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Ubisoft yanks keys for online games purchased via unauthorised parties
Naked Security Naked Security

Ubisoft yanks keys for online games purchased via unauthorised parties

Far Cry 4 and other games disappeared over the weekend, leaving a trail of ex-Ubisoft fans in their wake, stripped of games Ubisoft thinks were "fraudulently" bought on third-party sites.

Image courtesy of Flickr user BagoGamesFar Cry 4 was his last Ubisoft game.

He had fun with Assassin’s Creed, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, and Splinter Cell, all purchased legally, as well as Watch Dogs, Resident Evil 4, and, well, the list goes on.

But over the weekend, Far Cry 4 disappeared, and ‘slump3r’ became one of many disgruntled Ubisoft customers who were stripped of their games when the game publisher revoked digital keys it says were “fraudulently” obtained and resold via third-party websites, such as Kinguin, G2A and G2Play.

Slump3r is an expat Belgian living in Poland. He or she says he buys from third-party sites because hasn’t mastered the language and so bought the key digitally from a source outside of the country that could provide a French or English version.

There’s also, of course, the price difference – third parties sell games at a steep discount, sourcing cheap, region-unlocked keys from countries where the price has been adjusted to reflect the local market or low per-capita income.

This opens up the field to grey marketers who scoop up the lower-priced games and resell them in higher-priced markets, thus undercutting the major players who stick to publisher-approved pricing.

Eurogamer cites the example of Assassin’s Creed: Unity Uplay, Uplay being a digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications service created by Ubisoft.

G2A sells such keys for $27.87 (£18.34) in the UK, while Ubisoft’s Uplay charges $68.35 (£44.99).

Ubisoft issued this statement to Eurogamer on Monday:

We regularly deactivate keys that were fraudulently obtained and resold. In this case, we are currently investigating the origin of the fraud, and will update customers as soon as we have more information to share. In the meantime, customers should contact the vendor from whom they purchased the key.

Eurogamer surmises that Ubisoft could be targeting keys originally bought with fraudulent credit cards.

But if that is the case, it’s chosen to penalise the gamers by stripping them of the ability to play, rather than taking issue with those supplying the keys.

Customer rights are fragile when it comes to purchasing digital games in online stores. That fragility may well have cost Ubisoft the loyalty of a number of customers.

Image of Far Cry 4, courtesy of Flickr user BagoGames.


“Customer rights are fragile when it comes to purchasing digital games in online stores. That fragility may well have cost Ubisoft the loyalty of a number of customers.”

But they weren’t really Ubisoft customers anyway, were they? If they bought the games from a fraudulent source, it’s not like Ubisoft would have ever seen any of that money?

What was their other option? Perhaps they could do what Microsoft does, and offer to sell a genuine license to a user of illegal software at a discount price – but that requires effort, R&D, infrastructure and complexity. Microsoft is a vastly bigger insitution than Ubisoft and the economies of scale perhaps made it worthwhile for them, but there’s no reason to suppose that Ubisoft have the resources to do that, even if they thought it would be a good idea.

Since when is protecting your intellectual property a bad thing? I only wish the likes of the RIAA would have taken the “soft” approach with people who pirated music, that Ubisoft has taken of cancelling their music assets and leaving it at that, rather than fining them thousands of dollars.


Hey Guy
“it’s not like Ubisoft would have ever seen any of that money”

so you’re saying that the keys that were sold were stolen in the first place because otherwise ubisoft would have received money for them, perhaps not as much as they expect for the region they were later resold in but they would have received some money. If someone stole the keys for ubisoft that makes an even more interesting store for a security focused place like this.

Ubisoft can take the “soft” approach you propose because it controls the access. Hence the cancelling of keys effectively stops the games working as they can’t reach uplay activation etc services. The RIAA as far as I know doesn’t run DRM activation servers for music so they resort to fining would you prefer they be the gatekeepers to your music, I wouldn’t.

So you are comparing apples and oranges. Consumers who thought they were actually buying a copy of the game (albeit probably cheaper than made sense if they thought about it – I don’t know what they paid originally). Or people who just illegally downloaded music with no intention of paying or no means of.

Two very different stories there.


Ok I stand corrected. Turns out the keys were originally bought from Origin with stolen credit cards then resold on other third party sites. So really there needs to be more control either the publishers don’t use as many third party resellers as they do or ensure there is a definite list of authorised resellers. Then there is no argument the the customer is to blame.


The gamers just need to go back and demand their money back from whoever they bought the keys. No big deal. If they’re real companies they’ll do the right thing. Those companies seem to be the ones breaking the rules so give the money back. Ubisoft is just yanking the keys. They didn’t sell the games to the gamers.


Perhaps Ubisoft is ultimately to blame. They needed to select third parties who are allowed to sell keys on their behalf more carefully. They either sold keys to these resellers or they sold keys to third parties that sold to these resellers. All the buying and selling was done in bulk so it can’t be that hard to put rules and policies in place to catch this before it becomes the comsumer’s problem.

If Ubisoft had stuck to a few main reputable key sellers, eg steam, humble etc I doubt this would have happened. So I do blame in part ubisoft’s business practices.

Not that I buy their games anymore. I had the uplay requirement tied to every new game they release. Bad enough being tied to steam for some let alone another service.


Even games bought from them legitimately have issues being unlocked. I have never had a key revoked, but I been locked out of games I bought because I installed it 3 times due to reinstall. A game is bugged sometimes the best way to fix is to reinstall it. Do this 3 times and you can no longer play the game. Only hope is to contact support and most of the time there is no reply.

I stopped buying after getting locked out of several games, with unanswered support ticketys. Ubisoft plagues their games with buggy drm. So even us users of u-play get screwed over on a daily basis. Contacting support is useless as most support tickets just go unanswered.

UBISOFT titles have been a name to avoid for years now. Look at any game forum about a game under ubisoft and you will see ubisoft being trolled, due to its drm policy.


The issue here is grey market imports of games, and the fact that they are cheaper in some markets than others.

Suppose you want the latest Ubisoft game for your PC, but you don’t want to pay the $60 price that they charge in wealthy western countries. You could buy a copy from a retailer in somewhere like Vietnam, where after currency conversion you can buy a copy for about $15, but you would have to pay extra for delivery and wait a long time for it to arrive.

But seeing as all the DRM is tied to the serial number of the game (the disc has no copy protection), all you need is the code, so there are middlemen in Vietnam and the like who will buy games at retail, and sell you the code online. (everything else is throw away). It is a legit code paid for honestly, and everyone is happy.

The problem with this is that Ubisoft would like to charge different prices in different markets and this scheme cuts into their profits. Some people think that in a worldwide market you should not be allowed to charge different rates for intangible products in different parts of the world, but that is a different argument for another time.

Of course Ubisoft are not the only game vendor to face this problem. Other vendors solve it by blocking activation of codes outside regional markets, so in the case of me buying a code from Vietnam, it will not activate as soon as I try to use it, so I can contact the vendor immediately and reverse the transaction.

I think the retrospective cancellation of codes that Ubisoft are doing is unfair and sneaky, because some people will have honestly brought the codes some time ago, thinking that they where just getting a good price and not doing anything wrong, and it is now much too late to contact the original vendor.


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