Rage 2 Drops Denuvo In Record Time After Customer Outcry

from the rage-against-the-drm dept

I have avoided writing posts every time Denuvo’s DRM, once thought un-crackable, ends up being very, very crackable. At some point, everyone basically agrees that the dragon has been slayed and we all ought to stop poking it with pointy sticks. The most recent story involving Denuvo, however, deserves to be highlighted, if only to recognize that the neutering of this once-vaunted antipiracy tool has reached a stage that requires a different time measurement. Let me explain.

As Denuvo’s technology unraveled, both the company and its defenders retreated to a position of claiming that even if Denuvo could protect a game for mere weeks, or even days, then it was still worth it. A huge chunk of a game’s total sales, goes the theory, occur in the initial release window, so protecting that timeline is vital. As Denuvo began to be cracked more quickly, that useful time for protection went from months to weeks to days. As a result, I began updating you all here with posts detailing the dwindling timeline for major game titles’ protected status. It became a useful unit of measurement right up until a game was cracked before its public release.

But perhaps we have a new unit of measurement we can start using: the length of time before a game publisher decides to strip out Denuvo itself. We don’t appear to have much time to use this new measurement unit, however, as that timeline already appears to be in the category of days.

When Rage 2 players discovered it was tagging along for the ride in the post-apocalyptic shooter’s Steam version, they were not pleased.

They didn’t have to wait long for a solution. Rage 2’s latest Steam patchtouts that it “removes Denuvo DRM” because its developers “saw a fewrequests”—emphasis theirs. Rage 2 came out on May 14, meaning that player complaints got it stripped of Denuvo mere days after release.

This isn’t a brand new thing, of course. Previous titles have had Denuvo stripped out of games via patch updates. What’s different with Rage 2 is the speed with which this decision was made, coupled with the outcry from a well-informed customer base. Gamers at this point generally are aware of what Denuvo is. They’re also aware of the debate over claims that Denuvo has performance impacts on how games play on their PCs. And many of them are probably even aware of how useless the DRM has become.

All of this combines with some specific circumstances in this game to create pissed off customers when games release with Denuvo. Pissed off customers are generally something a business wants to avoid, leading to the publishers of Rage 2 to strip Denuvo from its game with haste.

For one, there was all the passionate fan response to Denuvo’s presence in the game, which took on an even more aggrieved tone than usual due to the fact that the DRM wasn’t present in the game’s Bethesda Launcher version. This led to the usual slew of negative Steam reviews, forum posts, and other complaints. On top of that, Rage 2 was cracked within less than 24 hours of its release, seemingly because of the aforementioned lack of Denuvo in its Bethesda Launcher version. Given that Denuvo’s stated goal is to “protect initial sales” from piracy, there was likely no real reason for Bethesda, id, and Avalanche to keep it around anymore.

And so here we are. Denuvo has reached a place where the best measurement of its success or failure is no longer how long it takes to crack the games it is supposed to be protecting. Now we measure it by how fast its own customers are dropping the DRM from their games entirely.

It really shouldn’t take some third unit of measurement for the industry to realize that this is all pointless.

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Comments on “Rage 2 Drops Denuvo In Record Time After Customer Outcry”

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36 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

So very close...

Given that Denuvo’s stated goal is to “protect initial sales” from piracy, there was likely no real reason for Bethesda, id, and Avalanche to keep it around anymore.

Now if they(and every other company out there) can just take one more tiny little step and stop infecting their products in the first place, they’ll be golden. At this point they are essentially paying to make their products worse, garnering negative publicity and customer backlash, and best of all not doing anything but very temporarily inconveniencing(at best) the groups the software they’re infecting their products with is supposedly meant to stop cold.

It’s bad enough to spend money on something that doesn’t work, but when it not only fails to do as delivered but actually makes your product worse it’s well past time to drop it entirely as entirely counter-productive and a complete waste of money.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: When 'pre-order' has turned into 'pay to beta-test'

Between this crap, server capacity issues, huge first day patches and further fixed usually needed within a few days, there’s no point buying a game early any more.

