24 votes

Ubisoft shut down The Crew. Here is what we can do about it.

33 comments

  1. [21]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    The video author hand waves away the "licensing constraints" issue, implying it's just an excuse being used by Ubisoft... but I'm pretty sure the licensing Ubisoft is referring to is actually...

    The video author hand waves away the "licensing constraints" issue, implying it's just an excuse being used by Ubisoft... but I'm pretty sure the licensing Ubisoft is referring to is actually related to the cars in the game, not the music. The game featured loads of real models from real car brands, which they almost certainly had to license from those brands. As exemplified by the fact that despite all the real models from real brands included in the game, there are no Subaru, Mitsubishi, Toyota / Lexus, or Porsche cars in The Crew despite it being a racing game and those brands being well known for their sports cars... likely because they couldn't acquire (or didn't want to pay for) licenses for those brands.

    And since The Crew was also primarily designed to be an online game, those licensing deals were likely not perpetual, as is typically negotiated for in single player/offline racing games, but instead were an ongoing cost, or potentially time limited so needed to be renegotiated/renewed every X years. And so it might not be as simple as, "they should just release the server code, or add an offline mode" since to do that they would probably also have to modify all the game's car assets so they no longer represented real car models, which require licenses to use.

    21 votes
    1. [15]
      CptBluebear
      Link Parent
      Let me apologise in advance for the terse answer, but none of that is or should be the problem of the consumer. The case Ross makes with stopkillinggames.com is that there are no regulations...

      Let me apologise in advance for the terse answer, but none of that is or should be the problem of the consumer.

      The case Ross makes with stopkillinggames.com is that there are no regulations whatsoever for a company to just revoke your access to a paid product whenever they feel like it. The car licensing problem is secondary, if not tertiary, to this entire story.

      11 votes
      1. [14]
        cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        But it is though. If you as a consumer purchase an online game which has licensed assets from another company for use in that game, and those licenses expire, your rights as a consumer do not...

        But it is though. If you as a consumer purchase an online game which has licensed assets from another company for use in that game, and those licenses expire, your rights as a consumer do not supersede the rights of the company that licensed their content to the game's developer.

        Should Ubisoft have negotiated perpetual licenses instead of limited time/ongoing ones so they actually could legally release an offline mode for the game after they shut down their own servers? Yeah, probably. But to do so would have undoubtedly cost them a significant amount more money for those licenses, if the companies involved are even willing to grant those kind of licenses anymore to begin with now that DRM is a standard expectation in the industry.

        8 votes
        1. babypuncher
          Link Parent
          Maybe we should fix that with legislation, because it's nonsensical. I already paid for the game. The idea that my license to it or any of the content within it can expire is asinine. It's not...

          your rights as a consumer do not supersede the rights of the company that licensed their content to the game's developer.

          Maybe we should fix that with legislation, because it's nonsensical. I already paid for the game. The idea that my license to it or any of the content within it can expire is asinine. It's not like UMG could sell me a CD in the '90s with a sticker saying it's only good for 5 years, then break into my house and take it away when that sticker expired.

          5 votes
        2. [12]
          vord
          Link Parent
          I don't think this is a settled issue by any means. It's always been taken that when a consumer buys a copy of a copywritten work, they're entitled to that copy indefinitely and can transfer...

          your rights as a consumer do not supersede the rights of the company that licensed their content to the game's developer.

          I don't think this is a settled issue by any means. It's always been taken that when a consumer buys a copy of a copywritten work, they're entitled to that copy indefinitely and can transfer ownership of that copy.

          If I buy a DVD of a TV show, they can't revoke my ownership of said DVD just because the terms of the music licensing expired (hence why some shows get their music gutted on streaming platforms/later airings).

          I'd say it's perfectly reasonable to say that a consumer's ability to continue playing a game they paid for trumps any/all licensing terms the publisher made. Thus any ongoing licensing should have a phase-out plan, even if it's as simple as defaulting to generic models and releasing server code (or at least providing enough documentation that dedicated fans could reasonably reverse engineer).

          The bigger problem is that software companies in particular have been trying to avoid that reality, and thus deeply tie their products to services they control such that they are empowered to cut off consumers in a way that otherwise wouldn't be possible.

          You can still fire up Starcraft 1 off a CD and play LAN games even if Blizzard stopped selling it and shut off all the servers. You can host online matches for UT2004 off the DVD even if Epic shuttered forever. And that should be the default.

