Why I Don't Buy Games that Use Denuvo

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Savage

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Edited By Savage

Denuvo, like DRM in general, offers no benefit to legitimate game owners. In fact, Denuvo explicitly strips away significant rights of ownership that legitimate owners have traditionally enjoyed and reasonably expected on an open platform like the PC. Denuvo blocks many forms of modding, which prevents owners from extending the functionality of their games or adding new features (e.g. GeDoSaTo, ENB, MP mods), prevents fan-made patches that fix bugs or restore content (e.g. VtMB, KOTOR 2), prevents conversions and unofficial expansions (e.g. The Long War, Endereal, Gekokujo), and prevents the creation of compatibility mods that help to preserve old games long after their publishers have abandoned supporting them (e.g. MMO private servers, System Shock Portable, OpenRA).

Denuvo also further guts preservation by making games dependent on online activation with third-party servers. Once it's no longer expedient for a publisher to maintain those servers, they get turned off, as does the ability for owners of that game, present and future, to install and play it. Fundamentally, Denuvo positions the publisher as a gatekeeper between the owner of the game and the game itself, requiring the owner to ask permission of the publisher before interacting with the game in any major way. If permission is not granted, for any reason or no reason, the owner must comply without recourse. It's a big shift in the zero-sum power balance between players and publishers. Denuvo gives players nothing, it only takes away what they already have.

And it's especially galling how comparatively little the publishers currently stand to gain in relation to how much everyone else stands to lose. Denuvo's existence is justified as an anti-piracy measure (the idea being that legitimate owners should forfeit their rights for the justice of the publisher capitalizing on their maximum potential sales). Publishers have long claimed that piracy deprives them of 90% or more of their rightful sales on PC (Ubisoft has said as much as 97%). If that were true, eliminating piracy would directly boost their sales by a gargantuan degree, an order of magnitude or more. Now that Denuvo has arrived and successfully halted all piracy of many games over the last year, we can begin to see if those dramatic publisher claims of lost sales are even close to being accurate. Although specific sales figures are, naturally, tightly kept secrets by publishers, we can see via Steamspy that Denuvo-protected games have not shown any remarkable explosions in sales compared to similar titles without Denuvo. Denuvo games sell essentially on par with similar non-Denuvo games. In fact, publishers themselves who have been selling Denuvo games have not made any announcements of big sales growth due to their PC games becoming un-pirateable, a business success that one would think they'd be eager to extol (especially in the case of publicly traded companies) if such a thing were true.

The inconvenient truth, which ironically is not so hidden anymore now that publishers have gotten their wish of impregnable DRM, is that piracy was not systematically displacing large amounts of otherwise full sales, as publishers had claimed. I'm inclined to credit this to the exceptionally strong price competition on the PC platform in recent years. Whether publishers' claims had a kernel of truth a long time ago, before the current era of broad competition, there is sadly no data to shed light on things, but it is at least more plausible than today.

Before the innovative efforts of PC game distributors like Steam, GOG, Humble Bundle, and so on, pricing was far less flexible and availability was far worse, leaving many potential customers with no reasonable legitimate middleground between piracy and nothing. There were also no high-quality free-to-play games like League of Legends or World of Tanks to further mop up players with more desire to play than money to spend. To the extent that piracy was actually depriving publishers of real sales, it was predominantly a consequence of those publishers failing to meet the demands of markets that they didn't understand (practically the entire world outside of North America and western Europe). Now that great strides have been made to meet players halfway, with things like variable pricing, wider availability, and free to play, more players are playing games legitimately than ever before.

In turn, the number who pirate when they would genuinely buy otherwise has plunged. We see that those who do pirate are mostly either those who would not buy anyway (e.g. pirating as a hobby, or teenagers being teenagers) or those who do buy anyway (e.g. pirating for demoing or archiving/preservation), neither of which are additional sales being lost. Once Denuvo arrived a year ago, it was a strong-arm 'solution' to a problem whose essence was already well underway to being solved through the soft power of an increasingly flexible and competitive market. When Denuvo swept back the curtain of piracy, there was no towering treasure trove of extra sales ready to be reaped, there were only the dusty traces of players neglected by publishers a gaming generation ago.

