Citing 95% PC piracy rates, Ubisoft seems to be quitting the PC games market. The problem with games piracy statistics are manifold: Nobody actually knows what the piracy rates really are (though they seem to be likely to be on a par with console piracy rates – probably – since there’s certainly no shortage of console games piracy), and there are other factors involved like release-timing, product quality and pricing that all play their part.
Ubisoft’s PC versions of their games have become increasingly so slapdash and cack-handed that it isn’t really surprising that PC gamers simply don’t want to buy them. I don’t have to tell you that this does not make for a good business model for the PC games market, but someone should probably tell Ubisoft.
Of course, it’s possible that Ubisoft is already well-aware of that, and simply doesn’t care; that this is all a bit of a dodge to avoid spending the sort of money required to deliver quality games to PC gamers.
The From Dust fiasco comes to mind. After Ubisoft declared that PC gamers wouldn’t need be online to play From Dust – because all of the problems with Ubisoft’s online DRM scheme were making customers sour – well, it turned out that they did. It took some weeks for Ubisoft to correct that situation.
But even so, this hotly-anticipated title from the Ubisoft stable received tepid reviews because the PC version ended up being pretty rubbish in any case, precisely because it looked like nobody at Ubisoft gave a damn whether the game was even playable. Having the patience of a saint and the endurance of a stoic aren’t really the kinds of prerequisites you want to demand from your customers. Games – even yes PC games – are supposed to be fun, and not gruelling endurance trials whenever you pop open a menu, and want to get some proper use out of your mouse and keyboard.
Ubisoft have done less and less over the years to make the usability of their PC versions of games… well, usable, dumping arcane and difficult-to-navigate user-interfaces in front of PC gamers and requiring complex and confusing invocations to do the things that PC games from some other publishers seem to do so effortlessly. It’s like nobody at Ubisoft cared whether people would actually like the games enough to pay AAA prices for them, and guess what? Increasingly few gamers apparently did.
From experiencing this years-long progression personally, I’d say that there are barely any of the publisher’s titles for the last three years that I’d even buy as a $5 special. It’s not that the games aren’t good as games. It’s that they’re just so frigging awful to use on the PC.
That psychological grime also contaminates my other purchasing decisions. The terrible flavour of Ubisoft’s PC games doesn’t make me likely to buy console versions of those same games, should the opportunity come up.
Honestly, I’m mostly troubled by Ubisoft’s apparently fallacious reasoning for its exit from the PC games market, more than the fact of its exit. Because, unless Ubisoft were to lift its own game and make the PC versions of its games more … well, playable, then Ubisoft simply cannot exit the PC games market fast enough, in my opinion.
Leave the market to someone who might do something worthwhile with it.