          It's a travesty that if Epic decides that they don't want to support Fortnite anymore they could just go 'click' and everything disappears instantly.

          3 votes
          1. [9]
            cfabbro
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            "It's always been taken that when a consumer buys a physical copy of a copywritten work, they're entitled to that copy indefinitely and can transfer ownership of that copy." True, but that doesn't...

            "It's always been taken that when a consumer buys a physical copy of a copywritten work, they're entitled to that copy indefinitely and can transfer ownership of that copy." True, but that doesn't mean a company is obligated to continue supporting a product, paying for servers required to utilize it, or to provide players with server software they can run themselves once the original central servers get shut down.

            And this isn't a new thing. Plenty of games, many of which even predate Starcraft 1 and UT2004 are no longer accessible or playable anymore. Which is especially true for MMORPGs. E.g. Star Wars Galaxies can't be played anymore. Neither can Dark Age of Camelot, City of Heroes, and countless other games that had centrally hosted servers. And that's just the nature of those sorts of games, and always has been. You may have bought a physical copy of the game client, but that has never meant you will always be able to continue playing those games, even if you do still retain the right to resell that now useless physical copy. And The Crew is no different. Just because it had a single player element does not change the nature of the game or the ongoing service required to continue playing it.

            You and @Akir are acting as if these rights are slowly being stripped away, but we never actually had them in the first place. If a game is online only with centrally hosted servers, then you have no right to continue playing it after the servers get shut down, and never have.

            7 votes
            1. [4]
              vord
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              The key bit: It's not illegal (as best my non-lawyer butt can tell) to reverse-engineer a server for these games for this reason. You can play all three of the MMOs you mentioned today because...

              The key bit: It's not illegal (as best my non-lawyer butt can tell) to reverse-engineer a server for these games for this reason. You can play all three of the MMOs you mentioned today because people were able to reverse engineer them without getting shutdown.

              It would just be nice if this was more explicitly legal, possibly even mandating access to server software for customers upon shutdown of official servers, than operating in this nebulous grey area.

              5 votes
              1. [3]
                cfabbro
                Link Parent
                It may not be illegal to reverse-engineer the servers for entirely personal use, but it's likely a grey area to distribute said reverse engineered server, and it is absolutely illegal to charge...

                It may not be illegal to reverse-engineer the servers for entirely personal use, but it's likely a grey area to distribute said reverse engineered server, and it is absolutely illegal to charge money for others to access your reverse-engineered servers. And even "donation" driven private reverse-engineered servers are not legal either, AFAIK. That's why a lot of private servers ultimately get taken down, either via the DMCA process, or even outright lawsuits.

                5 votes
                1. [2]
                  vord
                  Link Parent
                  No disagreement there. I think it would be worthwhile to enshrine protections for running public alternate servers whenever the official version is no longer available, to strike a healthier...

                  No disagreement there. I think it would be worthwhile to enshrine protections for running public alternate servers whenever the official version is no longer available, to strike a healthier balance.

                  So Vanilla WoW would have been OKish after all official servers migrated to TBC, since the Vanilla experience no longer existed, but the current retail WoW server would never be OK.

                  And all the ones you mentioned would (should) be on legally firm ground.

                  4 votes
                  1. cfabbro
                    Link Parent
                    Yeah, just to be clear, I don't entirely support the status quo here either. As a gamer I genuinely hate losing access to games I paid for too. But it's unfortunately not quite as simple as "they...

                    Yeah, just to be clear, I don't entirely support the status quo here either. As a gamer I genuinely hate losing access to games I paid for too. But it's unfortunately not quite as simple as "they should just release the server software" in a lot of cases, especially when it comes to licensed assets being included in the game, since there are loads of conflicting rights at play in situations like that.

                    4 votes
            2. [3]
              Akir
              Link Parent
              First off, City of Heroes can be played today. Not only is there private servers, they have an official license from the company that made it. But the primary difference between the kinds of games...

              First off, City of Heroes can be played today. Not only is there private servers, they have an official license from the company that made it.

              But the primary difference between the kinds of games you mentioned and the kind of game that The Crew is is that those games are meant to be multiplayer at their core. The Crew is a single player game. The only reason why it can’t be played without the online features is because Ubisoft decided that it couldn’t.

