The saga of antipiracy DRM company Denuvo is a long and tortured one, but the short version of it is that Denuvo was once a DRM thought to be unbeatable but which has since devolved into a DRM that cracking groups often beat on timelines measured in days if not hours. Denuvo pivoted at that point, moving on from boasting at the longevity of its protection to remarking that even this brief protection offered in the release windows of games made it worthwhile. Around the same time, security company Irdeto bought Denuvo and rolled its services into its offering.
And Irdeto apparently wants to keep pushing the line about early release windows, but has managed to do so by simply citing some unnamed AAA sports game that it claims lost millions by being downloaded instead of using Denuvo to protect it for an unspecified amount of time.
In a statement issued by Denuvo owner Irdeto (the latter acquired the former earlier this year), the company states that it tracked pirate downloads of an unnamed ‘AAA’ (big budget, major studio) title during the first few days after its release. Without Denuvo protection it was quickly cracked and made available on P2P networks and from there, pirates did their thing.
“Irdeto tracked the downloads of a major sports title on P2P networks after the title, which did not include anti-tamper protection, was cracked on the same day of its release,” the company says. “During the first two weeks, Irdeto detected 355,664 torrent downloads of the illegal copy of the title. Given the retail price of the game, this puts the total potential loss of revenue from P2P downloads at $21,336,283.”
There are, of course, many issues with this statement. First, citing an unnamed title is a bit odd, since the publisher of that title is quite obviously not a customer of Irdeto’s. Or, at the very least, isn’t a customer for that particular game. Why the need for anonymity, in that case? It would seem only to Irdeto’s benefit to name the title that chose not to be protected by Denuvo. And, if this is all publicly available information, keeping that name secret doesn’t make a great deal of sense.
From there, we can move on to Irdeto choosing to keep the math simple by suggesting that every download is a lost sale, in order to come up with its $21 million dollars lost figure. This line of thinking has been debunked so many times that it’s not truly worth discussing, other than to say that a DRM company citing it as a valid number should tell you everything you need to know about the wider “report.”
And, finally, Irdeto is citing a two week release window important for sales of games as though Denuvo hadn’t been defeated on timelines much, much shorter than that. This isn’t to say that it’s always defeated within two weeks, but that often ends up being the case particularly for AAA titles.
It’s worth noting that while Denuvo games are often cracked very quickly, it’s definitely not uncommon for protection to stand up to the first two weeks of attacks. Denuvo can usually hold off crackers for the first four days, so these figures are obvious marketing tools for a technology that has been somewhat diminished after various cracking groups began taking its challenge personally.
But just in case Denuvo only manages a single day of protection, owner Irdeto suggests that the effort is worth it – even dropping down to the importance of standing firm for an hour.
An hour. An hour. When a DRM company has reached the point of touting that it can protect a game for an entire hour, we’ve jumped the shark. We don’t have much information about the cost of using Denuvo for publishers, since everything I’ve read suggests publishers have to sign restrictive NDAs that prohibit revealing that information, but I’m struggling to understand how making pirates wait an hour for a cracked game can be worth whatever those costs are.