What Message Is Ubisoft Decommissioning Online Services Sending Consumers?

Do we own the games that we buy? Ubisoft doesn't think so.

By AlexJohn, Posted 14 Jul 2022

On September 1st Ubisoft is adding fifteen titles to their list of decommissioned games. Decommissioning the online services of PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and Wii U games, including Assassin's Creed 2Rayman Legends, and Splinter Cell: Blacklist will render the online elements of these games unusable. Players who own these versions of the games will no longer be able to access multiplayer modes, online features, or link their Ubisoft account in-game. 

Furthermore, those that own the PC version of Assassin's Creed: BrotherhoodAssassin's Creed: Liberation HDDriver: San FransicoPrince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands and Silent Hunter 5 will no longer be able to access the downloadable content produced for these games. Including any DLC that they have paid for. 

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It makes sense that video game publishers like Ubisoft would eventually shut down the online servers of older, less played games. However, by preventing players from accessing DLC that they have previously purchased, Ubisoft and others are unfairly treating their customers. Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, for example, has single-player story DLCs, The Corpernicus Conspiracy and The Da Vinci Disappearance; however, as of September 1st, "the installation and access to DLC will be unavailable". This suggests that PC gamers will no longer be able to play these story DLCs, despite owning them.

This paradox leads to a wider question regarding digital game ownership. If Ubisoft can prevent players from accessing additional downloadable content that they have purchased (on top of buying the base game) what is to stop them, and other publishers, from blocking access to full games as and when they choose?

There have been a number of occasions when rites issues have forced publishers to delist games from online storefronts (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, for example), but the implication from this recent list of decommissioned games is that publishers can, and will, block access to games that have been purchased and downloaded by players. Including story DLC that should not even require an internet connection or online server to work and Ubisoft's article is unclear on how decommissioned content will block access to single-player DLC content.

In 2017 TechRadar described purchasing a digital game as "essentially long-term renting a license to play it" and, with their latest announcement, Ubisoft seems to have confirmed as much. The message that Ubisoft is sending to consumers is that if they purchase a game digitally, they do not actually own that game.

The purpose of this piece is not to waive a pitchfork at Ubisoft and demand all video games stay online forever. Rather, it is to look at Ubisoft and other publishers and wonder how far this practice could go in the future.

Alex David Johnson (@AlexJohnWriting)
News Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC, WII, Mobile
Publisher(s): Ubisoft
Developer(s): Ubisoft Montreal
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Stealth
Release Date: 2007-11-13

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