Saturday, January 14th 2012

Anno 2070's Draconian DRM: Guru3D's Graphics Card Review Killed Off

Anno 2070's Draconian DRM: Guru3D's Graphics Card Review Killed Off (UPDATED)

Hilbert Hagedoorn of well-known PC tech review site guru3d.com recently bought a copy of Ubisoft's Anno 2070 and wanted to use it in one of his graphics card reviews. However, he became badly unstuck. This game comes on the Steam platform and the store page states: "3rd-party DRM: Solidshield Tages SAS 3 machine activation limit". Unfortunately for Guru3D, they found out exactly what this means, which resulted in just one performance graph, an aborted review, an unplayable game – and bad publicity for Ubisoft once again. They have published an article about their experience, pledging not to use their titles again because of this DRM.

The DRM in this game works in a similar way to Microsoft's product activation, in that it creates a hash value from certain key hardware components such as the motherboard, CPU, HDD (including mere partition changes!) and graphics cards among others, then uses this information to decide if the hardware has changed sufficiently to require a reactivation. It's that last one which caused the problem: Guru3D ran out of activations when swapping out graphics cards. Ubisoft claim in their FAQ (for Anno 1404, none available for Anno 2070, should be the same) that an email to their support department will grant you a new activation, completely hassle-free. They say this twice, in fact:
Question: How often can I activate my game?
Answer: To start with, you can activate your game on three different PC configurations – if you have used up these activations, simply contact our Support team who will provide you with further activations free of charge and without hassle.
and:
Question: I have already used the activation for three different PC configurations – can I get further activations?
Answer: Yes, if you do require further activations, please contact the Support team. They will provide you with new activations free of charge and without hassle.
However, in practice, this is certainly not what happens. Hagerdoorn sent Ubisoft support an email requesting a reactivation, but still hasn't heard back from them. Then he contacted Ubisoft's marketing department, where he tells us:
When contacting Ubisoft marketing here in the Netherlands, their reply goes like this: 'Sorry to disappoint you - the game is indeed restricted to 3 hardware changes and there simply is no way to bypass that. We also do not have 7 copies of the game for you'.

I'm sorry, but I am not about to purchase the title seven times to make a review that by default benefits Ubisoft sales.

Welcome to PC gaming Anno 2012.

Please find the results of our massive VGA performance review below on the one chart. With one hand in the air I wave to Ubisoft, more puzzled about this then anything.
Given that what it says in the FAQ is at odds with what actually happens, since the customer gets significantly less than what was promised – getting stuck with an unplayable game - then Guru3D have a right to a refund, since the product isn't fit for purpose and we believe that they should pursue it.

Unsurprisingly, Guru3D's wonderful experience has been picked up elsewhere, among them Softpedia, who reported on it here and then an interesting follow-up here. In the second article, they point out four major problems with Ubisoft's super duper DRM that we believe are highly valid. We present a summary of their points here:


1 The reviewing community will be more than frustrated

The games won't be used for reviews, removing free publicity for them. In fact, there will be a notable absence of games employing this DRM, if it spreads. If the reviewer decides to jump through the reactivation hoops or buys extra copies (just sounds wrong, doesn't it?) they will voice their dissatisfaction. Loudly.


2 The new DRM can damage the consumer hardware market if other developers imitate it

The hardware lock-ins that these games impose will get more significant if this DRM is used by others such as EA, id Software etc, making the hardware market suffer. This will happen, because gamers won't want to change their hardware at all if they fear that they will lose their games. However, this doesn't seem that likely to happen in practice for a couple of reasons. The hardware manufacturers such as AMD won't be happy in getting caught in the crossfire and will likely have something to say about this. The other reason is that piracy will likely skyrocket and real sales this time will actually go down significantly.


3 Game piracy will actually gain a measure of justification

This one we feel is worth quoting in full:
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed in the United States back in 1998 in order to impose criminal penalties on those who spread means meant to circumvent content protection technologies.

That was (arguably) all well and good, but game developers quickly found that piracy wasn't going anywhere, so they started inventing more and more ways to fight it.

Always-on DRM (which demands constant Internet connection for permission to play single-player games) was among the most controversial, though, fortunately, it is losing steam.

