It was just a year ago that Chinese piracy outfit 3DM declared that it had given up on cracking single-player games, because the anti-tampering software Denuvo was just too damn tough to get around. It left the door open to a return, however, saying that it would take another run at the scene in one year's time, when advances in technology and know-how would presumably make the job easier.
Here we are, one year later, and it appears that 3DM's choice of timeline was surprisingly good. Ars Technica reported earlier this week that a cracked copy of Resident Evil 7 had turned up online over the weekend, less than one week after its release. That's a much quicker turnaround time on a Denuvo crack than we've seen previously.
"Please note that we always position our Anti-Tamper solution as hard to crack, not as uncrackable. So far only one piracy group has been able to bypass it," Denuvo marketing director Thomas Goebl told Eurogamer. "As always, we continue working to improve our solution to create security updates for upcoming Anti-Tamper versions. We will do the same with the learning from this bypass. It's correct that the title in question was cracked some days after release. Given the fact that every unprotected title is cracked on the day of release—as well as every update of games—our solution made a difference for this title."
That's a valid point. For big-budget games especially, launch day and the days immediately after are what it's all about. Long tails—that is, a game's continued sales over a period of weeks and months—are important too, but the fact is that if you haven't got a hit on your hands after a week or two, you're probably in trouble. So as brief as it is, that first week of protection is undeniably important.
It's not uncommon for publishers to remove Denuvo from their games after the initial sales rush is over: Playdead dropped it from Inside, for instance, roughly four months after it came out. But if the time required to crack the software on new releases continues to shrink, it will inevitably become less relevant to game publishers—and I would think that if the time from launch to crack routinely becomes much less than a week, it's going to force pubs to reconsider their options. It could be that the quick Resident Evil 7 crack was a fluke, but it could just as well be a sign that the Denuvo shell is—dare I say it?—cracking.