A fan petition requesting that publisher Ubisoft re-list action-adventure racing game Driver: San Francisco on legitimate digital storefronts has amassed over 40,000 signatures since launching last week.
Ubisoft quietly de-listed digital versions of Driver: San Francisco on December 9, 2016, just over five years on from release in 2011, while stocks of physical copies have long since sold out.
All this despite a cult following and widespread praise from critics.
Why Driver: San Francisco Is So Significant
Players laud the game for its unique take on the racing genre and specifically a singular “shift” mechanic that allows the player to take control of any nearby vehicle in the game.
The narrative centers around cop John Tanner who conjures up the in-game world while in the midst of car crash-caused coma. The real world and this fabricated coma-induced fantasy bleed into one another in subtle – as well as not so subtle – ways as Tanner slowly realizes that everything isn’t as it seems.
Driver: San Francisco contains over 270,000 spoken words of dialogue, which was unheard of at the time, to account for the 150 unique characters the player could encounter by jumping from vehicle to vehicle using the shift mechanic.
Developer Reflections claimed that no two playthroughs would be the same.
A Controversial Figure Behind The Petition
Nick Robinson, an ex-Polygon video producer, launched the petition in tandem with a YouTube video highlighting the unique aspects of the game’s design.
The video depicts Robinson’s desperate attempts to buy the game, culminating in using a Subway gift card to purchase it via one of the many grey market resellers that pepper the internet.
Despite the video being a well-thought-out and reasoned take on the merits of Driver: San Francisco that rings out as part love-letter, part analytical commentary, Robinson himself is a controversial figure.
Polygon chose to fire him in 2017 after a slew of allegations surfaced on Twitter. Numerous women within the gaming industry came forward to reveal that Robinson made inappropriate advances via the social media platform’s direct message feature.
Ubisoft Remains Coy
A degree of mystery surrounds the removal of Driver: San Francisco from platforms like Steam, with many citing the cost of renewing licensing agreements for the vehicle models and music proving too costly for publisher Ubisoft, whose attention is firmly set on upcoming releases.
When asked by Robinson why Driver: San Francisco was no longer readily available on digital storefronts, especially its own UPlay platform, Ubisoft provided the following cryptic response:
“Driver: San Francisco has been de-listed for a few years. A number of factors go into evaluating whether to keep a game live including community support.”
The petition is looking to convince Ubisoft that Driver: San Francisco still has a devoted fan base more than willing to spend money for the opportunity to dive back into the weird quirks of a game that isn’t quite like any other.
With the petition 10,000 signatures shy of a stated goal of 50,000, we should know soon whether this is enough to convince Ubisoft of the merits of re-listing.