Game Cracking Group Predicts The End Of Cracking Because Of Better DRM

from the hmm dept

Spend any reasonable amount of time looking through all the posts we’ve done here on DRM — digital rights management — and one theme becomes abundantly clear: the whole thing is an exercise in futility. Far from a blanket solution to video game piracy, DRM instead can be best explained as an arms race between game publishers and the hacking groups that best them at speeds nothing short of remarkable. All, mind you, while mostly annoying legitimate customers of the games the DRM is meant to protect from the pirates that crack them.

But one hacking group out of China is predicting that this trend will cease and that cracking games is about to become a thing of the past. 3DM is a group out of China that is fairly well-known for cracking games that have DRM. The group has recently been suggesting that one form of DRM, called Denuvo, is already much more difficult to break than other iterations of DRM, and even predicts that within two years nobody will be able to crack games any longer.

Just Cause 3 is the current hot potato and despite having released an endless supply of cracks for other titles (and having had success against Denuvo in the past), the cracks (excuse the pun) are beginning to show at 3DM. In a posting on her blog, 3DM forum founder ‘Bird Sister’ (also known as Phoenix) has revealed the frustrations being experienced with Just Cause 3.

“Recently, many people have asked about cracks for ‘Just Cause 3′, so here is a centralized answer to this question. The last stage is too difficult and Jun [cracking guy] nearly gave up, but last Wednesday I encouraged him to continue,” Bird Sister explains. “I still believe that this game can be compromised. But according to current trends in the development of encryption technology, in two years time I’m afraid there will be no free games to play in the world,” she adds.

A grave prediction for those wishing to pirate games to be sure, but how realistic of a prediction is it? Again, it’s a claim that is up against a trend that has only moved in one direction. As they say, extraordinary claims must be accompanied by extraordinary evidence and I’m not seeing it here. One game presenting more of a challenge than others thus far doesn’t seem like enough to be convincing. We’ve seen in the past new forms of DRM touted as the end of piracy, and even work for a short while, only to be bested and beaten to the point of their being useless. Should we believe this time it will be different, all because one hacking group claims it to be so?

But, hey, let’s say game publishers get their unicorn and Denuvo is the perfect DRM. Let’s say it’s never beaten, or that it at least changes the game such that piracy is significantly more difficult, cracking takes far longer such that it becomes less attractive, and all the rest. Pretend it happens. Then what?

Well, then the real fun begins, because we’re all going to then get a very good look at exactly how important DRM is for the gaming industry and exactly how much piracy hinders the bottom line for game companies. Because if the DRM unicorn exists and the anti-piracy folks are to be believed, well, then all those lost sales will be transformed into paid revenue and the gaming industry had damned well better completely explode in terms of income. Were that not to happen, then DRM would be revealed to be the false god my side of the argument has always claimed it was: fighting a fight not worth fighting. Because the majority of those who would pirate games likely never were potential customers. Because every download isn’t a lost sale. And because there are much better methods for a game company to ingratiate itself to gamers, giving them reasons to buy, that DRM doesn’t even touch.

Given that the gaming industry is one that has embraced so many new ways of doing business, a DRM unicorn would almost certainly be a step backwards. I actually hope this DRM unicorn exists so we can finally get some impact numbers to work with. I doubt we get the chance, however.

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Comments on “Game Cracking Group Predicts The End Of Cracking Because Of Better DRM”

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51 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

15-20 years ago I was a pirate. Main reason, I was young and my family wasn’t wealthy. I also hosted a lot of LAN parties so cracking a video game so the group could play was pretty much a requirement. Once I got a job and then of course Steam sales, I have only pirated when DRM got in the way of playing a game. There were no lost sales to my pirating and I have purchased many of the games that I pirated in the past. Which means that pirating actually made them a sale.

Anonymous Coward says:

There was very little piracy on the xbox 360 console ,
there was mod chips to run pirated cames ,but most people would not bother to install them,
and if they were detected the console would be banned from multiplayer .
See games on the ps3 ,when games are 20gig files and are released on
blueray discs pirating such large files is not really practical.
Many people pirate music cos its easy to download small mp3
files and put them on a phone or mp3 player .
Steam for pc games is a form of drm but its easy to use,
and there,s frequent steam sales if you cant afford
to pay full price for games .
Even if the ps 4 console drm was cracked i can,t see
the average user downloading 40gig files and installing a mod chip , just to
get one game free .

Anonymous Coward says:

time...

No doubt that a new version takes time to break but in the end someone will crack it and create tools that will make it easier.

And if the scene is still the same as it was 10-20 years ago then the groups will fight to be seen as #1.

Besides 3DM did crack an older version of Denuvo back in 2014.

iirc Denuvo isn’t really a DRM but more of a package around the DRM that blocks debugging and stuff like that. Like a reversed sandbox, it stops you from getting in instead of out. So the DRM itself still dies in a day or two but getting there is the problem.

