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by Ben Kuchera

The idea that Ubisoft somehow didn’t know the condition of Assassin’s Creed Unity doesn’t just strain credulity, it snaps it in two and then sets the pieces on fire. The game’s issues are blatant, and extensive. The manipulation of review embargoes adds an extra layer of shady behavior to the situation.

So that’s the context of the “free” DLC that’s being offered, or a free game if you purchased a season pass. A company shipped a broken product, it used the embargo system to delay the news hitting, and are now offering more content for that game as a sort of apology. And that free game? It costs them next to nothing to open up their catalog as a way to try to make good on the horrific launch of Unity. The worse Ubisoft will suffer is a few lost Far Cry sales.

We have to stop giving them a free pass

The system has become exceedingly stacked against the early buyer. We’ve passed the point anyone is trying to hide it. The fact that Ubisoft thinks it can get out of this situation so cheaply isn’t a contrite apology, it’s a victory lap. It’s up to consumers to figure out how badly this behavior will hurt companies in the future, and free DLC is a woefully inadequate first step to making this right.

Here’s an apology that would matter: A way to return the game for a full refund, and a direct apology to players along with an explanation for how and why this happened.

That’s not going to happen however, because money. Refunds would mean dealing with retailers and Uplay, Ubisoft’s own digital distribution platform, states its rule simply: “All sales on PSN, Mac and PC digital content are final.”

It would cost time and money, and it would have to note that it shipped a broken game on notes to investors, and then describe the cost involved in actually treating its customers with respect. These things are unacceptable to a business focused on the bottom line.

Instead of taking steps that would matter, Ubisoft is going to offer warm platitudes and free content for people who paid $60 or more for a game that everyone but the purchaser knew wasn’t likely to work. If you want to know why players and the press don’t often trust big publishers, this could be exhibits A through Z. The entire system has been manipulated to hide the fact the game was broken, and Ubisoft is trying to make up for that dishonesty in the least expensive ways possible.

If there’s any silver lining in this situation, the free game selection is pretty great, including Far Cry 4 and The Crew.

Publishers need to stop tip-toeing around their own failures, and offering for-pay content for a broken game for free isn’t a great way to repair the relationship.

Video games are the only business where you’ll often hear industry insiders talking about how buying at launch is a good way to support the studios behind the games. This leaves out the fact that returning an opened game is all but impossible, and broken games at launch is close to becoming the rule rather than the exception.

This isn’t about Ubisoft, it’s about an industry that’s becoming increasingly comfortable selling non-working products to buyers with little to no recourse. Read Ubisoft’s post about the free content, they describe this issue as if it something that happened to them, rather than the result of the company’s own actions.

I’m also looking at you, Microsoft. The Halo situation remains unacceptable.

If anything, this is another painful reminder to stop pre-ordering games, stop buying games at launch, and for the love of god don’t buy season passes for content that may or may not be worth your money. Ubisoft needs to stop treating its customers with this level of disrespect, and it needs to start now.

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