Remember When Cracking Groups Said Denuvo Would End Game Piracy? Yeah, Didn't Happen

from the back-to-the-arms-race dept

As you may recall, earlier this year a well-known hacking group that specializes in cracking PC games made the bold prediction that cracking games would no longer be a thing in another year or two. Contrasting with what seems like the neverending trend concerning DRM in software, 3DM stated that the software industry had apparently found its unicorn in a DRM called Denuvo, which was increasingly elongating the time between a game hitting the market and the crack for it becoming available. A practice that usually took days or weeks was suddenly being measured in months, pushing to a year. 3DM made the case that this amount of time and effort to crack a Denuvo-protected game made the practice too costly and, more importantly, that the DRM software was being updated and getting so good that it might essentially become uncrackable.

This prediction, of course, flew in the face of the history of DRM and the speed with which it has always been defeated, leading me to be more than a bit skeptical of the prediction. Skepticism well-founded, it appears, now that Denuvo appears to have been neutered in the days since.

Early this month, a ‘Scene’ group called CONSPIR4CY properly cracked an iteration of Denuvo that had been protecting Rise of the Tomb Raider (ROTTR). The news had many pirates extremely excited. While undoubtedly a momentous occasion, ROTTR had been released in January, meaning that in theory CONSPIR4CY might have worked on the crack for six or seven months, a lifetime for most pirates. Furthermore, half a year’s head start is huge for the title’s developers in terms of sales, so without doubt Denuvo had done its job.

Yesterday, however, there was a new development which might represent a more worrying chink in Denuvo’s defenses. With a lack of fanfare usually associated with some of the Scene’s more mature groups, CONSPIR4CY (a reported collaboration between the CPY and CODEX groups) released a fully cracked version of puzzle-platformer ‘Inside‘.

Inside, by the way, was released on July 7th, meaning that even if work on the crack had begun on that very day, a Denuvo-protected game had been unlocked in a matter of weeks. It’s a return to normal, in other words. Or it will be, if CONSPIR4CY can duplicate this with another recently released game protected by Denuvo software.

So all eyes now turn to the brand new release of Deus Ex Mankind Divided. If that game is quickly cracked by CONSPIR4CY, Denuvo could be coming out in a cold sweat. In the meantime, others are also attempting to dismantle their empire.

At which point the handsome amount of cash these game developers will have paid for Denuvo might as well have been doused in gasoline and lit on fire. This brings us back to my original reaction to 3DM’s original prediction that DRM would eventually stamp out piracy: that ain’t how arms races work. I was actually hoping that the game industry had found its DRM unicorn, because then we could start getting some solid impact numbers as to how its use might increase sales in the absence of piracy. Unfortunately, Denuvo instead was just another rung on the arms race ladder.

And that brings game publishers back to the question that they have faced for the past twenty or so years: is it worth sinking money into what is at best temporarily-effective DRM, or is that money and effort better spent figuring out how to connect with their fans and giving them reasons, and business models around which, to buy their products?

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Comments on “Remember When Cracking Groups Said Denuvo Would End Game Piracy? Yeah, Didn't Happen”

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EmbraceDontPushRevenueAway says:


For me, it’s not about piracy. I’ll buy the games, but I don’t want the extra DRM crap anywhere on my machines. Ask Apple about Fairplay – they can be vectors for malware.

Second, it’s convenience. I can shuffle from one machine in one room to a machine in the next room and play a saved game. With DRM, suddenly for a lot of these DRM makers it’s one install on one machine.

This approach also locks installs onto one hard drive, if I want to upgrade it means hoping my number of installs hasn’t capped and reinstalling from scratch.

Without DRM I can move things to a temp drive, then move them back onto the upgraded drive.

I hate that as an honest consumer, I get screwed for fear of a low number of pirates and potential lost revenue. They wouldn’t buy anyway right… right?

—->>>> So was it lost revenue or did a few that did play perhaps buy their games and thus driving revenue into game companies they might not have otherwise seen?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: DRMIsStupid

“Honest Consumer” – right there is the key. I’m an honest consumer too, and it makes me very angry that I’m treated like a trd. So I have very one simple solution.

It’s DRM, or my money. Choose.

I don’t buy DRM disabled games, software, or books. I don’t even buy movies anymore, or go see them in the theater. I’ve got no time for that crp.

If they think DRM will actually help, I invite them to go look at the businesses making tons of money from Linux, Apache, and countless others.

I say to them, “Drool, DRM boi.”

Daydream says:

Random idea for fighting piracy:

Step 1. Add an options menu to your game.
Step 2. Have an option available to ‘Show Developers’ Thank You on Startup’.

Step 3. When this box is checked, when the game is started, before the intro, a middle-length video/documentary-thing is played where everybody involved in the development of the game introduces themselves, and talks about what they do, how they live their life, and what experiences they had making the game and what hopes they have for it, culminating in a very sincere ‘thank you’ for buying and playing their game.

Step 4. Use the smallest of checksums to determine if the game is pirated or not; if the game is pirated, set the default for ‘Show Developers’ Thank You on Startup’ to ON.

Slightly-guilt-tripping informational/educational campaign, directly targeted at pirates, with zero damage to gameplay, zero harm in the case of a false positive, and hopefully it encourages downloaders to pay for more games in the future.
Would it actually work, do you think?

QW says:

Re: Re: Random idea for fighting piracy:

The crackers are pretty much all in it for prestige. They won’t touch anything without real DRM. Some piracy group might package such a title anyway, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think that checksum would necessarily be disabled, unless the video it played was severely impacting the quality of the experience… I.e. Very long or extremely full on.

Anonymous Coward says:

“So all eyes now turn to the brand new release of Deus Ex Mankind Divided. If that game is quickly cracked by CONSPIR4CY, Denuvo could be coming out in a cold sweat.”