MrTroy (profile) says:

Re: time...

iirc Denuvo isn’t really a DRM but more of a package around the DRM that blocks debugging and stuff like that. Like a reversed sandbox, it stops you from getting in instead of out. So the DRM itself still dies in a day or two but getting there is the problem.

Sounds to me like Denuvo is DRM by definition. There may be more layers of DRM inside, but what is DRM other than “it stops you from getting in”?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: time...

It doesn’t manage digital rights. If you move those words around a bit you get DRM, more or less. It protects the DRM but isn’t a DRM itself. That’s what the guys who wrote the code say.

All it does is protect the DRM from those darn haxors or in this case craxors. It’s like you writing in code “delivering 10 mothers and 300 children”(DRM, ‘Lord of War’ code) and use a friends public key to encrypt it before sending it to that friend.

All it does more or less is encrypt the whole program and decrypt it when necessary, as far as I understand it. Back in 2014 it was a 64bit code that was based on the hardware used (see 3DM crack) which encrypted the whole thing/game. Which might still be the case given that in the reddit discussion they are looking for more hardware specs to submit some kind of info.

Anyway… while it protects the DRM it isn’t a DRM itself. It’s wrapped around the DRM so people can’t figure out how to beat the actual DRM. Maybe you understand it better if you think of it as a firewall? Idk, just a suggestion.

Whatever (profile) says:

Changing times

The times are changing, that is for sure. DRM will never be perfect, but clearly even the strongest of the hackers have realized that the amount of work required to hack something will be more than the return is worth.

It’s also important to realize that the key here is in the first 90-120 days. This is where a big percentage of the full price or near full price sales are made, and where the game / software maker recoups a big chunk of their investment. Later hacks are somewhat less important, and may in fact drive sales later in a games cycle as the price comes down to a point where people who have tried the same as pirates might buy it.

The other part of course is that many games are no longer complete as a stand alone. Part of their value is in playing with others, either as network games or in downloading and adding game components to play. Some games run stand alone but are not as complete or not the full game. Even hacking the product isn’t going to help you if you are unable to register and play it online, as it was meant to be. This greatly diminishes the social value of hacking a game if you cannot get the pride (and respect) of giving people something for nothing.

My personal feeling is that more and more, gaming companies are going to move to a “razor / razor blade” model of operation, where the game that you buy is basic (complete in it’s own way, but not the totality of the gaming experience) and they will continue to offer upgrades, new levels, and other gaming experiences to users who have a full copy and are registered with them. Our almost entirely always on universe makes this more and more of a likely scenario going forward, and one that will make piracy all but moot – they will be essentially selling what is not easily or even possible to be hacked.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Changing times

…”razor / razor blade” model of operation…

Oh, you must mean DLC (downloadable content)… yeah, that’s worked a few times, and others not so much. The problem with a bunch of the games that used DLC as a major part of their rollout plan was that the initial product was buggy and not complete, so no one wanted to buy the add-on because they knew they were only being exploited.

It’d be like if Gillette sold you a box showing you an amazing razor with quad-blades and 3 extra heads, but when you get home you find out that all you were really sold was an amazing handle with a single blade head that wasn’t even sharp, and then you are told to buy the upgrade kit that costs almost as much as the new box you bought but comes with the nice quad-blades you thought you already bought.

Gamers tend to ‘nope’ their way out of those situations pretty fast.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Changing times

It’s also important to realize that the key here is in the first 90-120 days. This is where a big percentage of the full price or near full price sales are made, and where the game / software maker recoups a big chunk of their investment.

Bingo. Those who pirate have no intention of joining the crew. If I really, really want to get a game I wait for some blazing promotion. I really, really wanted Skyrim. Bought everything for $9 when Steam got crazy. Before it I used the pirated version.

Even hacking the product isn’t going to help you if you are unable to register and play it online, as it was meant to be. This greatly diminishes the social value of hacking a game if you cannot get the pride (and respect) of giving people something for nothing.

There are pirate servers for those. And there is a wealth of gamers that couldn’t care less about the social experience so there is that.

My personal feeling is that more and more, gaming companies are going to move to a “razor / razor blade” model of operation, where the game that you buy is basic (complete in it’s own way, but not the totality of the gaming experience) and they will continue to offer upgrades, new levels, and other gaming experiences to users who have a full copy and are registered with them.

Not a problem, pirates can offer the complete thing too, expansions and all. The problem is that companies are taking this to the extreme in a perfect DLC hell. Even if I wanted I wouldn’t buy a game right at the release. Because you can bet your soul there will be DLC to rip you off.]

