Denuvo - the best "DRM" that can defeat PC piracy

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  1. Post
    #1

    Denuvo - the best "DRM" that can defeat PC piracy

    Introduction

    DRM. People don't like to talk about it in any favourable terms. While the piracy problem is often exaggerated by publishers, the fact remains that it is still present, and there are always loss of potential sales (at a rate vastly lower than 1 pirated copy = 1 lost sale). I don't think it's wrong to say that PC as a platform would be even more profitable and successful than it already is if piracy can be eradicated in a practical (if not complete) sense. Considering piracy exists also on consoles, that by itself would be a huge advantage for PC as a platform.

    So what is "Denuvo"? Assuming you haven't been under a rock for the past year, Denuvo is a new form of "DRM", or to be more precise "anti-tampering", that was introduced this year, and it has been used on a number of recent AAA titles. Compared to many other forms of DRM (i.e. always online), Denuvo is not at all intrusive, and it is very time-consuming for cracking groups to crack. However, for whatever reason Denuvo has been the target of a huge load of controversies since its release, even though nearly all the controversies were based entirely on misinformation.

    In truth, Denuvo is so harmless that most legitimate buyers could spend hours on the game, never even aware that the game is using Denuvo, until they read some article that discovered the game is using Denuvo. I mean, how do you even discover if a game is using Denuvo, unless you... try to "find out"?


    Misconceptions

    1. Damaging SSDs:
    One of the first rumours was that Denuvo damages SSDs due to an excessive amount of writes. This rumour seems a lot bigger than it is, since every website decided to spread it for clicks, but it was in fact originated from a single source - a Russian (suspicious?) website with a couple screenshots claiming the excessive writes. The link is no longer available; the site has since taken down the article. The claim has since then been disproved by many many independent tests to the contrary, but the damage inflicted by the rumour was never fully mitigated. Some of the tests:

    2. Performance Issues:
    A common complaint targeted at DRM is that the DRM reduces a game's performance, and this was indeed true during the SecuROM era. Nothing incites more rage among legitimate buyers than knowing that the pirates are enjoying a superior version of the game that runs better. Two Denuvo games have been the primary target of this complaint: Lords of the Fallen and Batman Arkham Knight. I mean, surely DRM can be the only reason at fault!

    However, the truth is the reason those games run badly is simply because the games themselves were poorly optimised. There are two simple evidences supporting this: 1) other Denuvo games are some of the most optimised PC games on the market; 2) the cracked versions of those games suffer exactly the same problems! I mean, it was simply absurd to even believe that Denuvo can somehow remove ingame assets from the PC version found in the PS4 version.

    3. Prevents/Limits Modding:
    When it comes to modding, the only thing that Denuvo truly prevents is modification of the main .exe file. However, the vast majority of mods have no reason whatsoever to even touch the main .exe, especially if modding is officially supported. For example, FO4 only came out recently, and no official modding tools are available, and not one single mod requires modification of main .exe file.

    I believe this blame was first cast during the Dragon Age: Inqusition release, which has extremely limited capability when it comes to modding. As usual, people quickly threw the blame at that DRM. However, in truth this difficulty was caused entirely by DAI's use of Frostbite engine. Since then this difficulty has been overcome, and we now see a fair number of mods available for DAI. At the end of the day though, how moddable a game still depends primarily on how much official support the devs provide, not the DRM.

    It should be noted that in cases where the devs do not officially support modding whatsoever, some mods may indeed only be possible via .exe modification. A good example would be the Long War mod for XCOM. Now that XCOM2 has official mod support, it shouldn't be necessary to resort to .exe modification again.

    4. Denuvo is Cracked:
    Yet another misconception, possibly construed to diminish the perceived effectiveness of Denuvo, is that once Denuvo is cracked, it's cracked for every game using Denuvo. However, the truth is unlike every other form of DRM, every time Denuvo is cracked, it does not materially reduce the time required for any subsequent crack. Denuvo is at the end of the day not a DRM, but anti-tampering, and it will anti crackers' tampering regardless of how many times it's been bypassed. Currently, every Denuvo title takes at least 2 weeks to crack, while some are never fully cracked even months later (e.g. MGS5, where a stable version still isn't available).

