Denuvo Is Still Claiming It's In The Anti-Piracy Business Even As Games Continue To Strip Out Denuvo Post-Launch

from the useless dept

For a three year period or so, we had a ton of coverage on Denuvo, a DRM platform once touted as undefeatable. That era of invincibility soon crumbled completely, with cracking groups eventually figuring out how to get around the DRM. Cracking times on games went from months, to weeks, to days, to essentially games being cracked at launch. Games started patching Denuvo out of games, which is roughly the equivalent of admitting defeat. In response, Denuvo began claiming that it’s platform was still a success because it could protect some games for some number of hours at the time of launch and the company apparently believed that really should be good enough. The company also announced a pivot to providing anti-cheat software for online games, though publishers began ripping that out of their games at record speed as well.

So, where are we now? Well, the new status quo appears to be this: Denuvo still advertises both its anti-piracy and anti-cheat platforms as successes while games that use the software are still having them peeled out via patches. Notably, Denuvo’s marketing material now reflects the emphasis on the initial release window, where Denvuo claims its platform can protect a game for 14 days after launch, during which publishers earn “59% of their revenue from their new title.”

As with all things Denuvo, this claim should be taken with enormous grains of salt for a variety of reasons. First, that revenue claim seems spurious, given how many games make revenue in how many different ways. Online games make their revenue on an ongoing basis, while single-player only games may make the largest chunk at release. But many single-player games make lots of money on an ongoing basis by embracing their modding community, updating games to keep them relevant to new buyers, releasing DLC, etc. It’s also worth noting that Denuvo has failed spectacularly to protect many, many titles for anything close to 14 days.

But most important to note is that this represents the continued moving of the goalposts by Denuvo. The platform was once touted as “the end of gaming piracy.” Now the focus is on 14 days of protection. Why? Well, the answer is that games long in existence are still patching Denuvo out.

When Monster Hunter: World launched on Steam in 2018 it came with a DRM system to deter pirates by requiring online activation to launch the game. This is often a source of ire for players because of a perception that it causes higher CPU usage and more frequent utilisation of storage devices that could affect gameplay or damages hardware. Denuvo has denied these claims.

Monster Hunter: World’s latest patch has removed around 500MB of files from the game, and the steam page no longer states that MH:W has some form of DRM.

That post, in addition to noting Denuvo’s denial that the DRM has literally any performance impact on a gamer’s machine, also goes on to claim that “it is not uncommon for companies to remove the DRM in a patch once it is no longer necessary.”

That may be true for Denuvo’s anti-piracy platform specifically, but it certainly is not the case for how DRM has been handled generally throughout gaming’s history. In addition, think about what is being said in that claim. A DRM that has at least some utility and no performance impact on gaming machines is stripped by publishers like that of Monster Hunter: World because… why? Just because of public perception on gaming performance? A perception that exists at launch? Why, after a couple of years of the game being sold, would the publisher now even bother to strip out the DRM if it has no actual negative downside?

Well, there are three possible answers. One is that the game publisher knows that, in fact, Denuvo does have an effect on the game’s performance on a buyer’s machine. Another is that the game publisher realizes that the DRM does not in fact have any actual utility. The third option is that the game publisher concludes that both are the case.

Either way, a successful product doesn’t get stripped out of games through patching. Unsuccessful products do that. No matter what Denuvo wants to claim for itself in its marketing material.

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Companies: denuvo

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Comments on “Denuvo Is Still Claiming It's In The Anti-Piracy Business Even As Games Continue To Strip Out Denuvo Post-Launch”

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: denuvo was aways supposed to be removed from games, right?

Even if true, that means that you have to trust them to remove the thing that makes the software less valuable and less useful as promised. Given that the purpose of the software is to presume that I’m a thief and stop me using my legally purchased product if they decide to call me such a thing, I’d rather just wait a few months and pick it up at a large discount, thanks. Or, get games without DRM infection.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: denuvo was aways supposed to be removed from games, right?