Our almost entirely always on universe makes this more and more of a likely scenario going forward, and one that will make piracy all but moot – they will be essentially selling what is not easily or even possible to be hacked.

Again, there are plenty of alternate servers. And you can usually turn your own computer into a server and play the goddamn game alone if you want. I’ve seen people playing World of Warcraft alone I kid you not. When they need support they make bots to assist them. So piracy will not end. And the gaming companies will keep throwing piles of money to try to stop a small group that wouldn’t buy anyway. Incredibly smart move.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Changing times

“It’s also important to realize that the key here is in the first 90-120 days.”

This is true. But, people talking about this issue from the consumer end are not looking at the same short-sighted schedule as the corporations. I know that if I’m sure the game will not be playable in 12 months, you’re not getting my money.

“Part of their value is in playing with others, either as network games or in downloading and adding game components to play”

Great, so enforce restrictions on who can play on those servers, and kick off hacked/modified games. The problem with DRM is not that it affects people playing multiplayer games on day 1, it’s that it unnecessarily affect single player games for legal customers. The constant downloading is also a problem for many people, depending on their connection availability and caps, etc. That’s why Microsoft were forced to reverse their planned XBox One DRM – too many real world problems with a console requiring a constant connection that assumed you were a pirate if the phoning home failed for a few minutes.

“My personal feeling is that more and more, gaming companies are going to move to a “razor / razor blade” model of operation…”

I know that personally you don’t mind being screwed so long as a corporation is doing it. But, there’s already a lot of backlash against this sort of approach, and it’s a major reason why the indie gaming scene has received a big boost recently. DLC for cosmetic or features developed after the fact are acceptable to most people. DLC that’s clearly meant to be part of the full game but you’re charged extra for – after you’ve just paid full retail price for the “core” game – is not acceptable.

Funny that you picked the “razor/razorblade” analogy, given that the razor industry moved away from selling those as individual items in favour of selling complete packages with greater numbers of blades included in each razor. That is, completely the opposite of the situation you favour. I gather that you put your usual level of thought into this analogy (i.e. zero)?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Changing times

Strictly speaking Whatever doesn’t mind being “screwed” because he doesn’t think he’ll be affected. When he is, of course, he’ll blame anyone but the corporation.

He’s a bit like out_of_the_blue in that regard. Blue’s reaction to videogames was “lol, who cares, you’re all losers, but Techdirt doesn’t like DRM so HA HA, go fuck yourself”. You ever notice that that’s most of what Whatever responds to – things that he thinks aren’t going to affect him but us plebeians instead?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Changing times

“My personal feeling is that more and more, gaming companies are going to move to a “razor / razor blade” model of operation, where the game that you buy is basic (complete in it’s own way, but not the totality of the gaming experience) and they will continue to offer upgrades, new levels, and other gaming experiences to users who have a full copy and are registered with them. Our almost entirely always on universe makes this more and more of a likely scenario going forward, and one that will make piracy all but moot – they will be essentially selling what is not easily or even possible to be hacked.”

….oh my god, we’ve gotten through to you. “Selling what cannot be hacked” is Techdirt 101. Selling, in other words, what’s actually scarce. Miracles never cease….

Anonymous Coward says:

So they have a new form of DRM. Just like in the days that DRM came out and was declared unhackable. You have the word of one guy trying who is having problems hacking it. Only one team and no others. Much the same as the beginnings of DRM.

There will come the day when some great game comes out and everyone wants it and the teams all snow ball this form of DRM trying to get in. When that happens the way will be found in. After it is once known how to, the DRM is just another step in the process to cracking a game.

While it is new, everyone is trying to get in. When it is older, so many hackers will try it out till one finds the way in. Once that is known the gig on the DRM protection is over with again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Creating DRM that can’t be cracked would be counterproductive to copy protection holders/middlemen because now they would have no excuse to go after service providers that provide competing alternative content. One can argue that DRM was meant to be cracked so that middlemen can have an excuse to complain and ask for more bad laws that hurt competition.

Anonymous Coward says:

X86 considered harmful

If Intel starts to cooperate with DRM builders, it can build the perfect DRM into it’s processors.

In fact, the building blocks are already there: http://blog.invisiblethings.org/2015/10/27/x86_harmful.html

Richard Stallman calls this: Treacherous Computing. See: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/can-you-trust.en.html

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: X86 considered harmful

There will be other manufacturer to turn to that will not use such stupidity and thus will have less costs to deal with (and less security issues as they would be inevitable). Didn’t M$ reverse their always on DRM and their mandatory Knect? They are testing how far they can go without consumer backlash I’d guess…

jameshogg says:

I have a question: if Digital Rights Management really can achieve that magical ability to prevent games from ever being copied without authorisation, why would games companies need copyright law whatsoever?

The answer is that they need copyright law to prevent games from being copied without authorisation.

