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Five reasons I’ll never buy a Ubisoft game

You may have gathered from some of my previous columns that Ubisoft isn’t exactly my favourite company.

It’s not because I don’t like their games (which, generally, I don’t), but more because of the way they treat the people who do.

I plan on never buying a Ubisoft title. Here’s why.

uPlay

Might as well get this out of the way quickly.

uPlay sucks, everybody hates it, literally nobody wants to deal with it. If Ubisoft ever manage to crank out a PC game I’d actually like to buy, I’d strongly consider buying it and then pirating it just so I don’t have to deal with another piece of third-party software I don’t want.

Yes, Origin, I’m looking at you too. Although I can say Origin has never tried to shove unreasonable, game-breaking DRM down my throat.

You get DRM, and YOU get DRM, and YOU get DRM!

Ubisoft has a long history of picking the DRM “solutions” that their customers hate the most, and then putting it into all of their games.

Some of you may remember the grand high poobah of crappy DRM, the hard-drive melting StarForce. And, if you do, you’ll surely remember that Ubisoft clung to it like a safety blanket dipped in heroin.

It wasn’t too long before the Internet rallied against the draconian DRM, calling it malware and linking it to OS vulnerabilities and actual hard-drive degradation – as well as the inconvenient fact that it was damned near impossible to remove. StarForce was the creepy guy at the party that no one invited, who hung around long after everyone else had left to show you his dead spider collection.

Hell, you had to download a third-party tool just to eradicate the damned thing from your system before it could melt your hard disk. A bit like a race-against-the-clock Bruce Willis movie, just with less bad accents.

Ubisoft eventually caved after a lawsuit was filed against them and an online poll showed that their consumers were massively against StarForce. So, being the good people that they are, they finally replaced it. With SecuROM – the other massively controversial DRM system, which also likes to hang around after the thing it’s protecting is long since removed. This one was so bad that EA had a class-action lawsuit filed against them for using it in Spore.

Remember when we thought this game was going to be incredible? Yeah... it really wasn't.

Remember when we thought this game was going to be incredible? Yeah… it really wasn’t.

Ha, you thought I was done, didn’t you? Silly. Since none of these third-party options were working out, and since the console users hadn’t yet hulk-smashed nearly as many peripherals as their PC-playing counterparts, Ubisoft decided to do away with all that stuff and introduce their own form of DRM.

An always-online requirement, as seen in the likes of Assassin’s Creed II. Keep in mind that in 2013, when Microsoft announced that their then-upcoming Xbox One console would need a permanent broadband connection, the Internet collectively lost its mind. Bounties were placed on Don Mattrick’s head, petitions were created by the thousands and Kaz Hirai chuckled and started choosing which island country he was going to buy next.

Meanwhile, Ubisoft had done exactly the same thing to PC gamers four years prior to Microsoft’s announcement.

So, if at any point while you were playing ACII you lost your connection to the Internet, the game would forcefully pause and all progress would be lost.

Ubisoft’s response to the matter? “There’re a lot of checkpoints.”

When the DRM fails, just don’t make PC games. They’ll just get pirated anyway

Since Ubisoft couldn’t quite get the whole DRM thing quite right, they just decided to cut out the PC sector entirely – since, you know, we’re all a bunch of dirty software thieves anyway.

According to CEO Yves Guillemot, “93-95 percent” of PC players playing their games weren’t paying for it. Wow, that’s a scarily large number considering it’s based on actual statistical evidence and objective data.

Just kidding: he effectively Copperfield’d those percentages out of thin air. But I’m sure it’s close.

I would go into the whole piracy =/= lost sales thing again, but we’ve banged that drum enough as it is. In fact, almost everyone at this point seems to know that piracy has very little impact on sales at all – everyone except the CEO of one of the biggest games publishers in the world, that is.

Yves often says dumb things, then just maintains eye contact until everyone walks away.

“Please don’t mention Steam. Please don’t mention Steam. Phew.”

Alright, alright we’ll port our games for you. Poorly.

