Getting traction on retraction

Dear Ubisoft,

A couple weeks back, I said some unkind things to you. Several of my friends and readers took offense at my words, and I think I understand why. First, I want to apologize. My first few drafts were unreadably dull. So I tried to be funny. And in being funny, I became very rude. Not merely rude, but rude in a way that sneered at an open wound. That’s bad behavior on my part. I am truly sorry.

So let me try again.

As was pointed out to me- I don’t know the numbers on piracy. I do know that you call the PC Piracy rate “incredible”. I’ll assume that means the piracy rate for your is somewhere over 90%. But it might be 75%. Or even 50%. Either way, that’s enraging. I agree. Certainly 90% is about the same rate that I’m seeing reported from non DRMed games.

Does someone who put their (literal) sweat, (probably literal) tears and (hopefully metaphorical) blood into a creative work deserve to be compensated for that time, effort, and energy? In the vernacular of my youth: Doi.

I think this is the basic disconnect between media creators and media consumers. Creators- you!- are lashing out in justified fury in an attempt to get people to stop copying your stuff. Their best efforts to lock down the fruits of your labor are being laughed at by the people they most desperately want to stop. Adding insult to insult? The number of pirates who spend 10 minutes with a game and declare that it’s terrible and not worth spending time on.

This would be enough to enrage anyone.

The problem is that customers are being hurt by this rage. Not “consumers”- that category includes the pirates. Customers. The problem with “Digital Rights Management” is that it only protects your rights, as the publisher. It does not protect my rights as a customer. In fact, it often strips those rights away. First Sale doctrine? Gone. The ability to use a paid-for product when your server shuts down? Gone.

I’ve seen arguments that since we customers are merely “licencing” games rather than “buying” them, that we ought never have had those rights to begin with. That is not an argument I believe, nor one I think leads to positive sum outcomes. The merits don’t honestly matter- what matters is that the rights I had previously thought myself to enjoy I no longer enjoy. And I’m basically powerless to opt out of the agreement.

I say “basically” because I do have some power. I have the power to not buy products which treat me this way. It’s not really an option I enjoy exercising. I enjoyed the heck out of Anno 1404, and really wanted to grab Anno 2070 when it came along. But then I learned that in order to have access to the really nifty parts of the game- the things that really differentiated it from its predecessor- I’d have to be online. So, no sale from me.

I’d heard amazing things about Assassin’s Creed, and so when Assassin’s Creed 2 came along, I was very tempted. Then I learned that in order to play it, I’d have to be always online. Not simply “online check at the beginning of a play session”, but “drop connection for a few seconds and stop playing the game”. My Comcast connection is flaky. I can’t even watch _YouTube_ for more than a few minutes without it needing to buffer. The idea of putting my enjoyment of your game at the mercy of Comcast seemed like an exercise in frustration. So I decided not to become a customer of Ubisoft for that game.

I’m not talking about a boycott. Nor, I hasten to add, am I talking about pirating your games. I’m simply talking about taking my money and spending it on other things. Civilization 5 is great. Magicka. Oh hell: I’ve spent more time playing RUSE– one of yours!– than I care to think about. The DRM associated with those games is fairly lenient; I can even play those games when Comcast decides to take the day off.

We’re not entirely at an impasse. Like I said, you guys are putting out some great games. In fact, when you released Assassin’s Creed on Good Old Games, I snapped it up. It was DRM free, and came with the sorts of goodies that I normally associate with “special edition”.

That makes me incredibly glad. It makes me think that you saw through the rudeness of my initial post and decided to change the relationship on your end. Your advances will not be rebuffed. Keep treating me this way, and I’ll do more than give you a hug– I’ll give you cash.

I remain faithfully,
Punning Pundit.

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