PC Games Future Looking Bleak As Ubisoft Moves To Implement ‘Silent Key Activation’

Say goodbye to all those cheap deals if this new initiative picks up.
Ubisoft's SKA initiative may very well kill off video game keys forever.
Ubisoft's SKA initiative may very well kill off video game keys forever. Ubisoft

PC gaming could see another shift in the way it works, if Ubisoft’s latest venture holds up.

The company behind the Assassin’s Creed games is now on the forefront of trying to prevent illegal resales of its game library by trying a new method of selling digital game keys. To achieve this, Ubisoft has teamed up with distributor Genba Digital, a UK-based company that allowed Ubisoft to develop a process it calls silent key activation (SKA).

What exactly does this SKA do? Well, for starters, this method supposedly makes it easier for customers to buy Ubisoft games on PC, while at the same time making it harder for illegal game keys to be sold by redistributors. Genba CEO Matt Murphy explains how the process works in-depth in an exclusive interview with GamesIndustry.biz.

“If someone goes on a website like Fanatical and buys a Ubisoft product, it will take them through the checkout process, then ask you to enter your UPlay account – if you don’t have one, it asks you to set one up," Murphy explained. "The game is then automatically activated in UPlay. Fanatical doesn’t get a key, and neither does the player. They just log into UPlay and the game is there, as if they bought it from the UPlay Store."

As it is, third-party stores such as Humble and Green Man Gaming are given large batches of digital keys to sell to customers. In some cases, a portion of these batches are acquired by illegal resellers. By using SKA, there would be no more keys involved in the process at all. Once the process is fully in place, Ubisoft now holds the rights to withhold reselling through any marketplace that isn’t SKA-approved.

The main goal of such activations is to successfully eliminate the “grey market” of digital keys, which encompass key sellers that are unofficial distributors and make a huge profit off of selling at a much cheaper price than the official ones. For you, the consumer, this will probably not benefit you at all, seeing as you will have to get your games at closer to retail price. However, this will be a huge boon to developers or publishers as they will end up with profits closer to what is expected.

Whatever your stance is on the issue, what’s clear is that this is probably the beginning of the end for digital keys as we know them. So, for those people who are reliant on such services, enjoy them while you still can.


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