Ubisoft Doesn’t Want You To Own Your Games - And Why That’s A Problem

Ubisoft Doesn’t Want You To Own Your Games - And Why That’s A Problem

If you are a fan of Ubisoft games, you might have noticed that the publisher has recently changed the name of its subscription service from Uplay+ to Ubisoft+. This is not the first time Ubisoft has rebranded its online platform, as it has gone through several iterations over the years, such as Uplay, Ubisoft Game Launcher, Ubisoft Connect, Uplay Passport, and Ubisoft Club. But what does this new name mean for gamers, and why should we be concerned?

Note: I've decided to post this under Linux Gaming as it's still a topic that concerns our user freedoms. Microsoft's Gamepass subscription already platform-locks players to Windows, so this may be a relevant topic.

The publisher’s latest subscription service rebranding is a sign of a troubling trend in the gaming industry

Ubisoft+ is a subscription service that gives you access to over 100 Ubisoft games, including new releases, DLCs, and classic titles. It has two tiers: Premium and Classics. The Premium tier costs $17.99 per month and lets you play games on PC, , and Amazon Luna. The Classics tier costs $9.99 per month and lets you play games on PC only. The service also offers a 7-day free trial for new users.

Ubisoft+ is Evolving: Here’s What to Expect
Today, alongside the Early Access launch of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown on Ubisoft+, Ubisoft is renaming its subscription plans.

Sounds like a good deal, right?

Just wait - It gets worse

It gets scary - in an interview with gamesindustry.biz when Tremblay, director of subscriptions at Ubisoft, talks about how Ubisoft wants to see a “consumer shift,” similar to what happened with CDs and DVDs, where people switched to Spotify and Netflix, instead of buying physical media to keep in their own homes.

The worst part is that Ubisoft keeps seeing demand for it. They had one of their best months yet. Considering that most people, while being part of the problem, also see this as a problem, it’s strange to see it framed as if there’s something wrong with the company’s customers.

One of the things we saw is that gamers are used to, a little bit like DVD, having and owning their games. That’s the consumer shift that needs to happen. They got comfortable not owning their CD collection or DVD collection. That’s a transformation that’s been a bit slower to happen [in games]. As gamers grow comfortable in that aspect… you don’t lose your progress. If you resume your game at another time, your progress file is still there. That’s not been deleted. You don’t lose what you’ve built in the game or your engagement with the game. So it’s about feeling comfortable with not owning your game.

Comfortable not owning games?

We know that this is not true. We know that even today - streaming services are not reliable, that they can change their terms, raise their prices, remove their content, or shut down at any time. Many platforms restrict quality (HD) content on Linux and certain Browsers. Now they're taking away games?

An example is Rocksmith 2014 Remastered that was completely pulled out of all stores and turned into abandonware. If you don't have it on Steam, but want to buy this game now, you'll have to splurge over 100$ for a game key. The alternative is Rocksmith+, a subscription model, which by the way is much worse in their songs catalogue and they are raising prices there as well.

We know that games are not like music or movies, that they are more complex, interactive, and personal. We know that owning our games is not just a matter of convenience, but of identity, expression, and freedom.

But it's cheap! At first..

Sounds like a good deal, right? Well, not so fast. There are some serious drawbacks to this model that you should be aware of before you sign up. Here are some of them:

  • You don’t own your games. This is the most obvious and important one. When you subscribe to Ubisoft+, you are essentially renting the games, not buying them. You can only play them as long as you keep paying the monthly fee. If you cancel your subscription, or if Ubisoft decides to shut down the service, you lose access to all the games you played. You also lose your progress, your achievements, your customizations, and your engagement with the game world. You have no control over your gaming library, and you are at the mercy of Ubisoft’s decisions.
  • Many of the games you'll want will become cheap via sales. There's a whole bunch of games out there. Waiting 4 months for a 50% off isn't that bad. In fact, it's very common for Ubisoft games to get a heavy discount not long after launch
  • You miss out on other games. Ubisoft+ might seem like a great way to enjoy a variety of games, but it also limits your choices. By subscribing to Ubisoft+, you are locking yourself into a single publisher’s catalog, and ignoring the vast diversity of games available from other sources. You are also missing out on the discounts, sales, bundles, and freebies that other platforms offer. You might end up paying more for less, and missing out on some gems that you would otherwise discover and enjoy.
  • You support a problematic business model. Ubisoft+ is not the only subscription service in the gaming industry. There are others, such as EA Play, PlayStation Now, and Xbox Game Pass. Some of them offer better value and quality than Ubisoft+, but they all share the same underlying problem: they are designed to make you dependent on them, and to discourage you from owning your games. They are part of a larger trend that is eroding the concept of ownership and consumer rights in the digital age. They are also contributing to the overproduction and oversaturation of games, which leads to lower quality, less innovation, and more exploitation of developers and players.
  • You pay more in the long run. Ubisoft+ might seem like a bargain at first, but if you do the math, you will realize that you are actually paying more than you would if you bought the games outright. For example, let’s say you want to play the latest Assassin’s Creed game, Valhalla. If you buy it on Steam, it costs $59.99. If you subscribe to Ubisoft+ Premium, it costs $17.99 per month. That means you would have to play Valhalla for less than four months to break even. But what if you want to play other Ubisoft games, or revisit Valhalla later? You would have to keep paying the subscription fee, even if you don’t play anything else. In a year, you would spend $215.88 on Ubisoft+, which is more than three times the price of Valhalla. And that’s just one game. Imagine how much you would spend if you wanted to play multiple games over a longer period of time.
  • Platform locking. This is especially relevant if you're a Linux user. As a Linux user, you can't enjoy Gamepass due to how the games are packed and bundled. What's stopping Ubisoft from doing the same?

Final Words

We should not let Ubisoft or any other publisher tell us how to enjoy our games.

We should not let them take away our ownership, our choice, our value, and our voice.

We should not let them turn us into passive consumers, but active creators.

We should not let them make us comfortable with not owning our games, but make them uncomfortable with trying to take them away from us.