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Ubisoft CEO on PC Gaming, DRM and More

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August 13, 2008 5:44:03 PM

Article by Rob Wright

In a two-part interview, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot discusses his company's forthcoming franchise titles such as Prince of Persia and new projects like the game version of James Cameron's "Avatar." He also explains why Ubisoft's PC gaming strategy has changed.

http://www.tomsgames.com/us/2008/08/13/ubisoft_yvesguillemot/

More about : ubisoft ceo gaming drm

August 13, 2008 8:12:15 PM

Quote:
YVES GUILLEMOT: Well there's always a cycle for the gaming industry. The consoles at certain periods are more powerful than the PC, but the PC can improve its capacity and ability every year so the cycle changes. Generally, the PC gaming business gets better over time in these console cycles. So as we continue this cycle, graphically the PCs will continue to get better and the features will become more interesting.

I'm sorry, but that's such a load of bull.
This guy doesn't even know what he's talking about there.

Then he goes on to say they shifted their focus from the PC and reduced the number of people working on PC games. When was it ever their focus in the first place?
Pretty much every Ubisoft game that I remember in the last few years (with the exception of Far Cry) was a crappy port from one of the consoles... and crappy is actually a compliment after their abysmal port of SC3.

Apparently, he also still insists (it's implied at least) that Starforce was a good anti-piracy measure. If he does not understand what was wrong with Starforce... then I really don't know what to say.

Also, what millions, pray tell, are they losing on the PC when almost all their games are direct console ports (and mostly badly done at that)? They're certainly not investing millions in a lousy porting job, that's for sure.
If they were developing exclusively for the PC, I'd agree, but they rarely ever do anymore anyways and I doubt they will in the future judging by Yves' tone.

This article is a good read to get some insight on the where the company's heading and its future plans, but Yves is just showing a lot of ignorance regarding PCs and PC gaming in general, which I as a PC gamer do not appreciate.
August 13, 2008 8:52:00 PM

Maybe Ubisoft should make a phone call to Blizzard and ask them how to make PC games that people want to buy.

Fun, entertaining games that actually RUN in a PC people actually have.

The first thing I did after the Diablo III announcement? I went out and bought a copy of Diablo II:LOD.

Why did I buy all of The Sims 1 and 2 related stuff, all expansion packs, etc, etc. and NONE of your games? Hummm....

Why I didn't buy Bioshock? Why I didn't buy Crysis? Because I'm a nasty PIRATE? Nooooo.....

Bioshock: invasive DRM; Crysis: my computer can't run it.

Most of Ubisoft games: I really don't like them. Maybe offer something really exciting would help, not re-re-re-re-makes of Prince of Persia, 3D shooters that look the same over and over again, etc..

I play instead a lot of Half-Life 2 (all episodes), PORTAL (AMAZING game), Team Fortress 2. Off course all legally purchased.

So please don't blame PC piracy for the fault of your company to target games to this very special platform.

I know piracy is a big problem right now on PC, but as the consoles get more and more popular, they will be facing the same problem very soon.

Pirates - the professional kind, those that have FACTORIES to pirate games, the type that can get their hands on a game even BEFORE it is released - go after MARKETS (more markets = more money).

You know they have money, a lot of money, and what for they use this money, right?

It's not difficult to think that they maybe have access (people) even inside the game developers?

If the only market they have in the future are consoles, guess what they will do? In years the problem wil be the same as it is now with the PC.

On another facet of this problem now...

I guess what Intel, AMD/ATI and nVidia have to say about that? Since the need to upgrade computers to high end parts is largely based on games.

My dad runs Windows XP, with an old version of MS Word, etc, and it does everything he needs. He browses the net, listens to music, write text documents (he's a lawyer), prints to a laser printer, all in his mighty Pentium III.

If PCs are going to be business machines, or just media center machines, a GeForce 6800 is more than enough.

And to run these applications, why would you need more than an old Athlon 64 3000+? And why more than 2Gb of memory? Why should I buy a Creative Audigy sound card? To listen to MP3? Come on!

Microsoft came out with Windows Vista, and guess what? A lot of people still uses XP, because they didn't feel the need to change. With XP they had everything they wanted, why change?

Even if people do upgrade their computers to a new OS, like Vista, it happens only in a 2-3 year period.

What Intel, AMD/ATI and nVidia will be doing all this time? Selling chips to CONSOLES? If this happens, you should expect some of them going bankrupt, and the prices for the consoles going up up up like a rocket.

