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Ubisoft think gamers need to get comfortable with not owning games

By - | Views: 50,503

GamesIndustry.biz recently spoke to Ubisoft, and something said during the interview seems to have created some sparks across the industry about game ownership.

What was said is not all that surprising really. Ubisoft, like multiple others, run subscription services with theirs being Ubisoft+ that just had a bit of a change into multiple tiers. These services are everywhere now like Xbox Game Pass, EA Play and others. That, and GI.biz spoke to Philippe Tremblay, director of subscriptions at Ubisoft so obviously they're going to be somewhat biased on what they think — it's their job.

From the interview, the bit in question:

One of the things we saw is that gamers are used to, a little bit like DVD, having and owning their games. That's the consumer shift that needs to happen. They got comfortable not owning their CD collection or DVD collection. That's a transformation that's been a bit slower to happen [in games]. As gamers grow comfortable in that aspect… you don't lose your progress. If you resume your game at another time, your progress file is still there. That's not been deleted. You don't lose what you've built in the game or your engagement with the game. So it's about feeling comfortable with not owning your game.

The GOG team certainly took notice, mentioning on X (formerly Twitter): "You should feel extremely comfortable with owning your games on GOG (they're DRM-free) :)".

It's worth noting that clearly it's going well for Ubisoft, as Tremblay mentioned October 2023 was their biggest month in Ubisoft+ history. So people are clearly buying into game subscriptions more and more. And related, Microsoft said back in 2022 that Xbox Game Pass had 25 million subscribers. Subscriptions are clearly here to stay.

Also worth noting, to be clear, Ubisoft don't plan to force you into one way or another noting:

"The point is not to force users to go down one route or another," he explains. "We offer purchase, we offer subscription, and it's the gamer's preference that is important here. We are seeing some people who buy choosing to subscribe now, but it all works."

Given how services can just entirely remove your paid-for content, this whole issue of ownership is a concerning one. Like how Sony were going to just remove previously purchased Discovery content from users, although they've since backtracked on that after public outcry.

The thing is, you have to remember, you don't actually own your games on Steam either. This has been well-known for a long time now. As per Steam's Subscriber Agreement under the "A. General Content and Services License" section:

[…] The Content and Services are licensed, not sold. Your license confers no title or ownership in the Content and Services. To make use of the Content and Services, you must have a Steam Account and you may be required to be running the Steam client and maintaining a connection to the Internet.

I'll admit, it's not entirely the same. Valve won't take away your games if you don't pay them every month, it's not a subscription in the same way, and plenty of games on Steam are actually entirely DRM-free and can be run outside of Steam. But still, it's something to remember, ownership has been on the decline for a long time.

A lot of it simply comes down to convenience though right? Plenty of us pay for Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime and so on and so on — so we can just quickly jump into a show or a movie they have available. But then the problem there is, again, everyone wants their own service. There's more popping up all the time, and rights on various shows end up split between them and you end up paying more and more (look at the mess of Pokémon streaming) and never owning a damn thing.

Over to you in the comments: what are your thoughts? 

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Editorial, Misc
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly. Find me on Mastodon.
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hell0 Jan 18
Quoting: Eike
Quoting: hell0[I've never replayed an old game and as such they do not really have value to me.

I'm on a similar boat, but got two problems with it: I just want to be able to revisit all my games even if I most probably never do it. And, lately, I started revisiting games with my little ones.

I still have the 4(!) original Baldur's Gate II CDs somewhere. Even so, I'd probably just "rent" the game on steam if I wanted to play again. It would probably be a hundred times easier than trying to get the game running from multiple old windows CDs (starting with the fact I don't even own a CD reader any more).

I agree that archiving old games is important, but I think that it's not mutually exclusive with a fair and well thought out subscription model.
Lachu Jan 19
When we own games? Even, when we bought CD/DVD, we do not own content of it. We only buy rights to use content of CD/DVD in way vendor allow us. Do you read ever license text, of any non-free game?

Nearest of giving right to owning games are GOG. You can download offline installer and rip into CD. That's great! There's a way to connect modernity and tradition. You need to play game - you download, install, remove installer and play. Need to preserve game - you download installer and write to CD (or keep on hard drive). There is still big issue: you cannot sell/rent/etc, since GOG disallow this, that's the biggest reason, even GOG do not sell games.

