Denuvo-Protected Just Cause 4 Cracked In A Day, Suffering From Shitty Reviews

from the what-to-blame? dept

Two common topics here at Techdirt are about to converge in what will likely serve as a lovely example of how piracy is often a scapegoat rather than a legitimate business issue. The first topic is Denuvo, the once-unbeatable DRM that has since become a DRM that has been defeated in sub-zero days before game releases. The exception that used to prove the rule that DRM is always defeated has become another example that yet again proves that rule. On the other hand, we’ve also talked at length that the real antidote for piracy is creating a great product and connecting with fans to give them a reason to buy. The flipside of that formula is that no amount of piracy protection is going to result in big sales numbers for a product that sucks.

While that’s typically obvious, we’re all about to watch what happens when a game both has its piracy protection fail completely and is deemed to be a shitty product, with Just Cause 4 having its Denuvo protection defeated a day after launch while the game is suffering from withering reviews.

This long-anticipated AAA action-adventure title is the follow-up to Just Cause 3, which was also protected by Denuvo. That game was released in December 2015 but wasn’t cracked until the end of February 2017.

Compare that with Just Cause 4. The game was released on December 4, 2018 then cracked and leaked online December 5, 2018. Just Cause 3 and Just Cause 4 were both defeated by cracking group CPY, who are clearly getting very familiar with Denuvo’s technology.

Okay, so the game is available on all the regular torrent forums, fully cracked in a day. This again raises the question as to why game publishers even bother with Denuvo any longer. The instances in which Denuvo games are defeated immediately after release are so commonplace at this point that I don’t even bother writing them all up. The assumption at this point should be that Denuvo is useless. Somehow, game publishers don’t appear to be getting the memo.

But Just Cause 4 is also being thoroughly panned by reviews.

While having the game appear online the day after release is bad enough, another problem is raising its head. According to numerous reviewers on Steam, the game is only worthy of a ‘thumbs down’ based on complaints about graphics, gameplay, and numerous other issues.

While these things are often handled via early patches from developers, the negative reviews mean that the average score on Steam is currently just 5/10. That, combined with the availability of a pirated version online, seems like a possible recipe for disaster and something that could raise its head later should sales fail to impress.

And if that in fact happens, we’ll all get a front row seat to watch a game publisher decide exactly how to respond to all of this. On the one hand, the focus could be on the quality of the product, with reasonable communications sent out acknowledging customer concerns and promising to address them with quality patching and updating. On the other hand, the company could simply point to the pirated versions available online and scapegoat piracy as the reason for all that ails the sales numbers.

Given that this is Square we’re talking about, it seems practically inevitable that what we’ll see is the latter. But when you do see that, keep in mind that customers didn’t like this game and reviewed it poorly. And recognize it for what it is: blame-shifting.

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Companies: denuvo, irdeto, square enix

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Comments on “Denuvo-Protected Just Cause 4 Cracked In A Day, Suffering From Shitty Reviews”

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71 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

They keep going with Denuvo, because Denuvo tells them about all the money they will lose if they don’t do anything, and this time (unlike the last 100 times) the tiger repelling rock WILL work. Then the tiger eats the baby.

Imagine if they took what they spent on Denuvo and used that to hire a competent team to get the game done by release.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’ve heard many developers know the protections are worthless and would rather not put them in.

But a lot of time a publisher (or some other force that ‘holds the purse strings’) forces the developer group to put something to ‘protect’ the investment. So dev groups go with whoever makes crazy garauntees so the dev group can go “look, don’t come to us when the protections failed, blame the subcontractor”

so basically… they use it to pass the buck on something that only exists because people are making decisions on things they have no buisness making decisions on.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Perhaps the largest problem is the huge spike in lawyers & accountants with Mercedes to pay off.

Once upon a time it wasn’t unheard of for a AAA game to miss their release date. They would put out a statement, admit it wasn’t ready & they wouldn’t shit on customers by releasing crap.

