In The War Against Game Piracy, Denuvo Seems To Be Faltering

In The War Against Game Piracy, Denuvo Seems To Be Faltering

Anti-piracy protection software Denuvo is getting cracked faster and faster on more games, with certain games made free by hackers in as short as a week. Denuvo says that the protection is meant to protect games during “the initial sales window”, but is that even the case any more?

Denuvo is an anti-tampering software meant to keep games locked to certain computers and protect games from mass piracy. Over the last year, that protection has been wavering faster and faster as hackers break the protection on major games. The most recent case is Tekken 7, which had the software removed in a record-breaking four days after launch. Before that, puzzle game Rime had protection cracked in just five days, leading the developers to release a DRM-free version of the game shortly afterwards.

Rime is not alone. Seven games have voluntarily dropped Denuvo protection: The Climb, Doom, Inside, Homefront: The Revolution, 2Dark, Syberia 3 and Rime. Of those titles all but two (Homefront and The Climb) had protections cracked before developers gave up on the protection. It’s a far cry from the Denuvo’s heyday, which had pirates worrying if there’d be any free games left in the world.

Based on conversations we’ve had with Denuvo in the past, the speed at which games are being cracked seems like a problem. When Doom dropped its DRM late in 2016, Denuvo told us that “Each publisher is of course free to remove our anti tamper tech from their title once they feel the protection has achieved its purpose in protecting the initial sales window.” That phrase, “initial sales window”, came up more than once. Denuvo seemed to acknowledge that the purpose was not to protect games forever, but rather during the period of time when people are most likely to buy it. We reached out to Denuvo recently to ask how it currently defines “initial sales window”, but did not hear back in time for publication. That said, it seems reasonable to consider a few days after a game is released to be within that initial window, no?

Doom’s developers eventually dropped Denuvo protection from the game.

Doom’s developers eventually dropped Denuvo protection from the game.

While Doom kept the protection for six whole months before it was voluntarily removed, many other major titles have not reaped the benefit of long term protection from the anti-piracy service. Resident Evil 7 enjoyed Denuvo protection for a mere five days before a piracy group called CONSPIR4CY managed to remove it, while Prey‘s protection lasted eight days before a prolific hacker named Baldman cracked it. Baldman has since cracked major games like Nier: Automata and was the mastermind behind the successful crack of Tekken 7.

In the case of Tekken 7, developers hope to extend their initial launch period with a patch that aims to improve and update their protection. Kotaku reached out to both Denuvo and Bandai Namco but received no comment. Back when Resident Evil 7 was cracked days after release, a representative of Denuvo told Kotaku that ” Given the fact that every unprotected title is cracked on the day of release – as well as every unprotected game update – our solution still made a difference for this title.” It’s hard to measure how much of a difference Denuvo made for Tekken 7 specifically, but pirates seem optimistic that they can topple whatever Denuvo throws at them next.

As the window to protect sales grows tighter, and amid claims from hackers and developers that the service can actually slow down games, it seems that the bar for successful protection is getting lower and lower.


  • ha so now DRM is just meant to protect the initial sales window only and not the game in general from piracy. how sad, I wonder what excuses they’ll think of next.

    CD Projekt has already proven that just not treating your customers like chumps is much more effective in ensuring sales

    • I think a lack of demos contributes massively to piracy also.

      Nobody wants to pay release day prices only to find the game either doesn’t work on their system in the case of PCs, or is just a bad game period on any platform so they’ve just been suckered in with a poor product not deserving of the money they paid.

      • that is so me haha

        i usually pirate to try a) if i like the game b) if it runs “smoothly”

        granted I seldom have gaming time these days so it’s rare for me pirate games these days

  • From Denuvo’s perspective , not having your client’s issue out a challenge to the hacking community might help.

  • I don’t get why people hate Denuvo so much. Whilst I worry about long term access to games (and I guess advocate for piracy), games being protected for release is an important way to ensure everyone who should be is buying the game.

    The alternative is (especially us on PC) end up not receiving games, or waiting months after release on consoles again :(.

    • waiting months after release on consoles still happens anyway as thats a case of publishers knowing that they can charge people multiple times for the same game ( ie rockstar with GTA 5 on PS3 and Xbox first, then the updated version on PS4 and Xbone and then finally on PC).

      DRM has never done anything but screw over legit customers since the time of the Disc Code Wheel and having to find random words from the manual.

      • Hardly the case. Rockstar is pretty well much the only publisher who does that, and their last game was what, 2015? Hardly representative.

        • WB also did it with the Arkham series, eah game was released on console a good 3 months minimum before they were on PC. and then there is Ubisoft that does it with Assassins Creed every single time. Keep in mind that this happens despite there being Denvo and Secure Rom, and Starforce and every other failed DRM mechanic. The only thing DRM has prevented is PC games comming out before the release date.

      • >Disc Code Wheel, random words from manual
        man I remember those. worse still when they had a timer for input!

    • I don’t get why people hate Denuvo so much

      Because the developers are inept. The way it works is the software does regular checks to ensure the copy is legit. If its done on an acceptable level its okay. But denuvo has increased this dramatically so thousands of checks are done continously which greatly affects the performance of the game.

      A game (Cant remember the name) was recently cracked as was found to load more than 30 seconds faster when denuvo was removed.

  • I was wondering how long it would take for Baldman to be mentioned on Kotaku. The pirates love him right now.

    As for Tekken 7 – any patch they do to re-introduce it won’t make a difference. The cat is out of the bag, re-packs will already be available for people to download that includes the crack and a version of the game that the crack works on. Likely any patch they send through will be cracked in another few days anyway.

    Seems Denuvo have finally lost against the pirates. Would hate to be an investor/shareholder there right now.

    • The game was RIME and the funny thing is Denuvo is being sued if not mistaken for illegally using software that was not using the correct licence and Yes they knew they had the wrong one.

  • I found that Syberia 3 ran a lot better after the patch that removed denuvo. I’m not going to put that down as a denuvo only issue though, I think the devs were more than a little inelegant in their coding and implementation of the drm.

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