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: and: 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: 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: 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: 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.