But, where this removing user/client rights will bring us? I've read talk of some EU female parliament member. She told, that in future you do not own anything and you will be happy. She told, it will be great case for all of us. Do you even imagine, where this bring us? Every piece of our world, in future, will have integrated programmable circuit. Maybe every part of our world will be connected to internet. And yet, European Commission is trying to made internet non-anonymous. That's bring one think to us. Imagine, non-anonymous internet user will blame one's(?) car vendor or director of company producing cars. Next day, he/she would not go to work, because car vendor could lock one's car and order him/hes to remove his talk/post from internet. He would not go to job. This person could lost job and everything by one, single post on internet. In this case, most wealth people could control information on internet. Your shoes will have electrical circuit and was connected to internet, you say: Mark of X (Shoe's vendor manager) is stupid person. You do not even known, where mark work, but on next day, you would not even tie your (?) shoes, so you do not go walk, to shop, to work, to school, church, etc. You better own (?) many shoes of different vendor, or you will starve or will go to shop without shoes.

If companies will control our internet routers/modems, operating systems on PC, they even can analyze, what we wrote and turn off our devices needed to write post on internet.

So, if we would still allow companies to not sell their software to us, we could wake up in reality worse than communism regime! But many people would not known that, because people will be enslaved by vendors of things they own and companies will force them to write false information or remove truth from internet. What you could do to be able to walk around, go to shop, church, school, work, chemistry, hospital, use your internet connection, play games, turn on you computer, etc.?

So: promote free software and force parliaments to give more rights to device/software users (I am not write owners by indention), or we will be slavers.
Quoting: LachuWhen we own games? Even, when we bought CD/DVD, we do not own content of it. We only buy rights to use content of CD/DVD in way vendor allow us. Do you read ever license text, of any non-free game?
A lot of that stuff ain't legal. They can say what they want and hope it sticks, but in most countries courts won't back them up on quite a bit of it.
elmapul Jan 19
Quoting: ObsidianBlkYou're not wanting to buy physically is totally your choice! You do what's convenient for yourself!

its not that i dont like physical media, if they were DRM free and i could afford, i would totally buy all my games in physical, and i dont see a big difference from having physical media or an steam key in terms of DRM (aside from all the conveniences that steam offer)

i just dont like the discourse arround it, as if physical was synonymous with preservation while digital was automagically bad, gog is a good exception to this rule!

the only downsides is that they can delist, ban your account, you cant resell (but you often pay less to accommodate for that) and... in cases where they sold something they dint really had the rights to sell, they may remove it... ok its quite inconvenient when you think about those issues.
but physical is not an guarantee either, with things like games that dont have the full content (or in some cases any) in the disk, they just act as an key to download the rest of the game (or even the entire game).

every "digital" game is being distributed to an physical media, and the content of every physical media is digital anyway (aside from things like superFX chips, you cant download then nor store hardware, at best you can emulate with an powerfull enough hardware)

the fact that people have being able to dump content and break DRM does not mean they will be able to do so forever, the same can be said about hacking servers to download content (take nintendo giga leak for example and compare to an cloud exclusive game, sure in theory we can hack the server and download the game to preserve it, in pratice we have no guarantee that we will be able to do that before it got deleted, so why risk it ?)

sure i hade a lot of problems with HDD in the past, not that i use an cd as often as i use an HDD, but im pretty sure optical media is better, the issue is that i can make as many copies as i want, so its not a big deal.
in theory breaking the DRM we can too, but there have been a few cases of multiple layers of DRM that hackers think they broke then all, only for the players to realize later on that they havent and end up losing progress and stuff like that, at least on gog i have the right to ask for an refund (or maybe even sue then) if i realize my game have any form of drm.

anyway, gog isnt perfect either.
i support steam for convenience, price and because they support linux gaming (and in my opinion we should win the battle on OS before we atempt to win the DRM battle)
i support gog because they have DRM Free games..
but both stores dont support things like 18+ anime games (or at least ecchi without censorship), i still have to find out an store that is "perfect" but it dont seems to exist...

oh i forgot to notice, if flash memory is safer than HDD then you can store your gog games on flash memory, if its not you can store in HDD, if SSD are safer you can store it there, if CD,DVD, Bluray is safer do an backup of it on it, so regardless of what is the safer option in your opinion, you still have it (unless some company make an tech that only then can produce copies of the game and distribute in such format, and it turns out to be safer than opitical media and everything else an consumer have access to, but still, making more copies and new copies from time to time seems like an more trusth worth option).


