It took them a little longer to come around, but Ubisoft has finally followed Electronic Arts’ lead and cancelled their Online Pass program, Uplay Passport. This in response to the gamer backlash over Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag‘s limitations without the Passport.
For those that might not know, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag offered a system similar to previous Assassin’s Creed games whereby players could send their comrades off on missions to accrue loot, money, and experience. However, rather than a troupe of assassins, the player was sending off pirate ships.
As any Assassin’s Creed fan can attest, this feature, while a little micro-management heavy, is extremely useful for accruing money among other things. Which makes the fact that it was locked behind an Online Pass all the more troubling.
But, when gamers caught wind that the feature was trapped behind the Uplay Passport, the backlash soon spread. To which Ubisoft replied with this message:
“In Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, Edward’s Fleet is an innovative online feature that allows a single player to interact with multiple players on consoles or via the game’s companion app. Every new copy of Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag includes the Uplay Passport code needed to unlock this online feature.
“However, we listen to our community and understand that there are concerns over some players’ ability to access this feature, so we have decided to eliminate the cost of the Uplay Passport for Black Flag. This ensures that everyone will be able to use the companion app, Edward’s Fleet, online multiplayer and available bonus content at no additional cost.
“What’s more, Uplay Passport will not be a part of any future Ubisoft games.”
That means any gamer who purchases (or rents) a second hand copy of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag will have unfettered access to all of the game’s features, including the use of ‘Edward’s Fleet.’ More importantly it also means that highly anticipated games like Watch_Dogs or The Crew will not have locked content.
Over the past year, the much-maligned Online Pass has gone from a viable economic strategy to an almost unspeakable addition. Both Electronic Arts and Sony distanced themselves from the feature — hopeful that their strategy might boost next-gen sales — which left Ubisoft as one of the lone remaining adopters of the Online Pass.
When EA first announced they were dropping the Online Pass, speculation ran rampant that the next-gen consoles might block used games, but we know now that will not be the case. Granted, Sony does require a PlayStation Plus subscription for online play, but Microsoft has been asking gamers for a yearly fee for several years now.
This switcheroo by Ubisoft and the recent backpedaling by Microsoft show that gamer feedback is stronger than it has ever been, and suggests that every company will do whatever it takes to win gamers’ favor in the next-gen. We’ve already heard about Ubisoft’s plan to dominate in the next-gen, and this decision certainly puts them in a better place.
Are you glad that Ubisoft finally got on board with the anti-Online Pass initiative? Do you think we will ever see a similar feature in the future?
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is available now for the PS3 and Xbox 360, and will be available later this month for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Follow Anthony on Twitter @ANTaormina