Ubisoft Fumbles Again

doug_thompsonBy Doug Thompson

Ubisoft, a French company, bungled things even more badly than expected with it’s new, burdensome software designed to prevent illegal copying of their latest computer games.

The incident opened up yet another carnival of “intellectual property” debate articles, all of which missed the key point entirely. The offerings concentrated on the equally absurd claims of industry and their enemies, the people who make copies. Both sides preach like the right is on their side and that some grand moral issue is at stake.

Hey, both camps, here’s some reality:

PC users are really, really tired of people putting crap on our computers that we don’t want. This would be true even if the junk that people keep adding didn’t degrade and eventually ruin our machines’ performance.

Industry, our computers do not belong to you. Computer owners pay billions of dollars for anti-virus protection and billions more to fix the problems caused when that protection fails. Many of us — particularly serious gamers — spend still more money and a whole lot of time to clean off the unwanted programs that corporations like you pay to pollute us with. You even pay computer manufacturers to have junk installed into our machines before they are shipped. You can’t update a program without having to clean out more of that garbage you stow away on it.

Now, Ubisoft, you insist that I install a program on my machine that will require a working, adequate Internet connection to your server just to play “Assassin’s Creed II” or “Silent Hunter 5.” Then you can’t maintain a working connection. You blame hackers for crashing your system. That’s like blaming thieves for robbing a stagecoach with nobody riding shotgun on it. You knew your system would be attacked and you were caught flat-footed.

The ultimate insult to injury here was when one of your managers posted helplessly on the company blog that the problem could be fixed right away because he couldn’t do anything “on a weekend.”

You knew your countermeasure provoked great hostility among the “hacktivists,” who vowed to fight you, but you were too cheap to pay some techs overtime to react to it?

I’ve never illegally downloaded a game in my three decades of computer gaming. I’m also one of the select few people who played the hard-core simulation “Silent Hunter 4.” I was also interested in “Creed.” I didn’t buy either this week because I knew — absolutely knew — you’d foul this up.

I play “Mass Effect 2” with a constant Internet connection and have no problem. Electronic Arts’ approached the problem far differently. You can play the game without the connection, but if you want “extras” or “goodies” like a whole additional character or a hovercraft that’s coming out later this month, supposedly, you have to choose to join up to the “Cerberus Network.”

I do, but it’s my choice. I’m not forced.

A little politeness without the demand that I turn over my machine — my property — goes a long, long way. So does competent upkeep of the server. I’ve played ME2 almost every day for more than a month. I failed to get on the server a grand total of once. I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep one night. The server was down for maintenance in those wee hours.

Now, for the other side of this problem.

First off, I refuse to call you counterfeiters “pirates.” You may like to think you’re free-spirited folk full of daring, but you’re really just a bunch of wise guys who are driving video games to consoles like the Xbox 360 because PC games are easier to crack. My PC gaming world is a smaller place thanks to you jerks and the people you help — on purpose or not — make illegal, free copies.

You’re driving me to downloaded content. I prefer to have something — a box, a CD, a manual — when I spend $50. Thanks to you, I’ve tried out “Steam,” which I had to subscribe to if I wanted to play “Empires at War.”

I liked it. In fact, I liked it a lot. Someday soon, there won’t be PC games in retailers. It will all be downloaded. When that happens, we can thank the counterfeiters.

The devil take both sides.

Categories: Legacy Archive