EA or UBisoft game again. If you make really good video games, and pay close attention to fans and have a really efficient customer-developer relationship business model like Blizzard or Stardock, you don’t have to install DRM or anything like that in your games, and piracy won’t hurt you because the mere good quality of your game will be all you need. Look at star craft. I have bought so many copies of that game over the years for friends, and their success speaks for itself. They have world tournaments for that game and it has been popular since 1998. Blizzard has lots of methods of making sure the game works, but they don’t use DRM.

  53. I’ve gotten to the point where I only play games which are actually free software. I make an exception for games which are 20 years old and which tell unique stories — and those are practically impossible to get decent copies of now *unless* you download them from abandonware (“piracy”) sites. Even the rare commercial rereleases are generally defective, though I’ll buy them if they made some effort to curate them properly.

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