Ubisoft and PC gamers: This new relationship is not off to a good start

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

By 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.

24 comments (Leave your own)

Well said Tim.

Personally I have no problems with big publishers assessing the new online marketplace and thinking “Why should our competitors (Valve/Steam) have all the fun? Lets get in there!”. However there needs to be a level of quality for it to be worthwhile. These digital retailers need to understand; we are buying from them as a credit to them. This is the internet; there are other easier, cheaper, avenues customers could take (you yourself mentioned them in your article: torrents).
Legal and moral issues aside, these digital content providers are effectively competing against these alternate avenues and when it comes down to it, unless they can effectively turn this DRM software into a selling point and not a hindrance they should leave it to their more experienced competitors (be it Steam, Origin, or others). Failing to do so only alienates their customers and actively works against that ‘relationship’ you mentioned.

 

What I’d prefer to see is a universal control centre with one login that EA, Ubisoft, etc can use when setting up profiles (similar to how EA links Origin accounts with PSN/XBL gamertags).

This control centre would allow for product activation, DLC management and automatic updates (much like Steam does now) along with a central community point with one friends list that spans all games (again, much like Steam does now).

We shouldn’t need to have 50 different accounts with different friends lists just to play PC games. This control centre would cut the number of logins needed for gameplay to 1. The login path can also be used in an OAuth style manner for website logins that give access to web based community features like Saints Row 3′s character sharing (similar to how you can sign into sites with your Twitter and/or Facebook accounts now).

Ideally, such a system would be run by a company that’s independent of all the game publishers to eliminate potential bias. It can also be (but doesn’t have to be) a store for buying games with EA, Ubisoft, etc allowed to operate their own storefronts that issue activation keys for this master account (similar to what GMG does with Steam keys).

Basically I’m thinking of a cross between Steam and Raptr but minus the console integration Raptr has.

 

FFS Palzero, you just don’t get it. They are completely entitled to run their own service, Origin, Uplay, Steam, whatever, and they can be as exclusive as they like with their titles on their own platforms, get used to it. The point is the quality of the way they go about it. In the end let them have their way, and if you don’t like it, don’t buy their stuff. If no one buys it they will soon change, but everyone bitches about it, then still buys their games. Look at BF3 and all the bitching about Origin, but the bulk of people still went out and got it.

Would you go into a Ford dealership and ask to buy a brand new Holden Commodore?

 

My main problem with needing uplay to open steam games, specifically trials, is that when I open uplay by itself trials isn’t there, it’s just a steam game that launches with uplay.

 
Lord_Apophis

mearehear:
Would you go into a Ford dealership and ask to buy a brand new Holden Commodore?

I did that once. Mind you I didn’t have the money for a new car anyway and it was mainly for laughs as I knew the people that worked in the dealership.

On the brighter side though, I do thank Ubisoft for giving me their entire games collection a couple of years ago due to a bug in their online ordering system, bugs seem to be a common thing with Ubisoft’s services.

I think what frustrates me the most though is that Origin and Ubisoft have very poor support for their older games, I’m not talking patches… But say you have an old copy of Assassins Creed 1, you can’t just add the key into uPlay and be done with, it’s almost a gamble.
Same thing goes with Origin, I have some old EA games which just won’t register in Origin. It’s frustrating.

However a 15 year old copy of StarCraft will register fine through Blizzards Battle.net website and any Valve game will activate fine in Steam…
If they won’t let me add older games, why should I buy new ones only for them to drop such basic things in the future? Until they stop being so anti-consumer and acting like they have the right to sell millions of copies and take everyone’s money, then I ain’t giving them a dime.

 
charliebrownau

I think its marketing LIES and BS HYPE
Go check out the R6, GR and SC forums to see the loads of lack of commication

Check out GRFS1 PC forum to see the LOAD OF ISSUES in MP and uplay

Check out their support system for tones of issues with uplay

If they want to fix their “Relationship”

START COMMUNICATING AND FIXING THE SOFTWARE

 

This is what is frustrating me about money grubby business men Ubisoft appear to be very bad at the game of business but they don’t care they are probably making enough money as it is this is a prime example as to why piracy is so popular providing an easy alternative to avoid the annoying problems in the gaming world.