In other words, you can have either copyright law or Digital Rights Management. But if want to have both, you’ll just look silly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Your hypothesis presumes rational behavior

That is: it presumes that gamers will respond to this change in market conditions in a rational way.

But we all know that gamers are stupid: really, REALLY stupid. These are morons who pay companies to abuse them, to lie to them, to rip them off. They’ve been doing this for years.

To expect them to suddenly do an about-face and behave rationally is asking far too much.

AJ says:

The next step in the evolution of gaming will have to be based on a support model. They release a game for free/almost free, and the developers support it so well, that people form a culture around it and want to support it with micro transactions and such. See; Path of Exile. I say this because aside from the few and far between “blockbuster” games, more and more people are waiting for the humble bundle or steam sale before they buy the game. The rush to buy new games at release is being killed by the money grab DRM being released on/near the main game release date. People are starting to get wise, and it’s starting to impact the game companies wallets.

In the end, I think both Pirates and DRM will lose this battle. Both will be rendered obsolete.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Amen. Smaller costs to earn from quantity. People tend to be much more willing to buy if your games cost a few bucks instead of 60 dollars. Then you can add all sorts of cosmetic DLC (no horse armors please!) and equally cheap expansions and complementary content. The core of the game is there, making expansions isn’t nearly as demanding as the first installment (see Skyrim, there’s a whole new continent available as a free mod).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

an addendum to this thought of mine. I have had to pirate several games in the past after buying them in retail and discovering the store won’t replace the defective product call up the publisher which happened to be EA. EA support told me to buy another copy, no offers of help just “give us more money and take a chance your next copy will work”

I would be so much happier just buying my games instead of resorting to pirating working copies to replace the useless products I bought in good faith.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

won’t replace the defective product call up the publisher which happened to be EA.

Well there’s your problem, stop buying from EA. Buying from them and not expecting the game to be broken or rip you off in some fashion is like hiring a career arsonist to house-sit and being surprised when you come back from your trip to a pile of smoldering embers.

Kurata says:

To these days, I still pirate a couple of my games, but usually I end up buying the game even if I wont play it again.
I don’t see piracy as a mean to play games freely, i usually do it following these parameters:

1) Am I interested in the game? if yes, then go to 2)

2) Is it more comfortable to play the pirated game or to play the normal version? If it’s more comfortable go to 3) whichever one it is. Else don’t touch.

3) Do I dislike the developper/company? if yes, don’t go near it. else go to 4)

4) Did I have fun? Is there anything worth praising? if Yes, buy the game at some point, advise people to play it etc etc. Else, do not play it anymore, don’t finish either.

I always follow that pattern pretty much. I know not everybody pirates for the same reasons, but that is how I view piracy for me. I just play the games and pay if it was worth paying.
A last reason not listed here is that I can’t play the game legally here in France, so I resort to piracy (hi capcom, we’re still waiting for monster hunter X)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: The key?

No, the key is to increase value. People don’t mind paying money every month to something that’s fundamentally DRMed (e.g. MMORPGs, online services for consoles) as long as they get value for money. It’s when they start putting DRM where it doesn’t belong (e.g. required internet for single player games), openly ripping people off (DLC on disc) or removing value but not lowering the price (e.g. digital versions costing more than retail but with no first sale rights) that people get pissed. Plus, half the problem is that DRMed games often don’t work for the people who bought them, in which case the price is irrelevant – the product is broken whether it cost $1 or $100.

Unless DRM can be guaranteed never to affect paying customers (impossible, as the entire point is to assume everyone’s a pirate until they prove otherwise), the key is to make the experience something worth paying for. People will pay a premium if it’s worth it, DRM or no, but there’s a limit to how much you can claw back with price alone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Or just stop playing.

About a decade ago when DRM first started becoming uniform, I recognized this was likely going in a really bad direction. Pretty much stopped buying new games period at that point. As it turns out without games, I could shift to non-commercial OS’s pretty much permanently.

Uncrackable DRM? The open source community with thrive in response. So good.

Jamie (profile) says:

I think that the playing field has changed a lot here, meaning that there aren’t as many cracking groups any more.

The PC games market has opened up quite a bit, with online retailers offering big discounts on titles. The people who really want to play the games at launch will almost certainly stump up the cash. People who are less interested will wait a few months for the game to come on sale and pick it up for much less.

This is quite a bit different to brick-and-mortar sales, where the price of a game rarely drops very slowly. It can take several years for the game to get below 50% of its original release price. This is as true today is it was 20 years ago.

With more people buying games due to the lower prices, there is less demand for cracked versions. Being the first to crack a bit of software doesn’t have the same notoriety any more. Combine this with increasingly complex DRM, and it’s no wonder time to crack is getting longer, or that titles aren’t being cracked at all.

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