The Anti-Piracy Tech That’s Giving Hackers Fits

The Anti-Piracy Tech That’s Giving Hackers Fits

More than two months after release, it’s still not possible to pirate Just Cause 3. The same is true for Rise of the Tomb Raider, released for PC in late January. Cracking computer games used to be measured in hours or days, but now, it’s turning into weeks and months. The nature of piracy is changing in a big way. The surest sign of that was a rare note of surrender from China-based 3DM, one of the world’s most popular cracking groups. They have made waves recently for suggesting /”there will be no free games to play” in two years. They have reportedly backed away from cracking single player games, too, but there’s dispute over those reports.

3DM and every other group in the cracking scene has been frustratingly banging their head against the piracy roadblock that is relatively new “anti-tamper” tech from the Austrian company Denuvo. That’s the tech that Square Enix used to protect Just Cause 3, the tech they also used for the new Tomb Raider and the tech that Ubisoft is using on next week’s Far Cry Primal.

Anti-tamper, according to Deunvo, is different from Digital Rights Management (DRM), which has a historically poor reputation with players.

“Anti-tamper prevents the debugging, reverse engineering and changing of executable files,” a company spokesperson told me recently.

That’s a confusing non-explanation about how Denuvo works. But since Denuvo seems to have pirates on their heels, they won’t spill their dark secrets to me.

Here’s how Denuvo describes the technology on their website:

The licence management from Steam or Origin grants legitimate consumers access to the game and our Anti-Tamper solution ensures that these DRM systems are not bypassed.

The million dollar question: what makes anti-tamper so hard to crack? Breaking Denuvo’s anti-tamper tech, even for a single game, amounts to a trade secret in these circles. Denuvo doesn’t have much incentive to give any answers, so I asked a few hackers to take a look at it.

Steam DRM? What Steam DRM?

Denuvo works as a shield for existing DRM protections baked into PC services like Steam and Origin. According to everyone I talked to, it’s trivial to get around Steam’s DRM.

“It is business as usual to see cracks for Steam games within minutes of the game’s Australian release,” said a hacker who goes by the pseudonym MTW. “Obviously this is a bad sign; DRM should not take single digit minutes to crack. There are other, non-Denuvo DRM solutions for Steam games. None of them are worth a shit.”

Denuvo uses a unique piggybacking approach. Because Steam and Origin require an internet connection to buy, purchase and authenticate a game the first time around, Denuvo can ride this wave and collect details about the computer to, in a sense, generate a unique key for that copy of the game. If the game isn’t running on that exact machine, the game can assume the game’s been pirated.

“Machine-specific triggers are peppered everywhere,” said MTW. “The game will appear to be insanely buggy, but it’s just copy protection crap. […] Game developers get to specify points in gameplay where they want a copy protection trigger. A game can be unplayable.”

In other words, even if a cracking team can get the game running, it can’t assume it will remain stable.

DRM has a history of onerous requirements for legit consumers, including a requirement that you keep your internet on all the time, register the game and so on. Denuvo largely sidesteps that. (In the past, Denuvo tech has been accused of slowing performance, but that seems to have been largely debunked.)

Anti-tamper has reportedly been used in games recently from Electronic Arts, Warner Bros, Square Enix, Ubisoft, Konami and CI Games. The company doesn’t publicly list clients.

Interestingly, Denuvo isn’t claiming it can protect games forever.

“No DRM or anti-tamper solution can stop piracy entirely,” said the spokesperson. “The goal of Denuvo anti-tamper is to keep a game piracy-free for a game’s initial sales release window, when most of the sales are made.”

For Just Cause 3, that’s 78 days. For Rise of the Tomb Raider, that’s 20 days. Denuvo’s longest record is 272 days for Lords of the Fallen, a Dark Souls-style game from late 2014.

The one group that’s had success against Denuvo is the aforementioned 3DM. Most notably, they broke Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, one of last year’s most anticipated games. But they haven’t been able to maintain that success, as Denuvo has modified their process along the way.

“Denuvo has a staff of highly skilled and dedicated software engineers which constantly monitors every conceivable threat to a DRM system’s integrity,” said a Denuvo spokesperson. “Our job is to stay one step ahead of the hackers/crackers to make sure our anti-tamper system can keep a game publisher’s chosen DRM system safe.”

I wanted to hear 3DM’s side of things, but that’s easier typed than done. My attempts to speak with them have been unsuccessful, but what makes 3DM unique is how the group doesn’t hide in the shadows, as most of the other big cracking groups do. Several 3DM “employees” have public profiles on the social network Weibo, AKA China’s Twitter. Their leader, a woman who goes by the nickname Bird Sister, regularly updates a blog discussing 3DM’s activities.

One of the only known photos allegedly depicting Bird Sister.

The cracking scene is competitive, as groups vie to break through a game’s copy-protection and upload it to the world. It’s the equivalent of shouting “first!” in a comment at the bottom of an article, but you’re releasing a hot new $80 game for free. This competition can get so fierce that one group will claim another ripped off their work. (Whatever you think of piracy, it’s not exactly easy to crack software.)

Game developers and many gamers may hate piracy, but 3DM has its happy followers. Bird Sister’s personal blog is full of comments from people thanking her for 3DM’s hard work.

Note: These comments were crudely translated using Google.

Despite the efforts of Bird Sister and the rest of 3DM though, Denuvo as a whole remains uncracked.

A Long Time Ago In A DRM Far, Far Away

The concept of preventing people from playing a game they didn’t pay for existed long before games went “digital”. Adventure games in the ’90s, for example, asked players specific questions that could only be answered by looking in the game’s physical manual. (‘What’s the seventh word in the second paragraph on page 14?’)

