Earlier this week, the upcoming Ubisoft titles Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4, and The Crew mysteriously disappeared from Steam, Valve’s digital distribution platform. Well, rest easy, PC gamers. As of this morning, they’re back. Exactly why the titles were pulled in the first place remains a mystery. Valve refuses to comment, while Ubisoft only released a vague statement through PC Gamer.
Although Ubisoft admitted that the games were “not available via Steam,” they never mentioned why. But the lack of concrete answers doesn’t mean we can’t speculate; this is the Internet, after all. Most people agree that the games’ disappearance had something to do with Ubisoft’s proprietary Uplay service, which has its own digital storefront.
Ubisoft launched Uplay in 2009, but it never quite caught on with gamers. Partly, this is the result of its controversial start: when it was first released, Uplay required that users maintain a constant Internet connection while playing their games. Gamers were not happy, particularly when a denial-of-service attack rendered many games unusable. While the always-online feature was eventually removed, Uplay’s reputation never recovered.
Even today, the Uplay client is widely considered buggy and inelegant, particularly compared to Steam’s slick, streamlined UI. Further, Uplay is a mandatory install for anyone playing one of Ubisoft’s PC titles, despite the fact that it offers no real benefit to the player. Ubisoft games simply won’t work without it.
Steam, on the other hand, is held in high regard by PC gamers, and it’s likely that Ubisoft was trying to undercut Uplay’s biggest competitor by denying it of some of the season’s biggest hits. Assassin’s Creed: Unity is poised to be huge – its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, sold over 11 million copies, and hype for the new title is through the roof. Depriving Steam of those sales (and their rumored 30% cut of sales revenue) would be a huge blow to Valve’s service.
And don’t be fooled; this was clearly all about Steam. Throughout this entire ordeal, Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Far Cry 4 were still available through digital retail sites like GreenManGaming and GamersGate. In their statement, Ubisoft even encouraged customers to purchase the missing titles through the “Uplay store, our retail partners or other digital distributors.”
We’ll likely never know exactly what happened between Steam and Ubisoft, but at the end of the day, it’s the gamers who ended up the real winner. Ubisoft’s titles are back just in time for Assassin’s Creed: Unity’s release next week. Consumers once again have the choice to support the distribution platform they prefer, and that’s best for everyone.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity releases on November 11, 2014 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, while Far Cry 4 comes out on November 18, for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The Crew is currently in closed beta; it launches publically on December 2 for PC, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.