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Ubisoft pauses 'decommissioning' of old games, reverses course on DLC deactivation


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Ubisoft's shambolic "decommissioning" of more than a dozen older games took an unexpected turn today with a surprise announcement that the process—well, most of it—has been delayed to give people one final chance to snag the content that's going away.

The whole thing began in early July when Ubisoft announced that the online features of some older games—including one-time biggies like Far Cry 3, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, and a bunch of Assassin's Creeds—were being shut down, so Ubisoft could "focus [its] resources on delivering great experiences for players who are playing newer or more popular titles."

Reasonable enough, I suppose, except that the shutdown meant the loss of access to DLC for the impacted games. There was also an implication that at least two of the games on the chopping block—Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD and Silent Hunter 5—would be rendered unplayable even for current owners, although Ubisoft quickly clarified that this would not be the case. 

Adding fuel to the fires of confusion, Ubisoft Mainz basically said "nope" and went to work upgrading Anno 2070's online services infrastructure so people could keep on playing even after Ubisoft pulled the plug.

It was not the smoothest road to shutdown ever, in other words, and today Ubisoft acknowledged the botch with word that it's putting the planned closures on hold for a month.

"Decommissioning online services for older games is something we don't take lightly, but it's also a necessity as the technology that drove those services becomes obsolete," Ubisoft said. "We want our players to enjoy optimal gameplay experiences without things breaking, potentially subjecting players to crashes and security breaches. At the same time, we want to make this process as seamless as possible for our players. Over the last month, our teams have been hard at work exploring what is possible to reduce disruption."

So here's what's happening now: The decommissioning has been moved from September 1 to October 1, and until that date any singleplayer DLC for Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, Assassin's Creed 3, Far Cry 3, and Splinter Cell Blacklist will be available to download and keep: As long as you activate it before October 1, you can continue to access and play the add-on content without interruption. Singleplayer DLC on console versions of those games won't be impacted, and will continue to be available to access and play past the October 1 deadline.

Ubisoft also confirmed that Anno 2070 will be getting an update that will enable the game to operate, in single or multiplayer mode, beyond the shutdown date. 

"In fact, your experience should even be a bit smoother now than before," the Anno 2070 team said in a separate post. "We ported the game to 64-bit, which enables the game to address all your PC’s memory. Additionally, the new online services should make for a nicer matchmaking experience. And you can still use the in-game friends list to set up matches."

The only game that will go down on September 1 as originally scheduled is the multiplayer-only Space Junkies, which will be shuttered on schedule, and will no longer be accessible at all.

Letting players retain DLC access is a smart move by Ubisoft, but frankly it's baffling that it had to blunder around so much before reaching this point. Did nobody foresee the backlash to the initial "we're taking your stuff away" announcement? And given that Ubisoft was able to change course in this relatively short span of time, why didn't it just go straight to that rather than annoying (and confusing) everyone first? Better late than never, but even better than that is to avoid tripping over your own feet in the first place.

The updated breakdown of all games impacted by the closure, and what exactly they're going to lose, is up at ubisoft.com.

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