Ubisoft is removing The Crew from libraries following shutdown, reigniting digital ownership debate


In a nutshell: Ubisoft just gave gamers a harsh reminder that we’re merely renting access to our libraries. The publisher recently pulled the plug on the online-only racing game The Crew, making it unplayable as of April 1. No surprises there – the company had warned this was coming. But some miffed players say Ubisoft went a step further by revoking their licenses to even launch the game through Ubisoft Connect.

People who forked over cash for The Crew claim Ubisoft snatched away the ability to access a game they rightfully purchased. When trying to fire it up on Ubisoft Connect, they’re greeted with a message stating “You no longer have access to this game. Why not check the Store to pursue your adventures?” The game’s also been moved to its own section in the library called “inactive games.” Apparently, you can still launch it – but that only plays a stripped-down demo version.

Ubisoft would likely argue that since The Crew relies on servers that no longer exist, the game is effectively useless anyway. It’s a fair point, but that doesn’t make it okay to take back products people paid real money for, especially without warning.

Some of these unlucky gamers were holding out hope of keeping The Crew alive through private servers run by preservation communities. With the files now unobtainable, that dream is seemingly dead – for now.

The disturbing part is just how much control platform holders wield over digital purchases. The fine print in those terms of service we all mindlessly agree to makes that crystal clear. Ubisoft’s subscription boss Philippe Tremblay has even said players will get “comfortable” with not owning games.

This whole fiasco has Reddit and other gaming forums erupting over the fragile nature of digital ownership. As one Redditor put it, “You don’t own any of your digital library, you just own a permission to download a copy which they can revoke any time they want or remove from their servers.”

Another lamented this as “the saddest and most ruthless decision I’ve ever seen in gaming history.” They also called for new laws to guarantee lifetime access to purchased games. “I will always fight for digital media, I love all the advantages it gives to users all around the world. But we need protection on the national or European level, that when we purchase something, we need to have lifetime access.”

As gaming goes all-in on downloads, who’s to say major publishers won’t start pulling shenanigans like this more often? Hardly a comforting thought for gamers or preservation efforts trying to keep older titles alive. Perhaps that’s why we are seeing campaigns like “Stop Killing Games” popping up.


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