    Make no mistake. Denuvo is both difficult and time-consuming to crack, even more than a year after its release.


    Denuvo Defeating PC Piracy

    So here's what we know about Denuvo: it's not intrusive, it's used only by a few games, and it's consistently effective to some degree even after being previously cracked. How can it defeat PC piracy, if at the end of the day it can still be cracked? Doesn't it merely mean that pirates have to wait a few weeks/months more than usual?

    There is currently only one cracking group capable of handling Denuvo on the market, and there is only a handful of games that use Denuvo. Even when the cracking group can focus all its attention on a recently released Denuvo title, it still takes them a significant amount of time to get through the anti-tampering. As mentioned above, some titles even remain imperfectly cracked as the cracking group "runs out of time" and is forced to move on to working on a new Denuvo release.

    Imagine then, if hundreds or thousands of new titles on PC all use Denuvo. How much can one single cracking group do then? Perhaps all they will be capable of doing is releasing that one crack for a single Denuvo title out of a thousand, and soon the vast majority of new PC titles will remain uncracked indefinitely. That, is when PC piracy is defeated in all practical forms.

    I think PC gamers as a community need to see through the misinformation and embrace Denuvo. DRM-free is just a pipe dream shared only by a few select titles, and will never become the norm. Denuvo has a real chance of defeating PC piracy, and if it is ousted as a result of misinformation, prejudice and plain simple trolling, then mark my words: SOMETHING FAR WORSE WILL TAKE ITS PLACE.
    Last edited by GhoX; 11th December 2015 at 9:32 pm.

  2. Post
    #2
    However, in truth this difficulty was caused entirely by DAI's use of CryENGINE 3.
    DA: I uses Frostbite not CryEngine.
    DRM-free is just a pipe dream shared only by a few select titles
    Everything on GOG is DRM free.

    Why are you trying to sell me this DRM? I don't want it, I don't care about it.
    **slams door shut.

  3. Post
    #3
    KrimzinZV wrote:
    DA: I uses Frostbite not CryEngine.
    Everything on GOG is DRM free.
    Thanks for the correction. I thought something was off.

    To be fair, GOG is mostly just old games and indies. Steam still has the lion's share of the market. Do you honestly believe that GOG will one day overtake Steam?

  4. Post
    #4
    GhoX wrote:
    Thanks for the correction. I thought something was off.

    To be fair, GOG is mostly just old games and indies. Steam still has the lion's share of the market. Do you honestly believe that GOG will one day overtake Steam?
    Do you think that DRM will stop anyone? Why not try and focus on why people are pirating and make them want to buy the game rather than preventing anyone from playing it?

  5. Post
    #5
    KrimzinZV wrote:
    Do you think that DRM will stop anyone? Why not try and focus on why people are pirating and make them want to buy the game rather than preventing anyone from playing it?
    I've presented a very logical argument in my original post on why Denuvo can indeed stop piracy. So yes, I absolutely believe it.

  6. Post
    #6
    DRM is like putting a bit of tape over a hole in a dam. It doesn't fix anything, like I said they need to focus on why people aren't getting it legitimately, it will get cracked sooner or later.

  7. Post
    #7
    KrimzinZV wrote:
    DRM is like putting a bit of tape over a hole in a dam. It doesn't fix anything, like I said they need to focus on why people aren't getting it legitimately, it will get cracked sooner or later.
    Doesn't really counter my argument:

    There is currently only one cracking group capable of handling Denuvo on the market, and there is only a handful of games that use Denuvo. Even when the cracking group can focus all its attention on a recently released Denuvo title, it still takes them a significant amount of time to get through the anti-tampering. As mentioned above, some titles even remain imperfectly cracked as the cracking group "runs out of time" and is forced to move on to working on a new Denuvo release.

    Imagine then, if hundreds or thousands of new titles on PC all use Denuvo. How much can one single cracking group do then? Perhaps all they will be capable of doing is releasing that one crack for a single Denuvo title out of a thousand, and soon the vast majority of new PC titles will remain uncracked indefinitely. That, is when PC piracy is defeated in all practical forms.

