So if you were thinking about picking up Assassin's Creed III but were hesitant because of Ubisoft's reknown, reviled always-on DRM, breathe easy, because they have dropped the controversial system in favor of a one-time check when the game is installed. Incidentally, British PC gaming site Rock Paper Shotgun have had an interview with Stephanie Perotti and Michael Burk, Ubisoft's worldwide director for online games and corporate communications manager, respectively. The interview is...interesting.
RPS: Do you acknowledge that always-on DRM has been extremely damaging to Ubisoft’s reputation?
Burk: I think that, as Stephanie said, I think this is where that feedback comes in. We’ve obviously heard from PC customers that they were unhappy with some of the policies that we had in place, and that’s why we’re looking to make these changes – why we have been implementing these changes, as Stephanie says.
RPS: Would you be willing to say that it was a mistake?
Burk: No, I wouldn’t say that. I’ll let Stephanie say what she thinks, but I wouldn’t use those words. This is a process, and we listened to feedback.
Perotti: I would say the same.
And then, when pressed to explain the data collected on user feedback on the DRM collected, this exchange happened:
RPS: Whose confidentiality is being broken by publishing piracy rates?
Burk: It’s internally confidential meaning competitive, not necessarily that we’re breaking anyone’s confidentiality. It’s competitive information and therefore confidential.
RPS: Do you think that’s why no publishers publish such data?
Burk: It’s hard to say. I think as Stephanie said it varies, from game to game, region to region, and so the example that you gave – like Stephanie said, we’ve seen internal and external data to show that it can reach that high. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is that high for all PC games, or that it is that high for all companies, or across all regions. I think that’s one reason why companies are not necessarily broadly publishing this, because we’re trying to get a handle on what it means for different games, different titles.
RPS: But do you understand how damaging it’s been to your argument to never actually say these numbers?
Ubisoft seems to be in an unusual pickle - they are swearing that no mistakes were made as far as their original DRM program, yet they are moving away from them. They say that the data discovered points to the direction their actions are taken, yet they cannot (for very good reason) publish the data, which means many simply must take their word on it. There's more in the interview - Ubisoft is right when they say that DRM's big advantage is more permanent ownership of the game you own, including if the game is lost or broken - but it's all a very worthwhile read.
What do you take out of this interview?
Julian "Mirai" Williams