Earlier this month, Ubisoft announced that the upcoming PC version of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood will not feature the same DRM system as Assassin’s Creed II.
Yes, of course, this is a good thing – the old system was completely unfair, and drove away a lot of customers, losing many more sales than piracy alone would have done.
But let’s not be too hasty with the celebrations. After all, AC:B will still need to have some form of copy-protection – Ubisoft wouldn’t have it any other way. Can this new system really win back the hearts, minds and, most importantly, wallets of those who didn’t purchase ACII because of the DRM?
First, some background. Those of you who know me will know that, for a good month or two early last year, pretty much all I talked about was the utterly ludicrous set of anti-piracy measures that Ubisoft had seen fit to include with the PC version of Assassin’s Creed II. In short, their DRM (Digital Rights Management) system was restrictive to the point of insanity – not only did you have to log in to the Ubisoft servers in order to play, but if for any reason the connection was lost while you were playing, the game would forcibly pause until the connection was restored, without even saving the game, leaving the player with a choice to quit, losing all unsaved progress, or to just sit and stare at the screen in the hopes that the game might spring back into life. This was, at the time, incredibly controversial, and is still the most restrictive form of DRM used to date.
What all of this means is that anyone who didn’t have a solid, reliable Internet connection just couldn’t play. Some of the most vocal opposition came from groups like oil rig workers and military personnel – people stuck in remote areas, with little or no access to the Internet.
Of course, this over-zealous attack on piracy ultimately backfired – the system was cracked, as all anti-piracy measures ultimately are, and the game was released by several pirate groups. Anyone who wanted to play ACII offline could do so, with no restrictions whatsoever, and without having to pay Ubisoft a single penny. The only thing Ubi had achieved was to drive honest customers towards piracy.
More recently, Ubisoft have quietly removed some of the more restrictive elements from ACII’s DRM, leaving it in a much more agreeable state.
So what’s going to be different with AC:B? Here’s what I have managed to find out so far.
- Each copy of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood will be linked to a single Ubisoft ‘UPlay’ account
- Players will need to log in to the Ubisoft servers to register their game to their account when they install the game
- Players will not need to log in every time they want to play
- Players will not be kicked out of the game if their connection drops while playing
At the moment, I can’t really see any problems with this. To be honest, the system described above actually sounds less restrictive than Steam, which I use every single day without complaint. I’m glad I can finally get on with being incredibly excited about the game, rather than worrying about how badly I’d be shafted if I tried to buy it.
I mean, seriously. Look at it. How can you NOT want to play that? Also, GameStop can fuck right off.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether this shift in direction is the end of the UbiDRM saga, or just the beginning of another ludicrous chapter. With their copy protection getting more and more like Steam, there’s only one question left unanswered – why the hell did they not just use Steam to begin with?