Even if publishers were trying to sweeten the bitter pill of Denuvo for owners by doing things like sharing the profits of those mythical enormously increased sales through lower day-1 pricing, or ensuring that the Denuvo activation server check-in would automatically expire and be disabled after the game's launch window had closed, I still think Denuvo is a rotten deal for anyone who cares about and understands the enormous value to gamers of the PC being an open platform.

Denuvo is one of many efforts (Microsoft is especially guilty of such) to clamp down on the PC and corral its enormous distributed power into fewer hands for the sake of profit and control. Players and creators on PC wield more power than those on any other platform, which gets them more value for their money and effort, and invigorates gaming on the PC like nowhere else. It's no coincidence that most of gaming's new ideas, new technologies, and surprise hits all get their start on the PC. Denuvo and all other efforts by corporate rent-seekers to close the PC are poison to everyone who enjoys the benefits of gaming on an open platform.

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Howardian

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I mean... you don't have much of a choice. If you want to play some of the biggest titles that came out in the past 12 months, you have two ways, to buy it with Denuvo attached or to 'acquire' it without, and that is up to you, but Denuvo is not going away anytime soon, so I guess you won't be playing big games anymore?

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OurSin_360

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#2  Edited By OurSin_360

So what games specifically haven't been moddable? I hear people complain about Denuvo all the time but it has impacted me 0%, they even tried to blame it for Arkham Knight being shitty at launch.

I do agree that anti piracy will do almost nothing for sales, people who pirate are 99% people who won't buy things anyway. The other 1% probably people who can't afford it(i was in that boat for a little bit but went back and bought all the games anyway when i got money). I've also heard Denuvo hasn't stopped piracy at all either.

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rynox45

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Look, you're not missing out on anything by purchasing games with DRM and frankly, I doubt the publishers care about the single lost sale. The part about this whole argument people seem to conveniently 'forget' is that publishers aren't malevolent corporations designed to suck money out of your pocket. A publisher is a business and they're going to make decisions based on countless calculations made by countless qualified businessmen. (disclaimer: am not businessman) If a publisher has decided to pursue the use of DRM software it isn't because they want to remove your 'rights', it's because there's a chart somewhere that says 'we lose x revenue per year due to piracy' and if the price of an airtight DRM solution is lower than x, it makes financial sense to employ it. In reality games are provided to you as a service. You don't own a game when you buy it, you're purchasing a license to use software. Sure, you can own a disc with a copy of that data for personal use but you don't own the data itself. I only mention this because you said "Denuvo positions the publisher as a gatekeeper between the owner of the game and the game itself" and yes - it does, because yes - they are. They paid to have the software made and your $60 is a tiny fraction of a percentage of the cost of paying hundreds of people to work for years to make a game. If they're a bit fussy about how eager you are to potentially give away their work for free, can you blame them?

Furthermore, developers and publishers have a limited amount of time to put out a game while pirates have a theoretically infinite amount of time to crack & distribute it. From a preservation perspective we're not in any rush. We aren't going to lose the source code to Forza Horizons 3 any time soon so if it takes 20 years to crack its DRM, who cares? If people care enough about it, someone will eventually spend their free time cracking it in 15 years when nobody can buy Forza anymore because of a server going down. In that respect the things you should really be concerned about are games like Crackdown 3, supposedly utilizing cloud computing to perform calculations.

I try not to rant about this too much because people get really upset about it for whatever reason so I'm going to roll in something that bugged me about the Beastcast last week. Someone emailed in (Izabeth, I think?) talking about their gaming habits. They mentioned that if there wasn't a demo available for a game they'd buy it, play it for a few hours and then return it if they didn't like it. If they did like it, they'd return it anyway and buy it from G2A. That's a repugnant way to buy games but Izabeth actually got some sympathy. In an age where there's 17 days worth of video being uploaded to youtube every minute, I'm sure it's remarkably easy to do 5 minutes of research and find out if you'd like a game or not. Abusing a refund system or resorting to piracy before ultimately buying second-hand keys from a Polish reseller is deriving publishers and developers alike of the money they spend developing games. Now I'm not trying to take a moral high ground here - I've pirated games and I've bought games (one game, actually) from G2A but like Jeff continually says whenever piracy is brought up, it's up to each individual to decide where the line is. For me the line was when Activision wanted €60 for MW2 6 years after it came out.

