Apparently they didn't mean that as a percentage across the board but "for some specific or popular" PC titles, from "internal and external research," and that "varies depending on the territory."
It's almost as if someone tried to sensationalise a particular statistic by applying it broadly or something. Ubisoft is now changing tact with regards to the PC market.
"With regard to the numbers, the numbers are coming from both internal and external research," said Stephanie Perotti in an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun. "Research showed that it can reach that rate for some specific or popular PC games, and that number often varies depending on the territory. So we are not saying that it applies to all PC games for all territories, and we’re not saying that the same situation would apply for any game."
Ubisoft's PC titles will now only be activating once online when they first start up and will no longer be limited to a few installations. They're keen to emphasis this with the upcoming PC release of Assassin's Creed III in November which has extensive singleplayer.
Last year Ubisoft boldly claimed that their always-on approach to DRM for PC had in fact been working a treat and significantly reducing piracy for the market, but no comparative data has ever been released and Ubisoft would rather everyone not notice their eagerness to move the conversation along.
"I’m not going to comment on data," said Perotti. "That was an unfortunate comment. We have listened to feedback, and since June last year our policy for all of PC games is that we only require a one-time online activation when you first install the game, and from then you are free to play the game offline."
The publisher is unwilling to outright admit their always-on approach was a mistake.
"We’ve listened to feedback, we will continue to listen to feedback, we will continue to make sure that we deliver great games and great services, and are now operating under this policy," was her reply.
"I think that, as Stephanie said, I think this is where that feedback comes in," added corporate communications manager, Michael Burk. "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." That's as close to an admittance of a mistake PC gamers will get.
Amusingly Burk responds clearly he "wouldn’t say" it was a mistake. "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 added: "I would say the same."
On the issue of publishers never releasing actual piracy stats against DRM 'accomplishments', Perotti said they're "complex topics, and as a company we do not disclose this kind of data for confidentiality reasons." She admits it's damaging to not have data backing up their usually venomous vitriol against PC piracy.
What of the argument that DRM only ever really inconveniences the legitimate customer?
"I wouldn’t say that, actually. I think the fact that you activate your game when you install it is a pretty industry standard process that we’ve seen in our industry," continued Perotti. "That can allow you as well to link your game ownership to your account, which means you can re-download the game for whatever reason, it’s not just for one PC any more. You can accept it from other PCs, etc, so I wouldn’t say it’s something that affects PC gamers."
Outrage came from the Anno community when it was discovered that a change in graphics card would nullify one of the game's already limited activations. "Anno was a very isolated case, and we reacted and increased the limit in that case," she responded. "Whereas now when you purchase a game, we’re uplifting those limits in terms of how activations you can have, and how many installs you can have on the game, and that’s something we’re planning to continue to support."
While the PC community might be still bitter about not receiving much in the way of an 'apology' of sorts for the intrusion of Ubisoft's always-on DRM strategy, we are at least getting something better which is a continued stepping down of the system with only initial one-time activations and limits being removed.
"We need to improve our communication, and make sure we provide better visibility to the PC community on our release dates for PC. We are really working hard to make sure that each game is really tailored for each platform, and sometimes unfortunately we need more time for some platforms," added the online worldwide director.
Ubisoft has made a habit of suddenly delaying PC releases when within weeks of launching console versions. Many have concluded this was another method of discouraging piracy.
"This year you will be able to enjoy Far Cry 3 at the same time as the console version. Assassin’s Creed III, which is a huge game, is coming just a few weeks after the console version, while in the past it was – what – months after."
"So we’re really focusing on making sure that at the same time we provide a really good PC experience, and really as close as possible to the other versions."
The original Assassin's Creed took a long time to come to PC and it suffered terribly from piracy as an early build of the desktop version leaked online. This led to a rise of hostility it seemed from Ubisoft with regards to their PC releases for major franchises. Hopefully the Cold War of DRM is coming closer to an end.
Check out thebetween Stephanie Perotti, Michael Burk and Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
Assassin's Creed III releases on PC November 29th and Far Cry 3 on PC a day later.