… there are however numerous reasons not to, of which you listed several, which is especially funny when you consider Denuvo has found itself reduced to arguing that their ‘product’ is important to protect purchases in the first few days/week, the very thing that they, and the companies involved, have made a really bad idea through their actions/product.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: When 'pre-order' has turned into 'pay to beta-test'

Exactly. I rather dislike the obsession with opening day/week sales that much of the entertainment industry has, which I believe harms the long-term appeal of most of their products. But, given that environment, I can understand why they might make moves which they believe help the short-term opening sales, even as those decisions actually harm long-term sales.

But, things like this surely harm them in both ways – they lose short-term sales as people get burned too many times to drop extra money on early play, then they lose more in the long term as people either avoid their product or wait for it to drop significantly in price before they invest.

I’m of the opinion that DRM, lack of quality control, regional and format windows, exclusive deals, etc. harm all aspects of the entertainment industry more than actual piracy ever will, and this sort of thing just confirms it for me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Another huge problem for pre-orders and release-date buyers is the possibility that the game might go on sale for half-price later in the week, as happened to Battlefield 5 due to dismal opening sales. After retail stores soon started clearancing out their unsold Black Friday stock, the title’s publisher EA was quickly forced to price-match, enraging millions of loyal gaming fans who just paid the full price and were not allowed to trade down to the new 50% off price. (another reason for DRM: preventing resales by locking the title to the original purchaser)

http://www.pushsquare.com/news/2018/11/battlefield_v_half-price_less_than_a_week_after_launch

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, that’s a vicious cycle. The problem is, Battlefield 5 had a lot of problems, ranging from backlash from long-term fans to changing consumer trends during development to a very crowded marketplace on release. I don’t necessarily agree with the people demanding refunds because people later on got it cheaper (though I can certainly sympathise with them given the short time to it being made cheaper), but it won’t be any surprise if those who were burned wait a few weeks next time, further driving down opening week sales.

The question is how the publishers deal with it. Do they double down on forcing people to go 100% digital (can’t have unexpected Black Friday sales if retailers haven’t invested in expensive physical stock!), even more restrictive DRM and moving further into online passes/lootboxes/etc. to try and squeeze more from those who still play? Or, do they adjust the landscape so that the consumer gets a fair shake and they actually want to pay more for a quality product?

It’s difficult to say, but as long as their businesses depend on charging more for less every cycle, there’s going to be a lot of casualties.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

backlash from long-term fans

EA made a huge miscalculation in thinking that the numerous complaints of "historical inaccuracy" (e.g., amputee women fighting on the front lines in WWII) in Battlefield 5 were from only a tiny group of trolls, and that publicly rebuking these supposedly ignorant misogynists and thus displaying their social-justice accolades would be good for sales.

Many people at the time (myself included) were so shocked by that display of arrogance and hostility toward potential customers (and then doubling down on it repeatedly thereafter) that we felt EA had just dug their own grave. This prediction was proven true just a few months later when the number of pre-orders was far below company expectations. It also didn’t help that the game, when released, turned out to be buggy and unfinished, but the major damage to the Battlefield franchise had already been done. The Battlefield 5 fiasco may well have been the worst case ever of how a company can alienate loyal customers and destroy consumer relations basically overnight.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

as many gamers have stopped buying releases on release date
Did you read the article?

"When Rage 2 players discovered it was tagging along for the ride in the post-apocalyptic shooter’s Steam version, they were not pleased."

This is the problem with articles like this, and Timothy isn’t alone: authors refuse to blame gamers for their actions.

This is getting intolerable. Nearly every complaint I hear about games and publishers is the result of gamers refusing to keep their wallets closed.

