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Ubisoft hit hard by piracy, working on solution

Monday, 27th July 2009 21:12 GMT By Nathan Grayson

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In an earnings call today, Ubisoft announced a 50 percent sales drop from the same quarter last year, and attributed the brunt of that heavy blow to piracy.

“Altogether on console, the piracy is low,” Ubisoft head Yves Guillemot said. “On the PC the piracy is quite a lot. We are working on a tool that would allow us to decrease that on the PC starting next year and probably one game this year.”

On top of that, Guillemot noted that DS piracy is a larger-than-expected problem — something he hopes to rectify by selling physical pack-ins (like figurines) with games.

The PSP, also, has seen its fair share of piracy in the past, but now that the console possesses “new ways to control piracy,” Ubisoft is once again looking into potential projects on Sony’s handheld.

Thanks, Kotaku.

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40 Comments

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  1. Michael O'Connor

    Lets see the pirates justify their actions when they have nothing left to pirate.

    #1 5 years ago
  2. G1GAHURTZ

    This is going to get messy…

    #2 5 years ago
  3. Freek

    Can they back that up with proof though? Piracy does seem to be a nice easy scapegoat for dissapointing earnings. We don’t have to bother looking at the quality of our games, the budgets or our marketing strategy. Just say piracy and it’ll be fine.

    #3 5 years ago
  4. absolutezero

    How about you stop treating those who prefer to play games on a PC like a nasty under class Ubisoft and then I might start caring.

    #4 5 years ago
  5. anasui

    there’s no need of such a tool, Ubisoft PC games are so shit (/not counting the console ones, but I want to be generous) their appalling quality will be enough of a deterrent

    #5 5 years ago
  6. loki

    How stop PC game piracy? Only way: stop make PC ports and make only online PC games

    #6 5 years ago
  7. BC

    >> How stop PC game piracy? Only way: stop make PC ports and make only online PC games >>

    That solution won’t fix anything. Just take a look at companies who are doing exactly that. They still get pirated. For example, wasn’t Demigod getting roughly 10 pirates for every 1 legitimate buyer when it was released? World of Goo was reporting similar numbers.

    #7 5 years ago
  8. Monk

    what about Xbox 360 Piracy, it`s alot.

    #8 5 years ago
  9. SunKing

    Oh, Ubisoft, cry me a river.

    #9 5 years ago
  10. Psychotext

    @Monk: Can’t be that much. 360 software sales tend to be insane.

    #10 5 years ago
  11. DarkElfa

    I’ve played some of their games this year, it isn’t piracy.

    #11 5 years ago
  12. Artheval_Pe

    I’ve played Far Cry 2 and World in Conflict (developped by Massive, however) this year… it isn’t poor quality (except for the few annoying things in Far Cry 2 due to the fact that it was a console port)

    One good thing is, Guillemot seems less stupid than other publishers :
    “We need to make sure that the value is better when they buy the box then when they download (the game) from the Internet.”

    As for his tool to decrease piracy on the PC, I’m unable to imagine something that would really decrease bittorrent downloads… But putting more useful things in the box is a good start.

    #12 5 years ago
  13. Jadeskye

    it’s unpopular but if you required to have an internet connection even to play singleplayer games. Which basically all PC gamers have anyway. Surely they could figure out some kind of authentication system when you sign in.

    That seems like the best idea to me.

    #13 5 years ago
  14. tiddles

    “We are working on a tool that would allow us to decrease that on the PC starting next year and probably one game this year.”

    Lenslok!

    #14 5 years ago
  15. SticKboy

    @ Freek: That doesn’t really matter. Publishers have every right to combat any piracy at all, regardless of scale.

    When pirates start publishing figures for their activities, then maybe publishers will be able to produce specific metrics in their marketing strategies.

    #15 5 years ago
  16. Artheval_Pe

    Which basically all PC gamers have anyway.
    In the land of dreams that is. I know a lot of PC Gamers who don’t have an internet connexion, or a least not a permanent one (crappy Wi-fi that disconnects all the time for exemple).