Over the years, game creators wrestled with how much friction to introduce in the quest to curb piracy. Too often, piracy measures meant to prevent people from stealing the game had more of an impact on paying consumers, leading to a general distrust of any form of anti-piracy.

It was common in the ’90s and 2000s to require a CD or DVD in the drive, which was profoundly annoying. This led people who’d legally bought the game to apply “no-CD” patches to remove the requirement.

Image Credit: Penny Arcade

A modern form of this tactic, SecuROM, forced players to register copies of the game online, and players could only authorise a small number of computers per copy. This famously backfired on Spore, partially causing it to become the most pirated game of 2008. EA was hit with a class action lawsuit over SecuROM, arguing SecuROM was installed on computers without proper consent. EA later settled and agreed to better disclose SecuROM’s existence.

Denuvo was formed after Sony DADC DigitalWorks, the creators of SecuROM, were bought out. This new DRM company rose from the ashes of Sony DADC Digital Works, and if you browse Denuvo’s website, developers can still buy SecuROM. (It doesn’t seem very common.)

Denuvo’s goal is to keep hackers and pirates at bay for at least 60 days before a game is cracked. But when a game is broken, the genie can be partially put back in the bottle by updating the game with a fresh layer of Denuvo protection. (It’s why “Denuvo cracked” headlines don’t usually mean very much.) With that approach, only one instance of the game is cracked. The crack doesn’t gain them access to every other Denuvo-locked game, nor access to future versions of the game in question. Denuvo can add new locks when DLC is released or through a patch so that pirates are then stuck with that specific version of the game.

The Not-So-Patient Future

Most torrent websites these days have comments and message boards, and if you take a look at the conversations around Rise of the Tomb Raider or Just Cause 3, there’s a lot of anxiety that Denuvo spells the end of cracked big-budget games.

This doesn’t surprise Andy Maxwell, a reporter at TorrentFreak.

“Some pirates have a tendency to panic,” said Maxwell. “After all, something like Denuvo’s latest iteration upsets their assumption that their next game is coming for free. While some people can’t afford to pay and will always pirate, I think a lot of pirates are too impatient to wait months for a crack.”

If Denuvo is able to keep slowing pirates down, Maxwell says that’s a huge win for the game companies.

“The key here is to break pirates’ motivation,” he said.

To him, that doesn’t involve merely delaying a crack. It’s also about making games cheaper, more accessible and consumer-friendly. A lack of demos is a sore point, for example. (I’m with him there.) For most people, the end goal is to play a video game.

“The last thing gamers want to do is screw around trying to get a cracked game to work when they could be having fun,” he said. “Some people like that challenge, millions don’t.”

Just Cause 3 will be cracked at some point, and so will Rise of the Tomb Raider. The question is what happens in a world where people don’t know when that will happen. Will sales go up, as pirates grumble and buy real copies? Or are people willing to wait? Even Electronic Arts’ new cutesy platformer, Unravel, has Denuvo’s protection. It may not be long before most games do.

“Rules are there to be broken,” said Maxwell. “History tells us that when the motivation is there, pirates will eventually catch up.”

Art Credit: Sam Woolley


  • Denuvo can ride this wave and collect details about the computer to, in a sense, generate a unique key for that copy of the game. If the game isn’t running on that exact machine, the game can assume the game’s been pirated.

    Sorry if I missed the answer, but as usual this use case seems missed when inventing new schemes to punish consumers who bought the game instead of downloading from BitTorrent (and yes, I know what I just typed).

    I buy the game (say via Steam) and later upgrade. If the anti-tamper is based on a unique key of the old hardware, am I now treated a pirate for simply upgrading my machine?

    • I’m not an expert, but from what I understand Denuvo isn’t a DRM system in itself, it just prevents hacked from circumventing Steam/Origin/etc. DRM. So as long as you’re playing on a legit Steam account, you should be fine

    • @cubits and @cffndncr, Thanks for the heads up.

      Truth be told, this is the main reason I go with consoles. With the exception of the X-Bone, when one buys the game, one simply puts it in and plays.

      If there is ever going to be truth to PC gaming dying, it would not surprise me if what successes in killing the PC as a gaming platform is this DRM and now Anti-Tampering nonsense.

      • Piracy on consoles exists too… I grew up in Jakarta, and never once bought an original copy of a console game (despite playing dozens, possibly hundreds of different games (to be fair, it was next to impossible to find original games there, while pirated games were everywhere)

        DRM isn’t going to ‘kill’ PC gaming – if anything it will strengthen it, as devs will be able to confidently port games to PC without worrying about it being immediately hacked and their investment wasted.

        • Not saying piracy on consoles doesn’t exist. But I have to say it’s worse on PC; primarily because the protection measures are just too invastive and treats consumers with contempt.

          And not to be overly anal, games are made on PC first anyway then ported to consoles. It’s not the otherway around and has been that way for some time. If anything, consoles are playing optimised, locked down PC ports but the PC version suffers because publishers don’t want to spend the money to have the same level of optimisation applied to PCs as with the consoles.

          But I’m getting way too off topic here.

          As a kid growing up, we used to have this DRM system called currency. As long as I exchanged the agreed amount with the merchant, I got a printed license called a receipt and I was allowed to play the game as I pleased. No Big Brother over my head etc.

          But now, as a paying consumer, I tend to suffer more than pirates because when I get home there is always that slim chance the activation servers play up or the key is compromised. In effect I’m locked out because I paid for my copy.

