Ubisoft Backtracks on Driver “Always On” DRM, Instead Goes with Initial Sign-On DRM

Driver: San Francisco
Ubisoft has announced, via a report by Rock, Paper, Shotgun, that their “Always On” DRM has been removed from their upcoming game Driver: San Francisco due to negative backlash by prospective customers. Instead, the game will feature a one-time authentication to Ubisoft’s servers, after which the game will lock into the PC that it’s being authenticated from, but will be able to be played offline.

The full Ubisoft statement confirms the change:

“We’ve heard your feedback regarding the permanent internet connection requirement for Driver and have made the decision to no longer include it. So this means that Driver PC gamers will only need to sign in at game launch but can subsequently choose to play the game offline.”

Ubisoft had previously stated on their Twitter page at the end of July that the game would feature its controversial “Always On” DRM, which requires gamers be continuously connected to the Internet to play even the single-player modes of the game, and causes players to be kicked out of their games if their Internet connection drops. The DRM scheme was featured in the PC port of Assassin’s Creed II, which caused backlash and even distributed denial of service attacks against the DRM servers. The DRM was eventually patched out.

The UPlay Passport, Ubisoft’s “online pass” system which forces used buyers of the game to purchase a $10 code to get online connectivity, is still going to be in effect.

The PC version of Driver 2 is scheduled for release in North America on September 27th, three weeks after its release on home consoles.

Analysis: First off, I have to ask this, and more seriously than I would initially like to admit: Is Ubisoft trying to poison the well when it comes to PC gaming? No, really—sad as it is, this is a serious question. They have had so many missteps with their PC games: shoddy ports, DRM issues, excessive price points ($60 for Assassin’s Creed II‘s terrible port?) and a generally tone-deaf approach to public relations (they’ve stated their only concern with the DRM is to cut piracy, which they say they’ve succeeded in). At this point, I have to wonder if it’s intentional. For AAA publishers, stand-alone PC games tend not to do that well. If Ubisoft is going to do stuff like this—stuff that a nine-year-old, let alone an experienced market analyst, is going to predict backlash on—one has to wonder if there’s an ulterior motive.

Failing this absurd logic, two more realistic trains of thought come into play. The first and most obvious is that Ubisoft is run by people who are more clueless than your average suit and are instead run by executive robots, who are running an advanced algorithm for trying to change user behavior that is as cold as it is brutally efficient: HUMAN CONSUMER MUST HAVE PLAYING HABITS TRAINED. HUMAN CONSUMER HAS SHOWN TENDANCIES TOWARDS ACCEPTANCE OF PROCESS RIGHTS MANAGEMENT. EXECUTING SCRIPT. HUMAN SHOWING RESISTANCE ERROR ERROR.

The second idea is that this is actually a marketing ploy. Bear in mind that Capcom got “props” for doing something very similar with Super Street Fighter IV Arcade; people made it seem like they were “listening” to their fans. If they were really listening, they never would have tried this type of DRM in the first place. The only way this makes sense is that Ubisoft saw the softened reaction to what Capcom did, went, “We can do this and keep Driver‘s name out there!” and went to do the same thing, knowing what the reaction would be. However, even this doesn’t make sense because, as From Dust showed, Ubisoft is willing to flat-out lie about their DRM. At this point, I can’t even take “single authentication” at face value because they’ve since “clarified” (read: spun like a top) that the DRM in From Dust makes you log in every time you play. I’m willing to bet that’s exactly what they’re doing with Driver, though that’s unconfirmed at this point.

At this point, anyone who buys a Ubisoft PC game is a fool, and anyone who preorders one—considering the pathetic history they have with the market—is an even bigger one. Ubisoft is almost openly waging war on their own paying customers at this point, and if you buy or even preorder Driver at this point, especially for a “bonus” like a hat in Team Fortress 2, you deserve the bullshit you will inevitably get. You’ve been warned.

P.S.: The whole it prevents piracy! excuse Ubisoft crowed about so much before in regards to DRM? Whoops!

Christopher Bowen

About Christopher Bowen

Christopher Bowen is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus. Before opening Gaming Bus in May of 2011, he was the News Editor at Diehard GameFAN, a lead reporter for DailyGamesNews, and a reviewer at Not A True Ending, also contributing to VIMM, SNESZone and Scotsmanality. Outside of the industry, he is a network engineer in Norwalk, CT and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.