Part of their plan involves "companion gaming," and more connectivity means "the less a pirated game should work", resulting in pirated copies being more trouble than fun.
"Will some people still pirate? Yeah, they will. Will the person who really wants that broad experience pirate? We hope not," said Ubisoft's digital publishing boss Chris Early.
Spin-off titles and apps on mobile devices and social networks make up 'companion gaming' which seeks to reward the core game experience, but constant updates will also 'lessen' the value of piracy believes Ubisoft.
"The question is, with enough on-going content development, content release, engagement at the community level, can we create that kind of MMO value system?" he asked.
"I think we can. As the rest of the game industry continues to evolve, the more you hear more about cloud gaming, the more you hear about companion gaming, the less a pirated game should work in all of that environment. So, therefore the value of that pirated content becomes less."
Driver: San Francisco and From Dust both featured Ubisoft's PC DRM but both titles were altered so that neither required to always be connected to function as the fan outcry was volatile. The greater source of contention is when Ubisoft servers go down and render titles unplayable, like Driver and Anno 2070 experienced not too long ago.
Ubisoft claimed its DRM policy curtailed piracy of their PC titles. Minecraft creator Marcus 'Notch' Persson blasted the publisher for their "insane" practice and even advocated that pirated copies didn't suffer downtime. "Protip: if you pirate Ubisoft games instead of buying them, they will work fine if your internet connection goes down," twittered Notch.
Early acknowledges that Ubisoft walks a fine line between protecting their products, which they've a right to do, but also not inconveniencing customers.
"Is it fair for someone to enjoy our content without us receiving some value for that? I think at the core of that is, no," he said. "Otherwise, other than works of charity, there would be few games made. The balance, however, is, how do we do anything about that and not harm the person who is giving us value for that?"
"That's been the delicate balance that the industry has walked over time. It continues to be one that we grapple with as an industry. How do we create content and receive good value for that, and at the same time, not inconvenience the player who has given us value there?"
"I don't know that there is a perfect answer today. There are some technological answers. There are some design answers. There have been different approaches from different publishers at times, some doing no DRM and just assuming it's the cost of doing business. Some are doing a very strict DRM. Some doing an on-going content revision," he continued.
"I don't think we have a single, good answer yet. The interesting thing will be, how do we create enough value that that need for DRM goes away?"
The Witcher 2 developer CD Projekt RED completely disagrees with Ubisoft's approach and has vowed to never bother with DRM with their products ever again as sales remained high despite have very lax or even no protection for the highly anticipated sequel. Ubisoft's Chris Early did affirm they're trying to lessen their DRM's intrusion.
"As we continue to keep our player at the centre, we want to find ways that don't inconvenience that player who is paying for it," he said. "We've had a variety of degrees of success as we wind our way down that path. Our plan, our hope is we stay on the less intrusive, less cumbersome side of that path as we go on."
Has DRM become nothing but a punishment to legitimate customers, and a joke to pirates? For all the money studios pour into protecting their software with fancy checks, they always get cracked. Surely it's time to fight another way?
Ubisoft sees "MMO value system" as way to curb PC piracy
23 March 2012 | By Simon Priest