Who is the typical buyer of a Quad-core Intel CPU? Why people buy this extreme powerful processor? To run MSN? Play videos? Play MP3 files? No no no!

The thing is: There are BIG, HUGE companies that NEED PC GAMING, so I want to see what will happen if nobody sells next-gen games for the PC, that games that make people WANT to upgrade.

I'm sure that maybe I forgot some points here, but I want to see what you guys think about this, in which point you agree and disagree.

Ricardo.
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August 13, 2008 9:56:00 PM

trackman2010 said:
Apparently, he also still insists (it's implied at least) that Starforce was a good anti-piracy measure. If he does not understand what was wrong with Starforce... then I really don't know what to say.


Honestly, I don't think he meant to convey that Starforce was fine and dandy. From the conversation we had, I think he meant to say that DRM is required to do business in PC gaming to protect the investment. He also said that Ubisoft is currently working on a Steam-like system that will help prevent piracy instead of using DRM like SecuROM/Starforce.

Quote:
Also, what millions, pray tell, are they losing on the PC when almost all their games are direct console ports (and mostly badly done at that)? They're certainly not investing millions in a lousy porting job, that's for sure.
If they were developing exclusively for the PC, I'd agree, but they rarely ever do anymore anyways and I doubt they will in the future judging by Yves' tone.



Well, look at what happened with Assassin's Creed. Yes, it was ported to the PC several months after the console. But they still did a decent job with the port and added bonus content to the title, so it wasn't just a cheap rush job. But more than a month before the PC version is released, AC ends up on torrents. Check this story out: http://www.gamespot.com/news/6195570.html

August 14, 2008 12:57:17 AM

robwright said:
Honestly, I don't think he meant to convey that Starforce was fine and dandy. From the conversation we had, I think he meant to say that DRM is required to do business in PC gaming to protect the investment. He also said that Ubisoft is currently working on a Steam-like system that will help prevent piracy instead of using DRM like SecuROM/Starforce.


If Ubisoft was smart, they would sign on with Steam instead of trying to reinvent the wheel; Steam is like the NIKE of online distribution - it has an incredible presence and popularity that practically noone can touch; and why? Because of the popularity of Half Life 2 and Counter-Strike.

Signing on with Steam is quite practically like investing in getting yourself guaranteed sales - its a huge, well-known, feature-rich system that tons of people are using - why people aren't signing on with this is beyond me; i'd assume its just arrogance.
August 14, 2008 1:05:16 AM

ovaltineplease said:
If Ubisoft was smart, they would sign on with Steam instead of trying to reinvent the wheel; Steam is like the NIKE of online distribution - it has an incredible presence and popularity that practically noone can touch; and why? Because of the popularity of Half Life 2 and Counter-Strike.

Signing on with Steam is quite practically like investing in getting yourself guaranteed sales - its a huge, well-known, feature-rich system that tons of people are using - why people aren't signing on with this is beyond me; i'd assume its just arrogance.


They are on Steam already. Ubisoft has a bunch of titles there. Well, at least in North America. Why they haven't opened up their titles on Steam for the rest of the world, I have no idea. In fact, I kinda feel like an idiot now for not asking that question....

August 14, 2008 4:35:55 AM

I agree that DRM is not a good way to go. Look what happened with Sonys DRM. It screwed a lot of peoples PCs up causing the need to reinstall the OS if you didn't catch the Root Kit in time.

DRM is fine to me but they seem to be going at it way too hard.

Instead they could be exclusively on Steam and they would still make money. VALVe only uses Steam for their games and I have never heard of pirating problems and they don't have DRM needs like others do.

I personally don't like his comment about consoles being more powerful than the PC. This is never true. PCs are vastly more powerful than consoles and it always has and probably always will be that way.

Rob, you may have forgotten to ask that question but you do a good job in what you do. Its hard to thin of every possible question to ask a big game company big wig.

But in my personal opinion it seems like all of the big game companies have fallen from PC and don't realize that they are killing it. If they worked harder to bring the games to the PC and instead of just porting it reworked the game for the PC much like Rockstar does with its GTA titles then I think PC gaming would od better.

But not even trying and just porting the game over without caring for anything except making a few more dollars really is whats killing PC gaming more than piracy.
August 14, 2008 4:55:47 AM

Ye gods...the Ubisoft guy flat-out states that pc gamers are oppo0sed to DRM because it stops them pirating games? Is the guy completely deranged?

I'm a pc gamer. I have no pirated a game in over 20 years. I have bought (new) literally hundreds of dollars in pc games over the last few years, and I will never again buy a game on steam, securom 7.x, or starforce.

