DRM Breaking Games Again, This Time Due To New Intel Chip Architecture
from the chips-and-blip dept
We were just discussing how Denuvo’s inability to renew one of its domains suddenly prevented lots of paying customers from playing several of their paid-for video games. While we can laugh at Denuvo’s ineptitude, the real point in all of that is once again how DRM in video games tends to prevent nothing when it comes to piracy, yet paying customers tend to get impacted for a variety of reasons. DRM, in other words, almost universally functions to punish paying customers, which is stupid.
And now here we are again, with DRM suddenly preventing paying customers from playing their games, albeit for a completely different reason. Intel released a list of something like 50 games where DRM breaks playability as a result of Intel’s new chip architecture. While the reason this occurs on these chips is somewhat technical, ArsTechnica has a writeup that includes a reasonable summary.
We’ve already covered how Alder Lake’s hybrid “big.little” design splits the CPU’s workload into high-powered “performance” (P) cores and low-powered “efficiency” (E) cores. But after hinting at the potential issue in a developer FAQ last month, Intel is now confirming that some games contain DRM that Intel says “may incorrectly recognize 12th Generation Intel Core Processors efficient-cores (E-cores) as another system.” That issue can lead to games that “may crash during launch or gameplay or unexpectedly shut down,” Intel says.
PC Mag’s Chris Stobing explained that the issue arises from the DRM middleware treating the two different types of cores as two distinct systems. “Once it detects that some portion of the load has been split between the P- and E-cores, it sees the new cores as a new license holder (a separate system) and force-quits the game to prevent what it believes is two PCs trying to play one game on the same key,” he said.
That makes technical sense. What doesn’t make sense is why this DRM is used in the first place. Again, I can just about promise you that all or a majority of these games are being pirated anyway, despite the DRM. So here again we have the classic DRM scenario: pirates going to pirate, while the paying customer finds out the game they bought suddenly isn’t operable any longer.
Now, Intel has indicated that it will be patching this issue out and is working directly with game developers to do that. In addition, it has provided workarounds, such as:
Intel says users can get around the problem by upgrading to Windows 11 (in some cases) or launching into the BIOS setup and turning on Legacy Game Compatibility Mode, then activating it with the Scroll Lock key. But an Intel spokesperson told PC Mag that this mode isn’t yet available on at least some Alder Lake CPUs and “should be included in a future BIOS update.”
But when viewed through the lens of the average PC gamer, this is mostly absurd. Upgrade the entire OS to play a game you already bought? Making changes in the BIOS? Come on.
DRM needs to die. It’s almost entirely useless at everything other than screwing things up for game companies’ actual customers. How can all of this be worth it?