Now release dates are in stone, and even if every 3rd time you start the game it wipes the entire machine, it ships. They then scream that the release sales numbers are bad, because the early reviews point out it wipes the computer. Smart consumers wait for the first 4 patches to get released when the game MIGHT be playable… until some glitch in the DRM screws up the gameplay.
Smart consumers hit up the ‘less than legal’ channels to see how the game really is because dumping $60 on something that MIGHT work in 6 months isn’t fun. Hell there are many cases where the evil evil hackers find & patch a glitch in a game making the pirated copies better than the legal ones.

Yeah yeah yeah, piracy is bad but can someone notice how it is a response to a failure to treat customers as anything more than an income source who doesn’t even rate a working game?

Anonymous Coward says:

Copyright law has statutory damages, which makes “product quality” irrelevant. Even “lousy” products have the same protection as good ones.

The more blatant the pirates, the greater the legislative backlash because no one has sympathy for thieves.

If all else fails, enhanced criminal prosecution and rewards for those who snitch out the pirates will put an end to this nonsense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Copyright law has statutory damages, which makes "product quality" irrelevant.

That depends a lot on your product. Copyright law in the US allows for both statutory damages (up to $150,000) and economic damages. However, because copyright enforcement is generally performed against end users, economic damages are limited to the price of the product which (outside of the art world) is nearly universally less than statutory damages. If they attempted to go after CPY here, however, then they could make a strong case that economic damages were higher than $150,000. How much higher would be strongly dependent on product quality.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“How much higher would be strongly dependent on product quality.”

Sadly incorrect. Plenty of bad products are financially successful, while many good ones fail to reach expectations for reason other than piracy. Losses can be due to piracy, but they’re more likely to be due to a rather crowded marketplace, bad marketing and so forth.

I’d also note that a quick scan of reviews of non-PC platforms seem to give the same response as the PC one (which, in fact, currently has the highest Metacritic score. If sales are also soft on those platforms, which aren’t affected by a Denuvo hack, then it’s hard to argue that their losses are purely due to 1/3 of the platforms being hacked. The complaints seem to be about it being repetitive and disappointingly more of the same.

If the argument is that they really depended on people not finding out how mediocre the game is before they bought it, well, they’ve just answered why people aren’t as interested in pre-orders any more.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'Oh look, that dishonest tactic Again...'

It’s likely simply that people have less patience for those they perceive as extremists with no interest in an honest conversation, and as such flag them for that(I marked the comment funny myself).

Using the tired conflation between copyright infringement and theft, claiming that the problem would just be fixed if infringement was treated even harsher, to the point of tips for people to rat others out as though it was in the same realm as serious crimes does not inspire confidence of a productive conversation.

As for fuel for claims of ‘censorship’ the ones that tend to throw that term around would do so no matter what, so I don’t see it making matters worse.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 'Oh look, that dishonest tactic Again...'

“As for fuel for claims of ‘censorship’ the ones that tend to throw that term around would do so no matter what, so I don’t see it making matters worse.”

Merely going into the spam filter causes them to whine about that (usually as the result of them, well, spamming links), yet not having a spam filter would make the site unreadable for everyone. There is no solution that will please them, and their claims that the system here is objectively any worse than most sites is laughable.

I understand the concern that genuine opposing opinions may not be addressed, but I’ve not seen evidence of that here.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: Re: It's likely simply that people have less patience

That doesn’t make such postings off-topic, abusive or spammy — the usual criteria for flagging them.

On other forums, if you don’t like what a poster has said, you can downvote them. Techdirt doesn’t have downvoting, and flagging is not downvoting.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's likely simply that people have less patience

“On other forums, if you don’t like what a poster has said, you can downvote them. Techdirt doesn’t have downvoting, and flagging is not downvoting.”

On the flip side, do those forums have flagging, or just a ? Most of the time on those forums, people will downvote trolling and spam. Plus, the effect is the same – heavily downvoted comments are usually hidden from view and you have to click to see what they said, whether they were downvoted for opinion, trolling or spamming.

