The PC's Best Anti-Piracy Technology Appears to be Defeated


With 'Total War: Warhammer II' cracked in less than 24 hours, it calls into question why publishers would continue to use Denuvo.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


Turns out encrypting your entire game and requiring increased system requirements (especially important on machines with potentially lower crypto performance) to decode it in the background as the game is played is just a wasted development cost (paying for the tool and development costs integrating it) that only actually impacts people who have paid for the game.

If only there was a long history of this lesson coming up over and over and over again in PC gaming.

Edit to elaborate (why not every game is always busted or can’t be fixed with patching but you’re working against yourself to include this form of DRM - MS rolled their own for Forza horizon 3 on PC rather than buying Denuvo but same bad principal): It’s pretty obvious that balancing the need to do real-time decryption (potentially on older CPUs that had less advanced performance in that area) as the game plays adds to the complexity of managing threads (necessary on modern CPUs) and keeping the game hitting those very difficult time constraints (making game engines: it’s hard). If you can’t guarantee you’re doing it expertly well to avoid issues then you’re admitting you’re ok with ruining the experiences of many of your paying players for some theoretical advantage in pushing people who generally don’t buy games to pay for your game.


“Best” is subjective. My personal favorite is the super fast invincible red scorpions in Serious Sam for pirated copies.


Denuvo worked for a long time because it was based on a much older flavour of DRM that had long since fallen out of favour, primarily because it was very CPU intensive and imposed an unacceptable performance hit back in the day, but it also required those who attempted to get around it to have specialist skills in dealing with said software, those skills were lost somewhat to the sands of time so when Denuvo came on the scene it was seen as novel largely because near two decades had elapsed since the last time such DRM had even existed let alone functioned.

It’s taken a fair time, but now the community who were previously stymied by Denuvo have managed to work out the way to defang it and deal with it, and now Denuvo is no longer the roadblock it once was. 24 hours is what used to be the standard turnaround for cracking a game, as opposed to the month or so that it was taking back when people due to the fact it took a while to discover how it ticked.


So what is the solution to gaming piracy long term? Some type of streaming or subscription service like Netflix and Spotify? I love those services but can help but feel like we’re in a streaming bubble right now.

Humble monthly bundle is a pretty interesting thing though.


Steam, sales, lots of people turning to CD keys reseller. I think we’re at a point where people wants to have a game in a library they can access anytime so piracy doesn’t have the same appeal it once had. It’s mostly a way around for countries where the standard of living doesn’t allow any meaningful spending on video games now.


For everyone willing to read, I highly recommend everything Shamus Young wrote about DRM throughout the years.

The gist of it: It’s useless, it’s dumb, everyone knows it doesn’t work, but the industry keeps doing it anyway because reasons.


Streaming for games is an inherently bad plan. Unlike music which is very bandwidth light and movies which can be buffered (and in both cases neither are subject to the vagaries of latency), your gaming experience with a streaming service is going to be defined by the weakest link in your network chain.

In America that’s invariably your ISP, and outside of America that’s the maze of interconnecting bits of underground Fiber Optic that get argued over in peering arrangements which mean you could have a nice direct route to your host one day and the next you get Tromboned out to Afghanistan and back (this happened to some users in World of Warcraft once because Telia had a spat with one of the peers, not pretty!)

If companies really want to knock Piracy on the head they’d be best served not stuffing their games with terrible design decisions like encouraging gambling (loot boxes), gently nudging the game to be more grind than fun so people turn to pay for in-game currency (shark cards) and generally treating the consumer as friend and not something to be bilked because you’ve found a new way to vampire their wallet (shaders). Make a good game, charge a fair price, and stop trying to panhandle for more unless you’re offering a fair exchange.


Selling games. Putting out products that delight billions of customers who are happy to pay a very reasonable price and split the development cost of new titles which they find enrich their lives and give them a hobby to engage with and discuss with friends. Simple, easy purchases that provide low friction (everything you want to do is easy after you’ve purchased) and a great experience where you never feel exploited by the game structure or technical details.

We don’t need to invent some mythical new anti-consumer method of accessing games but only in an extremely limited way, where our every actions are constantly being snooped upon. We already have a $100bn/year industry that shows it is extremely effective at generating revenue already. Piracy is a service issue; solve the service issue, don’t make it worse.


Not arguing for the use of intrusive DRM here, but I still know plenty of people who pirate just about anything, because it’s just so easy. Steam and Steam sales have surely helped a ton, along with the streaming services of the world, but I can’t help but wonder if this is a sustainable system we’re in.


What capitalism? Nah it’s fine. Totally stable


Ye, this is the weakness of anecdote: concern for the sustainability of a many-billion dollar industry that’s ever growing. The industry can destroy itself, but via anti-consumer or wasteful methods, not via ignoring piracy that still isn’t shown to damage sales - people who don’t pay for things are typically not ideal customers for luxury products. If you wish to take action about people you know not paying for things then shun them or get them to change their ways, reconfiguring an entire industry to offer worse services is not a solution. The sustainability of luxury products is making sure you are persuading people there is value in your non-essential product, which can be converted into a sale via low friction official services - piracy is a sign of good desirability of the product (and also a sign of lack of access to disposable income - the lack of fair compensation for the labour of the working and lower-middle/middle class by profiteering 1% executives and managers is restricting the customer base for luxury products).

The industry doesn’t need to change to be less consumer friendly; clearly these recent months of more-locked-down-than-usual DRM’d releases have not stopped the people you know, and streaming services (which are absolutely a form of DRM - they are nothing but constant monitored digital rights on top of a hardware leasing cost plan) aren’t the solution either.

Consumer friendly is giving players ownership rights to the copy they purchase, the ability to build house rules, to share mods that radically extend the value of the copy they purchased and build on the community spirit around a game. That means DRM-free, that means no snooper malware, that means ensuring global releases so everyone can access your game via official sales, that means being generous.