          And that is why I’ll always look down on DRM; if publishers (and some developers) don’t want to take the risk then they can clear out and make room for those who do.

          • Really? All games are made for PC and ported to console? Please at least do a casual google search before making such an incorrect claim.

            Many devs design for console as it has tighter limitations on the hardware and then later port it to PC. You can see this in games like Skyrim where the UI is optimised for consoles and PC got a port that sort of worked but wasn’t ideal.

            some as you said design for PC and then port to console. Seems to just depend on their personal preference and how many resources they have. some do both consoles and PC simultaneously with different teams.

          • Really? All games are made for PC and ported to console? Please at least do a casual google search before making such an incorrect claim.

            I said ‘on’, not for but even then the claim is still right and I have not made an incorrect claim.

            Just because I have made post that clashes with your views does not mean I didn’t use Google or three other search engines before checking.

          • Doesn’t clash with my views, it clashes with fact.

            A game being made “on” PC doesn’t mean it’s made “for” PC, true. However you say that console games being made on PC means they’re ported which is incorrect. When software is ported it means that it’s being adapted to work in an environment that it wasn’t designed for. Creating a console game with a PC is designing that game for the console, this is not a port.

          • Doesn’t clash with my views, it clashes with fact.

            It is clashing with your views which themselves are clashing with fact.

            However you say that console games being made on PC means they’re ported which is incorrect.

            They are developed on PC which have been branded as dev kits. And given the use of Direct X it is clear that games are developed on x86/x64 Intel platforms and then compiled later on for experimentation on a dev console which allows unsigned code to run do to the DRM in the consumer model.

            Discussion over. I am not entertaining a throw away from the PC zealots who have to blame consoles for everything when a game they wanted doesn’t pan out.

          • @wisehacker You’re missing my point. A port is when the software is adapted to run on a system that it wasn’t designed for.

            Designing a game for a console means it is designed for that console. It is not a port by definition regardless of what you use to make it. The design process may involve using a dev kit, that doesn’t mean that it’s designed for PC, it’s still designed for a console.

            You seem to be misinterpreting the definition of a port. No need to start talking about PC zealots…I don’t really understand how they would impact this discussion.

      • Every time I turn on my PS4, it downloads about half of the internet in game patches, useless updates for useless apps, and the sheet music for the complete works of David Bowie on the oboe.

        The dream of cheap, hassle-free gaming on consoles has been crushed, desiccated, ground into a fine powder, and snorted off the carcasses of endangered species in the boardrooms of the AAA publishing giants.

        • Dayum! Sorry to hear that.

          But I will admit. I tend to cheat and turn off the automatic updates and never bother updating unless I’m at my mate’s who has the NBN.

          I even take it further and take the Ethernet cord out when I insert a newly bought game.

          Even if I wind up down your path (though I’d prefer Bochelli over Bowie) compared to the X-Bone waiting for the PS4 is about the same as waiting for a SNES game to load.

          • Yeah, thankfully it downloads pretty quickly and my data cap isn’t too bad. It’s just annoying that modern consoles are basically PCs that do less and have more expensive games that look worse. I’ve always been primarily a PC gamer, but I’ve owned at least one console from each generation since the 8-bit era.

            I’ve found myself walking away from modern consoles in frustration and playing more convenient games on my PC. That’s fucked up.

          • Don’t know if this will make you laugh or cry at how sad things have become.

            Like others I have a fairly decent TV and audio setup primarily for BluRays and what do I often use it for?

            Playing a SNES or Atari 2600 because I get more fun out of them than the current gen systems because they put the console before the games.

  • How has this affected sales on said titles? Those that havn’t been cracked did sales magically exceed all expectations? I havn’t heard boo from companies with uncrackable games stating that due to their game not being pirated sales have been astronomical you’d think publishers would be shouting from the roof tops if that was the case.

    • How could you tell though? Are more people buying RotTR because it can’t be cracked, or just more people than expected wanted to buy the game?

      • Well the first tomb raider reboot didn’t have denuvo and didn’t meet squeenix’s sales expectations.

        Did this sequel do better?

        • Hmm.. but did the sequel do well because of Denuvo, or because people were hyped because the first reboot was so good?

          I think the only way to figure it out would be to ask those that would pirate the game if they’ve purchased it instead because of the DRM protection. If alot of them say yes, then obviously it’s working.

          • Well conversely they can’t definitively say that piracy hurts sales but they sure as shit say that. If sales haven’t met expectations on a PC title that’s normally what they lead with. I just meant were the numbers abnormally high compared to previous titles if not has the DRM actually added anything as both titles have been praised.

          • True, but the first one was an unknown, whereas the sequel is a highly-rated follow up to a highly-rated game, so you’d expect higher sales.

            I think piracy has become a bit of a scapegoat whenever games don’t meet target. ‘Oh, we didn’t sell X million units? Pirates.’

          • It used to be a scape goat. When that didn’t work, publishers tried (and failed) to demonise second hand sales.

            EDIT: Just realised I said ‘I’ instead of ‘It’, 😛

            So sorry everyone, can’t blame me for poor game sales.

        • Well the first tomb raider reboot didn’t have denuvo and didn’t meet squeenix’s sales expectations.

          That’s because SqueEnix’s expectations were not grounded in reality in the first place. The game solve pretty damn well even when you rule out how the series used as a cheap cash-in on Croft’s assets.

  • The new Deadpool movie has a tag at the end of the movie, I won’t try to butcher it but can someone who’s seen clarify what it said?

    Something like “the production and distribution of this motion picture created x amount of jobs” etc etc (emphasis mine).