In the meantime CPY will have had received a huge amount of money from sources unknown.

Although they might have the crack in a week or two, a huge amount of people have followed the hype and bought it. So let them release the crack only thing it will do is make users own their software for about 30 days before the key expires.
I guess that is all we can hope for these days, own a game we paid for for 30 days…

annonymouse (profile) says:


If the game companies really want you to buy a hard copy and not just digital download then they should look at what Japan does to promote disk sales. .. bookcase box with goodies you can’t download. Tshirts posters knickknacks cloth maps. .. remember Ultima and their maps and tokens and such?
I would still prefer a ddownload able demo or intro before plunking down cash but cool stuff is cool stuff. Like the slime from dragon quest that I still use as Christmas ornaments.

Arthur Moore (profile) says:

Re: value

Yeah, the normal game costs $60. The collectors edition costs $140. I’ll grant you that I really want that sucker, but it’s a hard buy at that price point.

Minkind Divided also has microtransactions. Heck, one of the key issues people have is the in game digital goodies are gone after being collected. Start a new game and you have to buy them over again, with real money.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: value

I happily bought Psygnosis games for the Amiga because they came with extras – a poster and a T-shirt was standard, and sometimes they’d have a couple other items. It didn’t add to the price of the game, either. Games came on cheap floppy disks, and retailers wanted a BIG box to discourage shoplifting, so you normally had one or two floppies in a big empty box. Pysgnosis at least filled that box a bit with cheap stuff that appealed to the market – a big poster and a t-shirt.

Slinky (profile) says:

Connecting with fans..

Quote: “Or is that money and effort better spent figuring out how to connect with their fans and giving them reasons, and business models around which, to buy their products?”

I think that piracy exists for a reason, not because people want stuff for free, but because production companies have played their game in the name of arrogance, disrespect and greed, failing to understanding that a fair price, and availability is to show respect for the consumer.

Companies need to ask themselves what comes first, the love of money, or the ambition to make something great that people will like and use.

Anonymous Coward says:

Option 1: pull a Mojang by investing your money into a game people actually WANT to play and don’t feel ripped off by after the first hour.

Option 2: Install breakable DRM that costs 10x the amount of Option 1. Release shitty half finished game with almost no content (Looking at you EA and Ubisoft)….

Wonder which one the big labels will go for?

Anonymous Coward says:

Sooner or later, anything is bound to be cracked. MS Flight Simulator X is an example. It took about 4 years, but, eventually, a foolproof crack came out that would work work with service pack 2 of Flight Simulator.

Some people that use cracks do so to protect their investment in expensive software are are not pirates in general. This is likely when DMCA 1201 requires that cracking be done for commercial of financial gain, before it becomes a crime, which cracking, to protect your investment in an expensive software program, does not fall under, though I would expect this to change once TPP is ratified during the lame duck session of Congress.

Rekrul says:

I loved the first Half-Life and its expansions, but I’ve never played Half-Life 2 specifically because I object to its online activation through Steam. I may download a cracked copy at some point, but just the bother of having to deal with it has kept me away from any copy of the game.

I was excited to hear about the game Alice: Madness Returns since the original game was great. Then I learned that it used online activation, so that was another game I won’t buy. And of course the cracked copies all seem pretty iffy. Some people say they work great while others complain that they have nothing but problems.

Anonymous Coward says:

“or is that money and effort better spent figuring out how to connect with their fans and giving them reasons, and business models around which, to buy their products?”

I doubt the RtB argument is going to resonate in an industry that has enough respect for its customer that it is willing to release Deus Ex: Mankind Divided as:
– a 60$ full price release
– with micro-transactions, commonly associated with the free-to-play model, than mean the game-play was distorted to nag users into paying more
– and a 49.99$ ‘season-pass’ to pre-pay for the 20$ of possibly, but definitely not guarantied, interesting content the publisher may be willing to push out in the next few months.

When you have this little amount of respect for your customer base, no argument will make you see the wrongheadedness of your ways.

Dirk Pitt says:

You can still measure the impact of piracy

Look at Doom, Deus Ex:MD, and many other titles that are yet to truly be cracked. You can still measure the effects of piracy on game sales. Shit, it took 7 months for ROTTR to be cracked, I’m pretty sure most of the sales that occur would happen within the first seven months. Your comment of “I wish this had been a unicorn is absolutely fucking retarded.

alwbsok says:

The upside for me

The upside, as far as I’m concerned, is that this means that Denuvo isn’t really all that bad. Ideally, no, we shouldn’t have to deal with DRM in a game we paid for, but the big concern for me was that Denuvo could have been hiding some pretty shady anti-piracy techniques like some of its predecessors, such as the Sony Rootkit. Having it cracked and removed from certain games, without sudden, massive controversy, means that Denuvo is probably pretty benign. Denuvo is probably safe to run on your PC (despite its inauspicious lineage).

Cool! I’m going to download and play some Metal Gear Solid V now!

Tyler says:

It DID END PIRACY. Of everything with Denuvo encryption.

I never see titles with Denuvo showing up on RARBG or ANYWHERE online.. The reason why is because scene groups can’t crack them without what seems like at least a years time, minimum.. I watch the piracy feeds. Denuvo has STOMPED OUT piracy for titles that don’t want to be pirated. The scene groups are a joke.. They’re grabbing for whatever pride they can, or have left.. The real crackers were all employed by well paying companies years ago.

jasmmen (profile) says:

maybe unblocked games of school level

School wifi networks are often restricted and, unfortunately, these restrictions often extend to online games. This can be frustrating, particularly if you just want to play your favorite games during lunch break or after hours. Of course, this is to ensure students are paying attention in school. It may also be to save on bandwidth as speeds would become too slow if everyone played online games it’s the series.

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