  8. Post
    #8
    GhoX wrote:
    Doesn't really counter my argument:
    It's new, they'll get better and there'll be more of them, the time to crack it will go down and right now it's still being cracked. It doesn't address the issue of why people are pirating it. DRM isn't solving the problem, the problem is that there are people that don't want X game legitimately, they need to try to figure out why they don't want it legitimately and make it so that they do.

  9. Post
    #9
    Games I own using apparently using Denuvo:

    Lords of the Fallen
    Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Batman Arkham Knight
    Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
    Mad Max

    Games I just cracked to run without Steam or Origin

    Lords of the Fallen
    Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Batman Arkham Knight
    Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
    Mad Max

    Yup seems legit.

    Pirates will always pirate, even if they have to wait for it. DRM is the bane of PC gaming and supporting it is not understanding the real issue of the value proposition in gaming.

    The claim that just one group of crackers are cracking it is utterly pointless. If it increases in use then the groups will focus on it. Few games use it so there is no need for more groups to be focusing on it.

  10. Post
    #10
    GOG isn't trying to compete against Steam, it's there for people who want to buy DRM-free releases.

  11. Post
    #11
    ChrisB wrote:
    Pirates will always pirate, even if they have to wait for it. DRM is the bane of PC gaming and supporting it is not understanding the real issue of the value proposition in gaming.

    The claim that just one group of crackers are cracking it is utterly pointless. If it increases in use then the groups will focus on it. Few games use it so there is no need for more groups to be focusing on it.
    How is that a justification that Denuvo should not be embraced? The fact that pirates have to wait is by itself valuable. Please explain how DRM is the bane of PC gaming, preferably in the context of Denuvo.

    It's not a claim that only one group is cracking it, it's fact. And the reason they are the only ones focusing on it is not because there are few Denuvo titles, it's because they are the only ones who currently possess the skills to do it. I would also like to point out that this group is working so hard to crack games because they actually make money from selling cracked copies of the game in "you know what" country.

    I don't see how other non-profit driven groups will start improving their skills and knowledge just to crack Denuvo, when the incentive to crack is totally overridden by the dreariness of the process itself.

    PS: I guess you don't own Just Cause 3?

  12. Post
    #12
    When AC2 first came out, it took quite a long time to crack it because of data streaming. Hence why they initially made an emulation server to mimic the Ubisoft servers, but a lot of areas were missing/bugged/glitched as a result. Subsequent AC games that used the streaming protection were pretty much cracked at launch, as scene groups like Reloaded and the Chinese group 3DM learned how to find and reverse engineer the files required.

    This is still the case in several recent titles, like legacy of the void which required bnet files that were only fully decrypted as you progressed/finished the game etc. Just Cause 3 is in a similar situation as well.

    So as Pyro pointed out, although there will be delays in these pirated copies. Sooner or later, groups will find a way to circumvent most if not all DRM protection. A lot of the more difficult ones in the past year or so were mainly cracked by 3DM (the Chinese group) like Dragon Age Inquisition and such.

  13. Post
    #13
    How is Just Cause 3 in a similar situation? It's not cracked. Despite all the previous attempts at cracking other Denuvo games, it hasn't sped up in any notable way, and it's still all being done by one group. Does it not logically follow then that if hundreds of games start using Denuvo, it will overwhelm the pirates?

    At one time I too thought Denuvo was defeated for good when it was first cracked. Since then it has been proven otherwise time and time again. Right now, a few Denuvo titles = a couple weeks' wait. So how long may the wait be if it's hundreds of titles?

  14. Post
    #14
    KrimzinZV wrote:
    It's new, they'll get better and there'll be more of them, the time to crack it will go down and right now it's still being cracked. It doesn't address the issue of why people are pirating it. DRM isn't solving the problem, the problem is that there are people that don't want X game legitimately, they need to try to figure out why they don't want it legitimately and make it so that they do.
    It is not that new. It's why I didn't really see Denuvo as a staying force until now, a year after it's first introduction. No, it doesn't address the motive for piracy, and yes it's just a piece of tape (but really good tape).