Want to affect sales? Don’t buy the game. If many more gamers would stand up to the crap we’re seeing in gaming today, change will assuredly happen.

Here’s today’s gaming in a nutshell, from the Big 6 publishers:
"We at (company) are proud to present an early-access preview of our next franchise (we hope will take off). The game is incomplete, but with our 5 year road map (which we’ll kill in 3 months), we will release the game this fall (but delay it for months) with 17 purchasing models (everything above the $60 being a ripoff). In addition to these models, we’ll also offer more options in our game store (because why include it in the game). Pre-orders will open by the time this presentation is over."

The issue isn’t with publishers, regardless of their use of Denovu.

It’s with gamers who can’t control their own damn wallets.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Also don’t forget that there are the core gamers who try to be informed and then there is the rest who just grab the new thing. The bulk of first week purchases are from folks who "Just gotta have it" and think that broeken at launch is normal because that is how it’s always been. (And it has been long enough that younger gamers have no reason to expect otherwise.)
90% of the consumers just don’t care about the DRM and the bugs – either due to ignorance of false optimism. The people who are complaining are most likely the folks who did vote with their wallets, not the ones that rushed to pre-order.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

"if Denuvo could protect a game for mere weeks, or even days, then it was still worth it."

Imagine if instead of spending the money on the DRM, they paid to get a few more coders to squish the bugs that we’ve all come to expect in a AAA release.
Shocking would be a game that works out of the box & not only after several months of patches fixing things that should have never shipped.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Exactly. Ask most people why they pirate a game, and the most common answer is so that they can test it before they buy. That might sound like an excuse, and sometime it is, but retail priced videogames are a big investment for a lot of people and they want to know that they’re getting a quality return, not a buggy mess that they can’t even play, or which fails to deliver on basic promises.

But, instead of making sure that guarantee is in place, they’ve spent the last few years trying to stop people from legally trying out the product (by attacking used sales, refusing to offer playable demos, etc) while ensuring that once cracked the legal product is actually worth less than the pirated version. Then, to add insult to injury they make it clear that not only was the product you paid for is complete out of the box (massive day one patches), they try to make you pay even more money straight after you paid full price already (lootboxes, DLC, etc.)

Piracy is a great excuse when explaining to investors why your half-assed product underperformed, but even where that is the problem they often only have themselves to blame.

DannyB (profile) says:

Why can't they get this right?

Everyone knows that the real way to protect software is to have a specially malformed sector on the floppy disk to prevent copying. The software would ask the user to insert the floppy so it could verify the malformed sector is actually present, proving that the user is in physical possession of the original floppy disk.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Why can't they get this right?

I used to love that tactic back in the days I owned an Atari ST. Specifically, the way that it didn’t work for long, and when cracked the pirated version of a 3 disk game managed to fir on one disk with extra content included. To make things even more fun, thanks to the silly disk formatting it’s only the pirated versions that work with an emulator – try running your original floppy on a non-ST drive, it will fail, but those who never paid anything get to play whenever they want…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Why can't they get this right?

I tried my originals a couple of years back, and you’d be surprised how few of them had actually degraded beyond the point of being usable. My ZX Spectrum collections seems to have held up pretty well too.

But, that reinforces my point – if you tried copy protecting your game, you’ve essentially erased it from history unless someone pirated it. Everybody will be able to play the popular games, but if yours missed out on the pirates, it’s lost.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why can't they get this right?

"That kind of protection is easy to work around, and fairly easy to break."

…and it’s worth continuing the thought there. Once broken, what that meant was that people who had legally bought the product were unable to either legally back it up or play the game without the CD in the drive. Which led to otherwise law abiding customers diving into the darker corners of the web to get no-CD cracks and burnable ISOs so they could get the same ability to play as pirates. Which led to many of them realising that they were being screwed…

It’s the same old story. It’s not just an arms race between publishers and pirates, but between them and paying customers – and most people don’t start out in piracy, nor do they exclusively participate in it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why can't they get this right?