When Ubisoft does actually decide to acknowledge the PC market, they do so in the laziest manner possible.

Resident Evil 4 might be the actual worst port ever, since it didn’t seem to think adding support for a freakin’ mouse was necessary (and yes, Ubisoft handled the PC port of this Capcom title, delegating it to some unknown Hong Kong dev). Then of course there’s the hamfisted original Assassin’s Creed, Call of Juarez, and how will we ever forget Watch Dogs – the toned-down and buggy pile of mess that recently arrived after multiple delays intended to improve quality and ensure a smooth launch.

Honestly, there are plenty of other examples – like the Anno game that would disable itself when you switched graphics cards (a DRM issue, again).

Ubisoft’s response has been dismissive throughout, mostly claiming that everything is fine and they’re doing a great job.

Speaking of which…

General disrespect towards their consumers

Where to even start with this?

After a horrific Watch Dogs launch where half the player base couldn’t get into the game and another significant chunk couldn’t play the game, period, Ubisoft publicly congratulated themselves on a good launch.

When asked about PC optimisation, Assassin’s Creed IV’s associate producer said that it wasn’t important because if the game wasn’t running fast enough, you could just buy a bigger GPU. Of course he quickly stated that that statement was “taken out of context”, which is the same thing politicians say about all those pictures of their genitals found on their secretaries’ cellphones.

Just recently we had the fiasco over the lack of playable female characters in Far Cry 4 and the new Assassin’s Creed, for which Ubisoft gave three different excuses, none of which were credible and some of which didn’t even make sense.

That’s basically a pattern with them, really. They refuse to admit fault, make up poor excuses and contradict themselves constantly.

And then they count all their money.

And then they count all their money.

Remember that horrific DRM I mentioned earlier that locked paying customers out of their own games? According to Ubisoft it was a “success” and “worked as intended”. Alright then.

I’m not someone to jump down a developer’s/publisher’s throat the second they make a mistake, but to not admit any wrongdoing, to lie and cover things up and pretend everything is swell and you’re just the gosh-darn best, that pisses me off.

I’m unwilling to buy a game from a company that treats its customers like lobotomised drones with credit cards. This isn’t even exclusively a PC or a console issue. It’s a quality of service issue.

And it’s a level of service I’m not willing to pay for.

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  • Squirly

    Spent 2 hours trying to get Far Cry 3 to work because of Uplay. Almost made me hate the person who gifted it to me.
    Ubisoft says PC players aren’t a priority and that most of us pirate their games, then proceeds to give us reason to pirate their games.

    • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

      It’s the classic example of games that work better pirated. I’ve had legitimate copies of games before that I’ve pirated because the illegal copy is more convenient. Sad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

    Jim Sterling puts it rather succinctly; “Ubisoft is not a PC publisher. It’s never been one, it never will be and every time the company claims that PC is important and it’s dedicated to the market is really talking utter ****ing shite. Years and years of evidence points to the contrary.”

    • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

      I agree. Honestly they should just stop making PC titles, and stop pretending that “PC is important” to them.

  • FanieNel

    I couldn’t have said it any better.
    Everyone should read this and become aware of what they are doing.

    • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

      Gamers have a short memory. We’ll all be outraged at getting screwed over one year, and then clamouring the buy the next title the following year. The big publishers continue to do whatever they like because it doesn’t affect sales.

      • FanieNel

        I bought Black Flag on PC, and it was surprisingly fun. I also played it online at times. It looked like they were starting to make amends, but then Uplay was still there. Most of the time I couldn’t even play the game due to connection issues (even if offline mode).

        After Watch Dogs, I’m not going to be supporting them any more. Far Cry 4 is looking good and interesting, but I won’t buy it at all. I’ll play it through other means.

        Publishers should get their heads out of their behinds and start looking at their customers and change to make them happy. They should also give more focus on PC games and not just consoles. PC ports are 90% of the time badly done, and they should really start to bring the expected quality back to the games. They got enough sales, it’s time to put that money to good use.

      • James

        I’m quite the opposite :P

        • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

          Good to hear, but you’re probably in the minority sadly.