              To be frank with you, I honestly don’t understand why you would want to side with them. Even if it isn’t a right to have your products not self-distruct, isn’t it in your best interests if they do not? You are arguing for anti-consumer behaviors! You make a big point of the law covering physical goods, but they didn’t have the concept of digital goods when those laws were written. How many loopholes and technicalities do you want to concede and give away? Rights aren’t rights if you have no opportunity to exercise them.

              3 votes
              1. [2]
                cfabbro
                (edited )
                Link Parent
                Uh... no it's not? It has a single player story you can play through, but AFAIK it's always been primarily a multiplayer, free-roaming, online-only game set in a persistent open-world that has...

                The Crew is a single player game

                Uh... no it's not? It has a single player story you can play through, but AFAIK it's always been primarily a multiplayer, free-roaming, online-only game set in a persistent open-world that has tons of coop, PvE, and PvP events around the map. It's basically the Ubisoft version of Forza Horizon.

                To be frank with you, I honestly don’t understand why you would want to side with them

                I'm not "siding" with them. I'm merely explaining what's likely going on, the issues at play, and why it's not as simple as them just releasing server software that players can run themselves. At the very least, in order to do that they would probably have to strip the game of all assets that required them to get ongoing licenses in order for them to use... which is pretty much all the cars in the game.

                5 votes
                1. Akir
                  Link Parent
                  You're splitting hairs. The single player aspect is the part that is contested, not the multiplayer. And your explaination of what is "likely" going on is conjecture. You don't know what the terms...

                  You're splitting hairs. The single player aspect is the part that is contested, not the multiplayer. And your explaination of what is "likely" going on is conjecture. You don't know what the terms of the licenses are; presumably nobody does but the lawyers involved. But even if the licenses were a problem, typically the very fact that they have stopped selling the game would be enough to satisfy the requirements, as we have seen from over a century of licensed IP products.

                  4 votes
            3. CptBluebear
              Link Parent
              You're arguing the status quo when stopkillinggames is arguing we need regulations for these exact scenarios you're painting. No we never had these rights, but perhaps we should. The problem is...

              You're arguing the status quo when stopkillinggames is arguing we need regulations for these exact scenarios you're painting.

              No we never had these rights, but perhaps we should. The problem is becoming unacceptably large because it's now the standard: launch a live service game and pull the plug after a couple of years. This was rare, and this is now the norm.

              So no, the consumer should not have to care about these licensing rights. This needs to change.

              3 votes
          2. [2]
            Akir
            Link Parent
            I find it extremely disheartening that so many people have a problem with the concept of “If you buy something you should own it”. Why are people so happy to relinquish their rights? Especially...

            I find it extremely disheartening that so many people have a problem with the concept of “If you buy something you should own it”. Why are people so happy to relinquish their rights? Especially when it means relinquishing them to organizations who exist to extract as much wealth from you as possible. Apparently the reason why video game companies become more and more predatory is because we want them to be.

            3 votes
            1. vord
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              I think it's because it's hard to get people to actually vote with their wallet. Especially when only a tiny minority cares about the long-term loss of rights and most everyone else dismisses each...

              I think it's because it's hard to get people to actually vote with their wallet. Especially when only a tiny minority cares about the long-term loss of rights and most everyone else dismisses each small violation chipping away at them. Myself included if I'm being honest with myself.

              Every major outrage WRT to losing rights was basically dwarfed by people who didn't care so long as they got to play their games.

              Losing self-hosted servers? Yup
              Always on for single-player? Yup
              Malware Kernel-level anti-cheat? Yup
              Denovo? Yup

              And then it's even hard to try to exert your rights after the fact, because odds are you don't have millions/billions of dollars and hours upon hours of free time lying around to fight a multi-year legal battle.

              2 votes
    2. [3]
      babypuncher
      Link Parent
      Licensed car designs seemingly ruin racing games for me. Not only does it hurt the longevity of the game, like in this case, it also severely limits what developers can actually do with their cars...

      Licensed car designs seemingly ruin racing games for me. Not only does it hurt the longevity of the game, like in this case, it also severely limits what developers can actually do with their cars in-game.

      The whole reason car damage modeling and physics is worse in racing games today than it was in Burnout Paradise 15 years ago is because auto manufacturers don't want people seeing their cars totaled, and every big budget racing game these days feels the need to put real cars in their roster. Damage modeling has been reduced to some dented panels and scraped paint textures after a 5-car pileup, despite the fact that we now have the processing power to simulate some truly spectacular crashes in real time.

      Maybe I'm just salty that we never got another Burnout game after Paradise.

