We Confirm: Ubisoft's DRM Scheme Cracked In Hours

Ubisoft's eagerly awaited Silent Hunter 5 was released last week as the first title carrying the company's new DRM system. That system, as we've previously discussed, requires that gamers maintain a constant Internet connection or be kicked from the game. One of the major flaws in that system was the fact that the game wasn't saved before you were dumped out; Ubisoft has since corrected this with a patch.

Less than 24 hours after Silent Hunter 5 shipped, several hacking groups claimed to have completely disabled Ubisoft's protection mechanism and began distributing the full game, the 1.1 update patch, and a cracked executable that allows users to install the game and play seamlessly without ever needing an Internet connection.

Actual game footage.

In a statement, Ubisoft has said: "You have probably seen rumors on the web that Assassin’s Creed II and Silent Hunter 5 have been cracked. Please know that this rumor is false and while a pirated version may seem to be complete at start up, any gamer who downloads and plays a cracked version will find that their version is not complete."

We at HH waited a couple of days after the initial crack was announced in order to verify both that the game had been cracked and that the version being passed around online contained the entire game. The answer the first question is unequivocally yes, the game is cracked. As to the second question we've been informed that if the game is incomplete it's the most complete incomplete game ever invented. Those of us who speculated that gamers might have to jump through a complex series of hoops in order to play the game sans Internet connection were wrong; SH5's crack is installed using what we'll call 'standard procedures.'

Not sure if this was rendered by the game engine but it sure is pretty. Blows up real good, too.

Ubisoft's claim that the cracked version of the game is less polished and/or missing content could be read as implying that game pirates won't have access to upcoming patches, new missions, full-blown expansion packs, or customer support. The "No customer support" clause is entirely fair but I've a sneaking suspicion that no amount of post-game patching will prevent hacker groups from stripping the DRM requirements out of the game again.

The irony in all of this is that Ubisoft dismissed Steam as essentially being too pirate friendly. Had the company gone with Steam and allowed for standard offline play this entire brouhaha would have been avoided; reviewers and gamers would be discussing the quality of Silent Hunter 5 while looking forward to both Assassin's Creed and Settlers 7 Instead, the industry is standing around collectively sniggering at a bunch of suits that couldn't find the pulse of gaming with a stethoscope.

Meet Pickles and Peanut, the crack development team behind Ubisoft's new DRM scheme. Say hello, guys!

We at Hot Hardware don't recommend or endorse game piracy; we're not going to start now. We must admit, however, that we'd understand if a person bought Silent Hunter 5, Assassin's Creed 2, or Settlers 7 and then decided to use a cracked version of the program to avoid having to maintain a constant Internet connection. The sad truth of the situation is that once again, it's only the legitimate users of a program who are being punished by this DRM scheme.

Hopefully this latest snafu will convince Ubisoft that their current approach to digital content management is wrong-headed and extremely counter-productive. All this considered, however, we doubt it.