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.
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.
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.
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.
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.