"specially malformed sector on the floppy disk to prevent copying"

fdisk followed by dd should do it.

"The software would ask the user to insert the floppy so it could verify the malformed sector is actually present"

How would it perform this operation?

Rocky says:

Re: Re: Why can't they get this right?

No, fdisk and dd doesn’t work since you need to access the disk on a lower level so you can do a bit-copy or read OOB data. Neither of those programs can for example read OOB data residing on the track-headers or taking the sector-layout into consideration (which was a common trick for increasing r/w speed on floppys).

Some floppy’s actually had a minuscule hole in the media that made it almost impossible to copy and others had extra tracks written outside the normal boundary of the media.

Anonymous Coward says:

It Seems denuva is a waste of time ,it does not last long before being cracked.
maybe people forget steam itself , is a form of copy protection ,
it just does not seem to have a negative impact
on games performance .
i see no point in pirating pc games ,you can simply wait til
it goes on sale for 20-30 dollars .
The trend is most people buy pc games from an online store,
theres loads of free and very cheap pc games
for digital download .
I cannot remember the last time i saw a shop that sells
pc games on disc and even then the range of games for sale is very limited .

wereisjessicahyde (profile) says:

You think people hate Denuvo?

I recently bought some music production software.

I had to register with 2 separate sites to download the installer, to download the actual installer. Install the product.

Then register with another site to download some separate DRM called iLok (if you think people hate Denuvo ask anybody that makes music about iLok). Install the iLok. Link the music software to the iLok – this went wrong.

Send emails to both iLok and the people that make the music software – wait for replies – fix the problem.

It took 2 days to get the thing installed. The worse thing about all this farce? The software was cracked on the same day of release, and all you had to do get version working was click the button that said ‘install’.

I believe in supporting developers. I believe developers have a right to protect their work. But situations like this are just ridiculous.

You think people hate Denuvo? Ask anybody that makes music about iLok? It’s next level hatred.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: You think people hate Denuvo?

"I believe in supporting developers"

Well… I’d add 2 things here. One is that it’s often publishers rather than developers who insist on this kind of crap. Often the people who actually write the software are as opposed to it as you or I.

But, a piece of modern software that takes days and personal interactions just to get installed is broken. If the reason it does that is due to DRM, it’s broken by design. Few people will feel guilty about not paying for a product that’s deliberately broken.

Thad (profile) says:

Still seems pretty common among Japanese publishers (who, in my anecdotal observation, seem even more enamored of draconian, ineffective DRM schemes than their western counterparts). It’s a pity, because there are a number of games from publishers like Sega and Square Enix that I’m interested in, but I’m sure as hell not buying anything with Denuvo. Guess I won’t be playing Dragon Quest 11 until and unless they change their minds.

On the plus side, Capcom stripped Denuvo out of Mega Man 11 pretty quickly after its release. So there are some Japanese publishers, at least, who are recognizing that it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

Rekrul says:

My system is relatively old, so I can’t run the latest games any more. However, even when looking at older games, invasive DRM is one of the things that stops me from buying a copy of a game, or even pirating it. I’ve avoided UbiSoft games like the plague because I don’t want any version of Starforce anywhere near my system. I refuse to install Steam, so I can’t play any of the Steam-crippled games, like Half-Life II or Portal.

I’m much more likely to buy a copy of a game from GOG than to buy a retail copy of a game.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"I’ve also seen scripts that will download them without the Steam client"

My guess is that would violate the TOCs and/or the DMCA, which means it’s roughly the same legally as downloading a pirated copy to back up your CD copy.

"I think GOG’s really dropped the ball there"

Really? I just double checked, and unless my maths is, they have over 1000 Linux compatible games there. Not bad, especially since their collection tends to be a lot more curated than Steam. Hell, there’s a lot of games they have officially supported on Linux but not MacOS.

What do you think they’re dropping the ball on?

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