Last edited by elmapul on 19 January 2024 at 8:57 pm UTC
ObsidianBlk Jan 19
Quoting: elmapulits not that i dont like physical media, if they were DRM free and i could afford, i would totally buy all my games in physical, and i dont see a big difference from having physical media or an steam key in terms of DRM (aside from all the conveniences that steam offer)

i just dont like the discourse arround it, as if physical was synonymous with preservation while digital was automagically bad, gog is a good exception to this rule!

Except you contradict these statements with...

Quoting: elmapulthe only downsides is that they can delist, ban your account, you cant resell (but you often pay less to accommodate for that) and... in cases where they sold something they dint really had the rights to sell, they may remove it... ok its quite inconvenient when you think about those issues.

You basically point out exactly why many people prefer physical distribution. The core fact that once you own the disc, none of the above can be done to your purchase... exception being...

Quoting: elmapul...with things like games that dont have the full content (or in some cases any) in the disk, they just act as an key to download the rest of the game (or even the entire game).

In this case, you're right, but then, this example wouldn't be a consumer making a physical purchase, but rather a customer buying the equivalent of a pre-paid card of sorts, with the added bonus that you, as the consumer, was actively being tricked into thinking you were buying a disc with the content upon it.

Quoting: elmapulevery "digital" game is being distributed to an physical media, and the content of every physical media is digital anyway (aside from things like superFX chips, you cant download then nor store hardware, at best you can emulate with an powerfull enough hardware)

Not exactly sure what you're explaining here. Obviously all of the content on physical media is digital (with exceptions for some [but not all] magnetic storage media). This is not the point. Additionally, being able to utilize that digital content upon it's originally intended hardware, or running it on emulation (whether software or hardware based) is also a moot point. The core point of physical media, in this context, is the inability of a company to remove your access to said content. If you own the media on which those bits are stored, you cannot have it taken from you (legally) regardless of any actions that content's originating company, or 3rd party company may do.

Quoting: elmapulthe fact that people have being able to dump content and break DRM does not mean they will be able to do so forever

Yes... yes it does. Copy protection (at present) is devised by, and executed by humans. There's always another human that can circumvent limitations imposed by another. The only limitation that has success is to make sure nobody is able to access the full content of your digital media... AKA, always online functionality in which some functionality of the game is absolutely not client side. Even then, while it takes considerable effort, people have worked around these limitations as well. All one has to do is look at the various MMOs that have been resurrected by fans via a fan-made server (City of Heros is one of the latest MMOs resurrected in this manner. Star Wars Galaxies is another).

Quoting: elmapulthe same can be said about hacking servers to download content (take nintendo giga leak for example and compare to an cloud exclusive game, sure in theory we can hack the server and download the game to preserve it, in pratice we have no guarantee that we will be able to do that before it got deleted, so why risk it ?)

In terms of hacking servers... which, to be fair, now we are definitely outside the merits of physical ownership, but, WTH... If content was nabbed from a server hack, that's it. Cats out of the bag. Sure, the server owner may patch the vulnerability, but that's ultimately temporary. Hackers with a strong enough desire (just like breaking copy protection) can, eventually, get through and access the content again. It becomes a game called Cat and Mouse. Hacker breaks in, server is patched, hacker gets around patch, rinse, wash, repeat. Regardless, though, after the first breach, if anything was, indeed, copied off the servers, that's it. Even with the server patched, the content is in the wild. Those that truely want it will be able to get it.

---

Still, going back to physical distribution. Assuming you're not being tricked with an empty disc, physical media does have a greater chance of preserving games, movies, and music as a company cannot walk into your home and take it from you. The content that only lives on a server can be stripped from you at any time.

Also... on a side note... If a game can be downloaded onto your computer, it's now a physical copy (again, unless the game has an, as yet non-replicated, online server requirement). Crack the DRM (if there is any) and cold-store that thing. While Steam does have it's DRM, Steam also makes cold storing your game libraries exceedingly easy.
14 Jan 21
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QuoteA lot of it simply comes down to convenience though right? Plenty of us pay for Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime and so on and so on — so we can just quickly jump into a show or a movie they have available.
SO TRUE. The world is getting lazier and lazier. Many people I know have expressed they buy digital versions of media because they don't want to put a disc in their device.

Am I a hypocrite? Well... back in the DVD + serial key days, I would rip the DVD and then mount it so I didn't have to use the disc. But I did own the disc and serial. So, I certainly feel the same desire for convenience, but not a hypocrite in execution. I buy PS5 discs instead of digital, the exception being if digital is $5 or under. It's an amount I'm willing to lose.
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