    Mass Entertainment has cottoned on and will probably try this angle more and more. You’re not going to get away with the ‘I wasn’t going to pay for it anyway’ excuse.

    • Distribution aka middlemen should die out in a digital world. I don’t mean to be nasty but they are redundant. Yes they’re people yes they will need to find new work. Writing has been on the wall for years tho. In theory this should lower cost and that should be passed on to the consumer (it won’t tho).

        • It’s not derailing your thread i made a response to the “Mass Entertainment has cottoned on and will probably try this angle more and more. You’re not going to get away with the ‘I wasn’t going to pay for it anyway’ excuse.” I offer a view point that distributors should die out any way they serve no real purpose just a burden adding to consumer costs.

      • Yes and no.

        While I mostly agree, there’s something to be said for the ‘Video Store’ experience – I might not know that a game/movie/show/band/etc. is right up my alley and is exactly what I’m looking for, just like I might be totally hyped to buy something when another, better alternative is just around the corner.

        I mean, Steam is technically a middleman, and it most definitely serves a role in the gaming landscape.

        • Digital distribution lacks layers like physical media. In many cases it goes something like producer -> wholesaler -> overseas -> local wholesaler -> local distributor -> retail. This was what happend with some pc components when i worked for a local wholesaler (many, many years ago so it’s probably changed since then but you get the idea). I never worked in film but one can assume that it’s likely very similar whether its selling to cinemas or dvd, bluray to retail stores.

          • True, Digital doesn’t have that… yet. What we do have is a plethora of competing services, and no central place where you can just get all the stuff you want.

            Gaming isn’t too bad at the moment – I think it’s just Steam and Origin primarily, but I’m sure there are others. TV though, you’ve got exclusive content locked to Stan, Netflix, Presto, Quickflix, all that stuff, and no way to (legally) watch it all without subscribing to each one individually. Music isn’t quite so bad, but you still have iTunes, Tidal, Spotify, Pandora… I can see the merit of having some third party that aggregates everything.

            I mean, say I pay $10 per month for Stan. I’d happily pay double that to a distribution service that gave access to the libraries of all the competing services, instead of the patchwork we have at the moment.

      • Distribution for digital products is still valid. It takes money to create, maintain and employ people to run the servers, set prices, advertise, deal with refunds etc.

        Some/many content creators don’t have the money or just don’t want to deal with it, hence 3rd party distributors are still needed. Of course you need multiple distributors to drive competition and keep them honest.

        • Yer i was referring to older business models with physical distribution by regional licensing. There are many layers of people sticking fingers in the pie as it passes through a lot of them are being made redundant (village roadshow for example). For digital whilst technically they fulfill a distributor role they are also your retail store (steam origin, netflix hulu etc).

          • Better to clarify what you mean by distributor then rather than say that they aren’t needed. There are plenty of middlemen that are necessary and add value to the process. There are also plenty who detract from the whole experience and make it cost more for no valid reason.

    • just keep doing pre-orders and then cancelling at release time.
      This is enough to grant you ‘xx’ carrots – which are not taken away if you choose not to proceed.

      then level 2 will give you an extra 7 days before having to return!


      If you are going to finish it, most will do so in a matter of that time.
      If not, return it and buy it again under another card/account – rinse repeat.

      free games!

          • Well, I’m glad you’re willing to engage in reasoned discussion without resorting to childish name calling.

            But, if we’re going there, you’re really living up to the second half of your username =)

          • I try my utmost best to please.

            I will call shame though for your unwarranted put down on those that are less intellectually fortunate than ourselves.

            So, Shame.

            You clearly saw around the absurdity of the method in which to score ‘free games’.
            I measure my money versus the amount of time in which things are taken to accomplish.
            The energy spent in the circumstances i described are far more man hours than, say lets average $74ish, for a game.

            This could be entirely negated by just, you know, torrenting it.

            Unless you walked past the store daily and were fine with being ‘that guy that returns everything only to buy it a week later’ or actually having the effort to open up multiple accounts…

            anyway – meh.
            …and for shame.

          • I think your calculations are off.

            Most people use this to get newly released AAA titles, so your price point is closer to $90. Assuming they don’t go out exclusively to EB, but drop into EB when they happen to be nearby, you’re probably looking at 1hr in additional time taken to return the game. I don’t know about you, but $90/hr is well above what I’m getting paid at work, making it definitely worth the effort for those not wanting to pay for the game.

          • Pro tip: EB games price matches.

            cant say i’ve paid any more that 89 for a AAA title unless it was an ‘EB Exclusive’

            Depending on variables and travel time, my closest EB is approx 6kms away.
            Getting items together, driving, finding a park, waiting in line, saying no to pre order, scratch protection, additional warranty, and whatever else you have to explicitly say no to – yeah i agree, maybe an hour, but in total with purchase, likely 2.

            Maybe where you are there are no lines, but god damned if i have ever walked in and out of EB without having to stand around for twenty minutes while they either talk shit or are just generally slow as a wet week.

            I guess when you factor income, to me that method appears to be a waste of money and time together.

            …that being said… this could end up saving me a fortune!

            Thanks cffndncr, I’ll take that dick back if you please.

  • In principle, I don’t have a problem with DRM.. the problem is when I want to play the games offline, on another computer, in another country. Then all sorts of hoops need to be jumped through. I don’t have a problem authenticating my copy the first time I play it.. that makes sense, provided it isn’t a physical copy that could have an unlock code included in the packaging.