Why?

Well, not because I'm upset for the blasted pirates!

Here's why:

A. DRM does not work. Torrents exist for all DRM protected games. DRM only serves to limit the digital rights of customers who actually pay for the product. The pirates copies are distributed without the DRM, after all.

So, by making me jump through hoops to 'prove' I'm not a pirate makes me quite peeved when I know darned well the pirates don't have to prove a blasted thing to anybody at all. And I'm the paying customer.

B. DRM that requires internet connections reduces the customer base by excluding gamers with non-net connected rigs. These folks are also the most likely to BUY single player games for that very reason, and the least likely to have access to pirated copies. When you live out in the boonies, like me, you rapidly learn that dialup connections seldom meet the expectations of a world increasingly focused on the illusion of ubiquitous broadband. Even if my internet connection serves initially, I have zero doubt that the minimum bandwidth requirement will rapidly escalate to the point where dialup-only customers are also excluded.

C. Limited activations: there's a small matter of copyright law that actually provides customers with rights too. You know, the same copyright law that Ubisoft laments is being violated by the pirates. In that law, there's something called the doctrine of first sale. I have the right to resell something I've bought. So if I buy a game, and get a limited number of activations, I have the legal right to sell, gift, destroy, those activations. Companies, like EA, that enforce limited activations and provide no means of revoking them, are essentially changing my purchase to an unacknowledged rental. That's just downright illegal IMO, and frankly immoral too. I want to be able to load reinstall and play games I've legally purchased no matter how many computers/upgrades I've purchased since I initially bought the game.

D. Trust. Some DRM systems send information back to their servers. There's no transparency to what exactly is being sent. The software is often installed secretively. That's the definition of spyware according to the Federal trade commission. I'm not doing anything illegal, but I still don't think it's ok for undisclosed information from my computer to be sent to a company's servers. If they don't trust me, why should I trust them?

E. Extra complexity means extra room for bugs. Recently Ubisoft itself released a cracked version of its own Rainbow 6 Vegas game (from a torrent site) to fix a glitch caused by its DRM. http://www.boxxet.com/Tom_Clancy%27s_Rainbow_Six_(video_game)/Ubisoft_Used_Pirate_Hack_to_Fix_Rainbow_Six_Vegas_2.238c4n.d

So, if game developers want me to spend any more of my money, they need to stop making the legally purchased versions offer an infinitely worse experience than the pirated versions. And no, I'm not going to turn pirate. I'll just stop spending my money on games, and pick up more books instead.

And there is a massive groundswell of similar sentiment amongst gamers. Over the next couple of years, game devs are going to discover that each release of infected games will only add to the snowball of pc gamers boycotting such products.

Honestly, executives like this ubisoft guy are tilting at windmills with jello-lances, they insult their customer base, degrade their product, and wonder why their sales don't match their expectations....it must be pirates, they cry!

Pillocks.
August 14, 2008 1:48:13 PM

robwright said:
They are on Steam already. Ubisoft has a bunch of titles there. Well, at least in North America. Why they haven't opened up their titles on Steam for the rest of the world, I have no idea. In fact, I kinda feel like an idiot now for not asking that question....



Oh, ya totally; I have Assassin's Creed on my Steam profile - I guess i'm just saying I don't understand why they waste time trying to make their "own steam" instead of just going all the way with Valve; it just doesn't make a lot of sense when Steam has the popularity that it does.

I can see how what I said made it seem like I was claiming Ubi wasn't on Steam already though :sweat: 
August 14, 2008 2:00:06 PM

craigdolphin said:
Honestly, executives like this ubisoft guy are tilting at windmills with jello-lances, they insult their customer base, degrade their product, and wonder why their sales don't match their expectations....it must be pirates, they cry!

Pillocks.



I think it has very little to do with any of that other than product degredation; creating a quality product which is capable of interesting a wide market is what makes developement companies like Infinity Ward, Valve, and Blizzard as successful as they are in creating PC games.

For companies like Ubisoft and Crytek, the glass is constantly half empty - but its only that way because they never filled the damn glass to begin with. I like a lot of Ubisoft and Crytek games quite a bit, but sometimes games simply lack something as ... obvious as the concept of creating ... "fine art?"

When we talk about games like Half Life 2, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, Call of Duty, System Shock; we frequently refer to games under these examples as "masterpieces" or "groundbreaking" because these games actually try to go beyond the scope of being a clone.