"… the plan always was to remove denuvo after the first few months or whatever, since the cost of piracy quickly approaches zero."

That’s not exactly the plant that always was. It’s the plan they were forced to adopt. Denuvo’s DRM often significantly impacts the gameplay experience so although the initial plan of game devs was to simply leave the DRM in, the client base quickly put paid to that idea once the word was out that the pirated game would always work better than the legitimate version.

So now instead the game developers pay Denuvo twice – once to develop and bundle the DRM and secondly to strip it out or neuter it. Happy days…if you’re a DRM manufacturer unconcerned with business ethics.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Denuvo’s denial that the DRM has literally any performance impact on a gamer’s machine

It takes up 500MB, which will use drive I/O when it loads. That’s a performance impact. It uses CPU cycles when it runs. That’s a performance impact.

If they wanted to argue that there was a negligible, unnoticeable performance impact, that’s one thing. But to deny any impact at all? That’s a flat-out lie.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"I’m guessing they mean once loaded it’s not slowing down your frame rate."

And they’re lying when they claim that. The more intrusive forms of denuvo DRM make query calls thousands of times per second, on every aspect of the game engine, in the midst of gameplay, to make sure that what is running is legit. Stutter, jitter and CTD’s have been such a long-standing complaint about DRM-riddled games that Steam’s ended up with a tracker for "Games with Denuvo DRM".

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Matteste says:

And the sad reality is that some still fall for this snake oil.

While it is nice to see that some companies such as Bandai Namco has pretty much abandoned it by this point, it is still sad to see others fall for what is basically a snake oil scam preying on their paranoia, wasting time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. SEGA and Atlus are especially bad with it right now.

And then there was the shark game (forgot the name) that recently released on Steam after having been Epic exclusive and still bothers with Denuvo despite the game having been out in the wild for over a year.

Though the saddest part is that there are also consumers out there that will fervently defend this crap even though they have nothing to gain from it, other than being on the publishers side, calling anyone who has a problem a "filthy pirate" and so on. Seriously, some are just so easily strung along.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: And the sad reality is that some still fall for this sna

It’s the ultimate irony of DRM in that for all the cries of ‘Piracy!’ and how it’s needed to deal with those filthy copyright infringers the only people that are really screwed over by DRM are the paying customers.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: And the sad reality is that some still fall for this sna

"…the "filthy pirates" are the only ones who don’t have a problem with it, because the crackers take it out."

…and you can tell just how much the copyright cult adheres to "market values" when their whole argument is that the plebs should be happy not just to accept purchasing a product which was broken by design but also shoulder the extra cost of having it broken added to the invoice.

Leading to numerous copyright maximalists to assume that anyone who dares to criticize the way they do business must be a being of incurable evil, right on par with terrorists and serial killers.

These people are all still channeling Nick Valenti’s ghost.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Go ahead, poke that beehive Denuvo...

Notably, Denuvo’s marketing material now reflects the emphasis on the initial release window, where Denvuo claims its platform can protect a game for 14 days after launch, during which publishers earn "59% of their revenue from their new title."

Given a quick search of the company on TD resulted in a plethora of stories about how quickly Denuvo’s malicious code has been gutted from games(Hitman 2’s version was cracked three days before the official launch) pretty sure even claiming two weeks is going to be wildly optimistic, and that’s before taking into account the fact that giving a timeline like that is just going to be seen as a challenge for all the cracking individuals/groups out there looking to see who can shave that number down the most.

That aside there is something just so very funny about how desperate they’ve gotten at this point, where it’s simply taken as a given that their product will be cracked in short order and they’re stuck trying to argue that it will at least ‘protect’ a game for a few days at least.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Go ahead, poke that beehive Denuvo...

"it’s simply taken as a given that their product will be cracked in short order"

All DRM will be cracked. There’s simply too much incentive to do so, initially due to piracy, then because once it’s cracked the people who paid money have an inferior version of the product.