This new measure that Ubisoft cooked up may actually top it. In fact, this new DRM outright justifies piracy to a greater extent than some may realize.

As we have already mentioned, few people, if any, will actually feel that a game (and, by extension, a game developer) has the right to dictate how many times they are allowed to upgrade their PC.

As such, when they run out of activations, there will be no sort of moral qualms about going online and getting a cracked version, regardless of the supposed possibility to reset the activation limit.

Why bother calling support each time you buy a new hardware component, when you can just overwrite a couple of files and be spared the headache forever?

Yes, as absurd as it sounds, this DRM can actually make people who bought the game decide to get a cracked version even if the original already rests in their desk drawer.

We don't endorse piracy – if you like a game enough to play it, you should like it enough to buy it – but red lights start to blare when game developers practically encourage it themselves, unwittingly or otherwise.

The jump from there to getting the pirated game from the start is very small. Whether Ubisoft likes it or not, it is encouraging people to resort to piracy instead of discouraging this tendency.
Yes, game developers dictating if and when you're allowed to upgrade your PC! Indeed, talk about giving potential customers a strong motive to pirate your product.


4 Game developers would be better off just making their titles worth buying

Piracy will never really go away, so quit worrying about what DRM you want to infect your product with and just make it DRM-free and good, then the customers will come. If DRM must be used, then don't get so draconian over it and put in something creative, such as an invincible enemy to thrash copyists around, as was included in Serious Sam 3.

These are Softpedia's four points and we would like to add that it has been well and truly proven by the DRM-free gog.com site and the various DRM-free music sites such as Amazon, that you can run a successful business without imposing DRM and make it more successful than with it.

The four points above seem quite reasonable to us and we hope, our readers too. Also, when reading that Anno 1404 FAQ, note how many hoops the hapless honest customer has to jump through just to play their game. Quite an off-putting proposition, isn't it? Might as well just buy another game that doesn't impose this garbage on you... Of course, 'pirates' have no such problems and can run the game stripped of all its DRM. Mind you, they might get malware infected games this way, so this isn’t so clever either, regardless of the morality of getting a dodgy copy.

As usual, we recommend to boycott purchasing the game over this issue, but just as importantly, don't download a dodgy copy, either. That way, Ubisoft go down in flames without being able to point the finger at 'pirates' and they'll be forced to remove this ridiculous DRM.

Well then, despite its graphical excellence, along with Guru3D, this looks like one game that certainly won't be used as a review benchmark on TechPowerUp, a significant review site on the PC enthusiast tech scene.

Ubisoft: well done in alienating your best possible promoters, all in the name of fighting 'piracy'. For shame.

UPDATE

Guru3D have now updated their article with the following:
Update monday Jan 16 - 2012:

We have been contacted by bluebyte over the weekend, the company that developed the Anno series. Our key has been pretty much unlocked allowing us to properly work on this article. To be continued ....
It would be nice to know a bit more detail, such as has the three machine limit been removed completely, etc. Still though, it seems unreasonable to have to jump through these bureaucratic hoops along with the wasted time and frustration just to play a game, or benchmark with it as in this case.
Add your own comment

81 Comments on Anno 2070's Draconian DRM: Guru3D's Graphics Card Review Killed Off

#1
FreedomEclipse
~Technological Technocrat~
by: silkstone
What happens to people in non-european countries or countries without a ubisoft office? International calls every time you want to re-activate? No thanks.
Not really a problem...

They could have a callcenter located in your country if not then they would most likely give you a 'local' number that redirects you to an international call center which spares you the cost....I just hope the curry isnt so strong you can smell it down the phone like most techsupport call centers when you call them up.
Posted on Reply
#2
SteelSix
A CD key tied to my email address is fine. Limit how many times I can change out my hardware?? That's BS. It's a freakin game for goodness sake. I've reactivated Windows dozens of times. At least Microsoft has an automated phone reactivation process.
Posted on Reply
#3
WaroDaBeast
The gaming industry should learn to understand that the easier it is to buy the game, the more people will buy it. If a game doesn't get released in my country, what do I do? Well, there's Steam and the others now, but what about before?

Besides, for DVD copies, you gotta admit that it's a pain to put the DVD in the drive and remove it afterwards. Whenever I got a game that requires the disc to be played, I use a crack. No need to go spelunking in my shelves anymore.


by: entropy13
Why don't Ubisoft just give up? They're Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys FFS! :laugh:

Wiki page here.

