Ubisoft Killing The Crew Sets a Dangerous Precedent for Game Preservation

Ubisoft Killing The Crew Sets a Dangerous Precedent for Game Preservation

Ubisoft Killing The Crew Sets a Dangerous Precedent for Game Preservation

After ten years, The Crew has reached the end of the road. On 31 March, Ubisoft permanently shut down the servers after abruptly delisting the open-world racer from digital stores last December.

Because it requires an online connection, this means The Crew is now completely unplayable.

Ubisoft deleting The Crew from player libraries

Players were hoping Ubisoft would release an offline patch. While you can’t race other players online, the single-player campaign would still be playable. Instead, the publisher is going to extreme lengths to prevent players from accessing the game, sparking outrage in the community.

The Crew screenshot Aston Martin
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Credit: Ubisoft

After shutting down the servers last month, PC Gamer reports that Ubisoft has started removing The Crew from players' libraries and revoking their game licenses. This unprecedented move prevents players from downloading and installing The Crew - even though they paid for it.

Since the servers were shut down, The Crew has been moved to a new “inactive games” section on Ubisoft Connect. Attempting to boot it greets players with the following message:

"You no longer have access to this game. Why not check the Store to pursue your adventures?" Booting it directly from the install directory runs the game in demo mode while downloading it on Steam results in a game key request.

“The saddest and the most ruthless decision I've ever seen in gaming history"

This sets a dangerous precedent for game preservation. It’s a grim reminder that we don’t fully own our digital games as publishers can remove access without warning.

Sadly, publishers delisting racing games from digital stores isn’t uncommon. Forza games often get delisted after a few years if licenses with car manufacturers expire. However, you can still buy physical copies and the original digital games remain playable since they don’t require an online connection.

The Crew screenshot beach
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Credit: Ubisoft

That’s not the case with The Crew. You may still own a physical copy, but the obsolete disc might as well be a drinks coaster without an offline patch.

When Gran Turismo Sport’s servers were taken down earlier this year, Polyphony nobly released an offline patch. Even though Sport primarily focuses on online multiplayer racing and has long been superseded by Gran Turismo 7, the single-player campaign is still playable.

This bodes well for GT7’s future preservation. With Ubisoft unwilling to release an offline patch for The Crew, there’s a good chance The Crew 2 and The Crew Motorfest will become lost media in the future.

The Crew 2 is already six years old and still has an active player base, but its lifespan may be cut short in a few years. Players are already fearing that 2015’s Need for Speed reboot is the next racing game on the chopping block as it approaches its tenth anniversary.  

The Crew screenshot Porsche
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Credit: Ubisoft

Unsurprisingly, the community has widely condemned Ubisoft’s actions. "This was the saddest and most ruthless decision I've ever seen in gaming history," one Reddit user commented in a lengthy thread. Another called Ubisoft out for its "really abhorrent behaviour that needs to stop being legal."

YouTuber Ross Scott from Accursed Farms is even considering taking legal action against Ubisoft, arguing that shutting down The Crew breaks consumer protection law because it was “sold under a perpetual license, not a subscription.”

This led to Scott setting up Stop Killing Games, a campaign that aims to create laws that prevent publishers from making games unplayable after the servers are taken offline.

Let’s not forget The Crew originally launched as a full-price game. Since they can no longer access a game they paid for, many players are demanding a refund from Ubisoft: "In an ideal world, revoking a license like this should entitle the buyer to a refund. I'm not sure why they're even bothering doing this,” one Redditor said.

“The game isn't playable anymore, so what exactly is the harm in keeping the game available for download for those who have purchased it? Server space? Is Ubisoft really that cheap?"

Why The Crew shouldn’t be removed from history

By revoking player access, Ubisoft wants to remove The Crew from history. With The Crew reaching its tenth anniversary later this year, Ubisoft logically wants players to move on to newer games in the series like The Crew 2 or The Crew Motorfest.

But despite sharing the same US setting as The Crew 2, the original still holds its own. It offers a very different experience from other games in this series.

When it was announced at E3 2013, The Crew was met with considerable hype. Developed by former Test Drive Unlimited developers at the newly formed Ivory Tower, The Crew lets players explore an enormous map covering the entire US. As you went on epic drives across multiple US states, no other game could match The Crew's staggering scale.

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The Crew screenshot police
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Credit: Ubisoft

The first game saw you play as an undercover cop framed for murdering your brother and avenge his death by infiltrating rival street racing gangs. With illegal street races, police chases, and a unique RPG system where your car evolved from a street racer to a rally raid monster, The Crew was tonally different from its sequels. 

This darker tone was dropped in The Crew 2 in favour of sanctioned races and an upbeat vibe. The Crew Motorfest took this further, mimicking Forza Horizon in a sprawling motoring festival. With these changes, The Crew lost the gritty identity that set it apart.

After The Crew 2 introduced boats and planes, The Crew Motorfest switched to a smaller map set on the island of O’ahu. While you can still explore the US in The Crew 2, the map isn’t the same as the original. Compared to the first game, The Crew 2’s map was downgraded, with Ivory Tower removing several landmarks.

Ubisoft shutting down The Crew is disappointing not only for players who have fond memories of going on virtual road trips across the US with their friends online, but it’s also insulting to the hard-working team at Ivory Tower, who spent years working on the mammoth project.

Can The Crew be saved?

Even without an offline patch, players were hoping The Crew would live on with private community servers. Happily, all hope is not lost. A project called The Crew Offline+Online Server Emulation on The Crew Unlimited Discord server aims to make The Crew playable both offline and online via a community server.

Speaking to PC Gamer, a member of the project confirmed that “server emulation is still possible”, despite Ubisoft removing player access. “We can bypass this new change made by them without having to modify the existing game files, so the project is still on track,” they confirmed.

The Crew screenshot Pagani Huayra
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Credit: Ubisoft

“The fact that the community has to implement something like this to continue playing something we all paid for is abysmal, especially something of this magnitude.”

What makes the situation even more frustrating is that an offline mode already exists in the files. However, the modder says it can’t be activated because of DRM restrictions. Ubisoft simply releasing an offline patch would solve this.

Let’s hope The Crew can be saved. Otherwise, an important title in the history of racing games will be lost forever.

How do you feel about Ubisoft shutting down the servers and preventing players from accessing The Crew? Let us know in the comments below.

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