  • Squirly

    So did this article go through a wormhole or something?

    • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

      The original could have stepped on a few toes… :-P

      • Squirly

        But those are the best kind!

        • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

          I too am a fan of steppable toes, so much better than those tricksy stealth toes.

    • Miklós Szecsei

      No, you went through a wormhole. Future Squirly commented on it 6 days ago… or something. I’m confused.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

    Also, I haven’t bought a new EA game since Crysis 3 and only because I liked the series and wanted the entire collection. EA pulls this kind of crap just as much as Ubisoft, but at least they’re honest enough to allow you to return the games you bought on Origin for a refund.

    • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

      EA has supposedly been trying to clean up their act, but their recent microtransaction stuff really isn’t helping their case (nor did SimCity).

      While their excuses are often pathetic, I do find them a little more palatable – less of the flippant, “it’s your own fault” bad attitude I see from Ubi.

      • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

        Ubisoft – It’s your own fault.
        EA – It’s powered by the cloud.
        Take2 – Here, have more games!
        Valve – Here, have more sales and Steam cards.
        Activision – Another P2P match, guys?

        • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

          Hahaha, brilliant. The Activision one killed me.

  • James

    Completly agree with you there, not to mention annual releases ala Assassind Greed

    • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

      Activision probably wins that one, but at least they’re honest about it, lol.

  • Delano

    The problem is, Ubisoft has made more than a few games which I really enjoy: from Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon to From Dust to the legendary Rayman, there’s a lot in their library to like. There seems to be a massive gap between their actual developers and the corporate and financial bigwigs at the top.

    I would contend that Uplay is far worse than Origin. At least Origin, superfluous as it may be, is a stand-alone app. Uplay runs in tandem with Steam. Why the hell do I need to run *two* content delivery applications just to play a game?!

    • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

      Haha I didn’t even know that (I’ve never used it). That’s so bad.

      • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

        Origin is okay, it runs well enough to not be a nuisance anymore. Back in the day, though, teething issues galore just like Steam. And there is STILL no backup option for game files, you actually have to navigate to the downloaded install files folder and copy them over manually and then patch them once you re-install them.

        • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

          Yeah I have it for a couple of games and I don’t hate it, but it feels completely lacking in features and just rather unnecessary. I use it essentially to launch my games and nothing more.

    • Miklós Szecsei

      Yep, wanted to play Blood Dragon over the weekend (hadn’t played it yet) so launched my Steam copy, which then proceeded to download Uplay and about 45 minutes worth of updates before I could play my game.

      I agree with you regarding Ubi’s games: I think their developers and creative types are awesome and I LOVE a lot of their games, but god almighty does corporate Ubisoft suck.

  • Leonardo

    I am a fan of several ubisoft games and to me it’s mostly worth putting up with the crap they dish out to play the games I love. I game on PC and nearly did ditch them when U(can’t)play was introduced with ACII and Splinter Cell Conviction, note nearly (I got copied versions of both so I could play them at the time). Some time later a patch was released that allows Uplay to run in offline mode and the same for those two games. I don’t play any games online anymore and don’t have the Cap to keep my PC connected while I play or even update my games every time a new update releases but I have had next to no problems with either uplay or their current games that I actually like (okay after the third update for ACIV it broke my game, but uninstall and reinstall and it worked perfectly again). I don’t like Uplay, but I am willing to deal with it for the games.

    My watchdogs runs without a single issue (other than my system specs sucking so I have to tune down the graphics badly), Splinter Cell Blacklist, no problems, Assassin’s Creed IV, III, Liberation HD, no problems.

    I am not saying they don’t need an attitude adjustment but which big dev doesn’t nowadays? Activision tops the “we don’t have any creativity” list with adding yet another shooter to their list of game releases and still cranking out annual releases of COD, they even added a third studio to develop the same old, but the same old sells so why change it? EA releases things so broken it deserves a Gordon Ramsey meme and their games require several updates before you are able to play it, assuming they don’t start releasing game-fixing-patches as DLC. You have to choose which struggles you feel are worth putting up with I guess. To be fair though, they should stick to console releases… and I should totally get a console, for science.