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bigsocrates

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@rynox45: I'm not sure why it bothers you that this dude doesn't want to buy games with certain DRM, but you really seem to underrate the greed of publishers and the damage it does to gaming. You say they're not "malevolent corporations designed to suck money out of your pocket" but the only part of that I agree with is they're not malevolent. They're amoral. They ARE (mostly) trying to maximize revenue, which means getting as much money as they can from consumers, and they mostly only care about consumer satisfaction in terms how it affects revenue (which means if you keep buying even when unsatisfied they are happy.)

It's funny you bring up Forza Horizon 3 as an example of a game where copy protection doesn't matter because it will be cracked eventually. Rumors are that the copy protection in that game causes it to run poorly on machines with fewer CPU cores (because it needs a full core dedicated to decrypting the files.) So it's actually (possibly) an example of a game where copy protection directly hurts consumers. Savage also raised the issue of modability and fan-made patches, which you don't address.

Publishers will do anything they can within the boundaries of the law and technology to maximize their profits. Its how businesses work. Whether that means copy protection that damages user experiences or jamming "always online" into games that don't need it (The Division, I am GLARING at you right now) they will sacrifice user experience for what they believe will bring them profits (they aren't always right and you seem to VASTLY overestimate the intelligence and competence of dudes in suits.)

Every consumer has a right to draw their own line in the sand. While I would say that certain lines are immoral (I wouldn't be friends with anyone who won't buy games with minority or female protagonists) lines against copy protection that interferes with legitimate consumer activities like patching, modding, and preservation seem totally reasonable. No publisher has the right to anyone's money (provided the consumer is willing to live without the game.)

In general I think identifying with big businesses and anti-consumer practices will lead to a bad time. These companies don't care about us. They don't care about the fans, and oftentimes they don't really care about the games. They are businesses. They will do whatever they can to take our money and control what we do with their products. It's totally reasonable for people to resist that through the most legitimate means they can. Simply not buying the products that have features they don't want.

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fisk0

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#6 fisk0  Moderator

I wish more publishers would just look at CD Project instead, whose Witcher games sell incredibly well despite not having any DRM. I don't think anybody benefits from the progress towards more and more intrusive DRM, and whenever possible I buy my games on GOG.

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rynox45

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@bigsocrates:That's my point. It isn't greed, it's business. The idea that publishers should somehow be different from any other company is just bizarre. Yes, they react to consumer satisfaction only insofar as it affects their bottom line. In his original post Savage is making out that Denuvo is somehow ineffective from a business perspective and if it's still being used, it clearly isn't.

The inconvenient truth, which ironically is not so hidden anymore now that publishers have gotten their wish of impregnable DRM, is that piracy was not systematically displacing large amounts of otherwise full sales, as publishers had claimed.

If that were true publishers would be abandoning Denuvo. After all, if it's only costing them money and isn't preventing piracy why would they keep using it? Again they're not malevolent, they're just trying to protect the product they sell in a world where all it takes to steal is is 3 presses of a button.

Modability and fan-made patches are obviously unfortunate casualties here but they're not a part of our rights as consumers. Still though, the point I wanted to make (and was fairly unclear about to be fair) is that everything will get cracked eventually. It doesn't matter how much time you spend bolting DRM onto your game - once its exposed to the infinite resources of the internet, there's nothing you can do to stop that inevitability. In 20 years when it's trivial to crack Denuvo DRM, nobody is going to care about it so why boycott it now?

Activities like patching, modding, and preservation are only actually allowed for personal use. If it involves distributing any copyrighted code it would be illegal and even personal use might be against the terms of service agreement. You're right in saying that no publisher has a right to anyone's money but what about the developers? Let's say nobody bought Just Cause 3 because of its DRM. Including Denuvo would be a publisher's decision and the developer has little to no say. If people boycott the game because of its DRM, Avalanche Studios would take the hit. The development team who put years of their life into a game (a broken, broken game) would be hit financially for a decision they didn't make.

Honestly, I get where you're coming from with your last paragraph but OP reads to me like someone would've 5 years ago saying they'd never buy a game with micro-transactions. It's just an aspect of the industry that realistically doesn't affect most of us and won't matter soon enough. Also regarding the Forza Horizons thing, from what I've heard the problem with that game is it wasn't optimized for multi-core CPUs so it's not utilizing them properly. I doubt Denuvo is what's causing Jeff's framerate to be sub-par after buying a 1080.