    Denuvo just takes this whole thing and makes it worse. For example, I’ve been playing JC3 in forced offline mode (windows firewall blocking) to get rid of additional loading times and annoying online leaderboard popups.. I hadn’t played it for a little while and then last week I tried to play again. I got redirected instead to a webpage, run by the Denuvo people asking me to basically provide an authentication code from my copy of the game, which would apparently produce an unlock code that I could enter.. of course even after doing the requested task, I was not given an unlock code. The page just didn’t respond to anything.

    So while I applaud their ability to stop piracy in its tracks, I can’t say I am enjoying the experience as a genuine consumer.

  • Got this crazy idea: Don’t pirate games. Or anything. Don’t be an asshole.

    You wouldn’t want people coming into your work to take your products. I despise thieves, like most people do. Walking into my store and pocketing a CD is barely different to downloading an album illegally. It’s not a victimless crime. There should be consequences.

    Of course, there will always be a plethora of excuses for piracy. Hopefully those excuses can keep the people who lose jobs due to piracy warm at night somehow. Meanwhile, I’m excited at the prospects of this anti-hacker software. Hopefully it gets better and better.

    • Walking into my store and pocketing a CD is barely different to downloading an album illegally

      No it isn’t, because stealing the CD stops 2 sales (the pirate + whoever would have bought it legitimately) whereas downloading only stops the pirate purchasing it.

      The question is, does piracy reduce sales? I’m guessing a fair chunk of pirates would never have bought the game legitimately anyway, so the impact on the bottom line isn’t as large as it seems.

      I mean, like the article noted, devs don’t really do demos anymore – so if you’re on the fence about buying a game you have no way to try it out before buying. Sure, you can buy it on steam and give it a go before requesting a refund, but then your cash is locked up in the refund process and you’re restricted to games bought directly through steam. Alternatively, you can download a pirated version and give it a whirl for free – which I have done in the past, I thought the game was great, so I went out and bought it.

      • That argument is valid, but how many people are *really* going to buy a game when they already pirated it and have the full version? A lot of people say they operate under this mentality, but I’m positive it’s not even close to the download rate. You’re a diamond yourself for actually doing it!

        The impact probably isn’t huge for games. It’s movies/TV/music that would suffer more. Especially music. This is why streaming services are the future for them. Steam does a good thing with it’s return policy, at least until streaming games is more viable.

        I just dislike the whole “I wouldn’t buy it anyway so I might as well take it for free” mentality. That’s not how the world works anywhere else. And maybe they would buy it eventually. I know I’ve bought old games to try them out, usually at a cheaper price, and enjoyed them.

        • The impact probably isn’t huge for games. It’s movies/TV/music that would suffer more. Especially music. This is why streaming services are the future for them. Didnt some five year old at the grammies just proclaim that streaming is killing the music industry?

          • A lot of artists say streaming gives them less money than an outright CD/iTunes purchase. That’s why Jay-Z made Tidal, to give the creators more money per listen. I don’t know all of the issues there though. Seems complicated.

        • I just dislike the whole “I wouldn’t buy it anyway so I might as well take it for free” mentality.

          Of course this is an entitled attitude – these people don’t deserve to access the content if they’re not prepared to pay for it – but the issue is the massive over-response by the content developers. While they don’t gain anything from people like this, they don’t lose anything either. So why do they care so much? Why piss of your paying customers, with always-online and PITA DRM when you’re losing nothing to the people getting your stuff for free?

          If anything, these kind of pirates are helping them out by keeping the community alive and keeping their name out there. HBO said something similar about Game of Thrones. They don’t mind people pirating the show because they’re still buzzing about it on social media etc., which is just more free advertising for the potential market of people who would pay for it.

          I should reiterate that I’m only referring to this one type of pirate btw.

        • Spotify is the reason I don’t pirate music anymore.
          Well I suppose emusic was one of the reasons my piracy slowed (until as usual the record companies bolixed it up) but I haven’t pirated anything since getting Spotify.
          Likewise I haven’t pirated any computer game since Steam came along. Although I wasn’t much for pirating games to begin with. Too much of a hassle.
          Most studies agree that if you give people reasonably priced easy access to things they will happily pay for it.
          However, may companies still don’t get it. Especially TV / Movie companies which continue with outdated distribution structures. Streaming services are making it easier for consumers however region locking is still such a ridiculous thing in this day and age.
          Also streaming services really need to look at offline options. The minute that is available is the minute I stop pirating TV shows.

      • You’re missing the ever-obvious point- if the pirate wouldn’t have bought the game legitimately anyway, then you know what that SHOULD by all rights mean? THEY DON’T GET TO FUCKING PLAY IT. If you say “I want to play the game but I don’t want to buy it” the answer should not be “Oh alright then, pirate away”, the answer should be “Well tough fucking luck, asshole”.

        • …and I guess the people that bought the broke-as-fuck PC version of Arkham Knight should be forced to live with their purchase, because they should know better? That’s the poster-child for why publishers don’t do demos anymore – so they can sucker customers into buying less-than-stellar games and hope they don’t get it refunded.

          Regardless, I’m simply talking about the impact on sales – in reality, that’s all publishers care about. If the person pirating the game was never going to buy it, that’s the same to the publisher as someone who never played it.

          Morality of the issue aside, piracy’s impact on the bottom line isn’t as big as publishers are making it out to be. iTunes has shown that if you offer a good service for a reasonable price, people are by-and-large willing to pay for it rather than going through the hassle of pirating it for free.

    • what’s your stance on pirating a game because a legitimate copy doesn’t work, but you want to keep and play it instead of getting a refund? (especially when it’s specifically the copy protection which prevents it from working so a pirated copy works flawlessly)

      • I guess that’s where game piracy becomes more of a gray area than any other form of piracy. Games may not work on someone’s setup, but a movie is a movie. A computer will play that regardless. Same with songs.

