Opinion: Templar’s Victory

There is currently a furor among fans of the Assassin’s Creed series over an announcement by Ubisoft regarding a server shutdown planned for September. When implemented, this shutdown will remove elements of earlier versions of Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed III, along with a number of other games in different franchises, cutting them off from DLC and multiplayer functionality. As I read Ubisoft’s dry and impersonal blog post, I am struck by a line from one of the major villains of the series, Rodrigo Borgia: “You’ll forgive me if I’ve grown tired of waiting for humanity to wake up.

Intellectually, I can accept the fact that there are not a whole lot of original release copies of AC II, III, Brotherhood, or Revelations running these days. That old servers need to be decommissioned and new infrastructure put in place. With respect to DLCs, I can accept the argument embodied by franchise icon Ezio Auditore when he said, “Wanting something does not give you the right to have it.” And yet, I cannot accept that this decision is in any way, shape, or form good for consumers, both now and in the future. I cannot see it as anything but a shameless and cynical ploy to make players buy the same games all over again and hold them hostage in precisely the same fashion as they have been. It is perhaps the height of irony that Ubisoft follows the philosophy of its most recognizable villains in a series of games whose protagonists champion individual freedom of thought. What does it cost Ubisoft to simply let people have DLCs from games over a decade old at this point? The content was created long ago, the costs recouped, and the copyrights and trademarks are still in effect. Killing multiplayer absolutely guts a major element of AC Brotherhood.

And for what? Because the quarterly report shows a fractional dip in profits otherwise? Because Ubisoft can’t hire coders to figure out a way to update the older versions of the games to work with the remasters? Personally, I’m convinced it’s because Yves Guillemot is so tight with a euro that the monuments crumble. Ubisoft’s utterly slavish devotion to “live services” and its general hostility to consumers with regards to the games it puts out, keep it firmly in the ranks of industry bad actors. Its entire ethos seems to be predicated on the idea that they are somehow owed money in perpetuity by gamers, and that gamers have no right to criticize the company’s actions. Yes, there are other developers and publishers who have the exact same problem. It’s only Ubisoft who seems to raise the practice to its most contemptible apex.  Considering that Ubisoft seemingly had to be hounded by the Steam player base into acknowledging they would be OK with regards to DLC, it speaks volumes about how much the company cares about the people who keep them in business. Meanwhile Electronic Arts, two-time “Worst Company In America,” managed to make a minor reputation repair by finally getting rid of their idiotic “Bioware Points” system and granting free access to old DLCs for a number of earlier titles. When EA seems like the more consumer-friendly option by comparison, it should be painfully clear you’re not doing right by your customers.

Yes, I’ve bought in on a lot of these games and others. Yes, I’ve played countless hours and loved a good percentage of the time spent. Yes, this particular call to arms is coming from a guy who poured sweat into a fanfic on Ubisoft’s Division forums (now defunct) that even the moderators liked. But there comes a time when one has to say, “Enough!” When it becomes a matter of principle to literally vote with your dollar and not buy more products from a company whose behavior has become intolerable. And yes, I know all the arguments.

  • They’re a major corporation! One person won’t matter! You’re right. One person almost certainly won’t matter. A few million, on the other hand…
  • You’re being a hypocrite! No, not really. A hypocrite would say, “I’m not buying another product ever again!” and then six months down the line they’re first to the register with the latest one. Ubisoft has reached a point where I can’t support them anymore, no matter how good their next titles might be.
  • You’ve still got all those games in your library! Yes, I do. That money’s been spent. Those hours in those games are long gone. And for the foreseeable future, I’m not going to be playing those games again, no matter how much I enjoy them. I’m way too far out for refunds, and permanently deleting them from my library serves no purpose.
  • They’ll stop making games like that! Or the corollary, They’ll never stop making games like they do! By my actions alone, the assumption that they’ll keep making live service games no matter what I do is certain to occur. Conversely, it’s unlikely that they’ll stop their existing franchises just because one person expresses their displeasure. But again, things may be different if there is a sudden drop in their sales and concurrent logins. Ubisoft has become a microtransaction junkie on top of a multi-million concurrent login habit. Getting cut off from those supplies, or at least being radically constrained on those supplies will have to force a rethink of their business strategy. And given the direction Ubisoft has taken a number of franchises, letting them go fallow for a couple of years while they try to figure out a better way forward wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
  • You’re going to hurt a bunch of innocent employees! By myself, again, I’m not. If a general boycott was to occur, then yeah, there’d be some pain among the ranks. But they knew what they were signing up for when they applied for their positions. Luckily for them, their talents are such that they can find gainful employment quickly, or take their chances on their own creative visions. Ubisoft is not the only game in town.

So, yes, speaking solely for myself, I’m taking a stand against Ubisoft. I do so in the hope that others will stand alongside me, a growing chorus that hopefully manages to penetrate the thick skulls of Guillemot and every member of Ubisoft’s board that they have to change. As Ezio himself so elegantly put it, “To say that everything is permitted is to understand that we are the architects of our actions and that we must live with their consequences, whether glorious or tragic.” If it comes to tragedy, whether the official end of the Assassin’s Creed series or the end of Ubisoft as a whole, then so be it. A company that relies upon, insists upon, and is based upon the absolute control of its player base cannot be permitted to enjoy its victory for any length of time.

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1 year ago

Its heartbreaking they shut down the multiplayers, i was still playing Revelations from time to time. But yeah, im definitely not giving Ubisoft a single penny ever again.