 

this is going to sound backhanded, but whatever.

genuinely impressed i didn’t read the first part elsewhere first (not rps or reddit).

this is good content and like charlie brown says, so very half-life 2.

 

The whole uPlay leak is one of the most hilarious corporate screwups I’ve seen in a long time. Literally all it took was one executable placed in the uPlay folder, and writing two one-line batch files, and bam, you have a legitimate, ready to download copy of the game sitting in your uPlay menu. It’s ridiculous.

 

Not that we would ever condone exploiting software at all…. like Blood Dragon :)

Plus there should be single signon apps in the market soon that rule your gaming experience. Clients like Steam or Origin having APIs may be a stretch of the imagination, but 3rd party applications that can imitate the ad-full, propaganda gaming machines. /endrant

 
 

mearehear,

I said nothing about not allowing Ubisoft, EA, etc to have games exclusive to their stores. All I want is a way to cut down on the number of logins required for PC gaming by having a central client/platform that’s compatible with each company’s auth systems.

Currently, we need logins for Steam, Origin, Uplay, GFWL, Battle.net and various MMOs. Why can’t we cut the number of logins required to one master login that everyone else piggybacks on?

 

Sounds like a hacker’s wet dream…

 

PalZer0,

You said “”What I’d prefer to see is a universal control centre with one login that EA, Ubisoft,”. Notice how you left out Steam?

Then you said “This control centre would allow for product activation, DLC management and automatic updates” & “much like Steam does now”. You are constantly putting Steam outside of the criticism when it does the same bloody thing uplay and Origin do. Just because you don’t say it outright, doesn’t mean the message isn’t there. They have EVERY right to manage there own products activations and DLC in any way they see fit, and we have every right to not buy their products when they make a mess of it, which is exactly how you would (and should) send the message that they have screwed up their service!

Going back to the cars, do you think Holden, Ford, Toyota, Nissan etc are all going to say, for the sake of Palzeros convenience lets fore go our own service centres and dealerships, where we make our money and hold certain market exclusivity, and instead have all our cars serviced, sold and managed by one “unbiased, independent” third party. That’s what you are wishing Origin and Uplay “etc” would do. Yeah right!

 

PalZer0 wants a monopoly that can charge whatever they want for this magical service that every single company should use, so games are more expensive for everyone.

A few of us have gone over this more than once with him, he still seems to think they’ll be happy to run entirely at cost, and not want to profit at all.

 

Actually in an ideal world I’d agree with PalZer0. It is inconvenient to have ten tonne worth of content delivery services and MMO clients to manage, a centralized login system would be wonderful. One account, one password, no messing around trying to remember which account logs into what, which password restrictions work where, what program attaches to which game, etc. And having a dozen different clients running at once, Origin, Steam, Desura, Beamdog, UPlay, Supermegadownloadclientfromhell, etc. In a perfect world free of hackers and money-grubbing corporate types that would be great.

Not gonna happen though so there’s no point in moaning about it. Sorry PalZer0, it’s just not gonna happen. Or it’ll be incredibly unlikely. If it did I’m guessing you’ll regret asking for it too, as they say “careful what you wish for.”

 

I’ve got the same problem with Steam. I buy physical copies of games only to be told that the game has not been released for a week in my area. Even though I’ve got the game in my hot little hands. This makes me just as furuious. Same as when I buy a physical copy of a game only to have steam say it’s too busy to install it.

 

cyrinno,

The only time I can really think of that happening is when the retail store breaks the street date.

 

great article

 

The crack & the full version was up even before dawns crack.

 
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