Ubisoft has signaled that it is ready to abandon the PC gaming market due to piracy, with a creative director for the company saying producing PC versions of certain games wouldn't happen because "it’s not worth it".
Ubisoft are notoriously know for their use of 'draconian' DRM schemes that have even attracted criticism from other game publishers, and also from game retailers.
But this latest development relates to two games that may never see the light of day on PC, and Ubisoft is blaming PC piracy.
Ubisoft creative director Stanislas Mettra, working on the game 'I Am Alive', told IncGamers that "bitching" PC gamers will not get a version of the game, as he questioned whether PC gamers were really serious about buying the game, or just wanting the game to be made so it could be pirated.
"Would they buy it if we made it?" asked Mettra, before adding, "It's hard because there's so much piracy and so few people are paying for PC games that we have to precisely weigh it up against the cost of making it. Perhaps it will only take 12 guys three months to port the game to PC, it's not a massive cost but it's still a cost. If only 50,000 people buy the game then it's not worth it."
Mettra would later "apologise" for his remarks, saying that they may have appeared too extreme as English was not his first language.
But it's not just Mettra at Ubisoft that's voicing discontent at the current state of the PC market, with producer Sébastien Arnoult also attacking piracy for the "cancellation" of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.
Arnoult, who is the producer for Ghost Recon Online, says that because "95% of our consumers" would pirate the game, Ubisoft won't be releasing a PC port of the game, and instead will focus on the free-to-play Ghost Recon Online game.
"When we started Ghost Recon Online we were thinking about Ghost Recon: Future Solider; having something ported in the classical way without any deep development, because we know that 95% of our consumers will pirate the game. So we said okay, we have to change our mind. We have to adapt, we have to embrace this instead of pushing it away. That’s the main reflection behind Ghost Recon Online and the choice we’ve made to go in this direction," added Arnoult.
But despite the two Ubisoft employees towing the company line that piracy is ruining everything, there's evidence that the decision not to release 'I Am Alive" had nothing to do with piracy, as the game was "designed for XBLA and PSN in mind", Mettra explained.
But online game retailers seem to disagree with Ubisoft's assessment of the PC market.
Good Old Games, which sells DRM-free games, is one retailer that has had success selling games that are already available in pirated form. Trevor Longino from GoG explained that focusing on piracy as the "evil enemy" of PC gaming is shortsighted, because piracy shows how games can be distributed more easily, without the need to go through a complicated process like "purchasing it, installing the client, patching the game, patching the client, activating it, activating the online component", before being able to play the game. And that publishers should accept piracy exists and that if they should "create enough value in the offer of your game that people buy it anyway. And sometimes piracy can help sales. Longino pointed to GoG's own experience where referrals from torrent sites can often mean higher conversion rates than from regular Google traffic.
Valve, and Steam's Gabe Newell also agrees, stating recently that piracy is more a service issue than a pricing issue, and that by providing a better service can help defeat piracy more so than harsh DRM schemes.