In today’s world, there are a lot of ways to get ripped off. Ever since software became a mass distribution item, companies have sought ways to protect their products from copying by people who hadn’t paid to use it. In the old days that was called “Copy Protection”, but now it’s Digital Rights Management, or DRM.
And let’s be honest: if it was you, you’d look for a way to protect your property, too. Forget the issue of many people truly not understanding that it isn’t OK to copy software (“but I bought it!“); the rampant, intentional piracy of software is and should be a concern for people who get paid for creating and selling it.
But the protection of your rights isn’t an excuse for trampling on the rights of your customers, and even if you think that’s wrong, ticking off customers when you have a different option is just not smart.
If you aren’t a gamer, or if you don’t have kids who spend way too many hours shooting things on TV or computer screens, you probably haven’t heard of Ubisoft. But they’re huge. Ubisoft is one of the largest games companies, regularly turning out titles that sell in the millions of copies. They’re a true consumer-facing success story of monstrous proportion.
And they make using their software not only difficult, but as all of their recent customers discovered yesterday, impossible. No, really: impossible.
Ubisoft’s latest DRM scheme requires that you have an active Internet connection at all times while playing their games. And no, the games aren’t on-line; you buy them and put them in your computer or gaming console. This would be bad enough under many circumstances, such as you being in a place where you have no Internet connection, or temporarily being without one if your connection was not working.
This weekend, though, Ubisoft’s DRM computers, the ones that your Ubisoft games need to connect to when you start the game, change levels, save, or do pretty much anything, went off-line. This instantly rendered all their customers’ games inoperative.
Now remember: the games are installed on your computer. You don’t need connectivity to play them, Ubisoft just won’t let you unless they can constantly check to make sure you aren’t ripping them off. Think about it: each copy of the game has a serial number. They could require you register the game when you install it and then disallow further registrations under that serial number. They could require periodic check-ins in any number of ways, actually. But this scheme is . . . ridiculous.
I’m not a gamer. I don’t care personally. In fact, I welcome a mechanism that gets my kids to play video games less from time to time. But from a business change perspective . . . Ubisoft, c’mon. Why is it that every time you enact business change it just looks like you’re caring less about your customers?
No uprising/revolt massage. Just the one that matters: business is not about beating up your customers. And even with teenagers hopped up on hormones and adrenaline there is a breaking point. Look at your customers and make sure you don’t cross theirs.