More informative, TVTropes page here.
Of course they are. That explains why England had a whole dynasty of French kings after being invaded by the Normans, and also Charlemagne's empire, and that's without even mentioning the French colonial empire either. Oh, and as pointed out by the link towards tvtropes, they also helped a certain former British colony gain independence. I guess it's too hard remembering who helped your country become one.

Anyway... The whole truth is, the French were stupid. For some reason, they thought they'd be unbeatable by building a huge wall called the Maginot Line, which was easily circumvented by the Germans, what with their Blitzkrieg technique.

Since it would've been very demoralizing for the American troops to hear that such a powerful country got defeated that easily, the higher-ups told the grunts that the French had just surrendered like that.

Of course, as people don't like thinking — it hurts their poor lil' brain too much —, that oversimplification about the French surrendering as if it were the latest trend stuck. No word on French resistance, no word on the non-Jews hiding Jewish kids in the countryside, and pretending that they're their own kids to the Nazis.

Last but not least, a decision taken unilaterally by a president (and a general) doesn't mean the whole population agrees with it. Otherwise, I could say that the French are happy with President Sarkozy's first, which was to raise his salary (along with those of the other politicians') a lot.
Posted on Reply
#5
silkstone
by: FreedomEclipse
Not really a problem...

They could have a callcenter located in your country if not then they would most likely give you a 'local' number that redirects you to an international call center which spares you the cost....I just hope the curry isnt so strong you can smell it down the phone like most techsupport call centers when you call them up.
They could, but they don't
Posted on Reply
#6
entropy13
Very OT post. :laugh:

Good thing there are spoiler tags.

[spoiler]
by: WaroDaBeast
Of course they are. That explains why England had a whole dynasty of French kings after being invaded by the Normans,
What? The Duke of Normandy had more in common with the King of Denmark than the King of France in 1066, considering they're both Vikings.

By your reasoning then, considering the Normans also captured Sicily and southern Italy during the Middle Ages...they are now Italians? Simply because Vikings went to Normandy, which just so happens to be in northern France, they are now French...and because they are now French, and they captured England, England is now under the French...?

by: WaroDaBeast
and also Charlemagne's empire,
It's still kind of hazy there though, considering the "Franks" are still not that "distinct" so to speak, to the other Germanic tribes around that time. It's only when his sons "went their own ways" when "distinctions" started to arise.

by: WaroDaBeast
and that's without even mentioning the French colonial empire either.
Well, the UK "lost" their colonies in the 20th Century relatively peacefully at least, likewise for the Netherlands. France lost Indochina in dramatic fashion however, wasting the only consistently excellent armed force they ever had (FFL) with useless commanders on the upper echelons of command. Then there's Algeria...

by: WaroDaBeast
Oh, and as pointed out by the link towards tvtropes, they also helped a certain former British colony gain independence. I guess it's too hard remembering who helped your country become one.
It's more out of "the enemy of my enemy is my (temporary) friend" rather than any benevolent actions by France though. Considering the monarchy's approaching its death throes then. Afterwards there was the "Quasi War" between the two (although admittedly it's the French republic already)...

by: WaroDaBeast
Since it would've been very demoralizing for the American troops to hear that such a powerful country got defeated that easily, the higher-ups told the grunts that the French had just surrendered like that.
That didn't happen. You're saying the likes of Eisenhower and Montgomery would lie to their own men when LeClerc and the 2nd Armored Division are with them? You're criticizing "oversimplification" by oversimplifying? :laugh:

Although admittedly, the French are still stupid and did surrender, especially with the establishment of Vichy France. The Netherlands and Belgium and Poland and Denmark and Norway didn't surrender, they got occupied. They still had their government-in-exile (and monarchy-in-exile when applicable). But in the case of the French, they surrendered.

by: WaroDaBeast
Of course, as people don't like thinking — it hurts their poor lil' brain too much —, that oversimplification about the French surrendering as if it were the latest trend stuck. No word on French resistance, no word on the non-Jews hiding Jewish kids in the countryside, and pretending that they're their own kids to the Nazis.
The French Resistance doesn't get really talked much, admittedly. Because France were sharply divided then, the Free French on one side and Vichy France in the other. So much for their "brotherhood" eh? The French can't even decide as one whole nation which side they are on. :laugh:

by: WaroDaBeast
Last but not least, a decision taken unilaterally by a president (and a general) doesn't mean the whole population agrees with it. Otherwise, I could say that the French are happy with President Sarkozy's first, which was to raise his salary (along with those of the other politicians') a lot.
So why the f**k was that midget elected then? By "divine right of kings" and not by elections? :laugh:

Well, I guess he won't be re-elected then though. But then again if the ultranationalists win...woe betide to France, and the EU too.