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MillaJ

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There seems to have perhaps been some success lately with cracking through Denuvo. I would imagine nothing stays air-tight forever.

Though I may not get so heated about Denuvo in particular, I don't blame you. I do always buy non-DRM (GOG, etc.) when I can. It's just a better experience for me.

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bigsocrates

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@rynox45: I don't know what the difference between "business" and "greed" is here. It seems to me that both are being used to refer to maximizing profits, so they're...identical?

I also think you're being a little naive about why big companies do the things they do. They are not always rational actors. Maybe they have metrics that say that Denuvo increases profits or maybe the CEO called a meeting where he said "My grandson said that kids at his schools are copying our games! What can we do?" Maybe it is a matter of not wanting to be the only company whose games are being pirated because they think that looks bad to shareholders, regardless of actual profit impact. We don't know, and the best we can say is "apparently many publishers think DRM is worthwhile."

Modability and fan-patches aren't "rights" but they can be factors in a purchase. This is not a matter of OP buying a game and suing the publisher to enforce his rights. He's simply refusing to buy games that don't have features he wants. Modability is obviously a feature because it is often advertised, so its removal is a lost feature. People can buy or not buy things for whatever reasons they want, including missing features.

Developers don't have the right to anyone's money either. Avalanche chose to do business with a publisher, so they have to deal with any backlash. Between the consumer's right not to buy something (which is absolute) and the developer's right to be compensated the obvious choice is the consumer.

I'm not saying you shouldn't buy stuff with Denuvo if it doesn't bother you. That's your choice and you're free to make it. But people who want to take a stand because it matters to them shouldn't be criticized either. In the end it's a product, and everyone gets to decide what products with what features interest them.

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rynox45

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bigsocrates

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@rynox45 said:

@bigsocrates The idea that any CEO is taking advice from their grandson is so antiquated I can't tell if you're just messing with me or not.

Whatever you want to attribute CEO actions to (and remember that Paramount made a $100 million movie based on an idea from a four year old this year, so this stuff still happens) the relevant point is just that the fact that big companies do something does not mean that that thing is profitable or smart. Companies are not purely rational or efficient, and they have issues of inertia and inaccurate projections.

We don't know that Denuvo is profitable, only that a fair number of companies use it.

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soulcake

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#12  Edited By soulcake

Denuvo works ATM and seems really hard to crack so i totally get it why Company's are using it. It's just to easy to pirate a game these days. When i was a younger i use to pirate almost every AAA game. I am gonna guess that Denuvo totally helps in sales of a game there are a lot off people out there with a disposable income that just pirate games because they can. ( but that doesn't mean that 90% of gamers are pirates.) Also Big Publishers seems to be focused on big Online experiences like The Division cause the game is always online its unpirateble. So we probably see more always online games in the future to tackle piracy.

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Chillicothe

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Hear hear! Valve already shown how you make the pirates customers and not the other way around.

Still, it's better than frackin' rootkits...

I mean... you don't have much of a choice. If you want to play some of the biggest titles that came out in the past 12 months, you have two ways, to buy it with Denuvo attached or to 'acquire' it without, and that is up to you, but Denuvo is not going away anytime soon, so I guess you won't be playing big games anymore?

That's one of the glory of PC: it's not in that problem world home consoles maneuvered themselves into and therefore can enjoy a broader variety.

The issue comes from this potentially expanding despite the veil being lifted.

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ds9143

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I was against Denuvo, but DOOM broke me.

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ds9143

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@savage: Wait, I was just playing MGSV in steam offline mode, so Denuvo can't require you to have an active internet connection... Right?

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Slag

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You're right, but I'm not that strong to not buy the titles I want to play the most

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Onemanarmyy

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#17  Edited By Onemanarmyy

I like how people just throw their manifesto out there and then peace out :D You would think they want to discuss this if they felt strongly enough about it to make a forum thread.

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newmoneytrash

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@ds9143: It doesn't require a constant connection, it does a check once first installed, or if there has been any changes to the file location or the PC's hardware

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audioBusting

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#19  Edited By audioBusting

I've always felt like the DRM business hinges on how no one knows for sure how damaging piracy actually is, so people measure it with related but possibly tangential measurements. To be fair, a lot of other industries also depend on similar kinds of ignorance / bureaucratic needs. Anyway, I feel like it's slowly becoming more and more invisible to us players, so really the ones eating shit here is the game developers/publishers who have to pay for them, just to have it bypassed later on.