At most, you’re just complaining that TD doesn’t have 2 buttons instead of one and people are using the tools available to them in the same way they use the tools at other sites. That doesn’t seem like a real criticism, especially when the person you’re responding to is definitely using a troll argument, even if you disagree that he’s actually trolling.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Flagging Needs To Be Moderated

Counterpoint:

Time was that copyright-maximalist opinions would be tolerated on this site – because they would often offer another perspective, as wrong-headed as those might be and would generate healthy debate. Even when incorrect, it was often education to debate why they were.

Now, all we get are the same tired debunked “points” that were addressed a decade ago and people whose mission it is to lie about everything, there’s a lot less tolerance. I think that most people would rather see the lies being hidden and then have them whining about being treated unfairly as a result, than they would not have the warning about how useless the original comment is going to be.

I mean, look at the comment you’re replying to. It’s more civil than some comments here, but it’s still the same lies being repeated that people are tired of reading. They’re not being hidden because they’re opposing opinions. They’re being hidden because they are objectively not true, and people are tired of explaining that to people who insist on not learning, or outright lying.

If someone wants to come in with an opinion that’s presently civilly and can’t be debunked by a link to posts from a decade ago, they can feel free. I haven’t seen any of those recently, let alone anything being wrongly hidden.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Flagging Needs To Be Moderated

Time was that copyright-maximalist opinions would be tolerated on this site. Nowadays they get flagged. That just provides more fuel for their accusations of “censorship”.

Copyright maximalists tend to argue as if they were IS spokesmen or frothing-at-the-mouth Talibans.
They aren’t even trying to deliver arguments anymore – presumably having tired of continually having obvious falsehoods exposed all the time – and when someone posts something akin to "Pirates will all burn in hell, MWAHAHAHA!!" for the umpteenth time there really is no reason to allow one and the same person spam the thread with religious fanaticism to the point where anyone with an actual argument gets drowned out.

Dan (profile) says:

The main reason publishers hate piracy (the word gets out)

I have always been of the opinion that the real main goal of DRM was to DELAY potentially bad reviews via the piracy “preview”. If game gets cracked and the game sucks, word is going to get around much faster, during the initial sales push (and kills those sales off). Have you ever noticed that it’s the bad movies that push infringement the hardest, before the word gets out? Same principle in play here.

But game reviews on YouTube have made this tactic completely ineffective, so I wonder about the point nowadays.
Now they’re “doing what they always do” out of habit. Except Bethesda. They just over-hype in the pre-order phase, and sell buggy games that way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The main reason publishers hate piracy (the word gets ou

Thanks to data provided by above at wikipedia, the stats are:

114 titles using Denuvo, 84 cracked. Or, 73.68 %.

Number of games which no longer use Denuvo 27. Or 19.15%.

So, about 1 in 5 of your customers is so disappointed they left, and of the remaining customers 3 our of 4 have found your services of limited, or very limited use.

How do they make money?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Looking at the edits actually made, most seem to be changing things like upper case to lower, changing formatting or changing release/cracked status.

It’s good to be sceptical of such things, but I’d interpret the number of edits as being the kind necessary to keep such a list factually updated and correctly formatted, rather than an actual edit war. Unless you can see any real problems with the citations, of course.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The main reason publishers hate piracy (the word get

How do they make money?

I’m guessing they get a minimum fee for each game that is licensed to use their tech, and a further fee for every game sold.

I suspect their agreements are formulated in a way that if a game gets cracked, or the DRM is removed, they still get paid handsomely up front.

All they gotta do is keep selling their snake oil to game companies to remain viable.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Might be overtinking it

My guess as to why publishers keep infecting their products with DRM is two-fold: Control and fearmongering.

If a product is infected with DRM it allows the company to exert much more control over it than they otherwise would have had. For example, a song infected by DRM such that it can only play on a certain service/device has effective locked that song to that service/device, and if people buy many songs so afflicted then they are much less likely to switch to another service/device, as their current collection will be all but wiped out unless the customer feels like breaking out the Jolly Roger.