The answer to the issue with the industry is to not bet everything on a tiny window just after release and build a product that retains value after that time, not to do things that convince people like me to wait till the game’s available at 80% off a year down the line after all the deliberately introduced bugs have been removed.

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Brandon (profile) says:

Mixed evidence for performance impact

This is perhaps adjacent to WHY publishers include and then remove Denuvo, but there is mixed evidence of a performance impact on games by Denuvo software inclusion. ExtremeTech found an impact on 3 games at the end of 2018, but Ars Technica found no significant impact on Batman: Arkham Knight and TechPowerUp found no significant impact on Devil May Cry 5, and both of those were in early 2019. Now, Denuvo is constantly being updated and I’m sure each different revision has differing impact, and there are probably better and worse ways to implement it. Regardless, it’s clear that developers are willing to gamble in the hopes of getting a week or two of piracy-free sales and distribution, even if that gamble often doesn’t play out.

https://www.extremetech.com/gaming/282924-denuvo-really-does-cripple-pc-gaming-performance

https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/09/ars-analysis-denuvo-drm-doesnt-slow-down-batman-arkham-knight/

https://www.techpowerup.com/review/denuvo-performance-loss-test/3.html

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Mixed evidence for performance impact

"Ars Technica found no significant impact on Batman: Arkham Knight and TechPowerUp found no significant impact on Devil May Cry 5"

I found significant impact – I bought both games used on console a while after they were released, rather than buy them new on PC, partly as a direct response to the DRM crap. So, I legally enjoyed the games, while the publishers enjoyed the $0 they asked for by infecting the PC versions.

Brandon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Mixed evidence for performance impact

Consoles have their own varieties of built-in DRM, but consoles are also not multi-use devices in the same way PCs are. I’m not sure whey Denuvo still has a market given its questionable efficacy, but at the same time all the doom and gloom about it "infecting" PCs and hurting performance is at least partially hyperbole.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Mixed evidence for performance impact

"Consoles have their own varieties of built-in DRM, but consoles are also not multi-use devices in the same way PCs are"

Indeed, DRM is way less of a problem when it’s universally applied by the manufacturer to a device that has no purpose other than to run the software officially approved by the manufacturer. Just as it’s way less of a problem when it applies to rentals rather than content you supposedly bought.

That’s why I completely oppose DRM infections on my main PC where I can have the choice, but I don’t mind it on the XBox – when I’m not trying to work, create or do numerous other things on the computer I own, you’re allowed more access.

"the doom and gloom about it "infecting" PCs and hurting performance is at least partially hyperbole"

There are numerous instances of DRM infected software causing issues with performance and security. Whether or not this particular brand of infection has yet been revealed to do such things, since it’s very nature by design is to assume that you’re a pirate and block you from doing things if it decides you are one, it’s best to avoid such problems altogether by refusing to take part in the experiment.

This is the ultimate problem for me – the only purpose of DRM is to mess with you, and once it’s cracked, it only messes with people who legally paid for the software. So, I might as well not pay.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

I know I bring it up a lot, but it’s the only Denuvo-infected game I know of that I actually want (not that my current system will even run it), but Burnout Paradise Remastered is going on three years now with no crack. You can’t even buy a physical copy for Windows, it’s download only.

Nor can you buy a complete copy of the game for consoles. All the retail copies have been patched since release. Nor can you buy a complete physical copy of the original Burnout Paradise for the older systems. The "Ultimate Box" doesn’t include most of the DLC, even for the consoles.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Denuvo, the premiere reason I don't buy new releases

I really guess I should thank Denuvo. Thanks to their crappy drm, I never buy a game the release week… or month… usually I wait until they’ve removed the drm and this sometimes coincides with a sale…
So, thanks to their DRM I no longer feel the need to buy the newest (most broken) games when they come out… I’ve saved a TON of money this way… the game usually has a 40% by this time (as Denuvo left it’s mark already in the reviews: stutters, can’t play, returned it!)
Thank you Denuvo for screwing up the first few weeks of launch for these games… if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t see these great discounts :p

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