‘Watch Dogs’ Demonstrates Yet Again The Failures Of Always-On DRM

It was probably inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying: Watch Dogs, on PC, was rendered unplayable by a uPlay issue today. And that raises the question: Why bother?

We’ve been here before, but the problem has, if anything, gotten worse since SimCity‘s disastrous launch a year ago. Always-online DRM and software has just gotten more commonplace, and in fact, the shutdown of GameSpy affected a stunning number of games.

But the uPlay problem with Watch Dogs is just absurd. The game was delayed six months entirely to avoid problems like this. Ubisoft spent millions of dollars hyping the launch. Nobody, at any point, said “Oh yeah, we’re going to be putting a lot of strain on uPlay! Maybe we should test that?”

The drumbeat major publishers hammer out is always the same: They need to prevent piracy. But from who? The kind of games that sell millions of copies on PC aren’t games like Watch Dogs, and it’s somewhat disingenuous to pretend that somehow you need to defend the value of a $60 game that will, within a year or less, be heavily discounted. Games on PC only cost $60 as long as Valve and Amazon feel like it, and lately both have been getting rather feisty with the cost-cutting. Watch Dogs will probably be available for $30, or maybe anchor a bundle, or something along those lines within a few months. Yeah, it’ll go straight onto the pile of shame, but Ubisoft doesn’t care if you play it as long as the check clears.

This needs to stop. Always-on DRM doesn’t work, it has never worked, and it’s not going to magically start working. It’s time we put it on the dustbin and move forward.