      7 votes
      1. [2]
        Akir
        Link Parent
        I'm with you on this. It's one thing if you are playing a simulation type racing game, but if you are playing an arcade style game, there's literally nothing having licensed cars adds to the...

        I'm with you on this.

        It's one thing if you are playing a simulation type racing game, but if you are playing an arcade style game, there's literally nothing having licensed cars adds to the actual gameplay. Outrun is still the same game if you replace the Porche 911 with a legally distinct red convertible sports car. My favorite arcade racing games don't have licensed cars at all.

        The way I see it is that large studios like Ubisoft and the like use licensed cars mostly as advertisements for their games. It's the same logic as fashion brands doing crossovers.

        3 votes
        1. Notcoffeetable
          Link Parent
          Interestingly enough I agree with you morally. A racing game should be good on its own merits and not the brands it is able to license. But in actuality the first thing I do in a racing game is...

          Interestingly enough I agree with you morally. A racing game should be good on its own merits and not the brands it is able to license.

          But in actuality the first thing I do in a racing game is checking out what Porsches I can get. I own two IRL and being able to drive one of them recklessly in a racing game is something that keeps me engaged. Heck when I found out I could get a 930 Turbo in Cyberpunk that became my goal. I have Assetto Corsa set up with my exact 981 and my local track. I'm not really interested in driving other cars real or otherwise.

          I guess the closest to IP free racing that I like is Art of Rally, and even then the cars are obviously references to real cars.

          4 votes
    3. [2]
      ThrowdoBaggins
      Link Parent
      On the other hand, if they had foresight, they could have released the offline mode months in advance of the license end date and then have them delisted just before the license ends. That way,...

      And so it might not be as simple as, "they should just release the server code, or add an offline mode" since to do that they would probably also have to modify all the game's car assets so they no longer represented real car models, which require licenses to use.

      On the other hand, if they had foresight, they could have released the offline mode months in advance of the license end date and then have them delisted just before the license ends. That way, players who wanted to download the server code and take them offline could do so without Ubisoft themselves being liable for distributing unlicensed content

      4 votes
      1. cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Sorry, but that is a pretty naive expectation, IMO, and also not how liability works since behaving in good faith and fair dealing is an obligation in contract law. And any online game company...

        Sorry, but that is a pretty naive expectation, IMO, and also not how liability works since behaving in good faith and fair dealing is an obligation in contract law. And any online game company that did something like that, sneakily releasing an offline mode for their players to download right before the game asset licenses expired, would likely end up getting justifiably sued by the asset rights holders.

        5 votes
  2. [8]
    jaylittle
    Link
    You can't do a damn thing about it except vote with your wallet and stop buying online only games. Or at the very least stop acting so surprised when a company shuts it off. It will eventually...

    You can't do a damn thing about it except vote with your wallet and stop buying online only games. Or at the very least stop acting so surprised when a company shuts it off.

    It will eventually happen to every last one of them. Stop rewarding poor design decisions.

    9 votes
    1. [7]
      papasquat
      Link Parent
      The game's been out for 10 years at this point. The people still playing it have gotten god knows how many hours of entertainment out of it after paying what, 60 bucks for it? Yeah it sucks they...

      The game's been out for 10 years at this point. The people still playing it have gotten god knows how many hours of entertainment out of it after paying what, 60 bucks for it? Yeah it sucks they can't play it anymore, but it's not like they were ripped off or anything.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        ThrowdoBaggins
        Link Parent
        Ripped off? That’s a judgement call of value, I won’t weigh in on that. But misled at the time of purchase? Absolutely. And I think an easy way to illustrate that it was misleading is to consider...

        Yeah it sucks they can't play it anymore, but it's not like they were ripped off or anything.

        Ripped off? That’s a judgement call of value, I won’t weigh in on that.

        But misled at the time of purchase? Absolutely.

        And I think an easy way to illustrate that it was misleading is to consider the counter factual: would Ubisoft consider making sure that at the time of purchase, big warning text saying “this game will be impossible to play after X date” would pop up on screen? I strongly suspect they would never dare to, because they would (accurately) assume that would hurt sales.

        8 votes
        1. PleasantlyAverage
          Link Parent
          This is the main issue for me. Consumers have no idea how long a game is going to be playable. The Crew may be 10 years old but some players could have bought it only a few weeks ago and are now...