    However, I don't think that will ever be perfectly addressed in any wide scope. It's like the equilibrium of an economy that exists only ever in theory but seldom in practice.

  15. Post
    #15
    GhoX wrote:
    How is Just Cause 3 in a similar situation? It's not cracked. Despite all the previous attempts at cracking other Denuvo games, it hasn't sped up in any notable way, and it's still all being done by one group. Does it not logically follow then that if hundreds of games start using Denuvo, it will overwhelm the pirates?

    At one time I too thought Denuvo was defeated for good when it was first cracked. Since then it has been proven otherwise time and time again. Right now, a few Denuvo titles = a couple weeks' wait. So how long may the wait be if it's hundreds of titles?
    I'm not against the DRM, I was just stating that the scene is in constant battles with developers.

    Just Cause 3 would require sometimes before the crack is 'publicly viable'. Scenes groups often do not release workarounds unless it's packaged (installer/crack etc) according to scene guidelines. A lot of repacking groups release cracked version a bit earlier with the added bonus of truncating/ripping multiplayer etc, and often the result could require the end user to manipulate certain files, launch parameters and so on.

    I think if more titles do adopt the DRM, it wouldn't necessarily hurt the pirating community, but It would increase preliminary sales for developers.

  16. Post
    #16
    started reading but tl;dr

    y u shillin again?

  17. Post
    #17
    GhoX wrote:
    How is that a justification that Denuvo should not be embraced? The fact that pirates have to wait is by itself valuable. Please explain how DRM is the bane of PC gaming, preferably in the context of Denuvo.

    It's not a claim that only one group is cracking it, it's fact. And the reason they are the only ones focusing on it is not because there are few Denuvo titles, it's because they are the only ones who currently possess the skills to do it. I would also like to point out that this group is working so hard to crack games because they actually make money from selling cracked copies of the game in "you know what" country.

    I don't see how other non-profit driven groups will start improving their skills and knowledge just to crack Denuvo, when the incentive to crack is totally overridden by the dreariness of the process itself.

    PS: I guess you don't own Just Cause 3?
    Embracing DRM is imo the wrong way to look at things. Offering value is FAR better. Like what CDPR did with their Witcher titles 2 and 3 were made DRM free via GOG and thats the version that most people went with.

    I'd like some sources for you claims that there is only one cracker group, and the reason why. Crackers like many do it for bragging rights. They're a hacker subgroup and its about beating code. So the harder it is the more likely more will tackle if/when there is a need for it.

    And yup I do not own JC3. I have a broken arm and can not play a lot of games so that one is waiting for an eventual purchase.

  18. Post
    #18
    gathixpower wrote:
    I think if more titles do adopt the DRM, it wouldn't necessarily hurt the pirating community, but It would increase preliminary sales for developers.
    I think it's all a matter of degree. Network effect, if you are familiar with the term.

    Right now Denuvo is clearly not doing much other than increasing preliminary sales. I can see it having a real effect on hurting the pirating community if the rate of adoption gets significantly higher.

  19. Post
    #19
    ChrisB wrote:
    Embracing DRM is imo the wrong way to look at things. Offering value is FAR better. Like what CDPR did with their Witcher titles 2 and 3 were made DRM free via GOG and thats the version that most people went with.

    I'd like some sources for you claims that there is only one cracker group, and the reason why. Crackers like many do it for bragging rights. They're a hacker subgroup and its about beating code. So the harder it is the more likely more will tackle if/when there is a need for it.

    And yup I do not own JC3. I have a broken arm and can not play a lot of games so that one is waiting for an eventual purchase.
    Since you are a staff, I guess it's fine to refer to sources without linking them? As another poster mentioned earlier, the group in question is 3DM. They are the only ones who possess both the ability and motive to actually do it. Sale of pirated games is also very commonplace in China, and does turn a profit.

