If you’re after a preview of the real dangers that can come from DRM, and no, I’m not talking about performance dips, then look no further than the dedicated Anno 2070 community this week. Blue Byte’s sci-fi strategy game has been unplayable for the last three days, even in single-player, due to a server authentication issue relating to its DRM.
Looking at the number of people still actively playing Anno 2070, the audience is relatively small. But, those dedicated few who do want to play the six-year-old game are finding themselves stonewalled by Ubisoft’s servers.
A Ubisoft community representative said two days ago that the issue is being investigated, although as of right now there is no solution. “We're currently investigating the issue where you get an Unknown Error when trying to connect to Anno 2070,” wrote Ubi-05, later adding “Update: We've narrowed down the issue and are working on the solution.”
As a result of this, Anno 2070’s Steam page has been bombarded with ‘Mostly Negative’ reviews, complaining of outages, Uplay DRM, and an always-online requirements. Someone over the official forums is even considering sailing the high seas, posting “You know you're doing something wrong when your customer(me) is debating re-downloading their fully paid for but yet to be played video game from the Pirate Bay.” Not a great look for a customer with a legally obtained copy of a game to even have to consider downloading a cracked version.
On its own this is a relatively innocuous affair, but the bigger picture is the erosion of ownership through DRM. Buy any DRM-protected game and you are relying wholly on the publisher and/or DRM provider to continue running their authentication servers. Without being able to authenticate you’ve got a legitimate copy, you’re not going to be able to play the game - legally, at least.
Anno 2070 isn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last to suffer from this issue. While I’m not against the use of DRM, there’s definitely an argument that copy protection should be removed from a game once it’s been cracked.