Honestly, the thing they should be more concerned about now is the international gray market digital key resellers. It's more easily measurable in revenue, and it passes straight through the DRM. I hope they don't go with some inane early-DRM-like solutions to solve that.

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m16mojo2

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Does anyone here have Just Cause 3? If so, have you experienced an insane loading time from the main title, into the main menu screen?

Denuvo has always been at the back of my mind as the cause. Then again, I am running it on a non SSD. However, all of the other games I run off of it don't have that issue. That's including GTA V and a heavily modded Skyrim. The only reason I even slightly suspect denuvo is because of those annoying AF online notifications of players that I don't know, beating a score that I never knew existed. It literally takes a good 2-3 minutes for all of them to filter though.

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FacelessVixen

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Gettin' a real tin foil hat vibe...

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deactivated-5a923fc7099e3

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Never been a fan of anti piracy crap. It always ends up being cracked anyway. It also has caused me more headaches then it has benefited me as a consumer. Games that won't start on launch day because the verification servers are flooded, games that can only be installed so many times, overly large downloads due to bloated encryption...

Meanwhile all this effort has zero impact on the cracking scene. If you look for it you can get any game you want for free. Publishers need to make buying a game totally hassle free and make it so when you buy a game you get better support after release then someone with a cracked version. All the resources they waste on this crap should be used to improve the experience of the honest consumer.

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imsh_pl

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I think you're looking at this the wrong way around.

You're making the assumption that video games have a default 'state' of being available for a certain price. You're then viewing the limiting of said state by the means of DRM, online activation, licensing, etc., as an infringement on the rights of the consumer to own a full and complete product.

In reality, it's the other way around.

The default state is that there are no video games. People don't want them, they don't know they want them, or the technology isn't there. Entrepreneurs then decide to make games, and consumers decide to buy them. The developers offer a product with the expectation that it will fill the demand, and a consumer can then make the choice to either buy or not buy it in the state that it's offered to them, be it with or without DRM, with or without on-disc DLC, for $100 or for free.

The desire to profit from making video games isn't what destroys games; it's what gets games made. Developers have to pour quite a bit of resources and man hours to create a product, as do publishers to market and distribute it.

If you don't want to buy a game in the state that it's offered in, you have every right to take your money elsewhere. Just recognize that if it weren't for the profit-driven parties, it wouldn't get made in a cheaper, better, 'purer' state; instead, it wouldn't get made at all.

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Yesiamaduck

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#24  Edited By Yesiamaduck

DRM sucks but I completely understand why it's used... and I know it's not there specifically to dick me over as customer satisfaction is actually quite important to retaining your consumer base. To think otherwise is kind of silly?

If it's really poorly implemented then it'll affect their bottom line eventually and then it'll go away, so yeah stop buying games with Denuvo if you don't like it, and if enough people do the same it'll be gone eventually.... but just don't expect the majority of people to care and do the same unless it becomes a massively glaring issue for the average consumer.

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DedicatedDark

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Good write up. But besides us few sensible folks the majority doesn't care. They play games like watching movies in a theater, for them its just a consumable. For us its more than that, its the same logic with movies, those who love the medium buy DVDs the rest forget what they watch after their first watch in a theater. DRM affects us who truly love the medium and wish to preserve it. I think the simplest case I can argue is, most of the obscure psx and ps2 titles would be unplayable if emulators did not exist. And games like No One Lives Forever, Wolfenstein 2009 would be unavailable and fade off into obscurity if it wasn't for piracy.

If the publishers or developers release a DRM free version of the game 1-2 years down the line on GOG or something, I honestly wouldn't care about Denuvo or any such rubbish. But unfortunatly games are just products which are used to make money, actually scratch that. Games are just 'services' for the publishers to make money now.

DRM hurts only the people that care.

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gunflame88

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#26  Edited By gunflame88

You bring up some valid points, but the truth is there's nothing that can be done. Unless there's gonna be a big movement, I'll just be denying myself excellent video games without any chance to ever play them. And you know, I'm into this hobby first and foremost to enjoy video games rather than apply graphical injectors or fan patches (which I use very rarely anyway).