[/spoiler]
Posted on Reply
#7
FreedomEclipse
~Technological Technocrat~
by: silkstone
They could, but they don't
In that case it sucks to be you. I will never buy another Ubisoft game. So I have no need to contact their support
Posted on Reply
#8
Prima.Vera
by: Liquid Cool
UbiSoft? Is this the company that ruined Far Cry?

LC
Yeah, I still think that the Far Cry 1 was THE BEST game ever made by Ubisoft. And maybe LBA (Little Big Adventure) games.:o
Posted on Reply
#9
TIGR
I was about to buy this to benchmark for private/professional use. Thanks for the heads-up qubit and treehouse. I will not recommend Anno 2070 to gaming customers who ask for game recommendations unless/until this changes.

If you don't like a game, say so by not buying it. One of the best ways to get the message through.
Posted on Reply
#10
uber_cookie
It's kind of funny since Steam sort of promotes "play your games anywhere" which DRM prevents you from accessing and playing games from other computers...

Maybe it's time they came up with something different for Steam, something like embed Steam agent code into the executable which would lock it to your account and not to the computer. PCs get replaced/upgraded more frequently, not like console which lasts 10years...
Posted on Reply
#11
digibucc
settlers 7 was enough to stop me buying any more Ubisoft games on pc.
Posted on Reply
#12
Over_Lord
News Editor
Shame. The game was good.

Worked well when I used the, well, the corrected version
Posted on Reply
#13
ice_v
by: Solaris17
Man I really want to play this. it looks really sweet.
just use a corrected version like the user above, and all shall be fine :p
Posted on Reply
#14
Quantos
Which means that if you individually change a piece of hardware more than three times in your computer, you're not allowed to play the game anymore? Wow, that's dumb! :wtf:
Posted on Reply
#15
Mescalamba
Im lucky that I play just BF3 and occasionaly WoW. Neither of these games will have DRM issues.. probably cause pirated copy is simply worthless. :D
Posted on Reply
#16
gorg_graggel
the activations reset every 30 days automatically. so unless you upgrade your system 3 times every month, as consumer you should be fine.
as reviewer/benchmarker you should contact support to let them up your activations by a large margin.

in guru3d's case the dutch ubisoft office (or at least his contact) wasn't correctly briefed or just plainly stupid, as he/she should have forwarded his request to blue byte (ubisofts german branch, who are the producers) to take care of it.

i have helped hilbert to establish contact with the right person, so as of yesterday he should be fine now.

disclaimer: i am not affiliated to any of the responsible companies, i just happen to know the right person in THIS case, so i could point him to help guru3d...
Posted on Reply
#17
Gzero
by: WaroDaBeast
If a game doesn't get released in my country, what do I do? Well, there's Steam and the others now, but what about before?
Good luck with that, even the almighty Steam can't make games available to everyone, even if it was for short period it is still a huge hit on release day sales which as I'm sure everyone here knows is the most important point for games (usually used to determine what to do with the IP and game).
Posted on Reply
#18
Gzero
by: Mescalamba
Im lucky that I play just BF3 and occasionaly WoW. Neither of these games will have DRM issues.. probably cause pirated copy is simply worthless. :D
Both have been pirated... you get wow private servers, and BF3 was in the top10 most downloaded stats.
Posted on Reply
#19
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
by: gorg_graggel
the activations reset every 30 days automatically. so unless you upgrade your system 3 times every month, as consumer you should be fine.
as reviewer/benchmarker you should contact support to let them up your activations by a large margin.

in guru3d's case the dutch ubisoft office (or at least his contact) wasn't correctly briefed or just plainly stupid, as he/she should have forwarded his request to blue byte (ubisofts german branch, who are the producers) to take care of it.

i have helped hilbert to establish contact with the right person, so as of yesterday he should be fine now.

disclaimer: i am not affiliated to any of the responsible companies, i just happen to know the right person in THIS case, so i could point him to help guru3d...
The FAQ doesn't say anything about activations resetting every 30 days, so how do you know this? More importantly, how is the customer, such as guru3d, supposed to know this? And why would Ubisoft increase their activation limits? Normally these corporate policies are set in stone.

