Ubisoft shutdown of online features for old games has been put on pause

Ubisoft is hitting the pause button on its controversial move to decommission the online features (and in some cases entire DLCs) of some of the older games in its library. Rather than proceed with the decommissioning today, Ubisoft has pushed things back to October 1, giving players an extended window to snag any of the content that’s going away.

The entire saga began in July, when Ubisoft announced that it was shutting down online features for many older games, an understandable move given the age of some titles and the operating costs of multiplayer servers and back end DRM infrastructure. Still, the move met with controversy because the shutdown of online features would also mean that a number of paid DLCs for some games (even single player ones!) would become inaccessible, basically taking away access to stuff people had paid for.

Needless to say, reactions to that did not go down well, and unclear messaging didn’t help. Ubisoft Mainz also saw what was going on and went “nope!”, getting to work upgrading Anno 2070’s online services so that players could continue to enjoy the game. Along the way they ported the game to 64-bit architecture and updated the online services for better matchmaking and custom matches.

Ubisoft has updated the schedule of decommissioning to October 1, giving PC players until then to download and activate DLC on their accounts for a number of titles such as Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood, Revelations, and Assassin’s Creed II (2012), while console players’ access to single player DLC should be unaffected. PC fans of the relevant Assassin’s Creed games should check out this post from the AC team on how certain games are affected and how they can secure access to some content. Anno 2070 will enter maintenance on September 6 as the Ubisoft Mainz team apply the future-proofing update to the game and work to migrate Anno 2070 to the new system. The only decommissioning that isn’t on hold is the VR multiplayer game Space Sweepers, which is now totally shut down.

Ubisoft online
Promotional photograph of employees at Ubisoft Mainz, developers of Anno 2070.

The widespread adaptation of DRM and online services has long been decried from a tech preservation perspective. DRM’d software and games are precarious and difficult to preserve legally without “cracking” DRM and illegally breaching software license agreements, and this has been yet another reminder of what could happen to access to games and software when the publisher decides it’s no longer economical to support the back end infrastructure.

It’s a concern that Ubisoft has tried to address in their updated announcement: “Tech obsolescence within the infrastructure of some of our legacy games is something we are keenly aware of, and our focus on remasters – such as Assassin’s Creed III Remastered and the Anno History Collection – is a key part of our preservation efforts. Our teams at Ubisoft are continuing to work hard to deliver the best experiences for players and want to thank you for dedicated support of our games both old and new.”

Which feels like a hell of jink and misdirection. Offering remasters is nice, I guess, but also dodges the issue of taking away stuff that you paid to access.

For an in-depth look at the titles impacted by the announcement, check out Ubisoft’s support page on the matter. PC players will want to install and activate the relevant DLCs by October 1 to keep access to their single player DLC content.