Online video game piracy groups continue to gain ground on modern anti-piracy DRM, as Middle-earth: Shadow of War appears to have been cracked less than 24-hours after its launch on PC. The Denuvo DRM that publishers have been using with high effectiveness for several years appears to have been solved by piracy groups, with Middle-earth: Shadow of War being just the latest example.
No response has yet been issued by either Denuvo or Warner Bros. regarding Middle-earth: Shadow of War‘s DRM being cracked. Typically once Denuvo has been cracked, the publisher or developer will remove the DRM. The reason being that Denuvo’s complexity can affect PC performance in small and large ways. That said, removing the DRM so early after launch would only make piracy that much easier, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Denuvo remained within the game for several weeks or months.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War‘s DRM was cracked by the well-known piracy group known as CODEX, the only group so far capable of such quick Denuvo removal. CODEX has become so efficient at stripping Denuvo from new releases, that they single-handedly substantiate the argument for retiring Denuvo entirely. Other games to have Denuvo stripped by CODEX in recent weeks include Total War: Warhammer 2 and FIFA 18.
Publishers are already clearly aware of the fading effectiveness of Denuvo. Bethesda, which has used Denuvo multiple times in the past for games including Doom and Dishonored 2, had intended to continue using the DRM into the future. However, today The Evil Within 2 launched without Denuvo, with Bethesda apparently having the DRM removed from the game at the last second. Such a sudden and surprising shift by a major publisher really says it all. The era of Denuvo DRM may be quickly coming to a close.
While Denuvo may be struggling, DRM is unlikely to go anywhere. Publishers will forever be in favor of protecting games from piracy in whatever ways are manageable. For example, adding online functionality to most games, single-player or otherwise, is one method that’s still often used. And if Denuvo disappears, it’s likely that another form of advanced DRM will take on the responsibility shortly thereafter.