    That seems like the best idea to me.
    Are you stupid or what ? What’s the partical purpose of what you are proposing ? It’s utterly useless against piracy, it’s against the rights of the consummers and it’s annoying only for the people who bought the game.

    It’s like attaching your customers goods to a chain going from their house to your store, after they bought the thing because there are thieves taking stuff in your store.

    When pirates start publishing figures for their activities
    They do. Look at the number of downloads of a specific torrent on torrent websites. The guy from Tweakguides draw figures based on that data.

    #16 5 years ago
  17. SticKboy

    It doesn’t make a difference anyway. Publishers hold the right to prop their content in any way they see fit. If you don’t like/want their goods, then don’t buy it!

    Just because you may not like their methods/practices, that doesn’t give you the right to own it without reimbursing the content provider – *especially* for entertainment media.

    #17 5 years ago
  18. Artheval_Pe

    Hey, I purchase all my games. Let’s get things straight here.

    And I’m not supporting piracy. That’s why I’m pissed off by DRM and stuff like that, because when I buy the game, there are things annoying me whereas people who don’t buy it can play the way they like.

    If you don’t like/want their goods, then don’t buy it!
    I like their goods, but not always what they come with.

    But it’s not a matter of what I buy or don’t buy, it’s a matter of respect for the consummers, for the people who are willing to buy the goods. Publishers use DRM because there are no proper laws on that matter. But it doesn’t change the fact that what some of them do with DRM is wrong and should not be allowed at all, like I’m not allowed to sell my cellphone to someone and then take it back from him by force.

    #18 5 years ago
  19. SticKboy

    Most implementations of DRM suck, it’s true. That’s why I switched over to playing console games in 2002!

    There have to be better solution out there, maybe Ubisoft actually have somthing that doesn’t penalise genuine customers… I suppose time will tell. In the meantime, there’s nothing that fucks me off more than whiny little pirates not shouldering the individual responsibility for their collective actions, one way or another.

    #19 5 years ago
  20. Michael O'Connor

    “How about you stop treating those who prefer to play games on a PC like a nasty under class Ubisoft and then I might start caring.”

    How about people stop stealing and they wouldn’t have to?

    #20 5 years ago
  21. dirigiblebill

    Technically, piracy isn’t theft. Yes it is. No it isn’t. Yes it is. No it isn’t.

    There’s no proven connection between increased piracy and decreased unit sales. Yes there is. No there isn’t. Yes there is. No there isn’t.

    /ticks checklist

    Right, that’s the main stuff. What’s next? Ah yes, frivolous interjections from too-cool-for-school outsiders who need to get a life.

    #21 5 years ago
  22. G1GAHURTZ

    You forgot the bit where someone comes in and says that they live in Eastern Europe and could never afford to buy games anyway…

    #22 5 years ago
  23. Michael O'Connor

    “Technically, piracy isn’t theft.”

    Someone is stealing something they are legally obliged to pay for, which is not their property. That is theft.

    “There’s no proven connection between increased piracy and decreased unit sales.”

    The constantly plummeting sales of the music industry would like to argue otherwise.

    #23 5 years ago
  24. dirigiblebill

    I would agree that this is theft, personally, but as far as lawyers are concerned I believe it’s termed “copyright infringement”. Don’t quote me on that though.

    “The constantly plummeting sales of the music industry would like to argue otherwise.”

    The absence of conclusive statistical evidence that a pirated game = a lost sale would like to argue otherwise.

    My dog would also like to argue otherwise. His name is Frank.

    #24 5 years ago
  25. SticKboy

    *waves at Frank*

    #25 5 years ago
  26. JonFE

    Michael, there are lots of perfectly valid reasons why your target audience could stop purchasing your product (leading to lower sales) besides piracy and the music industry is no exception.

    #26 5 years ago
  27. anasui

    Piracy is theft, come on. But about Ubisoft, it would only be waste of bandwidth

    #27 5 years ago
  28. dirigiblebill

    @ SticKboy

    Don’t distract him. I’ve got him typing up a feature on the relevancy of PlayStation in South America.

    Whosagoodboythen?

