Gamespy reports that the publisher will allow unlimited installs of its future PC games, but Ubisoft’s servers will handle saved games and authentication. That means you can’t play without an Internet connection.
In way, it’s a forward-thinking plan. Ubisoft’s looking ahead to a time when Internet connections will be everywhere, so you’ll never have a problem proving you paid for a copy of the game. Storing saved games online also means you can start playing on your laptop from where you left off on your desktop.
The big problem is we’re not yet in the age of ubiquitous Internet connections. Sure, you’ll have no problem playing at home — unless your Internet connection goes out for whatever reason — but this scheme rules out airplanes, remote areas or hotels that don’t have Wi-Fi. Ubisoft is betting most people don’t play in those situations, but it’s not fair for the publisher to make that decision. At the very least, Ubisoft game boxes should have big warning labels so players know what they’re getting.
One other concern: Ubisoft’s authentication servers aren’t guaranteed for life, and 10 years from now, players could be shut out of the game they bought. In fact, last time Ubisoft tried online authentication with Assassin’s Creed, some players had trouble immediately after purchasing.
In any case, is this really a fool-proof method for stopping piracy? If it was, I’d think other publishers would be using the same methods. Even Steam, a major platform for PC gaming that uses online authentication, has an offline mode.
The funny thing is that, in 2008, Ubisoft released Prince of Persia for PC with no digital rights management, apparently fed up with its past failures to stop piracy. I don’t know the results of that little experiment, but I guess Ubisoft figured it’s more profitable to penalize their paying customers than to let pirates roam free.