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Gamer Rights Management – Ubisoft drops ‘Always-On’ DRM, uPlay PC launches

According to Rock Paper Shotgun, Ubisoft have ditched the ‘Always On’ component of their uPlay Services platform, instead moving to a one-time activation system alongside the account management system that ties all game purchase to a uPlay account.

The French publisher has been confusingly schizophrenic with regards to their much maligned system – recent high-profile games (basically Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood & Revelations) did not ship with anything more than a one-time check, popular games such as Driver: San Francisco, Ghost Recon & Anno 2070 had their DRM downgraded to the one-time check, Assassins Creed 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction were updated to only require a check on each game launch, H.A.W.X. 2 and Settlers 7 are still heavily shackled, RUSE launched with Steamworks whilst Rayman: Origins followed Prince of Persia 2008 in having no DRM at all!

This move closely follows the unveiling of uPlay PC, a web-based store front selling Ubisoft titles direct to PC customers – think Ubisoft following EA in taking a piece of the digital download pie from Valve.

Clearly the management realised that constantly insulting/shafting one of the crowds that stands to grow as the current console generation dwindles to a close wasn’t working.

This post will be updated after RPS release their interview with Ubisoft, where they’ll be pressed to explain their 95% Piracy claims. Anyone else want to bet its something along the lines of ‘well, we looked at some torrent sites, made up some other numbers and PIRATES!’

Update – RPS’s Interview is live here and it contains a lot of grey marketing terms such as ‘customer feedback’, but no real answers.

This is of course understandable – Ubisoft is publicly traded, so openly admitting ‘ok, we fucked up’ will please no-one and could gank the company on the stock market – but if you read between the lines and double-speak, it seems like PC gamers were actually listened to at some point in the process, probably when sales petered off until they stopped the hardest of the hard DRM and sales jumped.

They admit the ‘official’ company line on why the DRM was instigated was regretable, as were the talking heads playing the piracy card with no real figures or clarification on formats, countries, sources of data or hard numbers. Apparently those details are kept quiet for ‘competitive’ reasons – obviously it’s either part of some secret Illuminati code or it just transpires they’re bullshit.

We may never know, but at least we can now start playing Ubisoft games again knowing that for once a company has listened to a number of principled customers voting with their wallets.

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