Today's woeful leak of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon shows that uPlay still needs a lot of work.
By Tim Colwill on April 9, 2013 at 6:37 pm
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon hasn’t even been announced for PC. There was a listing for it on the Steam database, but no release date (although a pulled XBLA listing claimed May 1). And yet, right now, you can open uPlay on your PC and trick it into downloading it for you. Then, you can play it to your heart’s content. Beginning to end.
This isn’t some half-assed beta. This is the full, finished game. It’s just sitting there on uPlay’s servers, waiting for the bigwigs to pull the switch.
Is this legal? Probably not. And just to be safe, I’m not going to tell you how to do it. By tomorrow morning Ubisoft will have fixed this exploit anyway. They’re not stupid, and in any case, that’s not the point.
The real point here is this: Ubisoft is off to a pretty poor start on its mission to improve its relationship with PC gamers.
This is a joke, right?
There are an enormous amount of areas where uPlay desperately needs to improve. We’ve documented them before. It’s a broken system, to the point where we recently had to spend 45 minutes figuring out how to set up and install some Assassin’s Creed III DLC (which, it turns out, contained only 90 minutes of play time anyway).
It’s a broken system that Ubisoft is even cramming into its Steam titles, forcing you to launch uPlay even when you’ve purchased your game through Steam — or even Origin! Why would I want to use one DRM system that launches another? Why would I want to have to maintain all these different friends lists?
And now, we’re seeing that this system is so broken — so completely broken — that players can actually manually tear the curtains aside, using something as simple as a text editor, and see what they’re not allowed to have. Or even take other games they haven’t paid for!
This is really, really, dumb. Why are we using uPlay again?
Don’t launch a half-baked product and force us to use it
I’ll be the first to argue that Ubisoft have the right, just as EA do, to invent and support their own digital marketplace and game management software. Steam is a middle man, and middle-men need to justify their existence. If a game’s publishers think they can do a better job in the age of the internet than the middle-man they used to sell through, then why shouldn’t they try? It’s madness to suggest otherwise, and if you ran Ubisoft, you’d do it too.
That’s fine, of course — in theory. But there’s no point in launching a service basically designed to steal customers from Steam if the end result is that you provide an experience objectively worse than Steam in every single way.
Ubisoft took a good step when it removed the always-online DRM requirement from its games. The company is to be congratulated for that. But just as having always-online DRM forced on us is unpalatable, so is having to use a system that simply doesn’t do its job.
The Streisand Effect
When videos of Blood Dragon started leaking this morning, Ubisoft just as quickly started to take them down. This, of course, didn’t work — a textbook example of the Streisand Effect in action or, if you prefer a more lowbrow explanation, “trying to take piss out of a pool”.
And, although Ubisoft can lock out Blood Dragon and make it so people won’t be able to play it any more (presumably), the damage here is done. The game’s files are in the open, and they’ll never come down from the internet again. It won’t be long before somebody figures out how to crack them and seventeen different torrents spring into existence.
The graceful way for the company to handle this would be turn around, to own this mistake, and to say “Whoops! Bad call on our part. Here’s all the information about Blood Dragon. We’ll be releasing the PC version on the same day as the console versions.”
I’d be very surprised if that’s what happens. In fact, I’d be very surprised if there’s an official comment on the matter at all.
PC gamers are sick of waiting for Ubisoft titles. Sometimes they’re day-and-date with the console versions — the simultaneous launch of Far Cry 3 for example was well handled — but Assassin’s Creed III players had to wait literally an entire month before they could get their hands on the game (and even then it was lacking in substantial graphics options).
It’s one thing to wait for a game, under the impression that it’s just not ready, or that the company is beavering away on it to make it extra special for your platform. But it’s another thing entirely to wait for a game, only to find out that it’s completely 100% ready and you just… can’t have it. Why? What does this mean? Was Assassin’s Creed III sitting on uPlay’s servers the entire 30 days PC gamers had to wait for it, and all we needed was a text editor to unlock it?
Now is the time
We’ve already outlined here on games.on.net the number of ways we think Ubisoft needs to lift its game, and our commenters have done the same countless times. This anger with Ubisoft’s practices is born not out of misplaced entitlement, but out of simple frustration: we like Ubisoft games. Far Cry 3 was balls-out fun. Assassin’s Creed III was great (mostly). Watch Dogs is looking amazing.
We’re just frustrated because the relationship seems so one-sided. We love these games, and we want to play them — but we have to deal with this utterly broken uPlay framework, and this arms-length treatment. It doesn’t make PC gamers feel wanted, and it doesn’t make us feel like our relationship is improving.
Today’s episode with Blood Dragon has the potential to be a turning point in that relationship — for better or worse. Ubisoft needs to step up and deal with this, before it turns sour.