The burden of constant online authentication proved too much for Ubisoft’s DRM servers, which crumbled and left games unplayable over the weekend.
According to the PC gaming blog Rock Paper Shotgun, Ubisoft’s servers went down on Sunday, and I’ve yet to see any reports that they’re back online. A thread on Ubisoft’s official forums appears to be inaccessible at the moment.
A Ubisoft moderator on that thread said “exceptional demand” was to blame for the DRM failure. “This does not affect customers who are currently playing, but customers attempting to start a game may experience difficulty in accessing our servers. We are currently working to resolve this issue and apologize for any inconvenience,” the moderator said.
Ubisoft’s new DRM scheme requires a constant connection to Ubisoft’s servers in order to play. Games that use the new DRM, including Assassin’s Creed II and Silent Hunter 5, will pause if the connection drops for any reason. There is no way to play these games offline.
There’s really no excuse for Ubisoft fouling up the launch of these new games, especially with so much negative press coverage of the DRM. But it’s even worse that Ubisoft has made this kind of mistake before. In 2008, a PC port of Assassin’s Creed was unable to phone in to Ubisoft for some gamers, leaving them unable to play without authentication. Ubisoft stumbled again later that year, temporarily offering a hacker-made crack as a solution to problems with Rainbow Six Vegas 2’s DRM.
I hope the demand on Ubisoft’s servers doesn’t suggest that these games were an overwhelming commercial success. The only way these DRM methods will cease to be more ridiculous is if people vote with their wallets. Incidentally, the DRM doesn’t seem to be that hard to crack.
Update: Ubisoft now claims that the downtime was due to a denial-of-service attack. That takes some of the blame off Ubisoft for failing to anticipate demand, but it’s of little consolation to PC gamers who couldn’t play what they paid for.