    /pats

    #28 5 years ago
  29. G1GAHURTZ

    That’s true Jon, but the circumstantial evidence is pretty indisputable.

    If people can only get something that they want by paying for it, they will find a way to pay for it.

    If people have a choice of paying and not paying, it’s perfectly reasonable to come to the conclusion that a percentage of those who didn’t pay, could have paid.

    Even if it’s 0.1%, it’s still money lost.

    #29 5 years ago
  30. SticKboy

    *woof!*

    #30 5 years ago
  31. G1GAHURTZ

    Wow!

    3 posts in the same minute!

    That’s gotta be a record or something…

    #31 5 years ago
  32. dirigiblebill

    Wha? Wait a minute…

    /checks Frank’s monitor

    Get off VG247 this instant! No biscuits for you this evening. Now go make the coffee.

    #32 5 years ago
  33. SunKing

    I’m not going to argue for piracy, but I will say this: when I, a paying consumer, have to search “teh nets” for an illegal no-cd crack in the hope of getting a game working, something has gone terribly wrong. You can see a history of my growing hatred towards Ubisoft here and here. Ubisoft’s support for the PC platform has been diabolical, and so I have very little sympathy for their piracy problem, which is no doubt, in part, due to their own bad decisions. I agree that copywrite holders fully have the right to protect their product, but Ubisoft has gone about it the wrong way by effectively punishing legitimate users with an invasive bit of DRM.

    #33 5 years ago
  34. Artheval_Pe

    How about people stop stealing and they wouldn’t have to?

    The problem is that piracy is too easy because of internet, and there’s no way anyone could make piracy harder without completly shutting down internet, or reducing everyone’s bandwhith down to nearly nothing.

    So there is only one way to fight this issue : make sure that people don’t want to pirate games. Personnaly, I don’t pirate games, because I know that developpers need the money to thrive and make good games. Maybe publishers could explain that more to consummers (instead of the stupid adverts “Piracy if theft” => yeah, we figured that out about ten years ago) that piracy is really hurting everyone. Or, as Guillemot said, make sure that there’s something in the box that the player will want to have.

    Another problem is that :
    Piracy is theft, come on. But about Ubisoft, it would only be waste of bandwidth
    When people start thinking that some games are somehow below them, it’s easier to pirate.

    By the way, Halo is a waste of DVD space, that doesn’t prevent a lot of people from playing it.

    Ubisoft has gone about it the wrong way by effectively punishing legitimate users with an invasive bit of DRM.
    Agreed. (They are not however, the only publisher who did that). But I guess we should wait to see what they’re up to with their new feature.

    #34 5 years ago
  35. SunKing

    An issue is that while some people will pirate no matter what – free is free – others, who otherwise might be uncomfortable with pirating, are pushed over the edge by things like crap DRM. Publishers must find a way of rewarding the paying consumer, giving them a better experience – or at least presenting it as such – than with a pirated version. EA seemed to have got the message, and I was thrilled to see their reaction to the inevitibly high piracy figures for The Sims 3. A nice bit of smart PR that’s positive instead of negative.

    #35 5 years ago
  36. JonFE

    G1GA, speaking for myself, I purchase fewer music items now in my early 40′s with a steady income than I did 25-30 years ago on a weekly allowance, simply because my obligations and priorities have changed now that I have to support a wife and kid…

    That doesn’t mean that I resort to download my music to avoid paying for it. I’d download something I know I’d like and have on order just to get my hands on it while I wait for its delivery and something I already own on vinyl just for the convenience of listening to it while working.

    As for games, I purchase far more games that I end up playing, most of them in reduced prices I must admit but rarely second hand.

    Bottom line is that companies will always complain about revenue lost and will blame piracy, but sometimes they refuse to acknowledge their own shortcomings.

    The music industry, for example, chose the knee-jerking reaction of fighting the mp3 revolution instead of embracing it and adopting to its presence, losing valuable time and face in the process.

    They could choose to make their physical product more attractive (using unique packages, extra content etc) or cheaper (in the case of plain jewel cased CD’s) as the production cost should be lower now than 15-20 years ago, or even offer digital downloads before iTunes store became a standard; instead they complained until they were blue in the face.

