Watch Dogs Launch Day Uplay Disaster Is A Reminder That PC Game Sales Are Broken

Today I made a mistake: I bought a PC game.

I’ve been good – I haven’t bought one in a while, since Just Cause 2 probably. But I was looking at graphics comparisons of Watch Dogs on Xbox One and on PC and I thought “what the heck, let’s try it.” I have an extremely capable gaming PC that’s pretty much neglected after all, and it’s in close proximity to my workstation (of course I’d only ever play at lunch, kind bosses).

The problems started as soon as I made that decision. First I had to figure out how to buy Watch Dogs digitally for PC. That took more than simple Googling, surprisingly. I had to go to the official Ubisoft site originally, and figure out that Uplay is in fact Ubisoft’s digital storefront, and then there still wasn’t any clear indicator it would be digital delivery, except for the fact that they didn’t ask for a shipping address.

So I managed to sign up for a Uplay account and complete the transaction, at which point I expected a download link. And I got one, but for Uplay, not for Watch Dogs. So I downloaded that – and it promptly crashed upon first launch with an “Unrecoverable” error. So I tried again – and encountered a connection error. So I tried the Ubisoft Uplay support forums – and encountered a connection error.

I’m currently further away from my goal than ever, since I uninstalled Uplay entirely based on the advice from the Ubisoft support Twitter account, which advised reinstalling. But I couldn’t redownload because, of course, the servers are down. So now I’m in refresh loop hell.

I’m definitely not alone in my plight. Twitter has countless accounts of the pain of server errors and Watch Dogs/Ubisoft have acknowledged the problem and are said to be working on a solution. Kotaku also has a story up confirming it’s a problem that’s fairly widespread. My problem is this: everyone knew this was one of the most hotly anticipated games of 2014, so be prepared for that. It’s going to stress your servers, so be more than ready. There’s nothing worse than looking forward to a launch day and having that day arrive and having nothing to show for your $60 (or more, if you sprung for any of the special features).

Game publishers and studios are precious about their own online storefronts. Uplay, EA’s Origin, Battle.Net shop, and so on. But these serve to do nothing but make digital downloads, which should be a godsend of convenience, incredibly arduous. At least on consoles, the storefronts are consolidated by Microsoft and Sony. Valve would love to do that on PC with Steam, but they can’t break apart the stupid feuding fiefdoms – which would be somewhat acceptable if only these warring factions could get their act together enough to actually ship a digital game when they say they’re going to.

New video game day used to be an exciting day, but now it’s an exercise in misery and coping mechanisms. I don’t even want to play Watch Dogs anymore. Well okay, that’s not true, but I’m definitely far less enthused.