        What you’re describing sounds complicated, and not being a PC gamer means I have no experience with such things. Seems like a hassle and almost a necessity though?

        • actually it did happen for a briefer period with some movies and music (certain function lockdowns misbehaving with some old players, except for ones designed to circumvent all the region coding rubbish, copy-protected music formats only playing on certain devices, issues with region locking enforcement being different for computers to DVD players etc.)

          for PC gaming there has been a combination of TV-industry-style ineptitude (short-term considerations like DRM and specific installer types leading to artificial compatibility problems running on different eras of OS or hardware, similar to the disposable mentalities which lead to so much old film and television being lost unless it was illegally recorded and/or format-shifted – Doctor Who being a prime example) and music-industry-type longer-term problems (companies like EA and Ubisoft trying to control too much and being outright hostile to some of their stalwart fans, eventually resorting to outright lies and bait-and-switch on some specific cases of copy protection usage)

    • Of course, there will always be a plethora of excuses for piracy. Hopefully those excuses can keep the people who lose jobs due to piracy warm at night somehow.

      Source on this? Who’s loosing jobs directly due to piracy? Sure it’s not market shift (away from physical to digital)?

      • When a game company like the one behind The Witness comes out and openly says piracy will effect their ability to produce their next game, that is a source. And it makes sense. A job might not be lost there, but if they lose potential revenue and can’t expand their team for the next project, those are jobs not being created.

        And digital purchases are obviously fine. I work in a store that sells physical copies of games and other media, so it’s more likely my job at risk there rather than anyone actually making the content.

        • But what is their source. I mean people say shit all the time – doesn’t mean they’re right, piracy is often played off as a scapegoat. Just because someone downloads something doesn’t mean they would have bought it. It can’t be compared to physical theft as there is actually no loss if the person never had any intention of purchasing the product.

          I’m not advocating piracy i’m just stating that it might actually not have any large affect on sales. I hate that drm is being infused with everything, making me – a paying customer – jump through hoops due to the perception that pirates have a huge impact on the industry.

          • I choose to believe a company like that because it makes sense to me that it would effect them that way. And it’s those smaller companies that would suffer the most.

            Asking for proof makes sense, but it’s also something that is hard to measure. Someone who downloads a game cannot legitimately say if they would have bought it in the future if they hadn’t pirated it and had that experience. They can choose to buy it afterwards, but how many really do? Another factor that’s hard to measure.

            It may not be direct theft, but what’s really being lost is potential. Potential sales, potential earnings, and potential growth. Again, hard to measure.

            Anti-piracy measures should never effect a legitimate customer though. That’s wack and should be dealt with ASAP. Sorry to hear that’s the case! Must be frustrating as hell.

          • For me, this attitude of no harm no foul is the root of the problem and really what i find most annoying on all these articles along with the accompanying justification why in your circumstance its OK. Whilst I agree its not the same impact as stealing a CD, just because not all crimes are the same as murder, doesn’t magically make them not a crime.
            There is no rhyme, reason or sob story about how your poor or they don’t do demos or you actually buy it after (only if it meets your stringent QA standards of course) that will magically change it to be legal to pirate.
            There is not greater good. You’re not fighting the good fight. This is not stealing a loaf of bread to feed your family so you don’t starve. Its an entertainment product that’s completely optional and in no way necessary. You want it, you don’t need it, and you’re willing to break the law to get it.
            If you choose to pirate, its your life and your moral compass guiding you. But please cut the BS excuses and own the fact its simply you breaking the law intentionally for your own gain.

          • You’ve missed the point – it’s not a justification to get something for free rather a justification for not needing products infested with DRM which as a paying customer do nothing but annoy and frustrate. If their justification for adding all this bullshit actually is non existent then why as a paying consumer am I presented with all these restrictions?

          • Good question and as a paying customer I also wonder why i have to jump hoops to play a game I paid for. The difference is I would also ask do we have DRM because of Piracy, or Piracy because of DRM. I feel its the former which is why as a paying customer I choose not to blame the games producers for trying to get paid for their work.

          • Going by your tirade, Im going to assume (yes, im making an assumption) that you didnt exist in the grande old days where you were given a demo of possibly the first level to peruse.

            Soldier of Fortune – Never would have been able to justify walking into “ACTCOM” here in the ACT and dropping 99.95 back in 1999. Just no way. Couldn’t afford the risk, we knew you couldnt take it back, so you either play it or you did not.

            There was no youtube, no easy way (other than napster) of getting shit quality AVI’s to possibly see some game play, or potentially a poster. You would read reviews etc. and hope for the best.

            Now, reviews are bullshit, because they are an opinion written by someone who has an interest in said genre – explain to me why SW: Battlefront has such a high review score when its the shittest game this decade? – because the reviewer loved it because they love star wars.

            Now, back to SoF. They had the first level and i absofuckinglutely loved it.
            Took me 20 mins to say, yep, take my money.

            You cant do this these days, EB games is a god send in my household for returns, Big W, JB etc etc do not do returns, hence i do not buy games from them.
            Bring back the demos, let people make up their mind and you might go a small way to curb piracy, i know it works for me.

            I cant pirate xbone games so i buy them try them and keep or return.
            PC games being released with keys make this unable to happen, so i head to and get an evaluation copy.

            …Do i buy it if its good? No. Why? because i have a copy, why would i shell out money for something i already own?

            now… back to demo’s. You see my point.

          • There is a reason why demo’s no longer exist. Publisher’s don’t want consumers to find out that the game is rubbish despite what the reviewer’s say.