    I do agree that in the ideal world, DRM would not exist, and everyone would buy every game from a site like GOG. However, I really have difficulty seeing that as anything more than a dream. It's certainly a better approach for immediate consumers, it's better morally speaking, and it may even be better when it comes to sales for some games at least. Despite all that, it's not something that will work for every game, and certainly the majority of publishers show no intention of ever signing up to that.

    Perhaps it will change in the future, but call me a pessimist, I only see things going downhill from here, with the occasional beacons of light like Witcher 3.

  20. Post
    #20
    GhoX, stop shilling for Sony DADC. DRM is a solution that never works and only ends up hurting legitimate customers. The best way to combat piracy is to make A. make it more convenient to buy your games than it is to pirate them. B. make better games. Witcher 3 sold 1.3 million on PC alone, 23% of Ubisoft's revenue is from PC (this is company whose CEO once claimed a 93-95% piracy rate of their products on PC, hilariously). I'd wager that The Witcher 3's sales are because of A.

    The success of Steam is proof of B.
    I.e.
    • Having most of your games on one online bookshelf that can be accessed from practically any PC with an internet connection.
    • Games sold regularly at heavily discounted prices.
    • Lots of value-added features to the consumer like cloud saves, easy MP party making, "social media" features like achievements, etc.
    Last edited by EvaUnit02; 12th December 2015 at 12:51 am.

  21. Post
    #21
    Imagine then, if hundreds or thousands of new titles on PC all use Denuvo. How much can one single cracking group do then?
    I imagine if Denuvo became that pervasive you'd see substantially more investment from other crack groups to compete. I'm not sure why you'd think/claim otherwise?

  22. Post
    #22
    interesting topic.

  23. Post
    #23
    ^ There is clearly some misunderstanding here.

    Major scene groups do not 'crack' every game released on PC. It is entirely their prerogative in choosing which games they want to work on, but most of the time they only deal with titles that are worth their time. There are however a lot of minor scenes groups that work on the indie/smaller games (particularly on Steam) as well as foreign language releases. Methods are often stolen and then repackaged by groups, hence why there are often "proper' releases with the nfo file flaming/condemning the thieves so to speak.

    If one group fades away, others will always take charge. This happened with Skidrow taking over Reloaded and Razor1911 and more recently Codex taking over Skidrow.

    The only way to slow it down is to mutate the DRM into variations for each title with no file patterns. I'm just not sure if developers apart from EA and Ubisoft are willing to go down that road, since there are licensing fees and potential backlash from players.

  24. Post
    #24
    Do you think that publishers would drop the cost of titles if they saw a dramatic drop in piracy together with a sharp rise in sales?

    No. It'd be like the price of gas, we'd be given bullshit excuses like "it takes a while for the cheaper price to make it to the pump".

  25. Post
    #25
    EvaUnit02 wrote:
    GhoX, stop shilling for Sony DADC. DRM is a solution that never works and only ends up hurting legitimate customers. The best way to combat piracy is to make A. make it more convenient to buy your games than it is to pirate them. B. make better games. Witcher 3 sold 1.3 million on PC alone, 23% of Ubisoft's revenue is from PC (this is company whose CEO once claimed a 93-95% piracy rate of their products on PC, hilariously). I'd wager that The Witcher 3's sales are because of A.

    The success of Steam is proof of B.
    I.e.
    • Having most of your games on one online bookshelf that can be accessed from practically any PC with an internet connection.
    • Games sold regularly at heavily discounted prices.
    • Lots of value-added features to the consumer like cloud saves, easy MP party making, "social media" features like achievements, etc.
    Please support your assertion of "DRM is a solution that never works and only ends up hurting legitimate customers" in the context of Denuvo. How exactly does it hurt legitimate customers, or are you simply generalising without facts?

    I'm not claiming whatsoever that "making good games is not a good solution to piracy", but it's not a full solution. Good games sell great, that much is given. However, how does having Denuvo as a DRM prevent either of your points? It obviously doesn't affect the quality of the game itself. It further doesn't make purchasing the game more difficult? Buying a game with Denuvo off Steam is no more difficult than buying one without Denuvo?

    How is a high quality product purchased off Steam affected in any way by whether it uses Denuvo or not, other than the fact that it will be significantly harder to crack?