Ubisoft Caves On DRM

Many people don't like digital rights management software, as Electronic Arts found out when it released a DRM-laden version of "Spore" earlier this year. Gamers not only trashed the company on Amazon but also filed at least three separate lawsuits against it.

And, for all the bad publicity, the DRM was completely ineffective in stopping piracy. "Spore" showed up on BitTorrent almost immediately -- where it was downloaded more than 500,000 times in 10 days, according to TorrentFreak.

Now, given the backlash against DRM, Ubisoft has just started selling the boxed version of its latest title, "Prince of Persia," without such software. The move came after users began posting preemptive complaints on a company forum.

"I won't buy the new prince of persia if it comes with any kind of online or limited activations," wrote one commenter.

Another warned Ubisoft that increasing the DRM would only "increase the challenge" of cracking it.

"If people want to pirate the game they will," said a third.

That last remark spurred Ubisoft community developer UbiRazz to state that the game wouldn't have DRM. "You're right when you say that when people want to pirate the game they will but DRM is there to make it as difficult as possible for pirates to make copies of our games. A lot of people complain that DRM is what forces people to pirate games but as PoP PC has no DRM we'll see how truthful people actually are. Not very, I imagine," UbiRazz writes.

ArsTechnica finds the tenor of UbiRazz's post "surly and antagonistic."

TechDirt characterizes it as "accusatory," adding that DRM could only prevent piracy if it worked 100% of the time. "Once someone makes a copy, it's available everywhere," Mike Masnick writes. "For DRM to work, it needs to stop EVERY individual, because as soon as one makes a cracked version available, it's available to everyone, and no amount of DRM in the world will matter."

Regardless of Ubisoft's attitude towards DRM, the company's decision to release "Prince of Persia" without it is a step in the right direction.

Gamers have legitimate gripes against DRM. With "Spore," for instance, people who purchased the title found the DRM limited their ability to install it on as many computers as they would like, or sell it when they no longer want to play it.

DRM also has proven a hindrance to perfectly lawful consumer behavior in other contexts. Consider, people who purchase tracks bought at Apple's iTunes store, for instance, can't easily play them on devices other than iPods because of Apple's DRM. As with games, there's no evidence that this type of software has ever once effectively prevented piracy or done anything other than frustrate law-abiding consumers.

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3 comments about "Ubisoft Caves On DRM".
  1. Matthew Maginley from Maginley & Company , December 12, 2008 at 7:45 p.m.

    There will always be an element that finds anarchy fashionable. I guess the end users in this market want to have increased competition and thinks this is the way to achieve this. If this has the effect of lower margins will it necessarily increase the number and quality of titles?

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston , December 12, 2008 at 8:27 p.m.

    Yet another stunning pro-piracy, anti-intellectual property rights diatribe from Wendy Davis. If she's not railing on the RIAA for going after pirates, she complaining about game makers who try to thwart thieves. To her, it's so bloody unfair that users can't do as they please.

    Look, I hate DRM as much as the next person, but why would anyone buying a single copy of a game want to install it on more than one machine, if not to share it with their friends, to cheat the copyright holder out of their property? Why should people with one computer subsidize those with many computers?

    Yes, like the poor, there will always be pirates, but why does MediaPost need a staffer to champion the freedom of thieves, ad nauseum? Sorry for another ad hominem counterattack, but I'm so weary of these posts that I guess I shall just put a Wendy Davis filter on my email to maintain my sanity. Later.

  3. Ted Wright from Fizz , December 12, 2008 at 9:47 p.m.

    Hurray for Ubisoft. And hurray for the Spore fans for making such a big stink that other firms had to learn from their mistake.