            Even the reviews themselves are not safe in that if the score is below a certain point the publisher’s try to bully the outlet to up the score or face an embargo.

            Publishers have regressed to the point where they no longer serve the function they once did; they are trying to eliminate all the factors that could result in a “lost sale” and would rather have the consumer’s money first before the consumer finds out the game is a lemon.

          • I’m old enough to have fond memories of demos. I remember getting a demo disc with Magazines back in the day and I also would love it if they did it more often these days.

            Is it justification for piracy though, not to me. Not when there are still plenty of options to check out a game before buying. EB returns as you say, steam refunds. Sure reviews are terrible but there are options. Youtube any game, seriously telling me you dont have access to check it out?

            All these allowing you to trial or see the game before buying. Of course you would have to buy the game to play it in full which you admit yourself you only do for xbox and only because you cant pirate it.

            Like i said. If you want to pirate, its your choice, but dont think the excuses you tell yourself make it right.

            And as for Tirade… yeah Fair call. Was a bit soapbox’ie

          • My reference to youtube was pre-2000’s.
            You can read a review or have some tell you about it or watch a trailer – it still doesnt give a complete overall sense of how the game and said mechanics work together.

            Battlefront was under embargo for review, i relied on all the trailers, in game footage etc.
            It is still one of the most beautiful games of 2015 (imo) however… its shit.
            very shit.

            When you have a wife that is as avid a gamer as yourself, and you required two copies of each – its a pain and a cost getting the copies from EB to download 20gb each of updates rah rah rah

            made the mistake of going off the hype, trailers, video and “reviews” and that was the first time i have honestly wasted 99.95 buying a digital copy – cant return to the xbox store.

            Anywho… does this mean i should justify piracy? to be honest, not these days.
            We are a relatively high income household comparative to many others, we can afford to buy the games these days, so we do.

            Since netflix, my torrent queue has gone from 10-20 items per day to maybe 5 a week.

            Since leaving the master race and heading to the dark side, you can’t pirate xbone games, so we purchase everything – the main difference is, we make sure we get our monies worth, with torrents, i never used to care, if i wasnt taken in the first 20 mins, alt-f4 shift delete, next.

          • There’s a road near my house that’s has a short 60 km section for absolutely no reason. Should be 80 the whole way. Ill be sure to let the cop know that because I don’t feel the limit is correct i don’t have to obey that law. I’m sure that’s how it works.

          • I never said that’s how it works. It’s the cop’s job to uphold the law, not what’s right or wrong. If they catch you breaking the law then of course they’re going to prosecute you under the law.

          • You’ve missed the point entirely. Publisher are intentionally trying to screw consumers out of money by essentially tricking them into buying unfinished or sub-par games (Arkham Knight, anyone?). The reason they stopped doing demos is so they could get your money before you realized how shitty the game was, with the assumption that some people would be too lazy to return the game and they would keep the money.

          • Arkham Knight, anyone?

            Mention that game again and I’ll lock you in a room with a copy of Too Human.

          • I think I am the only person in the world that didn’t mind Too Human. I actually rented it from the local Video Ezy and played it all the way through on the 360. Sure, the gameplay was annoying as hell, but I’m sucker for that techno-norse mythology type stuff.

          • I think I am the only person in the world that didn’t mind Too Human.


            Truth be told, I didn’t mind it either for the early part and I was actually sold on the demo (ironically given what has been discussed so far).

            But the eventually my patience with the controls wore down, the fact the game at the start bugged out when the demo didn’t, and the fact I died a lot having to wait for that Hel-damned Valkyrie to collect me meant once I finished the game I put it in the box and forgot about it.

            I mostly use it as a cheap joke now.

            I don’t know what is sadder though: me persisting to the end while others would have shown sanity and just returned the game -OR- the court ruling at the time has now made it a rare collectors item.

          • So, no demo means your fully justified to pirate? see my comment above re multiple options to see and try a game.
            Again, like i said. If you want to pirate, its your choice, but dont think the excuses you tell yourself make it right.

          • Like you, I adored those demo discs that came with gaming magazines (PC Gamer ftw!), and I made several purchases based on games I tried out on those discs. The problem is, there isn’t an easy (or free) way of trying games nowadays. You have to fork out to buy the game via EB/Steam/etc., and particularly through the digital channels your cash is locked up during the refund process. This is something that has been done intentionally by publishers to screw the consumer.

            Since I moved to Australia, I have pirated several games. I have never played more than maybe 1 hour of a pirated version of a game though – enough to tell if I’d enjoy it or not. A few of those, I went on to buy. The rest I didn’t like, and so deleted. To be honest, if the option to pirate the game wasn’t there I never would have purchased any of those games, so piracy actually helped the publishers rather than hurt them.

          • I cant reply to cffndcnr for some reason, but i second everything said in retort to you.

            Funny how telling someone to eat a dick can open a door to realise just how alike we all are.

            good times

          • I understand that you are protesting about the lack of demos and wishing for the good old days but the reality is the company is not indebted to you. You aren’t entitled to get a demo for every game and pirating is not in any way right, correct or allowed because you didn’t get one. Sometimes in life you have to take risks and sometimes they don’t pan out, that’s life. Even playing even a few hours is still accessing something you didn’t pay for and is illegal and wrong. Its pretty simple. Is it OMG YOUR GOING TO HELL bad. No, but its still wrong.

            As I have said from the start. If you want to Pirate its your life. But don’t try and justify that what your doing is right to the rest of the world. Your “justifications” are honestly just for you to convince yourself as to why its OK to break that law. That’s it. Nothing more. The only ones agreeing with your are the ones making or looking for the same justifications to get something for free.

