Ubisoft wants to offer PC gamers so much value the need for DRM "goes away"

"Will the person who really wants that broad experience pirate? We hope not."

Ubisoft wants to offer PC gamers so much value with its franchises that the need for its controversial DRM "goes away".

Ubisoft's digital boss Chris Early told Eurogamer it hopes strategies including companion gaming, which sees spin-off experiences on mobile devices and social platforms feed into their related core games, and constant game updates, will discourage piracy.

In short, it wants to create systems similar to those used by MMO makers for its games.

"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?" Early asked. "I think we can. As the rest of the game industry continues to evolve, the more you hear 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.

"Will some people still pirate? Yeah, they will. Will the person who really wants that broad experience pirate? We hope not."

Ubisoft attracted gamers' ire when it announced that the PC versions of both Driver: San Francisco and From Dust required users to log on to the internet every time they played the game.

Such was the outcry that Ubisoft changed its mind, tweaking Driver's DRM so that players would no longer require always-on internet to enjoy the game.

But that didn't prevent a number of Ubisoft PC games, including Driver and Anno 2070, from being completely unplayable online and offline when the company moved its gaming servers over to a third-party.

The publisher recently claimed its DRM policy was a success, insisting it had seen "a clear reduction in piracy of our titles which required a persistent online connection".

Minecraft creator Marcus 'Notch' Persson wasn't convinced. He declaring the publisher's demands as "insane", and tweeted: "Protip: if you pirate Ubisoft games instead of buying them, they will work fine if your internet connection goes down."

Early said it was only fair that Ubisoft should seek to protect its games from piracy, but admitted it continues to "grapple" with the delicate balance of doing that while not inconveniencing paying 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.

"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. 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?"

Ubisoft's approach to DRM is in stark contrast to that of Witcher 2 developer CD Projekt, which recently vowed to ditch DRM for all of its future games.

Early didn't go as far as offering that kind of commitment, but did promise to work to make its anti-piracy efforts less intrusive.

"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."

Driver: San Francisco video talkthrough

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