Ubisoft Backs off Highly Strict DRM and Uses Steam Drew Wilson | August 23, 2010 The always on DRM which forces gamers to have a 24 hour internet connection to play their games may have lost a major supporter. After the fiasco of the DRM in Assassin’s Creed 2, it seems that the company has now decided to use Steam in it’s latest game, RUSE. Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes Assassin’s Creed may have been a hugely popular game known for its graphics, but Assassin’s Creed 2 might go down in history as one of the ways copy protection can ruin the gaming experience for those that legally pay for their video games. When Ubisoft put their new DRM scheme onto their much anticipated title early on this year, it may have been difficult to tell just how much of a problem it would actually be for both gamer and company at the time. After Assassin’s Creed 2 was released, the custom copy protection, much to Ubisoft’s embarrassment, was cracked within 24 hours. A proper crack was released a short time later. If things couldn’t get any worse with the controversy of the DRM and it failing to even come close to stopping crackers, they did. Days after the game was cracked, Ubisofts servers used to authenticate the game went down. This, caused a perfect storm for Ubisoft. After saying how perfect their copy protection system was, there was a period of time where all the pirated versions were the only working copies of the game while all the people that legally paid for their game wound up being locked out of their purchase. Ubisoft isn’t the only major gaming company being stung by their own copy protection systems. Earlier this month, we noted how the Battle.net servers going down saw hundreds of gamers locked out of their legally paid for games. Complaints on the Battle.net forums built up fast until moderators shut down those threads. What all of this did was give off the impression that video game companies don’t really want people to play their games after the point of purchase and that game developers are becoming more and more about the bottom line rather than putting out a quality product – something music fans know all too much about. The only good that really came out of DRM in these instances seems to be that these cases vindicated DRM critics once again by showing how much DRM can cripple the user experience while rewarding pirates in the end. That’s what made the recent news of Ubisoft ditching an “always on” DRM system in favor of Steam which many say is far less intrusive than the Assassin’s Creed 2 DRM. Technology Review and Wired’s Game Life are both reporting that RUSE will not use the kind of DRM seen in Assassin’s Creed 2, but rather, use Valve’s Steamworks instead. Now, if you want to play RUSE offline, you are free to do so in single player mode – which is something that can’t technically be said for either Ubisofts Assassin’s Creed 2 and Blizzards Star Craft 2. Multiplayer will still require a constant internet connection which actually makes sense if you’ve ever played a multiplayer game online. One can only hope that companies like Ubisoft realize that DRM can go too far. Maybe, just maybe, they realized that they have actually crossed the line on an overly strict DRM and have learned from it after taking a lot of heat from critics and their own customers. Personally, DRM on games is just silly at this point. It’s only a headache to customers (who have to put up with various restrictions) and companies (who have to shop around, plug their nose and pick a DRM solution that will likely never work or even go to the extreme of wasting their time and money by coding their own system from scratch only to see it get cracked within days after release). It’s been true from the beginning and remains true to this day, DRM only rewards pirates and punishes legitimate consumers. Nothing has changed over the years on that front. The only real surprise is that companies still somehow believe that DRM will work to stop piracy even though history shows that DRM has, thus far, a success rate of 0%. Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.