As for fearmongering, with so many companies and groups going on and on(and on and on) about how dastardly copyright infringement is, costing the economy billions every year, you get people primed to think that if their stuff isn’t ‘protected’ then it’s only a matter of time until those patch wearing, parrot bearing fiends will utterly destroy the company. In addition, the saps conned into infected their stuff with DRM will almost certainly not have to deal with it themselves, and it provides a handy excuse should the product tank, so from their point of view it’s really a win-win.

ryuugami says:

Alternative explanation

Actually, you’re missing the obvious: the game being shitty is just another layer of DRM. After all, if the game sucks, less people will pirate it!

Not to mention that cracking Denuvo takes a few hours, but fixing the bugs and graphics… well, let’s just say that cracking Just Cause 3 was a piece of cake compared to that 🙂

PaulT (profile) says:

“This again raises the question as to why game publishers even bother with Denuvo any longer.”

You answered your own question really:

“piracy is often a scapegoat”

Shareholders will demand to know why the crappy game didn’t sell, and the easy answer is “piracy”, whether or not that’s actually true. Then, in response to “well, what did you do to try and prevent piracy”, they can say, “well, we bought the industry standard protections”. Since piracy will always happen, they can wave off any criticism.

Anyone with corporate experience will know the situation – management would rather buy a terrible brand name piece software that comes with a “but it’s a big name” excuse built in than they would do something that works properly but leaves them open to culpability if it goes wrong. They’d rather have inferior products than have to explain why their own decisions led to a drop in sales and stock prices.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: why game publishers even bother?

“The cost of applying DRM is less than the extra sales generated by the DRM.”

Citation needed.

That is the kind of excuse used for DRM, of course. But, I don’t believe any kind of evidences been presented, at least that’s not coming directly people who need to pretend that it’s piracy rather than poor product that is responsible for their failures.

I can personally state that DRM has lost & gained sales from personally (avoiding infected games / buying from GoG respectively). The success of GoG over the years based purely on selling non-DRM product makes me question anyone who claims that DRM is necessary without further information.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: why game publishers even bother?

No, but they are completely different markets. DRM depends on restricting what you can do with what you own – obviously a far different problem on a general purpose device than on one designed only to play games. Especially since the serious PC gamer is likely to have already spent a few grand extra for the supposedly upgraded experience.

Bear in mind – some of the major objections for DRM come because of the security holes and performance problems they often introduce for non-gaming activities, things which don’t apply to console ecosystems. That it so utterly fails at its supposed primary purpose is only one aspect.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: why game publishers even bother?

Ever heard of playstation 2? Easily hacked, games absurdly pirated and yet one of the biggest game libraries ever for a console.

If anything, being easily crackable made it more valuable. And people tend to buy what they like. The only games that fear piracy are the crappy ones.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 why game publishers even bother?

Also, the reason why DRM isn’t an issue on consoles is because it usually doesn’t get in the way. The restrictions to a single set of hardware, single online service and so on are a natural part of the product you bought. I’d argue that the risk of having your online account barred outweigh the presence of in-game DRM anyway.

But, with PCs half the reason people use them is because they are highly customisable or because they can be used for many other things apart from gaming. Hence the issues when people find that they have problems doing the things they want to do due to the DRM, especially since a lot of titles seem to be poorly handled console conversation in the first place.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 why game publishers even bother?

Likewise, the easily hackable PSP, DS, and 3DS all significantly outsold the PS Vita, which used an expensive proprietary memory card, didn’t allow unauthorized file copies, and wasn’t hacked for years.

It would be reductive, of course, to say that the anti-piracy measures in the Vita caused it to fail; there were, obviously, a number of factors that led to the Vita’s failure, most notably the rise of cell phone gaming. But the cost of the machine was part of what people balked at — and a big part of that cost was the damn overpriced proprietary memory cards.

It would be reductive to say that DRM hurts console sales — but it can. And, on the flipside, many consoles that were easy to hack (PS1, PS2, Wii, DS, 3DS) sold well anyway.

(And yes, for the purposes of this conversation I’m counting handhelds as consoles. I think the overlap is significant enough to put them in the same category in this instance.)

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