    • Squirly

      Here’s the thing about Uplay – once I got it working, it worked. I haven’t had any issues with it, even when I don’t have internet I can set it to Offline mode without issues.

      But getting it there had me struggling for over 2 hours, something I haven’t had to do with any PC game released in the last few years. I felt like I was back in 1999 trying to convince Windows to run Duke Nukem 3D.

      PC Gaming has come far in the last few years. Steam has made it pathetically easy to play your games, and barring being absolutely clueless about what your machine is capable of, nobody should have any issues buying, downloading, installing and playing a game.

      Uplay ruins all of that by being a piece of afterware that can’t be bothered to do things right. I’m pretty sure the only reason I had so much trouble is because my version of Uplay was too old, but it’s the one that came bundled with FC3 in the Steam download. Why did nobody ever consider that fact when they created this piece of crap software?

      • Leonardo

        I cannot remember which year it was but I got Saints Row 2 for Christmas one year, and to install it you had to install steam which came bundled on the disc. Now back then I already disliked steam, it was a very crappy program that ruined great games in my opinion at the time. So I installed it and it asked me to restart my PC before I could install the game and BAM! Blue screen of death. Enter safe mode and uninstall steam, PC works fine, reinstall steam, blue screen. Did this like 10 times to make sure but nothing changed. Downloaded the latest one from their webpage, same thing. I absolutely loathed steam, I was even yelling at the steam coming from the kettle in the kitchen over it stopping me from playing the game. I ended up formatting my PC 3 times as well to see if that could fix the problem but nothing changed. So I took it back and demanded they exchange it, got Mass Effect 1 in its place. I HATED steam, every last byte of it.

        Fast forward a few years and I am happily running Origin, Uplay and steam (for all three my Batman games, DMC, Tomb Raider, Darkness 2 and Injustice), but it took a while for me to sort steam out and trust it again, I dodged great games because they required steam for many years because of this.

        Way I see it is a learning curve. Steam had to learn to work and I had to learn how steam works. They changed a lot of stuff on it and it now isn’t a pain in the hard drive to get games running on it. I don’t mean to say Uplay will ever work as it should or that Ubisoft will actually fix it properly but maybe they just need time too.

        • Squirly

          I get that, I do. Steam was crud when it first started out, but let’s be honest here, that was almost a decade ago. Both EA and Ubisoft had the opportunity to learn from Steam (especially now that it’s working pretty brilliantly) and had more than enough resources to design their own software properly. The fact that Uplay falls over whenever the version that comes bundled with a game is out of date means that any game that’s more than 6 months old will have this issue in the future. It’s short-sighted and shows they didn’t think this through.

          • Leonardo

            This is very true, they had the time and money and Steam being a great working product they could have copied it’s success or just bloody used it instead of some make shift software. As I said though, choose which struggle is worth while.

            Hell maybe treat Uplay like Dark Souls, sit with the frustration and struggle on end until you see a spark of hope, just to fail again, but in the end those moments when you triumph makes it all worth it (Assassiny goodness)… or not. To each their own.

        • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

          I was thinking along the same lines as Squirly – since Steam has done all the legwork, can’t other platforms just learn from that model?

          We’ve seen now what works and what doesn’t, having crappy broken clients just seems inexcusable in 2014.

  • Tevin

    100% agree with this article! Glad to see I’m not the only 1 that feels this way.

    • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

      ^5, let’s hang out and not play Ubisoft games :P

  • Daniel Lotz

    Ubisoft may be a horrible company but titles like AC do play well on PC despite the so called lack of optermisation, which I didn’t experiance. In my opinion the only way to combate game piracy is to add online features which encourage gamers to buy games to get the full experiance of the game.

  • Gimff

    I hate Uplay and I dont like the company so much either BUT I do think that they release some of the best games, Far cry 3, Watch dogs, Assassins creed (not anymore (got boring))

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