          This is the main issue for me. Consumers have no idea how long a game is going to be playable. The Crew may be 10 years old but some players could have bought it only a few weeks ago and are now at the goodwill of the store for a refund. Requiring publishers to support games forever doesn't sound realistic, but they do should have to list a "best by date", ideally for each relevant component.

          4 votes
      2. nosewings
        Link Parent
        From my perspective, the "consumers' rights" angle is necessary if there's to be any hope for fighting this practice from a legal perspective, but a red herring. It's not actually what I care...

        From my perspective, the "consumers' rights" angle is necessary if there's to be any hope for fighting this practice from a legal perspective, but a red herring. It's not actually what I care about. What I care about is artistic and historical preservation.

        Apparently not many other people do? I'm surprised I don't see more uproar over this kind of practice. Yes, companies (maybe) have the legal right to do it, but that doesn't make it something that we should tolerate.

        And, frankly, I would make it illegal if I could. An author doesn't get to simply burn all copies of their book, even if it's still under copyright. If it were up to me, distributors of copyrighted digital works would be legally required to submit the works to a public registry, which would make the works available after the copyright expired. No one should get to disappear art.

        6 votes
      3. Grumble4681
        Link Parent
        They should lose their copyright then. Either design the game to be playable without their servers, meaning allow the community to use their own servers or use p2p connections etc., keep the...

        They should lose their copyright then. Either design the game to be playable without their servers, meaning allow the community to use their own servers or use p2p connections etc., keep the servers up forever, or give up your copyright. That should be the options given. Of course almost no company is likely to choose keeping the server up forever as that's a bit ridiculous, but that illustrates the point effectively, they should not get to decide when people stop using a product they paid for.

        5 votes
      4. [2]
        TyrianMollusk
        Link Parent
        So anything you own that's 10+ years old, we can just take, and you'll be fine with that. Can we get your address so we can get started?

        So anything you own that's 10+ years old, we can just take, and you'll be fine with that.

        Can we get your address so we can get started?

        5 votes
        1. papasquat
          Link Parent
          There's something far different between a product you've purchased, and a service you paid for. If you buy a live service game you're doing it with the implicit understanding that one day the...

          There's something far different between a product you've purchased, and a service you paid for. If you buy a live service game you're doing it with the implicit understanding that one day the servers will shut down.

          Sure, you could add some sort of legal obligation that any new live service game requires that the companies who make them run the servers indefinitely, but then they'd totally xessse to be made, because being on the hook for infinite server fees is a monumental risk.

          I personally wouldn't be ok with that, because I like live service games. I just understand the limits of the concept, and don't expect to be able to play on servers that the company runs a decade post release.

          5 votes
  3. [2]
    Weldawadyathink
    Link
    A very good overview about Ubisoft shutting down The Crew. It also recommends going to https://stopkillinggames.com which has guides on how to report this to government agencies. I have started...

    A very good overview about Ubisoft shutting down The Crew. It also recommends going to https://stopkillinggames.com which has guides on how to report this to government agencies. I have started the process of reporting this to a French agency (you do not have to be a French citizen or resident).

    8 votes
    1. Lapbunny
      Link Parent
      There's a pretty fun analog horror-style channel that's making a ton of videos to spread the word about Stop Killing Games: https://youtube.com/@jakediditagain

      There's a pretty fun analog horror-style channel that's making a ton of videos to spread the word about Stop Killing Games: https://youtube.com/@jakediditagain

      1 vote
  4. phoenixrises
    Link
    Update on the "Stop Killing Games" mentioned: UK government responds to Stop Killing Games campaign - There is "no requirement in UK law" preventing publishers from rendering older games...

    Update on the "Stop Killing Games" mentioned:
    UK government responds to Stop Killing Games campaign - There is "no requirement in UK law" preventing publishers from rendering older games unplayable
    https://www.gamesindustry.biz/uk-government-responds-to-stop-killing-games-campaign

    2 votes
  5. Sirpuppy
    Link
    The fact that more companies are treating digital items as things you dont own is insane to me. i grew up on vhs and physical video games. The sad part of this is that the newer generations are...

    The fact that more companies are treating digital items as things you dont own is insane to me. i grew up on vhs and physical video games. The sad part of this is that the newer generations are going to see this as normal since they never had physical copies and everything is being digitalized.

    I recently bought an older assassins creed game on steam and it wouldn't even work because it was using an old launcher. shows how much the company actually values and respects its customers. instantly refunded.

    1 vote