Taking my opinion for what it is, unless you are trying to create something TRULY great and not just something that is "pretty good" - then you have no right to complain about a lack of sales; you have to really go above and beyond the normal line of duty so to speak if you want to capture people's minds.
August 14, 2008 2:44:43 PM

"We tried to find protections and good systems to make sure that people had to buy the product, but in the PC world, you have people that are angry if you don't let them pirate."

This is the problem with the current versions of DRM. Big companies, like UBISOFT, assume that we are all trying to steal their product. They treat paying customers like they are thieves. I understand the need for some type of DRM to protect their investment. But, the industry has done almost nothing except blame the customer and develop hack DRM systems. Perhaps they should go find some the people hacking their games, hire them and spend some time coming up with a real solution to the problem.

Steam is about the only DRM system that somewhat works and even it has some drawbacks(see craigdolphin's post). Piracy is slowly killing this industry, but the way these companies are handling this issue is just feeding the fire. I really would like to play Spore when it is released, but am not going to purchase any game that uses a rootkit as its main form of DRM. So there's $50 worth of revenue that EA won't see not because of piracy, but because of their inability to correctly address the problem.
August 14, 2008 9:56:25 PM

And lo, Ubisoft demonstrates that they simply are clueless.

If they do not understand why gamers object to current DRM solutions, then they obviously just do not CARE to. ANY game related forum will be filled with gamers explaining in detail why they object to DRM with well reasoned and carefully crafted arguments. Though those arguments are often surrounded by bile spewing hate mongering as well.

Regardless the reason why is out there and any company who doesn't care enough to look will eventually fail and leave the PC gaming market all together and GOOD RIDDANCE!

Meanwhile Valve, Blizzard, Stardock, and others will swoop in and absorb all of that lucrative market share.
August 14, 2008 10:27:29 PM

What happens is, you go out and buy a game. The game is buggy, works poorly, bad fps, doesn't work, or is just not very interesting. They hype up the game, make is sound awesome, you spend $50 on it, and it stinks. There are games that still have the same problems that they had when they were released. Now, you can't tell me you can't go in and fix the problem, you made the game, you can fix, and quickly.

Now, just how many times do I have to experience this problem before, I just don't take a chance of losing my hard earned money on another crap game.

Blizzard, Valve, and Rockstar don't seem to have a problem selling record breaking sales. They must be making some very nice games, that are nice and polished before release. Not saying they are perfect, but they try really hard. Another side effect is, you make a great game, it doesn't just sell for the first month, it sells for years. You make a bad game. Your lucky if it sells for the month, and will be gone from the shelves shortly after, and people will refer to your game as to how not to make a game.

Alot of Priates out there download to see if the game is any good, and worth buying. They don't want to get screwed again. A lot of them couldn't afford to buy the game if they wanted too. Some don't care either way.

Make a great game, and I'll spend money on it. Otherwise, what were you thinking. I've played to many games that made me say, did they even bother testing this game to see if people would like it, or see if it work properly. They could have sent the game to me, and I could have pointed out all the glaring errors, and what they should capitalize on.

August 15, 2008 2:02:05 PM

ovaltineplease said:
I think it has very little to do with any of that other than product degredation; creating a quality product which is capable of interesting a wide market is what makes developement companies like Infinity Ward, Valve, and Blizzard as successful as they are in creating PC games.

For companies like Ubisoft and Crytek, the glass is constantly half empty - but its only that way because they never filled the damn glass to begin with. I like a lot of Ubisoft and Crytek games quite a bit, but sometimes games simply lack something as ... obvious as the concept of creating ... "fine art?"

When we talk about games like Half Life 2, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, Call of Duty, System Shock; we frequently refer to games under these examples as "masterpieces" or "groundbreaking" because these games actually try to go beyond the scope of being a clone.

Taking my opinion for what it is, unless you are trying to create something TRULY great and not just something that is "pretty good" - then you have no right to complain about a lack of sales; you have to really go above and beyond the normal line of duty so to speak if you want to capture people's minds.


Bingo. And HL was one of the most ground breaking FPS games ever made. I don't mind doom but for me it seems like each game is just a rehash of the same thing or at least Doom 3 didn't seem much more. HL2 on the other hand was very ground breaking in a lot of new features.

A great example is TF2. VALVe had TFC and wanted to do a ultra realistic type game with TF2 originally. But after looking around they saw so many games like that out already and that TF2 would just be another "military style shooter". So they changed it and created something so unique and so amazing its one of the best online FPS I have ever seen and has gotten me addicted like crack to a crack addict.

WoW was succesful because it was different. It took the Warcraft style and made it for people to be able to play as a character in the Warcraft world.