          • I agree with this post and other things you’re said, @mccawsome. I’m a firm believer myself that if people want to pirate, that’s their business, but they’re kidding themselves if they think it’s justifiable or OK.

            IMO, if you don’t like some aspect of a thing enough, then you just find something else. Don’t like the DRM on Spore? Play something else. Don’t want the risk of getting sued by Dallas Buyers’ Club? Watch something else. Don’t think Foxtel is charging a fair price for a package including Game of Thrones? Watch something else. You have that option, there are plenty of other inexpensive DRM-free ways to entertain yourself.

            We can complain all we like that something is too expensive, the DRM is too intrusive, the always-online requirement isn’t very nice, and so forth. Not buying or consuming the content makes this statement much more clearly than piracy. Piracy is about as justifiable as sneaking in to a movie theatre because you think the tickets are too expensive.

        • “milnye @milnye 18/02/16 12:27 PM
          When a game company like the one behind The Witness comes out and openly says piracy will effect their ability to produce their next game, that is a source.”

          I think you’ll find that Jon Blows said something to the effect of “pirates aren’t helping to fund a possible sequel” and not “pirates are ruining our ability to make a sequel”. Subtle difference in tone.

          • He said it will not help them afford to make another game. He then said he is glad people are playing it, but he wants to make a comparable game next. So, he is saying it will effect their ability in regards to funding, money for more staff, etc.

            Regardless of tone, he said it for a reason, and he would have more experience on this than us.

      • When a game fails to sell enough copies but there are people out there playing it without paying for it, there’s your fucking evidence.

        • There can be a myriad of reasons as to why a game has lots of downloads and little sales.

          The biggest one is probably where are the downloads from? What region? Is it available there at a reasonable price? Is it overpriced for that region? How old are the people downloading (young low income with plenty of spare time?).

          When you delve into the actual stats of downloaded games you’ll find a large portion of them are from low economic regions. You’ll also find through a lot of the research out there that the primary reason for pirating is affordability – they simply can’t afford to purchase it. Look at piracy rates since valve introduced steam into russia with a much lower price for titles by comparison to the rest of EU – it dropped massively.

  • I say good on Denuvo for developing such a good safeguard.
    It would have cost them a lot of dev time and man hours to get it working, and with all the publicity into how effective its been, hopefully they can really benefit and make some money out of it once other publishers get on board.
    It will hopefully also encourage more companies to develop better Anti-theft software too once its proven that Denuvo is onto a good thing and making some money

  • It’s awesome that they designed this to work WITH something like Steam and Origin rather than as an alternative to them. This generation of a unique key would normally be an issue if you move to a new PC but they’ve been clever about it – if the user logged in via the management software owns the game and there is no key for the machine they are logged in on, a new key is generated. However if there is no such login authentication the key is not generated and the anti-piracy kicks in.

    The kind of result that Denuvo is getting comes straight from the wet dreams of rights managers – an unobtrusive way to prevent pirates from impacting sales that works in the real world, not just on paper. This is easily the best result that any DRM has ever had against piracy.

    Hopefully this means that people start shouting at game companies to offer demos again so people can try before they buy.

    • Raised this already so I’ll give the short version.

      Publishers don’t want demos being released because they don’t want people forming their own opinions about up coming games outside of the arm-twisted reviewers.

    • They do though. Cumbersome DRM restrictions can most definitely impact legit consumers – I know people that have returned games because they were having so much trouble with the DRM… needing to be online permanently is a bit of an issue when you have an unstable internet connection.

  • I buy around %50-70 of the games I play, most of those games I don’t pay for just never get finished or even played much at all. With the exception of XCOM2 which I have not bought yet because I’m waiting for the Linux support to get better (its fucked atm), I generally buy the Linux versions if their available because I want Linux to become a standard for gaming (its getting there, now with Vulkan and open driver codebase).

    I’ll buy XCOM2, but its probably going to be sometime in the next 4months which is how long I’m guessing it will take for it to work under AMD hardware in Linux without crashing or stuttering.

  • I haven’t even noticed this protection running in the background, which is the kind of protection I like. The old SecureRom type was so annoying, it almost forced you to pirate games, just so you could play the ones you’d purchased.

    I hope these guys keep enhancing their protection so we can end up with better games.

    Working for a very small software company, I know that any extra revenue can be used to fix bugs and add extra features. So each pirated game (or application) just makes the whole game less than it could be.
    This obviously doesn’t apply to larger AAA studios, but if you are pirating a $10 game from an Indie developer and you like it, you should just buy it. Its only the price of a couple of beers !

  • There is nothing special or new in Denuvo that hasn’t been seen in Starforce 3 or 4, Securom 7 or 8, Solidshield, or other big name game protections or cheaper commercial application protectors. Denuvo is as much a protection and a DRM as those were, especially as they reuse the DRM code for each game. All you are seeing here is a PR stunt from a re-branded protection company and a not very active cracking scene, compounded by the fact that x64 reverse engineering tools are still young.

    Denuvo will be cracked eventually once crackers start investing time in x64 reverse engineering tools. This is the sole reason why Denuvo is holding fast. Once the tools have matured, Denuvo will also be cracked (if there’s any good crackers left).

    If Denuvo isn’t cracked it isn’t because it’s special, it’s because there are no crackers left that seem to have the skills any more. VMProtect has existed since 2006 and the version used in Denuvo (VMProtect 3) still looks the same as it always has looked. People have cracked and made VMProtect tools many times in the past, although not all the good ones are public.

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