    Surely there are people that will avoid paying for something every time given choice and the spread of faster downloads through ADSL means that more people have the opportunity and the means to pirate anything (just compare how easier is to search rapidshare nowadays instead of hunting for private FTP servers through IRC of yesteryear).

    However, IMHO, the answer to that should not be to punish your paying customers, making them jump through flaming hoops just to protect your revenue.

    #36 5 years ago
  37. G1GAHURTZ

    Hmm… it’s a difficult one Jon.

    All I know is that I’ve just spent the best part of two years working on a game that I’m sure I’ll be able to find available for download within a couple of days of release, as is the norm.

    If my job and my livelihood come under threat because of poor sales, all I know is that I’m going to be upset at many things, including all of the people who are playing my game, but didn’t give any monetary contribution to my cause.

    Sure, the quality of the game is an issue, but as developers, we can address that from within.

    All that most devs try and do is put all of the risk of not having a successful product into their own hands, and suckey DRM is one of the ways of doing that.

    As long as there is the possibility that companies could lose money from illegal DL’ing, then people are going to see it as a threat and take steps to prevent it as much as possible.

    I’m not really a PC gamer, so the sort of DRM that you mention rarely effects me, but I don’t blame people for trying to make sure that they can continue to earn a decent income, and try and put some stability into their careers. Even if that means going through the process of upsetting gamers until a better solution is found.

    #37 5 years ago
  38. Artheval_Pe

    but I don’t blame people for trying to make sure that they can continue to earn a decent income, and try and put some stability into their careers. Even if that means going through the process of upsetting gamers until a better solution is found.

    People are not upset because they try to find a solution, even if it was a bad one. The problem is that DRM have nothing to do with piracy. It’s not a solution because it has nothing to do with the problem.

    Putting DRM in your game is like cutting your children’s arms with an axe to prevent your neighbor from stealing stuff in stores : It’s completly unrelated, and the problem is that publishers still fail to understand that.

    Apparently, most people don’t know that pirated games are available for download everywhere and that pirated versions don’t have DRM or anything at all because the people who make them available also remove those things.

    On one side you have the pirates who get DRM-free version of the game, and on the other side, legitimate consummers who have to put up with stuff like cd-check, internet activation and limited installs.

    Piracy is strong because year after year, while the industry tries to fight piracy, it leads people to find out that a pirated game is a better game than a game you bought at the store. It also leads people to learn how to pirate a game when they can’t play the game they bought because of DRM. And when you know how to pirate a game, most of the time, you continue to do so with other games.

    #38 5 years ago
  39. JonFE

    G1GA, I wish I had the best solution to this problem (I’d probably get a fortune selling it to interested parties), but, alas, I do not.

    However, I wish you luck for your professional and personal endeavors. Being a software developer myself (but in a heavily customized field to be really affected by piracy, as it has to be tailored to the customer) I can sympathize with your concern.

    #39 5 years ago
  40. G1GAHURTZ

    @ Artheval_Pe:

    I understand that DRM doesn’t make much difference to those who are commited to cracking and hacking, but it’d be pretty negligent of a company not to try and stop them.

    The simple reality is that the only other option is capitulating to the hacker’s determination to break codes and just relying on people’s ‘good will’ to not use your game illegally. Which doesn’t really sound like a reasonable option when you think about it.

    Sure, I know all about the stories of one or two games that don’t use any copy protection and sell well, but I’m not sure if this would be the case if they suddenly weren’t the exception to the rule. Games companies have to do something, and have to try different things until they find a solution that everyone is happy with (i.e. cloud gaming).

    Besides, the best way to deal with a retailer/company who sells you a product that you are unhappy with is to stop buying their products. I don’t agree with the idea that people have some sort of right to play and own a game whilst claiming to despise the developer/producer.

    If I don’t like a company, I don’t use their products. I advise my friends not to buy their products and I get my enjoyment elsewhere. Even if Acti or IW did something to offend me, I wouldn’t buy or even play their games anymore.

    @ JonFE:

    Thanks fella, I appreciate it.

    #40 5 years ago