Sonic Origins, a remaster of four classic Sonic games, will be released on June 23 on all platforms, but Sega’s choice to include the controversial Devuvo DRM for the PC version of the game might raise some feathers.
For those who don’t know, Denuvo is an anti-piracy digital rights management (DRM) solution for game developers that can be embedded into PC games to make it harder to copy and then redistribute them. It’s not something that’s downloaded on top of games, but rather included in the game code itself, making it nearly impossible to remove from your system.
It’s natural for game developers to want to avoid piracy, but gamers have expressed concerns about the impact of DRM on performance. A YouTuber called Overlord Gaming even offers a series of documented performance benchmarks with and without Denuvo, created by taking advantage of situations where developers intentionally removed it from game files.
One such video comparing titles such as Death Stranding and the Resident Evil 2 Remake notes that screen load times and frame rates were consistently affected. There’s a lot of data to sift through, but Death Stranding’s main menu took 35 seconds with Denuvo, compared to just 16 seconds when the DRM was removed. The numbers may be low, but it’s still an increase of almost 55%.
Denuvo claims that its website that DRM has no negative impact on game performance, stating “Since only non-performance critical game functions are used in the anti-tamper process, the anti-tamper has no discernible effect on game performance, nor is anti-tamper to blame for any game crashes of genuine executables.”
Collect rings by jumping through hoops
Still, many gamers get suspicious when they see the Denuvo name popping up alongside planned launches, and not just because of performance issues. Another problem people have with a lot of DRMs like Devolo is that they create extra work so you can just play the games you’ve legitimately purchased.
Activation data is saved to your PC upon installation and is based on unique data taken from your hardware and Steam profile, which must then be verified before launching your game. This means that you should be able to Connect to these servers to launch, so you need an active internet connection even if you want to play a single player game offline.
It should be noted that Denuvo only periodically connects to these servers, so you can play offline for a while. User reports on Steam and Reddit seem to put the authentication timeout at two weeks, after which the game will need to reconnect to the activation servers. If your system fails to connect to the internet during this time, you will be locked out of the game until you regain connection.
There is also the frustration that DRMs like Denuvo have a life expectancy. No game can ever fully escape piracy, with DRM simply prolonging the inevitable. Games that don’t launch with DRM or anti-piracy protections can be pirated on launch, so while Denuvo has varying success with how long it can prevent game files from being distributed, it’s still valuable for developers. who want to see as many consumers as possible buy their game at launch.
However, this does mean that DRM quickly becomes useless the moment the games it tries to protect are pirated, and the feature is not guaranteed to be removed post-launch when it is no longer of any use.
Ubisoft, for example, still has Denuvo in the code for many of its older games and, to my knowledge, has never removed it. Given that Assassin’s Creed: Origins was only cracked 99 days after launch (which is EONS in game hacking), I can see why the developer would view DRM in such a favorable light.
Does Denuvo cause purchase delays?
There’s no guarantee that Sonic: Origins will have any issues caused by the controversial DRM, but fans are rightly worried given its history with previous launches in the Sonic franchise. Sonic Mania experienced offline play issues when it launched on Steam caused by… you guessed it, Denuvo.
Negative customer experiences with Denuvo and other recognizable DRM service providers have led some consumers to avoid games altogether at launch if anti-piracy protection is involved. I certainly fall into this camp myself, and it allowed me to not only play games I already needed to get through to my Steam library, but also pick up games at a later date from the sale when the offending DRM has been removed.
It would be easy to portray those who oppose DRM as pirates themselves, but with so many legitimate concerns outside of game piracy or retro preservation, that is clearly not the case.
If that wasn’t enough salt in the wounds for fans of the Sonic franchise, the Sonic Origins website shows that some content will only be available through additional DLC. To unlock everything, you’ll need to purchase three expansions: the Premium Fun Pack, the Classic Music Pack, and the Start Dash Pack. We don’t know how much these will cost individually, but the digital deluxe edition of the game, which includes both expansions, costs an additional $44.99 / £36.98 – extra content price around $5.
It’s frustrating to see DRM included in highly anticipated launch titles, but I can at least understand why developers like to use them. The 99 days it took to crack Assassin’s Creed: Origins probably made Ubisoft a big pile of money that it would otherwise have lost to piracy, after all. But I still can’t forget the frustrations I experienced trying to play an offline single-player game remotely, only to be thwarted by DRMs unable to verify my purchase because I was offline.
I want to feel like I completely own the games I’ve purchased. Is there a better option for developers? Certainly not one that I know of, but that in itself doesn’t excuse how badly legitimate paying customers can be affected by a company’s efforts to eradicate piracy for a few weeks, especially if DRM is still included in games years after launch.