Just how much it helped or didn't help to boost sales is an open question. I would love to see what you or someone else has compared sales wise to come to the conclusion that there is no positive effect. Out of interest I took a look via Steam Spy at two relatively comparable games myself - Shadow Warrior (2013) and this year's DOOM, which has Denuvo. Both are fast-paced FPS games with old-school influences based on beloved old IPs which try to appeal to similar sensibilities in gamers. Now considering Shadow Warrior had almost 3 years of head start while Doom only came out this May, was initially priced at 40$ while Doom is a full-priced 60$ game, has been discounted many times and currently costs only 4$ while Doom is currently having it's first discount to 30$, Doom already beats Shadow Warrior by a significant amount of 200000 copies sold. On top of that, consider also the guarded opinion many had towards Doom, due to Bethesda's approach of promoting more its weaker Multiplayer rather than the excellent Singleplayer, and this one example already flies in the face of claims that there is no noticeable positive shift in sales. More comparisons would be useful though.

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OurSin_360

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I dont know, seems like denuvo is pretty much non intrusive and for the most part does what its meant to? Seems like a witch hunt where its guilty of the same stuff as other drm like steam itself and other game launchers like it. Uplay seems like a worse offender than this except this actually hinders piracy a bit longer lol. Still see no actual cases where it prevents modding in otherwise moddable games. Online connection when starting? 99% of steam games arent the same? Most disk games are just steam codes that require downloads which means you need online access to start, uplay even had trouble with offline mode period for a while.

I dont know i understand drm sucks but the main reason were it hindered legit players, i dont see any actual examples of this service being a major issue any more that other stuff people use everyday. Uplay should get more shit than this imo

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BojackHorseman

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#29  Edited By BojackHorseman

Sure, that sucks, but you can just thank your fellow PC-gamers. I've never met a PC gamer who hasn't downloaded a game. It's weird how people justify pirating a game as something else than stealing. It's just as bad, and is in fact the same thing.

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Justin258

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You bring up some valid points, but the truth is there's nothing that can be done. Unless there's gonna be a big movement, I'll just be denying myself excellent video games without any chance to ever play them. And you know, I'm into this hobby first and foremost to enjoy video games rather than apply graphical injectors or fan patches (which I use very rarely anyway).

Just how much it helped or didn't help to boost sales is an open question. I would love to see what you or someone else has compared sales wise to come to the conclusion that there is no positive effect. Out of interest I took a look via Steam Spy at two relatively comparable games myself - Shadow Warrior (2013) and this year's DOOM, which has Denuvo. Both are fast-paced FPS games with old-school influences based on beloved old IPs which try to appeal to similar sensibilities in gamers. Now considering Shadow Warrior had almost 3 years of head start while Doom only came out this May, was initially priced at 40$ while Doom is a full-priced 60$ game, has been discounted many times and currently costs only 4$ while Doom is currently having it's first discount to 30$, Doom already beats Shadow Warrior by a significant amount of 200000 copies sold. On top of that, consider also the guarded opinion many had towards Doom, due to Bethesda's approach of promoting more its weaker Multiplayer rather than the excellent Singleplayer, and this one example already flies in the face of claims that there is no noticeable positive shift in sales. More comparisons would be useful though.

I don't think this is a fair comparison. Way more people have heard of Doom than have heard of Shadow Warrior, plus Doom actually had an advertising campaign and a major publisher behind it. Even if people weren't too keen on the game before release, it had more potential for sales than Shadow Warrior.

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kubqo

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I was hesitant about buying games with Denuvo (F1 2016 specifically) because I am exactly that guy who pirates games for demoing purposes. Especially AAA titles, because firstly, i don't have a beast of a machine so that helps me rate the performance, and secondly because more and more i shift towards smaller indie experiences (work/school taking time as well as getting tired of same mechanics and bland stories of AAA games). Eventually i gave in.

What got me the most though was:

Publishers have long claimed that piracy deprives them of 90% or more of their rightful sales on PC (Ubisoft has said as much as 97%). If that were true, eliminating piracy would directly boost their sales by a gargantuan degree.

I wonder if now, that they have access to data and can compare the costs of Denuvo vs. gained profits, will they continue using it?