If only more game companies cared to make a good game instead of rehased crap again and again.
August 15, 2008 5:44:28 PM

valve has the most popular online gaming services.... it would be great to be able to get online and register like 10 or 20 instances of "the check" because you won't be online for a while... maybe make a one dollar deposit to do it, and then have it check when you get back online the next time (mostly for laptops or when your connection goes out). but other than that i don't mind online gaming services at all. Paid for, get to play 98% of the time (but my cable goes out enough for it to be annoying) why wouldn't ubisoft just break down and use one of the massive existing services? Or is this some sort of push down from EA to try and get their full on gaming monopoly hard-on going? Pretty soon you'll need to buy micro$haft windows AND whatever service EA comes up with to be able to play games... well that's just my forecast if ea has it's way... I don't mind paying for a game... but we need to stop getting milked for "premium services" that just make life harder... that's why people are opposed to drm. we pay for drm, less money goes into the game, more money goes into crap that is useless... just use something steamlike and quit blowing OUR money...
gee i wonder why nobody buy's your crappy games.... point in case, sins of a solar empire.
August 15, 2008 6:54:32 PM

Valve does have offline mode if you are away from the internet for a while. I think it is up to a month or two. You don't even have to do anything ahead of time.

I don't trust EA's online service, I won't trust Ubisoft's for a long time to come. I do trust both Steam and Impulse (stardock). If games came out on Steam or Impulse, I would be more inclined to buy them. I have reason to believe that the DRM built into Steam is effective and reasonable. I have reason to doubt that in the case of most other publishers.
August 15, 2008 7:10:34 PM

I don't mean to offend people that posted in this forum. But I always get a kick at high school kids saying that CEOs of companies don't know what they are doing. You guys really make my day go by fast.

Ubisoft are successful from a financial standpoint. Here's some stats for you guys. Today (August 15, 2008), Activision-Blizzard shares are around 34$/s, they are declining. Ubisoft shares are running at 66.5$/s still going up. Now there are several reasons why Ubisoft's shares a worth twice as much as Activision-Blizzard and why Activision-Blizzard’s shares are never stable.

Ubisoft:
Quarterly(Mar '08) Annual (2008) Annual(TTM)
Net Profit Margin 10.31% 8.49% 8.49%
Operating Margin 15.49% 11.75% 11.75%
EBITD Margin - - 34.48% 34.48%
Return on Average Assets 16.82% 10.15% 10.15%
Return on Average Equity 25.90% 16.44% 16.44%
Employees 4,323 -

You have to understand that Ubisoft need to keep up with the competition (i.e. Activision-Blizzard, EA, etc). The PC game industry is going well but currently, these companies would rather invest on "safer" projects a.k.a. consoles and similar investments. Now, if you are part of the big boys, you obviously want a share of the PC Gaming Industry. So I agree with Mr. Guillemot that PC gaming works on a cycle when compared to consoles. However, the cycle is currently being changed quite a lot this time around because of all the flaws the PC Gaming Industry is facing (i.e. Huge hardware requirements and compatibilities, Piracy, etc). Until these companies can adapt to these flaws, we may have many console ports and fewer blockbuster games exclusive to the PC.

That being said, I completely agree with some of you that recommended that Ubisoft took the Blizzard approach for securing their investments (protect from piracy). Valve is another great option but I don’t think it really solves the piracy issues as much as Blizzard's approach. I also agree that Blizzard have been making very good business decisions so far and I have yet to hear many complaints about Blizzard's products. Still, every time Blizzard creates or publishes a title, the "risk" in investment is MUCH larger than when Ubisoft is publishing a title. In other words, if Blizzard had a title that crashed like say, Hellgate:London, Blizzard would suffer very important financial consequences. Other publishers are simply not ready to take such a high risk. So, who's CEO decisions really makes sense???...well both. Blizzard do business a certain way and so does Ubisoft...and in the end, both are financially doing well. Of course, gamers may have mixed feelings about how Ubisoft is making their money(DRM,secure-rom)...but shareholders don't really care really, as long as the publishers generate equal or better income than the competition does.

August 15, 2008 7:17:12 PM

My statement was that they do not have a clue, nor particularly care to get a clue about why most gamers oppose strict DRM. That is evidenced in their statements. They most certainly have a clue about turning a profit, but they could be doing better in the PC space if they followed the lead of companies who are paying attention to why customers are not happy with the approach that EA and Ubi seem content with.

Also I did not say I expect them to die as a company, but merely to lose what grip they have left on the PC market if they continue down the current path.
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