If you've been in contact with Hilbert, then we can expect an updated article from him? His was only published yesterday, so we should see an update in the next day or so. I have a feeling we won't though. We'll see.
Posted on Reply
#20
Aleksander
Anno 2070? Seriously, same game from my pentium II?
Posted on Reply
#21
Vancha
by: Aleksander Dishnica
Anno 2070? Seriously, same game from my pentium II?
Anno 2070 was released last year.
Posted on Reply
#22
gorg_graggel
you got pm regarding the "how do you know"...

actually the customer doesn't need to know this, because as i said, no one changes his config 3 times a month, except he is doing a review/benchmark. people who do this, contact support and should be ok, hence it's no priority to update the faq, i guess...

it was a fuck up on the dutch ubisoft office side of things.
Posted on Reply
#23
keling
I have the retail version of DCS A-10C and have used up 4 out of 10 activations. Shouldn't have installed the game just before a major PC upgrade. I'm torn between getting a crack/keygen or stay the course. This limited activation stuff is one of the reasons why I held off from getting the KA-50 Black Shark and LOMAC Flaming Cliffs 2.

Recently I installed a GTX 570 and now I'm afraid to start up the game. I have a legally bought game that I'm afraid to play and it's not even a horror survival game.

Even I'm afraid for my copy of OEM Windows 7 should the motherboard decided to die on me. I'm not from the US so not really sure of my chances of my begging for another cd key via the phone line.
Posted on Reply
#24
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
by: qubit
Ok, it seemed like you owned it, from your previous reply.

Yes, you have a point about the phone activation. However, if you go to the Ubisoft support page linked to in the English language FAQ, you notice two things:

1 It's in German! (well, it's not English, put it that way ;) )

2 There doesn't appear to be a phone number or email address

This is hardly hassle-free and this very much gives the impression of a company that doesn't care about its customers.

Also, silkstone makes a very good point:
Why does where it links to matter? The phone number you are supposed to call is in the manual. If you bought it on Steam the number is wrong, but then you just look up Ubisoft's number on their contact page here.

And if you live in a country that doesn't have a phone number(I'm surprised Germany doesn't), then you email them and wait. Yes a hassle, but one that should rarely affect 99% of users.

by: keling
I have the retail version of DCS A-10C and have used up 4 out of 10 activations. Shouldn't have installed the game just before a major PC upgrade. I'm torn between getting a crack/keygen or stay the course. This limited activation stuff is one of the reasons why I held off from getting the KA-50 Black Shark and LOMAC Flaming Cliffs 2.

Recently I installed a GTX 570 and now I'm afraid to start up the game. I have a legally bought game that I'm afraid to play and it's not even a horror survival game.

Even I'm afraid for my copy of OEM Windows 7 should the motherboard decided to die on me. I'm not from the US so not really sure of my chances of my begging for another cd key via the phone line.
Microsoft's re-activation process is simple, and a great example of how the activation limit should be handled. OEM copies say they only have 1 activation, but really can be activated 5+ times without problems, and when you finally do have problems you call the automated toll free number 24/7/365 and it re-activates. This is the ideal way to handle activation limits. As I said in the previous thread about this DRM by Ubisoft. It seems like they had the intention of implementing a similar system, but fumbled it. But then again, that was before I realized the original author of the article did nothing more than fire off an email to tech support when he didn't receive a response in 24 hours went on a rant instead of trying to contact tech support in a better manner. I would like to know how fast they handle the activation issue when you call tech support. Yes, they are only open Mon-Fri 9-9, and I would like to see 24/7/365 with an automated system.
Posted on Reply
#25
RejZoR
Ubisoft is full off bullshit lately. Just don't buy their games. They'll blame piracy for lack of buyers anyway...
Posted on Reply
Add your own comment